SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And it's time for sports.
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SIMON: The U.S. Open continues, the Stanley Cup playoffs rise to an icy crescendo - I worked on that phrase - and remembering a great pitcher.
ESPN's Howard Bryant joins us now. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.
HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: The U.S. Open - tennis is a socially distanced sport. Right? People are across the net. But still, a lot of big names are not there. But, again, Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens play today.
BRYANT: Yeah, a big match there today - and this has been one of the big questions about the - about especially this tournament considering that six of the top 10 women aren't here. Most of the - a lot of the European players didn't want to come to the United States for this tournament. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer aren't at this tournament, although Federer is injured anyway.
But you still have a tournament, and this has been the question that we've seen across sports when it comes to the bubble in the coronavirus pandemic sports world. Is it still a legitimate championship? At the end of the day, someone's going to be handed a championship. Someone's going to hold that trophy. Third-round match today between Sloane Stephens and Serena Williams - big match-up there.
You still have - on the women's side you've got four former champions that are still alive - Sloane Stephens, Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka. So you still have big names in the tournament. On the men's side, a little less drama simply because Novak Djokovic is the best player in the world and the other two big dogs aren't there. But it's still - Dominic Thiem is still there, the No. 2 seed. So it'll be - it's a good tournament. A little less - a little less luster this year but it's still big-time tennis.
SIMON: Howard, let's turn to the NHL playoffs. Two Game 7s yesterday - the Stars defeated the Avs, 5-4; the Vegas Golden Knights vanquished Vancouver, 3-0 - today the Islanders versus the Flyers. Who looks good to you right now?
BRYANT: Well, I think that - the team that I really like watching, of course, is already in the playoff - is already in the final four, which is the Tampa Bay Lightning. But of these three, it's all been great. I think that - you know, whenever you have a Game 7, it's a big deal. I love Dallas - Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Khudobin - great goaltender. And - but Vegas, you know, they're the top seed in the West. And the fact that Vancouver pushed them to seven was a big deal. I love Bo Horvat. That team's got a great future - a young, fast team in Vancouver. They've got a lot going for them. But I think if I had to make the prediction, I think that - I'd like to see Dallas come out of it, but I think that Vegas is the best team in the West.
And then, of course, tonight anything goes between Philadelphia and the Islanders. Philadelphia was down 3-1. They're trying to complete the quest. They are the top seed in the East, but I still like the Islanders in this one.
SIMON: Finally, Howard, Tom Saever - you know, he cut the heart out of the Chicago Cubs and made us love it. This was a - one great ball player. He died this week at the age of 75.
BRYANT: Yeah. There are a few generational players where they just - their talent, vitality, youth really do speak for an entire generation - phenomenal 300-game winner. And on top of that, when he was diagnosed with COVID and dementia, it was very, very clear that the time was coming. And the sadness was really reflected. Tom Seaver was one of the very best to ever do it.
SIMON: ESPN's Howard Bryant. Thanks so much for being with us, my friend.
BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.