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The New York Week That Was (Eulogy For The Rangers/Celebration For The Devils Edition

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Disappointed. Dissatisfied. Dejected. Depressed. Devastated. Disheartened. Heartbroken. Frustrated. Unfulfilled. Angry. New York Rangers fans could have spent the week flipping through a thesaurus and found word after word to describe the feelings attached to last Friday's overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils. Sure, the team played poorly in the first four games, only to find themselves in the last two, but in both of those, they doomed themselves with bad starts. And yes, they had the heart, the grit, the work ethic, but they just couldn't score enough goals, with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik being the main culprits. And yes, losing to one of their biggest rivals makes the loss a little more painful. But this wasn't a window's-closing-fast-on-this-team season, with one last opportunity blown. In fact, it's the opposite scenario; the window's just opening. It's easy to forget that the Rangers have one of the youngest teams in the league, and most projections had them being a seventh or eighth seed, with baby steps expected in their development. So the Blueshirts far exceeded everyone's wildest expectations. And this season's playoff run can be used as a learning tool, as they move forward through the years.

Exhilarated. Enthralled. Excited. Thrilled. Satisfied. Hey, Devils fans could have flipped through that same book when thinking of their team's rousing series victory over the Rangers. Adam Henrique will join Stephane Matteau and J.P. Parise as a local legend who scored a series-winning overtime goal that sent an area rival packing for the summer. Martin Brodeur came up big. Stephen Gionta came up big. Ryan Carter came up big. And their big guns, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, came up big. Even when the Rangers outplayed the Devils, New Jersey still found a way to put the puck in the net. While the Rangers are just getting started, the Devils have an older team, and who knows where Parise will end up next year and Brodeur can't last forever (or can he?), so this could be their best shot at a Cup for a while. Brodeur summed it all up best when the series was over: "This is why you play this game."

And now on to the other top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.

Game 1: The bad news for the Devils: They lost their third consecutive Game 1. The good news: They bounced back to win the previous two series. New Jersey couldn't get any forecheck going, any pressure or any consistent offense against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2-1 loss to open the Stanley Cup finals. Even their one goal was a gift, when Anton Volchenkov's shot from the point caromed around and bounced off Slava Voynov into the Kings' net. LA's first goal was a bit of a gift also, as Brodeur probably should have stopped Colin Fraser's shot. Mixed in with long stretches of offensive ineptitude were a handful of golden opportunities, but they were all botched by the Devils, including Mark Fayne missing a wide-open net. And the winning goal by Anze Kopitar was set up by a bad Marek Zidlicky pinch. Parise stated afterward, "We made it too easy for them." And his coach concurred, "I don't think we deserved to win tonight. If we had, it would have been sneaking one out."

4-2 in California: Yes, the New York Yankees beat up on the putrid Oakland A's with a weekend sweep, winning 6-3, 9-2 and 2-0, which just about any team can do nowadays, but the best sign coming out of those three games was the resurgence of Mark Teixeira, who went 8-for-14, with three home runs, three doubles and eight RBIs. The team also received three solid starting pitching performances from Ivan Nova, CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda (eight shutout innings). And Derek Jeter passed Royals legend George Brett on the all-time hit list in Sunday's win, and now stands in 14th place. When Brett was 37, he led the AL in batting (.329) and doubles (45) and put up an OPS of .902. The Yankee shortstop, who's now 37 (but will turn 38 at the end of the month), would be happy with those numbers. Things turned sour for the Yankees in Anaheim, though, as their five-game winning streak was snapped, when they lost, 9-8, on Monday, thanks to a Mark Trumbo game-ending home run. Phil Hughes' homecoming didn't fare so well (seven runs in five-plus innings), but Teixeira hit another long ball, and Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher narrowly avoided a Carlos Beltran/Mike Cameron-like brutal collision in right-center. Andy Pettitte gave up a pair of home runs and Robinson Cano whiffed twice with the bases loaded, while the Angels were making stellar defensive plays all over the field in Tuesday's 5-1 loss. But they salvaged the series and left California with a 4-2 record, when they defeated the Angels, 6-5, despite Nova coughing up a 5-1 lead. Granderson and Cano homered, and the winning run came on a Swisher sacrifice fly that followed a Raul Ibanez triple. And in the department of the bizarre, Russell Martin was prohibited from throwing new baseballs back to his pitcher during the game by umpire Laz Diaz, who claimed the Yankee catcher hadn't earned the "privilege."

