Happy Friday, everyone! Another week down!
Let’s get right to it.
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Good morning to everyone but especially to…
Ondrej Palat knows a thing or two about clutch goals. He had one in a win-or-go-home Game 6 against the Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs and he had one in the series-clinching Game 4 against the Panthers in the second round. His latest, with less than two minutes to go in last night’s crucial Game 5 between the Lightning and Rangers, has Tampa Bay one game away from a third straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Lightning topped the Rangers 3-1 in Madison Square Garden to take a 3-2 Eastern Conference Final series lead.
- New York’s Ryan Lindgren opened the scoring in the second period with a goal from a near-impossible angle, but Mikhail Sergachev answered with a long-distance shot that found the net through traffic.
- Overtime looked to be a real possibility until Sergachev’s shot ricocheted off Palat and into the back of the net. Shortly thereafter, Brandon Hagel‘s empty-netter sealed the game.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy saved 24 of 25 shots with some huge stops in the third period.
- The Rangers had won eight straight playoff home games entering last night, including the first two of this series.
History says Tampa Bay’s chances to face Colorado in the Stanley Cup Final are pretty high, notes our hockey expert Chris Bengel.
- Bengel: “Tampa Bay has a 8-2 all-time record when leading 3-2 in a best-of-seven series. In addition, they’re attempting to erase a 0-2 series deficit in a conference final for the second time in franchise history.”
- Oklahoma won its second straight Women’s College World Series with a 10-5 Game 2 win over Texas.
- Stephen Curry‘s foot injury doesn’t seem to be an issue, and he’ll play tonight.
- Five-star 2024 quarterback CJ Carr is headed to Notre Dame.
- The Phillies are now 6-0 under interim manager Rob Thomson.
- Watch Bears quarterback Justin Fields and tight end Cole Kmet blast home runs at Wrigley Field.
Not so honorable mentions
- Tony La Russa made an… interesting decision yesterday that immediately backfired in a White Sox loss.
- Gerrit Cole allowed a career-high five home runs… but the Yankees still beat the Twins 10-7.
PGA Tour suspends 17 LIV Golf participants. Now what? ⛳
We finally have a ruling from the PGA Tour regarding LIV Golf: All 17 PGA Tour members or former members participating in the new league have been suspended from the PGA Tour.
- Ten of the 17 — including Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia — had already resigned from the PGA Tour prior to yesterday’s announcement.
- Among the remaining seven golfers suspended were Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter.
- The ban includes the Presidents Cup and PGA Tour-sanctioned tours, including the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA Tour Champions, PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica.
- Bryson DeChambeau — who will join LIV for its next event — is not on the list but, presumably, will be once he makes his LIV debut.
- Remember, the PGA Tour does not run the majors, and the USGA ruled Tuesday that all qualified players — regardless of tour affiliation — can play in this year’s US Open.
That last line is key, and it’s likely what will shake golf for years to come: With players spread out all over the world, regular-season golf will matter even less, and majors will matter even more, writes golf expert Kyle Porter.
- Porter: “The big winners on Thursday were not Greg Norman and the LIV Golf league, but rather the USGA, R&A, PGA of America and Augusta National. When the humdrum of everyday tour life is split and replicated over and over again, it only makes golf’s ‘postseason’ — if that’s what we want to call it — even more important. … Major weeks will be a breath of fresh air. They know this, too, and it is the reason they likely won’t stand in the way of any regular-season tour that pops up.”
Kyle’s column is smart, thoughtful and informative. Professional golf as we know is changing to a degree we’ve never seen.
Ranking AFC and NFC quarterbacks from 1-16 🏈
Let’s begin in the AFC, where the talent at the position is evident, starting right at the top.
- Benjamin: “1. Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) — It’s gotten to the point with Mahomes that anything less than highlight-reel perfection raises questions about whether he’s ‘slipping’ as his generation’s premier gunslinger. …possesses unteachable creativity in and outside the pocket, and as long as he’s paired with Andy Reid, it’s tough to bet against his title chances. 2. Josh Allen (Bills) — It’s fitting that the Bills’ last two seasons have ended in playoff thrillers against the Chiefs, because Allen is the closest thing to Mahomes in terms of the contemporary prototype under center — big, athletic, and wired to make the big play.”
I think you’d be hard-pressed to put anyone other than those two up top, even though there are plenty of very good (and young) quarterbacks right behind them. In fact, three of the next four are 25 or younger.
- 3. Justin Herbert (Chargers)
- 4. Russell Wilson (Broncos)
- 5. Joe Burrow (Bengals)
- 6. Lamar Jackson (Ravens)
The Herbert-vs.-Burrow-vs.-Jackson debate is one we’ll have for the foreseeable future, but you know it’s an impressive list when the 2019 unanimous MVP doesn’t even come in the top five… of his own conference.
As for the NFC, there’s definitely less top-end talent under center, but the top two are players you’d want leading your team any day of the week.
- Benjamin: “1. Tom Brady (Patriots) — It’s cliche, at this point, to discuss the winning aura that emanates from Brady, but as long as he’s in the NFL, few players — let alone QBs — merit more trust. … TB12 is coming off one of the best years of his career, which is saying something considering he’s got 22 seasons and seven Super Bowl wins under his belt. 2. Aaron Rodgers (Packers) — Like Brady, A-Rod has only shifted into a higher gear with age, returning to high-volume stardom under Matt LaFleur as the NFL’s reigning repeat MVP.”
Expert picks for the Belmont Stakes 🏇
The Belmont Stakes is this weekend, and we’re here to get you ready for it. While Preakness winner Early Voting won’t be running, Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike will. After skipping the Preakness, Rich Strike is looking to become the first horse to win both the Derby and the Belmont without winning the Preakness since Thunder Gulch in 1995.
- We the People (2-1)
- Mo Donegal (5-2)
- Rich Strike (7-2)
Looking to make some money? We have picks from horse racing expert Jody Demling, who has called three of the last four Belmont winners, as well as handicapping legend Hammerin’ Hank Goldberg, who hit the exacta at last year’s Belmont and this year’s Preakness. He likes a long shot this weekend.
What we’re watching this weekend 📺
🏀 Storm vs Wings, 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
🏀 NBA Finals Game 4: Warriors at Celtics, 9 p.m. on ABC
🏀 Dream at Mercury, 10 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
⚽ NWSL on Paramount+
🏇 Belmont Stakes, 6:44 p.m. on NBC
⚾ Cubs at Yankees or Dodgers at Giants, 7:15 p.m. on FOX
🏒 Eastern Conference Final Game 6: Rangers at Lightning, 8 p.m. on ESPN
⚽ NWSL on Paramount+
⚾ Mets at Angels, 7 p.m. on ESPN