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.

After 'year off,' Mike Denbrock ready to develop Notre Dame's next crop of WRs

After 'year off,' Mike Denbrock ready to develop Notre Dame's next crop of WRs

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame faced a similar question in 2014 it faces now: Who’s going to catch the ball?

Two years ago, Notre Dame entered the season having lost 70 percent of its receptions, 74 percent of its receiving yards and 78 percent of its receiving touchdowns from the 2013 season. The answer to the question turned out to be a guy who only had six catches as a freshman the previous year — Will Fuller.

Notre Dame might or might not have another breakout candidate like Fuller on its roster this year. But there’s a constant between 2014 and 2016: wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock.

The Irish are without Fuller (62 catches, 1,258 yards, 14 touchdowns), who became a first-round pick of the Houston Texans after turning pro earlier this year, along with Chris Brown (48 catches, 597 yards, four touchdowns), Amir Carlisle (32 catches, 355 yards, one touchdown) and Corey Robinson (16 catches, 200 yards, one touchdown) at the receiver position.

Add in the losses of running back C.J. Prosise (26 catches, 308 yards, one touchdown) and tight ends Alize Jones (13 catches, 190 yards) and Chase Hounshell (one catch, six yards), and Notre Dame has to replace 82 percent of its 2015 receptions, 87 percent of its receiving yards and 84 percent of its receiving touchdowns this fall.

“It’s like starting over,” Denbrock said. “Last year was kind of a little bit of a year off for me, quite frankly. I mean, I had guys that had heard me say the same things for three years and had kind of got used to being out there in the fray and doing it. Now it kind of regenerates itself and we start all over again, which for me is kind of exciting.

“I love the challenge, I love the dynamic of the group. I love their attention to trying to do things the right way, we’re just a little bit inexperienced and we’re learning how to do things the right way.”

Denbrock is in his fifth year coaching Notre Dame’s wide receivers (he spent 2010 and 2011 as the Irish tight ends coach and helped develop Tyler Eifert there, too) and has overseen that regeneration of a receiving corps after the losses of three go-to options in Michael Floyd, T.J. Jones and Fuller. And while an offense requires all its units — quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, tight ends and offensive linemen — working together to succeed, it’s worth noting Notre Dame’s passing S&P+ rankings since Denbrock took over the Irish receivers:

2012: fifth

2013: 15th

2014: 13th

2015: eighth

Even if you might view some of those rankings as a bit bullish — like 2012’s, which seems high for a year in which Notre Dame deployed a conservative run-first offense — they’re solid evidence of Denbrock’s success in developing reliable pass-catchers.

“He's someone that doesn’t take anything less than what you can give,” redshirt junior receiver and captain Torii Hunter Jr. said. “He expects you to give 100 percent all the time. He just wants you to max out your potential, whatever it may be. And I’m grateful for the type of coach that he is because he never lets us get away with half-done.”

Of course, it helps that Notre Dame has recruited exceedingly well at the receiver position over the last few years. Jones, DaVaris Daniels, Corey Robinson, Fuller, Hunter, Corey Holmes, Equanimeous St. Brown, Miles Boykin, C.J. Sanders, Chase Claypool and Javon McKinley were all Rivals four-star recruits, while three-star recruit Chris Brown developed into a rock-solid player and fellow three-star prospect Kevin Stepherson impressed during spring and preseason camp (he's expected to play against Texas despite his arrest earlier this month).

While coach Brian Kelly said he’s “concerned” and that all those inexperienced receivers — St. Brown, Sanders, Boykin, Holmes, Claypool, McKinley, Stepherson and ex-walk-on Chris Finke — are “suspects,” he has an immense amount of trust in Denbrock. The two have coached together for 16 non-consecutive seasons, with Denbrock serving as both an offensive and defensive coordinator, a tight ends coach, a wide receivers coach and an associate head coach. Denbrock, too, has coached offensive line and linebackers at various stops in his 30-year coaching career.

“He knows the offense and the system and he knows what I look for and what I'm trying to do, and so it's a great relationship because I don't have to micromanage him,” Kelly said. “All I have to do is kind of say, this is the direction I would like to go, and he's off and running.

“So any time you have that, and a longstanding relationship with somebody that knows exactly where you want to go, it allows to you do so many other things and it allows me to help coach some of the players at a level, a grass roots level that sometimes the head coach doesn't get a chance to do.”

There’s been some inconsistency with players during practice in August, but that’s to be expected with such a green group.

“He’s on us hard,” St. Brown said. “He knows he has to be harder than ever because we have a young group of receivers.”

But why should 2016, even with all the uncertainty surrounding that position, be any different? There’s that saying that you should never bet against a streak. And Denbrock is on a pretty good streak.

“I just think you gotta be very consistent and very demanding with what you ask them to do and not let their youthfulness be an excuse for not playing at the level they should play at,” Denbrock said. “They get it, they understand it, and they’re growing.”

Injury clouds may be disappearing over (some) Bears

Injury clouds may be disappearing over (some) Bears

The daily litany of injuries and practice limitations through training camp and to this point of preseason have been stories. But they typically do not take on real significance until about this time of the football year, when teams swing onto final approach for their first regular-season game.

Against that backdrop, the Bears’ injury forecast was trending the right direction on Monday when No. 1 tight end Zach Miller and No. 1 nickel receiver Eddie Royal, both out for extended periods going through the team’s concussion protocol, were practicing without the don’t-hit-me red practice jerseys they were in as recently as last week.

Right guard Kyle Long, down with a shoulder injury since the New England game, was not in practice pads Monday but trotted over to a nearby goalpost at one point during practice, got into his stance and delivered a couple of linemen “punches” to the padding.

All three are vital components of a struggling offense in desperate need of impact players at any position.

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Rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd, held out of the Kansas City game on Saturday with hamstring soreness, was in uniform as well. Cornerback Kyle Fuller, who had knee surgery two weeks ago, was out running laps around the practice field, although he remains a longshot to be active for the Sept. 11 opener in Houston.

The situation was less encouraging for linebacker Pernell McPhee, who continues to do only controlled running and cutting along the sidelines as he works back from knee surgery in January. Chances of his return for the start of the regular season appear next to nil.

“We’ve got some avenues that we’re going to have to decide here as we cut down [the roster] to the 53 and some time from now, so I don’t like making those decisions now,” said coach John Fox. “But we’ll continue to evaluate him. There are options. He did start [training camp] on PUP [physically unable to perform]. We have a lot of options and we’ll do what’s best for us and him.”

The team has kept details of McPhee’s procedure and injury in-house. But teammate Willie Young, whose 2014 season ended with an Achilles injury of his own, offered a perspective that hinted at how serious McPhee’s injury may have been.

“It’s a credit to him, because to bounce back from any what used to be career-ending injuries is a challenge,” Young said, adding, “but he’s on course, I would say.”

Badgers linebacker T.J. Edwards won't play in opener vs. LSU

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Badgers linebacker T.J. Edwards won't play in opener vs. LSU

Wisconsin will be without last season's leading tackler when it opens the season Saturday at Lambeau Field.

Head coach Paul Chryst told reporters Monday that linebacker T.J. Edwards won't play this weekend against LSU.

Edwards led the Badgers with 84 tackles last season. He fractured his foot during the summer, didn't practice at all during fall camp and isn't on the team's most recent depth chart.

Jack Cichy and Chris Orr are listed as Wisconsin's two starting inside linebackers on the current depth chart.

The Badgers have a tough test to open the 2016 campaign. The Tigers are ranked as the No. 5 team in the preseason AP poll and boast one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy in running back Leonard Fournette.