Hockey’s back in New York!

Football has not looked good so far in New York. The Mets lost a heartbreaker over a week ago in the playoffs. For New York fans looking forward to something, the Islanders take on the Rangers in their first regular season game of the year. Is there a better way to kick off the hockey season than the greatest rivalry in New York?

For the Islanders, this is a very important season for the franchise. Last season, they won a playoff series for the first time since 1993, so expectations could be high this year. Fans are hungry for a deep playoff run. They gave fans a little taste of that last year, but fans want more.

They lost some key players this offseason including Frans Nielson, Kyle Okposo, and Matt Martin. Out of all those losses, I thought Martin was the biggest loss. He did little things that went unnoticed such as setting the tone with big hits and always getting loose pucks. Okposo and Nielson were also big losses, being that they were 2 of the team’s top scorers. We can’t look back now, as this team still has a lot of young talent.

We know we have John Tavares who is one of the best players in the league. Something that the team needs is more from Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, and even Anders Lee. These guys have had some NHL experience, so it’s time for them to take the next step. These 3 should score 20 or more goals this season, and if they do, the Islanders could be a top team in the Metropolitan division.

2 key additions in the offseason were forwards Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera. Chimera will hopefully fill Matt Martin’s shoes and set the tone early. Ladd needs to be by Tavares’ side, and be the goal scorer he has been before. Hopefully the Islanders will get 25 or more goals out of him, as he will have a major role on this team. I think the key for this team to be successful this year is to get more production out of players besides Tavares. In the playoffs last year, they were so reliant on Tavares in the first series, that by the second round he was burnt out. This is a team game, and everyone needs to contribute.

For the first time in a while, I feel pretty good about the Islanders goalies. At the same time, I think neither should be the actual starter. Instead they should utilize the 2 goalie system, and play the hot hand. Thomas Greiss showed us he could be a starter in the league during the playoffs last season. I think we know what we will get out of Jaroslav Halak. Halak played very well in the World Cup of Hockey this fall. They really have some nice goalie depth, and both players should give them a chance to win every night, exactly what you’d ask out of your goalie.

I also feel pretty good about their defensemen. Guys like Travis Hamonic and Nick Leddy have continued to improve, as well as Thomas Hickey. I’d like to see a little more out of Johnny Boychuk this year, especially on the offensive side. Their defensemen held up pretty well in the playoffs, but their one weakness was clearing the puck out of their own zone. Overall, their defensemen are very young, with room to improve. But they, like the goalies, will give the Islanders a chance to win.

The X-factors for the season to me are Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome. Nelson made strides last season, but Strome took a step back. Strome was supposed to be a guy that scores a lot of goals. He has not proven he can do that in the NHL yet. Strome’s only 23, but he needs to improve this year especially since he’s been in the league for a few years. Nelson had 26 goal last season, so he is moving in the right direction.

We should get 15 goals out of Cal Clutterbuck, and casey Cizikas should continue to grind. Hopefully they will still lead the best 4th line in hockey. There are so many questions about this team, and I do not have answers right now. It’s very hard to break down this team right now because we need to see a few games. They really look like a different team. They have the potential, so hopefully they will make a deep playoff run this year. For now, what better way to start off the year than against their biggest rival, the New York Rangers? The Rangers are due to beat the Islanders since they won all 4 meetings last year. Who will own New York? We will find out tonight.

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Keys for the Jets to be victorious against the Pittsburgh Steelers

As the first quarter of the season has progressed, the Jets are slowly slipping. They suffered yet again another loss last Sunday to the Seahawks to fall to 1-3. If the Jets drop this game against the Steelers, fans are going to cheer for the number 1 overall draft pick. Maybe that’s what they need, but for now here are the keys for the Jets to pick up a very difficult win against the Steelers.

To start off, they need to get to the quarterback. Last week, Russell Wilson was way to comfortable playing on a bad knee, and seemed to never throw an incomplete pass. The Jets secondary is weak this year. The defense is built around the line, and they have shown they can be a force. We saw in week 1 where the defensive line was constantly getting to Andy Dalton. If they let Ben Rothlisberger sit in the pocket, they’ll be starting the buses early on Sunday. The defensive line needs to be strong on Sunday, especially with a very explosive Pittsburgh Steelers offense.

