When will our government finally have the guts to make the correct choice and do the right thing no matter how controversial or how many feathers it ruffles? No, I'm not talking about balancing the budget, fixing health care or solving our high unemployment rate--I'm talking about declaring the Super Bowl a national holiday and giving us a day off the following Monday. As it stands now, the day after the biggest event of the year has become National Hangover Appreciation Day, and is most likely the least productive day of the year. Maybe we can even combine it with Father's Day if that makes things easier for everybody. Anyway, on to the Player of the Week, which was a difficult choice this time around because of so much darn losing by all the local teams, as they went a combined 7-8-2 this past week.
Amar'e Stoudemire: He really only had one good game this week, but it was a crucial game for the team's psyche and in the standings. The New York Knicks have been going into somewhat of a tailspin lately, but the new Mr. New York did something about it on Sunday, and put the team on his back and led them to a much-needed, much-important win over the Sixers. After having an off-night shooting and defending in the meltdown loss to Philadelphia on Friday (did the Knick players enter that wings-eating contest that morning which slowed them down in the fourth quarter?), Stoudemire was a monster on Sunday, matching his season high of 41 points. And he did it on a coolly efficient 17-for-21-from-the-floor performance. He scored 21 points in the two losses but they were a so-what 21 points. But the Knicks had to win the second of the home-and-home against the 76ers, and Stoudemire earned every cent of his salary on Sunday afternoon. He even set an example for the youth of America by showing how important physical fitness is when he did a few push-ups during the game. Landry Fields pumped in a career-high 25 points in the win, while hauling in 10 rebounds and going 5 for 7 from three-point land. Danilo Gallinari led the team with 27 points in Wednesday's loss to Dallas, and scored 18 points with 13 rebounds on Saturday. Raymond Felton dished out nine, nine and 13 assists in the three games. But why was the ball in Shawne Williams' hands at the end of Friday's loss? Of course he should have thrown up a three-pointer, but weren't there better options on the floor than him?
Runners-up & Other Notables
Dainius Zubrus: The New Jersey Devils had the best week of all the local teams, going 3-0-1. They just keep on winning. They will either have the greatest comeback in New Jersey history since Frank Sinatra overcame his late-1940s/early '50s slump and became the biggest American star of the 20th century or they'll look back on what might have been if they come up short. Zubrus had a direct hand in the team's three victories so he's the Devils' winner. The 32-year-old Lithuanian and former Flyer, Canadien, Capital and Sabre scored a goal in the win over the Senators, notched a goal and an assist in the 3-2 victory over the Rangers and scored in the beat-down of Montreal on Sunday, and was a plus-three for the week. Travis Zajac scored two goal goals and added three assists in the four games this week. And Ilya Kovalchuk tallied a trio of goals, with two assists. But he gets points demoted for the turnover that led to the tying goal in the overtime loss to the Panthers.
Anthony Morrow: The New Jersey Nets went 1-3 this week, and Morrow is the team's selection for his performance in their only win. He poured in 18 points off the bench, and if Stoudemire was efficient on Sunday, Morrow was perfect on Monday. He was six for six from the floor, which included four three pointers without a miss. He did clank a free throw, though, making two of three. The 25-year-old scored 10, 22 and 11 points in the other games, and he's moved into the starting lineup. Devin Harris recorded a career-high 18 assists in the Carmelo Anthony Bowl on Monday. And Brook Lopez led the team with 27 points in their only win, over the Nuggets.
Travis Hamonic: The New York Islanders went 2-1 this week, and also got into a few scuffles involving goaltenders, with Rick DiPietro instigating a brouhaha that led to him getting his face broken and on Saturday Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner gave Kevn Poulin an elbow, which led to the Islanders' game-winning goal. The 20-year-old Hamonic assisted on the power-play game-winner while also adding another helper in the win over the Senators, and he recorded his first NHL goal in Tuesday's victory over Atlanta. He's just one of a slew of 20-year-olds in the these parts this season, with Poulin, John Tavares, Derek Stepan, Michael Del Zotto and Mattias Tedenby joining him. Kyle Okposo notched his first two goals of the season in the win over the Thrashers, Rob Schremp also scored a pair, on Saturday, including the decisive goal in the third period, and Poulin picked up a couple of wins, and he's the last goalie standing for the Islanders. Garth Snow may have to activate himself the way things are going.
Ryan Callahan: The New York Rangers have gone into a mid-winter hibernation. At least their offense has. They only gathered one out of a possible eight points in their last four games. Though many of their injured players--Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi, Vinny Prospal, Erik Christensen--returned this past week, it didn't help them very much in the goal-scoring department. Callahan notched a goal in each of his first two games back, and his hustle, forechecking and checking checking are always a welcome example of how to play the game, but it didn't transfer to any wins. Prospal scored in his season debut in Thursday's loss, and Dubinsky assisted in his comeback game on Tuesday. Marty Biron filled in admirably for the slumping, can't-ever-beat-Montreal Henrik Lundqvist in Saturday's loss to the Canadiens, only allowing one goal. Things are going so badly that even Mats Zuccarello was stopped on a shootout attempt for the first time in the loss to the Penguins. And while numerous Rangers returned to the lineup, Chris Drury is out with a cranky knee. The captain is hockey's equivalent of a football team's special-teams gunner or baseball's LOOGY, what with him only seeing ice time on the penalty kill or to take a faceoff. But he's a really, really expensive one at that.