Knicks Gaming Loses First Game in NBA 2K League Play

By: Lucky Ngamwajasat

In a back-and-forth tussle, the Knicks Gaming team suffered its first loss of the NBA 2K League, falling to Blazer5 Gaming, 74-70, Saturday night.

The Knicks Gaming team made their entrance in front of a very partisan hometown crowd and were looking to improve their record to 2-0 after their league-opening win over Warriors Gaming last week.

Led by a strong first quarter from G O O F Y 757, Knicks Gaming seized an early 20-14 at the end of the first quarter. G O O F Y dominated the paint early and was looking to establish himself down low.

But Blazer5 Gaming would come right back in the second stanza, as OneWildWalnut led the charge from the boys from the Pacific Northwest.

The teams would head into the halftime break tied at 34 apiece. Knicks Gaming rode the production from G O O F Y, who had 15 points at the halftime interval and shot 7-for-14 from the field.

The momentum would swing back towards Knicks Gaming in the third quarter, thanks to timely three-point buckets from NateKahl. Knicks Gaming would end up going into the fourth quarter with a two-point lead.

But in the end, Blazer5Gaming would have too much for the Knicks Gaming squad in crunch time. They would pull away down the stretch, as the intensity and tension peaked late in the fourth quarter.

G O O F Y led all scorers with 29 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, shooting 13-for-23 from the field. iamadamthefirst chipped in with 14 points and 7 assists.

Knicks Gaming will try to get back over the .500 mark next week Saturday, as the team takes on Magic Gaming. You can watch all the action of NBA 2K League live on Twitch.

Knicks Gaming Record: 1-1

Stat of the Night: Despite the loss, Knicks Gaming was extremely proficient with the three-ball, shooting 8-for-16 from beyond the arc. NateKahl led Knicks Gaming with three triples.

[Get More Knicks Gaming Coverage]

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How the Islanders Captured Their Fourth Cup

I was there on May 17, 1983 when the Islanders won their fourth straight Stanley Cup at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Now, 35 years later — and looking backward — I still cannot believe it happened.

Beating the mighty Edmonton Oilers, 4-2, in that melodramatic match, the Isles became the only American team in history to win four consecutive championships.

What’s more — and no less amazing — they had put together an unreal string of 16 playoff series victories in a row.

No other team could make that statement; nor will any in the future. That, The Maven guarantees.

Perhaps even more arresting is the fact that they actually swept the revered firm of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri & Company.

That Oilers team was so good that I vividly recall feeling uneasy even after Al Arbour‘s skaters took a 3-0 lead in the series.

I attended the Marriott Hotel press luncheon a day before Game 4 and was stunned at the cockiness of Oilers leader Glen Sather who addressed the gathering.

“We may be down but far from out,” he warned the throng. Believe me, Slats was frighteningly confident.

In retrospect, Sather made it seem as if Edmonton had a three-game lead and not the Isles.

As for the Cup-clincher itself, the Islanders smacked the Visitors around in the first period, taking what seemed to be a commanding 3-0 lead.

Bryan Trottier, John Tonelli and Mike Bossy potted the goals. And that’s when The Maven created the expression, The Dreaded Three-Goal Lead.

And I was right.

Sure enough, the rampaging Oilers put fear in the hearts of the Nassau crowd.

Kurri slammed one past Bill Smith at just 35 seconds of the second period and Messier made it only a one-goal Islanders lead with 26 seconds left in the middle frame.

For me, the third period was excruciatingly exciting as Edmonton pressed over and over and over again for the tying goal. But Smitty stood fast like the Great Wall of China until the final minutes.

Finally, Not-So-Old-Reliable defenseman Ken Morrow relieved the tension with an open-netter with 69 seconds left in the third period.

Former Islanders defenseman Ken Morrow joins Howie Rose and Butch Goring in the booth to reminisce about New York's four straight Stanley Cup championships from 1980-1983.

When the red goal light flashed, it seemed as if the entire Coliseum exhaled all at once.

A few days later, my wife Shirley and I attended the Islanders’ victory dinner hosted by owner John Pickett. It was then that the oft-asked question was raised:

Just how great was this Islanders dynastic team?

Considering that it wound up winning an unprecedented 19 straight Cup series, one could conclude that it was the greatest of all-time.

What’s more is that the facts underline that claim. Consider the following:

They featured one of the all-time snipers in Bossy, the best two-way hitting center ever in Trottier, the best clutch goaltender in Smith, and more significant role players than any team in any era. Bob Bourne was the NHL’s fastest forward; Clark Gillies the most productive fighting left wing (when provoked); and Butch Goring, a fleet center who doubled as a penalty-killer checker-of-stars.

Whether Arbour was the best, second-best, or third-best coach of all time is a moot question. Suffice to say that Arbour was ideal for his team. He had played on Punch Imlach’s multi-championship Toronto Maple Leafs as well as the Chicago Blackhawks Cup-winners in 1961. He studied under masters and learned well.

“I remember something Arbour said to us the season after we’d won our first Cup,” recalled former Islanders defenseman Jean Potvin. “We’d played badly in a couple of games and lost them both, and Al was really upset with us.

“‘You should have won those games,’ he told us at practice one morning, and one of the guys said, “Geez, Al, you can’t expect us to win every game.’ And Al just got this hard look on his face and said, ‘WHY NOT?'”

