From Comcast SportsNetST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals are replacing a manager who's third on the career victory list with a man who'll be writing his first lineup card on opening day. Mike Matheny, a former catcher with the Cardinals who had been a minor league instructor, will be introduced as Tony La Russa's successor at a news conference Monday. "I think he's going to be a great leader," Jim Edmonds, a teammate of Matheny's with the Cardinals, said Sunday night in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "If he goes out there and does what he's capable of doing and they put the players around him, he could be the manager for the next 20 years." The 41-year-old Matheny played for the Cardinals from 2000-04, won three of his four Gold Gloves and was part of three postseason efforts including a World Series. He became a team leader playing for La Russa, who retired just days after leading the team to his second World Series title in 16 seasons. Matheny's playing career blossomed after he signed a one-year free-agent deal to be the backup catcher in St. Louis. Though a career .239 hitter, Matheny did enough defensively to earn a starting job. Matheny was one of six men the Cardinals interviewed to replace La Russa. They also talked to Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, longtime Cardinals third-base coach Jose Oquendo, former Boston manager Terry Francona, Triple-A manager Chris Maloney, and Chicago White Sox coach Joe McEwing. General manager John Mozeliak declined to comment on the hire aside from a one-word text to The Associated Press: "Tomorrow." La Russa did not respond to telephone and text messages. Francona was the only candidate who had major league managing experience. He left the Red Sox after the team collapsed in September. Oquendo coached for La Russa the last dozen years after playing the final decade of his career with the Cardinals and has had a handful of interviews for managing openings. The Cardinals received permission to interview Sandberg, manager of the Phillies' Triple-A team. Former Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan, who played for La Russa and is on local sports talk radio, thought the Cardinals would go with Francona because it gave them the best chance to retain momentum from their unlikely World Series run. The Cardinals won the NL wild card on the final day of the season and were underdogs against the Phillies, Brewers and Rangers, but have a solid returning cast with or without free agent Albert Pujols in the fold. "I think Matheny will be a great manager, given time," Duncan said. "He lacks managing experience, but it shows a lot about his character that the Cardinals hired him." Matheny was with the Giants when his career was ended by concussions in 2006. "He's a great leader, and an even better person," Edmonds said. "I think this is great. There's nobody that's going to work any harder than Mike." Matheny's coaching staff could include some familiar names. Pitching coach Dave Duncan, who was La Russa's right hand all 33 seasons, has one year remaining on his contract. The Cardinals have considered promoting Maloney in recent years, and Oquendo also could stay.
BOSTON – Let this be an ominous warning to the rest of the NHL: the offensive onslaught from Brad Marchand doesn’t look like it’s going to subside anytime soon.
The Bruins left winger scored the tying goal and then set up Patrice Bergeron’s third-period winner in a 2-1 comeback win over the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden Thursday night, adding to his NHL-leading nine points (three goals, six assists) that sees him in a tie with San Jose Sharks D-man Brent Burns.
It’s been quite a line of progression from a player with a bit of a checkered reputation who started out on Boston’s fourth line Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton in the B’s Stanley Cup season, but then took off once he was teamed with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi halfway through that season.
“You could see the talent, you could see that he had the great shot, the great release, I thought he was a good skater. I mean he has improved and he has grown as a player no doubt. But the biggest thing that I think was holding him back was that balance that he needed between being more or less a pest and getting under other people’s skin, and using his skill level and being the player he could be,” said Claude Julien. “I think that he has found that in the last few years and become a very respectable player around the league and people now notice how good he is when it comes to the skill level and what he can do as far as being in the game, being a game changer and scoring some goals at opportune times.”
Marchand has now scored in all four games for the Bruins this season and has picked up right where he left off a couple of weeks ago as the leading scorer for Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey tournament.
The momentum from that tournament, and the confidence boost from skating on the best forward line there that featured the best players in the world, clearly has Marchand taking his game to a star level that he was just scratching while scoring a whopping 37 goals last season.
“I think there’s times where confidence level is high. Right now, I do feel good. I just feel I have a step ahead of where I normally am coming into the season. I think a lot of that is attributed to the World Cup [of Hockey],” said Marchand. “Obviously, it’s such a high level and you’re playing with such speed for a whole month. So I’m feeling really good. I kind of feel like I’m in midseason form when, most seasons, it takes 10 to 12 games to feel that way.
“Hopefully things continue to go the right way. I’m getting some good bounces and Pasta [Pastrnak] is on fire right now, and Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] is always going to be Bergy. I’m playing with some very good players.”
Clearly, the confidence is high when he scores a goal as filthy as the tying strike on Thursday night. Marchand wheeled through the neutral zone with speed, and then fired a shot from the right face-off circle right through Andy Greene’s legs and tucked inside the far post past a stretched out Cory Schneider. It’s the kind of thing that only the NHL’s best offensive players even attempt, and only the very best can execute with a little puck luck on their side.
“It is tough to get shots through, but if you get it off quick and through a screen, it’s going to go in at times. When it’s kind of quick, in stride, through the legs, that’s a tough one to stop and a tough one to see,” said Marchand. “That was a bit of a lucky bounce I think. I thought it went off the post, replay showed it going off the back of his knob. So you shoot the puck and good things happen.”
Good things continue to happen for Marchand as he rides out a hot streak and realizes the massive potential on a line that contains No. 63, Bergeron and ascending 20-year-old star talent David Pastrnak wreaking havoc at the offensive end of the ice.
BOSTON – While David Backes didn’t score a goal in his first home game as a member of the Bruins, his team came away with a comeback 2-1 win Thursday night over the New Jersey Devils in their home opener at TD Garden.
The 32-year-old Backes didn’t have anything on the scoreboard to show for it, but he led all Bruins with six shots on net and seven registered hits while starring as both an offensive threat and a physical presence bringing some much-needed attitude to the table.
Both qualities meshed quickly with David Krejci once they were finally together on the same line against the Devils, and immediately gave the playmaking center the kind of big, strong and offensively talented winger that he’s thrived with over the years. The whole experience also gave Backes an appreciation for his new home fans as they packed the stands to root on the Bruins Thursday night ahead of the Saturday night showdown with Montreal.
“There’s always, wherever you are, that opening night, that first game at home, that first game of the season, there’s always that extra jump, that extra energy in the building. It was everything it was talked up to be here with the fans that know the game and really thrive off the hard-nosed play,” said Backes, who has a couple of goals in four games with the Bruins this season. “It just makes you want to go out there and play harder for these people that support you, and wear that same jersey that we wear up in the stands.”
Backes had some of the best chances that didn’t go down for the Bruins against Cory Schneider, and narrowly missed a first period score when David Krejci’s centering pass was received, and then redirected by Backes just wide of the net from his spot camped in front. The right winger was at it again in the third period with a couple more chances he couldn’t put past Schneider, but served as proof that Krejci/Backes is going to have some long, possession-heavy shifts this season by virtue of both of their talents.
“There’s no doubt [the addition of Backes] helped. You’re getting, I guess, a veteran player that plays hard and goes in and gets some hits and gets some pucks out for you. But at the same time I think you have to give David [Krejci] credit, he’s been working hard trying to find his game again,” said Julien.
“It’s not easy when you have gone through surgery like [Krejci] has, and you know he had a late start to training camp and jumping in with the rest of the group there so that really kind of sets him back a little bit but I like the direction that he is going, I think he is working hard in practice, doing extra and doing what it takes here to find his game. Tonight was one of his better games, no doubt.”
Now, Backes, Krejci and Heinen have to get rolling offensively and start to show their balanced attack among the forwards now that the entire roster seems to be locked down ahead of starting on time this weekend vs. Habs.