Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole played a role in recruiting Jameson Taillon

Jameson Taillon, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees secured the services of right-handed pitcher Jameson Taillon in exchange for a four-prospect package headlined by Miguel Yajure and Roansy Contreras. Outfielder Canaan Smith and infielder Maikel Escoto will also go to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Taillon, 29, will be a significant upgrade for a Yankees’ rotation that had lost Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and James Paxton via free agency. He is a cancer survivor and a two-time Tommy John surgery patient, but he is healthy now and can be a solid mid-rotation stalwart for the Bombers as long as health is on his side.

A low-key contributor for Taillon’s arrival to the Bronx was the Yankees’ ace, and his friend, Gerrit Cole. The two talented hurlers were together in the Pirates organization for years and developed a friendship. Now, Cole and his wife Amy both celebrated via Instagram the fact that the Yankees will welcome Jameson Taillon for at least two seasons.

The Yankees’ got a positive recommendation from Cole

MLB Network’s Jon Heyman confirmed that Cole, indeed, played a role in Taillon going to the Yankees. “Hear Gerrit Cole gave a very positive recommendation to the Yankees regarding his former teammate Jameson Taillon,” he tweeted.

Reporter Adam Berry revealed some of the details about the conversation Cole and Taillon had. “I told Gerrit, ‘Dude, I want to run it back with you now. I’m at a different place in my life. You’re at a different place in your life. We never got that full chance to do it together.’ We now have that chance,” Berry wrote.

Taillon has a career ERA of 3.67, with a 3.55 FIP in 466 innings. He has been severely hit by injuries, but is now ready to help the Yankees by sliding in the middle of their rotation, one that now has Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Corey Kluber, Domingo German, Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, and Luis Severino once he is healthy.

New York Yankees Analysis: Looking at Yankee pitching, depth will be key

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

The New York Yankees significantly improved their pitching rotation in the past week. Less than a week ago, the Yankees acquired two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and yesterday traded four low-level prospects for former Pittsburgh Pirate starter Jameson Taillon‘s services. Yankee fans now have something to be excited about, although there are risks involved with both of these pitchers who did not pitch last year. Taillon, after the trade yesterday, had this to say on his Twitter account:

“Bittersweet day for me over here! Trying to process everything- have SO much to say to the city of Pittsburgh and my teammates. Also have SO much to say about this incredible opportunity and to the city/fans in New York. Thanks to everyone that has reached out! More to come soon.”

Although there are tremendous upsides to both of these pitchers, there is risk involved, as I said. Taillon is coming back from his second Tommy John surgery, and Cory Kluber pitched only one inning last year after a shoulder tear. Both pitchers are said to be ready to start the season, but the Yankees will have to be careful with them. The addition of Taillon also puts best friends Cole and Taillon together again. They both pitched for team USA and were teammates in the minors and pitching together during 2016 and 2017 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The two developed a very close friendship.

As certainly as the 2020 season was bizarre with its 60 game schedule and other restrictions, the 2021 season, although not as bizarre, will be far from normal. We are not talking about the health protocols or if fans are in the stands, we are talking about the players and pitchers themselves. It is not out of the question that a pitcher can have 33 to even 35 starts in a normal year. This year it is doubtful that the Yankees will push any pitcher for more than 25 or so starts. You can’t expect a pitcher to go from 10 starts to over 30 starts in a year.

Unless other additions being doubtful, the New York Yankees starting rotation will look like this at the start of the season. 1. Gerrit Cole, 2. Corey Kluber, 3. Jameson Taillon, 4. most likely Jordan Montgomery, and 5. will be Domingo German. This could change with how these players pitch in spring training.  At this point, it is almost a surety that both Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt, who both made their Major League debuts last year, will start their year at Scranton Wilkes/Barre. If either German or Montgomery fails during the spring, that could change.

This season for all teams will be similar to rehabbing all their pitchers to a 162 game season. After several starts, the Yankees may move to a six-man rotation just to give all pitchers an extra day’s rest. This is where the Yankee’s depth comes into play. The Yankees will have fresh arms ready to step in. Even if they start in the minors, you will see Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, and Micheal King at some point. There is also the issue of injuries to anyone in the staff, causing these arms to be used earlier than wished for.

Sometime in late June, but most certainly before the All-Star break, the Yankees pitching rotation will get another boost with Luis Severino’s return. His return will certainly cause a realignment of the starting rotation. Severino will be in spring training, although it is unknown if he will pitch in any exhibition games. After not pitching for nearly two years, the New York Yankees will be cautious with him going forward.