Members of the Islanders' organization reflect on the life of Hall of Fame coach Al Arbour and how he personally affected their lives.

In many ways, the Islanders of the early 1980s resembled the super-Canadiens who won five straight Stanley Cups between 1956-1960. There were no weak links in the lineup.

“They could play you any way you wanted to play them,” recalled the late Herb Brooks, who coached the rival Rangers at the time. “They had skill players like Bossy, Trottier and Potvin, tough guys like Garry Howatt and Nystrom. They could finesse with anyone or grind with the best of them.”

They were a better team than the Oilers of the late 1980s because of the equitable balance between offense, defense, and goaltending.

Edmonton boasted good netminding and a scary offense, but playing defense was not in the Oilers’ vocabulary; not for defensemen and not for checking forwards. It was a deficiency that was only partially remedied after high-scoring defenseman Coffey was traded to Pittsburgh.

By contrast, the Islanders’ defense was stout to the core. Denis Potvin was the best two-way defenseman of the post-Doug Harvey era and his sidekick, Stefan Persson, emerged as the most underrated solid backliner in the league.

Dave (Bammer) Langevin supplied the lusty bodychecks, while Gord Lane, Tomas Johnson, and Morrow all filled in nobly.

Management, headed by President-General Manager Bill Torrey and coach Arbour, was insightful, steady, and consistently superior, beginning in the late 1970s when the Islanders dynasty was developed.

[Stan Fischler Reflects on the Life of Bill Torrey]

The Islanders had become a power in 1978 and stronger in 1979, but in both years, were unable to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

Torrey realized there was a missing link. He required an experienced, digging center to supplement the vigorous Trottier. Another requirement was a stay-at-home defenseman who could complement the oft-rushing Potvin.

Both pieces fit neatly into the puzzle before the trade deadline in March 1980. Torrey dealt right wing Billy Harris and defenseman Dave Lewis to Los Angeles for Goring. It was the perfect fit. With Goring’s arrival, the Islanders went on a winning tear that carried into the 1980 playoffs.

Canadian hockey player Butch Goring of the New York Islanders skates on the ice, the early 1980s. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Previously, they had been accused of being too tight in crunch situations, but they responded in series wins over Los Angeles, Boston, and Buffalo before reaching the finals against the Philadelphia Flyers.

For the first time, the Cup was within their grasp and the Islanders came through with a 4-2 series win over Philadelphia. Nystrom, who scored the sudden-death winner, could prove to be as effective a clutch performer as Maurice Richard had been with the Canadiens.

In 1981, the Islanders marched past the Maple Leafs, Oilers and Rangers before disposing of Minnesota in a five-game final. They got a major scare in 1982 when Pittsburgh led by two goals in the decisive fifth game of the semifinals, but the Islanders displayed their patented comeback qualities and took the series in overtime on Tonelli’s goal.

They then edged the Rangers in six games and wiped out Quebec in four as they did Vancouver in the finals. But their most impressive run took place a year later. They topped Washington (four games), the Rangers (six games), and the Bruins (six games) before taking on the powerful Oilers, led by Gretzky.

The combination of Smith’s superlative goaltending and timely scoring was too much for Edmonton. The Islanders swept the series in four straight.

In many ways, the Islanders’ “Drive for Five” in 1984 was even more heroic. Fighting their way through three brutally difficult preliminary rounds, Arbour’s sextet was riddled with injury by the time it took on the Oilers in the finals.

The team split the first two games at Nassau Coliseum and then moved on to Edmonton for a resumption of the series. At this juncture, a quirk in playoff scheduling turned the series in the Oilers’ favor.

Instead of playing the new two games in Edmonton and then returning east, the teams were required to play three games at Northlands Coliseum. The move clearly favored the Oilers in many ways and they exploited the Islanders’ injuries to wrest the Cup away from the New Yorkers in five games.

Not only was the Islanders’ run of 19 consecutive playoff series victories remarkable, it demonstrated a staying power, combined with high-quality performance, that has been unmatched at any time in history.

Additionally, the Islanders oozed the kind of class that few other teams could boast except for the Canadiens of the Blake-Richard era. There were none of the wise-guy braggadocios that was part of the Oilers’ persona and no running from reporters in defeat, a trait that characterized so many other teams.

This all culminated with that glorious triumph 35 years ago.

[Read More From the Maven]

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MSG Networks Announces 2018 Liberty Telecast Schedule

New York, NY (May 17, 2018) – MSG Networks (NYSE: MSGN) and the WNBA’s New York Liberty announced today the official telecast schedule for the upcoming 2018 season.

MSG Networks (MSG or MSG+) will televise 32 of the team’s 34 regular season games, providing Liberty fans with extensive coverage of the team throughout the season.

This Sunday (May 20) at 7:00pm, MSG+ will telecast the season opener, as the Liberty battles the Chicago Sky at Wintrust Arena in Chicago. MSG+ will then televise the Liberty’s home opener against the Minnesota Lynx next Friday (May 25) at 7:30pm at the Westchester County Center in White Plains.

All Liberty 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 Liberty game telecasts. MSG GO is available to subscribers of participating television providers who receive MSG Networks as part of their television subscription.

MSG Networks’ Liberty broadcast team for home games will feature play-by-play announcer Ed Cohen, along with analyst Julianne Viani.

