On Valentine’s Day 1993, 17-year-old Bethel High School basketball star Allen Iverson was bowling in Hampton, Va., with five high school friends. It was supposed to be an ordinary evening, but it became a night that defined Iverson’s young life. A quarrel soon erupted into a brawl pitting Iverson’s young black friends against a group of white patrons. The fallout from the fight and the handling of the subsequent trial landed the teenager — considered by some the nation’s best high school athlete — in jail and sharply divided the city along racial lines. Oscar nominee Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) returns to his hometown of Hampton, where he once played basketball, to take a personal look at this still-disputed incident and examine its impact on Iverson and the shared community. – ESPN FILMS “30 for 30”

Steve James — IMDb

March 2010 (SXSW)
April 13, 2010 (ESPN)

“Another win for vet filmmaker Steve James… a meticulously balanced, “Rashomon”-type account of the ’93 incident and its aftermath.” — VARIETY

“It’s at once troubling, exciting, fascinating, maddening and enlightening — a complicated and rich film that, like its titular subject, defies categorization and offers no easy answers.” — YAHOO! SPORTS


The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

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“Requiem For The Big East” explores the meteoric ascension of the Big East Conference and how, in less than a decade under the innovative leadership of founder and commissioner Dave Gavitt, it became the most successful college sports league in America. Told primarily through the lens of famed Big East coaches such as Jim Boeheim, Lou Carnesecca and John Thompson as well as some of its most iconic players such as Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin and Ed Pinckney, the film chronicles the story of an extraordinary group who rode the rivalries and successes of their teams to become household names. The Big East was a groundbreaking athletic and business creation that encapsulated the era and region in which it was born — from the toughness of the players and coaches hailing from some of the Northeast’s most storied cities, to the executives and Wall Street brokers who thrived because of it. Launched in 1979 — the same year that ESPN was born — the Big East used the burgeoning cable TV channel and the media as a whole to help spread its gospel and product to fans and future players across the country. But “Requiem For The Big East” is also a tale of change as the super conference eventually found itself in a new era fighting for survival. — ESPN FILMS “30 for 30”

Ezra Edelman — IMDb

March 16, 2014 (ESPN)

“Edelman crafted a tale that, though sport-specific and timely, also speaks to global truths about the intersection of sports and money.” — LA TIMES

Requiem For The Big East is fascinating time-capsule fodder for a sport historian, the go-to introduction to what made the league popular and the ravenous greed that tore it apart.” — THE A.V. CLUB

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

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You’re never going to see a more exciting, well-played hockey performance than you did in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins.


Then again, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the encore contest on Wednesday at Consol Energy Center could be a topper.

When Pittsburgh’s lunch pail ace center Nick Bonino beat Sharks goalie Martin Jones in the fading moments Monday night, it stamped finish on a match that threatened to go into endless overtime periods.

That’s how splendid both teams played.

From Penguins rookie goalie Matt Murray, on to virtuoso efforts from captain Sidney Crosby, and his sidekick Kris Letang.

On the other side, captain Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Brent Burns proved that they could go toe-to-toe with the best Pittsburgh had to offer.

Well almost — until Bonino once again revealed how deep the Pittsburgh roster is on the offensive end, as well as at the defensive end.

The 3-2 decision redeemed the Penguins who had blown an early, 2-0, lead. Once the visitors tied the score in the middle frame, players seemed catapulted up and down the ice in a classic example of “Fire Wagon Hockey” at its very best.

My prediction that Crosby & Co. would win the series in five games was predicated on what unfolded in the opener, not to mention what I see ahead:

PENGUINS SPEED: As demonstrated in the win over Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh’s collection of forechecking Kid Lightnings is able to beat Sharks defensemen to the puck in the San Jose zone. Winning goals such as Bonino’s result.

RESILIENCY: The Sharks second period rally could have demoralized Pitt but — time and again — the Penguins have displayed rare resiliency. Try as they might, Peter DeBoer’s team could not penetrate for the go-ahead goal.