The addition yesterday of Jameson Taillon to the rotation means the Yankee fan has probably seen the last of Masahiro Tanaka. It is not likely that Tanaka will want to end his career by bouncing around MLB. He has made it pretty clear that he wants to come back to the Yankees or return to finish out his career in Japan, where he can make more money. His contract demands for a few years at $10-15 million is another reason he will not likely be a Yankee. Although he has been a solid pitcher for the Yankees, he isn’t worth that amount of money, especially with them wanting to stay below the luxury tax threshold. However, with the Yankees, you can’t rule anything out.

As all these pitchers prepare for at 162 game season, the Yankee’s depth will be key to keeping the pitchers healthy and paving their way to success as they as always make a postseason push.

 

 

 

New York Mets: Francisco Alvarez Ranked 4th Best Catching Prospect

Francisco Alvarez is the prized catching prospect for the New York Mets, and MLB has noticed the 19-year old. Alvarez is ranked fourth among the top 2021 catching prospects and the lone teenager in the top-10.

Alvarez is in elite company behind former number one-pick Adley Rutschman and two catchers with MLB experience, Joey Bart and Luis Campusano. Each catcher is at least three years older than Alvarez, which shows the high ceiling he possesses.

Offensive Star

Mike Rosenbaum put Alvarez and Rutschman’s hitting ability in the same class. Rutschman is projected to join the Baltimore Orioles during the upcoming season and become an All-Star for years to come. Putting each catcher at the same level with the bat is a great sign for a Mets prospect with only 42 professional games under his belt. Alvarez also impressed the Mets with his production at the alternate site during 2020.

His defense is what separates him from being at the top of the list. Alvarez still needs to improve his blocking and throw-downs, but combining his arm strength with more experience will make him a quality defender behind the plate. His presence behind the plate gives the Mets confidence he will become a leader with key intangibles like James McCann.

Mets fans will likely have to wait until 2023 to see Alvarez, but he will only be 22 at that point. With McCann handling business behind the plate for the next four years, the Mets are set up well in the catching department for years to come. We may even see a McCann-Alvarez partnership towards the end of McCann’s deal.

New York Mets: What is Next After Missing Out On Brad Hand?

On Sunday, the New York Mets surpsingly lost out on Brad Hand to the Washington Nationals on a one-year, $10.5 million deal. Hand joined the Nationals because he will serve as their closer, an opportunity he would not have received with the Mets. With Hand off the board, who is the lefty that will join the bullpen?

Hand would have made a tremendous addition in the Mets bullpen but would only set-up Edwin Diaz. If the Mets paid more than $10.5 million, they could have easily signed him. There is no point in offering closer money to use Hand before the ninth while other roster needs to be filled. Fans may complain about missing out, but the Mets did all they could to land him.

Three Good Left Handed Options

1. Justin Wilson

Justin Wilson is seen as plan-B for the Mets bullpen, and they know him very well. Despite little chatter surrounding Wilson, he is a very underrated part of a strong bullpen. Wilson had a 2.97 ERA, with 67 strikeouts over 58.2 innings during his two seasons with the Mets. He was a key part of the bullpen due to his ability to get righties and lefties out and sign for around $4 million-$5 million.

2. Aaron Loup

Aaron Loup made great work of his opportunity with the Tampa Bay Rays during the 2020 season. Loup had a 2.52 ERA in 24 games and had four scoreless appearances against the Houston Astros in the ALCS. He does not possess Wilson’s swing and miss stuff but was great at limiting walks (4 in 25 IP). Loup also produces plenty of ground balls with his heavy sinker. He would bring another great veteran presence to the bullpen.

3. Chasen Shreve

When the Mets non-tendered Chasen Shreve, it came as a huge surprise because of his solid 2020. Shreve emerged as a multiple innings reliever and had the best strikeouts rate of his career. His fastball/split-finger combination propelled him to a 12.2 K/9. Shreve’s 37.8% whiff rate also finished in the top four percent of all pitchers in baseball. He is much bigger of a risk because of his lesser track record, but it is worth considering. If partnered with Wilson again, the Mets could rekindle Shreve’s 2020 success.

