It was a forgettable week for the New York Mets, though they did end the weekend with a much-needed victory (and maybe they should remember the past week, so they make sure it never happens again). The New York Yankees won four out of five. But the big stories are the NHL and NBA playoffs. The New York Rangers finally cracked through on Sunday, with a huge win over the Washington Capitals, playing their best game of the series and scoring a whopping three goals as well. While the New York Knicks lost a heartbreaker to open their series with the Boston Celtics. This edition of the Player of the Week will focus on guys who had one magical moment or one great game. And the winner is . . .
Brandon Dubinsky: Was it the mustache? Sure, Henrik Lundqvist has kept up his end of the bargain, and has been the Rangers' best player in the series, but you can't win if you can't score. After being a non-factor in the first game, and then slightly improving in game two, Dubinsky (looking much like Joe Rudi circa 1972) made a tricky move to the net with under two minutes left in the third game, confusing Michal Neuvirth, put the puck on net, and a few wacky bounces later, the Blueshirts have their first win of the series. The team vowed to get in young Neuvirth's face and test him more, and that's exactly what they did, exemplified by the newly dapper Dubinsky's game-winner. And Brandon Prust was in the crease, annoying the Washington goalie all game long. Vinny Prospal (assisted by Dubinsky) and Erik Christensen also came up with crucial goals (though every goal is crucial when you have trouble scoring). Marc Staal and Dan Girardi have been beasts in the defensive end, Matt Gilroy notched his first NHL playoff goal in game one and the King has been King-like, giving his team a chance in every game. Now it's a series.
Runners Up & Other Notables
Amar'e Stoudemire: The man who proclaimed that the Knicks are back put his team on his back and almost single-handedly defeated the Celtics in game one of their series. But like the Rangers in their first pair of games against the Capitals, the Knicks just weren't quite good enough, as their opponent came up with the clutch offensive plays when it counted the most. It was a golden opportunity that slipped right through the Knicks' fingers. Stoudemire was a dominating force, though, with 28 points (on 12 of 18 shooting), 11 rebounds and a couple of blocked shots. Even Big Baby Davis might have been impressed by that output. And down the stretch in the fourth quarter, he couldn't be stopped. That is, until the last two and a half minutes when his teammates couldn't get him the ball. Carmelo Anthony on the other hand was stone cold in his Knick playoff debut, and clanked the would-be game-winner in the final seconds. Toney Douglas, just in the game for the injured Chauncey Billups, had ice water in his veins as he drained a crucial three. Ronny Turiaf impressed with four blocked shots, five rebounds and nine points. But the Knicks just couldn't close it out. As Alec Baldwin once said: "A-B-C. Always be closing."
Freddy Garcia: With Ivan Nova off to a shaky start and Phil Hughes the worst pitcher in New York so far (even including the Mets), the Yankees are going to need Garcia to give them some quality outings, and the veteran got off to a good start on Saturday. The 34-year-old Venezuelan threw six shutout innings in the win over the Texas Rangers, only allowing two hits, with one strikeout and one walk. There was no sign of rust or any worries about a long layoff for Garcia, as he gave the Yanks the wily, experienced performance they were hoping for. Fellow reclamation project Bartolo Colon kept the Bombers in the game on Thursday after Hughes got rocked, and in fact will replace the struggling youngster in the rotation. Colon threw three scoreless innings as the Yankees came back to win, thanks to a game-tying home run by Jorge Posada and a game-winning sac fly by Nick Swisher. Speaking of game-winning hits and injury-prone veterans, Eric Chavez drove in the winning run in Sunday night's game, and is now batting .467. Russell Martin continued his hot start, with a two-run bomb on Sunday. Joba Chamberlain made the defensive play of the week, when he blocked the plate after his own wild pitch. And A.J. Burnett had another solid outing on Wednesday, when he cruised through the first six innings before having a hiccup in the seventh.
Dillon Gee: Before Sunday's win, the highlight of the week for the Mets was getting rained out twice. They mercifully broke their seven-game losing streak with a victory over the Braves, but did so in a very anti-sabermetric way, giving up outs left and right with ill-conceived bunts and poor base-running decisions. The 24-year-old Gee made his way down to Atlanta to save the day for the Mets, who have been starved for a solid pitching performance. After going 2-2 with a 2.18 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in his brief time with the Mets last season, Gee picked up where he left off on Sunday, going five 2/3 innings (that's almost like a complete game for the Amazin's these days), only allowing one run, on five hits, with four strikeouts and two walks. He'll at least get one more start with Chris Young on the DL, but he has an opportunity to force his way into the rotation with another good outing. Offensively, Jose Reyes has been nothing but consistent. He had his 13-game hitting streak snapped in the second half of Saturday's double dip, but the shortstop provided the spark in Sunday's win, with a pair of hits, including a leadoff double, two runs scored and a stolen base (and he went early in the count for a change). And Josh Thole, newly inserted into the second spot in the lineup, was right there to drive him in twice. We'll stop there, as there's really no need to mention the other six games the Mets played this week.