The New York Giants and the New York Jets both won what turned out to be meaningless games on Sunday, but "meaningless" had two completely different definitions for the two local football teams. The New York Rangers went 2-1-1 for the week, the New York Islanders were 2-1, the New Jersey Devils 1-2, the New York Knicks 1-2 and the poor New Jersey Nets went winless in four games. It was slim pickings for the Player of the Week this time around, but it surely won't be Jay Cutler.
Joe McKnight: Things couldn't have gone better for the New York Jets on Sunday. They destroyed the Buffalo Bills, and McKnight got his chance to shine with the team resting its starters, and shine he did. He had seven carries for 31 yards coming into the game, and had a nice season in one game on Sunday, with 158 yards rushing on 32 carries, with a long of 18. Maybe he's finally in shape. Sure, the game didn't have much meaning but somebody had to be the Player of the Week. John Connor got into the act, with a touchdown and 44 yards rushing. Mark Brunell saw his first bit of action since his days with the Canton Bulldogs in 1927. He tossed two touchdown passes. Even Kellen Clemens made his way into the game and scored a touchdown. Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards each made it into the end zone. Marquice Cole picked off two passes, and brought one back to the house, and he led the team with six tackles. Dwight Lowery intercepted a pass. Calvin Pace was good. But more importantly, no one got injured. Playoffs, here they come.
Runners Up & Other Notables
Osi Umenyiora: Well, that was one of the most unsatisfying wins in a long time. The Giants held up their end of the bargain, but the Chicago Bears offense couldn't come through. I blame Mike Ditka. Umenyiora was a monster against the Redskins. He came up with two sacks, one traditional and one his patented strip sack, where he also recovered the fumble. And he made a huge tackle on a fourth down in the fourth quarter. Keith Bulluck probably made one of his only big plays in his time with the Giants, with an interception. Mario Manningham caught a 92-yard touchdown pass. Derek Hagan hauled in six passes, for 70 yards. And Eli Manning became the first Giant to throw for 4,000 yards in consecutive seasons. Of course, he also tied a franchise record with 25 interceptions. It's been that kind of season. And now, it's all over.
Henrik Lundqvist: The Rangers' goalie went 2-0-1 in his three games this week. His week started out in shaky fashion as he let in a pair of early goals to the Islanders on Monday, but he pulled himself together and put up a goose egg the rest of the way while he watched his offense explode for seven goals. The King made 43 saves and only let one slip by him in the shooting-gallery win over the Devils. But he never loses to New Jersey, does he? And on Saturday, he got his team a point, getting them to overtime, before falling 2-1 to Tampa Bay. Dwayne Roloson earned the Player of the Week seven days ago. He then let in seven goals and was traded to the Lightning. Hopefully I won't jinx Lundqvist, too. Other notable Rangers: Matt Gilroy recorded the first two-goal game of his career on Monday vs. the Islanders, and Brian Boyle notched two goals and added a pair of assists in the four games.
P.A. Parenteau: The 27-year-old right winger was a spare part for the Rangers last year (22 games, eight points), but he's become a key cog for the Islanders, playing on their top line. He had a big hand in defeating two of the elite teams in the NHL this week. After netting the winning goal in a shootout victory over Pittsburgh, Parenteau blasted home the game-winner in overtime in Detroit, on a no-look pass from John Tavares. And he also scored a goal in the blowout loss to the Rangers on Monday. Tavares scored a goal and had three assists this week. And Rick DiPietro put an end to Sidney Crosby's consecutive-game point streak, while making 37 saves in regulation and overtime, and then keeping it going in the shootout, in the 2-1 win over Pittsburgh. And he'll get a lot more playing time now that Dwayne Roloson has been sent to Tampa Bay. The Islanders ended 2010 with an impressive 6-1-1 streak.
Amar'e Stoudemire: The New York Knicks aren't beating the elite, but they're defeating everybody else. They came out on top of the Pacers on Sunday, while losing to Miami and Orlando earlier in the week. Stoudemire was a monster down the stretch in the victory over Indiana, finishing with 26 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots. He poured in 30 points and blocked four shots against Orlando, but he was in foul trouble for much of the game, which put a damper on the Knicks' chances. He also picked up his 10th technical of the season. And he scored 30 in the loss to the Heat. Ronny Turiaf was incredible in Sunday's win, with 10 boards and an astounding six blocks. Wilson Chandler played well in the two losses, with 21 and 29 points. And Toney Douglas was a key contributor off the bench in the win over the Pacers, with 12 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals.
Johan Hedberg: The Devils won one out of three, which is pretty good for them at this point. New Jersey's backup goalie made 23 saves and only allowed one goal in their win over Atlanta on Friday. Sure, he let in three goals on Saturday in relief of the really-not-looking-very-good-anymore Martin Brodeur, but we're only going to count the one victory. Let's not taint the good times here. Travis Zajac scored two goals this week, Ilya Kovalchuk put one home . . . and that's about it.
Devin Harris: The Nets lost all four of their games this week, so I guess we'll just let their representative be their best player. Harris scored 24, 19, 10 and 16 points this week. They put up a fight against the Bulls, but the other three games? Not so much.