Saturday, November 10, 2007

Yanks need Posada back

Jorge Posada has let the Yankees know that he will test free agency rather than accept a conract offer in the next few days. No matter how much money it will take, the Yankees need Posada back in 2008. The other catchers worth talking about on the market are Jose Molina and Yorvit Tarreablla. Neither has the power or batting eye Posada has, and with an Arod-less lineup, Posada's bat will prove to be vital.

Tonight at Joe Torre's Safe at Home Foundation gala, captain Derek Jeter said he feels his buddy Posada will return. You have to feel Jeter knows what he is talking about considering he was the best man at Jorge's wedding. "I think they're coming back," Derek Jeter said about Posada and Mo tonight in Manhattan. "That's the best way I can say it."

Monday, November 5, 2007

Giants back to work after the bye

Head coach Tom Coughlin gave his players off the entire bye week with the exception of a few team meetings. This morning the Giants finally resumed practice, but it was only a light jog-through. The team will again have off tommorrow before returning to full contact practices on Wednesday.

Almost the entire team participated in the jog-through today. Only WR Plaxico Burress did not participate at all. RB Derrick Ward and SS James Butler took limited reps. Burress has not been practicing since week 1 of the season because of a sprained ankle. His routine has been to lay off his ankle all week in order to be ready for the games on Sundays. After week 8 against the Dolphins, it was believed that Plaxico would resume practicing after the week 9 bye. However, it now appears that he will continue to be held out of practice. I think this will be the trend for the remainder of the season. Its not like its hurting his performance anyway- Burress is in the midst of a career year.

Burress, Ward, and Butler are all expected to be listed as questionable for week 10 against the Cowboys when the first injury report comes out on Wednesday. As I said, Burress will almost certainly play, and the other two will likely be limited in practice all week long and will be gametime decisions on Sunday. The Ward and Butler injuries are pretty insignificant anyway. Ward being out just means more carries for Brandon Jacobs, and Butler's replacement (rookie safety Michael Johnson) has outperformed him the past few weeks anyway.

Overall, this is the healthiest a New York Giants team has been this deep into the season in a long long time. KNOCK ON WOOD.

Rangers/Flyers: 4 in a Row

The New York Rangers defeated the division rival Philapdelphia Flyers 2-0 Monday night, again at Madison Square Garden. Chalk that up as 4 Ws in a row for the Rangers, as they now have a record of 7-6-1. After a tough start to the season, New York now finds itself just 1 point behind the first place Flyers. The long homestand really did wonders for the Rangers, as they went 5-1 in 6 games on the Garden ice. Overall, the Rangers are now 7-2 for the year at home, but are a dismal 0-4-1 on the road. They are the only team in the entire NHL without a road win this season.

The key factor in this game was once again the stellar play of Henrik Lundqvist. To tell you the truth, it's getting difficult to write these game recaps without sounding extremely repetitive. But the biggest story night in and night out has been King Henrik's dominance. Tonight, he stopped all 30 shots he faced to earn his 4th shutout of the year, and his 3rd in his last 6 games. Keep in mind, these shutouts are not coming in games in which the Rangers are lighting up the scoreboard. Tonight for example was just a 2-0 victory, but was only a 1-0 game until 4 minutes left in the 3rd period. New York is leaving their star netminder no room for errors, which is okay for now- but only because he isn't making any. What makes Henrik's outstanding start to the season all the more impressive, is that he's started and finished every game this season and still has shown no signs of fatigue. If anything, he's sharper now than he was the first week or so. Flyers' goalie Martin Biron was also outstanding, saving 43 of 45 NY shots. But I guess "outstanding" just isn't good enough when you're facing a goalie who's playing as close to perfect as possible. The Rangers have the fewest goals in the league (25), but are now above .500, because thanks to Lundqvist they have also allowed the fewest (23).

