MLB News: Boston Red Sox earn a ticket to the ALCS, Goodbye Tampa Bay

The Boston Red Sox got to the AL divisional series by beating the New York Yankees in the wild card game. Both the Red  Sox and the Yankees had up and down seasons leading them to have the same 92-70 record. However, with the Sox having a better season record over the Yanks, they got the home-field advantage. On Tuesday night, the Red Sox ended the Yankees season with a 6-2 win.

The Tampa Bay Rays, for other than a short time, have led the AL East all season and dominated all of its AL East opponents finishing the season eight games ahead of both the Yankees and the Red Sox. Nine ahead of the Blue Jays and 48 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles that lost 110 games this season.

In the first game of the divisional series, the Tampa Bay Rays blew out the Red Sox 5-0. Shane McClanahan was dominant, holding the Red Sox scoreless. The Rays hit two home runs in the win. Veteran Nelson Cruz homered in the third inning, and the incredible Randy Arozarena made history with his home run. He became the fifth player to hit a homer in 19 consecutive postseason games. He also is the first to hit a homer and steal home in the same postseason game.

Game two; the Red Sox bested the Rays by piling on the runs. At the end of the night, it was the Red Sox 14 and the Rays 6. The Sox knocked starting pitcher newbie Shane Baz out of the game. But that was better than the Sox ace Chris Sale; he was out of the game at the end of the first inning, giving up five earned runs. Tanner Houck for the Sox got the win with five innings of one-run ball. For the Sox, it was home run heaven. Bogaerts, Verdugo, Hernandez, Martinez, and Devers all hit long balls in the game.

Game three: The Red Sox won the game 6 to 4, giving them the one-run lead in the best of five. Nathan Eovaldi was on the mound for the Sox. The Rays got on the board first with a two-run homer by Austin Meadows in the first. The Red Sox answered with a solo shot by Kyle Schwarber. Eovaldi, in the top of the third, put down the side in order. In the bottom of the third, Kiki Hernandez drove in a run to tie it up. Then, Rafael Devers drove in another run to Boston’s first lead of the game.

In the fifth inning against the third, Tampa reliever Kiki Hernandez got a solo shot tacking on another Boston run. Red Sox 4-2. The sixth and seventh innings were scoreless. In the top of the eighth, Wandy Franco hit his first-ever postseason home run into the green monster seats, tieing up the game. The game remained tied into the 13th inning.

At the top of the 13th, Randy Arozarena hit a double; then you saw one of the most unusual plays in baseball Kevin Kiermairer hit what appeared to be a home run to right-center. But upon review, the ball hit the wall, bounced off the Red Sox Hunter Renfroe and into the seats, and was ruled a ground-rule double. Denino struck out, ending the inning scoreless for the Rays with the game still tied. Then, at the bottom, with one on, Christian Vazquez homered over the green monster, becoming the eighth catcher ever to hit a walk-off homer. The final score was The Red  Sox 6 and Tampa Bay 4.

Game four; With the Red Sox up two games to one tonight, the Red Sox could get their ticket to the ALCS with a win. If the Rays won, it would force a game five back at Tropicana Field. The Red Sox sent Eduardo Rodriguez to secure the win. Tampa put Collin McHugh on the mound. The first inning was scoreless for both teams. The second inning was led off by the veteran Nelson Cruz who went down on strikes. E-Rod ended up putting down the side in order. At the bottom, McHugh did the same, no score.

In the third inning, Austin Meadows struck out on the 17th pitch. The rest went down 1-2. At the bottom, Shane McClanahan took over for the Rays. Rafael Devers hit a long one into the green monster seats for the 3-0 Red Sox lead with two on. Verdugo drove in a run with a double off the monster wall for the four-run lead. That was followed by J.T Martinez hitting off the same division for another run ending McCalahan’s night. JT Chargois replaced him. He did no better allowing another double off the monster. Still, with two outs, Valezquz struck out to finally end the inning, but the Red Sox picked up five runs. Boston 5 Tampa Bay 0.

In the fourth, with E-Rod still on the mound, he again put down the Rays. At the bottom, with Kittredge on the mound, he silenced the Sox putting them down in order. In the fifth, Austin Meadows got an RBI ground out to first to put the Rays on the board, but that’s all they would get. At the bottom, Kittredge pitched a 1-2-3 fifth. Red Sox 5 Tampa Bay Rays 1.

