It was moral victory week for the New Jersey Nets and New York Islanders, and they're getting pretty sick of the whole thing. No matter where you are in the rebuilding stage, sometimes you just have to win the game. As we all know, "you play to win the game."
The Nets lost in triple overtime on Wednesday, but that just made them triply frustrated. And then after stinking up the arena against the stinking Bobcats, they somehow managed to get the game to overtime again but were extra stinky and lost. The Islanders lost a pair of one-goal games to the Rangers (not counting the empty-netter), both of which they could have won, and then fell in another close one to the Flyers. Even though the NHL has numerous columns in the standings these days, even they don't have one for "almost winning." At least not yet. I wouldn't put it past the league to one day give a half a point for trying hard and losing by a goal, though.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, the New York Rangers and New York Knicks are winning. The New York Giants kept the momentum going from last week with an easy victory over the the Redskins But the New Jersey Devils keep on losing, and they usually don't even come close. And now . . . the Player of the Week:
Amar'e Stoudemire: He's electrifying the Garden, terrifying his opponents and mystifying the defenders. Okay, that about does it for my Walt Frazier impression. The Knicks' new star led his team to a 3-0 record this week, with Sunday's win over Toronto their seventh consecutive road victory. They're now a non-Knick-like 12-9. They're fun to watch, and with Isiah Thomas and his roster mistakes far away form MSG, they're safe to root for once again.
Stoudemire poured in over 30 points in each of the three games, with 35 on Tuesday, 34 on Friday and 31 on Sunday. He's rebounding, he's astounding and he's confounding. Oops, there's that Frazier thing again. But Stoudemire is playing defense and blocking shots, and pulled down a season-high 16 boards in the win over the Raptors. He and Raymond Felton are finally building a nice rapport.
After Friday's win, Stoudemire said, "I tried to give you a heads-up back then. It takes time to build chemistry. It took time to build chemistry with Stephon Marbury and Steve Nash. Now it's the same with Raymond." Since the Knick big man didn't do it, I'll do it: I completely apologize for bringing up the name "Stephon Marbury." I'll try to never do that again. And I'll try not to mention Thomas, either. Let's not forget Shawne Williams' contributions the last couple of games. And Landry Fields was just named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month.
Runners-up & Other Notables
Brandon Jacobs: The Giants demolished Washington, led by the bulldozing of Jacobs. It was vintage Brandon Jacobs on the field on Sunday, putting his head down, plowing through holes and not stopping until he reaches the end zone or puts a hurt an a defender - whichever comes first. He gained 108 yards on only 12 carries, for a remarkable 12.9 average per carry. And he scored two touchdowns on the day.
His buddy Ahmad Bradshaw was almost as good, picking up 97 yards on 25 carries, and he scored two TDs of his own. He broke the 1,000-yard mark in the fourth quarter, and he did it the old-fashioned way - in 12 games. Derek Hagen filled in nicely for Hakeem Nicks (and Steve Smith and Ramses Barden and Victor Cruz), grabbing seven passes, for 65 yards. The defense was awesome, with forced fumbles and interceptions as far as the eye could see.
Rookie Jason Pierre-Paul had his second consecutive solid game, with two sacks and a fumble recovery. Even the special teamers were good. And so were the fans, as they hardly booed at all.
Brandon Prust: Yes, Marian Gaborik scored four goals with an assist this week, but he's supposed to do that every week. So in honor of the 2010-'11 Rangers' new identity as a blue-collar, hard-working, gritty, tougher team (well, most of the time they have been), Prust will represent the Blueshirts this week. It doesn't get any blue-collar-y and team player-y than Brandon Prust. He contributed on the stat sheet this week, as well, with two goals.
One came in the Wild West shootout with the Islanders on Thursday, and he notched a shorthander on Sunday, which tied up the game before his team ultimately lost. Sean Avery and Erik Christensen teamed up with Gaborik for a monster game on Thursday, with the line piling up nine points. Brandon Dubinsky chipped in with three assists on the week. And Henrik Lundqvist recorded a shutout on Friday.
Devils: To paraphrase the great Harry Doyle, "The Devils player of the week . . . Christ, I can't find one. To hell with it." They'll get a Player of the Week listing when they actually win a game.
Islanders: See above.
Nets: Also see above.
For more in-depth discussion on the Giants, Knicks, Rangers, Nets, Islanders and Devils, go to SB Nation's Big Blue View, Posting and Toasting, Blueshirt Banter, NetsDaily, Lighthouse Hockey and In Lou We Trust, respectively.