American goalie named MVP of NHL playoffs

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American goalie named MVP of NHL playoffs

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Jonathan Quick and Martin Brodeur hugged and exchanged a few private words in the Stanley Cup finals handshake line. Brodeur was welcoming Quick to the club. The Los Angeles Kings' quiet goalie is an NHL champion and one of hockey's elite puck-stoppers after a postseason that even Brodeur never matched. Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP on Monday night after yielding just 29 goals in the Kings' 20 playoff games on the way to their first title. Quick allowed a mere seven goals in six games in the finals, capping a breakthrough season for the Vezina Trophy finalist who kept the Kings competitive while they were the NHL's lowest-scoring team for much of the regular season. "I congratulated him," Brodeur said. "I said he deserved the honor of winning the Stanley Cup and being the goalie to win the Stanley Cup. It's always kind of nice for young players to relate. I tried to tell him it was important to enjoy this, because you never know when you're going to get back. I'm 40, and I was able to get back there and not win it. But there's a big (summer) ahead of him, that's for sure." Quick is severely allergic to praise, and he directed everything back at the teammates who made him a champion. But his playoff performance has marked him as one of the world's best, and the Kings' fans will never forget it. "I think it's all about competing," Quick said. "You have to compete, always. That's something this organization preaches, and it makes us all feel so good to be on top now." Quick then thoroughly dominated the playoffs, posting three shutouts and leading the league in pretty much every statistical category among goalies who started at least four games. He was largely impenetrable in the finals, stopping 125 of 132 shots -- and two of New Jersey's seven goals against him deflected off Quick's teammate, Slava Voynov. Quick is the second straight goalie to win the award, but had better numbers than Boston's Tim Thomas last season. They might be the best in NHL history. With a 1.41 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage in the postseason, Quick even set NHL records for goalies who played at least 15 postseason games. Quick's stats slid under Chris Osgood's 1.51 GAA for Detroit in 2008 and Jean-Sebastien Giguere's .945 save percentage for Anaheim in 2003. "It's outstanding," Quick said. "I couldn't be more proud of this group. We had to fight for everything. Nothing was given to us." Brodeur allowed just one goal apiece in regulation in four of the six finals games, but couldn't match Quick's numbers. Quick is sometimes compared to the three-time champion, another star puck-stopper who doesn't adhere to one particular school or style. Quick also had plenty to say to Brodeur. "I told him the game won't be the same if he retires," Quick said. "It was an honor just playing against him at this stage." Brodeur could only smile. "He wanted to make sure I don't retire," he said. "I guess he likes beating me." The Conn Smythe is a fitting finish for the 26-year-old Quick, who had 35 wins, a 1.95 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage and a franchise-record 10 shutouts despite playing for the NHL's second lowest-scoring team. Quick has been the Kings' best player and backbone all season, frequently carrying them through long stretches of mediocre skating and shooting. His stellar effort was the main reason the Kings were even close to playoff position in late February, when the lowest-scoring team at the time finally awoke its slumbering offense by trading for power forward Jeff Carter, who scored two goals in the finale. Quick earned his first All-Star berth for his steady excellence despite a stunning number of 1-0, 2-0 and 2-1 losses this season. With an offense generating consistent goals since March, he has been nearly unbeatable, going 28-8-2 since Feb. 25. While some will note the remarkably low scoring totals across the NHL playoffs when evaluating Quick's records, others will cite Quick as one of the main reasons for it. Quick has better numbers than any goalie in recent playoff history -- and Quick looks nothing like most of the NHL's best netminders. He disdains the butterfly for his own unique style, and he played it to perfection this spring. Most hockey minds' best comparison is Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk, whose low-to-the-ice style is the closest thing to Quick's agile, flexible puck-stopping strategy. He plays low and wide while his peers generally stand tall, using his aggression, anticipation and pure hustle to stop pucks. Quick's teammates know he's locked in when he's crouching nearly parallel to the ice to watch the puck through his opponents' legs. He calls it "less style, more compete," and he praises the technique adjustments of Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford, another Conn Smythe winner with Edmonton in 1990. Quick's success has been a product of determination, because nobody expected spectacular things out of the kid from Hamden, Conn., who grew up idolizing the Rangers' Mike Richter. One of his earliest hockey memories is being at home with friends in 1994 when Richter backstopped New York to its first title in 54 years.

NL East: The Phillies' manager believes his team is for real

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NL East: The Phillies' manager believes his team is for real

Making sweeping judgments just one month into the Major League Baseball season is always a risky proposition. After all, we're talking about a small sample size — not even one-fifth of the 162-game slate — so it's hard to tell exactly which early-surprise teams will be out of the running down the road. 

But at 15-11, the Philadelphia Phillies so far are showing that they're not laying down just because they were widely expected to struggle in 2016.

Just ask the Nationals. The suddenly youthful Phillies' three-game sweep of the NL-East leaders last week felt like a head-scratcher for Nats fans, but it was a series that showed that Pete Mackanin's club might no longer stuck in the seemingly perpetual quagmire of a rebuild. 

"Every time we play somebody, I get the same question, but it's a good question because of course we [believe in ourselves]," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said via MLB.com. "We played the Mets, we played them well. We just got done sweeping the Nationals and that was one of those teams where we wanted to gauge how good we were."