E-Rod was still on the mound for the Red Sox in the sixth, but Kevin Kiermaier doubled, and Rodriguez left the game to applause. Tanner Houck replaced him. Wander Franco, with one on, got a homer to the monster seats, and it was a two-run game, but that is all they would get. Then, in the bottom of the seventh inning, Rafael Dever singled, putting two on with one out ending Fleming’s night, who Pete Fairbanks replaced; Xander Bogaerts ground out into a double play that ended the inning. Red Sox 5 Tampa 3.

In the eighth inning, Mike Zunino led off with a double, Kiermaier doubled, driving in Zunino to make it a one-run game. Randy Arozarena doubled, scoring Kiermaier that tied the game at five apiece. At the bottom, with two outs, Nelson Cruz ground out to end the inning, keeping the game tied at 5.  At the bottom of the inning, Verdugo hit single to short, but Franco overthrew first that went into the dugout for a double with no outs. But the Sox couldn’t score. Game tied at 5

The ninth with Gerret Whitlock on the mound for the Sox, Choi ground out. Diaz ground out. Meadows flew out for a seven-pitch inning. In the bottom with the ALCS on the line for the Red Sox, Christian Vazquez facing JP Feyereisen, led off with a single to left. Arroyo ground out with Vazquez moving to second. Travis Shaw pinch-hitting to Dalbec singled. Kiki Herandez, with men on the corners, hit one off the all for the walk-off win and trip to the ALCS.

The final score was the Boston Red Sox 6 and the Tampa Bay Rays 5. The winning pitcher was Gerret Whitlock, the loser was Feyereisen, and the Red Sox moved on to the American League Championship Series.

 

New York Giants: Silver linings in disastrous Week Five loss

kadarius toney, giants

The New York Giants fell to 1-4 after a disastrous loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Dallas whooped the Giants 44-20 as New York lost a number of key starters during the Week Five matchup. Nearly everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong for the Giants.

However, there were some silver linings for Giants fans to latch on to. The emergence of Kadarius Toney as a player with superstar potential is rather exciting. And on the offensive line, it was not a great performance from the boys upfront, however, Matt Peart started for the first time this season at right tackle and outplayed Nate Solder. These two young players standing out are major silver linings for the Giants.

Kadarius Toney: A star was born in Dallas

New York Giants first-round pick Kadarius Toney had a breakout performance on Sunday. The Giants spent the 20th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on the rookie wide receiver who put up 189 receiving yards against the Dallas Cowboys.

Kadarius Toney looks like a superstar in the making. He totaled 196 yards (7 rushing, 189 receiving) on 11 touches. His 93.3 PFF receiving grade in Week Five was the highest among all receivers in the league. Toney’s 189 receiving yards are the most posted by a rookie in a single game this season.

Kadarius Toney ran some ridiculous routes to create separation, but he also made plays after the catch. Toney forced 3 missed tackles and averaged 8.9 yards after the catch per reception. Kadarius Toney is a true weapon for the New York Giants’ offense.

Matt Peart outplaying Nate Solder

All offseason long, Matt Peart was the projected starter at right tackle for the New York Giants. But, to start the regular season, Nate Solder won the job. With left tackle Andrew Thomas OUT on Sunday, Nate Solder made the switch back to left tackle as a fill-in. This opened the door for Matt Peart to start at right tackle. One tackle significantly outperformed the other, and it was not the tackle that has started the first four games of the season.

Nate Solder allowed 3 QB hits, 5 hurries, and an insane 8 pressures against the Dallas Cowboys in Week Five. He was a turnstile protecting Daniel Jones and Mike Glennon’s blindsides.

Matt Peart allowed 1 pressure and 0 QB Hits on 68 snaps as the starter against the Cowboys. He significantly outperformed the veteran. As a second-year player, Peart is still developing. With increased playing time, he could turn into a viable option as a full-time starter for the Giants.

BetUS survey reveals Knicks with most die-hard fans, Nets with most bandwagon fans

new york knicks, julius randle

One of the most interesting storylines in the Eastern Conference this season is the battle of New York.

It has been three summers since the Brooklyn Nets had emerged from the shadows of the New York Knicks when they scooped up superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Nets have become a title contender overnight after adding James Harden to form a super team in Brooklyn last season. Across the bridge, the Knicks have transformed from a laughingstock into a virtual playoff lock with the hiring of veteran coach Tom Thibodeau.

