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Month: September 2019

Even Pretending To Be A Professional Tennis Player Is Terrifying

Win percentage for rallies of 10+ shots100%50%33% The next day, Witvoet, Duff and I met at the picnic tables outside Court Suzanne-Lenglen. Witvoet acknowledged that there were plenty of bugs still to work out. He and his fellow 30-something co-founders — Charles Chevalier, the chief technology officer, and Julien Vernay, the chief operations officer — had just installed Mojjo permanently at the club the prior week. “You are one of the early birds,” Witvoet said. “As you’ve seen, it’s not all polished. We know definitely it’s not totally ready.”After matches, the founders compare the footage from the Mojjo camera to the stats and use any discrepancies to hone the system. On their to-do list: a voice-recognition system that detects when players call balls out; social sharing of points so you can, for example, brag about an ace on Facebook, with video; and a gamified system so coaches can set statistical targets — like hitting a higher percentage of service returns in the court — and players can collect badges for achieving them. They’re also considering a pure software version that will allow players to use Mojjo to analyze footage they’ve shot themselves. “Our idea is, in some future, you GoPro yourself, and it’s done,” Witvoet said.Because of the video problems, Witvoet agreed to share with me the raw video of the match. I decided to check the stats for myself. I used a system developed by Jeff Sackmann for his Match Charting Project, which has enlisted volunteers to chart nearly 1,000 pro matches. During my Eurostar trip from Paris back home to London, I alt-tabbed between the video and the spreadsheet to log every shot — its type, direction and outcome.1For example, for one long rally I lost, I entered 4f29b2f2f3b2b2f+1f1# into a cell in the spreadsheet. Then I compared the results with Mojjo’s. They were off, in some cases by a lot.Duff hit 13 double-faults by my count, not the five Mojjo counted. I was making more first serves, but losing those points more often than Mojjo said. Both Duff and I were making more first-serve returns than estimated. And the break-point stats were way off for Mojjo, off even from the realm of possibility: The system showed that I’d faced five break points but been broken six times. (I counted four breaks off nine break points.) When Mojjo rolled out the next version of its software, correcting for problems reading high balls, and applied it to our match video, some but not all of these stats were more accurate — you can see just how accurate for my stats in the table adjacent to this paragraph. Chevalier estimated that the error rate on who won each point was below 5 percent. Score one for humanity over machine, so far at least, when it comes to logging tennis stats. But also score one for the pros, that special subset of humans who have someone doing the statkeeping for them. CARL BIALIK STATSMOJJOMOJJO NEWCARL CHARTING Based on my experience covering tennis, professional players usually remember to bring their tennis shoes to the court. On a June Thursday, as I walked into Courbevoie Sport Tennis outside of Paris, I realized I hadn’t. I was there to try out a new technology from Mojjo — a French company that makes what Emmanuel Witvoet, one of its founders, calls “Hawk-Eye for everyone.” Hawk-Eye is the advanced camera-based system that tennis tournaments use to adjudicate disputed line calls and to provide advanced stats for television. It’s sophisticated, impressive and expensive — out of reach for most amateurs, in part because it uses 10 cameras. Witvoet said he and his co-founders had figured out how to do much of what Hawk-Eye does with just one camera, making it affordable for the masses.Unlike the masses, pro players have ready access to the kind of data that Mojjo was about to provide me. They get all sorts of detailed stats after every match, and at tournaments like Wimbledon, they get more. After matches, they receive DVDs that allow them to toggle between points or watch only, say, their backhand errors. It’s not easy for amateurs like me to get that kind of information, but we are clamoring for it. Some 70 million fitness trackers like Fitbit were bought last year, and smart watches like Apple’s bundle fitness tracking with their smartphone features. In tennis, rackets from Babolat and racket attachments from Sony measure things like spin and speed of shot — but their accuracy is questionable.Now, for one surreal, amazing, frustrating and delusion-shattering morning, I would finally have the data. A camera would capture the flight of the ball, software would analyze what happened on each point, and detailed match stats — my detailed match stats — would be put online. I was treated like a pro, but the data showed me how far I had to go to play like one.My friend Alex Duff came along to help me test Mojjo out. Duff is a data geek and amateur tennis player who once recorded video of one of our matches so we could review our performance later. For this match, we were instead armed with two laptops — so that we could each predict the match stats beforehand.After telling the Mojjo courtside kiosk which of us was serving first, Duff and I took the court atop a light dusting of red clay, the same kind of stuff the pros would play on later that day at the French Open five miles away.I told Duff not to be too self-conscious even though a camera was running. I then proceeded to be incredibly self-conscious because a camera was running. I can’t remember starting another match as poorly as I did this one. My head was full of excuses, and I felt self-conscious every time a club employee walked on court, which was often: I felt his eyes staring at my shoes, as if he were the Mona Lisa.Mojjo was the main problem. I’d recently read the classic book “The Inner Game of Tennis” and knew I was supposed to think less and clear my mind. I didn’t — and instead was rushing during points. Silver lining: That meant we’d play more points in our allotted two hours, and more points meant more data.Despite my struggles, I won the first set 6-3. And after extending my winning streak to six straight games, I started to consider secondary goals, like looking good for the camera. I couldn’t do much about my sweat-stained shirt, but I could at least retuck my shorts pocket after pulling out a ball for a second serve. I promptly lost eight straight points.I started playing a little better and went up 5-3 in the second set. That’s when we played our best game of the match by far. We both hit winners and saved game points. After four deuces, I closed out the set. I asked for one more — and cruised to a 6-0 win.Then the email containing our stats arrived from Mojjo, and our amateur match suddenly felt like an official one. We had numbers that looked, if you squinted sideways, like numbers from the pros. We each had one ace. I hit four double-faults; he hit five. We each made a little over 50 percent of our first serves. These weren’t crazy numbers for a clay-court match by pros. Andy Murray and David Ferrer, two of the best players in the world, had just put up roughly similar numbers in their match at the French Open the day before.The video uploaded to Mojjo’s