New York Rangers pick up an important win against the Washington Capitals

After a slow start to the season, the New York Rangers had one of the better games of the season in defeating not only one of the better teams in the East Division but one of the better teams in the NHL. In defeating the Washington Capitals 4-2 on Thursday night, the Blueshirts have won two games in a row and are 3-0-1 in their last four games.

Ryan Strome had two goals and Artemi Panarin had three assists in the victory.

With the two goals, Strome tied a single-game career-high with two goals and has posted a two-goal game for the 10th time in his NHL career. He now has 99 goals in his NHL career, and he has tallied 98 points with the Rangers. Strome extended his point streak to four games (two goals, two assists), and he has also tallied a point in five of the last six games (three goals, two assists), per @NYRStatsandInfo

Despite the strong performance from Strome and Panarin, the goal of the night goes to Anthony Bitetto when in the second period, he carried the puck behind the net, regathered it in the corner after getting checked by Carl Hagelin, and then went up the left-wing boards. He then avoided a hit from Nick Dowd before cutting into the middle, avoided a stick check from John Carlson, and beat Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek with a backhand.

Pavel Buchnevich scored into an empty net with 27 seconds left accounted for the Ranger’s final goal.

Igor Shesterkin made 31 saves for his third straight win.

In the loss, Capitals’ superstar Alex Ovechkin scored his 709th goal to move into seventh place in NHL history. Ovechkin is eight goals away from Phil Esposito, who is sixth in league history with 717 goals.

“I like a lot about our game right from the get-go,” a pleased head coach David Quinn said after the game in his Zoom conference. “We were all dialed in, we were mentally and physically ready to go. Our penalty kill stood tall again and Shesty had a good and I thought a bunch of people stepped up tonight.”

Quinn also addressed the fact that these two points are very important for a team that needs to do some catching up in this abbreviated 56 game schedule. “I don’t care where we are playing, on the moon or here, we need points,” Quinn said. “It is a little bit different with no crowds as playing at home is a little bit different as is playing on the road but we have to continue to be dialed in. We are starting to get a little Mojo and feeling good about ourselves. When you get seven out of your eight points you start to feel good about yourself.”

The Rangers were slated to play Saturday afternoon at New Jersey, but it was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak for the Devils. The Rangers will have the weekend off before returning to action Monday night at home against the Islanders.

 

 

 

 

BREAKING: UFC booking Donald Cerrone – Diego Sanchez

Donald Cerrone

Some breaking news has come in this evening. MMA Fighting was first to report that the UFC is in the process of finalizing a lightweight matchup between Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (36-15-1, 2 NC) and Diego “The Nightmare” Sanchez (30-13).

The fight will take place at a UFC Fight Night on May 8th. Recently, Diego Sanchez said that he just had one more nightmare to give and announced that he would be retiring after his next fight inside the octagon. 

Sanchez has been with the UFC since 2005 and he won the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. The Nightmare has had such an incredible career and he’s fought across three different weight classes during his run with the UFC.

Sanchez will make the walk on May 8th for the final time with a 3-2 record in his last five fights. Granted, one of those wins was a DQ win against Michel Pereira in a fight he was getting dominated. If he had lost that fight, he would have lost three straight entering this final fight.

The UFC has been kicking the tires on potential opponents for Sanchez’s last fight. They found the perfect opponent in Cowboy Cerrone. Both legends are fan favorites and there is a little bit of history between the two men.

A little UFC bad blood?

A couple of years ago, Cowboy Cerrone left Jackson-Wink which had been his gym for years. He made this move prior to the Mike Perry fight. Diego Sanchez has been at Jackson-Wink for his entire career and wasn’t fond of the way Cerrone handled the situation.

Sanchez had called for a fight with Cerrone and now he gets his chance. Cowboy Cerrone has fallen on hard times over the last year and a half. When 2019 started, Cerrone moved back to the UFC’s lightweight division for a run at the title.

He started out strong knocking out Alexander Hernandez and defeating Al Iaquinta. However, that’s when he ran into Tony Ferguson at UFC 238. In a title eliminator matchup, Ferguson dominated Cowboy.

Cowboy was then stopped by Justin Gaethje and Conor McGregor in back-to-back fights in the first round. In May, he lost a decision to Anthony Pettis, but the fight was razor close. We last saw Cowboy in September when he fought to a draw with Niko Price.

Granted, had Price not lost a point, he would have won the fight. In the eyes of the public, Cerrone has gone from a UFC title contender to losing five straight fights. Cowboy seems motivated right now and has documented that on his YouTube page.

