Lundqvist Playing like Lundqvist
If he doesn’t play up to his standards, the Rangers have almost no shot to consistently win. And if he does play up to his standards, the Rangers have a chance to win and win big.
Hence the massive concern in Rangerstown earlier this season when Lundqvist was in his career-worst funk when, for the first time as an NHL goalie he, sat out four straight games while healthy in December. And then again when he allowed 20 goals (on 113 shots in a four-game span in January).
Part of you thought, ‘well, it’s a blip.’ A bad blip, but that Lundqvist would pull himself out of it. Why not? He always did. His work ethic, his preparation, his competitiveness, and the fact that he has goalie coach Benoit Allaire on his side would result in the real Lundqvist returning for the stretch run and the playoffs.
But perhaps part of you worried, because, well, Lundqvist hadn’t been through something prolonged like this before. And because, well, he certainly hadn’t done it at this age (he turns 35 on Thursday) before.
Well, Lundqvist has turned it around, Sunday’s 5-2 loss to Columbus notwithstanding – a loss that now looks more like an outlier than a return to the darker days.
Going into that game, Lundqvist had posted a 10-2-1 record, along with a 1.91 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage in his last 14 appearances.
More than the numbers, Lundqvist has looked like himself at big moments in games, like the back-to-back breakaways he stopped (by Leo Komarov and, of all people, Auston Matthews) late in overtime in Toronto last Thursday, followed by the shootout-winning save on Nazim Kadri; and the semi-breakaway by Montreal’s Max Pacioretty in a shootout loss two nights earlier. Even against Columbus, he stopped a penalty shot by Brandon Saad and a breakaway by Cam Atkinson to give the Rangers a chance in a game they would eventually let get away.
“There’s no doubt that he’s found his game and that’s reflected on our whole team,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “I mean, it’s reflected on our D, and it’s reflected on our forwards and how they’re playing.”
Vigneault, who said that Lundqvist could still come in around the original target of 60 starts, wasn’t sure exactly when it turned.
“I don’t think there’s one specific point or game, but I do think Hank did work on specific aspects of his technique and he really focused on those areas, and I think that’s really helped his game, his confidence in goal, and his movements,” Vigneault said.
“It’s reflected on what our guys are doing in front of him. We’ve put a big emphasis on protecting in front of our net, getting good box-outs, etc., and there’s no doubt that we’ve been more effective just by goals-against. And the chances (allowed) that we analyze every game have been very good.”
Those in charge of doing the boxing out know the importance of an on-point Lundqvist, and how to make his job easier.
“Obviously I’ve been here a long time with Hank and although he had a little bit of a struggle this year, I think he’s still one of the top goalies in the league,” defenseman and alternate captain Dan Girardi said.
“When he’s on his game and he’s focused and we’re helping him out back there – letting him see the shots and everything – he can carry us a long way. When we weren’t great in some games, he was great for us. I think we need to make sure we’re doing our jobs in front of him, and let him see pucks and let him make the saves.”
“Personally, yeah, I remember sitting down with Benny and talking about a lot of different things, and simplifying things,” Lundqvist said.
“So, for me, it was a turning point. Then as a group, I think over the last couple of weeks we’ve talked a lot about how we play in front of the net and try to just move guys more, and not focus so much on the puck – let me focus on the puck. I think that’s a big thing in the game today, where teams just try to crash the net and throw pucks from all over the place. So having good position as a D-man is going to be crucial, to be able to box out guys who get to rebounds. We did a really good job of that the last few weeks.”
You can tell by listening to him, by watching him as he speaks and analyzes games, how much better he feels.
“My focus here is just working on my game every day here and try to give the team a chance to win here every night,” Lundqvist said. “And the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling pretty good physically, mentally, technically. I think I’m at a level right now where I’m pleased with what I’m doing. It feels good. I will continue to work hard and challenge myself, and I think we’re going to improve as we go down the road.”
The road includes 20 more games (six sets of back-to-backs, in which backup Antti Raanta will get a bunch of starts) to determine playoff seeding, and for playoff preparation, and a time of year Lundqvist cherishes.
“It’s a fun time of the year now, going down the stretch,” he said. “More desperate teams, more intense games. I like that personally, so I look forward to playing some fun hockey here down the road.”