The Liberty will tip off its 22nd WNBA season in pursuit of the WNBA Championship after posting the best record in the Eastern Conference last year for the third consecutive season. Leading the way again is five-time All-Star and five-time First Team All-WNBA selection Tina Charles, set to begin a fifth season with her hometown Liberty. Since joining the Liberty in 2014, Charles has been one of the more dominant and accomplished players in the league, winning the league scoring title in 2016 and finishing second in league MVP voting the last two seasons.

In addition to Charles, the Liberty welcome back an impressive roster that includes two-time WNBA All-Star Epiphanny Prince and 3-point specialist Sugar Rodgers. After averaging 10.5 points per game and finishing sixth in the league in made three-pointers this past season, Rodgers was selected to her first-ever All-Star Game and awarded the WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year. The team returns their veteran core of Kia Vaughn, Bria Hartley, Shavonte Zellous and Kiah Stokes, while also bringing in promising young rookie Kia Nurse.

The Liberty will be under the direction of new Head Coach Katie Smith this year, who spent the last four seasons on the staff as an assistant. Smith, who has been named to the 2018 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class, will be joined on the sidelines by Assistant Coach Herb Williams, Assistant Coach Barbara Farris and Director of Player & Franchise Development Teresa Weatherspoon.

Below is the complete regular season television schedule for the New York Liberty on MSG Networks. 32 of the 34 games will air on MSG Networks, with an additional two games airing nationally on ESPN2.

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No Shortcuts as Knicks Ponder Their Draft Options

Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery was an exercise in frustration.

The cards were unveiled and the Knicks, projected to get the No. 9 pick in the June draft, remained at No. 9.

So, what now?

If the Knicks search for a new coach is any indication, expect president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry to take a thorough, meticulous approach to identifying the player that will best help the franchise going forward.

[Hahn: Perry’s Focus for Knicks: Talent Acquisition]

Knicks GM Scott Perry reacts to staying put with the 9th pick after the NBA Draft Lottery and discusses the process of figuring out who the team will draft in the first round.

Remember, Mills and Perry interviewed 11 candidates in less than three weeks before choosing David Fizdale.

[Robbins: Pressure of New York Won’t Faze Fizdale]

The heavy lifting starts Thursday when the NBA Draft Combine begins in Chicago. The Knicks can meet with a maximum of 20 players at the combine. Additional players can work out and undergo interviews at the team’s training facility.

The educated guess here is that the Knicks reach that 20-player max or come close to it. There are too many prospects that could be available and too many scenarios that could impact the selection.

Mills and Perry have both talked about not taking any shortcuts. There’s every reason to believe they will be looking at character, maturity and basketball IQ in addition to skill.

“To me, that’s as important as evaluating talent,” Perry told reporters in Chicago about the interview process. “We’ve been watching these guys play so we have a little better handle on their physical skill.

“But it’s going to be really important to find out who these guys are as people, what kind of character they really embody and project how they would fit with us.”

The Celtics are worth mentioning here. Rookie Jason Tatum and first-year swingman Jaylen Brown have shown remarkable maturity as the Celtics have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Mills and Perry have talked about building sustained success which means substance over style. No wonder Perry has hesitated to commit to any player or position.

“I think you have an idea, a loose idea, of where guys may or may not fall in the draft,” Perry said. “Obviously you want to talk to as many guys as you project in your range. But also, historically, I’ve liked to try to broaden that range because going into the draft you never know what could occur.’’

GREENBURG, NY – JULY 17: New York Knicks team President, Steve Mills and Jeff Hornacek of the New York Knicks introduce General Manager Scott Perry at a press conference at the at Knicks Practice Center July 17, 2017, in Greenburg, New York. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Steven Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images)

In order to get as clear a picture of every prospect, Mills, Perry, assistant GM Gerald Madkins, Fizdale and some scouts will all be in Chicago. The more eyes and ears the Knicks can get on each prospect the better.

The question of need certainly will be addressed. The Knicks could use an athletic small forward to complement Kristaps Porzingis. There are several intriguing prospects that should be available when the Knicks pick 9th.

Point guard also is a key position. The Knicks used their first-round pick last year on Frank Ntilikina, who showed flashes of brilliance. He was the second youngest player in the NBA and there’s every reason to believe he will take a big step forward with an offseason of weight training and Summer League.

Whether or not he emerges as the starting point remains to be seen. He might be a better fit at combo guard.

Oklahoma’s Trae Young and Alabama’s Collin Sexton — very different point guards — could be available, but Perry sounds like a man who will remain patient.

CHICAGO, IL – MAY 15: NBA Draft Prospects, Trae Young, Collin Sexton and Jaren Jackson Jr. pose for a photo with American civil rights activist, Jesse Jackson talk before the NBA Draft Lottery on May 15, 2018 at The Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

“It would only make sense if you feel that guard is far and away better than what you have on the roster,” Perry said. “And we haven’t been able to make that determination yet.”

So let’s leave point guard aside for the moment. In addition to Ntilikina, the Knicks have Emmanuel Mudiay, Trey Burke, and Ron Baker. The competition this summer should be fierce at that spot.

With that in mind, let’s consider the options at small forward.