Of course, the Phils had already been hard a work trying to retool the roster under the direction of new President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail. Once known for a core featuring stars like Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, Philly's now getting major contributions from the likes of Vince Velasquez, Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera and Aaron Nola — not exactly household names, but potential building blocks that are all under 25. 

So, can this last? Are the Phillies ahead of schedule?

Well, though they're winning, the Phillies certainly aren't exactly dominating any one area of the game. Their better-than-expected pitching staff owns a so-so 3.93 ERA, which is helping to keep this team afloat. The staff will need to keep this up, because the offense is currently ranked 29th in the majors in on-base percentage (.289) and 28th in OPS (.651), which explains why this team can have a winning record despite a minus-23 run differential. 

As the Phillies fight to show that they aren't a mirage, the one thing that does seem real for the team and its fans is that there might finally be light at the end of the tunnel. The rebuilding plan appears to be paying dividends early on, and perhaps sometime soon, this club could pose as a serious threat to the Nats and the rest of the NL East for the division crown. 

"The players should feel proud of what they've done so far this season, no matter what happens down the road," Mackanin said. "The biggest thing for me was how we reacted after going 0-4 at the beginning of the season. What have we gone, 15-6 since then? It's a good feeling."

Hardy won't put date on expected return

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Hardy won't put date on expected return

BALTIMORE –- Buck Showalter knew J.J. Hardy was hurt during the fifth inning of Sunday’s game. A half-inning earlier, Hardy had fouled a ball off his left foot.

Showalter was removing Ubaldo Jimenez from the game, and he asked the shortstop about the foot. He said: ‘This is strange. It’s gotten real stiff and sore in a hurry.’’’

Hardy left the game after the fifth inning, and a CT Scan and MRI on Monday revealed a hairline fracture in his left foot. 

Neither nor Hardy nor the Orioles have spoken about how long he’s been out, but an industry source estimated on Monday he’d be out four to six weeks. For now, Hardy will be in a walking boot for two to three weeks. Others have estimated he could miss as long as eight weeks. 

“I had an idea after the game or when I came out of the game that something wasn’t right,” Hardy said. “Then, obviously with the X-ray, there was something they wanted to see closer. They kind of gave me a little heads-up that something could be wrong.”

Hardy missed 48 games last year and had two stints on the disabled list with a left shoulder and groin injuries. 

“After I fouled the ball off my foot, I didn’t think too much of it,” Hardy said. “I mean it hurt, but it wasn’t terrible. I jogged to first base and kind of felt the same thing, nothing terrible. Then when I got out in the field and the more I moved around, the worse it was getting instead of loosening up or going away. So, I knew it was something.” 

While he’s missed time, Hardy has never had a broken bone before. He’s not sure whether he’ll stay with the Orioles or rehab in Sarasota.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” Hardy said. “I’ve been feeling as good as I can remember. I mean I don’t know the last time that I’ve felt this good. It’s definitely frustrating. I am just going to try and get back as soon as possible.”

RELATED: Chris Tillman starts as Orioles begin life without J.J. Hardy

Open court: Do any Pacers free agents fit Wizards?

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Open court: Do any Pacers free agents fit Wizards?

Paul George came close to getting the Indiana Pacers out of the first round, but they didn’t have enough to get past the Toronto Raptors in Game 7. Still, it was a bounce-back season to elite status for him as he led them to 45 wins after missing the postseason a year ago.

Indiana has a few free agents worth a look for the Wizards, who will go into the offseason with as many as nine spots open.

The Wizards' goals are to get younger, more explosive and identify a few two-way players in the process to improve their 21st scoring defense. Adding players indiscriminately isn't an option because of the salary cap. The big fish (meaning, big-name free agents) will get signed first. Assuming the Wizards land one, even if it's not named Kevin Durant, they'll construct the roster with the remaining money with as many as eight other spots open. More than likely they'll retain 2-4 of their own free agents which will cut that number of open slots from 5-7.

They'll need a solid backup for Marcin Gortat at center, a true scorer behind Bradley Beal and a backup point guard for John Wall.

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These are Indiana’s free agents, in order of best fit:

Solomon Hill:  Look at the Pacers at the end of games, and this 6-7 forward who earned just $1.4 million is on the floor because of his improving three-point shooting ability and defense. When they needed someone to slow down Beal in the second half of their last meeting with the Wizards this season, they went with Hill and it worked. He’s unrestricted and has surprising athleticism. His numbers are modest (4.2 points, 32.4% three-point shooting) which should translate into him being more affordable. The key with Hill is upside. He’s a solid rotation player at 25.

Jordan Hill: A career backup center, Hill gets his production (8.8 points, 6.2 rebounds) through hustle and can be a spot starter in a pinch. He made $4 million and is unrestricted and won’t command too high of a pricetag.

Ian Mahinmi: In his first year as a starter, the 6-11 center played well enough to get a raise above $4 million and is unrestricted. Mahinmi, 29, probably will want a chance to continue starting rather than returning to a backup role (9.3 points, 7.1 rebounds).

Ty Lawson: At one time a starting quality point guard, he’s now relegated to a backup role and is unrestricted. If he can regain his form, he’d be a steal but there’s no indication that’s going to happen soon. Lawson made $12.4 million this season and won’t come anywhere close to that in the open market. Shoots in the low 40s from the field and low 30s from three-point range, not a good enough of an upgrade behind Wall.

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