In Toronto last Thursday night, after stopping the two breakaways in overtime, MSGNetworks’ John Giannone asked Lundqvist what he thought as each of those breakaways were coming at him.
The goaltender, who has preached simplifying things, simply said, “Stop it.”
Rangers Host NHL-Best Caps in Divisional Showdown
The Rangers host the league’s top team tonight with Washington in town for the third of four meetings this season.
The Blueshirts have won the first two games between the clubs, with the last match-up just four games ago, a 2-1 Rangers win. In that one, the Rangers dominated the first period, but the Caps righted their ship to tie the game at one-all in the second before Mats Zuccarello scored the game-winner in the third.
Both teams have made deals to strengthen their backend heading into tomorrow’s trade deadline. Washington acquired Kevin Shattenkirk from St. Louis, while the Rangers have traded for Brendan Smith. The great Scotty Bowman once said, “you can never be deep enough on the blue line come playoff time” and both teams have addressed that issue.
The Rangers are coming off a lethargic 5-2 loss to Columbus, where they gave up one early, got it back on a goal from Rick Nash shortly thereafter, but couldn’t muster up the energy needed to play against an energetic Blue Jackets team that had just come off their five-day break.
3 KEYS TO RANGERS-CAPITALS
It is important to understand when to be aggressive when defending in your end, and when to be passive. If you don’t, there’s an awful lot of chasing the puck and you will pay a steep price if that understanding is off. A talented opponent will make you pay. Make no mistake, Washington is a very talented opponent.
Too many times this season at The Garden, the Rangers have given up an early goal, either at the start of the game or the start of a period. It tends to drain the emotion out of the building and puts both the team, and their fans, on their heels at a time when you are looking to establish some momentum and energy at home.
Nicklas Backstrom might be the most proficient passer in the league and he is a deadly power play QB. Taking his time and space away will be key as he, like everyone else in the building, is looking to find the Great 8, Alex Ovechkin.
Should be a good one tonight. Catch all the Ranger/Caps action on ESPN 98.7 FM (Radio) and MSG Network (TV). Pre-game at 6:30 p.m. Puck-drop a little after 7.
Check it out!
MSG Networks Announces 2017 New York Red Bulls Telecast Schedule
MSG Networks to Telecast 19 Games in the 2017 Season
Starting Saturday, April 1 at 8:30 p.m. vs. Houston on MSG
All MSG Networks’ telecasts will also be available on MSG GO
New York, NY (February 28, 2017) – MSG Networks Inc. (NYSE: MSGN) and Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls have unveiled the official telecast schedule for the 2017 season. MSG Networks will televise 19 of the MLS team’s 34 regular season matches.
MSG Networks’ first Red Bulls telecast will be on Saturday, April 1 when the Red Bulls take on Houston at Red Bull Arena. Coverage gets underway at 8:00 p.m. with a 30-minute pregame show on MSG Network.
All Red Bulls games televised on MSG Networks will also be live streamed on MSG GO, MSG Networks’ live streaming and video on demand platform for smartphones, tablets and computers. MSG GO enables fans, whether at home or on-the-go, to watch all of MSG Networks’ live Red Bulls game telecasts. MSG GO is available to subscribers of participating television providers who receive MSG Networks as part of their pay television subscription. Games will also be made available in Spanish with SAP featuring broadcaster Ernesto Motta calling the games.
MSG Networks, which has been the regional television home of the Red Bulls (previously the Metro Stars) since 1996, will telecast pregame coverage for all MSG Networks’ produced games and postgame coverage for all MSG Networks’ produced home games. Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Steve Cangialosi returns for his 10th season as the team’s play-by-play announcer and 16th season covering the Red Bulls, while former New York and Olympic goalkeeper Shep Messing starts his 17th season as game analyst. Host and sideline reporter Tina Cervasio will be back for her 10th season covering the Red Bulls.
The Red Bull’s remaining 15 regular season matches will be shown by MLS national television partners.