Mikal Bridges, 6-foot-7, Jr. Villanova

NEWARK, NJ – DECEMBER 10: Mikal Bridges #25 of the Villanova Wildcats in action against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half of a college basketball game at Prudential Center on December 10, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Bridges probably helped his draft stock more than any non-freshman player. He started his career as a long-limbed defender and developed a solid all-around game including the ability to knock down 3’s. Bridges has the maturity and basketball IQ that would appeal to any GM. He also has two national championship rings.

Miles Bridges, 6-foot-6, So. Michigan State

CHAMPAIGN, IL – JANUARY 22: Miles Bridges #22 of the Michigan State Spartans shoots a free throw during the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at State Farm Center on January 22, 2018, in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

You don’t come out of Tom Izzo’s program with being a physically and mentally tough player. At 6-foot-6, Bridges is a little undersized on the perimeter but get him near the rim and hide the women and children. Has the strength and athleticism to emerge as a star if he develops his outside game.

Kevin Knox, 6-foot-9, Fr. Kentucky

ST LOUIS, MO – MARCH 09: Kevin Knox #5 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball against the Georgia Bulldogs during the quarterfinals round of the 2018 SEC Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 9, 2018 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

No college coach has mastered the development of the one-and-done player better than John Calipari at Kentucky. The vision of Knox playing alongside KP should make any Knicks fan tingle at the possibilities. He can score from the 3 or 4 spots, catch-and-shoot, off the dribble and go to the basket. Have a feeling his stock will rise.

Michael Porter Jr., 6-foot-10, Fr., Missouri

Speaking of rising and falling stock, no player was more highly regarded going into college than Porter Jr. Think Ben Simmons. But Porter Jr. missed almost all of the season with a back injury that required surgery. Think red flag. If healthy, he’s a breathtaking talent. If healthy.

Those are the four most likely small forwards that will be available when the Knicks pick. But remember so much can happen between now and June 21. Which is why the Knicks have to scrub every prospect, regardless of position or projection.

“There may be trade opportunities to move up or down, whatever the case may be,’’ Perry said. “So I think it’s important for us as an organization to know as much about all these guys as we can regardless of where they’re projected.”

[Read More From Lenn Robbins]

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Maven’s Playoff Musings: Bolts Strike Back

Our resident hockey Maven, Stan Fischler, shares his thoughts on the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

1. Looking ahead to Game 4 of the Washington-Tampa Bay series on Thursday night in D.C., The Maven returns to the classroom. The subject is Basic Bolts 101: The lesson can be summarized thusly: The Lightning still has the best balance of The Remaining Four teams and, therefore, I predict the series will be tied two-two by 11 p.m. Thursday night.

2. Here’s another reason why I side with Jon (The Professor) Cooper‘s club. It’s The Caps Curse that’s so hard to shake. It hangs over every game until Barry Trotz‘s skaters become too hot to trot; meaning they’ll gallop to the Final. Sorry, but I have to see that monumental event to believe it.

3. How do you figure playoff ace, Jonathan (Try To Spell It Right The First Time) Marchessault being passed off as The Invisible Man by three teams in succession? The Blue Jackets, Lightning and Panthers all whiffed. Or should I toss in William Karlsson whose talent was significantly ignored by both the Ducks and Blue Jackets? Why are they starring now but not then?

WINNIPEG, MB – MAY 14: Jonathan Marchessault #81 of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrates his third period goal against the Winnipeg Jets with teammates at the bench in Game Two of the Western Conference Final during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell MTS Place on May 14, 2018 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

4. (Answer:) On previous clubs the three whiz-bangs didn’t have Gorgeous George McPhee for a general manager nor Gerard (Is He Ever) Gallant as coach. McPhee’s masterstroke was drafting the Dashing Duet. Meanwhile, Gallant simply has extracted all the best creative juices from each sharpshooter.

5. I liked Marchessault’s explanation of the Knights’ ascent: “None of us were part of the core of teams we came from but we seized the opportunity in Vegas. That’s what made us a success; a bunch of hockey players who wanted a home. We all found one and became awesome.”

6. The Marchessault-Karlsson-Reilly Smith line’s success should surprise nobody who studied the regular season arithmetic. The trio finished second out of 31 teams for the most even-strength goals (47). Colorado’s unit, led by Nathan McKinnon, topped them by a single goal. After two games of the Conference Final, Vegas’ Terrific Threesome had a 10-2 spread over their rivals at even strength in the playoffs.

7. Home-ice “advantage” in the playoffs is a DIS-advantage. Home teams have a losing record, but why? Jets coach Paul (Moe) Maurice, who’s been around almost as much as The Maven, offers an interesting thought: “Kids who come into the game now have become used to the big stages, big performances, loud buildings at a younger age,” Moe insists. “Playing on the road doesn’t faze them.”

8. My feeling is that clubs get too revved up by their already zany home fans and wind up doing things — such as Capitals getting ridiculous penalties on Tuesday night losing at home to the Bolts — they likely would not do away from home.

9. Because Winnipeg is Winnipeg — and not The Big Apple, Toronto or Boston — quality Jets lines often tend to be underplayed by the media while they out-play their foes. Exhibit A is the Jets’ Blake (Big) WheelerMark ScheifeleKyle Connor juggernaut. In case you forgot, Wheeler is an alumnus of Atlanta’s woebegone Thrashers (2011) and could qualify for an as yet un-coined NHL trophy — “Most Underrated Player In The League.”