However, a loss on May 8th might mean that both Cowboy and Sanchez will walk away after the fight for good. Regardless of their age and records, this is going to be an incredibly fun fight that fans should be excited for.

BKFC 16 Preview: Paige VanZant – Britain Hart

Tomorrow night, BKFC will be on display with their sixteenth event titled, Knucklemania. In the main event of the evening, Paige VanZant (8-5 MMA) will be making her highly anticipated debut when she takes on Britain Hart (1-2 BKFC).

VanZant made waves in the combat sports world when she signed an exclusive deal with BKFC in 2020. After PVZ concluded her contract with the UFC, she was one of the hottest free agents on the market. Bellator made a serious run at signing VanZant.

Yet, it was BKFC that was able to sway her away. They made VanZant an offer that she couldn’t refuse. PVZ said this week that her deal with Bare Knuckle is ten times what she was getting paid in the UFC.

It appears that BKFC is going all in with Paige VanZant so it makes sense that her first fight is as a headliner. VanZant has always had pretty decent striking and she’s shown that at times in the UFC. However, she had a nice variety of kicks and in this fight she will only be able to use her hands.

Because of all the hype, there seems to be a lot of picks flowing towards PVZ. Obviously that makes sense, however, I think people are really sleeping on the other half of the BKFC main event. People shouldn’t be sleeping on Britain Hart tomorrow night.

BKFC 16 Prediction

Britain Hart is not just a vet of BKFC, she’s a former professional boxer. Hart has eleven pro boxing matches and she had a record of 4-4-3. She is very experienced and she knows how to throw her hands. All she’s ever done is boxing while PVZ has been in MMA.

With that in mind, I believe she has a real shot tomorrow night at BKFC 16. While watching back tape on VanZant, I believe she’s going to have the power advantage tomorrow. I also believe that she’s the overall better athlete and her explosiveness should help her.

However, you cannot discount the pure boxing skills and experience of Hart. Hart throws some very solid straight punches and if PVZ gets power happy tomorrow, she might eat some shots that come down the middle.

I really believe that we are going to see a close main event at BKFC 16. You know that the Bare Knuckle brass is going to be hoping for a VanZant win, and I think they will get it in the end. However, I think it’s much closer than a lot of the general public thinks it will be.

Prediction: Paige VanZant by Split Decision

Two options for the New York Jets at pick 23

New York Jets

Assuming the New York Jets do not trade for Deshaun Watson, or anyone else, and still have their current draft picks, things could get interesting. The focus of their impending draft decisions has been focused on the second overall pick. However, pick 23 is a very important pick as well.

The Jets have many holes throughout the roster. Whether it be running back, cornerback or something else, there needs to be improvement. Whatever the direction they go in at 23 is, it won’t be quarterback. That position will be decided before that pick is made, most likely. So, I’ll highlight two players the Jets could look at when they’re on the clock with the 23rd overall pick:

Travis Etienne, RB Clemson

A lot of people believe that running backs should never be drafted in the first round. However, there’s a difference between selecting a running back in the top ten and one in the twenties. The Jets could do the latter in the upcoming draft by selecting Travis Etienne.

Running back isn’t one of the more “pressing” needs of the team per se, but the position is still somewhat weak. The team’s top three contributors in the run game last year, in order, were:

  1. Frank Gore – 653 yards, 2 touchdowns
  2. Ty Johnson – 254 yards, 1 touchdown
  3. La’Mical Perine – 232 yards, 2 touchdowns

 

Travis Etienne is a do-it-all back. He can run, catch and do anything else you need him to do. This past season, which was a down year by his standards, he had 914 rushing yards with 14 touchdowns and 588 receiving yards with 2 touchdowns. The two years before, he had 1,658 and 1,614 rushing yards alone, respectively.

As a team, the Jets totaled 1,683 rushing yards, which averages 105.2 rushing yards per game. That ended up being the 23rd ranked rushing attack in the league. What better way to upgrade the 23rd overall rushing attack than with the 23rd overall pick…

Jaycee Horn, CB South Carolina

The Jets need help at cornerback, period. This past season, they allowed 275.6 passing yards per game, fifth-most in the NFL. With the way the league is now, with such explosive offenses, you need to be able to stop the pass when you have to. When you can’t stop the pass, you can’t win. It’s that simple.