The Red Bulls’ full television schedule is below (Home Games in BOLD at Red Bull Arena).
|March||Sunday||5||at Atlanta United FC||7:30 PM||FOX Sports 1|
|Saturday||11||COLORADO RAPIDS||4:00 PM||UniMás|
|Sunday||19||at Seattle Sounders FC||7:00 PM||FOX Sports 1|
|Saturday||25||REAL SALT LAKE||4:00 PM||UniMás|
|April||Saturday||1||at Houston Dynamo||8:30 PM||MSG|
|Sunday||9||at Orlando City SC||4:00 PM||ESPN|
|Saturday||15||D.C. UNITED||7:30 PM||MSG|
|Saturday||22||COLUMBUS CREW SC||7:30 PM||MSG|
|Saturday||29||Chicago Fire||7:30 PM||MSG|
|May||Wednesday||3||at Sporting Kansas City||8:30 PM||MSG|
|Saturday||6||at Philadelphia Union||7:00 PM||MSG|
|Sunday||14||LA GALAXY||6:00 PM||FOX Sports 1|
|Friday||19||TORONTO FC||7:30 PM||MSG|
|Saturday||27||NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION||7:30 PM||MSG|
|June||Saturday||3||at Montreal Impact||7:30 PM||MSG|
|Sunday||18||at Philadelphia Union||5:00 PM||ESPN|
|Saturday||24||NEW YORK CITY FC||1:30 PM||FOX|
|July||Wednesday||5||at New England Revolution||7:30 PM||MSG|
|Wednesday||19||SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES||7:30 PM||MSG|
|Saturday||22||at Minnesota United FC||4:00 PM||ESPN|
|Saturday||29||MONTREAL IMPACT||7:30 PM||MSG|
|August||Sunday||6||at New York City FC||6:00 PM||FOX Sports 1|
|Saturday||12||ORLANDO CITY SC||7:30 PM||MSG|
|Sunday||20||at Portland Timbers||8:00 PM||FOX Sports 1|
|Friday||25||NEW YORK CITY FC||7:00 PM||ESPN|
|September||Saturday||2||at FC Dallas||9:00 PM||UniMás|
|Saturday||9||at Chicago Fire||4:00 PM||UniMás|
|Sunday||17||PHILADELPHIA UNION||1:00 PM||ESPN|
|Saturday||23||at Columbus Crew SC||7:30 PM||MSG|
|Wednesday||27||D.C. UNITED||7:30 PM||MSG|
|Saturday||30||at Toronto FC||7:00 PM||MSG|
|October||Saturday||7||VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC||5:00 PM||MSG|
|Sunday||15||ATLANTA UNITED FC||3:00 PM||MLS|
|Sunday||22||at D.C. United||4:00 PM||MSG|
*Subject to change
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A ‘Devastating’ Loss for Knicks
Jeff Hornacek took exception to a fair question before the game that asked how winning games over this final quarter of the season could impact draft lottery positioning.
“As a team,” he replied, “we’re not thinking about losing.”
It’s understandable from an aerial view to see where the post-trade deadline Knicks (24-36) are at this point and look at moves made before the game that involved the roster. It began with waiving veteran Brandon Jennings, who had some good moments off the bench, and signed with Chasson Randle, a rookie out of the D-League whom the Knicks liked in training camp. Another rookie, Ron Baker, will get Jennings’ minutes for now, but Hornacek said he and Randle will battle for the backup role behind Derrick Rose.
There was also the announcement that Joakim Noah, who signed a four-year, $70 million contract over the summer, would likely miss the rest of the season after having knee surgery. Noah played in just 46 games this season and missed time due to knee and hamstring issues that began at the start of training camp. Rookie Willy Hernangomez will take his place in the starting lineup.
So with no moves at the trade deadline, the jettisoning of a veteran player and the emergence of rookies in the rotation, it certainly looks as if the Knicks are focusing on the future. But against the Raptors, the Knicks put forth the effort of a team that knows this might be their last shot at making a run to get back into the playoff race.
They held a 17-point lead during what was a spirited first half effort, which built a 53-40 advantage at the half. Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas set a hard-working tone on defense and Rose was a catalyst at both ends of the floor like we saw in the first quarter of the season. There were times the Knicks played inspired basketball and The Garden was into it.
“We had spurts where we were playing the right way,” Lee said, “and playing for each other.”
But the Raptors, who made aggressive moves at the trade deadline to load up defensively with Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, clamped down in the third quarter and the Knicks managed just 14 points on 4-of-16 shooting with seven turnovers. It set up for an entertaining finish and, just like Saturday night against the 76ers, Carmelo Anthony had the ball in his hands for the game-winning shot as time expired.
This time, as Melo said, “I missed it. I don’t think there’s much you can say about that one.”