AMAZING MURRAY: Just when it appears that the opposition has solved Matt Murray, he rebounds from a bad goal — Patrick Marleau’s wraparound that tied the count — and defuses the big guns. Murray’s third period stop on a Joe Thornton rocket earmarked for the upper right corner symbolized his excellence.

: The Penguins general staff has remarkably upgraded the quality of its back liners. The likes of Ben Lovejoy, Olli Maatta and  Ian Cole have been superior supporting actors in every series. On Monday, their shot-blocking was a difference-maker.

Make no mistake, San Jose came within inches of getting the third-period game-winner. The Sharks rallied from a shaky start and could come back with a big second contest, especially if Jones goaltending continues to excel.

But, for those who revere hockey at its penultimate finest, watching these evenly-matched clubs trade scoring thrusts is as good as Stanley Cup hockey gets.

Maybe on Wednesday it will get even better!

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

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The Penguins will win The Stanley Cup in five games over San Jose.

That’s my prediction and I offer several factors explaining why this species of Penguins will fly:

1. Pittsburgh beat the Rangers, Capitals and Lightning one way and another.

2. Mike Sullivan is an insightful, calm, brilliant players’ coach.

3. Everyone outside of Pennsylvania wants the Sharks to win.

4. The Penguins are faster, younger and have more stars.

5. Sullivan’s club is deeper from goal to stickboy.

6. I’m rooting for the Californians.

And if you don’t believe me, listen up to head coach Jon Cooper whose Lightning sextet was Penguin-punted out of the playoffs on Thursday night.

“Pittsburgh is fast,” Cooper asserts, “and they get right on you. They play defense well, block a lot of shots and play hard. They make it tough for the opposition to generate offense. Their amount of shot blocks was incredible.”


One could say that the shot-blocking was done to protect goalie Matt Murray but when the rookie was challenged he was up to the task. His one-on-one save off Steve Stamkos who had the tying puck on his stick is Exhibit A.

[WATCH: Murray Turns Away Stamkos’ Chance]

How will the Penguins de-tooth the Sharks? Coach Sullivan isn’t secretive about the answer:

“We want to play in the Sharks face,” he insists, “and keep the ‘gaps’ tight so we take some of their speed away and their ability to stretch the ice. We’ve got to continue to pursue to skate.”

“I want them to play the game we’ve tried to play for five months; where we play to our strengths. When we play that way we’re a hard team to beat. In Game 7 it was the most complete 60-minute effort we’ve had.”

If Sullivan has created a juggernaut, the Sharks — in their first Final ever — have done well by coach Peter DeBoer, who guided the Devils to the fourth round in 2012. Pistol Pete sees a similarity between New Jersey and his current club.


“I inherited a similar team in New Jersey when I went in there,” DeBoer recalls. “First time they missed the playoffs for a long time the year before I got there.”

“Same thing with this (Sharks) group. They’re pissed off, embarrassed by the year they just had. They’re willing to do and buy into whatever you’re selling to get it fixed again.”

DeBoer’s platform has been supported by the forward core — Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture — and ace defenseman Brent Burns.

But it’s the newcomers who have given the Sharks new bite. Ex-Devil Paul Martin has steadied the defense working alongside Burns while ex-Capital Joel Ward has delivered clutch playoff goals.

[READ: Fischler – Beards, Chokes & No Playoff Jokes]

Some observers believe that the one time whipping-boy Sharks are just happy to be in the Final but don’t tell that to Thornton.

“That is not the end goal,” Jumbo Joe insists. “I’ll tell you right now.”

Well, right now I’ll tell you that it’s time to see how these rivals match up with each other:


GOALTENDING — Martin Jones cost the Sharks a 2016 first-round pick and a prospect, and his playoff performances underline his worth. Teammates not only appreciate his style but also that he’s cool under fire. Wins over the Kings, Predators and Blues seal the verdict.