Another major flaw so far for the Jets this year has been the inability of the secondary to cover receivers. It seems like there has been busted coverages all over the field. They are constantly getting beat deep, and not giving the team a chance to win. It looks like Darrelle Revis will not be playing Sunday, so someone has to step up and cover Antonio Brown. Brown is the best receiver in the league, and he looks like he could go for 300 yards this week. Maybe a guy like Buster Skrine could shut him down, but the reality is this secondary looks like one of the worst in the league. They need to make some plays if we want to see the Jets start winning some ball games.

I think another key for this game is to utilize Bilal Powell in the passing game. Last season, it seemed like Ryan Fitzpatrick was at his best when he was able to dunk passes off to Bilal Powell, to keep the ball moving forward. Powell proved to be a very good receiving back in 2015. When the Jets had a nice touchdown drive to end the first half against the Seahawks, we saw Powell with a few receptions. Especially with the injury to Eric Decker, the receiving game needs more from Powell. It’s up to Fitzpatrick to find him, and I think he is at his best when he’s able to pass the ball to Powell.

Austin Seferian- Jenkins may be set to make his Jet debut Sunday. First off, he needs to clean up his act off the field. Some question the Jets signing him this soon after his problems, but I’m not going to get into that. The reality is, he is a Jet and proved that he could be a solid tight end when he was on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Jets have not had production out of their tight ends over the last 2 years. It’s time to change that with Seferian- Jenkins. Tight ends are go- to guys on many teams, but Ryan Fitzpatrick has never had that luxury with the Jets. Seferian- Jenkins has some talent, so the Jets should utilize that to get the passing game going.

We all know what the final key is. They need to win the turnover battle. It’s not going to be easy, but they need to find a way. The defense has not forced many turnovers this year, and as a result the offense has not had good field position. Ryan Fitzpatrick also has thrown 9 interceptions in the last 2 games. I’d like to see them change that. If they win the turnover battle in this one, they will have a great chance to win the game. Pittsburgh’s offense is phenomenal. The Jets need to lock them down, and that starts with winning the turnover battle. Turnovers are the number 1 reason the Jets are in such a deep whole to start the season.

Keys to victory 

  1. Rush the quarterback
  2. Stop with the busted coverages
  3. Get Bilal Powell involved in the passing game
  4. Utilize Austin Seferian- Jenkins (If he’s active)
  5. Find a way to win the turnover battle

Jets fans are seeing their season flash right before their eyes. We all knew their schedule was tough, but the way they have played is surprising. It looked like they had really good personnel going into the season. If they win this game, it will be a huge win, especially as their schedule will start to get a little easier. If they lose, the season will be looking like a lost year, and one to forget. They have only won 1 game in Pittsburgh in their franchise history, which was led by Mark Sanchez. Maybe they will make it 2 Sunday.

Final reactions to the 2016 New York Mets

2016 was certainly not as memorable a season for the Mets as opposed to 2015 when they made it to the World Series, but there were a lot of positives to take away from the season. On the other hand, there are also some negatives and major questions marks for the team going into 2017.

Positives

The team has added more young pitching. In the MLB, you can never have too many pitchers. We knew going into the season the Mets had the potential to have 5 young studs. Because of injury, the staff was not what it was supposed to be on paper. But, 2 guys stepped up big time: Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. It will be interesting to see what the Mets do with them in 2017, but they proved to be very good for the Mets down the stretch. It would have been interesting to see them pitch in the postseason had the Mets made a run. The Mets might have a pitching controversy with all these starting pitchers for 5 spots.

2 infielders that contributed greatly to the team this year were Asdrubel Cabrera and Jose Reyes. Cabrera was signed in the offseason going into 2016, and he proved to be the Mets’ best pure hitter. He came through big down the stretch, and will be back in 2017. If he produces in 2017, it would be huge for the Mets. We also can’t forget the leather he flashed, proving he can still be an every day second basemen. Asdrubel Cabrera will be big for the Mets in 2017, and it will be interesting to see if he plays the way he did this year. Jose Reyes on the other hand was signed in the middle of the season, and gave the Mets some speed and energy that they desperately needed. At this point in his career, he can be a utility player, and can play shortstop, third base and second base. He came up big for them in 2016, and I’d like to see the Mets pick up his option in 2017.