There are times Melo is maligned by fans not for missing these shots — we told you in the pregame show he leads all NBA players since 2003-04 with 16 go-ahead baskets with five seconds or less remaining — but for sometimes wearing a curious grin or appearing apathetic after losses. But after his shot banked off the backboard and bounced hard off the rim, Melo pulled his headband off and threw it to the floor.
It was a rare public show of anger.
There were mistakes down the stretch that have plagued them this season, including a decision by Rose to not use the foul-to-give against DeMar DeRozan on the game-winning shot. Rose called it, “great D, better O” and preferred to give credit to DeRozan, who scored the last 12 points for Toronto.
Rose did call the loss, “devastating.”
The Knicks know this emotion all too well this season. It was their fourth one-point loss of the season and their 13th by five or fewer points. They have gone two months without winning consecutive games.
The standings show the eighth seed slipping further away, as the Knicks are now 4.5 games out with 23 games left. Opportunity is waning, but if this team is going to give it one last shot, the time is now. Over the next nine games, seven are against teams with a losing record and, more importantly, a few teams they are chasing in the standings, such as Detroit, Indiana and Milwaukee.
So if this team doesn’t want to talk about draft positioning, these next two weeks may decide that for them.
Gulbrandsen Headed to Red Bull New York?
HANOVER, N.J. – Mum may well be the word for the New York Red Bulls on Fredrik Gulbrandsen as the Norwegian forward could very well be headed to MLS.
Reports over the weekend linked the 24-year old Gulbrandsen with a move to the United States, a loan deal that might work well for both the player and his possible new club. Gulbrandsen signed with Red Bull Salzburg, the sister club of New York this past summer and has found playing time somewhat limited. The forward has two goals in nine appearances so far this year after spending his career to that point in Norway. A move to MLS might open the door for more minutes as the team is currently involved in the CONCACAF Champions League and will start the MLS regular season shortly.
Given the relative lack of depth at the forward position for New York, the move makes a certain level of sense although Gulbrandsen’s track record of scoring is a bit spotty.
“We won’t comment on that now but we’re aware of who he is,” said Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch following training on Monday.
It is “that now” component of Marsch’s comments that certainly raise an eyebrow, perhaps hinting at a possible announcement to come soon.
Late last year, the Red Bulls brought Omer Damari on for a brief loan spell, a move that was a disaster. An Israeli international, Damari came in out of shape and struggled to see the field as he made just four appearances in the regular season. His last appearance was just seven minutes in the playoffs as a substitute against the Montreal Impact.
This time he would leave the field not due to injury but rather because of a red card.
1. Defender Gideon Baah, signed in the last off-season but was injured just a couple months into his Red Bull tenure, appears to be making progress from a broken tibia that prematurely ended his 2016 campaign. On Monday at training, he was spotted jogging although he was held out of the team portion of the session.
“Still a way’s away. He’s starting to jog, and physically getting better but he’s still a long way’s away from training,” Marsch said. “But the good news away that he’s feeling strong and with the jogging, he’s making progress.”
2. Marsch also said that Damien Perrinelle, re-signed to the team during the early days of preseason and a late arrival to training camp, could be ready to play this weekend when the Red Bulls open the season at Atlanta United, an expansion team making their MLS debut.
Black History Month Holds Special Meaning for Knicks
But for the Knicks, February holds special meaning.
February is Black History Month, a time to remember those that helped pave the way for so many Americans and to learn about the culture of African Americans and other minorities.
In conversations with the Knicks players over the last month, the integration of the NBA was a topic that emerged several times. Several Knicks were fascinated to learn that the Knicks, according to the NBA, were the first team to sign an African American player.
Nat ‘Sweetwater’ Clifton was acquired from the Harlem Globetrotters, who had signed him for $12,500. A 10-day contract in today’s NBA is worth about $30,000.
Earl Lloyd became the first African American to play in the NBA when he suited up for the Washington Capitols on Oct. 31, 1950 against the Rochester Royals. Clifton made his debut four days later.
Both players faced more than their share of bigotry. They were denied service in restaurants. Lloyd was not allowed to stay at the team hotel in Baltimore.
“Those fans in Indianapolis, they’d yell stuff like, ‘Go back to Africa,’” Lloyd told The Syracuse Herald American in 1992. “My philosophy was: If they weren’t calling you names, you weren’t doing nothing. If they’re calling you names, you were hurting them.”