site later that day, and it was odd — not only because it depicted my awkward-looking one-handed backhand. At times, it showed scores that didn’t make much sense and seemed to include shots hit after rallies were over, like to get a ball back to the server, as part of the match.When I could get past the technical hiccups, I saw that unlike the emailed stats, which could have passed for professional-grade, the video looked nothing like match footage I was used to watching. Even with the unusual perspective of the single-camera wide shot, it was clear that my strokes weren’t Grand Slam-ready. And the tennis looked like it was being played at half-speed. Our bodies and the ball crept through the frame — even when the video wasn’t glitching. Break points converted151510 Break points of opponent’s serve202012 Aces101 First-serve win percentage64%61%57% Double-faults455 Win percentage for rallies of 1-3 shots60%61%64% Percentage of all points won61%61%61% Second-serve win percentage50%51%54% Second-serve returns in percentage81%81%81% Win percentage for rallies of 4-6 shots60%61%61% Special Podcast: Check out Baseline, a U.S. Open mini-podcast with Carl Bialik, Louisa Thomas of Grantland, and others from the National Tennis Center grounds. Listen here, and subscribe to the FiveThirtyEight sports podcast Hot Takedown on iTunes now so you don’t miss an episode! First-serve returns in percentage77%78%85% Second-serve in percentage89%87%86% Win percentage for rallies of 7-9 shots54%54%50% First-serve in percentage53%51%58% Mojjo isn’t the only tennis tracker around. An Israeli company named PlaySight uses four cameras to Mojjo’s one, and its technology is more mature: Clubs have already installed it in about 130 courts. It provides a glimpse of what Mojjo could eventually do and of how a more advanced system could do things for amateurs that even some pros don’t get.Over Skype, PlaySight’s CEO and co-founder, Chen M. Shachar, said his system cost $10,000 per court — about three times what Mojjo will charge — plus a license fee for each facility. As is the case with Mojjo, the club, not the player, pays the PlaySight fee. But clubs most likely pass this cost on to players through higher per-match prices.Shachar said PlaySight has much bigger plans. For instance, he said the software eventually will be able to compare, say, me to its database of other players and tell me how my serve, backhand and other shots compare with the averages. And he envisions an improvement on current systems for remote coaching, which require coaching companies to download and tag video: I could instead share my PlaySight account — including video and data — with a top coach on the other side of the world. That’s better than pros can do when they’re playing on courts without Hawk-Eye.PlaySight already can do things Mojjo doesn’t immediately plan on. For instance, PlaySight live-streams matches. And its courtside kiosks provide in-match stats and video replay. It also offers a level of precision that makes it possible to review line calls, which Mojjo doesn’t.While Mojjo lacks the precision to make line calls with certainty, its camera nonetheless gave me a rare chance to review my own calls. Pros don’t call their own lines, but amateurs like Duff and I do. And I could tell while watching the raw video of my match that I’d made some questionable out calls.That’s not the only lesson I learned from my experience with Mojjo. My serve and volley stinks — I won 25 percent of those points, and that was lucky. My backhand is much weaker than my forehand (43 percent on backhands without slice vs. 63 percent on forehands without slice). I also landed fewer first serves than I predicted I would — and that I thought I had right after the match.I wasn’t nearly as good at intuiting stats while playing a match as I’d thought. Shachar said this isn’t unusual for people in high-stress activities — including sports and higher-stakes contests. PlaySight founders adapted their tennis platform from one they developed to allow fighter pilots to review their actions. “The gap between what really happened and what you think happened is huge,” Shachar said.2Pros, too, can have trouble tracking stats in their head. Gilles Simon, one of the most stat-conscious men on tour, said after defeating big-serving Milos Raonic at the Queen’s Club tournament in London last month that he’d thought Raonic had landed the vast majority of his first serves in the first set, only to learn when looking at the scoreboard between sets that Raonic had made just 52 percent.On the plus side, I learned that statistically, tennis looks pretty similar when played by two people of similar ability, no matter what that ability is. I even found a match that had roughly similar stats and scoreline to my match with Duff. It happened 15 years ago at Wimbledon. The winner was Fabrice Santoro, who like me had unconventional strokes.3He also had the very cool nickname “The Little Magician.” The loser was Andrea Gaudenzi, which sounds a little like Alex Duff in Italian.4To find a similar match, I examined stats from 12,379 best-of-five-set matches made available on GitHub by Sackmann. Then I zeroed in on the 855 straight-set wins with scores closest to ours of 6-3, 6-3, 6-0. Finally, I calculated z-scores for 15 stats in our match and for each of the 12,379 pro matches: seven for each player (ace percentage, double-fault percentage, percentage of first serves that went in, percentage of first-serve points won, percentage of second-serve points won, break points against, and break points converted against), plus the dominance ratio (the ratio of the percentage of return points won to the percentage of serve points lost by the winner of the match). I summed the absolute value of the difference of the z-score for each of the 15 categories for our match and for each of the 855 matches. Santoro d. Gaudenzi came out the closest. Pros: They’re just like us.I also came to a fairly obvious realization that nonetheless troubled me. Before my Mojjo match, I considered myself a smart player, adjusting my tactics to take advantage of each opponent’s weaknesses. But with Mojjo, whatever I learned, my opponent would too — we’d both get the same stat sheets. For instance, from my charting, Duff landed 22 serves directed at my forehand and lost 20 of those points. If he notices that stat, he probably won’t serve to my forehand nearly so often the next time we play. Maybe having post-match stats would help my opponents more than me, by removing what I think is my tactical advantage from having an approximate handle on what’s working and what’s not. There’s also the risk I’d overthink things; even pros like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic said in media conferences at Wimbledon this year that they don’t normally look at their own stats in too much detail.But even if data can’t improve my game, my curiosity is stronger than my competitiveness. Now that I’ve experienced what very few players have, it’s been hard to go back. Each match uncharted feels like a lost opportunity to learn more about my game — including just how ugly my backhand is. While I wait for Mojjo to fix its bugs and come to courts near me, I’m awfully tempted to start filming and charting my matches myself.Maybe I’ll use a GoPro. read more