The gripping battle for the city’s stranglehold will reach fever pitch this season if their paths cross in the playoffs.

The sideline battle could be hotter as a recent survey conducted by BetUS.com revealed that the Knicks have the most die-hard fans while the Nets have the most bandwagon fans. 

The online gambling company’s study had the Knicks (81.9 percent) coming in a close second behind the Boston Celtics (82.7 percent) as the most followed team in the NBA. The Nets rounded up the list of the top 10 most followed teams with the major boost from their superstars, particularly Durant, the third-most followed player in the NBA (behind LeBron James and Stephen Curry), according to the survey.

BetUS came up with their loyalty meta rankings after calculating the weighted average of the following key metrics of fan behavior:

  • Time spent following favorite team as a percentage of total time spent following the NBA (Weight: 50%)
  • Average percentage of team’s games watched per season (Weight: 25%)
  • Percentage of fans who have bought team merchandise (Weight: 5%)
  • Percentage of fans who have bought tickets to a game (Weight: 5%)
  • Percentage of fans who have followed their team on social media (Weight: 5%)
  • Percentage of fans who have a tattoo of their preferred team logo (Weight: 5%)
  • Average dollars spent on merchandise by fans each season (Weight: 5%)

The Knicks’ fans’ long-time loyalty to their team is unmatched. They have the most die-hard fans (63 percent) but the Nets are starting to gain ground with their star power drawing the most bandwagon fans (45 percent).

According to the survey’s metrics, die-hard fans are those who have followed the team for more than five years and more than half of the time spent following the NBA. In contrast, the bandwagon fans are those who have followed the team for less than two years.

 

In addition, more than half of the Nets fans who responded to the survey have only started following the team in 2021. Winning a championship in the next year or two could sustain their ascent as fan favorites.

The good news for the Knicks is that they did not land in the top five among teams with the biggest loss of followers despite a long stretch of incompetence in the last decade.

 

While Irving’s reluctance to get the COVID-19 vaccine is threatening Brooklyn’s title hopes this season, the Nets still have enough star power and a deeper bench this year to mitigate his possible prolonged absence.

On the other hand, the Knicks have reloaded to keep in step, slowly building a serious playoff contender. The addition of four-time All-Star Kemba Walker and France’s best swingman Evan Fournier addressed their weakness that was exposed in the playoffs. A second straight playoff appearance and a deeper run will certainly help their appeal to more NBA fans to counter the mainstream media narrative that they own New York, but the Nets are more popular outside the city.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

The New York Jets are resilient…but is that enough to succeed in 2021?

zach wilson, jets

The New York Jets have undoubtedly grown over the past year on the football calendar. But is this type of progress acceptable?

The modern New York Jets are a team of many labels. “Boring”, however, doesn’t make the cut. Many watch the Jets for gridiron schadenfreude and meme ammunition, but even the most relentless virtual court jesters who rely upon the Jets for their material had to take a legitimate interest in what the team had cooking in 2021.

The highly-sought Robert Saleh was granted the head coaching reins while rookie quarterback Zach Wilson was surrounded by the best offensive weaponry a 2-14 team could afford. Corey Davis, Tevin Coleman, Keelan Cole, Tyler Kroft, and Morgan Moses weren’t forming an All-Pro team, but each had two vital traits for a metropolitan squad in transition: postseason experience and something to prove.

It was hard to label the Jets’ 2021 expectations: they upgraded from the previous year’s group if only because anything short of folding the franchise would’ve been seen as an improvement after last season, the cursed final year of Adam Gase’s doomed tenure. There were legitimate reasons for excitement, but nothing that would allow the Jets to crash the AFC’s postseason party hosted by Kansas City and Buffalo.

Saleh, a stabilizing force for a franchise in desperate need of any footing, was kind enough to stop the debate over the Jets’ expectations during the fanfare surrounding his introductory press conference in February. The former San Francisco defensive coordinator flat out promised that the road back to NFL respectability would be paved with adversity. But he was willing to embrace such hardships with open arms in the name of growth.

michael carter, jets

“I’m genuinely excited for adversity, because a lot of different things are going to pop up,” Saleh told Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated shortly after his hire. “Everybody’s going to find out a little more about themselves when adversity hits. I think that’s when teams have their greatest amount of growth, it’s through adversity…that’s what I’m most excited for. I want to see how people respond.”