Many of the Knicks are well aware of the plight that African Americans, and people of all colors, have endured. They see that great progress has been made, but believe there is a long way to go before equality is realized in this country.
“It’s definitely a start, learning about people who fought in the struggle, [and] people who can inspire our youth and inspire Americans,’’ said Joakim Noah. “I think that’s important. You learn about them in Black History Month. These are people that inspire you through adversity at any time.
“You look at Martin Luther King, you look at Malcolm X, you look at Harriet Tubman, you look at Bob Marley, you look at Muhammad Ali, Frederick Douglass, people who come from all different shapes of life who sacrificed for people.’’
Noah will miss his eighth straight game tonight (and the rest of the regular season after undergoing knee surgery) when the Knicks (24-35) look to make it two straight wins if they can beat the Toronto Raptors (34-24) at The Garden.
Carmelo Anthony drained a 10-foot jumper with three-tenths of a second left to beat the Philadelphia 76ers, 110-109, on Saturday night at The World’s Most Famous Arena. Anthony, who said he only had Black History Month T-shirts in his locker in February, finished with 37 points on 15-of-25 shooting.
“I think it’s an opportunity to acknowledge the people who laid the foundation for us and everything we have now,’’ Anthony said. “The injustices that we’re fighting now, the people that came before us showed us how.
“I’d like to see us do more on education, more of an emphasis on building up the educational system. More of an emphasis on teachers and the resources they need.’’
Several of the Knicks said that Black History Month coming on the heels of the presidential election made it more relevant this year. Their sentiments weren’t based on the outcome of the election as much as it is the fact the change can be unsettling.
“Yes, it’s Black History Month, but to me it symbolizes unity,’’ said guard Justin Holiday. “It is all people, people of color, minorities, as well as Caucasians. I think it’s good we have a month for us to realize that, especially the times we’re in now, that we have to be united.’’
Center Kyle O’Quinn knows this as well as any member of the Knicks.
A born and raised New Yorker, O’Quinn has lived in the world’s melting pot. He is the most gregarious of the Knicks, but beneath the smile and laughter is a player very attuned to what’s transpiring around the world.
“When people are in the midst of going through something they need to know they weren’t the first person, the first people, the first country to go through that,’’ Quinn said.
“African Americans and other people have been going through this for a while – trials and tribulations. I think that this is a perfect time, with things that are going on with the world today, Black History Month came along at the perfect time.’’
Perhaps it did.
“A lot of people lost their lives fighting and battling to give us the freedom and opportunities to be able to do the things that we can in today’s world,’’ Courtney Lee said. “You just want to pay respects. You will never have a chance to meet them and say, ‘Thank you,’ to them so the most you can do is just honor them and remember what they did.
“Bring it back to life again by by acknowledging it and sharing it with people.”
How The MSG Hockey Show Comes to Life
Before I get to the topic at hand, I want to give a shout out to the Boys and Girls Club of Stamford, CT.
It was a pleasure to volunteer at their annual multicultural event on Friday night. They have the heaviest wood tables I’ve ever moved, but those tables sure held a lot of food! The performances were also a lot of fun. Great job by all involved.
For those interested in taking a peek behind the scenes at how a broadcast is put together, I thought I’d break down the latest #MSGHockeyShow, which was a special episode on-location from Prudential Center in Newark.
Each show actually starts the next day after a previous episode ends. We are constantly checking hockey news, and sites and blogs, for content that would be good for the show. Personally, I’m always on hockey reddit and follow a few blogs and social media accounts (Puck Daddy is a great one, for example).
Sometimes the story is a no-brainer (like the Quinnipiac University goaltender who is allergic to ice). Other times we make a case for it, depending on how passionate we feel about it (one example from a previous episode would be the story of Fatima Al-Ali from UAE and her trip to the States, visiting the Capitals — I loved this story and brought it forward and it was well-received).
Some stories will be discussed and won’t make the cut. It’s a show with 22 minutes of content, after all. Not everything can get in. On some episodes there’s no shortage of stories. Others, especially if we have a show two or three days after the last one, we have to debate topics that are “evergreen” (have a long shelf life with no real time sensitivity). From a previous episode, debating the top 10 NHL players of all-time was one such topic.
