Islanders Mathew Barzal ranked among top 30 NHL players for 2021-22

With each passing year, Mathew Barzal has continued his ascent towards being recognized as one of the best players in the NHL has to offer.

The Islanders’ star center has garnered respect from pundits and fans alike, and on Sunday during NHL Network’s NHL Top Players countdown, it was revealed where he slots in among the elite for the 2021-22 season.

Barzal ranked it at number 29 as the only Islander represented so far. Just like the three years prior, he might be the only one. You could have easily made the case for a Brock Nelson, Semyon Varlamov or Adam Pelech to make the list. But Barzal has the star power that comes with being a top-50 contender.

The newest ranking now makes it three straight years Barzal has made the list. It’s also the third consecutive time he’s moved up significantly. The 24-year-old placed in at 42nd before the 2019-20 season and 49th in 2018-19.

“The thing that really astounds me where Barzal is concerned is that ability to escape laterally,” NHL Network analyst Stu Grimson said. “Side to side he’s among the best players in the game today. Top-end speed, top-end puck handling, he’s got a great shot. But that ability to change direction laterally, to throw off false information … when you get this player underneath the face-off dots, underneath the hash marks in the offensive zone, I think he’s as hard to contain, as hard to defend against, as there is in this game today.”

Barzal slotting in at 30 seems like a very good spot based on the progression he’s seen in his career. He once again led the Islanders in points in 2019-20 and was a clutch performer in the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Semifinals. That said, there are still parts of his game that can get even stronger which Grimson also made note of.

“Here’s a guy, you go back a couple of years of 60-point seasons back-to-back,” he added. “When he steps into the NHL he rattles off 80-plus points to win the Calder. To me, he’s on the brink of getting closer to that peak physical strength. I think I see an upward trajectory, upward tick towards in Barzal’s game. I think he gets to that point-per-game we’re accustomed to seeing.”

Barzal will certainly have the fullest of opportunities to get back to that play now with Anders Lee returning from injury and a goal scorer in newly re-signed Kyle Palmieri flanking him on the first line. Those two players are certainly the best linemates in terms of skill that the 25-year-old has been with since entering the league. Barzal was affected big time by Lee going down last year, so those two re-igniting their chemistry should make be something to watch for.

Individually, there are expectations that Barzal can take it to another level at both ends of the ice with this being the fourth year of the Barry Trotz regime. He’s still not on a level of say Sidney Crosby or Patrice Bergeron, but he isn’t as far as some may think. This being year number five for him could be when Barzal’s defensive game takes a huge leap forward.

The Islanders have Stanley Cup aspirations this year, and Barzal will once again play a key role in finally getting them over the hump. Now seen as a top-30 player in this league — or higher if you perceive him that way — he’s in a echelon of special talents and continues to make strides as one of the game’s best.

 

 

 

What’s next for Anderson Silva in boxing?

UFC, Anderson Silva

This past Saturday at Triller’s Boxing event, former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva (34-11, 1 NC) made his second appearance in the ring in 2021. Silva took on former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz (21-12-1) in boxing.

While this was Ortiz’s first boxing matchup, it was Silva’s second of the year. Just months ago, Silva took on former world champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr in a matchup in Mexico.

Despite Silva’s credentials as a striker, not many were giving him a chance against Chavez. However, Silva shocked everyone and put on a clinic over their eight round matchup on his way to winning a decision.

Given Silva’s experience in striking, nobody was giving Tito Ortiz a shot on Saturday night. It was apparent from the opening seconds that there was not going to be a surprise in this matchup.

Ortiz was incredibly aggressive out of the gate and backed Silva against the ropes. Silva easily dodged Ortiz’s attacks and Ortiz’s punches were coming slow. Silva then exploded with a huge right hand and follow up shot that put Ortiz out cold and gave Silva his second boxing win of 2021.

What’s next for Silva in boxing?

It’s worth noting that all of the Triller fights were ruled as exhibitions so Silva’s win won’t count on his professional boxing record. Had it counted, Silva would have advanced to a 3-1 record with two knockouts.

His lone loss in boxing came back in 1998  when he made his boxing debut. Silva has looked sensational through two fights and it has many people wondering who would be next for The Spider.