DEFENSE — Brent Burns is to San Jose what Kris Letang is to Pitt but more so. Paul Martin has been a natural partner for the freewheeling Burns. Stalwart Marc-Edouard Vlasic — not bad on offense either — remains the Sharks’ most reliable defender while Justin Braun (Plus-11) improved on a sub-par 2014-15 season. The addition of Roman Polak has been a boost as well.

OFFENSE — The Big Three (Thornton-Pavelski-Marleau) powered the arsenal while young Tomas Hertl (Plus-16) began fulfilling his potential. Battle-hardened Joel Ward has emerged as a vital playoff cog. Center Logan Couture has matured into the club’s leading playoff scorer. Still it’s defenseman Burns who contributes so much to the attack; he’s third in playoff points behind Couture and Pavelski.


INTANGIBLES — Leadership once had been an issue but giving the captaincy to the indomitable Pavelski solved that problem while among the back liners the cool, calm, collected Martin has enhanced that department.

SPECIAL TEAMS — One, of many, reasons why Martin was signed had to do with the penalty kill. “Paul’s been a staple on everybody’s penalty kill (Pittsburgh’s too) since he entered the league,” says DeBoer. Martin’s insights into the Penguins power play should also help dismember it. San Jose’s power play has been one of the club’s postseason assets and will be necessary to provide an edge.

X-FACTOR — Players were not on the same page with previous coach Todd McLellan, who left by mutual agreement. DeBoer and GM Doug Wilson see eye to eye on how to get things done and the players all are on board.

COACHING — DeBoer’s success in lifting the Sharks to hitherto unknown heights says it all. A+.


GOALTENDING — Once upon a time Matt Murray was third — and last — on the club’s goalie depth chart but that seems long ago. The Main Man now that he’s bested formerly-injured Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff, Murray has been the sensation who’s rocked Pens Nation. Indefatigable and indomitable, Murray should go the route but should there be issues, Fleury is there to step in with considerable playoff experience.

[RELATED: Is Matt Murray An Elite Goalie?]

DEFENSE — Kris Letang is the undisputed anchor on the blue line and — when controlling his temper — at the very top of his game. What earlier appeared to be the Pens’ weak underbelly, the defense shined against Tampa Bay. Ian Cole, Ben Lovejoy, Brian Dumoulin each have grown in stature and ability. Youthful Olli Maatta has suffered slumps but rallied in Game 7 vs. the Bolts.

OFFENSE — It’s not just the usual suspects — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz — but other Penguins have dived into the crusade. Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, and Tom Kuhnhackl have become major players. When the big guns were silenced in Game 7, Rust provided both goals in the 2-1 win. “Those guys were huge,” says Sullivan. “They are what made us the team we are.”


INTANGIBLES — Until Sullivan replaced fired Mike Johnston there was a growing sense that the window of opportunity was closing. Sully’s arrival was a tonic and a positive sense of urgency permeates the room as the Penguins prepare for the Final round. GM Jim Rutherford did well, obtaining forwards Nick Bonino, Carl Hagelin and Eric Fehr plus offensive-defenseman Justin Schultz. Each has been a positive contributor.

SPECIAL TEAMS — The addition of Kessel has provided Sullivan with a scary power play. Passing is crisp and creative supplanted by howitzer shots. The penalty-killing helped topple Tampa and should be up for the task against an excellent PP combo in San Jose. Speedy Hagelin has invigorated the PK.

X-FACTOR — After being the whipping boy for too many years in Toronto, Kessel is breathing fresh air in his new digs. Phil freely admits that getting to the Final is one of the most exhilarating experiences of his hockey life. He has responded in the playoffs and that explains why the Penguins are alive and kicking.

COACHING — The measuring stick for Sullivan is not unlike that for DeBoer. Under Mike, Pittsburgh has become the best team in the NHL. This season, Sullivan will coach a max of 79 games. Yet he was mistakenly left off the list for the Jack Adams Award, I’m sure he’ll take the Cup as a solid prize.

PREDICTION: Pittsburgh in five. Reason? Too much skill and firepower in too many places.