The Many Ways The Media Gets Around Saying Groin

“Crotch”1000022– Other phrases822411341– “Balls”0000063– “Below the belt”4124024– “Nuts”0001059– In 96 articles, totaling a little more than 50,000 words, “groin” was used 148 times across headlines, body and photo captions. Of course, in sports, groin injuries can mean something very different from your basic knee to the crotch. So at best, this creates unnecessary ambiguity in order to demur from coarser language. The next most frequently used was some form of “below the belt” with 17 appearances, followed by “nuts” with 15, “low blow” with 14, a few variations of “private parts” totaling 12, “between the legs” with 10 and “balls” with nine. “Other” variations appeared 71 times, though this number is heavily skewed by a single Yahoo article that used 30 non-standard variations. This category includes a wide range of phrases — “nads” and “cobblers” and “Adams’s apples” alongside recitations of Green’s own softening quote, in which he repeatedly referred to the penis area as “down there.”But the taxonomy of dong euphemism goes beyond basic totals. ESPN, for instance, is almost uniformly “groin” and “groin area,” while CBS clusters around “below the belt” and “low blow” and SB Nation is heavy on “between the legs.” Deadspin carries both “dick” and “balls,” frequently daisying the two as a complex noun.Omission is just as much a function of the editorial hand as diction. In six articles appearing on NewsOK.com and Daily Thunder — both Thunder-leaning publications — some term for genitals was used 21 times; in six on SFChronicle.com and Golden State of Mind — Warriors rags — there were 14 mentions.Perhaps most concerning, the word “penis” appeared just once, in an SB Nation article; the lone appearance of “testicles” came from a CBS podcast teaser; “scrotum” appeared once, pluralized. Any of these, and many of the others, would be preferable to “groin.”CORRECTION (May 24, 5:45 p.m.): A previous version of this article misidentified the publishing network affiliated with the Daily Thunder blog. It is part of the TrueHoop Network, which is owned by ESPN, and is not an SB Nation blog. “Penis”0000010– “Private area”5101005– “Between the legs”0300042– “Nether region”1011002– He kicked him where? *Old media: NY Times, WSJ, AP, Reuters. *New media: Deadspin, SB Nation, Bleacher Report “Dick”0000080– “Groin”2219181592342– “Junk”0000041– “Groin Area”1050000– “Midsection”1000120– It’s the oldest laugh in sports: Some poor schmoe takes a sports ball to the crotch, keels over and, once we’re reasonably sure no lasting damage has been done, the TV announcers deadpan some dad jokes while the camera pans around to giggling teammates. It’s as much a familiar sports yuk as other not-all-that-uncommon oddities, like a field player on the mound or the fat guy touchdown, only with funnier GIFs.At least, that’s how things work when the hit comes in a relatively low-stakes setting. But what happens when the stakes are raised? And just as important, when reporters are forced to write about sportsmen kicking each other in the nuts, what do they write? This week has provided some answers.In the hours after Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, the entire NBA-watching universe found itself poring over various angles of Draymond Green kicking Steven Adams right in the penis. Green was at risk of being suspended for Game 4, and suddenly the punchline was vital to the outcome of the NBA playoffs.1In a lot of ways, this is a fitting absurdity to afflict the NBA pundit class. When the assumption is that complex, instinctual movement can be studied in slow-motion to reveal some very specific truth — when the angle of Andre Iguodala’s arm is a measureable gauge of defensive sophistication — maybe spending 18 hours Zapruder-ing intent out of Vines of a kick to the penis is the proper antidote.Just as suddenly, reporters had to describe what had happened. Different outlets have different comfort levels when writing about the crotch. The New York Times, for example, threw idiomatic English out the door on first reference: “Exhibit A was that Green picked up a flagrant-1 foul — while hacked in the act of shooting — with 5 minutes 57 seconds left in the half by flailing a leg between those of Steven Adams, who wound up doubled over.” The New York Daily News, writing after the situation had resolved itself, was less weighed down by compunction: “Green will not be suspended for kicking Thunder center Steven Adams in the nuts during Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday, the league indicated in a release.”Clearly, a more thorough linguistic examination is in order. Out of practicality, when searching for the terms used by news outlets to describe the incident, I limited the search to online articles, and not broadcast or radio. I used Google’s advanced search function to look for articles in the last week about Adams or Bismack Biyombo, who was punched in the genitals by Dahntay Jones in the Eastern Conference Finals the night before Adams crumpled, and counted up who wrote what.The sample includes articles from mainstream sports news sites such as ESPN, Yahoo, CBS Sports, Fox Sports and — for strictly liberal-media, East-Coast-bias reasons — a few of the New York tabloids. I threw in some old media standbys (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press) as a control group, as well as general sports blogs like SB Nation and Bleacher Report for more or less the opposite effect. I also sought out the most partial participants: local newspapers for each team, plus dedicated blogs for each team — Daily Thunder (the TrueHoop Network’s blog for the Thunder), Golden State of Mind (SB Nation’s for the Warriors) and Deadspin, a Warriors fan blog based in New York City.2Disclosure: I used to work for Deadspin, where I was made to write Warriors propaganda.Here it is, in table form: PHRASECBS SPORTSS.I.ESPNFOXOLD MEDIA*NEW MEDIA*ALL OTHERSTOTAL “Low Blow”6010034– read more