Well, there’s two opponents that are perfect for Silva. Those two opponents would be either Logan Paul (0-1) or Jake Paul (4-0). Both Paul brothers are around 190 pounds which puts them right around the same size as Silva.

There was actually some talk about a boxing match between Logan Paul and Silva following Paul’s exhibition with Floyd Mayweather, however, that fell through. Jake Paul just defeated former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley a couple of weeks ago.

To me, Silva – Jake Paul is the fight to make. Paul is now a perfect 4-0 with a win over a former UFC champion. Silva would be a massive step up for him in competition, but I’m not sure if he’d take the fight. Instead, Paul seems to be focused on Tommy Fury and Jorge Masvidal.

New York Yankees: Yankees travel to Camden Yards, here is the preview

Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

Yesterday the New York Yankees got a big win in a makeup game with the Minnesota Twins. It was hoped that the dramatic come from behind walk-off win would propel them into another winning streak where they would again win series and maintain their wild-card berth. Today at Camden Yards, they will start a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles.

This is a series that the Yankees should sweep, except that they haven’t played particularly well against them this season, even though the Orioles will lose at nearly 110 games.  The Yankees are 9-4 off the Orioles this season, not sweeping a single series.

Tonight, September 14, 7:05 pm EDT

Tonight the Orioles will send lefty Alexander Wells to face Yankee ace, Gerrit Cole.  Wells is 1-2 with an elevated 7.15 ERA and 17 strikeouts in seven games. This is his fifth start of the season. He has gone into the sixth inning in only one of those starts. He is coming off a September 7th win over the Kansas City Royals when he gave up 2 earned runs in four innings of work.  Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, Giancarlo Stanton, and DJ LeMahieu all have a .500 batting average off him in two at-bats.

Wells will face Gerrit Cole in his first start since pulling himself from a game against the Toronto Blue Jays with left hamstring tightness. Cole is 14-7 with an ERA of 2.78 and an incredible 217 strikeouts. Only Zack Wheller has more at 125. Cole is tied for the 3rd most wins in all of baseball. The Oriole players have not hit well off of Cole; only Ryan Mountcastle has a .250 average off him in 8 at-bats.

Wednesday, September 15, 7:05 pm EDT

Wednesday is Roberto Clemente Day across baseball. The evening game will be started by the Orioles’ John Means. The lefty Means is considered the Orioles ace. He is 5-7 with an ERA of 3.42 and 114 strikeouts in 22 starts. He got no-decisions in both of his games against the Yankees this season. He is coming off his seventh loss of the season against the Kansas City Royals. Both Brett Gardner and Gio Urshela have been particularly successful off of Wells. They both have a .429 average off him in seven at-bats.

The New York Yankees, as of this writing, have not announced a starter for this game. However, it will most likely be Jordan Montgomery or Nestor Cortes Jr.

Thursday, September 16, 5:05 pm EDT

Chris Ellis will start Thursday afternoon’s game for the Orioles. The righty is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 18 strikeouts in five games. The Orioles won his only start against the Yankees on September 5th. Ellis started his season with the Tampa Bay Rays. His only win of the season was while with the Rays. Several Yankees have never faced Ellis, but Aaron Judge has hit .500 off of him.

The Yankees have also not announced a starter for this game, but it will likely be whoever doesn’t start Wednesday’s game. All three of these games will be televised on the YES Network and MASN in Baltimore.

When the Yankees complete this series, they will return to Yankee Stadium for a three-game series with the Cleveland Indians. That will be followed by a three-game series with the Texas Rangers before going on the road to play the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays. Then, finally, they will end the season back at Yankee Stadium for a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays.

 

NASCAR Xfinity: Sheldon Creed to drive full-time for Richard Childress Racing in 2022

PRESS RELEASE:

Richard Childress Racing announced today that Sheldon Creed will join the organization’s NASCAR Xfinity Series stable in 2022. Creed will compete for RCR’s Championship-winning Xfinity Series program on a fulltime basis, beginning with the 2022 season-opener at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, February 19.