NASHVILLE, TN – MAY 10: Josh Morrissey #44, Mark Scheifele #55, Blake Wheeler #26, and Kyle Connor #81 celebrate a goal against the Nashville Predators during the second period in Game Seven of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on May 10, 2018, in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

10. Considering the tension pervading every playoff game, it’s ironic to hear a key performer such as Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck calling it “a fun time to be playing the game.” (Tell that to your blood pressure machine.)

11. Department of Confessions and Transparency: You should know that The Maven is rooting against the Knights. Very simple; if Vegas wins the Stanley Cup it will be a case of too soon, too easy. Everything after will be a build-up to a letdown. Besides, the longer the Knights stay alive, the more nervous Vegas bookies become.

12. If the Sin City Skaters win the Stanley Cup, a $20 bet placed in October will bring in $10,000. (You’d faint on the spot if you were that bookie.)

13. Reader Danny Farrell of Manhattan, who teaches hockey at Sky Rink and Central Park’s Lasker pond, offers this: “The less-publicized key to a Lightning Cup is Tyler Johnson. We know all about Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, but Little Ty is their unsung, but very, very important depth guy.”

14. The Deadline Tradee-turned Flop-ee for the Penguins is our old friend Derek Brassard who delivered the square-root-of-nothing for The Crosby Gang. The irony here is that Brassard was Nick Bonino‘s replacement when NB went to Nashville. So, what happens; both exit Stage Right, as in Wrong.

PITTSBURGH, PA – MARCH 03: Derick Brassard #19 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Islanders at PPG Paints Arena on March 3, 2018, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

15. Where’s the big brain in St. Louis who urged trading Paul Stastny to Winnipeg where Hall of Fame Peter’s son has turned playoff star? (It couldn’t have been Marty Brodeur, the Blues, assistant G.M., could it?)

16. Some believe it’s sinful to use the term “choke” about an athlete who really blows a huge playoff game, but how else can one describe Pekka Rinne’s goaltending in Game 7 of Preds-Jets?

17. When Washington beat Pittsburgh, Braden Holtby‘s playoff goaltending grade — according to Me — climbed from C-minus to a rip-roaring B. And if the Caps somehow can beat the Bolts it will soar to an A-minus. (And you know how he can get an A, don’t you?)

[Read More From Stan Fischler]

18. Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin took their Cup-ousting with grace which says plenty about their character. Looking for an alibi, others blame the Pens’ loss on their getting too hot too soon. (Maven blames it on attrition.)

19. Most noticeable about the contemporary Caps compared to past Washington teams is that Trotz’s outfit is bigger (average height 6-2, vs. 5-11 on Tampa) than usual and does a better job overall finishing checks.

20. If somehow Vegas reaches the final round, Marc-Andre Fleury should get the Congressional Medal of Honor, The Victoria Cross, Order of Canada and be named Third Deputy NHL Commissioner with the final review on all goalie interference calls.

LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 11: Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Vegas Golden Knights tends net against the Los Angeles Kings after he lost his helmet, glove and stick in the third period of Game One of the Western Conference First Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at T-Mobile Arena on April 11, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Golden Knights won 1-0. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

21, Should Pekka Rinne win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie — he’s favored by the way — it will prove that voting should include playoffs, not just for the regular season.

22. What’s the worst penalty that happens to a team? After the Lightning had a tying (1-1) goal disallowed in Game 1 vs. Washington, Hall of Famer Phil Esposito said the “Too many men on the ice” infraction belongs in the Hall of Infamy.

23. Should the Capitals, by some miraculous turn of events, actually depose Tampa Bay from the playoffs, that egregious “too many men” penalty could be called the series turning point.

24. James Neal is the Real Deal, and if you don’t believe it, ask the Predators. Even with the insertion of Bonino and Kyle Turris into the Nashville lineup, the club missed Neal like a moose would miss its hat rack.

25. Trotz admits he obtained a mere four-and-a-half hours sleep after the Caps’ Game 2 win. If Washington wins the series, he’ll have four-and-a-half minutes sleep that night.

26. Based on playoff performance alone, local boy John Carlson who grew up in Colonia, N.J. looms as the juiciest free agent to be available on July 1. As all know, in the eyes of general managers, crack defensemen these days have the look of polished diamonds.

ANNAPOLIS, MD – MARCH 03: John Carlson #74 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period in the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on March 3, 2018, in Annapolis, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

27. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman learned his hockey managerial tricks by studying under Jimmy Devellano in Detroit, where signing Russians proved pivotal to winning Cups. “Steve lived it,” Devellano told Joe Smith of The Athletic. “He saw it (drafting Russians) first-hand. He’s made his team just like what we had, winning Cups in Detroit.”

28. Analyzing the Capitals is easy. You do the same thing in every series when Washington begins; dare them to win. No matter how you shake it, a black cloud will hover over Trotz’s team until it reaches the Final; assuming that’s possible. For me, it’s the same feeling I had rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers; until they won the 1955 World Series, All bets were off them until they got the big prize.

29. Chris Kunitz, the Rajah From Regina, still has the touch even as a fourth-liner with Tampa. He’s already got four rings and will be as important to the Lightning Cup hopes as Stamkos or Kucherov.

