New York Yankees Recap: Veteran Brett Gardner saves the Yankees, Yanks 4 O’s 3

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner

The New York Yankees blew out the Baltimore Orioles last night 7-2 when Gerrit Cole struggled, but the Yankee lineup picked him up with five home runs. Tonight they were hoping the same with Nestor Cortes Jr. on the mound for the Yankees. On this Roberto Clemente Day at Camden Yards. The Yankees won their third straight game 4-3.

LeMahieu led off the first inning by flying out to center.  Aaron Judge was out on a foul tip. Anthony Rizzo lined out to Mountcastle at first base. In the bottom, Cedric Mullins flew out to center. Ryan Mountcastle foul-tipped for the second out. Austin Hays was rung up on strikes. No score.

Giancarlo Stanton led off the second inning by lining out to second. Luke Voit flew out to right. Gleyber Torres walked. Gary Sanchez hit one over the top of the wall that Cedric Mullins caught as he stole a homer from Sanchez. Anthony Santander led off the bottom by going down on strikes. Ramon Urias doubled to left center, splitting the outfielders. Ryan McKenna went down looking. Pat Valaika walked. With two on and two outs, Kelvin Gutierrez struck out for Cortes’s fifth strikeout of the game. No score.

Brett Gardner led off the third inning by singling to left. Gio Urshela homered into the left-field stands. DJ LeMahieu went down swinging. Judge ground out up the middle. Rizzo flew out to McKenna in left, but the Yankees went up 2 runs in the game. At the bottom, Austin Wynns popped out to first. Mullins flew out to Judge in right. Mountcastle flew out as well for a fast inning for Cortes. New York Yankees 2 Orioles 0.

The fourth inning was led off by Giancarlo Stanton, who singled. Voit flew out to left Torres singled to left. Sanchez popped out to first. Gardner, with two on and two outs, struck out swinging. At the bottom, Hays struck out swinging. Santander struck out swinging. Urias struck out for a strikeout of the side for Cortes. New York Yankees 2 Orioles 0.

Gio Urshela led off the fifth inning by lining out to center. LeMahieu went down looking. Judge ground out to short. In the bottom, McKenna flew out to Judge in right. Valaika singled to left. Gutierrez struck out for Cortes’s ninth strikeout of the game. Wynns hit a scorcher for a lineout to Urshela at short to end the inning. Yankees 2 Orioles 0.

The sixth inning was led off by Rizzo, who popped out to second base. Stanton, on the first pitch, flew out to deep center. Voit walked to end Means night with 103 pitches. Torres faced the new Oriole’s pitcher Conner Greene and struck out.  Mullins led off the bottom by striking out. Mountcastle got Cortes’s 11 career-high strikeout. Then, Hays hit a homer to left. Santander flew out to Stanton in deep left. New York Yankees 2 Orioles 1.

Gary Sanchez led off the seventh inning by ripping one to left that Gutierrez snagged. Gardner doubled and upon review, he was called safe. Urshela ground out, but Gardner reached third on the play. LeMahieu flew out to right, stranding Gardner at third. The bottom was led off by Urias, who ground out to short. McKenna walked, ending Cortes’s night with 11 strikeouts and 98 pitches. Valaika faced the new Yankee pitcher Chad Green and flew out to Stanton. Gutierrez struck out to end the inning. Yankees 2 Orioles 1.

The eighth inning was led off by Aaron Judge, who stuck out. Rizzo ground out to first. Stanton ground out to third base for a fast inning for Cole Sulser. At the bottom, Austin Wynns singled to right. Mullins ground out to first. Torres could have gotten the double play but threw to first instead of second. Mullins went to third on a wild pitch.  Mountcastle, with one out and a runner on third, struck out. With a man on third and two outs, Hays got a two-run homer into the left-field stands for the Oriole’s first lead of the game. Santander faced Wandy Peralta and singled. Urias struck out, but the Orioles took the 3-2 lead. Would Torres completing the double play make a difference… sure would have.

In the ninth inning, with the last licks on the line for the New York Yankees, Luke Voit stepped to the plate and walked. Tyler Wade was brought in to pinch run. Torres singled up the middle. Gary Sanchez, with two on and no outs, flew out to centerfield. Wade stole third base. In a very odd move, the Baltimore ground crew was thrown out of the game. Brett Gardner got a bloop single scoring both Wade and Torres to give the Yankees the 4-3 lead. Urshela reached on a fielder’s choice, but Gardner reached second on a Martin shortstop error. LeMahieu faced the new pitcher Dillon Tate who threw a wild pitch allowing the runners to advance. LeMahieu ground out, and Gardner was called out at home plate.  With two outs and men on the corners, Aaron Judge lined out to short, but the Yankees came out of the half with the lead. Yankees 4 Orioles 2.