The Rangers' first goal came right at the end of the 1st period. Jaromir Jagr lifted one of his vintage wrist shots over Biron's shoulder for his 4th goal of the season. The goal was assisted by Scott Gomez and defenseman Daniel Girardi. The Rangers' second goal came with just 4 minutes left in the 3rd period, and was scored on the power play by Brendan Shanahan. Shanahan found open ice in the middle of the Philly penalty-kill and received a sharp pass from Jagr. Shanny blasted a one-timer low and past Biron's right pad for his 4th of the year as well.

Stars of the Game:
3rd-Brandon Dubinsky-NYR
2nd-Jaromir Jagr-NYR
1st-Henrik Lundqvist-NYR

I feel like I must once again give honorable mention to Henrik Lundqvist's opposing goaltender, Martin Biron. He played well, but was simply overshadowed by the King.

Next on the slate for the Rangers are the New York Islanders. The Rangers will make the short trip out to Long Island in search of their first road victory of the year tommorrow night.

Pettitte Declines Option for 2008

Andy Pettitte declined his $16 million player option with the Yankees, making him a free agent. The following statement was made by Pettitte's agent Randy Hendricks:

"I have spoken with Brian Cashman, who has reiterated what Hank Steinbrenner said about the Yankees wanting to give Andy all the time he needs to decide about next season," Pettitte's agent, Randy Hendricks, said Monday in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Accordingly, we are declining to exercise the option for 2008 and Andy will declare free agency in order to free up a roster spot for the Yankees."

"If Andy decides to play, I am confident we can reach an agreement with the Yankees within 24 hours. The only options, as Andy has stated, are the Yankees or retirement. He appreciates the Yankees' willingness to give him the time he feels he needs. I do not expect him to make a decision for quite some time."

Things still look ok on the Yankees front, lets just hope Pettitte doesn't take too long to make up his mind. If he waits until mid-December to decide and opts out, it could leave the Yankees without many options. As things stand now, the Yankees are looking at a rotation of Wang, Hughes, Chamberlain, Mussina, Kennedy.

Yankee Rumors from GM Meetings

All 30 general managers, some team executives, and most agents are gathered in Orlando Florida right now discussing their team's winter plans. While no major deals or signings are expected, rumors are swirling in Flordia according to major papers and baseball websites. Here are some of the most intriguing Yankee rumors I've read:

1. The Marlins have let teams know that Miguel Cabrera can be had for the right price. Both the Red Sox and Yankees plan to be major players if this is indeed true, but the Marlins are known to covet young Yankee pitcher Phil Hughes, who the Yankees might be hesitant to deal.

2. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays may have interest in trading Scott Kazmir in return for veteran position players and young pitching. It is reported that if he becomes avilable, the Yankees would offer a big package for the 24 year-old lefthander, partly because he is a Red Sox killer.

3. According to Newsday, the Yankees are targetting Hank Blalock, Joe Crede, and Edwin Encarnacion as alternatives at third base if Cabrera doesn't seem like a possibility.

4. Omar Minaya is reportadly courting Jorge Posada hardcore. It might come down to who will offer him more money, the Yankees or Mets.

5. Alex Rodriguez is reportadly telling his close friends that he wants to play for the Red Sox. Whether this is another one of Boras's schemes to raise Arods price tag or an actual desire, the reports are sure to cause GM Theo Epstein to at least think about making a run at the overpayed third baseman. Mike Lowell to the Bronx, anyone?

6. My favorite: Free agent Jon Lieber has interest in returning to New York. A 6th starter?

Sources: Newsday,,,

Knicks/T'wolves: Crawford shines down the stretch

Jamal Crawford shot a dismal 29% from the floor during the preseason, leaving many Knicks fans to question whether he would be the consistent perimeter threat that he was during the 06-07 season. In Friday night's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Crawford led the way for New York with 25 points. Tonight, he again carried the Knicks with a 24 point performance, eliminating all concern of his woeful preseason carrying into the regular season.

