Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday weekend.
In today’s SI:AM:
🔮 100 predictions for the 2022 NFL season
☘️ How the Celtics made the NBA Finals
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Igor Shesterkin stood on his head again
It wasn’t an overtime thriller like their Game 7 victory over the Penguins in the first round, but the Rangers survived another do-or-die game last night against the Hurricanes and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals against the Lightning.
All postseason long Carolina was a different team at home than on the road. Entering last night’s game, the Canes, who beat the Bruins in seven games in the first round, were 7–0 at home and 0–6 on the road.
Goalie Igor Shesterkin and the Rangers flipped the script, though, and made Game 7 in Raleigh look like a road game. The Rangers won 6–2 behind another stellar performance from the 26-year-old. Shesterkin, who stopped 94.9% of the shots he faced in the series, made 37 saves on 39 shots in the win.
Goaltending has been the difference for the Rangers this postseason. They were outshot by a significant margin in both their first-round series against Pittsburgh (308 to 268) and against Carolina (234 to 181), but New York has benefited from a gulf in goaltender talent. The Penguins’ goalies had a 90.3% save percentage in the first round and the Canes’ had a 91.1% save percentage in these playoffs. Shesterkin’s postseason save percentage is 92.8%.
You might say that New York has gotten lucky with the goalies they’ve faced. Pittsburgh’s No. 1 choice in net, Tristan Jarry, was injured during a regular-season game against the Rangers in April, putting Casey DeSmith in net for Game 1 of their playoff series. DeSmith was injured during the second overtime period of Game 1 and replaced by Louis Domingue, who played a total of three NHL games over the previous two seasons. He allowed at least four goals in four of his five starts against the Rangers before Jarry was cleared to return for Game 7. New York also faced Carolina’s backup netminder, Antti Raanta, after Frederik Andersen was injured late in the regular season. That luck has run out, though. The Rangers will now face star Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in the Eastern Conference finals, beginning with Game 1 tomorrow in New York (8 p.m. on ESPN).
Game 1 of the Western Conference finals between the Avalanche and Oilers is tonight in Denver (8 p.m. ET on TNT). That series pits the West’s best team (Colorado) against the best player in the NHL (Connor McDavid). And while we’re on the topic of goalies, it’ll be up to 40-year-old Edmonton backstop Mike Smith to hold the high-powered Avalanche offense at bay. Smith was the Oilers’ second-choice goalie during the regular season behind Mikko Koskinen but has established himself as the go-to guy in the playoffs.
“You realize as you get older, your chances to make a push and make a run for the Stanley Cup is getting narrower and narrower,” Smith told reporters yesterday. “It’s something that we’ve talked about as a group, that your opportunities to get to the conference finals don’t come around every day. So, it’s something that you want to take advantage of when you get here and prepare yourself to try and get to the ultimate spot, and that’s in the [Cup] Final. And it’ll take everyone pulling on the same rope and giving it our best shot to get there.”
The best of Sports Illustrated
Believe it or not, the NFL season is only 100 days away, and so in today’s Daily Cover, Conor Orr has 100 bold predictions for the season ahead. I’m not spoiling anything by dropping No. 1 here: The Bills will defeat the Packers in Super Bowl LVII.
Yesterday’s Daily Cover, by Jon Wertheim, was the fascinating tale of a former pro wrestler enlisted by the U.S. military to train soldiers during World War II. … Tom Verducci lays out some numbers that show just how much the new baseball is impacting offense. … Chris Mannix details how the Celtics won the Eastern Conference after an unpredictable season. … Rohan Nadkarni argues that Jimmy Butler had every right to take that audacious shot against the Celtics in Game 7 on Sunday.
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Around the sports world
Cardinals defensive back Jeff Gladney was killed in a car crash at 25. … Liz Cambage denied directing a racial slur at Nigerian players during a pre-Olympic scrimmage. … Robert Lewandowski says he wants to leave Bayern Munich. … The Tigers called up Roger Clemens’s youngest son, Kody, to the majors. … Tennessee earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA baseball tournament. … Kyle Lowry said the Heat’s season was “a waste of a year” after they were eliminated by the Celtics.
The top five…
… MLB plays from yesterday:
5. Javier Báez’s play deep in the hole
4. Nick Castellanos’s home run that interrupted a solemn broadcast moment yet again
3. Yordan Alvarez’s two long home runs against the A’s (469 feet and 444 feet)
2. Jesús Sánchez’s even longer home run, 496 feet over the third deck (in Coors Field, but still)
1. Eli White’s perfectly timed jump on an incredible home run robbery
On this day in 1948, Tommy Lasorda struck out 25 batters in 15 innings pitching for the Phillies’ Class C affiliate in Schenectady, N.Y., against which humorously named team?