At the bottom of the ninth, Aroldis Chapman pitched in his third straight game for the first time since 2018. He faced McKenna, who popped out to short. Valaika struck out. Gutierrez struck out swinging. The final score was the New York Yankees 4 and the Baltimore Orioles 3. The winning pitcher was Wandy Peralta, and the loser was Tyler Wells. The save went to Aroldis Chapman (27).

 

 

 

 

UFC books trilogy between Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo

The trilogy is one for the UFC flyweight title. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto broke the news this evening that the promotion has finalized the third fight between the flyweight champion Brandon Moreno (19-5-2) and the former champion Deiveson Figueiredo (20-2-1).

The flyweight title fight will take place at UFC 269 on December 11th. Now, the UFC was actually leaning away from doing the trilogy with Moreno and Figueiredo. Originally, the promotion wanted Alexandre Pantoja to be the next challenger.

Pantoja and Moreno have history and Pantoja holds victories over Moreno. However, Pantoja wasn’t going to be ready until the beginning of next year and the UFC flyweight champion wanted to stay active.

With that in mind, the promotion went back to the former champion Figueiredo. Figueiredo has been asking the UFC for the third fight ever since he lost the title back in June to Moreno.

The two’s first fight was December 12th last year and the two fought to a draw. However, if it weren’t for a low blow which led to a point being taken, Figueiredo would’ve retained his UFC title that night and we likely wouldn’t have seen the rematch.

UFC 269 Flyweight Title Fight

That being said, a point was taken from Figueiredo and the fight was declared a draw. When the two rematched back in June at UFC 263, it was all Brandon Moreno. Moreno dominated the entire fight and submitted Figueiredo in the third round.

It’s been quite the journey for the UFC’s flyweight champion. He was the last pick on The Ultimate Fighter and he lost early on in the show. After having an okay run during his first stint with the UFC, the promotion cut him.

Since coming back to the UFC, it’s been all up for Moreno. Moreno started with a draw with Askar Askarov, but has since gone 4-0-1 which includes his title victory over Figueiredo back in June.

These two will meet almost a year exactly to the date of their first fight. If Figueiredo wins, there’s a clear case for a fourth fight. However, if Moreno wins, he can cement his status as the best and put the Figueiredo saga behind him.

New York Liberty: 3 stars from Wednesday’s loss at Connecticut

The New York Liberty’s WNBA playoff hopes were dealt a major blow after a tough second half in Uncasville.

The New York Liberty’s playoff bid came up snake eyes at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Outscored by a 54-22 margin in the second, the Liberty dropped its eighth consecutive contest, falling by a 98-67 final to the Connecticut Sun on Wednesday. New York (11-20) will now need a win over the Washington Mystics in Friday night’s regular season finale in Brooklyn (7 p.m. ET, YES) and some help from their friends to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

The Liberty jumped out to a 16-5 lead in the early stages of the first quarter, which they won by a 24-20 advantage. However, the wheels fell off in the second half, drawing the ire of head coach Walt Hopkins.

“We gave up. I think the team gave up in the second half, they got punched me four or five times turned the ball over a few times and Connecticut showed why they’re the best team in the league and we showed why we’re having trouble closing games,” Hopkins bluntly declared in the aftermath. “We have to get tougher. You got to want it more, and we gave up.”

New York can still reach the postseason through a win on Friday, plus a further loss from Washington on Sunday afternoon and a Los Angeles Sparks defeat over their final two games.

Six players reached double-figures for Connecticut (25-6), which not only won its franchise-record 13th game in a row but also clinched the top seed in the playoffs.

ESM looks back on three silver linings from this latest defeat…

3rd Star: Sabrina Ionescu

12 points, 5 assists, 2 steals

Ionescu has reached double-figures in all ten games of the post-Olympic slate. She vowed to help the Liberty re-establish its never-say-die identity that they’ve carried and lived up to for most of the season.

“We’re going to play our heart out, regardless of whether it’s a must-win for us,” Ionescu said. “It’s about figuring out what we need to do to win, and how to finish this year on the right note.”