Creed currently races for GMS Racing under the Drivers Edge Development Program presented by Chevrolet and has quickly become an accomplished driver with a resume that includes the 2020 NASCAR Truck Series Championship and 2018 ARCA Racing Series Championship.

“Sheldon has proved himself as a talented driver during his short NASCAR Career and we know that he will help contribute to RCR’s competitive NASCAR Xfinity Series program with his drive to succeed,” said Richard Childress, Chairman and CEO of RCR. “I am looking forward to watching his career continue to develop as a RCR driver and feel confident that he will represent RCR well both on and off the track.”

Creed, 24, is currently in a close battle for the 2021 NASCAR Truck Series title and has eight career wins in the series. The Alpine, California native grew up competing in short course off road racing, winning championships in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series and Stadium Super Trucks.

He joins an impressive list of drivers who have competed and won in the NASCAR Xfinity Series under the Richard Childress Racing banner, including Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon and Tyler Reddick, among others.

“To drive for a legendary team like Richard Childress Racing and have the support of Richard Childress means everything to me,” said Creed. “So many current NASCAR Cup Series stars got their start in RCR’s NASCAR Xfinity Series program, so it is an honor to be able to add my name to that prestigious list. I am grateful for the opportunity and looking forward to 2022.”

Additional details on RCR’s 2022 lineup will be announced at a later date.

-Richard Childress Racing-

NASCAR Xfinity: Justin Allgaier to return to JR Motorsports in 2022

PRESS RELEASE:

JR Motorsports announced today that cornerstone partner BRANDT Professional Agriculture will return to the organization for its seventh season with the No. 7 Chevrolet and driver Justin Allgaier. The winningest sponsor in JRM history, BRANDT will take its familiar place as primary partner for Allgaier in 20 events during the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series campaign.

“This business is all about relationships,” said Kelley Earnhardt Miller, JRM general manager. “We’ve developed an outstanding partnership with Rick (Brandt), Justin (Allgaier) and the entire BRANDT organization over the years. Having BRANDT and Justin back for a seventh season to build on our success is a special opportunity.”

Founded in Central Illinois, BRANDT is a fast-growing, family-owned company and a leader in global agriculture. Specializing in innovative products and services to help growers get maximum yield from their crops, BRANDT supplies customers in 49 states and more than 80 countries.

“I’m proud to extend our partnership with JRM and Justin, and I’m excited to see what we can accomplish together in 2022,” said Rick Brandt, president and CEO of BRANDT. “Whether in the field or on the track, our business is about performance. We contributed to the current world-record yields in both corn and soybeans. Let’s harvest a NASCAR Xfinity series championship!”

BRANDT has had a long-term presence with both NASCAR and JRM, having first partnered with Allgaier in 2011. That partnership expanded further during the 2021 NXS season, as BRANDT also sponsored three races on the No. 8 Chevrolet for JRM in the NXS for six-time Porsche Carrera Cup Brasil Champion and BRANDT do Brasil driver Miguel Paludo.

Since joining the organization for the 2016 NXS season, Allgaier has been a perennial title contender for JRM, advancing to the Championship 4 in four of the last five seasons and finishing a career-best second in the final standings last year. Additionally, over that timeframe the Illinois native has become the winningest driver in team history, with 13 of his 16 career NXS victories coming behind the wheel of a JRM Chevrolet.

“I’m really happy to be returning to JRM next year and to keep the relationship going with BRANDT Professional Agriculture,” said Allgaier. “As each year goes by our relationship continues to get stronger and stronger where we feel like we are a family. I’m extremely proud of everything we have been able to accomplish, both on and off the track, and I know that it will only continue to get better. Our goals remain the same, and that is to go out and win as many races as we can and bring home that Xfinity Series championship for everyone at BRANDT and JRM.”

To go along with the 20 races as the primary partner on the No. 7 Chevrolet, BRANDT will be placed as an associate on Allgaier’s Camaro for the remaining races on the 2022 schedule.

Primary sponsorship for the balance of Allgaier’s 2022 NXS season will be announced at a later date.

-JR Motorsports-

 

Is the UFC going to book Nate Diaz – Vicente Luque?