Pat Summitt Built The Best Womens College Basketball Program Of All Time

On a per-year basis, Summitt’s Tennessee squads garnered slightly more success in the AP poll than Connecticut has under Geno Auriemma, her longtime rival for the crown of greatest women’s basketball coach of all time. (Summit’s teams averaged 14.8 points of value per season — roughly the equivalent of finishing between third and fourth in the nation, on average, every year — for the 36 years she coached; Auriemma’s averaged 14.7 per season for 31 years.)Of course, Summitt’s on-court success represents only a fraction of her overall résumé as a coach. As my ESPN colleague Kate Fagan wrote today, Summitt inspired an entire generation of girls to play the game better, setting an example for the way women’s sports can be played at a time when they were still struggling to gain a foothold with young female athletes.In fact, the best years of Summitt’s career coincided with the fastest growth of participation in girls’ basketball after the initial post-Title IX spike. According to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations, the number of girls playing high-school basketball in the United States increased from 379,337 in 1988 to 456,873 in 1998 — a 20 percent gain for a sport that had seen a 10 percent decline over the previous eight years. And according to our methodology above, the best decade of Summitt’s career from a team-quality perspective was (you guessed it) 1988 to 1998. 7Maryland217.32 4Stanford328.53 RANKTEAMTOTAL VALUE 6Duke224.32 Much more will be written about Summitt’s record, but her most lasting legacy is written every time a high school girl or a college woman shoots a basket. 9Georgia189.53 10North Carolina179.66 5Texas253.46 8Old Dominion202.87 Top women’s college basketball programs since ’77 3Louisiana Tech372.70 Values were generated using end-of-season AP poll rankings and the statistical power rating averages they represent.Source: collegepollarchive.com Soon after Pat Summitt, the basketball Hall of Famer and the winningest college coach of all time (men’s or women’s), died on Tuesday morning, the tributes to her career came rushing in. Summitt’s record on the court itself was monumental, but many obituaries also focused on her place at the forefront of women’s sports during arguably its most important era — the decades of growth after Title IX began. And the numbers clearly show the magnitude of her legacy on the court and off.To measure the performance of Summitt’s Tennessee teams, I grabbed AP poll data from the College Poll Archive (going back to 1976-77, Summitt’s third year with the Vols) and scored each team based on where it finished in the final end-of-season poll.1For the technically-minded, I regressed a team’s national ranking in the statistical power ratings I developed here (which go back to 1997-98) against the team’s points-per-game value over the No. 26 team in the country — i.e, an unranked team in the AP poll. The formula yielding that value based on ranking is: Value = -7.42*LN(Ranking) +24.17. For the entire sample of 40 seasons, no program in the country — not even the mighty UConn Huskies — can touch Tennessee’s record, an accomplishment owed almost entirely to the program Summitt built: 2Connecticut456.91 1Tennessee566.03 read more

Weather Postpones Bounty Hearing

Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has postponed Tuesday’s appeals hearings on the New Orleans Saints’ bounty case because of a tropical system forecasted to hit the Northeast, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.Hurricane Sandy is expected to impact the Northeast on Monday and Tuesday. The hearing was to be held in Washington D.C. Tagliabue has yet to set a new date for the hearing, according to ESPN’s Andrew Brandt.The postponement comes a day after NFL lawyers filed a motion in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, arguing that Tagliabue should be allowed to hear appeals in the bounty scandal.In their motion, NFL lawyers quote defendant Jonathan Vilma’s statement to ESPN in which he supported Tagliabue being appointed to the role, saying, “I think it’s a good first step for Paul to be the neutral arbitrator.”NFL lawyers wrote that, “Mr. Vilma was right that Commissioner Tagliabue was a good appointment.“Commissioner Tagliabue has the experience necessary to assess whether the conduct the players engaged in was detrimental to the league and, if so, to assess the propriety of the discipline that Commissioner Goodell imposed. It is difficult to think of anyone else more qualified.”The action comes after the players’ union and the four players suspended in the bounties’ case filed a motion asking that Tagliabue recuse himself from the case because of what they say is a conflict of interest. They want a neutral arbitrator to be appointed by the court.Read the rest of this story on ESPN read more