 

The New York Yankees are taking a significant pitching risk with latest acquisitions

Jameson Taillon, New York Yankees

“Optimistic” isn’t a word I would associate with the New York Yankees’ starting pitching rotation, especially after their latest acquisitions. Before general manager Brian Cashman signed Corey Kluber and traded for Jameson Taillon, the rotation was seemingly thin and strung out. Utilizing a bevy of unproven talent, the Yankees were preparing to rely on starters either coming off injury or with minimal MLB experience.

Whether you feel confident with the starting rotation or not, the group is severely lacking healthy players coming off quality seasons. With the addition of Luis Severino and Domingo German for the 2021 season, expecting them to play at a premium level would be overzealous.

Cashman has put a lot of his chips in on injured talent looking to make a comeback next season. If things pan out, they will be in great shape, but injuries always seem re-kindle at some point during a 162 game season.

Here’s what the New York Yankees are working within their latest acquisitions:

1.) Corey Kluber

Everybody knows that Kluber is one of the best pitchers in baseball when playing at the top of his game. Just two years ago, he earned a 2.89 ERA over 215 innings. He has open two Cy Young awards and is by far the most accomplished starter on the team currently.

However, he has suffered a number of injuries since 2019, having pitched just 36.2 innings over the past two years. Most would call that problematic, and he barely cracked 90 MPH with his fastball during his bullpen session several weeks ago. He’s never been a strong-armed pitcher, but two MPH adds up. Best case scenario, he ends up being exactly what the Yankees needed for their number two spot in the rotation, but having pitched so little over the past two years, we have to take everything with a grain of salt.

2.) Jameson Taillon

The Yankee struck a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates to acquire Taillon on Sunday morning, sending over a few prospects for the starting pitcher.

Taillon is another starter who is coming off an injury. He dealt with Tommy John surgery in 2020, the second time he’s undergone this specific surgery in his career. While teams don’t seem concerned with TJ surgery anymore, Taillon hasn’t pitched since 2019, when he logged just 37.1 innings. The Yankees really don’t know what they have in him just yet, but he’s capable of being a quality mid-rotation option. In addition, he’s extremely cheap at $2.25M for the 2021 season.

Existing pitchers on the Yankees’ roster:

3.) Luis Severino

Unless you’ve grown tired of the Yankees and stopped watching the past few years, you know that Luis Severino has suffered back to back arm injuries. He’s only pitched 12 innings over the past two years, with his last successful season coming in 2018, similar to Kluber and Taillon. The Yankees seem hopeful he can make a full return, but he is another major question mark heading into the 2021 season. He’s not even expected to make a return until July.

4.) Domingo German

German was caught up in a domestic abuse case in 2019, justifiably so. He was forced to serve a significant suspension, missing the entire 2020 season. The Yankees feel he is a changed man and has learned his lesson, so they are welcoming him back to the team for this upcoming campaign. Having missed an entire year of baseball, German will undoubtedly be rusty. It could take him several months to get back to where he was in 2019, but nothing is guaranteed.

New York Giants take strange defensive route in 2021 Draft Network Mock Draft

New York Giants, Caleb Farley

The New York Giants endured many struggles during the 2020 season, but one of their most glaring needs remains CB2. After starting the year with Corey Ballentine penciled in alongside James Bradberry, the Giants quickly embarked on a rotational journey at the position.

By season’s end, the Giants had made their way through Ballantine, Ryan Lewis, Isaac Yiadom, and Julian Love. While Love displayed some optimism in the final two games, allowing 51 yards and four receptions against Dallas in week 17, it is unknown if the Giants feel confident he can be their starter moving forward.

Due to COVID-19, the salary cap is expected to drop to a minimum of $175 million. With that being the case, teams are going to have to shed players to stay under the cap, meaning valuable veterans could be on the market for cheaper deals. That should give the Giants an opportunity to pick up an established veteran who can hold down the position for one year. There is another route they can take toward shoring up the CB2 spot.

The Draft Network’s Benjamin Solak mocked an interesting player to the New York Giants:

Projecting for the Giants is tricky. You can’t rely on the David Gettleman hog-molly bit, as their defensive trenches are set—though a surprise pick on the offensive line is certainly within the cards. A splash at wide receiver would also make sense, though two of the top three players are gone; an improvement at EDGE rusher is still necessary, though the board isn’t great for EDGEs early in the first round.