Crawford scored 10 of his 24 in the 4th quarter and nailed several circus shots in the lane. He also added 7 assists to his impressive stat-line on the way to aiding NY in beating the T'Wolves 97-93 in the Knicks home opener. It was the Knicks first victory in their home opener since 2001 when they beat the Washington Wizards and then starting SG Michael Jordan. (I'm sorry but that sounds awfully pathetic. The last time the New York Knickerbockers won a home opener was when MJ was still playing- ouch).

I truly believe that the Knicks would be a better team if they allowed Crawford to dominate the perimeter touches rather than Stephon Marbury. Nothing against Marbury, but I think Crawford could put up all-star numbers if he received all-star touches. The man is simply a scorer. He can shoot the rock; he can take it to the rack; he can make you think he's going to drive and then pull up. His greatest quality may be that he's able to adjust his shots in the lane on the fly, which is why he often converts many flashy, jaw-dropping plays. Furthermore, Crawford and center Eddy Curry have consistently displayed a chemistry dating back to their days in Chicago that Marbury and Curry do not share.

As I was saying, this is no knock against Stephon Marbury. Starbury found his scoring touch, as he tacked on 17 points in addition to 7 assists. Marbury seemed to finally back up his statement that he would be looking for his shot more this season. The Randolph/Curry combination was once again effective as they put up 29 points and 17 rebounds combined.

One interesting thing about this game is Isiah's decision to only go 8 deep. The only guys that got off the bench were Nate Robinson, David Lee, and Renaldo Balkman. I guess Isiah is trying to give his horses as many minutes as possible. This trio provided the Knicks with instant energy as usual. Lee had an impressive 14 points and 7 rebounds in just 27 minutes.

While I understand that the Knicks have 2 guys starting in their frontcourt who demand 30+ minutes per game, I really would like to see David Lee get more minutes. While certainly not the best scorer or best pure basketball talent on the Knicks, my assessment is that he does more things well than anyone else on the roster. He provides the intangibles that deserve more than 27 minutes per game. Note to Isiah Thomas: Find a way to get this guy on the court. Good things tend to happen when he's in. Play him more at the 3 if you have to in order to preserve Randolph and Curry's minutes, but you gotta get him in somehow.

Final Thoughts:
While a win in the home opener is certainly encouraging, keep in mind that this is the Minnesota Timberwolves we're talking about. Kevin Garnett and Ricky Davis are gone. Their marquee player is Al Jefferson who is still a little bit raw in the post, and they certainly do not have a consistent perimeter scorer. Tonight was a better defensive effort, but it was against a less capable offense. It was nice to see the balanced scoring again as the Knicks had 6 players and 4 starters in double figures. I'm really liking what I'm seeing from Jamal Crawford. If he continues to get a lot of looks, he will average 20+ points per game- he's too talented not to.

The Knicks next game is Tuesday night at home against Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, and the Denver Nuggets. Talk about a litmus test for the Knicks' defense.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Rangers/Devils Recap: Avery Returns

The New York Rangers hosted the rival New Jersey Devils on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. It was the second meeting between the 2 this year, and it marked the first game a of a key 4 game stretch for the Rangers in which they will play each member of their division once. The big story was the return of agitator and crowd favorite Sean Avery to the Rangers' lineup. Avery injured his shoulder in the second game of the season on a cheap shot by the Ottawa Senator's Chris Neil. Last season the Rangers were hovering on the bubble of the playoff picture when they brought Avery in at the trade deadline. New York then went on a tear, and many attribute the turnaround to Avery's energy and toughness. On a side note, Marek Malik, a member of the Rangers' top defensive pair was out with a knee injury. He is considered day to day. Jason Strudwick took his place in the lineup.

Avery's return to the lineup caused head coach Tom Renney to make some changes in the line combinations. Rookie Brandon Dubinsky centered Jaromir Jagr and Marcel Hossa. Scott Gomez centered Avery and Petr Prucha. Chris Drury centered Brendan Shanahan and Nigel Dawes, to round out a 3rd very dangerous scoring line for the Rangers. The 4th checking line of Blair Betts, Colton Orr, and Ryan Hollweg remained in tact.