One of the UFC‘s biggest stars has selected the guy that he wants to face next. That star is Stockton’s Nate Diaz (20-13) and the opponent that he’s zeroing in on is one of the best welterweights in the world, Vicente Luque (21-7-1).

Vicente Luque is currently the fourth ranked welterweight in the UFC. Luque made his debut with the promotion back in 2015 coming off of a stint on The Ultimate Fighter. He didn’t win the show and he lost his first UFC fight on the finale.

However, since that loss, you cannot deny that Luque hasn’t been one of the best in the world. Since losing his debut with the promotion, Luque has gone an astonishing 14-2 since 2015.

During that time, the only two men to have defeated him inside the octagon is Wonderboy Thompson and Leon Edwards. Personally, I would love to see Luque and Edwards fight again to determine a true number one contender.

However, Luque has wanted a fight with Nate Diaz for a while. After his last two UFC victories, Luque has told the media that he wants to fight Nate Diaz. He respects Diaz, but he also knows the rub that you can get from fighting a star like that.

Diaz’s UFC Selections

Make no mistake about it, Nate Diaz is one of the UFC’s superstars. With that, he has earned himself a few privileges that a lot of other fighters really don’t have. One of those is having the ability to have a great say in who he fights next.

On paper, Diaz has not really been close to a title contender in years for the promotion. However, that hasn’t stopped him from wanting to fight the best of the best the UFC has to offer. Simply put, if you look tough and you’re perceived as the best, Diaz wants to fight you.

When Conor McGregor was on the rise, Diaz called him out and got the fight. The win over McGregor in their first fight is what made him an even bigger star. Then, their second fight was one of the best fights you’ll ever see.

After defeating Anthony Pettis, Diaz called out Jorge Masvidal who was becoming one of the biggest stars in the UFC. Earlier this year, Diaz fought Leon Edwards who was perceived as one of the best and a guy that nobody wanted to fight.

One could point out the fact that Diaz is just 1-3 in his last four so he shouldn’t be fighting a top contender. However, with Diaz it really doesn’t matter. He’s one of those guys where a record really doesn’t matter. While it doesn’t make sense on paper, I believe the UFC is moving towards booking Diaz against Vicente Luque.

Knicks add shifty guard Jaylen Hands to G-League team, what does he bring?

jaylen hands, knicks

With 21 days until training camp starts for the New York Knicks, they are making a few low-key moves to bolster their G-League squad. With options like Jericho Sims likely to start his rookie season at the G-League level, the Knicks also added shifty guard Jaylen Hands in a trade with the Long Island Nets.

In exchange, the Westchester Knicks returned the rights to Bryce Brown, a 6’3″ shooting guard. Brown played a total of 43 G-League games over the last two seasons with the Boston Celtics and Knicks affiliate teams. The 25-year-old auburn product underwent surgery on his ankle last season, so the Knicks were looking for a younger option, and Hands, who is only 22-years-old, got the call.

Hands impressed during Summer League play this off-season, averaging 8.6 points, 3.2 assists, 3.0 rebounds, and 17.8 minutes per game. He shot 45.9% from the field and 72.7% from the free-throw line. He didn’t attempt many three-point shots, connecting on just 1-of-7.

However, against the Knicks, he scored seven points and tallied five assists, shooting 30%. Clearly, they saw versatility in Hands that sparked their interest, proceeding to them trading for his services.

The Knicks are quite deep at shooting guard, so it will take a tremendous effort from Hands to crack the active roster at the NBA level. He’s more of a developmental player out of UCLA — at 22-years-old, they can continue to develop him as a potential role player down the road. He’s the former 56th overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, so he is relatively raw and has taken steps forward in his growth the past two seasons.

Over the summer, Hands presented himself as a legitimate floor general. He’s a former five-star player out of high school, and while he offers more as an offensive threat, there’s room to grow on defense.

You can never have enough developmental shooting guards at the G-League level, and the Knicks are always looking for players who can run the offense adequately. This upcoming season, they will roll with RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier, Alec Burks, and Immanuel Quickley as their primary shooting guards.