Eagles Michael Vick Again Fails Concussion Test

Michael Vick, out the last three weeks with a concussion, still has not passed the test that would allow him to resume playing quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.Because Vick failed the impact concussion test taken on Wednesday, he was not cleared to practice. And so, rookie Nick Foles likely will start for the third straight game when the Eagles, who have lost seven straight, attempt to avoid their longest losing streak in 44 years against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.Foles has thrown for 542 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in three games since replacing Vick during a 38-23 home loss to the Cowboys on Nov. 11.Vick spent Tuesday night being sized for a protective skull cap that he plans to wear under his helmet when he returns to play to safeguard against suffering another concussion.At the urging of neurologist Dr. Dimi Barot, Vick met at his home with Unequal Technologies Corporation CEO Rob Vito to be measured for the new “dome” device made of the company’s Concussion Reduction Technology.Vick had Unequal retro-fit his helmet with similar padding upon returning from a concussion in September 2011. The same company designed protective Kevlar devices that enabled Vick and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to play with serious rib injuries in recent seasons. read more

The Predators Dont Need An Ovechkin Or A Crosby

2014BruinsD. Krejci69– 1992RangersM. Messier107– Top scorer 1990BruinsC. Neely92– 1994RangersS. Zubov89– 2011BruinsM. Lucic62– 2013Blackhawks*P. Kane94– 2000BluesP. Demitra75– 2015BlackhawksJ. Toews66– 1999StarsM. Modano81– 2018PredatorsF. Forsberg64– 2011CanucksD. Sedin104– 2010CapitalsA. Ovechkin109– 1996Red WingsS. Federov107– 1997AvalancheP. Forsberg86– 1988OilersW. Gretzky149– Top scorer 2000DevilsP. Elias72– 2013Blackhawks*P. Kane94– 2004Red WingsP. Datsyuk68– 1987OilersW. Gretzky183– 1997Red WingsB. Shanahan87– 2010BlackhawksP. Kane88– 2009SharksJ. Thornton86– YearTeamNamePoints 2016CapitalsE. Kuznetsov77– 1998Red WingsS. Yzerman69– 2018PredatorsF. Forsberg64– 2004LightningM. St. Louis94– 2002Red WingsB. Shanahan75– 1991BlackhawksS. Larmer101– The 2003 New Jersey Devils and the 2011 Boston Bruins are each a very good analog for this year’s Predators. Neither team had a player score more than 62 points in the regular season, but each was the beneficiary of timely postseason scoring streaks. In the 2003 playoffs, the Devils got 18 points in 24 games from Jamie Langenbrunner and 10 goals from Jeff Friesen, who scored only 23 in the regular season. In 2011, it was David Krecji who stepped up for Boston — he notched 23 points in 25 postseason games and scored on 21.1 percent of his shots (a far better rate than his career mark of 12.2 percent).Each team also benefited from hot goalie play: The Devils’ Martin Brodeur stopped 93.4 percent of the shots he faced in the playoffs after stopping just 91.4 percent of the shots he saw during the regular season, while the Bruins’ Tim Thomas stopped an astounding 94 percent of the shots he faced in one of the more memorable playoffs for a goalie in league history.In other words, Nashville may have been more of an outlier for the Presidents’ Trophy because it doesn’t possess a stud (or several studs) who put up big numbers over the course of 82 games. But who wants that trophy anyway? The teams that claim it traditionally flop come springtime. Just ask the Washington Capitals. But if the Predators are able to steal a page from the playbooks of the 2003 Devils and the 2011 Bruins, the catfish will fly come June. 1989FlamesJ. Mullen110– 2016PenguinsS. Crosby85– 1999StarsM. Modano81– 1986OilersW. Gretzky215– 1998StarsJ. Nieuwendyk69– 2006Red WingsP. Datsyuk87– Nashville won the Presidents’ Trophy without a scoring starTotal points of the top scorer on each year’s highest scoring team during the NHL regular season 1987OilersW. Gretzky183– 2017CapitalsN. Backstrom86– 1995Red Wings*P. Coffey99– 1993PenguinsM. Lemieux160– 2017PenguinsS. Crosby89– 2009PenguinsE. Malkin113– 2014KingsA. Kopitar70– 2012KingsA. Kopitar76– 1992PenguinsM. Lemieux131– 2007SabresD. Briere95– If anything, this shows just how effective the Predators have been on the blue line and between the pipes. Rinne, at 35 years old, is having the best season of his career in terms of quality start percentage, and his marks for both save percentage and goals against average are better than his career averages. And among goalies who’ve played at least 1,500 minutes this season, Rinne ranks fourth in goals saved above average. As we’ve said before, though, goaltending is unstable — and no amount of great goaltending can make up for bad defensive play. Fortunately for Nashville, its