Addison Reed proved to be the best setup man in baseball in 2016. He had a 1.97 ERA and 40 holds. He passed it to Jeurys Familia consistently, and even with Familia’s struggles in the playoffs, I still feel comfortable with them 8/9. Their bullpen was pretty strong this year, but I’d like to see some more depth in 2017. But, with these 2 guys during the regular season, it was lights out, especially with Familia going 51/56 in save opportunities.

Negatives

Yoenis Cespedes’ performance in the Wild Card game against the Giants left a bad taste in Mets fans’ mouths. In 2015, he did not come up big in the playoffs either. But overall, he has been a sensational Met, and basically carried them to the postseason in back to back years. The problem is he seems to disappear in the playoffs. What I also question is did we see Cespedes’ last game as a Met? It seems like he likes it hear, but it looks like he might opt out of his deal. Rightly so, he had a great year, and can probably make more money. If the Mets don’t bring him back which could happen, their offense is going to have major problems.

Arguably the biggest negative of 2015 was the disappointment of the young pitching staff. Steven Matz had season ending surgery. Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey did as well. Zach Wheeler had a setback from Tommy John surgery and never returned this season. We saw a lot out of Noah Syndergaard. He proved he can be a big time pitcher, and battled strong in the Wild Card game against Madison Bumgarner. But injuries to pitchers are very worrying to me. This pitching staff was amazing in 2015, especially in the playoffs. There were high expectations for this staff, and they simply could not stay healthy. I’m beginning to wonder if they will deal one of them. With the emergence of Lugo and Gsellman, there’s a lot of starting pitchers for 5 spots, assuming all return in April and the Mets resign Bartolo Colon. I was disappointed that the staff could not stay healthy. Look what they did without most of them down the stretch though. If they are healthy in 2017, this team could be lethal.

Michael Conforto took some major steps back this season. He had a strong April, and then slipped from there, and had a couple cups of coffee in the minor leagues. This is the guy that hit 2 home runs in 1 game in the 2015 World Series. When he first came up to the big leagues, he showed he could hit the ball to the opposite field as a lefty, but it seems he fell in love with the long ball, and is constantly pulling the ball. He’s still young and has a lot of upside, but he simply did not look good this year. He might have some pressure on him with Brandon Nimmo, also a left-handed out fielder showing the Mets some positive signs in 2016.

Finals thoughts and words of encouragement

Mets fans, this game left us all very upset. It would have been great to see the team find their way into the NLDS, but this team still battled all through 2016. The amount of injuries they had were absurd. The Wild Card game is a wash, and they faced arguably the best active postseason pitcher in Madison Bumgarner. Stay positive. This team still has a lot of great, young pitching. If they bring back Cespedes, they could be one of the best in baseball in 2017. If the pitching staff stays healthy, they could make a deep run in 2017. I’ll be honest, 2016 was no 2015, and that’s the reality. However, this team was resilient, and I think they still have a very bright future.

Preview of the National League Wild Card game: New York Mets vs San Francisco Giants

The stage is set. Noah Syndergaard will face Madison Bumgarner in the National League Wild Card game; a battle between 2 of the best pitchers in baseball. For the Giants, they expect to win because it’s an even year. In 2010, 2012, and 2014 the Giants have won the World Series. So it only makes sense that they win it in 2016 right?  The Mets will have a chance to end that streak, and get a chance to rematch the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs.

The Mets have a few edges in this matchup, and one of the most important ones is the home field advantage. This game will be played at Citi Field, so it is the fans’ job to be loud and into the game, supporting their team. Met fans are very excited. Keep in mind this is only the 2nd time in franchise history they have made it to the playoffs in back to back seasons. I think the Mets could feed off of an excited crowd, and use it to their advantage. If the Giants jump and score on Syndergaard early, they will take the fans right out of the game.