Good news and bad news in Yankees’ walk-off win over Minnesota

gary sanchez, yankees

The New York Yankees scratched out a win against the Minnesota Twins on Monday, but it didn’t come easy. With Luis Gil starting on the mound, the Yankees were still waiting for his unfortunate crashing back down to earth after starting his major-league career in such impressive fashion. Gil, who had only allowed three runs in his previous three contests, finally saw the scoreboard crack open, as he gave up seven hits and five runs over 6.0 innings on Monday. He did strike out eight batters, but giving up three homers is what did him in.

Overall, the Yankees played well, mounting a comeback that hopefully will spark a bit of momentum as they take on the Baltimore Orioles in a three-game series starting on Tuesday.

Good news and bad news for the Yankees:

The good news, the bullpen had a strong game against the Twins in a make-up contest from August 22. From Andrew Heaney all the way to Clay Holmes in the 10th inning, they allowed just two hits and struck out five batters. The offense finally stepped up to the plate, as Aaron Judge launched a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to draw the game tied at five, giving Gary Sanchez an opportunity for a walk-off hit in the bottom of the 10th, in which he singled to left field, driving in Gleyber Torres.

Speaking of Torres, the Yankees decided to officially move him out of the shortstop spot, as he’s been struggling significantly on defense. At SS, Torres hosts a .952 fielding percentage, as the league average sits at .973. He’s racked up 18 errors over 108 games played this season.

Torres will now feature at second base, as the Yankees moved DJ LeMahieu to third base and Gio Urshela to shortstop. Of course, this is a significant change in the infield, but it could prove to be efficient given the quality of both DJ and Gio defensively. The Yankees simply don’t want to lose Torres’s bat. He’s capable of being an elite hitter, especially with a bit more confidence.

The Bombers will host Gerrit Cole on the mound against Baltimore, and Alexander Wells will feature for the Orioles — he hosts a 7.15 ERA this season. The Yankees have a fantastic opportunity to get their offense rolling against a terrible Baltimore team, but the way the Yankees have been playing recently, there’s no guarantee they will walk away victorious.

New York Yankees: 3 Takeaways from Yankees comeback win over the Twins

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

Yesterday afternoon, the New York Yankees had a makeup game with the Minnesota Twins caused by a rainout at Yankee Stadium on August 22. After winning only one game of a three-game set with the New York Mets, the Yankees were hoping to win after they moved out of a wild card berth. The Yankees got their win, besting the Twins 6-5.

Luis Gil gives up four, but the Yankees win

Luis Gil, in this season, has gotten to live his dream. When Cory Kluber went down with shoulder problems, Gil and Nestor Cortes Jr. started games for the Yankees. Gil was called up from Scranton Wilkes/Barre on August 3 to start a game against the Baltimore Orioles. He allowed only 4 hits, 2 hits against the Mariners, 3 hits against the Red Sox, 1 hit against the Blue Jays, none for extra bases. He earned the title of pitching sensation.

Yesterday he proved he is indeed human. He gave up two long balls for 4 RBIs in the very first inning of the Twins game. But the young man remained calm and gave the Yankees 6 innings, throwing 102 pitches while giving up just one more run and striking out 8 Twins batters. With the game tied at 5, closer Aroldis Chapman held the game at 5. The Yankees would have a walk-off win in the 10th inning when Gary Sanchez lined down the left-field line, scoring ghost runner Gleyber Torres.

Aaron Judge has a storybook moment

Aaron Judge, in his career, has drawn comparisons to the Hall of Famer and 20-year veteran Yankee Derek Jeter. Jeter was known for rising to the occasion at the most important times. Aaron Judge had his Jeter moment last night. After being behind by five runs, the Yankees began to claw their way back as the crowd became energized for the first time in the game. In the eighth inning, Anthony Rizzo pinch-hitting Wade walked with the Yankees still behind by 3 runs. Gary Sanchez pinch-hitting for Higashioka flew out to left. LeMahieu flew out to center. Gardner walked.

With Judge coming to the plate, the Twins turned to closer Alex Colome. Judge represented the tying run at the plate. You could feel the electricity in the stands as fans hoped for a big moment. Just like in a storybook, Judge homered to right-center to tie the game at 5. Gary Sanchez would seal the deal for the Yankees when he drove in the ghost-running Gleyber Torres in the 10th inning for the walk-off win. It was the first time the Yankees have come back from a five-run deficit this season.