roster is stocked with some of the best defensemen in the NHL.Captain Roman Josi and P.K. Subban have each put together a solid case for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s best defenseman, while Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm each rank in the top 15 among qualifying defensemen2At least 500 minutes played. in Corsi for percentage, which estimates a player’s possession rate by measuring the percentage of shot attempts directed at his opponent’s net versus his own net while he’s on the ice. Factor in Matt Irwin and Montreal Canadiens castaway Alexei Emelin — and the exceptional play of Rinne behind them — and Nashville’s defensive unit conceded the second fewest goals in the NHL.Of course, sound defenses aren’t solely the result of good goalie and defenseman play. That tired old adage — that the best defense is a good offense — is true, especially in the case of the Predators. Despite their lack of an offensive superstar, the Predators rank second in goals for percentage3Goals for percentage is the percentage of all goals a team scores relative to every goal scored in games they played. and ninth in Corsi for percentage. They’ve built one of the more efficient offenses in the NHL not on the back of one superstar, but on the backs of many good to very good players.And even though the lack of at least one high-scoring superstar is uncharacteristic of a Presidents’ Trophy-winning team, it’s not necessarily unheard of for a Stanley Cup-winning team — although it’s rare. Since 1986, five teams have won the Stanley Cup without a 70-point scorer. None of those teams were the best regular-season team, but Stanley Cup glory can come from unexpected scoring outbursts and hot goaltending. 1996AvalancheJ. Sakic120– 2006HurricanesE. Staal100– 2007DucksT. Selanne94– * Strike-shortened seasons prorated for a full season.The 2004-05 season was canceled because of a lockout.Source: Hockey-Reference.com 2002Red WingsB. Shanahan75– * Strike-shortened seasons prorated for a full season.The 2004-05 season was canceled because of a lockout.Source: Hockey-Reference.com 1993CanadiensV. Damphousse97– The Stanley Cup playoffs begin today, and the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Nashville Predators enter as the betting favorites. You may recall Nashville’s Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring as the lowest-seeded playoff team, and it did so largely thanks to the red-hot play of goalie Pekka Rinne. The 2016-17 Preds ultimately fell two games short of claiming the franchise’s first Stanley Cup (Sidney Crosby and company had other plans), but this season’s iteration has a chance to make that disappointment feel like a distant memory.To be sure, last season’s Predators and this season’s Predators are two very different teams. In 2016-17, Nashville finished tied for the fewest wins in regulation and overtime among teams that qualified for the playoffs. This season, the Preds tied for third most. And it’s not as though their scoring totals are especially gaudy — they finished in a tie for seventh in goals for, 29 behind the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.But there is one thing this year’s Predators have in common with last year’s: They’re succeeding without a bona fide offensive star. No Predator scored more than 61 points last year, and it’s been more of the same this season. Seven Predator forwards finished with at least 35 points, but none eclipsed 64. Four Predator forwards scored at least 23 goals, but there’s not a 30-goal scorer in the bunch. Nashville has plenty of players who can hurt opposing defenses, but it doesn’t have a Connor McDavid or an Alexander Ovechkin. Which is to say, it doesn’t have a single skater who is capable of changing a game by himself.You might expect this from a team that nabbed the last spot in the playoffs, but it’s quite unusual for a Presidents’ Trophy-winning team. In the more than three decades that the award has been handed out, Nashville has the lowest top scorer of any team to receive it.1After prorating the top scorers on the Presidents’ Trophy teams from the strike-shortened seasons in 1994-95 and 2012-13, in which only 48 games were played. 2012CanucksH. Sedin81– 2001AvalancheJ. Sakic118– YearTeamNamePoints 1989FlamesJ. Mullen110– Starless Stanley Cup winners aren’t unprecedentedHow the 2017-18 Predators compare with Stanley Cup winners since 1986 in terms of each team’s top scorer in the regular season 1995Devils*S. Richer67– 1994RangersS. Zubov89– 1988FlamesH. Loob106– 2003DevilsP. Elias57– 2001AvalancheJ. Sakic118– 1990OilersM. Messier129– 2003SenatorsM. Hossa80– 1991PenguinsM. Recchi113– 2015RangersR. Nash69– 1986CanadiensM. Naslund110– 2008Red WingsP. Datsyuk97– 2008Red WingsP. Datsyuk97– read more