It's Hedley! With Chase Headley and the San Diego Padres in town over the weekend, it gave Keith Hernandez his annual chance to do his Blazing Saddles Hedley/Hedy gag, and he also gave the youngsters listening a short biography of Harvey Korman. The joviality trickled down to the field, as the New York Mets easily won the last three games of the series, by 6-1, 9-0 and 2-0 scores. Dillon Gee, Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey were all brilliant, especially Santana, who tossed a rare complete-game shutout. He threw an astounding 74 strikes out of a total of 96 pitches, and breezed through six nine-pitch innings. Dickey, who was named the NL Player of the Week on Tuesday, struck out 10 or more batters for the second consecutive game while only walking one, making him only the fourth pitcher in franchise history to do that (the others being Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone). And Gee put in a rock-solid seven innings. The offense showed some power for a change, with home runs by Lucas Duda, Vinny Rottino (his first big league long ball), Scott Hairston and Mike Nickeas (grand slam). The fun ended on Monday, though, with an 8-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. Jon Niese was mediocre, while Manny Acosta was dreadful once again (and he was designated for assignment after the game), and the team lost Justin Turner with a sprained ankle. Hairston and Rottino homered again, though. But Tuesday's 6-3 win was a game to remember, as Jeremy Hefner recorded his first major league victory, hit and home run, all in one night. Backup-to-the-backup-to-the-backup shortstop Omar Quintanilla banged out three hits in his Met debut, and, yes, Hairston blasted yet another home run. A series victory was in their grasp on Wednesday, after Gee outdueled Cliff Lee and Duda belted a pair of home runs, but the bullpen quickly put an end to those thoughts, when they allowed eight runs in just over two innings.

What About Phil? The New York Knicks made it official by signing Mike Woodson to a multiyear deal last Friday. The Knicks usually go for the big splash, the big name, which just as often doesn't work out, so this is a nice low-key move, with Woodson earning the new contract having brought a sense of discipline and accountability to the team. Of course, the other way to look at it is, Woodson is a lot easier to control than, say, Phil Jackson, and a lot cheaper. But couldn't they have even kicked the tires on Jackson? It is Phil Jackson, the greatest living NBA coach, we're talking about. But it's also Jim Dolan we're talking about, so that answers that question. (What do you think? Vote here.) And to no one's surprise, J.R. Smith was arrested for not having a valid driver's license. It would have been more unexpected if we discovered that Smith did have a valid license.

The Lottery: "The Lottery" is, of course, a famous short story written by Shirley Jackson in which a small village draws the name of one of its citizens every year, and the townspeople then gather together and stone the unlucky sap to death. Well, luckily for the Brooklyn Nets, the ritual that is the NBA lottery is not as arbitrarily violent and gory as that piece of literature. But the Nets were figuratively stoned to death when they were rewarded with the sixth pick in the draft, which, unfortunately, now goes to the Portland Trail Blazers in the Gerald Wallace deal.

Just Like Old Times: Lou Grant once stated, "I hate nostalgia. I didn't like it then, and I don't like it now." But here at the New York Week That Was, we like it, and so do the Mets, as they staged a turn-back-the-clock weekend at Citi Field, with Rusty Staub Bobblehead Day on Saturday and Banner Day on Sunday (and they got a few old-time pitching performances worthy of Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman from Santana and Dickey, not to mention Gee playing the role of Gary Gentry). One quibble with the Staub giveaway: With one player chosen from each decade, Staub was the 1970s representative, but the bobblehead featured Le Grand Orange's No. 10, which he wore from 1981 to '85. He was No. 4 in his time with the Mets in the '70s. The first Banner Day since 1996 was a rousing success, though, as the festivities are uniquely Metsian. The winning banner commemorated Mike Piazza's famous post-9/11 home run against the Braves.

Happy Birthday to Horace Clarke and Gene Michael: On Saturday, June 2, the former Yankee double-play combo each celebrate a birthday, as Clarke will turn 72 and Michael 74. Who knew they shared a birthday as well as the middle infield? Clarke had a whole era named for him, as he was the poster boy of the down-years, post-Mantle/Ford, CBS-owned Yankees. He spent most of his 10-year career with the Bombers (from 1965 to '74) before being sold to San Diego where he played the final four months of his career. Though not much of a hitter (.256/.308/.313, 27 home runs, 304 RBIs, 151 stolen bases for his career), he finished second in the AL in hits in 1969, twice led the league in singles and twice had the most at bats. He was the hardest player to strike out in 1970 (19.6 at bats per K), but he also made the most outs that season. His fielding was much better, though (but he was notorious for bailing out on double plays, afraid to be creamed), as he led the AL second basemen in assists every year from 1967 to '72, had the best fielding percentage for his position once and four times had the best Range Factor for second basemen (not that he would have known that back then). Michael, of course, has worked for the Yankees in just about every capacity possible and was the mastermind behind the 1990s dynasty. After a year with the Pirates and one with the Dodgers, he was bought by the Yankees and was their shortstop from 1968 until '74 (and then hooked up with the Tigers for one last season). He was the classic good-field, no-hit shortstop that was prevalent in that era, though he did lead the league in errors in 1970. He had the best Range Factor of all AL shortstops the following year, though. His career numbers: .229/.288/.284, 15 home runs, 226 RBIs. Well, he was better at helping to assemble a team (and put up with George Steinbrenner) than he was at hitting.

And that's the New York week that was.