Having arrived at a league-mandated landmark…their Week 6 open date traditionally granted to those partaking in the NFL International Series…with a 1-4 record premature analysis of the Saleh era has gotten underway. The latest defeat came overseas, as the Jets fell by a 27-20 final to the Atlanta Falcons in London.

There’s no use in fully assessing Saleh and Wilson; barring complete and utter disaster, they’ll return for 2022. Even the most optimistic Jets supporter would’ve been foolhardy to assume playoffs and the overwhelming standings onslaught has come to pass.

The Western New York juggernaut that rules the East division has been everything advertised and then some. A desperate wild card bid is likely already thwarted by the usual expected suspects (i.e. Cleveland, LA Chargers) and surprise surges in Denver, Cincinnati, and Las Vegas.

Developmental growth is what will define the Jets’ individual seasons and efforts until a more complete team is assembled…so what can be said about 2021?

Through five games, it’s undeniably clear that this team is blessed with resiliency, perhaps the best trait you can ask for when you’re prophetically doomed to a year of rebuilding. That trait is best on display through a defense held together with the masking tape of additions obtained through Saturdays of draft weekends past and present (i.e. Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols). A unit that was supposed to be headlined by the antics of Carl Lawson, Marcus Maye, and Jarrad Davis has given way to breakout campaigns from bargain bin, end-of-camp releases like Quincy Williams and John Franklin-Myers.

quincy wilson, jets

For better or worse, the Jets have kept their fans more invested in their games from a scoreboard perspective. New York has faced sizable deficits over its first five games (summiting at a 26-point shutout margin in Denver) but they’ve had the decency…or cruelty?…to keep pace with their powerful opponents until the dam of gridiron destiny finally broke.

But while the Jets have kept things close in terms of the final score, the matters and context as to how they got there have been dubious. Sunday’s latest defeat was a prime opportunity for the Jets to cash in: they were coming off an inspiring win over division leaders from Nashville while Atlanta was missing blooming top receiver Calvin Ridley. Going up against the sputtering Falcons, whose pair of victories have come against the horrifying metropolitan duology of MetLife Stadium, could’ve been almost scripted by a pro-Jets screenwriter.

Instead, the Jets allowed the Falcons’ aging franchise quarterback to look like the Matt Ryan of old (season-best 342 yards) and heralded a Kyle Pitts breakout session (9 receptions, 119 yards, and a score). Granted, perhaps a defensive regression should’ve been expected: the unit has been carrying water for the offense all year forced to start an average drive only 65 yards away from the end zone, an NFL worse. At some point, they probably had to snap, and a breaking point of sorts came on Sunday.

But, despite that, the Jets keep things decent in their final margins, especially when removing the particularly ugly Denver outlier. For as much hullabaloo the Sam Darnold reunion caused, his new employer prevailed only by a five-point margin. After four Wilson interceptions, a visit from the New England Patriots was still only a two-possession game at the half.

So the Jets have established themselves as a resilient team, a pesky group that isn’t going to back down from a challenge and could perhaps even play up to its competition. But how long can they do this? How long can beautifying the scoreboard be a sustainable, respectable goal?

Last week’s win over the Tennessee Titans personified that best-case scenario of what the 2021 season can be: it was a win over a contender, a throat-clearing gesture to the rest of the football world that better times were finally ahead for one of professional sports’ most downtrodden and lampooned franchises. Sure, the win came as the Titans were missing the services of firey receiving options A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, but considering the long-term medical woes the Jets have endured over the first month of regular season play alone that’s hardly a valid excuse.

Wilson, the architect of 297 yards, two touchdown passes, and the Jets’ first comeback from two possessions down since December 2018, created a point on the team franchise timeline that couldn’t be ignored. Of note, was focused on not only the positives but on the work ahead as well.

zach wilson, jets

“I wouldn’t say we’ve fully arrived,” Wilson said, per Jack Bell of the team website. “This is just another puzzle piece of where I want to get. Now we have to stack the blocks. This was a step in the right direction.” Saleh concurred, noting that he hoped the win over the Titans would help the young team’s confidence “snowball”.

Alas, the opportunity to create a winning streak fell by the wayside on New White Hart Lane and leaves a sour taste in the Jets’ mouths. The lost chance to create a rare, guaranteed, three-week period of good vibes is likely not lost on a team that has embraced the low expectations and opinion the football-loving public has bestowed upon them.