Now, the Jets won’t be able to get one of the top two corners in the draft with pick 23, but they could probably get one of the top three. The top two corners, according to Pro Football Focus, are Patrick Surtain II and Caleb Farley, respectively. Right behind them is Jaycee Horn. He should be available if the Jets want him.

Horn isn’t the flashiest and doesn’t have as many “highlight” plays on his tape, but his pass-coverage ability may be the best in the class. And in all honestly, that’s all that matters.

In seven games played this past season, Horn allowed only 8 catches on 24 targets for 116 yards. So, on average, he allowed 1.1 catches for 16.6 yards per game. That’s very clearly elite.

New head coach Robert Saleh is a defensive mind, so he and general manager Joe Douglas could bolster the defense here. If they do, Jaycee Horn would certainly help.

Whichever way the Jets choose to go, seemingly any position would help.

UFC: Beneil Dariush feels disrespected by Charles Oliveira

This weekend at UFC Vegas 18, Beneil Dariush (19-4-1) and Diego Ferreira (17-2) will battle it out in a rematch from 2014. That night, Dariush became the first man to defeat Ferreira in his professional career. The only other man do beat him is Dustin Poirier.

Dariush will enter the contest having won five fights in a row. He’s currently ranked thirteenth in the UFC‘s lightweight division while Ferreira is coming in at tenth. Should Dariush pickup the win, he will definitely receive another top ten opponent in his next fight.

One of the top ten contenders that Dariush wants to fight is Charles Oliveira (30-8, 1 NC). Oliveira is on an eight-fight win streak and he’s currently ranked third in the UFC’s lightweight division. Oliveira is coming off of a big win against Tony Ferguson in December.

However, Ferguson wasn’t the original opponent for Oliveira in late 2020. Originally, Oliveira was supposed to fight Islam Makhachev at UFC 254. However, Makhachev had to pull out of the fight and that is where Dariush came into the picture.

The UFC ended up booking Oliveira – Dariush for October. Oliveira ended up pulling out of the fight. Once that happened, Dariush was left in limbo waiting for the Oliveira fight to come back together. That is where the frustration stems from in Dariush.

Could Dariush get back to Oliveira in the UFC?

Dariush had an interview with ESPN where he discussed his frustrations. He said, “One thing that really bothered me is that I was hearing he had some problems at home. I said, ‘I get it, I’ll wait, no problem.’ But at the same time, on his social media, this guy is calling out Tony Ferguson.”

We of course know that Oliveira ended up getting the fight at UFC 256 against Ferguson while Dariush remained on the sidelines. Dariush said he felt disrespected by the entire situation.

You have to feel for Dariush in this situation. The UFC called him and asked him to step up to take the Oliveira fight. Of course, he did then he was held out because of it while Oliveira got a massive fight with Tony Ferguson. Dariush has his chance now to make a big statement on Saturday night.

New York Giants: Saquon Barkley shares early Joe Judge experience

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

Joe Judge has gotten a chance to work with New York Giants back Saquon Barkley for one season, and has made a good impression so far. Of course, the bulk of that season was spent with Barkley sitting out because of an ACL tear. The injury came quickly into the year and forced the Giants to change their strategy on offense all around. It was also a big blow to the overall hopes of the Giants for winning in Judge’s first season.

But despite spending most of the year recovering, Barkley was able to get a good impression of his new head coach. He said as much when speaking to the AP Pro Football Podcast, where he spoke about his injury and recovery recently.

Barkley tells an early story about Joe Judge

The conversation led to the subject of Joe Judge and Barkley’s initial impressions.

“When he came in and gave his speech, he let everyone know he was about business. When I first met him, I couldn’t stop looking at his eyes. It was like I was talking to a sergeant. And through time, when you got to see him, he got to show his personality, even through Zoom,” Barkley said.

“When I got hurt, I was trying to be this tough guy and stay strong in the locker room. And then I kind of started breaking down in front of him. He looked me in the eye and told me, ‘It’s going to be one hell of a story.’ And that’s the type of guy he is. He’s got your back and he’s a guy that’s for his players, and he’s a guy who is going to push you and get the best out of you no matter what.”

The difference between the Giants under Judge and the previous administration has been night and day. That seems clear with both player reactions and fan sentiment. There’s more reason to be optimistic going into next season than there was after Pat Shurmur’s first year as head coach. And for many of the young players on the Giants, last season was the closest they came to being on a winning team.

We haven’t gotten to see what Barkley can do under a new head coach and offensive coordinator yet – but that’s the hope for 2021. So far, it looks like Barkley will definitely be back on the field in week 1 barring a surprise setback.