 

2nd Star: Michaela Onyenwere

14 points (5-of-6 FG)

Onyenwere has come off the bench over the last two Liberty games after spending most of the year in the starting lineup. The Rookie of the Year frontrunner has responded well to the new role as a second unit energizer, hitting 7-of-9 from the field in the last couple.

The UCLA alumna provided a moment of levity in the somber aftermath when she declared the only difference between her starter’s mindset and reserve mindset was her lack of a pregame dance routine.

“We didn’t respond the way we wanted to,” Onyenwere analyzed. “We know at this point we have a lot to fight for. We didn’t necessarily show that in the best way.”

1st Star: Natasha Howard

25 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks

Howard continued her decent return from injury, sparking the Liberty’s hot start with 10 points in the first quarter. While Hopkins pointed out that she was one of the few New Yorkers that kept her energy going throughout the game, he did that the 18 turnovers between she and Ionescu were “unacceptable”.

“Second half, we kind of gave in,” Howard said. “We stopped doing the things we were doing in the first half…we weren’t being tough. That’s the difference…that’s what we’ve been preaching: we’ve got to be tough.”

Howard briefly left the game in the final quarter with an ankle injury that forced her to go to the locker room under the supervision of trainer Terri Acosta. She said after the game that it was merely a “tweak” and she was able to finish things off without incident.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants offensive line needs to prove that Week One was not a fluke

New York Giants, Nick Gates

The New York Giants offensive line was the biggest concern surrounding the team entering the 2021 NFL season. Question marks surrounded nearly every lineman in the unit. In 2020, according to ESPN, the Giants’ pass-block win rate ranked dead-last in the NFL at 46%. Their run-block win rate ranked 18th at 70%, which is about average or slightly below. Despite this, the team made no major moves to upgrade their offensive line in the 2021 offseason until just this week.

With basically the same unit from last year carrying over, expectations were low for the Giants’ front line. In Week One, the Giants’ offensive line exceeded all expectations. The line was not the reason for the Giants’ offensive failures. The unit put together a good performance but needs to keep the momentum going in Week Two in order to prove that this first game was not a fluke.

New York Giants offensive line exceeds expectations

The New York Giants offensive line did a great job protecting Daniel Jones in Week One. Daniel Jones was kept clean on 74.4% of his dropbacks versus the Broncos, 2nd highest in his career (PFF). Granted, Jones and the offense did not have a stellar performance, but the blame seems to need to be placed on the play-calling, rather than the blocking.

According to ESPN, the Giants had the fourth-best pass-block win rate in the NFL in Week One. This is an astronomical improvement from 2020 when the unit ranked dead last in that regard.

In Week Two, the New York Giants will face the Washington Football Team and their ferocious, young defensive line. However, that frightening defensive front is coming off of a sluggish and disappointing performance in Week One. Washington recorded 2 sacks as Justin Herbert frequently found himself throwing in a comfortable pocket.

The Giants’ offensive line exceeded expectations while the Football Team’s defensive line failed to meet expectations. The Los Angeles Chargers totaled over 400 all-purpose yards against Washington on Sunday.

Washington’s defensive line is looking for a bounce-back performance. Inversely, the Giants’ offensive line is looking to string together two strong performances in a row and set the tone for their season. On Thursday night, this crucial matchup will take place and could decide the game between the New York Giants and the Washington Football Team.

Knicks reunion among Carmelo Anthony’s options during free agency

New York Knicks, Carmelo Anthony

After the Portland Trail Blazers moved on from him, Carmelo Anthony considered a reunion with the New York Knicks.

In Chris Hayne’s podcast on Monday, Anthony revealed that moving back to New York was among his options in the free agency before the Los Angeles Lakers offer came along.

“It was (hard) because I had just moved and bought a house in New York, Anthony said. “It was unexpected. My son starts school (today) in New York. So it was like, I’m here, I’m home. I never expected the Lakers to call.”

While Anthony said he’s been spending summertime in Los Angeles for more than a decade now, moving his family there never crossed his mind.

Anthony, a Brooklyn native, spent some of his prime years with the Knicks and led the team to the playoffs in 2013.

The Lakers were the Knicks’ rivals during their two championship runs in the 70s. The spotlights of Broadway and the glitz and glamour of Hollywood made them the two biggest markets in the NBA.