Our producer, Fran, is the mastermind that collects everything from all angles: a text from me, an email from Will Reeve, a call from Anson Carter, all of his notes and research. He puts it in his big boiling cauldron of magic (read: computer) and from the ashes, emerges a “rundown” of the show. This is basically an item-by-item spreadsheet of what the show will look like. You can’t script everything on live TV, but you can put together a skeleton outline of what the show will look like, so we know what video to roll where, what graphics to show when, etc.
This special episode was planned well in advance: the crew did site surveys, looking around the Prudential Center weeks in advance to find the best location for the set. It’s not just the scenery that’s important. You have to consider where to put cameras, lighting, power/extension cords and all the behind the scenes technical aspects the viewer at home might not necessarily be thinking about. Who needs to be where is also a factor.
Before the very first episode of the #MSGHockeyShow back in November, we did a couple of “dry runs” in October, acting as if the show was live but not actually going on air. This was done so the three of us could get comfortable with each other and begin building an on-air rapport. But also so that the crew could get familiar with angles, sequences and positioning as the segments went along. Since then, we haven’t really done a rehearsal and everything you see on the show is unfolding for the first time, but for this on location episode, we actually did rehearse because of the new environment.
— Anson Carter (@AnsonCarterLA) February 26, 2017
Earlier that afternoon, the three of us actually hosted a special presentation on MSG Networks called “MSG Power Play.” During the first period for both Rangers–Devils and Islanders-Blue Jackets games we weaved back-and-forth, and provided analysis for both games. Lots of fun.
After that, we jumped in a car and headed over to Prudential. We were going to take the train, but we ended up taking a car. Because it was raining. HARD. So, good choice!
We got to Prudential around the second intermission and settled in. I finalized my notes for the show, a couple tidbits here and there. If you were ever wondering what’s in my cue cards, it’s the rundown and notes/tidbits for each segment. One big piece of advice I received early in my broadcasting career is that you can never be over prepared.
Sometimes we have guests on the show. On this program, we were scheduled to have two: “Mr. Devil” himself Ken Daneyko and Devils forward Miles Wood. Sometimes, we can’t control when the guest arrives and the rundown of the show will move around. We originally had Ken in the first segment and Miles in the second, but Miles showed up early! Stand-up guy.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) February 26, 2017
Some of you might be wondering how we prepare questions. For Miles, it was a little easier because there was a lot to draw from — his father Randy Wood played in the NHL. Miles has been in a fight or two this season. That led me to think how many career fights his father had in the league. I looked it up online and saw that Randy Wood had 12 career NHL fights, with a maximum of three in one season. Miles has five already this season, so he crushed his old man’s single-season record in his rookie year. Perfect fun little tidbit to throw out there with Miles for our show.
Miles had also recently done a Twitter takeover of the @NJDevils account and there was some fun stuff posted — for example, “a hot dog is not a sandwich.” This is a cute little way to get things going with a lighter tone (which is what our show is all about). By the way, Miles is on our side, the right side of that debate. A hot dog is NOT a sandwich. Never was, never will be. So get over it.
Beyond that, you find the big stories that have happened with your guest recently. In Miles’ case, he lost teeth in a game last Sunday. Of course, you have to show that and get his thoughts on it.
Miles Wood got a painful reminder of why hockey is a physical sport. Find out how he lost his teeth and learn why he decided to turn pro with the Devils.
For Dano, Anson remembered when he was playing with the Bruins and Ken fought his teammate, Joe Thornton. When something like this comes up, Fran and our researcher Thomas (Thoommmaassssss!) will find the footage and clip it for us. It worked out perfectly. Dano had some funny anecdotes while watching the fight back (“that was the only time I ever got cut!”)
When we were getting organized on set, there was already a great crowd on hand, which was amazing! I can’t tell you what a pleasant surprise that was. I spent some time talking with people — many had been watching since the first episode, while some were checking it out for the first time. It was a great mix.
I sent a text message to a great friend of mine who works with the Devils to see if we could get some merch to give away to kids in the crowd. Three minutes later, a backpack full of t-shirts showed up. Props to the entire Devils events team, they are a terrific crew. That was fast!
We get into our chairs, take a breath, the floor director counts down “5..4..3..2..1…” and we’re off to the races.