Noah Syndergaard had a great season, but the Giants have the starting pitcher advantage. Madison Bumgarner went on an insane run in 2014, leading the Giants to a World Series victory and receiving the World Series MVP that year. He is a 3 time World Series champion. The reality is he does not know how to lose in the playoffs, which will make a Met victory very tough. The Mets need to find a way to jump on Bumgarner early. If they can get him off of his game early, this could be their day.

Another issue with Bumgarner is he’s a lefty, and some of the Mets’ core hitters are lefties including Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, and Lucas Duda. These guys might have a tough time against Bumgarner, but they need to stay patient. It is very important to get Bumgarner’s pitch count up, regardless of how many runs they score. The Mets should want to face a very weak Giants bullpen, which means getting Bumgarner out of the game. It seems the Giants blow a save every night, and that is why it is important for the Mets to keep it close. I do not see them running away with the game as long as Bumgarner is on the mound.

Then there’s the x-factor: Noah Syndergaard. If he matches Madison Bumgarner, the Mets should win this game. The Mets have the edge in bullpen, so if this game is close late with Bumgarner out of the game, this game could fall in the Mets’ favor. It is utmost pivotal that Syndergaard pitches a gem. We know he can, we have seen it before. In 2015, he pitched and won the Mets’ only win in the World Series. He has to know the Mets will not score many runs going into this game, and if he wants to win, the same must happen to the Giants.

Madison Bumgarner worries me. It’s a 1 game Wild Card, it’s a wash. Either team could win this game. The Giants have the starting pitching edge, but Noah Syndergaard can be just as good. The Mets have to take advantage of this game being played in queens. A win in this game would be huge for the franchise. If they win this game, anything can happen from there. The Mets are one of the hottest teams in baseball, and the Giants have been one of the coldest teams since the All Star break. So Mets fans, enjoy this game. This pitching matchup is very good for baseball. If Noah Syndergaard out duels Madison Bumgarner, he will make a name for himself if he hasn’t already. The whole season comes down to 1 game, and Mets fans are pumped up about it.

The 2016 New York Mets are headed to the Postseason

Regardless of how far the Mets go in the postseason, 2016 was a positive year for the team. On August 19th, the Mets were 60-62, and were 5.5 games out of the 2nd wild card. The challenge was even tougher because they had to jump the Miami Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates, and the St. Louis Cardinals just to have the 2nd wild card. Today, on their 161st game of the season, the Mets clinched the 1st wild card, and will host either the San Francisco Giants or the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.

Going into the season, the expectation was to win the division after winning it in 2015, and going on to win the National League Pennant. Those expectations dipped when key players got injured including David Wright, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes. By this point, everyone wanted Terry Collins fired. The team got Cespedes and Cabrera back from the DL in late August and took off from there. Now, Collins could be a candidate for manager of the year.

2 key players to this run into the postseason are Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo. 2 pitchers who had to fill big shoes in the rotation, and to be honest, not much was expected of them. Gsellman is 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA and Lugo is 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA. These 2 guys are the reason the Mets are in the postseason. Yes Cespedes, Cabrera, and Reyes have been huge down the stretch, but this team relies on pitching. Going into next season, the Mets will have a pitching controversy, which is good to have.

So, on Wednesday, the Mets will host the NL Wild Card game, with one of their remaining 2015 starters Noah Syndergaard on the mound. If this team wants to make a run, we need Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon to lead this staff. The question for the wild card game is who will they face? We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out, but I’d rather them play the Cardinals. You want no part of Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner in a 1 game wild card. The Cardinals are a better hitting team, but if we get the Syndergaard we have seen before in the wild card game, they can beat either team.

So, in mid August, If I told you the Mets would make the playoffs for the 2nd straight season on October 1st, would you believe me? Well, this team is very much in the playoffs. It may be a 1 game elimination, but they will have their ace on the mound at home, and have a chance to go on and rematch the Chicago Cubs. There are so many players to recognize for their resilience, and the theme of the 2016 New York Mets is simple; next man up. On Wednesday, you never know what will happen. The season could be gone right before our eyes, but you have to respect what this team has done, and realize they should be back and better in 2017. In the baseball postseason anything can happen. This team may look like they have holes, but they are the hottest team in baseball, and are capable and winning a World Series.