“I don’t know if I was ready to do that because that’s a big shift. When you wear the purple and gold, that’s different. Even in New York, when you wear the blue and orange, that’s blood. That runs deep. It’s the same way as the purple and gold. It’s just at different sides of the country,” Anthony said.

Anthony said he was in constant communication with Portland’s stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. He was waiting for the Trail Blazers’ call that never came. So he thought he’d move back to the east coast.

“I made [Portland] almost like a home for me. Within two years, I felt like I was a part of that community,” Anthony said. “New York was always there. Coming back to New York was always a story. I’ve always told my son when he goes to high school, I’ll be right there with you. The New York thing made sense.”

Anthony would have added more firepower to the Knicks’ bench that already has Derrick Rose and the pair of electrifying sophomores Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin.

Aside from the Knicks, the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Orleans Pelicans also showed interest.

“I didn’t really get a chance to really converse with Philly, but there was interest there,” Anthony said.

He then revealed that Philadelphia’s stars Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris reached out to him, but he never had the chance to talk to them as the Lakers scooped him up before the Sixers did.

The opportunity to chase a ring with his good friend LeBron James and Anthony Davis was too good to pass up, but it was never an easy decision.

“Having a great chance to win [was what made me decide to join the Lakers]. It took me some days to really like sit down and kind of break it down and really dig deep into making that decision,” Anthony said.

“To most people, it probably would have been an easy decision to make. But to me, it wasn’t. I really have to align a lot of things and put things in order for things to work out, for me to feel comfortable to be away from my family for another year and the kids not being there. People don’t understand that part. That’s the hardest part. The basketball (part) is easy.”

Anthony was linked to the Knicks when his former agent Leon Rose became the team’s president. But the former Knicks star said the interest wasn’t mutual.

“At this point, it wasn’t really a lot [of consideration],’’ Anthony said in the summer of 2020. “The Knicks were making moves and were trying to figure out the direction they wanted to go in. They weren’t done making moves. I’m sure they have a plan. I don’t think me coming in and trying to mess their plan up was good for either party.”

“They are rebuilding and figuring out what’s in their near future. It was me personally wanting to be part of a situation I was already comfortable with. I just finished playing with these guys two, three months ago. I felt it was the right fit at this point of time where I’m at right now this particular year.’’

Then the Knicks made a surprising run to the playoffs and have positioned themselves to make another serious run this season with the addition of four-time All-Star Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier.

What a difference a year makes.

The Knicks suddenly became an attractive destination to Anthony again until Hollywood pulled him away from home.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

UFC’s Conor McGregor: “Still a long way, but I’m gonna get back”

Conor McGregor, UFC

The biggest star to ever grace the UFC is getting closer and closer to being able to resume training. Former two-division world champion Conor McGregor (22-6) hasn’t been able to train since his trilogy fight with Dustin Poirier back at UFC 264 in July.

That night, McGregor’s leg snapped near the end of the first round causing the fight to be waved off. McGregor had to have surgery the next day where he had a titanium rod placed through his leg.

Since then, McGregor has been active on social media, but he’s not been able to do much physically. This past weekend, the former UFC champion was in the news when he had a confrontation with Machine Gun Kelly at the VMAs.

McGregor was seen walking without a boot and he’s back on his feet. Recently, journalist Adam Glyn caught up with McGregor and the former UFC champion provided some updates on where he’s at and his timeline.

McGregor’s UFC return

McGregor said, “I feel like I could kick right now. I honestly feel like I could kick right now, but I’ve just got to listen to the doctors and listen to the people that are guiding me. That’s what I’ve done so far, I’ve committed myself to the work and I’m back on the feet. It’s so good to be back on the feet.”

The former UFC champion also made it clear that he’s not quite ready to resume training and it will still be some time before we see him inside the octagon. That said, McGregor is more committed than ever to return.

“Still a long way, I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, like I said I feel like I can kick now, I’m not advised to kick yet. But I’m gonna get back. You think a broken bone is gonna stop me? Think again,” McGregor said.

Now, the UFC is currently targeting 2022 for McGregor’s return. How soon into 2022 will completely depend on McGregor’s recovery. If things progress quickly, we could see The Notorious one back inside the octagon sometime in late spring. However, early summer might be a more realistic timeframe.

New York Giants: Evan Engram out and Saquon Barkley questionable

New York Giants, Evan Engram

Even going into the second game of the season, the New York Giants might not have all of their offensive weapons on the field. The team was missing Evan Engram in the season opener and Engram was confirmed today as set to miss his second straight game with a calf injury from before the start of the season.