TAMPA, FL – MAY 11: Chris Kunitz #14 of the Tampa Bay Lightning brings the puck up against the Washington Capitals during the first period in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 11, 2018, in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

30. Reader Emma Miller of Fair Lawn, New Jersey offers this critique of the Capitals: “Even a ‘good’ penalty could be a nail in the Caps’ coffin. Holtby’s lumberjack chop on Wednesday night and Lars Eller‘s imitation of an outfielder catching a popup are examples of carelessness. The Lightning struck on both ensuing advantages. Tampa’s power play is lethal; if the Caps fail to improve discipline, Ovie can say goodbye to the Final.”

31. Rating Final Four Goalies: 1. Fleury; 2. Hellebuyck; 3. Holtby; 4.Vasilevskiy.

32. Holtby ahead of Vasilevskiy is subject to change based on Game 4. And you know what I’m talking about, don’t you?

[Watch Rangers Night Live Monday, June 25 8 PM]

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Perry’s Focus For Knicks: Talent Acquisition

Scott Perry didn’t talk about luck leading into the NBA Draft Lottery.

He talked about focus. Afterward, as the Knicks maintained their maddening record of never once moving up in 15 lottery appearances, Perry talked about fortune.

“I’m just happy we didn’t move back,” he said.

So the Knicks remained in the 9th spot in the draft and now have a little over a month to decide who they’ll choose on June 21 at Barclays Center. In a draft loaded with new age athletic big men who shoot threes and block shots, the Knicks don’t have a specific need to target. And, as Perry bluntly pointed out, there’s a reason for that.

“We’ve got to add talent to this team,” he said, “regardless of position.”

Knicks GM Scott Perry reacts to staying put with the 9th pick after the NBA Draft Lottery and discusses the process of figuring out who the team will draft in the first round.

The team went from being in a desperate search for point guards to having two — Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke — who are former lottery picks looking to get re-established. They also have last year’s first-round pick, Frank Ntilikina, who looks like he will be developed into more of a combo guard with a defensive foundation. While the Knicks could be in play at No. 9 for arguably the best point guard in the draft — Alabama’s Collin Sexton — Perry said there are conditions to once again target the point guard spot in the draft.

“I think it only makes sense if you feel that guard is far and above what you have on the roster,” he said. “And we haven’t been able to make that determination yet.”

Expect Sexton to be among the players the Knicks meet with at the NBA Combine (his measurables will be important because he was listed at 6-foot-3 in college) and get a workout back in New York in June. Sexton only has to prove he has more potential than Mudiay or Burke, and some feel his athleticism and speed will make him a dynamic NBA guard that will fit in today’s pro game.

The most logical area of focus for the Knicks is at the wing, where Tim Hardaway Jr. moved to during the season and was forced to defend bigger players. The Knicks desperately need a small forward who can switch onto guards and yet can also defend the post, while also offering the ability to shoot the three. That describes Villanova’s Mikal Bridges.

SAN ANTONIO, TX – APRIL 02: Mikal Bridges #25 of the Villanova Wildcats cuts the net after the 2018 NCAA Men’s Final Four National Championship game against the Michigan Wolverines at the Alamodome on April 2, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

And when you listen to Perry, the type of player the Knicks are looking for — “the guy, we feel, is the best fit for our culture” — also describes Bridges, a two-time national champion, and Big East Tournament MVP.

“I bring winning to your team,” Bridges said last month.

The Knicks certainly need that element.

Perry acknowledged the need at small forward — “It’s no secret we could use help at wing,” he said — he would not completely commit to it as the main focus. “At the end of the day, I still think we’re in talent-acquisition mode,” he said, reiterating the need to find the best talent available.

Last week on my radio show on ESPN Radio (7-10 PM Weeknights on 98.7 FM in New York), Perry told me it also depends on who is available when the Knicks make their pick.

“If there’s someone down there at a position you think you’re more strong at, but the player is clearly a better talent than, maybe, the position of need, then you have that question: do you go ahead and take the greater talent at that time and then utilize trades and free agency to bolster the position you feel you need help in at small forward?” Perry said.

In other words, if you have to stack talent at one spot, you do it and turn the surplus into an asset to fill the area of need via trades.

“We have to get the highest level of talent that we can get onto our roster and we’ll figure out all the positions once they get in there,” Perry said.

This will be the third time in four years that the Knicks are selecting in the top 10. Kristaps Porzingis became an All-Star, Ntilikina is a project. This year’s pick, Perry knows, has to make an impact to advance the cause.

“If you can find a starter, that would be fantastic,” he said. “Worst-case scenario is you have to find a strong, what I would call, a rotation player who is going to play for you each and every night and is going to contribute to your overall success.”

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Knicks In Good Position No Matter Where They Land in Lottery

The NBA Draft Lottery is tonight and here’s a word to the wise Knicks’ fan:

Don’t fall in love with any specific player.

I repeat: Do not fall in love with any specific player.

Are there some terrific talents in this draft? Absolutely.

Duke’s Marvin Bagley III should have Stud III on the back of his jersey.

Arizona’s Deandre Ayton used his 7-foot-1 frame to average a double-double.

TUCSON, AZ – DECEMBER 09: Deandre Ayton #13 of the Arizona Wildcats reacts after scoring against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half of the college basketball game at McKale Center on December 9, 2017 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

But neither of those players will be available when the Knicks make their pick in June unless they move up tonight. The Knicks have a 6.1 percent chance of moving into the Top-3 spots tonight and a 1.7 chance of getting the No. 1 pick.