Right away, Avery's contribution to lineup was noticable. The Prucha/Gomez/Avery line provided a spark all game long, often holding the puck in the Devils' zone for the duration of their shifts. In fact, Scott Gomez netted a goal against his former team early in the 1st period. Petr Prucha made some nice moves as he carried the puck from end to end. He threw it at Devils' goalie Martin Brodeur, and the puck bounced back out to Gomez, who blasted it through a Sean Avery screen and past Brodeur. Unfortunately, the Devils answered right back as Sergei Brylin jammed one passed Henrik Lundqvist in a scram in front of the Rangers' net only 33 seconds later. Although Avery did not record a point, he registered 5 hits and agitated the Devils into some penalties. He had a pretty typical Avery game, and the crowd was certainly glad to have his energy back on the ice.

While the line changes may have energized the Gomez and Drury lines, I felt like the Hossa/Dubinsky/Jagr line was lacking energy throughout much of the game. Dubinsky and Hossa simply don't control the puck well enough to help Jagr keep the puck in the opponent's zone. Maybe I'm just accustomed to the puck dominance that the Jagr line used to display when Michael Nylander centered Jagr the past 2 seasons. Renney really needs to find the right combination of linesmates to get his superstar winger going.

From then on, the story of this game was all about the 2 outstanding goalies. Lundqvist and Brodeur are arguably the two best in the game, and both certainly played that way for the final 2 and a half periods. Lundqvist made an outstanding save midway through the 2nd period. As he was lying on the ground, the puck was flipped over his head, at which point he bent over backwards and swatted the puck away with his glove just before it crossed the goalline. Brodeur answered a little later on with an outstanding glove snare on Brendan Shanahan. Lundqvist again made an outstanding stop in the 3rd period. The puck rolled slowly into the Rangers zone and a Devils forward and Lundqvist both charged the puck at the same time. Lundqvist attempted to clear it with his stick, but it hit off a Rangers defenseman right to a Devils player. Despite an open goal, Lundqvist dove backwards and made an awesome pad stop to keep the score a tie.

Regulation time ended in a 1-1 tie and the game went to overtime. There wasn't too much offensive action in OT, except for a Chris Drury breakway on Martin Brodeur. Drury received an outlet pass and had a 1 on 1 situation with Brodeur. He wound up and took a slap shot but the Devils goaltender blockered it away. OT also ended in a 1-1 tie, and the game commenced to the shootout.

A shootout in the NHL is always a treat, but its even more exciting when it includes 2 premiere goalies. The first shooter for the Rangers was Marcel Hossa. He deeked Brodeur to the left but then flipped it too high over the top of the net. The Devils first shooter, Zach Parise, got Lundqvist leaning the wrong way, but lost control of the puck and could not get a shot off. The Rangers second shooter was Petr Prucha. Prucha moved in on Brodeur, faked a wrist shot, and then put one into the back of the net just over Brodeur's outstretched left pad. With the Rangers up 1-0 in the shootout, Brian Gionta tried to beat Lundqvist low and to the left, but Henrik stoned him with his right pad. Brodeur then knocked away Nigel Dawes' wrister with his glove, leaving it up to John Madden to beat Henrik Lundqvist to extend the shootout. Madden moved in but shot it well over the net, giving the Rangers the 2-1 (1-0) victory.

The Rangers have now won 3 in a row to even their record up at 6-6-1. Henrik Lundqvist was once again outstanding in a low scoring game, and again asserted his dominance in shootouts. The stars of the game were as follows: 3rd Star: Scott Gomez, 2nd Star: Petr Prucha, 1st star: Henrik Lundqvist. I also however give honorable mention to Martin Brodeur and Sean Avery. The Rangers now continue with 3 in-division games against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night, the New York Islanders on Tuesday night, and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.