We have seen Gettleman make big investments in the secondary recently. They traded up to spend a first-round pick on DeAndre Baker in the 2019 draft, a top-40 pick on Xavier McKinney, and spent big money on James Bradberry in free agency. Their efforts have been rewarded. With the additions of Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, and Julian Love, the Giants have a strong secondary group. It’s just another outside CB away from being elite.

Caleb Farley replaces Isaac Yiadom at that spot. He won’t have to follow WR1s early, which is to his advantage, and he brings great man and zone flexibility—important for Patrick Graham’s defense in New York.

If the Giants did elect to take Farley from Virginia Tech with the 11th overall pick, it would undoubtedly be a surprise. Farley is a fantastic man-coverage cornerback, but he has a troubling injury history, tearing his ACL in 2017 and suffering through back spasms in 2019. If those injuries are behind him, he represents arguably the best CB in the draft. He is an extremely athletic player who has played quarterback and receiver in the past, giving him a unique perspective.

Adding him to the secondary would give the Giants one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL. However, the offense desperately needs support, and going defensive might give them a top unit in the NFL, but once again, their offense will likely struggle to get things going, even with the Saquon Barkley expected to make a full return.

New York Yankees: Yankees quietly build one of the best pitching rotations

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole

After being so quiet for most of the offseason while waiting to see if they could resign, the 2020 batting champ, DJ LeMahieu, the New York Yankees have come to life. They are quietly building one of the best starting pitching rotations in all of baseball. Last season they signed one of the top two pitchers in baseball in Gerrit Cole. Unfortunately, the banged-up and tired pitchers behind him couldn’t get the deal done in the postseason after losing the East division to the Tampa Bay Rays.

After the season was over, the Yankees cleaned house. They let walk Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ. Although there was talk that the Yankees wanted Tanaka back in 2021, that is not likely to happen. The Yankees also have an up and coming group of baby bomber pitchers either Major League-ready or close to it.

The New York Yankees knew they needed pitching help. Still, with the owner, Hal Steinbrenner wanting to stay below the luxury tax threshold, general manager Brian Cashman had to wait to see what it would cost the club to sign LeMahieu so he would know what money he had to spend. Cashman worked his magic and gave DJ a six-year contract, more than what he was asking for, but for only $15 million a year, less than the one-year qualifying offer the DJ rejected.

Armed with some dollars, Cashman immediately signed two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to a one year deal at $11 million. The Yankees turned off the snooze button on January 15, 2020, and signed Kluber to bolster their starting pitching rotation. He will become a free agent again at the end of the year. After viewing a pitching demonstration for 25 teams at the Yankee’s director of player health and performance, Eric Cressey’s Florida facility, where Kluber has spent most of his offseason, the Yankees sealed the deal.

Kluber dazzled scouts with his Florida demonstration and appeared very healthy. He commanded his pitches well, according to scouts, and flashed typical velocity for this point in the offseason. That performance caused the New York Yankees to take a chance on the 34-year-old. They signed him just three days later. The Yankees didn’t sign Kluber blindly; they have been watching his rehab with Cressey very carefully.

New York Yankee fans will be delighted to watch Corey pitch. One of the reasons he is so successful is that he is a five-pitch pitcher that can complete games. Kluber throws five pitches: a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a cutter, a breaking ball, and a change. His strikeout pitch is his dominant two-seam sinker. He has been a workhorse and will be unfazed by playing in New York as he is stoic on the mound and doesn’t lose his cool. By all accounts, he is also a nice guy and a good teammate.

January 24th, the Yankees finalized a deal to bring Jameson Taillon to the Bronx from Pittsburgh, where he was a minor and Major League mate of the Yankee ace Gerrit Cole. Over the years, they developed a bond and became friends. Now they are reunited at Yankee Stadium.

Taillon is a solid mid-level rotation pitcher with a huge upside. Taillon is in the prime of his career after coming back from this second Tommy John surgery. He did not pitch during the 2020 season while rehabbing. The Yankees had to give up Miguel Yajure, Roansy Contreras, Miakel Escotto, and Caanan Smith to land Taillon in the Bronx. ESPN announced the deal.

The dual Canadian U.S. citizen born in Lakeland, Florida, signed a letter of intent to attend Rice University but instead accepted a $6.5 million signing bonus to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He worked his way through the minors, where he succumbed to his first Tommy John surgery. He made his Major League debut in 2016 and made the starting rotation for the Pirates in 2017. He has a career record of 29-24 with an ERA of 3.67 in 82 starts with 419 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.247.