Read More From Stan Fischler

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

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Maven’s Ravin’: Beards, Schmeerds, Chokes And No Playoff Jokes

1. Can the term “choke” be affixed to the Tampa Bay Lightning for its failure to dispose of the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier in the series? I say N-O, despite the fact that the Bolts are now officially postseason gonzo.

2. Fair is fair. The Lightning played most of the Penguins playoff series minus Vezina Trophy candidate Ben (Stops BBs) Bishop and crack-shot-captain Steven (Show Me The Dough) Stamkos. That’s like being behind the eight-and-a-half ball.

3. This ain’t going to be easy, but Gary Bettman and NBC must once and for all unite to ban all future playoff beards that extend down to the knees. And, that goes for you, too, Brent (Beardking) Burns!

4. Marc-Andre (Baseball Cap) Fleury may have to kiss his Penguins jersey good-bye. Matt Murray should be the next-decade Pitt starter. Fleury will look awfully handsome in a neat Las Vegas jersey.

5. Toronto media types spent years ripping and roaring negatives about Phillip (Phiery Phil) Kessel. So – as the tune goes – “Who’s Got The Last Laugh Now?”

6. I’ll tell you who’s got the great guffaw, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford who also nabbed Trevor Daley, Justin Schultz, Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin to his robust roster.

7. Technology is fine as long as it’s not overdone. But, technology ruined the human element in Tampa Bay. Over-ruling a linesman’s non-offside call because of a matter of milli-inches is downright wrong.

8. Reader Jonathan (Mister Electronics) Liss, a New Jersey scientist, agrees. “The (officials) cameras,” says Liss, “as with certain medical tests are showing us more than we need to know.”

9. Not that it will decide which team Unrestricted Free Agent Steven Stamkos will choose, but his relationship with John Tavares dates back to their Peewee Hockey playing days in Toronto.

10. Both the Devils – picking 11th in the Draft – and Islanders – picking 19th – might be considering a Long Island whiz kid when the selections are made in Buffalo on June 24 and 25.  Son of a Long Beach fireman, Charlie McAvoy, a Boston University defenseman, is a prize. One scout opines: “McAvoy’s best asset is his ability to get around the ice.”

11. Am I wrong in thinking that most Metropolitan area fans (Rangers, Isles and Devils) will root for any team that plays the Penguins, at any time? The overwhelming reason: The persistent whining of Sidney Crosby. There’s no equivalent whiner on the Sharks.

12. Reader Rob Taub of Freeport, on two Islanders potential Draftees: A) Max Jones, Left Wing (LONDON): He’s 6-foot-2, 200-plus pounds, your quintessential second line winger. Slapsie Maxie plays a solid two-way game, but takes a lot of penalties. B) Carl Grundstrom, Left Wing (MODO): This lad packs a punch, although he stands at just 6-feet, 187 pounds. Carl plays with a team-first mentality and can skate very well. Grundstrom is an excellent penalty killer and can get under an opponent’s skin with his nastiness.

13. No doubt unrestricted free agent, Steven Stamkos is grateful that media types are saying he’s good for a seven-year contract at $70 million. But, considering that his medical condition wiped him right out of the playoffs, minus one game, I would never go that high. Plus there’d have to be a “Risk Asterisk,” – money back if he were to get sick again.

14. Unobtrusively, and with little fuss and fanfare, a worthy defenseman named Chris Phillips just announced his retirement. A 19-year Ottawa-forever guy, Phillips never won a Cup, but played the game clean and with class.

15. The goalie with the most-est, whose applause is the least-est, has to be San Jose’s Martin Jones. A former Kings back-up, Jonesie not only knocked his former team out of the playoffs, but has delivered his Sharks to the franchise’s first Final.

16. It’s hard to believe, but Jones – from North Vancouver, British Columbia – was UN-drafted! Somehow, he made it from the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen (Juniors) to the American League’s Manchester Monarchs. Thence to LA.