- Binghamton Triplets
- Amsterdam Rugmakers
- Pittsfield Electrics
- Gloversville-Johnstown Glovers
Friday’s SIQ: Of the teams that competed in the NCAA men’s lacrosse Final Four this weekend, which program has the most national championships?
Answer: Princeton, with six (excluding the six it won before the NCAA began sponsoring men’s lacrosse in 1970). The Tigers won all their titles between ’92 and 2001 under Hall of Fame coach Bill Tierney. Only Syracuse (10 championships), Johns Hopkins (nine) and Virginia (seven) have more national titles.
Tierney inherited a program that had gone 27–58 in six seasons under his predecessor. After posting a 2–13 record in 1988, his first season in charge, Tierney led the Tigers to an NCAA tournament appearance in ’90, the first of 15 straight tournament berths.
Tierney left Princeton after the 2009 season to take over at Denver, where he won another national title in ’15. His replacement at Princeton, Chris Bates, was fired in ’16 after elbowing a Brown player, paving the way for current coach Matt Madalon to take over. After the Ivy League canceled last season, Madalon led Princeton to its first postseason appearance in 10 years this season.
Princeton lost in the semifinals Saturday to eventual national champion Maryland. The Terrapins completed an undefeated season yesterday by defeating Cornell in the title game.
It’s Maryland’s fourth national title and first since 2017. The Terps are the first team to complete an undefeated championship season since Virginia in ’06 and the first men’s team to ever go 18–0. The North Carolina women’s team beat Boston College in the national championship Sunday to wrap up an undefeated 22–0 season.
The Terps were led by Logan Wisnauskas, who in the win over Princeton on Saturday became the sixth player in Division I men’s history to record 200 career goals. He finished his career with 205 goals, good for fourth on the all-time list. (His former teammate Jared Bernhardt also had 200 goals in his career and spent one season as a D-II quarterback before signing with the Falcons as a wide receiver.)
From the Vault: May 31, 1999
Tim Duncan was a terror in the 1999 NBA playoffs, especially in the third and fourth games of the Spurs’ sweep of the Lakers in the second round. His Game 3 line: 37 points, 14 rebounds. And Game 4: 33 points, 14 rebounds.
It was only Duncan’s second year in the NBA, but Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was quick to put his success in perspective.
“This was no breakout series,” Popovich said. “He’s pretty much been doing this all year.”
Indeed, Duncan was a force from the moment he entered the league, winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1997–98., Aand by the time the ’99 playoffs rolled around, it was clear that Duncan was on his way to becoming one of the league’s greats, SI’s Richard Hoffer wrote:
“Duncan is only 23, and if he gets even a little bit better—and his progress has been such that he figures to get a lot better—he’s going to own the league. This isn’t particularly good news for the NBA, which likes its heroes a little more animated than Duncan is, but there’s only so much style you can get away with before there’s an inquiry into substance. Duncan, who may have no style, is all substance.”
Hoffer’s story also delves into Duncan’s famous (supposed lack of) personality. While Hoffer wrote that the “NBA’s new face is one, principally, of apparent indifference,” Duncan was different behind the scenes.
“The Big Easy is what teammate Mario Elie calls Duncan. Either that or the Quiet Assassin. So what if he doesn’t smile?
“In fact, as the other Spurs are desperate to announce, Duncan is anything but easy or quiet off the court. He does smile, they say. The player who was so inscrutable that Duke fans called him Spock when he played at Wake Forest is a practical joker, it’s said. ‘Well, not a very good one,’ says his best friend, Antonio Daniels, a Spurs guard just two years into the league, like Duncan. ‘I wouldn’t say his humor is dry, either. It’s more a cheap-shot humor. But it’s funny!’”
Hoffer’s prediction that Duncan would “own the league” proved to be spot on. Not only did he lead the Spurs to a championship that year (over the Knicks), he powered San Antonio to titles in 2003, ’05 and ’07. Nearly two decades after his first championship, Duncan, at 38, was the Spurs’ second-leading scorer during their ’14 playoff run to yet another title.
The one thing that Hoffer was wrong about was that Duncan’s dull affect would be a detriment to his star power. Instead, during his 19 years in the NBA people came to love the fact that Duncan would drop an effortless double double without cracking a smile and then leave the arena in the worst outfit you’ve ever seen.
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