UFC: Rafael Dos Anjos believes he’s a nightmare for Conor McGregor

The year is 2016 and Rafael Dos Anjos (30-13) is the UFC‘s lightweight champion. RDA was 10-1 in his last eleven fights on his way to capturing the lightweight title. He was looked at as one of the very best in the sport.

Dos Anjos was set to headline UFC 196 against the featherweight champion, Conor McGregor (22-5). McGregor had just knocked out Jose Aldo in 14 seconds to become the undisputed champion. He immediately wanted to move up in weight to become a two-division champion.

The UFC booked the fight and the superfight was set. However, the superfight never came to be. As the story goes, RDA ended up injured and some guy named Nate Diaz (20-12) took his place. Diaz went on to defeat Conor McGregor and the two rematched in August.

With those two tied up, RDA recovered and ended up fighting Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title. Alvarez stopped Dos Anjos and became the UFC lightweight champion. McGregor then knocked out Alvarez to win the title. RDA would go on to lose a second straight fight before moving up to welterweight for the last few years.

Now, RDA has returned to the UFC‘s lightweight division. It’s been a few years, but he still wants that fight with Conor McGregor. McGregor is fresh off of a loss at UFC 257 to Dustin Poirier (27-6, 1 NC). McGregor is ranked sixth while RDA is ranked seventh in the division. Could this fight finally happen?

Will UFC 196’s original main event finally happen?

Dos Anjos had an interview with MMA Junkie this week where he talked about the potential matchup. It’s a fight that RDA would like the UFC to put together and he still believes that he is a nightmare matchup for Conor McGregor.

“I’m a very bad matchup for Conor,” RDA told MMA Junkie. “My style, my kicks, southpaw stance, my wrestling, and my grappling. This has passed, but with the results of his last fight, I believe our paths can cross again.”

McGregor has come out and said that he wants the trilogy with Poirier next. The UFC is still going back and forth about what they want to do. If McGregor wants to get back in there for the sake of competition, RDA would be a good opponent for him.

Obviously, there’s history between the two men. This is a fight that we never got to see as fight fans and it’s a very intriguing matchup on paper. From a rankings perspective, it’s actually the one fight for McGregor that makes the most sense. Will be interesting to see how the UFC proceeds.

New York Yankees Legends: Mel Stottlemyre and the dynasty years

Mel Stottlemyre is both a famous New York Yankee pitcher and long time pitching coach. Mel was born Melvin Leon Stottlemyre in Mabton, Washington, in 1941. He pitched for the Yankees for eleven years and coached for a historical record of 23 years for his Yankees.  As a pitcher, Mel started playing for his local American Legion post and pitch in high school and at his college Yakima Valley.

Yankee scouts discovered him at Yakima and signed him to a contract in 1961. He was assigned to the minor league Harland Smokies. Shortly after a stint with the Auburn Yankees, he was promoted to the Greensboro Yankees, where he had a 17-9 record with an ERA of 2.50. In 1963 he was used as a starter and reliever, but Houk, the then Yankees manager, seeing his worth as a starter, demanded that he be used only as a starter.

In 1964 Mel was called up to the big team, where he went 9-3 in a successful effort to get the Yankees to their fifth pennant in a row. In the World Series, he went 1-0-1. In 1965 he was made an All-Star but did not pitch in the game. He did win 20 games that year, 18 of them complete games, something unheard of today.

Stottlemyre got 20 wins in both 1968 and 1969. He started the 1969 All-Star game. Stottlemyre threw 40 shutouts in his 11-season career, the same number as Hall of Fame lefty Sany Koufax, which ties for 44th best all-time. Eighteen of those shutouts came in a three-season span from 1971–73. Mel was known as a pretty good hitter, too; he had a grand slam in 1965. The Yankees released Stottlemyre before the 1975 season. Stottlemyre retired with 164 career wins and a 2.97 ERA.

Mel becomes the New York Yankees pitching coach

After a year off, Mel started his coaching career, first with the Mariners, then the Mets, followed by a coaching stint with the Houston Astros. When Joe Torre was named Yankees Manager in 1996, Mel joined his coaching staff as the New York Yankees pitching coach. In his first year, he brought the team ERA down from 4.65 to 3.81. Mel’s pitching staff was regarded as a major factor in the team’s dynasty years when they won four World Series Championships in five years. After 10 seasons, Stottlemyre resigned from his coaching position on October 12, 2005.