He’s not the only player that will miss the Thursday Night Football appearance against Washington. In slightly more minor news, special teamer Cam Brown and guard Shane Lemieux will also miss the game.

Saquon Barkley hasn’t been ruled out of the game like these other players. Despite that, he’s listed as questionable and there’s also no guarantee that he will play. While Barkley played in the opener, it’s clear that the staff are taking a cautious approach with him and that he wasn’t playing at his best while coming back from injury.

While some of the poor performance can be attributed to bad run blocking from the offensive line, a theory which is backed up by the lack of performance from alternative option Devontae Booker, Barkley ultimately didn’t utilize much of his unique skillset in the loss.

He looked like any replacement level running back in the league, and while Barkley himself refused to use his injury as a crutch, we may have to consider the possibility that his return was a bit too quick.

Devontae Booker is still waiting in the wings to take a larger role if Barkley is held back to recover longer before being brought back into the fold fully, but based on his own poor numbers from last Sunday, that may not be the most encouraging prospect for those hoping to see an improvement in the rushing attack against Washington.

Mets finally get some encouraging news about ace Jacob deGrom

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom

New York Mets’ ace Jacob deGrom, who has been out since early July and is currently on the 60-day injured list, is finally making some progress after spending weeks throwing from flat ground as he recovers from an elbow injury.

DeGrom has been on the shelf since July 7. At the time, his issue was deemed as right elbow inflammation, but Mets’ president of baseball operations Sandy Alderson recently came clean and explained that he was dealing with a partially torn UCL that resolved itself.

The pitcher himself confirmed the news last week, saying that he feels healthy and ready to ramp up. The Mets badly need his contributions on the MLB, and on Tuesday, he appears to have taken a monumental step forward.

Yesterday, deGrom threw off a mound for the first time since late July. As a reminder, he had started his throwing program that month after landing on the IL on July 7, but a setback forced him to be shut down for a few weeks.

The Mets are hoping his health “cooperates”

The Mets’ official site states the following: “As long as deGrom’s health cooperates, the Mets are committed to getting him back on the mound this season, if for no other reason than to have a baseline for where he’s at heading into the winter. The next week will go a long way toward determining if that will be possible.”

If he can advance quickly to facing live hitters and go on a short rehab assignment soon, then there may be a path for deGrom to return to the Mets in 2021. And while he still has significant hurdles to clear in order to reach his goal, it’s not out of the question that the best pitcher in MLB returns as a reliever to accelerate his timeline.

The Mets are currently 72-74, four games out of the second Wild Card spot in the National League and 5.5 behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East division.

NASCAR makes several changes in 2022 Cup Series schedule

The NASCAR Cup Series announced its 2022 schedule on Wednesday, detailing a plethora of changes for next season.

Most notably, NASCAR is moving one Cup Series date to WWT Raceway from Pocono Raceway. WWT Raceway has never held a Cup Series event but has previously hosted the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series. WWT Raceway will host the Cup Series on June 5 while Pocono will host its lone race on July 24.

An early-season change NASCAR made is moving the COTA race to March. With the Cup Series headed back to Auto Club on February 27, it leaves the series without an early road course. NASCAR raced the Daytona Road Course as the second race this season instead of Auto Club, but will not race the road course at all in 2022.

NASCAR also shook up the playoffs a bit. Richmond Raceway’s “fall” race is now on August 14, outside of the playoffs. Homestead-Miami is again a playoff race after a two-year absence, but as a race in the Round of 8. The fall Kansas race moves from the Round of 8 to the Round of 16, scheduled for September 11.

Dover’s lone 2022 race is set for May 1, two weeks earlier than this season. Watkins Glen and Michigan switch dates in 2022, Michigan racing on August 7 and Watkins Glen on August 21 as the penultimate race of the regular season. Bristol returns as a dirt race in 2022 on April 17, a primetime race on Easter Sunday.

The Cup Series has just one off-week on the 2022 calendar, that coming the week of June 19.

NASCAR’s Clash exhibition race is on February 6 inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a kick-off to Super Bowl week in California. The All-Star race goes to Texas Motor Speedway for the second-straight year, scheduled for May 22.

Start times and network schedules are TBD. The Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series schedules will release in the coming weeks.