[Read: Breaking Down Knicks Lottery Scenarios]

So, don’t fall in love, not with Bagley III or Ayton; not with some very high ceiling players that could be available when the Knicks pick.

There simply are too many variables to tie yourself to one player. And considering where the Knicks are, it’s unlikely any one player will dramatically shift the immediate fortunes of the franchise.

What the Knicks must do is remain true to the long vision. President Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry have preached patience. They have spoken of sustained success.

[Hahn: Knicks Seek Inspiration, Patience with Fizdale Hire]

With that in mind, the Knicks need to avoid getting mesmerized by one player or one position. They need, pardon the football speak, to find the best available athletic basketball player.

And that’s what this draft offers.

The Knicks added a young, athletic player last year in Frank Ntilikina. Ntilikina, according to the New York Post, will play Summer League for the Knicks, which is exactly the plan we hoped he would follow.

Ntilikina needs to play as much as he can against high-level competition. Whether it’s point guard, off guard or combo guard, Ntilikina has the upside to mature into an impact player.

There has been some talk about the Knicks needing a true lead guard, a rugged forward to pair with Kristaps Porzingis and an athletic small forward, which would allow Tim Hardaway Jr., to play most of his minutes at shooting guard.

There are players that fit those descriptions that could be available when the Knicks pick.

Alabama point guard Collin Sexton has the confidence of a supermodel and the attacking game that is needed in today’s NBA.

Duke power forward/center Wendell Carter Jr. has manchild written all over him. He’s not as athletic as Bagley, but he’s highly competitive and versatile.

Villanova forward Mikal Bridges helped himself more this season than any non-freshman. His court intelligence and maturity combined with a polished all-around game would complement KP when the Knicks go small.

PITTSBURGH, PA – MARCH 17: Collin Sexton #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide shoots the ball against Mikal Bridges #25 of the Villanova Wildcats in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at PPG PAINTS Arena on March 17, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

It would be easy to fall in love with any of the three. Don’t.

The Phoenix Suns, who have the best odds to land the No. 1 pick, would likely take Ayton. He’s a building block and the Arizona product might sell some tickets. Then what?

Luka Doncic is this season’s Euro Wonder. But no one other than ESPN’s European expert Fran Fraschilla and each team’s international scouting director can truly speak about foreign prospects with true authority.

Ayton, Doncic and Bagley III figure to go 1-2-3. Then it’s truly a lottery.

Some prefer Texas big man Mo Bamba over Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson.

Others like Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. over Michigan State’s Miles Bridges.

Oklahoma point guard Trae Young had a freshman season for the ages but at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, is he big enough for the NBA?

AUSTIN, TX – FEBRUARY 3: Trae Young #11 of the Oklahoma Sooners drives around Mohamed Bamba #4 of the Texas Longhorns at the Frank Erwin Center on February 3, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)

And each team has its issues to consider. The Suns, Magic, Kings are in desperate straits. The Grizzlies and Hawks are starting over. The Cavs won’t know which way to go until LeBron James decides whether or not to return.

So, although it’s natural to fall in love with a player, Knicks fans shouldn’t do it. There will be a quality player available at No. 9, possibly even a star.

Now that’s a lovely thought.

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Knicks Lottery Preview

With the NBA Draft Lottery set for tonight, the numbered ping pong balls will be drawn and the future of franchises will be altered.

And after finishing the 2017-18 season with a 29-53 record, the Knicks currently hold the ninth pick but could move up … or down.

Here are the odds for the various scenarios that could unfold for the Knicks tonight:

  • 81.3% chance of staying at No. 9
  • 12.6% chance of falling back as many as three picks
  • 6.1% chance of jumping into the top-3 picks
  • 1.7% chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick

The Knicks have not moved up in the lottery since the inaugural one in 1985 when they vaulted to No. 1 pick and selected Patrick Ewing.

[Hahn: Knicks Seek Inspiration, Patience with Fizdale Hire]

Last season the Knicks dropped from seven to eight, where they drafted Frank Ntilikina. The last time the Knicks selected ninth, they took Georgetown forward Michael Sweetney.

Hoping for some good fortune, the Knicks have chosen General Manager Scott Perry to represent them on the dais.

As for who the Knicks may target, it would obviously depend on where they pick but there appears to be an early inclination.

“In an ideal world, we’d like to get a wing player,” President Steve Mills told Al Trautwig last week.

Some of the top wing players in this year’s draft include Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr., Villanova’s Mikal Bridges, and Michigan State’s Miles Bridges.

[Robbins: Pressure of New York Won’t Faze Fizdale]

After tonight’s lottery, the next step in the draft process is the NBA Draft Combine, which takes place from May 16-20. The NBA Draft will be held Thursday, June, 21.

*Odds via Tankathon.com

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KP Up For Block of the Year

The Unicorn has been recognized!

Vote for your New York Knick, Kristaps Porzingis as he is in the running for an NBA Award this year.

KP is nominated for Block of the Year for his nasty rejection on the Suns’ Josh Jackson, leading to his very own authoritative slam dunk on the opposite end of the floor in a Nov. 3, 2017 game at The Garden.

You can vote for KP here: www.nba.com/NBAAwards.
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Devils Lay Foundation For Bright Future Ahead

In Part II of our end-of-the-season Q&A with Ken Daneyko, the former Devil great looks back at the rookie seasons for Nico Hischier and Will Butcher while looking ahead to an important offseason.

