To begin today, congratulations to the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League as the have become the newest Stanley Cup champions by knocking off the Boston Bruins in seven games that concluded last night giving the city of St. Louis their first ever NHL champions.
For Blues goal Jordan Binnington, he was phenomenal in goal in the 4-1 victory and for the home ice Boston fans, you could see them leaving the building when the score became 3-0. If you weren’t aware, these same league champs were in last place in January and came back to not just make the playoffs but to win the whole thing and that’s impressive. With the hockey season now over, there are already power rankings out for next season.
Way-too-early NHL Power Rankings for 2019-20
Emily Kaplan, espn.com
So the 2018-19 season just ended? We know everyone else is already looking ahead, so we joined in. For this way-to-early edition of the 2019-20 NHL Power Rankings, we also identified what a successful season would look like for each of the 31 teams.
How we rank: The ESPN hockey editorial staff submits polls ranking teams 1-31, and those results are tabulated to the list featured here. For this edition, we're projecting how we think the teams will be rated heading into next season, taking into account recent success and other factors, such as who could be leaving via free agency. The "previous ranking" for each team refers to the club's spot in our final pre-playoff rankings.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Boston Bruins
3. Calgary Flames
4. Washington Capitals
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
6. St. Louis Blues
7. New York Islanders
8. San Jose Sharks
9. Pittsburgh Penguins
Previous ranking: 7
It appears Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, wants to once again reinvigorate his group by making a few trades. Success next season is contingent on how effective those moves are.
With the Penguins comes some props for captain Sidney Crosby from an unlikely source. During last night’s first period intermission, discussion, broadcasters Mike Millbury and Liam McHugh had “Sir” Charles Barkley from the National Basketball Association as a guest. They asked him:
“If Kawhi Leonard were a hockey player, who would he be?”
So what was Barkley’s response?
“Sidney Crosby. He’s the perfect superstar. He’s quiet, he’s got to win. You never hear any drama about him. I think Kawhi is a great player and a great man, but Sidney Crosby–to me, I probably can’t go home to Philadelphia tomorrow bragging about Sidney Crosby, but he’s the perfect superstar. You never heard anything bad about Sidney Crosby. He’s one of the greatest ever.”
The other day I gave you a portion of an article from the internet ranking the best offensive trios in the National Football League and where the Steelers fall in that listing. Pittsburgh came in at #6 but defensively on the same topic, they are much, much, lower. The three major players in this ranking are certainly much better than 27th.
Ranking each NFL team's defensive 'triplets'
theScore's Mike Alessandrini, Jack Browne, and Dan Wilkins rank all 32 teams' top trio of defensive linemen/pass-rushers, linebackers, and defensive backs.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers
DL T.J. Watt, LB Devin Bush, DB Joe Haden
Pittsburgh finally appears to have solved its long-standing issue at linebacker with Bush, a speedy playmaker who thrived in coverage at Michigan. The 2019 first-rounder has yet to play an NFL snap, however, so the jury is still out regarding his immediate pro impact. Watt is a consistent, productive presence for the Steelers, jumping from seven sacks as a rookie to 13 in Year 2. Haden is likely past his prime but remains an effective zone defender and the most dependable member of Pittsburgh's leaky secondary.
For the record, here’s theScore’s top five:
1. Chicago Bears
DL Khalil Mack, LB Roquan Smith, DB Eddie Jackson
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
DL Calais Campbell, LB Myles Jack, DB Jalen Ramsey
3. Dallas Cowboys
DL DeMarcus Lawrence, LB Leighton Vander Esch, DB Byron Jones
4. Los Angeles Rams
DL Aaron Donald, LB Cory Littleton, DB Aqib Talib
5. Denver Broncos
DL Von Miller, LB Todd Davis, DB Chris Harris Jr.
How about those super-hyped Cleveland Browns? Try 11th:
11. Cleveland Browns
DL Myles Garrett, LB Joe Schobert, DB Denzel Ward
The Browns are another unit on the rise, with two burgeoning superstars in Garrett and Ward. The pass-rusher had 13.5 sacks in his sophomore year and did so despite being - by his own admission - held back by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Many an eyebrow was raised when Cleveland took Ward over Bradley Chubb at fourth overall last year, but it's hard to find a doubter after the cornerback erased receiver after receiver as a rookie. Schobert is the best of an underwhelming linebacking corps, but he's a liability in run defense.
The big MMA event this weekend takes place tomorrow night and its in Bellator, their event 222. The main event is a semi-final in Bellator’s welterweight “World Grand Prix” and it pits Rory Macdonald vs. Neiman Gracie. Grace coming out of the infamous Gracie family tree is a typical Gracie-style fighter. That means HE IS GOOD. In fact, with a 9-0 record and how Macdonald looked in his last bout to reach this point, I’m predicting a decision win for Gracie if not by submission first.