17. You want “four underrated free agents,” you got ’em. A) Lee Stempniak, B) Alex Goligoski, C) Jason Chimera and D) Roman Polak. Defensemen Goligoski and Polak are a pair of serviceable sleepers. Devils fans hope that 10-year vet Stempniak returns to Ray Shero‘s fold. Over a 15-year NHL career, Chimera never has failed to impress. Any Washington coach would underline that point.

18. There are a few general managers out there who could use large, long pieces of wood. The reason is if the Oilers propose that some team – any team – take Nail Yakupov in a trade, the response likely will be, “I won’t touch him with a 10-foot pole.”

19. Expect the Tinseltown crowd to say bye-bye to Marian Gaborik, 34, while the Columbus faithful will do an “au revoir” for 29-year old Jack Johnson. Both figure to go in trades assuming that there’s good hockey left in Gabby’s gas depository. Getting out of Ohio, Johnson could reach his defensive potential.

20. The Hockey News’ Matt Larkin tosses out a pair of “free agents who’ve spiked dollar values in the playoffs.” See if you agree. A) Matt Cullen, Penguins. “Playing a top-nine role, Cullen had 10 goals and 16 points in his final 27 games”. B) David Backes, Blues. “Backes hasn’t been a consistent all-out world beater this Spring, but he’s produced in bursts.”

21. Ken Hitchcock is one of those coaches who – win or lose – knows how to dissect results. In this case, losing to San Jose: “We had individuals who were struggling, guys who were high-minutes players. One of the things that hurt us energy-wise was our inability to close out when we had the opportunity. It extended the series. Ended up forcing us into playing players multiple times for multiple minutes. Ended up really hurting us overall”.

22. Hitchcock on the Sharks: “San Jose’s ability to check won them the series. The Sharks were committed a little bit better than us. Their forwards really worked and put a lot of pressure on us from the backside, constant pressure, and had the energy to play that way. In the end, it was our inability to close off those first two series and get the rest that San Jose got by closing off LA so early.”

23. Peter DeBoer and Hitchcock did a ‘Punch and Judy’ routine during their six-game set, but when it was over, the Sharks coach was all class. “Hats off to St. Louis and the fight they put up,” says Pistol Pete, “and how hard they made us work for the series.”

24. OK, Peter, but what about your “feud” with Hitch? “I know. Hitch and I went back-and-forth about adjustments and (whining) things. Hey, the Blues had an exceptional season considering all the injuries they had. Hats off to them.”

25. THE unsung Sharks hero? How about Joel Ward. And, if you don’t believe me, ask DeBoer: “I’m a big believer that if you’re a clutch playoff performer, that’s something that’s a gift,” says Pete of Joel. “That doesn’t go away. I had Mike Richards. He was that type of guy. They have the ability to rise to the occasion this time of year.”

26. Asked what’s so special about Ward in May, DeBoer shoots back: “The playoffs fit him. He’s a big, heavy guy. I don’t think it was any secret, this roster here, considering LA, Anaheim, St. Louis, we had to get bigger, heavier, harder to play against so that we could play this time of year.”

27. Jumbo Joe Thornton summed up his mind set about reaching the Cup Final in five well-chosen words: “It’s a pretty cool feeling.”

28. On the other hand, Thornton’s pal, Patrick Marleau, has an arresting theory about the Sharks’ turning point this year: “Winning on the road helped us get close as a group during the regular season. It carried over into the playoffs. Just having each other’s back out there, working for each other.” Makes sense. That and goaltending.

29. San Jose Captain, Joe Pavelski simplifies the Sharks success formula in four words: “The four-line attack.”

30. Doesn’t it seem as if Penguins third-string goalie Jeff Zatkoff beat the Blueshirts in the opening game of the Rangers-Pitt playoff about a century ago?

31. Speaking of ancient history, last Fall, The Hockey News had Sergei Plotnikov as the Penguins “Rookie To Watch.”

32. With 20-20 hindsight, it has to be Matt Murray or Mister Rust, hero of Game 7.

33. Yeah, Jeff Blashill nudged the Red Wings into the playoffs. But the feeling I get is that he’ll be nudged out by Thanksgiving if the Detroiters stumble from the starting gate.