With these new pitchers on board, it will be a fascinating spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field as the Yankees evaluate these new pitchers, the returning Domingo German, and all the young baby bombers. How these pitchers perform will give manager Aaron Boone insight into setting up the pitching rotation for the 2021 season.

The rotation will start with ace Gerrit Cole then most likely Corey Kluber. After that is becomes less clear. Third, in the rotation will be either Jameson Taillon or Domingo German. German was the Yankee’s best pitcher in 2019 when he went 18-4. The pitcher that does not get the third spot will most likely get the fourth spot in the rotation. To anchor, the rotation will be either Deivi Garcia, who made his pitching debut last season, or the Yankees’ other Tommy John veteran Jordan Montgomery. Whichever the case, the Yankees still have Clarke Schmidt and Michael King to filling for any injuries. Luis Gil and Luis Medina are close to ready in the minors.

Sometime in June or July, Luis Severino will be returning to the team after his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Both Domingo German and Luis Severino are coming back after not pitching for a year or two, respectively. If they can pitch to their previous form and both Kluber and Taillon can rise to their best numbers, the New York Yankees will have one of the most potent pitching rotations in all of baseball. But even if all don’t perform, the Yankees have enough other arms to let them compete at a high level.

NASCAR Cup Series Preview 2021: Chip Ganassi Racing

CGR’s 2021 roster features a former NASCAR champion gearing up for another run, and an Xfinity standout looking to make an impact.

2021 Chip Ganassi Racing Driver Chart
Driver Car No. Crew Chief Primary Sponsor(s)
Kurt Busch 1 Matt McCall Monster Energy
Ross Chastain 42 TBD Clover

History

Chip Ganassi Racing began competition in 1989, formed by the eponymous Ganassi and millionaire Felix Sabates. Ganassi has also formed successful ventures at the IndyCar and Grand-Am levels. He took over a controlling interest of the team in 2001, enjoying a brief period of prosperity with Sterling Marlin driving the No. 40 Dodge dubbed the “Silver Bullet” thanks to its sponsorship from Coors Light. Marlin finished third in the final 2001 Cup Series ledger and was at the top of the pack for a majority of the 2002 seasons before he was sidelined with a neck injury. After Jamie McMurray won in his second career Cup Series start while subbing for Marlin, the team won only a single race over the next 13 seasons, with Juan Pablo Montoya triumphing at Sonoma in 2007.

Ganassi vehicles have run more consistently over recent seasons. Kyle Larson won four races in the No. 42 Chevrolet in 2017, while Kurt Busch has earned a win in each of the last two seasons in the No. 1.

2020 in Review

2020 was a year of controversy and resurgence for CGR. Larson got off to a strong start (three top-tens in the first four races) but was dismissed during the coronavirus-induced pause for using a racial slur during a virtual event on the iRacing platform. Matt Kenseth, the 2003 Cup Series champion, came out of retirement to pilot the No. 42 the rest of the way, but never found momentum save for a runner-up finish at Indianapolis in July.

Meanwhile, Busch managed to stay consistent in his second year driving Gannasi’s No. 1 Chevrolet. He hovered around the latter half of the playoff bracket with 14 top-ten finishes in the 26 regular season races and reached the postseason festivities for the eighth straight year. Busch earned a statement victory at his home track of Las Vegas, leading the final 26 laps to win the South Point 400. It earned him automatic advancement to the semifinal round that featured eight drivers contending for the championship, but an engine failure at Kansas stifled his chances at reaching the championship quartet.

Meet the Drivers

Kurt Busch

Experience: 21st season
Career Cup Victories: 32 (last: Las Vegas, fall 2020)
2020 finish: 10th (Round of 8)
Best standings finish: 2004 Champion

It’s not officially silly season without pondering Busch’s future. Set to turn 42 in August, Busch is one of three remaining full-time drivers to race during NASCAR’s days under the “Winston Cup” moniker (Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman are the others). Busch appeared to be leaning toward retirement after 2019 but signed on for two more years at the helm after coming home 13th in the final standings and stealing a win from his younger brother Kyle at Kentucky earlier that season.

In an interview with Matt Mayer of CBS Sports after his win at Las Vegas, Busch said that there was a “50/50 chance” that 2021 could be his final season.

“I’ve been at this game a long time,” Busch said at the time. “I’ve been out there 21 years and my wife is a great supporter of mine and she loves the racing but it’s been a bunch of years out on the road and out on the circuit and we’ll see what 2022 brings us when we get there.”