Also on the card is an entertaining bout between long time veterans Lyoto Machida and Chael Sonnen who just refuses to stop fighting. For Machida, he had seen enough of the UFC and moved over to Bellator as did Sonnen. But Chael’s only claim to fame is nearly beating Anderson Silva. Machida is a classic martial artist and it will show in this fight as he submits Chael Sonnen.
Remember the Connor McGregor/Khabib Nurmagamedov incident following their bout? Khabib went after one Dillon Danis who was in attendance? Danis is on the card tomorrow night fighting Max Humphrey. Danis has just one bout to his credit and Humphrey comes in at 3-2.
There is another undefeated fighter on the card and that is Patrick Mix who is risking his 10-0 mark against a tough Ricky Bandejas who is 11-2 in the bantamweight division. In the preliminaries, another Gracie will enter the Octagon and be in just his second bout, this one named Robson Gracie. He is the younger brother of Renzo Gracie. On a final note for Bellator 222, a fight is scheduled between Haim Gozali and Gustavo Wurlitzer. By definition a Wurlitzer is “a large pipe organ or electric organ, especially one used in the movie theaters of the 1930s.” This fighting version of Wurlitzer named Gustavo may have the worst record in the history of MMA.
I thought it was a typo but for sure Wurlitzer’s record heading into tomorrow is 22-22. That’s not a joke. That’s not a typo. Wurlitzer has won his last two in a row but on numerous occasions lost three in a row and from December 3, 2005 to April 12, 2008, he lost five in a row. His career began on a high note as he won his first seven, but then came that five loss streak. After two consecutive victories, he lost three more in a row and it’s been up and down since.
As for his opponent, Haim Gozali, he’s not much better with far fewer fights, sporting a record of 10-6. Gozali also currently has two straight wins. While on the topic of MMA, newly crowned champ-champ in the UFC Henry Cejudo if you didn’t hear him after his title winning fight last week, wants to be paid big money. This guy is a joke folks. What he said:
“I need to meet with Dana White, too. I need a meeting with him because I need heavyweight money. I feel like I’m the face of the UFC now and I want to get paid like one.”
Face of the UFC? Good gracious. Get real man. Cejudo also thinks he is the king of the pound-for-pound fighters but over on CBS Sports, their MMA guy is not yet ready to put him at the top:
Men's pound-for-pound rankings
Brian Campbell, CBSSports
UFC Power Rankings
For me, I think the top two up there are probably right on, but I’m not sold on Daniel Cormier and Cejudo definitely does not belong at #4. I think Ferguson is a much better and more skilled fighter and Robert Whittaker also belongs above Cejudo. Max Holloway is also an outstanding fighter and Poirier is a tough cookie with tons of heart. Not enough has been seen of Usman yet to make a determination IMO.
Moving to baseball, three suspects have been arrested in the shooting of David Ortiz and authorities even have the weapon used to injure the former Boston Red Sox super star. It turns out now that there was a plan to shoot Ortiz for a payoff amount of $7,800. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, it appears it’s the beginning of the end for the 2019 Buccos season.
Losing again last night to Atlanta, that’s six in a row for Pittsburgh and eight of their last 10 which puts them in the basement of the National League Central Division ½ game from fifth place Cincinnati. The Pirates are now 8 ½ games behind the Milwaukee Brewers who hold first place and forget the wild card for now as the Bucs are 7 ½ out in that category. Another game with the Braves is tonight.
To make matters worse, Pittsburgh has a run differential of -87 worst in the National League and only better than Baltimore (-124) and Detroit (-111). The Pirates have scored 291 runs this season but surrendered 378. They are 13-18 at home and 17-19 on the road to bring their overall record to 30-37.
Finally for today, the NHL season is over and the NBA season could end tonight if the Toronto Raptors already unbeaten on the road can knock off the Golden State Warriors in the final game ever inside Oracle Arena, home of the NBA champions. If the defending champs can defeat the Raptors, game seven in a winner-take-all will happen on Sunday.
Also in the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers set a league precedent when they added a coach to their staff, this one a female and hired right from collegiate basketball as Lindsay Gottlieb joins the coaching staff in Cleveland after serving as head coach of the California Golden Bears’ women's basketball squad becoming the first woman in NBA history to be hired right from a collegiate team. There was discussion on the radio the other day as to when will a woman be hired as an NBA head coach. Some believe it will happen while I’m in the camp of it not ever taking place simply because I don’t think any NBA owner will ever have the guts to do so.