During the New York Yankees dynasty years of 1996-2005, Mel Stottlemyre was a key to the Yankees’ success.  He mentored Andy Pettitte, David Cone, Dwight Gooden,  Orlando Hernandez, Roger Clemmens, David Welles, and others.  He especially worked with a young set-up man, Mariano Rivera, who become a Hall of Fame closer.  Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera were the pitching members of the famous “Core 4,” which also included Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada.  Many believe Bernie Williams should have been recognized in that group.

Mel became the pitching coach for the Mariners in 2008, but when the Manager was fired, he was fired along with him. Mel retired from baseball following that season.

He was inducted into the Washington State American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012. At Old-Timers’ Day on June 20, 2015, the Yankees dedicated a Monument Park plaque in Stottlemyre’s honor. Mel was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 but went into remission for eleven years. Mel Passed away January 13, 2019, after a long battle with bone marrow cancer, but not before he published “Pride in Pinstripes” in 2007.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam

New York Mets want Jackie Bradley on short deal, but he is seeking four years

Simeon Woods-Richardson

The New York Mets have clearly done their homework this offseason by addressing the starting rotation, the bullpen, and bringing one of the best shortstops in the game in Francisco Lindor. However, they still have one glaring hole in the defensive alignment: center field.

It’s not like the Mets don’t have alternatives. Brandon Nimmo is one of the best leadoff hitters in MLB, capable of taking walks, hitting for power, and contributing on the basepaths. The problem is that no metric rates him as a good, or even average, defender out there in center.

The Mets were connected to George Springer all winter, but he ended up signing with the Toronto Blue Jays. That has caused the team to shift their focus to the second-best center fielder in the free agency pool: Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley Jr. had +5 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in the shortened 2020 season and is one of the game’s premier center fielders. Offensively, he has been a bit below average overall in his career (a 93 wRC+ confirms that, with 100 being league average offense) but he was good last season, with a .283/.364/.450 slash line, a .352 wOBA, and a 120 wRC+. He also hit seven home runs and stole five bases.

The Mets don’t want a long-term contract

According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, the talented defensive wizard is looking for a “significant contract, perhaps beyond four years.”

SNY’s Andy Martino had reported in the past that Bradley wanted a long-term deal, but every indication is that the Mets prefer a shorter commitment for the 30-year-old outfielder.

The fact that Springer signed in Toronto means that the New York Mets could risk looking at the bottom barrel of the free agent market if they swing and miss on Bradley, too.

On the last week of January, Martino had stated that while the Mets and Bradley make a lot of sense, both sides were “far apart in value.”

UFC: Tony Ferguson calls out Nate Diaz

Tony Ferguson, UFC

The UFC‘s lightweight division is full of callouts right now. You have Nate Diaz (20-12) and Conor McGregor (22-5) both calling for fights with Dustin Poirier (27-6, 1 NC). Meanwhile, Justin Gaethje (22-3) and Michael Chandler (22-5) seem to be on a collision course and calling each other out.

Charles Oliveira (30-8, 1 NC) is out in no-mans land at the moment. The UFC has offered him a couple of fights, but he’s turned them down due to his desire to fight for the title. It’s title shot or no deal for Do Bronx at the moment.

While all of this has been happening, the last man Oliveira defeated has been biting his time. That man is the former interim UFC lightweight champion, Tony Ferguson (25-5). Ferguson has lost two straight, but he’s anxious to get back into the cage.

Ferguson decided to make a callout yesterday and it’s for a fight that many in the fight world want to see. El Cucuy called out Nate Diaz on Twitter and called for a fight with him at either welterweight or lightweight.

Will the UFC make this fight?

In reality, this is the perfect matchup for the UFC to make. It’s a very good fight for Tony Ferguson and it would give Nate Diaz a good fight to get him back in the mix. Combine that with their entertaining styles and you have a can’t miss fight.

However, it’s been known that Diaz only likes to take fights against guys on the rise. The stock of El Cucuy has never been lower. Ferguson entered 2020 as the top contender who was gearing up to face Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0).

However, that fight fell through for the fifth time and Ferguson took on Justin Gaethje at UFC 249. Ferguson was dominated and stopped in the fifth round. He then took a fight against Oliveira at UFC 256 and was again dominated.

After winning 12 fights in a row in the UFC’s lightweight division, Ferguson has dropped two straight lopsided fights. That might not entice Diaz to take that fight. However, we know Diaz is all about fighting tough guys who won’t back down and we know El Cucuy checks both of those boxes.