Busch is best known for winning the 2004 Cup Series championship, the first held under a playoff format.

Ross Chastain

Experience: 1st full-time season (79 prior Cup Series starts)
Career Cup Victories: 0
2020 finish: N/A
Best standings finish: N/A

This will be Chastain’s first year racing full-time on the Cup Series circuit, but he’s anything but a rookie. Chastain, now driving the No. 42 vacated by Kenseth, has made 79 Cup Series starts, often in low-budget cars, though he did get some experience prior to the pause in Roush Fenway’s No. 6 Ford in relief of an injured Newman. In the meantime, Chastain has become a force to be reckoned with on NASCAR’s lower national levels, finishing in the runner-up slot on the 2019 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series circuit. He didn’t win a race on the Xfinity level last season, but he led all drivers with 27 postings in the top ten.

“He’s a great addition. Ross Chastain will fit in right away,” Busch said of Chastain’s entry after the announcement was made. “He’s had some tough situations stacked against him with different sponsors and movement. But he’s had the strength to rise above that.”

Outlook

Busch should secure a spot among the playoff contenders again, and will likely be in contention for wins at multiple points this season. As for Chastain, it’s going to be interesting to see how the No. 42 car comes out this year after struggling under Kenseth’s watch for the majority of 2020. Reaching the playoffs in his first full-time endeavor would be a realistic, attainable goal as both he and the No. 42 team as a whole seek to get back on the right track.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Rangers must learn how to hold on to third period leads

There was one constant in the New York Rangers two losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins this weekend. In both contests, they took leads into the third period and both times came away with losses.

Sunday night’s 3-2 loss to the Penguins hurts more than the club’s loss on Friday night to the same Penguins team. The Rangers keep finding ways to lose games they should be winning. Goaltender Igor Shesterkin struggle yet again when the team needed a big save, giving up the game-winning goal he most certainly would want back with just 1:31 left to play in the third period.

So Many Positives

The game was not a total disaster, with the team doing so many good things throughout the contest.

  • The Rangers held Pittsburgh to a single-game season-low 19 shots on goal in Sunday’s contest.
  • Colin Blackwell and Ryan Strome each registered their first goal of the 2020-21 season in the game, while Blackwell, Strome, Brett Howden, and Jacob Trouba each notched their first point of the season.
  • New York was credited with 32 hits in tonight’s contest.
  • The Blueshirts won 29 of 57 faceoffs Sunday night (50.9%). The Rangers posted a faceoff win percentage of 50.0% or better in a game for the first time this season.
  • The Rangers did not give the Penguins a power-play, something they have not done since  Jan. 31, 2020, vs. Detroit and for the first time in a road game since Mar. 16, 2016, at Anaheim.

Rookie K’Andre Miller had 21:39 of ice time in Sunday’s contest, which was the second-most on the team (only trailing Adam Fox). Miller’s ice time has increased from game to game through each of his first five career NHL games -13:59 on Jan. 14 vs. NY Islanders; 14:07 on Jan. 16 vs. NY Islanders; 15:10 on Jan. 19 vs. New Jersey; 21:17 on Jan. 22 at Pittsburgh; 21:39 tonight at Pittsburgh. (Courtesy New York Rangers)

The Early Problem On The Ice

With all the good a promise this young team showed, the one glaring deficiency is playing with a third-period lead. The Rangers took a 2-1 lead into the third period Sunday allowing only 4 shots on goal. Unfortunately, the club gave up two goals on those four shots turning their 2-1 lead into a 3-2 loss, their third in the first five games of this season.

Truthfully the Rangers deserved a better result than a late goal loss, but they also need to learn how to help themselves out.

The Blueshirts had the only two power-plays of the contest, but couldn’t convert on either. Their last man-advantage opportunity was at the 6:56 of the third period with the score tied at two.  Currently, the team is ranked 21st in the NHL on the power-play converting 17.4% of the time.

Sunday’s result had a big correlation to the play of Igor Shesterkin.  He took the loss in both games this weekend, with at least three goals he would definitely want back. In the third period of Sunday’s loss, the Rangers rookie netminder should have made the saves,  ]letting the first goal beat him from an unusual angle, and the second of the period, the game-winner, one that appeared to go in as he lost his focus as the shot was taken from the top of the circle to his right.