The Warriors Can Breathe Easier — For Now

The Rockets-Warriors series has provided a steady diet of haymakers from both sides over the past week and a half, with two of the NBA heavyweight clubs duking it out for supremacy again.But the fight, and the future of the proverbial championship belt as a whole, seemingly hung in the balance late Wednesday when superstar Kevin Durant came up limping after hitting a jumper with just over two minutes left in the third quarter of Game 5 at Oracle Arena. The fact that he hadn’t been touched by anyone escalated fears even more: His reaction — to grab the back of his lower right leg — suggested that he might have severely injured his Achilles tendon. Durant walked gingerly to the locker room with Golden State clinging to a 3-point lead after holding a 20-point cushion just a quarter earlier. As he left, the basketball world wondered whether Golden State’s chances of adding on to its dynasty had exited with him.The Warriors staved off that more existential question for at least a couple of nights, digging deep for a gutsy 104-99 win without Durant to take a 3-2 series lead over Houston. They also got a reprieve in the sense that Durant avoided an Achilles injury, which would have ended his postseason and possibly jeopardized his next season. Instead, the club deemed the injury a right calf strain; Durant is set for an MRI on Thursday to determine the severity of the injury — and how much time he may have to miss.If Durant misses the rest of the series, at least some will compare his absence to that of Chris Paul a little less than a year ago, when the Rockets took a 3-2 lead but lost Paul to a hamstring strain for Games 6 and 7 of the conference finals. (Houston would drop each of those games, along with the series.) Yet losing Durant — the best player in the series, if not the world at this point — could have an even bigger impact, even though the Warriors have played without him before.Consider that Golden State has outscored opponents by 79 points this postseason with Durant on the court and has been outscored by 14 points in the minutes he’s been sidelined. Before leaving Wednesday’s game, he had led the Warriors in scoring for eight consecutive contests. His 34.2 points per game this postseason rank second1Among players who’ve logged at least 10 games in a single postseason. over the past 25 seasons, trailing only LeBron James’s 2009 playoff run, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group.The Warriors’ reliance on Durant as of late left many of us wondering whether Stephen Curry and Golden State could step up and take out a tough opponent without Durant there. Both Curry and teammate Klay Thompson had struggled mightily with their jumpers earlier in the series, but Curry answered the bell, hitting 5 of 9 from the field for 16 points after KD’s injury, a vast improvement from the 9 points on 4-of-14 shooting he logged before Durant went down. (Thompson’s 27 points, after having 27 over the two prior games combined, were also huge — especially his bizarre turnover-turned-layup that sealed the game with four seconds left.)On the other side of this, Houston is going to have a handful of regrets from Game 5 — usually a bellwether when it breaks 2-2 series ties, as 82 percent of Game 5 winners advance — if it fails to get past the Warriors yet again. In many ways, this felt like the Rockets’ chance to pounce.In Game 4, P.J. Tucker terrorized Golden State by dominating the offensive glass. But on Wednesday, Kevon Looney seemed to come up with just about every key rebound, including five offensive boards. Meanwhile, Tucker was whistled for a particularly brutal out-of-bounds call with just under three minutes left in the game, when his heel was on the sideline just before he drained a shot that, had it not been waved off, would have cut Houston’s deficit to 2 points.It didn’t help that, at just 3 of 14, Chris Paul had the worst shooting night of his playoff career.And perhaps most noteworthy and mind-bogglingly: Houston’s James Harden, the reigning MVP and back-to-back league scoring champion, largely took a backseat, with just one shot attempt — a layup with 18 seconds left — over the final seven-plus minutes of action in the loss. The Rockets performed just fine offensively as a club despite that, scoring 18 points over that stretch. But it was still somewhat shocking to see Harden not even touch the ball on a number of fourth-quarter possessions. (He finished the period with just three shot attempts — down from the eight he’d averaged in fourth quarters in the first four games of the series.)With Durant sidelined, Harden was free of the much longer, taller defender who had limited him over the course of the series.2Of the six Warrior defenders who have matched up with Harden at least 20 times on defense, Durant has held Harden to his second-lowest scoring average per 100 possessions (after Andre Iguodala) and forced him into more turnovers than any of his teammates have, while limiting his assist totals more than anyone, according to data from Second Spectrum. So to not see him take advantage, or even really try, was surprising, given that he finished 7 of 7 from inside the arc, and with an efficient 31 points on just 16 shots.Still, much can and probably will change with a day or two of game-planning, especially if Durant is forced to miss time. The things that Harden and the Rockets didn’t attack in the moment during Game 5 could become points of emphasis in Game 6, while the Warriors figure to retool their thin rotation in hopes of mitigating Durant’s absence.There’s plenty we still don’t know yet. But one thing is clear: With Game 5 in hand, the Warriors can at least breathe a sigh of relief for now, knowing their backs won’t be against the wall, on the road without Durant, in Game 6.Check out our latest NBA predictions. read more

Running backs quiet as OSU relies on Pryors arm

Hall scores twice Running back Jordan Hall is used to making plays in the ground game, but Saturday he did his damage through the air, as he caught and threw for a touchdown. “It definitely feels good to get involved in the offense and try to make plays for the team,” he said. Hall scored on his only reception when he caught Bauserman’s pass out of the backfield and found the end zone 17 yards later in the fourth quarter. He threw a 20-yard touchdown to Pryor on a trick play in the third quarter. “I was nervous because I didn’t warm up (my arm) on the sideline,” Hall said. Hall had 63 total yards of offense, more than the 46 yards he totaled in the first three games of the season. Berry finds the end zone Jaamal Berry took a handoff to the right side 67 yards for his first career touchdown with about eight minutes left in the game Saturday. “I just saw the end zone and knew I wasn’t going to stop until I got there,” Berry said. “I’ve been waiting for that.” Tressel said it was a great individual effort by the running back. Berry, who has seen limited game action in his career, said he doesn’t remember the last time he scored a touchdown in a game. Despite putting up 73 points of offense against Eastern Michigan Saturday, concerns remain in the running game. “Their game plan was probably to stop the run since we’re a team that likes to set up the run first,” wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said. Dan Herron managed just 56 yards on the ground on 12 carries, and Brandon Saine had just three carries for 11 yards. “There was an extra safety down about four yards from the line of scrimmage every time we had two backs, and they weren’t going to just let us line up and run the ball,” coach Jim Tressel said. Opponents’ game plan aside, this is not the first time this year that Saine and Herron, the team’s top two tailbacks, have struggled. The pair averaged just 3.6 yards per carry against Ohio University a week ago. Their average for the last two games is only 3.9 yards per carry. Neither back has been able to break off a big gain against the Mid-American Conference opponents. The longest carry of either back Saturday was a 13-yard gain by Herron. Tressel did not seem concerned about the tailbacks in his postgame press conference and said that run blocking was not an issue. Left guard Justin Boren attributed the lack of success on the ground to play calling. “I think if we ran (as much as we passed), we would have been just as successful,” he said. Pryor surpasses the century mark For the second time this season, quarterback Terrelle Pryor went more than 100 yards rushing. He had seven carries for 104 yards and a touchdown on Saturday. Pryor’s 53-yard touchdown run on the first Ohio State drive of the game was a career-long and set the tone for his big day on the ground. “He is such a great athlete,” Boren said. “He is the best athlete on the team.” Pryor leads the team with 311 yards on the ground this season. The backup quarterbacks, Joe Bauserman and Kenny Guiton, added 32 yards and a touchdown on the ground. read more