Yankees new infield look

The New York Yankees have finally changed the look of their infield. Yesterday saw Gleyber Torres move to second base his natural position. Management apparently felt that the stress and errors being made by Torres might have been causing his poor plate performance. However, earlier in the season, it was proven that second baseman DJ LeMahieu played just as well at third base. Additionally, when Torres was on the IL, that third baseman Gio Urshela performed well as a shortstop. So to put Torres at second, those corresponding moves were also made.

Lindsey Adler of The Athletic reported that manager Aaron Boone said that the infield would remain this way for the duration of the season.

Notes: The New York Yankees will start a short three-game road trip today when they play the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Yankee ace Gerrit Cole will be on the mound for the Yankees and Alexander Wells for the Orioles. The game will be at 7:05 pm EDT and televised on the YES Network and MASN in Baltimore.

 

Why the Knicks could be one of the best 3-PT shooting teams next season

rj barrett, julius randle, new york knicks

The New York Knicks are clearly hyper-focusing on the three-point shooting, adding Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker in free agency. They also drafted a Quentin Grimes out of Houston — he is known for his distance shooting and defense.

Last season, the Knicks landed 4th in the league in three-point shooting at 38.8%, having just a bit more efficiency at home compared to away. In 2019, they connected on just 33.7% of their shots from range, which would’ve landed them at 29th overall this past year, just ahead of Cleveland. During the first half of the season, the team struggled in the category but picked it up big-time after the All-Star break, and based on their numbers, they could be in for a tremendous season from beyond the arc.

New York Knicks primary distance shooters:

Evan Fournier:

The Knicks replaced Reggie Bullock with Evan Fournier on a four-year, $78 million deal. Fournier, who is able to create opportunities for himself, shot 41.3% from three point range last season, a career-high for the French native. He is traditionally a quality shooter from range, attempting the most shots from three in his career at 6.7. If he can maintain that success rate, he would already be above the league average.

RJ Barrett:

One of the biggest surprises last season was RJ Barrett and his three-point shooting. His corner shot ended up being one of the Knicks’ most lethal factors, as he connected on 40.1% of his shots from three. This was up 8% compared to his rookie season in 2019, and if he can continue taking big strides forward, the entire team will benefit.

Julius Randle:

Julius Randle set multiple career-highs during his first All-Star performance last year, but his three-point percentage was one that saw a significant jump. After posting a 27.7% success rate in 2019, Randle saw his numbers balloon to 41.1% over 5.5 attempts. If he can maintain that efficiency, the Knicks are already hovering above 40% from range, which would put them in the top three.

Kemba Walker:

Kemba Walker is known for his versatility and athleticism in the paint, but he’s also an efficient shooter. Attempting 8.2 three-point shots per game last season, he connected on 36%, down 2% from his 2019 final numbers. He hit a career-high 40% in 2016, and given the fact that he will be splitting minutes with Derrick Rose, if the Knicks can get the most productive version of Walker, he will also play a big role in elevating that overall statistic.

Derrick Rose:

Derrick Rose was a godsend for the Knicks last season after he was acquired from Detroit at the deadline. Rose hit a career-high 41.1% of the shots from three-point range, attempting 2.6 per game. He has seen his distance shooting improve gradually over the past few seasons, which plays directly into the Knicks’ strategy this upcoming year.

Immanuel Quickley:

Quickley was one of the bright spots for the Knicks’ youth foundation, and he’s projected to play a big role as a shooting guard this upcoming year and backup plan guard if need be. He connected on 39% of his shots from three-point range over 4.7 attempts, showcasing a solid rate for a rookie.

Alec Burks:

The Knicks extended Alec Burks on a three-year contract this off-season, thanks to his offensive production in 2020. He hit 41.5% of his three-point attempts, launching 5.0 per game. By simply looking at the statistics, the Knicks have multiple starters and reserve players that shoot 39+ percent from range, which sets them up for a fantastic season shooting. Combined, all seven of these players average out at 40.01% from 3-PT range, which would’ve landed them second place just behind the Los Angeles Clippers at 40.5% last season.