The Yankees split the first two games of the ALCS, the Giants hung on to beat Detroit, the Jets squeaked out a win in Denver and the Devils are off to one of their worst-ever starts to a season, but the week started with the and Islanders meeting for the first time this season in a Columbus Day matinee, which means there are two ways of looking at this game from a New York perspective: the Rangers' side and the Islanders'. And that's what makes being a sports fan in New York so unique--we love and hate the local teams. If you're a Blueshirts follower, your take on the game may be something like this: "After falling behind, the Rangers kept on coming back and never gave up, finally taking the lead on an Artem Anisimov third-period goal, but the game was stolen by the refs after a bogus tripping call on Ryan Callahan, which eventually led to two Islander goals. And their first of the game was a gift from Michael Del Zotto. The Rangers gave the game away to the hated Islanders, who had no business winning it. And childish, classless James Wisniewski gave an obscene gesture to Sean Avery, who did nothing to deserve it. If Avery did that, he'd be kicked out of the league and sent to Dr. Drew over at VH1's Celebrity Rehab. The Islanders just got lucky."
And if you're an Islanders loyalist, this might be your view: "The Islanders played harder than the Rangers, forechecked more aggressively and capitalized on all the dumb mistakes the Rangers made. They earned the win by working harder and playing smarter. And that ass-clown Avery deserves everything that comes his way. Wisniewski was just doing what everybody was thinking. The better team won. And if the Rangers think the refs had anything to do with them losing, well, they're just a bunch of crybabies." And you're both probably right. So the answer to the age-old question "Can't we all just get along?" has to be, "Hell no." Now on to the Player of the Week:
Ahmad Bradshaw: Choosing this week's winner was a tough call. I put in hours of contemplation, debated my neighbors, weighed the pros and cons, made out lists and even polled my family. My daughter leaned toward Freddie from iCarly, my father chose Y.A. Tittle, while my wife voted for me to take out the garbage. But when the votes were tabulated Bradshaw beat out Robinson Cano and Josh Bailey by a whisker. The Giants' scampering, dancing scat back saved the day for Big Blue. The Lions were like something out of a horror movie--just when you think they're dead, they reach up and grab you by the neck. But Bradshaw's 45-yard run in the fourth quarter helped to finally kill Detroit, and send Big Blue on to their third consecutive victory. Bradshaw ran, cut and slashed his way to 133 yards on 19 carries, good for a whopping seven-yard-per-carry average. He impressively had five runs of 10-plus yards, making him a deep threat just running the ball out of the backfield. But he wasn't alone in putting the clamps down on a fighting Lions team, as Deon Grant had a big hand in the win. The hybrid safety/linebacker made a heads-up fumble recovery that made the Bradshaw run possible, and he also made the tackle on the long fourth-quarter kickoff return, which resulted in Detroit's final field goal. For the day, Grant made seven tackles and assisted on three others.
Runners Up & Other Notables
Robinson Cano: While Yankee starting pitchers were stinking up the state of Texas, their second baseman was red hot in the two opening games of the ALCS. Cano went five for nine, belting two dingers (the one on Saturday a 435-foot bomb), a double, driving in thee and scoring three. He was right in the middle of things in Friday's dramatic comeback, knocking in the tying run with a line drive up the middle. Yes, he struck out with two runners on base and made the last out in the game-two loss, but he's been the Bombers' best hitter this postseason, with a hit in every game and four homers. The bullpen, especially Dustin Moseley, has done its job. And Brett Gardner had the infield single of the year to start Friday's rally.
Josh Bailey: This year could be the coming out party for the 21-year-old former first-round draft pick. Trading up to select Bailey in the draft was a somewhat controversial move, but now it may be paying off. The Isles went 2-1-1 this week, and Bailey was a big reason why. He notched three goals (two on the power play) and two assists in the four games. And he now has seven points in five games for the year. Almost more importantly, he jumped Kris Letang after the Penguin crunched Blake Comeau. It looked to be a clean shoulder-to-shoulder hit, but when it first happened it seemed like a head-hunter type shot, and Bailey didn't waste time waiting for a replay, and stuck up for his teammate. Comeau himself had a nice week, with two goals and three assists. And after only netting five goals in the last three seasons, Milan Jurcina had the game of his life, scoring two and adding an assist in Saturday's victory.
Nick Folk: The Jets played two games this week--the Monday night slog-fest and yesterday's thriller in Denver. The Jets had trouble getting the ball in the end zone against the Vikings, so it was Nick Folk to the rescue, booting five field goals, with a long of 53, with some of them coming in a downpour. Yesterday, he took advantage of the mile-high air (the Broncos probably don't store their game balls in a humidor like the Rockies do, do they?), and banged home a career-high 56-yarder. He also had five touchbacks to complete his impressive week. LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 94 yards on 20 carries, for a 4.7 average, against the Vikings, and yesterday he made his way across the goal line twice, first on a 20-yard spurt, and then he put the winning points on the board with a two-yard run after a fortuitous pass-interference call. And Dwight Lowery was in the right place at the right time at the end of both games, icing Monday's win with a 26-yard interception return, and pouncing on a fumble to end yesterday's contest.
Brian Boyle: The Rangers went 0-1-1 this week so there weren't many top performances to choose from. But Boyle makes the list for his two third-period goals against the Maple Leafs on Friday, enabling the team to at least pick up one point. The lanky center netting a pair of goals is so highly unlikely, that it's almost as historic as Derek Stepan's opening-night hat trick. I wanted to include Ace Frehley here, but his singing of "New York Groove" in the home-opening festivities was so out of tune, that it puts him out of the running for player of the week honors, plus he didn't wear his Kiss makeup (and he's not a player anyway). Though he is 59-years-old, so I guess I should cut him some slack.
Ilya Kovalchuk: If it was hard to find a deserving Ranger, it's really tough to locate a Devil after the week they had. But Kovalchuk scored the game-winner in the only game they've won this season, on Wednesday against Buffalo, so he's the Devils' pick. It was his first goal of the year, but he followed that up with another goal and an assist in the team's loss to Colorado on Thursday. And it looks like the super line experiment will end, and Kovalchuk will be going back to his old position.
For more in-depth discussion on the Yankees, Giants, Jets, Rangers, Islanders and Devils, go to SB Nation's Pinstripe Alley, Big Blue View, Gang Green Nation, Blueshirt Banter, Lighthouse Hockey and In Lou We Trust, respectively.