MSGNetworks.com: At the end of the season, Nico Hischier was elevated to being a top-line center for the Devils alongside Taylor Hall. How do you think he fared this season and where do you think his ceiling is?

Ken Daneyko: Nico was everything and then some from what you would expect from the No. 1 overall pick. His preparation, the way he carries himself on and off the ice and his performance were fantastic – not just for a teenager, but for anybody.

To step right into the National Hockey League out of Juniors is not easy. To do the things that he did at such a young age as far as understanding the game so well and being such a smart hockey player, a 200-foot hockey player was outstanding. Even when he wasn’t getting points, he always managed to help the team in some way, shape or form. He’s going to be a cornerstone of the franchise for many years to come.

[Daneyko: Expect Hall and Schneider to Return Strong Next Season]

Now that he’s got his rookie year out of the way, he’s going to be that much more confident and more National Hockey League-ready as far as what it takes every single night to be that go-to guy. As a youngster, he’s going to grow naturally and put on a little more beef. He showed his durability and toughness by being the only Devil to play all 82 regular season games. That’s remarkable and he managed to do that by playing through some bumps and bruises along the way. All of this shows his character and that his compete level is off the charts. It’s exactly what you want from a franchise-type player and that’s what I think Nico can become and will become for sure. He’s a guy you can rely on every night and in every situation. He’s a special player and can become a 70, 80-point guy in this league.

MSGNetworks.com: Hischier wasn’t the only rookie who had a solid campaign. Will Butcher also had a very strong first season and was terrific in the series against Tampa. Can you talk about his development and do you think he can become one of the pillars of the franchise along with Hischier?

Ken Daneyko: With a lot of these young guys and rookies, you didn’t know what to expect coming into the season. But they were all instrumental and one of the biggest reasons why the Devils made the playoffs. They came in and brought enthusiasm, speed and skill the Devils needed. Will Butcher was one of those guys on the back end that brought an element the team hasn’t had in a while – a quarterback on the power play.

He’s such an intelligent hockey player, he moves the puck and he’s a great skater. He just understands the game so well, he’s a guy that wants to get better and wants to learn. I would see him constantly look at the tablets the staff provides the team and study what he has to do or whoever he was playing against or work on things he could do better from games before. He’s a real student of the game.

Will Butcher tells his tale of reaching the NHL, from his small-town roots to the moment he knew he was finally in the pros.

It was so important for these young guys to get a taste of playoff hockey and, you’re right, Will Butcher did very well against Tampa and excelled. I just think it just shows the job that Ray Shero and his staff has done as far as acquiring players – along with coach [John] Hynes – and what they expect from them. You have to build on this, move forward and add a couple pieces, but the fact that they were able to nab a prized college free agent like Will and sell him on the direction of the franchise obviously impressed him and he seems to be really happy here. He’s going to be a big piece going forward.

[More From Dano on the Devils]

MSGNetworks.com: Finally, the foundation was set for the Devils by making the playoffs this season, but obviously, the fans will want more going forward. Where do you think Ray Shero will try to improve the team in the offseason?

Ken Daneyko: Ray understands that you have to be able to build through the Draft and you have to have patience. The Devils were able to fast-track their progress this season because of the young guys we talked about – Hischier, Butcher and Jesper Bratt – and they had such an impact right away. Hopefully, that can happen again next year.

Bratt was terrific as well, even though he went through a little bit of stretch of learning the National Hockey League game. I expect big things from him, too.

Jesper Bratt has been a pleasant surprise for the Devils this season. The rookie talks about his journey to New Jersey and how he plans to stick with the big club.

There are some other youngsters in the pipeline, whether it be Michael McLeod or Joey Anderson, the guys that have been drafted that I would expect will be up here contributing sooner rather than later. These guys could add another element in order for the Devils to elevate their game.

It’s going to be tougher because they’re not going to sneak up on anybody anymore. Everybody around the league understands that the Devils are going to be a faster team with more skill, so they’re going to have to take that compete level to a higher standard just to be a playoff team. I would expect Ray to look at all angles, all possibilities, from free agency to trades to using the guys within the system. He’ll possibly look to add a defenseman which isn’t easy to find. Can he find a Top-4 defenseman that can add to their depth?

Devils general manager Ray Shero talks about the internal improvement the Devils made during the 2017-18 season and sets his sights on what the team will work on during the offseason.

I also could see him trying to add a Top-6 forward, which could be with the guys I mentioned before internally because we’ve seen young guys have such an impact. It’s no longer wait and see and have them biding their time. I think he’ll be looking to target some depth pieces and continue the process from this year by building on that skill level. One good thing is that Marcus Johansson will be like trading for another player next year. We really didn’t see the best of him or a lot of him due to all the injuries he suffered during the season. I thought he came in and did really well against the Lightning during their series. We’re going to see a better Marcus Johansson next year, the key is if he can stay healthy.

Nevertheless, this past season was a lot of fun covering the Devils, both as a color analyst and a guy emotionally invested in the team! I’m no different from the fans, you just wanted to see progress, enthusiasm, compete and the skill level get better. It certainly did from top to bottom. Coach Hynes, Ray Shero and the staff deserve a lot of credit.

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