Live TV, in my opinion, is the best kind of TV. No net. Anything can happen. As someone at an old job once said, “there are no mistakes on live TV.” Well, except when I tried to say “Quinnipiac” University. It came out Quinniac. I practiced it too before the show. Can’t ever over prepare, but sometimes “Quinniac” happens! All good, you laugh about it and move on.
My job during the show is to act as the traffic cop, to lob the ball in the air so Anson and Will knock it out of the park. Anson is the former NHLer with insight none of us have, which makes his perspective very interesting. Will gives the fan point of view, and it makes for a great mix.
The show went great. The crowd enjoyed it, guests had fun, we had fun, the crew was on point, social media connected with it, a success all around. By the way, we actually do read your tweets — if you’re going to chirp us, at least check your tweet before you send it. A troll job with poor grammar and spelling is pretty cliche at this point.
After the show is over, the digital team is in the office cutting up the best segments to post on the website (shout out to Lucky and the crew!). We get an email with links and @MSGNetworks tweets them out as well.
Show is done!
High fives and fist bumps all around, and sometimes we pick a bar and have a bite or a drink. Or two. But never, ever more than two.
Blue Jackets Out-Gun the Blueshirts
Earlier in the season, after the Blue Jackets long winning streak had ended and they plummeted down toward the pack, it was thought that Columbus just might have enjoyed a lucky run and that was that.
Turns out that wasn’t that.
General John Tortorella’s troops have been fashioned into a mini-juggernaut that is more jugger and less nought.
Say what you will about Torts and his bygone days, the man now has become a masterful bench boss without a single superstar on his roster.
There are leaders — Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner — to be sure. Garden-watchers saw that first-hand as a variety of other Blue Jackets put the visitors ahead 2-1, 3-1, 4-1, 5-1 before Jesper Fast got a non-consequence red light in the game’s final second.
No less significant was the superior goaltending of one of the NHL’s best puck-stoppers, Sergei Bobrovsky, who recorded his 32d win of the season.
With the still surging Washington Capitals visiting The Garden tomorrow night, there will be little rest for the Rangers.
OVERVIEW: Having come home from a tough win in New Jersey, the Rangers appeared more fatigued than their foe, who enjoyed an easy win over the Islanders. The Blueshirts had chances to go ahead early on, but Bobrovsky stopped them cold; especially when the score was 2-1 for Columbus. Then the visitors got their third goal, giving them the 3-1 lead heading into the third period.
The way the Blue Jackets have been performing, that amounted to game-over even with a period left to play; and it was.
TURNING POINT: In an attempt to tie the score in the second period, the Rangers pressured hard but were foiled by Bobrovsky. Soon after that, the Blue Jackets Alex Wennberg scored his second of the game to put Columbus ahead 3-1; and that was that!
WHAT THEY SAID:
1. MSG NETWORKS ANALYST GLENN HEALY: “The structure for the Rangers was not there. Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets had their legs and great goaltending.”
2. MSG NETWORKS ANALYST STEVE VALIQUETTE: “The Rangers needed more traffic in front of Bobrovsky. The way Bob played, it was very important to get in front of him.”
3. MSG NETWORKS ANALYST JOE MICHELETTI: “New York couldn’t tie it when it needed to do so.”
4. RYAN MCDONAGH: “We weren’t sharp and didn’t have enough energy. We should have had a stronger start. Nobody should be happy with the result tonight. We didn’t put in a sixty-minute effort.”
5. MSG NETWORKS ANALYST DAVE MALONEY: “The Rangers got on their heels very early. There will be clunkers along the way.”
6. HENRIK LUNDQVIST: “They had so many odd-man rushes and that made it a pretty tough game. They win battles in front of the net.”
7. ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “In the end, it was a matter of one team making high percentage plays with the puck and the other team making low percentage plays. Columbus was by far the better team.”
COMING ATTRACTIONS: The high-flying Washington Capitals return tomorrow. Game Time: 7 PM. TV: MSG NETWORK
BOTTOM LINE: Suddenly, the talk shifts to the possibilities of Columbus at some point meeting the Rangers in a playoff tourney. Right now, the Blue Jackets loom as a very formidable foe.
Melo Thriving in Triangle Offense
Derrick Rose called the Triangle Offense “random basketball” and made it clear he isn’t comfortable with the system Phil Jackson wants to be the identity of his team. That’s an alarming admission by a player who has the second-highest usage rate on the team.