The full Cup Series schedule is below:

Sunday, February 6 Clash (L.A. Memorial Coliseum)
Thursday, February 17 Duel at Daytona
Sunday, February 20 DAYTONA 500
Sunday, February 27 Auto Club
Sunday, March 6 Las Vegas
Sunday, March 13 Phoenix
Sunday, March 20 Atlanta
Sunday, March 27 COTA
Sunday, April 3 Richmond
Saturday, April 9 Martinsville
Sunday, April 17 Bristol Dirt
Sunday, April 24 Talladega
Sunday, May 1 Dover
Sunday, May 8 Darlington
Sunday, May 15 Kansas
Sunday, May 22 All-Star (Texas)
Sunday, May 29 Charlotte
Sunday, June 5 World Wide Technology Raceway
Sunday, June 12 Sonoma
Sunday, June 26 Nashville Superspeedway
Sunday, July 3 Road America
Sunday, July 10 Atlanta
Sunday, July 17 New Hampshire
Sunday, July 24 Pocono
Sunday, July 31 Indianapolis Road Course
Sunday, August 7 Michigan
Sunday, August 14 Richmond
Sunday, August 21 Watkins Glen
Saturday, August 27 Daytona
Sunday, September 4 Darlington
Sunday, September 11 Kansas
Saturday, September 17 Bristol
Sunday, September 25 Texas
Sunday, October 2 Talladega
Sunday, October 9 Charlotte Roval
Sunday, October 16 Las Vegas
Sunday, October 23 Homestead-Miami
Sunday, October 30 Martinsville
Sunday, November 6 Phoenix

**Boldface denotes playoff race**

Islanders’ Semyon Varlamov a Vezina Trophy favorite for this season

It’s been written about a length now how important goaltending has become to the overall success of the Islanders. As one of the stabilizing facets under the Lou Lamoriello-Barry Trotz regime, you would think the Vezina Trophy would have made its way back to Long Island by now.

Hall of Famer Billy Smith remains the only Vezina winner in the franchise’s history when he won the award in 1982. Robin Lehner came close to winning the award in 2019, only to fall short to Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. And Semyon Varlamov, the goalie who replaced Lehner, had a Vezina-worthy season in 2020-21 but finished fifth in the voting.

This year though could be different, as there seems to be more faith in Varlamov as one of the heavy favorites to receive the biggest prize for a goaltender.

According to vegasinsider.com, Varlamov has the fourth-best odds to win the Vezina. Ahead of him are Vasilevskiy, Marc-Andre Fleury (the reigning winner) and Phillipp Grubauer, who was a finalist last year in Colorado and is now a member of the expansion Seattle Kraken.

That’s a star-studded list. But it’s definitely one that Varlamov deserves to be on.

Last year the 33-year-old was tremendous for the Isles in the regular season posting 19 wins and having a GAA (goals-against average) and SV% (save percentage) both in the top-five of goalies in the league. Varlamov was able to form a formidable duo with rookie Ilya Sorokin in net, and the two showed terrific chemistry as a 1A-1B combo. The Russian native was a key part of the Islanders getting within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals and head coach Barry Trotz acknowledged him as the team’s MVP for the season after he was snubbed in the trophy Voting.

“I’m biased a little bit because I see Varly from a day-in and day-out aspect,” Trotz said. “He’s probably been our MVP this year. I can’t challenge the three finalists, [the Lightning’s Andrei] Vasilevskiy has been outstanding, [the Golden Knights’ Marc-Andre] Fleury has been outstanding, I’ve had [the Avalanche’s] Philipp Grubauer and he’s been outstanding. I’m biased because I get to see Varly and I know how much he means to us in a very competitive division this year.”

Trotz might not need to have the same defense of his starting goaltender based on the expectations now of he and his team for 2021-22. Experts see the Islanders as a threat to win the Stanley Cup with Varlamov being a huge part of why they are in that position. He’s an elite keeper. And it needs to be said — which has already been recognized by yours truly — that Varlamov and Sorokin make up arguably the top goaltending tandem in the NHL after Fleury was dealt from Vegas to Chicago earlier this offseason.

Securing the Vezina would be a huge accomplishment for Varlamov after how close he came to winning it once before. He finished second in voting for the 2012-13 season when he backstopping the Colorado Avalanche. It’s crazy to believe he hasn’t been in consideration since. Until now.

Varlamov has reached that high level again. And it’s why he is a favorite going into this year to bring home the greatest honor a goaltender can receive.