34. Considering how Pitt dominated most of the series with Tampa, it’s amazing that the series went seven games.

35. The Penguins should not have a lot of trouble with San Jose, but I’ll get into that in a day or three.

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

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What’s the Greatest Boxing Fight of All-Time?

Boxing has seen countless classic bouts over the years but which one was the best?

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

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Islanders Announce 2016 Preseason Schedule

Three Games at Barclays Center Highlight Exhibition Calendar

– Islanders take on Rangers in first preseason matchup since 2007 – 

BROOKLYN (May 26, 2016) – The New York Islanders 2016 preseason schedule will consist of eight games, including three home games at Barclays Center and one at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT.

The Islanders home games at Barclays Center are set for Monday, Sept. 26 against the Philadelphia Flyers, Monday, Oct. 3 against the New Jersey Devils, and Tuesday, Oct. 4 against the New York Rangers. All three contests in Brooklyn will start at 7 p.m.

Tickets to Islanders preseason games at Barclays Center will go on sale on Friday, June 10.  To purchase tickets, fans are encouraged to visit or Tickets are also available for purchase at the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center beginning Saturday, June 11 at noon. To purchase group tickets, call 844.ISLES.GP.

The games in Brooklyn feature three key divisional matchups, including the first ever preseason meeting at Barclays Center between the Islanders and Rangers. The Islanders will host the Devils at Barclays Center for the fourth consecutive season.

Webster Bank Arena, home of the Islanders American Hockey League affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, will host a preseason game on Sat., Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. against Metropolitan Division rivals, the Washington Capitals. Tickets go on sale to the general public starting on Friday, June 3, 2016 at 10am and can be purchased online at, by phone at 800.745.3000 or at the Webster Bank Arena Click It Or Ticket Box Office. For group ticket information please call 203-345-2300 ext 7. Executive suites & premium seat packages are also available by calling 203-345-4841.

The Islanders four road games include stops at Madison Square Garden, Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA, Prudential Center in Newark, NJ and Verizon Center in Washington D.C.

The full preseason schedule is below: 

Mon. Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. – Islanders vs. Philadelphia (BARCLAYS CENTER)
Tues. Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. – Islanders at New York Rangers (Madison Square Garden)
Tues. Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. – Islanders at Philadelphia (Wells Fargo Center)
Sat. Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. – Islanders vs. Washington (WEBSTER BANK ARENA)
Mon. Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. – Islanders vs. New Jersey (BARCLAYS CENTER)
Tues. Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. – Islanders vs. New York Rangers (BARCLAYS CENTER)

Wed. Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. – Islanders at New Jersey (Prudential Center)
Sun. Oct. 9 at 5 p.m. – Islanders at Washington (Verizon Center)

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

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How Goaltending Is Impacting The Eastern Conference Final


One player. The randomness of one individual performing above expectations or below expectations is all it takes to turn a small sample playoff series on its head, and one of the reasons the Stanley Cup playoffs are always entertaining.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have out-played the Tampa Bay Lightning pretty thoroughly through five games. Possession numbers, shot clock, and expected goal differentials are all lopsided in favor of the Penguins. The stats where the Penguins trail the Lightning in the series are two of the most important ones: Wins and goals scored. At this point in the series, the better team is trailing because the importance of one specific position: Goaltending.

Regular season heroics are always overshadowed by post season success. This occurs because of the importance we place on the Stanley Cup. It’s why Joe Thornton and Alexander Ovechkin don’t get the full respect they deserve. It’s also why fans confuse what is and isn’t great goaltending, which is an important element in a tournament run. It can upset the balance of things when the difference is lopsided at this position.

The importance of the superstar goaltender has decreased over time. The teams who provide the most insulated environment for their goaltender can gain the ultimate success, as long as their goaltender provides average production.

The Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009 with this formula and when I observed how they were dominating territorial play through the first three games of the series, I figured that they were in a very good position to defeat the Lightning. I assumed that it would take extraordinary goaltending from a returning Ben Bishop or Andrei Vasilevskiy in order for them to lose. There was one flaw in this assumption, it was based on the expectation that Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury could deliver an average performance. This hasn’t happened and it has the Penguins one loss away from ending their 2015-16 campaign.

Continually, the Penguins produce more high-quality offensive chances than the Lightning, yet their efforts are being thwarted in their own zone.

Lightning Vasilevskiy Boyle

Through five games, the Penguins have 36 combined shots with pre-shot movement, which is 12 more than the Lightning. Both teams are managing to limit the opposition’s goaltenders clear sight to only 81% of all shots faced. This proves to be a huge advantage for Pittsburgh when we consider that they have 63 more shots (not counting phantom shots in totals).

This was one of the concerns I had with Murray after the first two rounds. A strong defensive environment is essential to a goaltender struggling with the speed of play and this was a concern because the Lightning are a team that continually moves the puck laterally with speed, the most difficult scenario for a goaltender to have success against.

Through the first two rounds of the playoffs, Murray was facing 89% of his shots with clear sight. These shots allowed him to gather information and formulate an attack plan. To put that in perspective, the Penguins have faced 126 shots through five games, that 8% differential would result in 10 more difficult shots versus the distribution he faced against the Rangers and Capitals.

Pittsburgh’s struggles in goal are exacerbated by the emergence of Vasilevskiy for Tampa Bay. Last season in the Finals, he reminded me of Murray – a netminder not quite ready for the pace of NHL play at the highest level. But, the 2016 Playoffs have been a different story. Vasilevskiy has continually delivered saves on high probability shots and limited the amount of goals on those that are low probability. He has been above average in every aspect with a .960 clear sight save percentage and has consistently thwarted the Penguins slot line efforts with a .769 save percentage.

The Penguins are now in a position where they simply need to peg which goaltender won’t cost them Game 6. It is a tough choice to make. Murray, while effective in his overall sample of the playoffs, hasn’t been able to keep up with the pace of play against the Lightning. Fleury, whose regular season results indicate a goaltender that is fully capable of delivering the average goaltending required, evoked memories on Sunday night of his nightmarish playoff resume since winning the cup in 2009.

It’s a tough choice and it’s easily justifiable on both sides. This coin flip around one player will likely decide the Penguins season.

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

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Howie Rose’s Broadcasting Career Milestones

MSG Networks bids a fond farewell to long-time Islanders play-by-play announcer Howie Rose after announcing Wednesday that he will not be returning to the booth next season.

Rose issued that following statement regarding his decision to depart from MSG Networks:

“I started going to Madison Square Garden the year it opened in 1968, with my own tape recorder to practice calling the games. I’ve never had a prouder moment than January 24th, 1985, the night I called my first game – a Rangers / Red Wings game at The Garden. It was the realization of a lifelong dream, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. This was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my life, and in many ways was heartbreaking. But it’s a chance for me to have an off-season and spend more time with my family. There have been so many amazing memories over three decades with MSG Networks, and I want to stay close with all of my friends there. I’ll stay loose and will always be available as a pinch hitter.”

MSG Networks’ President and CEO Andrea Greenberg expressed her sincerest admiration for the famed announcer:

“Howie Rose began a 31-year career at MSG Networks as a fill-in radio play-by-play announcer for the Rangers in 1985 and has been a cherished member of our MSG family ever since. We are grateful for Howie’s excellent work for the Rangers and then for the Islanders for the past 21 years. His memorable calls of key moments will live on with fans forever. Howie will always have a special place with us and we wish him luck going forward.”