Saleh, Wilson, and Co. can preach for hours on end about the Jets’ growth and development, how pleased they are in what they’re building. But all that means nothing if they can’t prove their progress in the most important…or at the very least most conventional…metrics: the win column and the three-hour windows on Sunday afternoon (or, in the London case, morning). Improving the former is a little too much to ask for, but the team can hardly prove that they’re moving in the right direction when they’re falling behind by two possessions in each of its games.

The Jets have been macabrely blessed with the gift of the fact that this season is an automatic improvement over last year’s disaster. But that doesn’t mean they have to be satisfied with it.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Jorge Masvidal – Leon Edwards close to being finalized for UFC 269

The welterweight grudge match that UFC fans have wanted to see is close to being finalized. Ariel Helwani reported today that the fight between Leon Edwards (19-3, 1 NC) and Jorge Masvidal (35-15) is all but finalized and it will go down this year.

Helwani reported that the fight is being targeted for UFC 269 on December 11th. That card currently has three title fights (headlined by Charles Oliveira – Dustin Poirier), but reports are that the flyweight title fight between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno might move.

With that, Masvidal and Edwards will be the third main card fight for UFC 269. Edwards is going to be looking for his tenth win in his last eleven UFC appearances. The only non-win was a No Contest which came earlier this year in a fight with Belal Muhammad.

Worth noting that Edwards was dominating that fight. Given the current state of the UFC‘s welterweight division, this could very well be a title eliminator. With Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman fighting in November, Edwards could get his UFC title shot with a win over Gamebred.

UFC 269 – Three Piece and a Soda

Jorge Masvidal will be looking to snap a two-fight losing streak in his next fight. His last two fights came against Kamaru Usman for the UFC welterweight title and Gamebred fell short both times.

Now, he’s looking to get back on track and he’s still desiring another crack at UFC gold. A clear way to get there is with a win over Leon Edwards. These two have bad blood that dates back to 2019 when Gamebred knocked out Darren Till.

Masvidal was conducting his post-fight interview with ESPN when Edwards walked by. The two exchanged words which caused Masvidal to approach Edwards. Upon approaching him, Masvidal bloodied Edwards with a combination.

Now, the two men will finally meet in the UFC. Who do you think will ultimately win this matchup at UFC 269?

New York Giants: Kadarius Toney gives first statement since heated moment vs Dallas

new york giants, kadarius toney

The New York Giants came away with a divisional loss on Sunday, but one of the most notable moments happened after the play itself. That moment was when wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who was having the best game of his career so far, earned himself an ejection by punching Cowboys defensive back Damontae Kazee.

The fourth quarter scuffle began with Toney being shoved to the ground after the whistle. Teammate Evan Engram also appeared to get into a confrontation with Kazee, and was shoved in the facemask. With that being said, Toney going above and beyond and retaliating with a punch to the helmet was a quick ticket to draw the attention of the referees and receive an immediate ejection.

Toney has released a public statement about the incident, apologizing to the organization and his teammates.

The incident could have gotten Toney a suspension, too. However, in a stroke of luck for the Giants, Ian Rapoport has stated that there will be no suspension and that the most likely punishment is a fine.

Toney managed to avoid a suspension from the league, but he probably won’t avoid some kind of punishment from Joe Judge. The Giants head coach has been clear about his intentions to teach discipline – an aspect of his coaching style that has become controversial this season, as despite all the talk the Giants have still struggled with things like penalties this season.

At the end of the day, though, Toney has very quickly adapted to a higher usage by the offense and has been a primary weapon in the receiving game while the Giants have dealt with injuries to Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton. Now that Kenny Golladay is also injured, we can only really expect that trend to continue in the coming game; even if Judge likely isn’t the happiest with Toney’s recent display of emotions.

The Giants, after all, are fighting for their season right now. A couple more losses will easily see the fanbase slide back into apathy, and a rising number of injuries makes winning all the more challenging. At the moment, the Giants need to take what they can get. Don’t expect to see them play Toney any less just to make a point about discipline.

Toney finished the game with 10 receptions for 189 yards. If he can remain consistent in his production, the punch will hardly be something that is remembered a few weeks later into the season.

After impressive win at UFC Vegas 39, what’s next for Marina Rodriguez?

