"The Stack" is here this Friday talking NHL playoffs, NBA news and other big stories and headlines from the sports world Thursday so let's get right to it and see what made "the stack" for today, Friday, April 20:
1. Dwight Howard to have miss rest of the year, Bulls-Heat meet.
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard will undergo back surgery today to repair a herniated disc in his back and will miss the rest of the regular season. Already Howard's reps have disputed a report that Howard said he would not play for Magic coach Stan Van Gundy again and that doing this surgery was his way of doing that. They can say that sure, but there will still be plenty of people wondering if this was pre-meditated or how much Howard really needs the surgery. The Magic should be an easy out in the playoffs now and we have to wonder if we've seen the last of Howard and Van Gundy together with the Magic.
Meanwhile in South Florida, a battle was brewing between two teams likely to face each other in the eastern conference final matchup. The Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat played a really good, close game for about three quarters, but LeBron James and the Heat were able to pull away an 83-72 win. The Heat win puts them only a game-and-a-half behind the Bulls for best record in the east. There is still time for the Heat to get the top seed in the conference. James had 27 points, eleven rebounds and six assists. He is unquestionably the MVP favorite at this point. Dwayne Wade added 18 points. Chris Bosh sat this one out as did Bulls guard Derrick Rose, so it is tough to gauge how close of a game it was between the two. Rose is certainly a difference maker and is a better play than Bosh, but Bosh adds another element to the Heat when he is on the floor. This will be a great eastern conference finals clash should the two teams make it.
2. Larry Brown back coaching, Wisconsin allows freshman to transfer
He's back....Larry Brown will be back on the bench and coaching next season, but it won't be in the pros. No, Brown will be coaching college kids at SMU next year. The university and Brown agreed to a contract Thursday. Brown is one of the best coaches in basketball history, but he has been out since December 2010 when he resigned after starting 9-19 with the Charlotte Bobcats. Brown though has never stayed in one spot for long so it's only fair to question his committment to SMU and what sort of stability he will bring to the program. Will he leave after a couple of years if things aren't going so well? Maybe. Could be because of his age though. He is 71 years old after all. Also, how will he relate to and with these kids in their late teens and early 20s? It's only fair to question how this will go. It's great for the university to get a coach with the resume and name that Brown has. With SMU moving to the Big East in 2013, they'll need all of the help, expertise and experience Brown can give them.
At Wisconsin, a contentious standoff between men's basketball head coach Bo Ryan and redshirt freshman Jarrod Uthoff may finally be ending. Uthoff has been asking to be able to transfer for a while now and the university finally looks like. They will allow Uthoff to transfer anywhere excluding another Big Ten program. The whole thing is a bit ridiculous and the university is wise for allowing Uthoff to transfer rather than punish him and make him stick around when he obviously didn't want to be there. It's a stupid rule that the NCAA has to look into. If college coaches can go from one school to another a year after signing an extension with their previous school, why shouldn't players be able to transfer where they want to without being punished? Dr. Mark Emmert needs to take a look at this rule and make some changes and quickly. It sounds familiar to the Temple basketball story earlier in the year. Fix the rule please.
3. Capitals, Devils each win game four to knot each series up.
In the Eastern Conference, both the Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils entered their respective game fours each at home needing to win the make the series very interesting. They both accomplished their goals. First to Washington, where once again Capitals goalie Braden Holtby was sensational, stopped a whopping forty four shots as the Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 2-1 to tie the series up 2-2. Alexander Semin scored the go-ahead goal in the second period that proved to be the difference in the game for the Capitals. The star though and the difference maker not just in this game, but in the series is Holtby. He has played unbelievably well. And he's only a 22-year old rookie. That is amazing. The Bruins are a veteran team. They are savvy bunch and have to be frustrated that they are getting that many pucks on net and can't get but a few past Holtby in this series. But the series is tied headed back to Boston for game five on Saturday. What a series this is turning out to be.
In New Jersey, the Devils came out strong and this time did not blow a big lead as the went on to beat the Florida Panthers 4-0 to tie the series up 2-2. It was only 1-0 through two, but the Devils turned it on thrid with three goals in the first eight-and-a-half minutes. Martin Brodeur rebounded after a bad game three in which he was pulled stopping all 26 shots he faced for his 24th career postseason shutout. Those 24 shutouts are the most in NHL playoff history. If the Devils can come out with this sot of intensity and not give up big leads, they'll win the series. But this feels as though it will go back and forth until a game seven decides it all.
4. Coyotes, Blues take commanding 3-1 series leads
History was made in Chicago Thursday night and the Coyotes are happy to be on the winning end of it. For the fourth straight game the Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks went to overtime and for the third time this series, the Phoenix Coyotes came out on top 3-2 thanks to a second consecutive game-winning goal by Mikkel Boedker. The Coyotes got outstanding play in net by goalie Mike Smith again. He was sensational, but the Coyotes gave up a 2-0 lead in the third period with Chicago tying it up late on a Michael Frolik goal with only a minute and a half to go. Chicago has got to be frustrated with their inability to get pucks by Smith. They've fought hard late in the third period of every game this series just to tie and force overtime, but the Coyotes have had more success in overtime and now have a 3-1 series lead. The four overtime games to start a series is really impressive. It is the first first round series ever in NHL history to do that and only the second series ever in NHL playoff history. The only other series? That would be the 1951 Stanley Cup Finals between Montreal and Toronto. You all remember that series right? The Blackhawks' backs are against the wall and they'll try to live to play another day Saturday in Phoenix.
As for the St. Louis Blues, no Jaraslov Halak, no problem. Goalie Brian Elliott is just as good. Elliott stopped 25 shots as the St. Louis Blues rode the hot goaltending and played some great defense on their way to a 2-1 over the San Jose Sharks and a 3-1 series lead. The Blues had the best goaltending in the regular season and they are showing it in the playoffs. The Sharks just don't have enough firepower to get past the brick wall that has been the Blues netminder. With game five set for Saturday in St. Louis, look for the Blues to wrap this series up.
Friday's playoff games include:
Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh 7:30 PM ET
Detroit @ Nashville 8:00 PM ET
Finally before we go, with the Minnesota Vikings stadium in dire need of a jump start, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is in Minnesota today to talk to the state leaders about the seriousness of the matter. Here's hoping they get the wake-up call to get a stadium deal done. It has been far too long. The Vikings leaving Minnesota would be awfully damaging.
Coming up Monday: Recap of weekend's biggest stories and headlines
Comments and suggestions on what to write about are always welcomed and appreciated.