Rangers coach takes some shots at the Devils

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Rangers coach takes some shots at the Devils

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- John Tortorella stood out again at a playoff news conference. Only this time it was because of his feistiness toward the New Jersey Devils and not for his brevity and contentiousness with the media. The New York coach defended Rangers forward Brandon Prust, who was given a one-game suspension Sunday because of an elbow to the head of New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov, and accused the Devils of embellishing to draw penalties in the Eastern Conference finals. "We tell our players, Don't stay down on the ice. Get up,'" Tortorella said Sunday. "I'll leave it at that. If we want to start discussing officials with the media, I have a long list here." He then began to air it. Tortorella said the Devils set picks during power plays to set up shots for Ilya Kovalchuk and prevent the Rangers from getting into position to block them. He added that forward Dainius Zubrus elbowed New York defenseman Anton Stralman on Saturday, and said top New Jersey forward Zach Parise launched himself into another defenseman, Michael Del Zotto. Neither of those players, nor Prust, was penalized for their hits during the Rangers' 3-0 win that gave New York a 2-1 lead in the East finals. Kovalchuk scored a power-play goal in Game 2 that the Rangers say was made possible by a pick. "We're trying not to get picked," Rangers forward Brad Richards said. "Sometimes you get picked. We're trying to let the refs know and have them look at it."

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks' bottom six steps up in Colorado

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AP

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks' bottom six steps up in Colorado

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Jamal Mayers discuss the bottom six carrying the Blackhawks to a come-from-behind win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.

Later, Mayers weighs in on possible targets with the NHL trade deadline just six weeks away.

Listen to the latest episode of the Hawks Talk Podcast below:

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Bears GM Ryan Pace struck gold with his signing of Jerrell Freeman last offseason.

Freeman, who signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Bears last March, was graded as the NFL's No. 1 inside linebacker in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.

Freeman's 93.8 overall grade was PFF's third-highest defensive grade behind Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald (95.6) and Oakland Raiders standout edge rusher Khalil Mack (93.9). 

Here's what PFF's Mike Renner had to say about Freeman's historic 2016 season:

One of the most impressive pure statistics any player amassed this season came from Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman. He made 40 tackles in coverage while missing only one tackle attempt. That ratio is insane, and it’s the best we’ve recorded since 2012. That’s about the only exciting stat, though, as the Bears’ front-seven desperately missed a fully-healthy Pernell McPhee for a good portion of the year.

Despite Freeman's outstanding season, he was left off of PFF's All-Pro Team for 2016. Although he was ranked ahead of Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (91.6) and Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (92.9), PFF likely omitted Freeman due to him missing four games with a PED suspension.

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In his first season with the Bears, the 30-year-old Freeman led the team with 110 tackles (the next highest total was Harold Jones-Quartey's 78). Freeman also finished with a team-high 7 tackles for a loss. 

Check out a snapshot below of Freeman's PFF metrics from last season:

If there's any doubt about Freeman's play falling off after serving a suspension, he put that theory to rest. Freeman's second-best game grade came in Week 17 against the Minnesota Vikings (3.5). Freeman also had a positive grade (1.4) in his first game coming off the suspension against the Washington Redskins in Week 16.

"People know me," Freeman told the media after returning from suspension. "People know who I am. People know what I'm about. I wouldn't do that on purpose. I made a mistake and that's what it is. It's not like I was going out of my way to do something (illegal). But it happened. It's my fault and I take responsibility for it."