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 39, we saw a battle between two of the best strawweights in the world. Top ranked contenders Marina Rodriguez (15-1-2) took on Mackenzie Dern (11-2).

Heading into the fight, I kept thinking that the path to victory was pretty clear for both fighters. For Dern, it was going to be vital getting Rodriguez to the mat. Dern is not someone you want to go to the mat with and if you do, you’re likely going to tap.

For Rodriguez, she needed to keep the fight standing. While Dern had made significant improvements in her striking, she doesn’t have the distance control and preciseness that Rodriguez had. I figured a striking battle would show some holes in her stand up game.

Well, at UFC Vegas 39, we saw a lot of striking. While the two ladies were on the feet, it went exactly how I thought. It was fairly one-sided with Rodriguez landing the much better shots and controlling the range well.

Where I was wrong is how the fight went on the ground. I figured if it touched the grown, Dern would pick up the win. However, despite getting on top a few times, Dern couldn’t find the submission at UFC Vegas 39 and Rodriguez went on to win a decision.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 39?

This was a massive win for Rodriguez and perhaps puts her only a fight or two away from getting a crack at the UFC strawweight title. With that in mind, who should the promotion pair her with next.

In terms of rankings and winning streaks, the one opponent that makes sense is a rematch with Carla Esparza (18-6). Esparza is a former UFC champion and is the only woman to have defeated Rodriguez in her professional career.

However, I don’t see the former UFC champion taking that fight. I think she’s set on waiting for the winner of the rematch between Zhang Weili and Rose Namajunas. That’s a shot Esparza deserves and I think she’ll get it.

The fight the UFC should make is between Rodriguez and Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). The former champion is hoping to return early next year and who wouldn’t want to see this battle between these two technical strikers.

Not sure that Jedrzejczyk would take it if the UFC offers, but that’s definitely the fight that I’d try to make next.

Rangers finalize roster, Kravtsov sent to AHL Hartford

The New York Rangers have finalized their roster with Vitali Kravtsov among the players sent to Hartford.

With training camp officially concluded, the New York Rangers have their 23 player roster set for opening night in Washington. Surprisingly Vitali Kravtsov will not be on the ice or in the press box on Wednesday night as he was one of the players sent down to the AHL.

The Rangers announced the team has assigned Morgan Barron, Vitali Kravtsov, and Greg McKegg, to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL) on Monday afternoon.

  • Barron, 22, played in four games for the Rangers this preseason, recording four shots.
  • Kravtsov, 21, scored one goal, on the power play, in three preseason games.
  • McKegg, 29, skated in four preseason games for the Rangers, recording two shots.

23 Man Roster

Here is the 23 man roster the team will begin the 2021-2022 season with.

Forwards (13)

Sammy Blais
Filip Chytil
Julien Gauthier
Barclay Goodrow
Dryden Hunt
Kaapo Kakko
Chris Kreider
Alexis Lafreniere
Artemi Panarin
Ryan Reaves
Kevin Rooney
Ryan Strome
Mika Zibanejad

Defense (8)

Adam Fox
Libor Hajek
Ryan Lindgren
Nils Lundkvist
K’Andre Miller
Patrik Nemeth
Jarred Tinordi
Jacob Trouba

Goalie (2)
Igor Shesterkin
Alexandar Georgiev

 

Rangers rookie Nils Lundkvist wins Lars-Erik Sjoberg award

The New York Rangers have announced that Nils Lundkvist has won the Lars-Erik Sjoberg award ass the top rookie in training camp.

The New York Rangers have announced the winner of this year’s Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award. Defenseman Nils Lundkvist takes home the award which is given annually to the top Rangers rookie in Training Camp as selected by the media.

The 5-foot-11, 187-pound defenseman was drafted in the first round (28th overall) of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. A Pitea, Sweden native, Lundkvist is playing in North America for the first time this season after spending parts of the last four years with Lulea HF of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).

Lundkvist, 21, led all Rangers rookies this preseason with three points (three assists) in four games. His three points were tied for the most among New York defensemen and third-most among all Rangers skaters. (Via NYRPR)

In the preseason opener against the Islanders on Sept. 26, Lundkvist was one of two Rangers (Adam Fox) to skate in over 20 minutes with 21:11 TOI. On Oct. 1 in New Jersey, Lundkvist found his way on the scoresheet with an assist on fellow Swede, Mika Zibanejad’s goal. Playing in the second of a back-to-back on Oct. 2, in Boston, Lundkvist helped lead the Rangers to their overtime win with two assists in the first period of that game. For his final act of the preseason, Lundkvist recorded a shot in 18:44 minutes of ice time in the Blueshirts’ 6-2 win against New Jersey at Madison Square Garden.