But he’s not entirely alone. It’s been three years and 39 players have put on a Knicks jersey over that time and the offense continues to remain a challenge to master.
If we’re basing it on Malcolm Gladwell’s famous Outliers theory that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, the Knicks still have a ways to go. They’ve played just over 10,000 minutes of basketball since the Triangle was installed.
And here’s the irony: while players like J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert left bemoaning the offense and former coach Derek Fisher said today’s players can’t adjust to the system and Rose called it “just random basketball,” guess who seems to really like it and has learned to thrive in it?
Maybe it’s because he’s spent the most time playing it than anyone else — he is the most tenured player on the roster — but Melo has thrived as a mid-post player. Once in a while you even see his passing ability emerge in ways Lamar Odom exploited the cutters, but for the most part, Melo has turned that mid-post into his new office. It’s where he does almost all of his work.
It’s where he managed to score the game-winning shot to beat the 76ers on Saturday night.
But beyond the last-second heroics on a pretty shot with three-tenths of a second left, it’s what Melo has recognized as the issue for his teammates when a free-flowing game suddenly turns into a struggle to close, such as this game was for the Knicks. They led by 17 and by as many as 10 points late in the fourth, but then everything stopped.
“We got stagnant,” Melo told Rebecca Haarlow during his walk-off interview after the game. “We let them deny us, we let them push us out of our offense.”
Now comes the most important observation.
“And that led,” Melo concluded, “to our defense.”
That’s the same correlation that Jeff Hornacek has made all season. The Knicks defense tends to be poor when their offense struggles. So with a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter against the 76ers, the Knicks defense softened when the offense slowed down.
“We got tentative,” Hornacek said.
On the postgame show, Wally Szczerbiak often calls for a “step on their throat” mentality when you have a lead in the fourth quarter. You don’t slow down, you attack. The same goes for closing out the first half. The Knicks too often do the opposite as we saw against the 76ers.
“We started walking the ball up the court,” Hornacek said. “It was more, ‘Let’s just try to get it to Mel’.”
On the final possession, that was the play. Hornacek said it was up to Rose to get the team into the offense, get the ball to Melo on the mid-post and have the option of a slicing Courtney Lee if a double-team came.
For some reason, Brett Brown opted not to send an immediate double-team at Melo, who caught the ball with five seconds left. Everyone in the gym knew he was shooting it.
“All I wanted was a good look at the basket with a little bit of space where I could just raise up and shoot over the top,” Melo said. “And I got that.”
He made the shot and the Knicks got a win that they had to work a lot harder for than necessary. But that seems to be the way it has gone while playing the Triangle. It’s supposed to be a system that makes scoring easier, but right now it looks a lot harder than it has to be.
The easy thing to do is scrap the Triangle and go with the high pick-and-roll systems that about 90 percent of the NBA runs these days. Rose and Brandon Jennings thrive in high PnR sets and with mobile bigs like Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez and Kyle O’Quinn, one would think this would be tailor made for the Knicks.
But it doesn’t fit Melo’s game at all. Remember the resistance he put up when Mike D’Antoni was here and preferred Melo to be a wing option for kick-outs. Coincidentally, Melo put up huge performances in the Olympics playing exactly that role.
But the PnR style that has taken over the NBA also involves quick cuts and extra effort rebounding and can create defensive imbalance that demands sprinting back in transition defense. These are things that, at 32, Melo prefers to avoid.
The Triangle creates a great deal of mid-range shot opportunities which, in today’s NBA, is considered an inefficient shot with the increased volume of three-pointers and rim-finishes. But Melo has always been one of the game’s best mid-range scorers, so it’s no surprise he was able to quickly adapt.
So the Triangle, with all its warts and frustrations, suits Melo just fine.
Despite Rose’s protestations, Hornacek reaffirmed the Knicks’ commitment to the system. In fact, Hornacek said we should expect to see the team run more Triangle at this point in the season than we did earlier in the year.
So while Melo has figured it out after three years, the challenge for Hornacek — and, yes, Melo, too — is to get Porzingis to understand where he will be most effective.
Otherwise, to borrow a Star Trek phrase, the needs of the few are outweighing the needs of the many. And that goes against the fundamental principles of the Triangle.