Known for some of the most iconic calls in New York sports history, Rose is rightly considered as one of the best play-by-play men in the business. Here are some of his career highlights:

    • Rose’s career began in 1975 as one of the voices on SportsPhone, a phone service that gave callers final scores and post-game quotes.
    • He began his time with MSG Networks as the substitute radio announcer for the New York Rangers in 1985 before taking over full-time in 1989.
    • In 1987, Rose became one of the featured voices on Sports Radio 660 WFAN.
    • Rose also began his long association with the Mets while at the FAN. After previously hosting pre and post-game shows for the Mets’ radio broadcasts, Rose started doing play-by-play for the Mets in 1996 and took over as the main play-by-play voice in 2006.
    • Rose’s unforgettable call on Stephane Matteau’s double-overtime series-winning goal in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference will forever be in embedded in the hearts and minds of Rangers fans.
    • Rose took over full-time duties as the television voice for Islanders telecasts in 1995. He would work with four different partners in the booth — Ed Westfall, Joe Micheletti, Billy Jaffe and Butch Goring.
    • Rose won a New York Emmy Award in 1997 for Outstanding On-Camera Achievement for his play-by-play work with the Islanders and Mets. In 1998, he captured another as part of the Islanders broadcast crew that won for Outstanding Live Sports Coverage.
    • Other honors include a New York State Sports Broadcasters Award for his play-by-play work during the 1994 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Dick Young Award by the New York Baseball Scouts for service to baseball in the media, a New York State Sports Broadcasters Award for his play-by-play work during the 1994 Stanley Cup playoffs and the Dick Young Award by the New York Baseball Scouts for service to baseball in the media.
    • Rose called his final Islanders game on MSG Networks on April 24. It ended in dramatic fashion as John Tavares scored the game-winner in OT to send the Isles to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 23 years. And the great Howie Rose captured the moment perfectly.

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

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Don’t Call Red Bulls-NYCFC A Rivalry Just Yet

A rivalry this is not – a rivalry has heart and only one team on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium showed up with a pulse.

The New York Red Bulls are the kings of New York, but there is more to their emphatic win Saturday over a supposed rival than just a lopsided scoreline.

Saturday’s ‘Hudson Derby,’ a 7-0 win by the Red Bulls over New York City FC, showed that for City, there is still plenty of work to be done in what is their second year in MLS. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the MLS upstarts will still face a learning curve with each passing year as the league gets better and life for expansion teams will grow increasingly more difficult.

And for the Red Bulls, it showed that a discouraging start to the year was just a mirage and that this squad is capable of again making the playoffs and a push for MLS Cup.

What was shocking is that the home team this past weekend showed such little fight and heart in what is a match that supposedly means more to the little brother in this rivalry right now. Except that big brother put on an epic display before a national television audience.

After being swept in last year’s first series of meetings between these two sides, New York City FC spent the offseason trying to get better. There was the signing of Patrick Vieira, a big name head coach who came with plenty of hype and promise. The squad was re-tooled and more balance was brought in, even though the high-priced salaries of David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard remained influential pieces of the squad.

This should have been the match to make a statement, but City couldn’t muster anything. They came out flat despite resting a good chunk of their starters for the midweek 1-1 result at Toronto FC, while the Red Bulls ran out close to their Starting XI for ahome win over the Chicago Fire. But it was the Red Bulls who came out at Yankee Stadium swinging, even though they were the dominant team of the rivalry last year.

Perhaps most discouraging for the high-priced en vogue City is that they went into the locker room at halftime down 3-0 and actually came out for the second half with less energy and passion. That is a failing on the part of Vieira to not have his team makes necessary adjustments, but it also falls on the likes of Pirlo and Villa and even to an extent on Lampard to rally their teammates.

Instead, they shuffled their way through to conceding four more goals.

A rivalry, a derby as it is called in soccer parlance, is about passion and about fight. So many times it is the squad that shows up willing to get bloody and muddy that pulls out the result, no matter the talent discrepancy. But this isn’t a rivalry yet, not the way that FC showed up on Saturday and put up a fight for roughly three minutes.

For Red Bulls it was all about the fight and not about the big names or the elitist attitude. And until that changes at Yankee Stadium, it will be those boys who play in Jersey who will continue to sit on the throne.

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

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