Past Sjoberg Winners

The Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award, which was first presented in 1988, honors the memory of Lars-Erik Sjoberg, who was the Rangers chief European scout for eight years. During his tenure with the Blueshirts, Sjoberg played a prominent role in the team’s decision to draft Europeans such as Tomas Sandstrom, Jan Erixon, and Ulf Dahlen.

Lundkvist joins an impressive group of past winners of this award;

1988 Mike Richter

1989 Troy Mallette

1990 Steven Rice

1991 Tony Amonte

1992 Peter Andersson

1993 Mattias Norstrom

1994 Mattias Norstrom

1995 Niklas Sundstrom

1996 Eric Cairns

1997 Marc Savard

1998 Manny Malhotra

1999 Kim Johnsson

2000 Filip Novak

2001 Dan Blackburn

2002 Jamie Lundmark

2003 Dominic Moore

2005 Henrik Lundqvist

2006 Nigel Dawes and Brandon Dubinsky

2007 Marc Staal

2008 Lauri Korpikoski

2009 Matt Gilroy

2010 Derek Stepan

2011 Carl Hagelin

2013 Jesper Fast

2014 Anthony Duclair

2015 Oscar Lindberg

2016 Jimmy Vesey

2017 Filip Chytil

2018 Lias Andersson

2019 Adam Fox

2021 Nils Lundkvist

 

Lundkvist is expected to be on the opening night lineup and paired with veteran defenseman Patrik Nemeth. The Rangers will open their season on Wednesday in Washington and then head to Madison Square Garden for their home op[ener on Thursday night.

Knicks’ Derrick Rose gives rookie center Jericho Sims words of wisdom

knicks, jericho sims

When it comes to rookie center Jericho Sims, the New York Knicks are incredibly high on his potential. Standing at 6’9″ and 250-pounds, Sims has a lot of developmental work left ahead of him, which is why he would likely spend the majority of the 2021–22 season with the team’s G-League squad.

However, Sims has the potential to be a long-term solution at center, especially after a dominant performance on the boards in the Knicks’ most recent preseason win over the Washington Wizards.

Sims recorded 13 rebounds, three of which were offensive. He tallied seven points, shooting 50% from the field. While his stats show a quality game, Sims is weak in a few areas, including defensive positioning and communication.

Veteran point guard Derrick Rose indicated that Sims has immense potential, but he needs to learn how to be more communicative. Rose, similarly to Sims, is an introvert, and he has tasked himself with helping the Texas product break out of his shell.

“My job of being a vet is trying to get him to break out of that shell because as a big you have to be able to talk and communicate,” Rose said, per the NY Daily News. “And [coach Tom Thibodeau] is not going to allow him to be quiet on the court. So it’s my job to help the big guy with that.”

Being aware of your surroundings is an integral part of playing the center position, which is something that Sims will gain with experience. The team currently has Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel, and Taj Gibson slated ahead of Sims on the roster, but that doesn’t mean their plans don’t include him in the future. Gibson is essentially on a one-year contract, and Robinson has one year left on his rookie deal. It is entirely possible they let Gibson walk next season and elevate Sims to the active roster, utilizing him as their primary backup.

Rose continued to offer his expertise to the young professional, insisting that paying attention is one of his most important lessons derived from playing with some of the best big men in the league.

“I told him no matter what, if I got the ball, if I jump in the air, always pay attention to me until I get rid of the ball,” Rose said. “Because sometimes I jump in the air and just to throw a fake pass just to give it to him for a lay-up. So just telling him everything I told Joakim [Noah] or any other big that I played with: to always keep their eyes on me so that they could get easy baskets.”

The Knicks have one final preseason game against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday evening, presenting Sims with the final opportunity to showcase his qualities. While I wouldn’t entirely rule out the concept of carrying Sims over into the regular season as a roster member, he will likely find his way down to the G-League at some point. Ultimately, it will be good for him to earn minutes against some quality players, and if he continues to grow, his time at MSG will come.