Mens volleyball Sloppy first set and tough opponent leads to second loss

OSU then-redshirt sophomore middle blocker Matt Dorn (15) prepares to hits the ball during a game against George Mason at St John Arena on Jan. 15. Credit: Lantern file photoFor the first time since 2015, the Ohio State men’s volleyball team lost in an opponent’s home gym. In Tuesday’s showdown between the No. 1 Buckeyes and No. 13 Penn State, it was the Nittany Lions who had the last laugh.In five sets, Penn State topped OSU. After 11 unforced errors by the Buckeyes in the first set, it was a constant uphill battle for the Scarlet and Gray.After closing out the first set 25-21, Penn State was pushed back by OSU, as the Buckeyes leaned on senior setter Christy Blough, who assisted on 14 kills and picked up one of his own. In the end, OSU dominated the set 25-14.However, the Nittany Lions regained all the momentum, stunning the Buckeyes with a 25-15 tally at the end of the third set. OSU battled back and won the fourth with a 25-22, and forcing a fifth set.A short scoring streak at the end of the final frame by Penn State ultimately pushed the Nittany Lions ahead, clinching their 15th win of the season. After 20-straight road wins, Penn State proved to be too much.OSU returns to Columbus for a homestand against McKendree University on March 31 and April 2, with both games set for 7 p.m. read more

Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss adds to speculation show could be over due

first_imgThe Sherlock writer, co-creator and actor, Mark Gatiss, has added to speculation that the phenomenally successful BBC drama may have run its course.He stated that it was a growing challenge to find time when both the main stars, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, can film together.”I honestly don’t know if there will be any more. It’s incredibly difficult to get Benedict and Martin’s diaries to align,” Gatiss said at the WhatsOnStage awards, according to The Sun.”And obviously we left it in a very happy place… If that’s the end I’d be very happy where we left it.” Holmes Holmes cast The fourth series ended on Jan 15 with a particularly dark episode featuring Sherlock’s long-lost sister. It left fans around the world wondering whether the team would return for a fifth series.Gatiss also revealed the final day of filming had ended with a “whimper”. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Cumberbatch said: “I’m honoured to hear that my portrayal of Sherlock has been internationally recognised as viewers’ favourite BBC TV character.”Who would have thought a high-functioning sociopath could be so popular with people all over the world?”The contemporary reimagining of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock, co-starring Freeman as Dr Watson, has been sold by the BBC to 240 territories internationally.The series, created by Gatiss and Steven Moffat, has received numerous accolades since its debut on the BBC in 2010. Best man Cumberbatch has said of whether the hit show would return: “We never say never on the show. I’d love to revisit it… but in the immediate future we all have things that we want to crack on with and we’ve made something very complete as it is.”Last week, Cumberbatch’s Sherlock was named the world’s favourite BBC TV character.Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fabled spy beat competition from acclaimed British television figures, including Basil Fawlty, the Doctor in Doctor Who and Hyacinth Bucket, to take the accolade.BBC Worldwide surveyed more than 7,000 18 to 64-year-olds from seven countries including Australia, France, the US and Japan in the public vote, with almost 30% backing Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. In second place was the Doctor, while Idris Elba’s murder detective DCI John Luther came in third.Cumberbatch also took the crown for most memorable scene as Sherlock for his apparent fall to death at the end of the show’s second series.It was named most iconic BBC moment with 26 per cent of the vote, ahead of Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch in second.Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy emerging topless from the lake in Pride And Prejudice also made the top 10 in fifth while David Brent’s improvised dance at a comic relief party in The Office came in eighth. Detective Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves), Mary Watson (Amanda Abbington), Dr John Watson (Martin Freeman), Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs), Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss), Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), and Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) in the new seriesCredit:Todd Antony/Hartswood Films Holmes as best man to Watson and MaryCredit:BBC/Hartswood films “The last day tends to be an odd day—it’s never quite as you imagine it. But we did actually try and contrive it so the very last shot was Benedict and Martin running out of the building,” he said.“Then we realised that we had to do one last shot the next day of Martin falling over — so that’s how it ended. As usual these things end with a whimper.” Abbington, Cumberbatch and Freeman return for a fourth – and possibly final – series of the hit showCredit:BBC/Hartswood Films Cumberbatch as Holmes, with trusty bloodhound DexterCredit:Robert Vigalsky/Hartswood Films Cumberbatch as Holmeslast_img read more