Shesterkin has a .886 save percentage with a 2.89 goals-against average as he looks for his first win of this season after winning 10 of his first 12 games last seson.

The struggling Blueshirts can not only blame their goalies for the sluggish start to the season. David Quinn has to be responsible for the mess the team is currently in.

His benching of Anthony DeAngelo after the first game of the year because of an undisciplined penalty proved to be suspect at best. In a young season with a rookie defenseman in Miller and the new face of Jack Johnson, the benching didn’t seem to fit the crime.

Quinn has also continued to be impatient with his line combination failing to give the players time to create any chemistry. There have been many variations of different combinations with the forwards and on the blueline.

Wins and losses are a function of the team and are rarely the result of just one player. A player’s action on the ice can seem to end in a goal against or a loss in the standings, but the team effort always outweighs the individual end result.

Blown third-period leads and one-goal losses are a demoralizing ways to go through a season. The Rangers need to learn from their mistakes now and get some wins under their belts before it gets too late in the year.

They will play again Tuesday night when they visit the Buffalo Sabres.

 

 

Knicks’ comeback fall short on Quickley’s career night

The New York Knicks nearly pulled off an improbable comeback from a 25-point deficit on the road.

Almost but not quite.

Dame Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers squandered a 25-point lead but did just enough to score a nerve-wracking 116-113 win over the Knicks Sunday night.

The Knicks’ 25th pick Immanuel Quickley single-handedly led the Knicks’ spirited chase that fell short with a career-high 31 points.

“It’s impressive again. I think that shotmaking is a huge asset for our team. That’s something that we need. He gets better with each outing, puts pressure on people,” said Tom Thibodeau of his quick-rising rookie point guard.

Quickley played with veteran poise down the stretch.

The rookie out of Kentucky pumped in 21 points in the final quarter as the Knicks came close to pulling off what could have been a colossal upset. But a Julius Randle costly foul doomed their failed comeback attempt.

After Quickley completed three free throws that cut Portland’s lead to three, 112-109, Randle inadvertently hit Robert Covington in a rebounding battle.

Randle’s sixth foul led to Covington two free throws that gave the Trail Blazers a five-point cushion in the final 16.6 seconds.

“[Officials] told me they got it wrong after the game,” Randle said.

“After they reviewed it, they said it should have been two shots — a loose ball foul — two shots my way and a technical foul, which is three points, and we lost by three. Tough break,” he added.

It was a loss that felt like a win for these rebuilding Knicks. A 25-point deficit and a red-hot Lillard would have easily intimidated the past Knicks team. But not this year’s version.

The Trail Blazers started the game like a house on fire. They were red-hot from deep with 12 three-pointers in the opening half.

Thibodeau’s Knicks, who once limited the Boston Celtics to just 75 points earlier this season, allowed an uncharacteristic 70-first half-point in Portland.

With Lillard scoring at will and the Knicks having a tough time against the zone, the Trail Blazers enjoyed their biggest lead, 77-52, early in the third quarter.

But instead of surrendering and looking forward to their next road game against the surging Utah Jazz on Tuesday, the Knicks showed plenty of fight.

Alec Burks, in his first start in place of injured Reggie Bullock, scored 12 points in the third quarter as the Knicks made it a 12-point game.

That’s when Quickley took over and took matters into his own hands.

Quickley shot 9-for-18 and was a perfect 8-of-8 from the line. He hit five three-pointers on his way to the Knicks’ record books as the second rookie with at least 30 points and five threes off the bench.

The wily Quickley added three rebounds and four assists. But what made his performance more epic was the manner he did it.

Quickley was hitting threes, floaters, lefty drives, and baited the dumbfounded Trail Blazers to head-scratching fouls with surgical precision. He only needed 24 minutes to register a new career-high.

He was the Knicks’ answer to Lillard, who had 39 points, six three-pointers, and eight assists to pace the short-handed Trail Blazers.

Anfernee Simons and ex-Knick Carmelo Anthony combined for 28 points off the bench for Portland, which missed key starters CJ McCollum (foot injury) and Jusuf Nurkic (wrist fracture).

Randle had another impressive all-around performance before exiting the game. The 26-year old forward had 25 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals.

Burks finished with 18 points on 5-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc. RJ Barrett had a quiet eight points and rode the bench when the Knicks mounted a comeback.

The Knicks rode on Quickley’s back. And they almost pulled it.

It remains to be seen how much longer Thibodeau will keep Quickley from starting after making another strong case.

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