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The Toronto Blue Jays took three of four against the Baltimore Orioles with a 5-2 victory on Sunday afternoon, giving them and seven wins in the past eight outings.
The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.]]>
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin says during his time with the Blackhawks he was “not aware” of sexual assault allegations made during the 2010 playoffs by an unidentified former player in the organization against a then-assistant coach.
The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.]]>
Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin says during his time with the Chicago Blackhawks he was “not aware” of sexual assault allegations made during the 2010 playoffs by an unidentified former player in the organization against a then-assistant coach.
“It came out recently. There was a meeting that I’ve heard was done in Chicago. I was not part of any meeting and I was not part of any decision based on that. I was not aware of what was going on at the time. You can go on the record with that,” Bergevin told reporters Sunday during the Stanley Cup Final media day.
Bergevin, who was serving as director of pro personnel at the time, was referring to a reported meeting between then-skills coach Paul Vincent and team executives, including team president John McDonough and general manager Stan Bowman, during which Vincent says he told management to report the allegations to Chicago police but that his request was rejected.
The former Blackhawks player has filed a lawsuit against the organization and ex-assistant coach Bradley Aldrich, who after leaving the team was convicted in 2013 in Michigan of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a student and is now on that state’s registry of sex offenders.
The former’s player’s attorney, Susan Loggans, says inaction by the Blackhawks allowed Aldrich to go on and assault the Michigan student, and possibly others.
The lawsuit, filed on May 7 in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges Aldrich also assaulted another unidentified Blackhawks player. The former player who sued and is seeking more than $150,000 in damages is referred in the document as “John Doe.”
According to TSN, two Blackhawks players told Vincent in May 2010 of inappropriate behaviour by Aldrich.
The eight-page lawsuit says Aldrich, then a video coach, “turned on porn and began to masturbate in front of” the player without his consent. It says Aldrich also threatened to “physically, financially and emotionally” hurt the player if he “did not engage in sexual activity” with him.
Chicago public radio station WBEZ obtained police records for its latest report this week that indicated Aldrich faced other allegations of unwanted sexual contact, including when he worked at Miami University after leaving the Blackhawks.
An attorney for Aldrich told WBEZ that his client denies the allegations in the lawsuit. In a May statement to the radio station, the Blackhawks said the allegations directed at it were groundless.
According to the lawsuit, the former player reported the allegation at the time to the team’s then-mental skills coach, James F. Gary. It says Gary “convinced plaintiff that the sexual assault was his fault.”
Gary, who has since retired, told WBEZ he didn’t know “anything about this.” Vincent told TSN he had asked Gary to follow up, a request that preceded his meeting with team executives.
The former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting filed a separate lawsuit against the Blackhawks on May 26, saying the Blackhawks provided positive references to future employers of Aldrich despite allegations from at least one player and took no action to report the matter.
That suit says the student was a hockey player at Houghton High School near Hancock in 2013 when Aldrich sexually assaulted him at an end-of-season gathering.
Loggans also represents the student, referred to a “John Doe 2” in the lawsuit. She confirmed to WBEZ that he was the student Aldrich was convicted of assaulting.
“Had the Blackhawks accurately reported what had occurred with John Doe 1, then Aldrich would never have been allowed to be in a position where he could molest other people,” Loggans said.
Houghton police records obtained by WBEZ said Aldrich resigned as director of hockey operations at Miami University of Ohio in 2012 “under suspicion of unwanted touching of a male adult.” The school said it has launched an internal investigation.
The records cited repeated allegations from Aldrich’s time as an assistant high school hockey coach in Houghton. The precise timing of his departure from the Blackhawks is unclear.
The police records say investigators reached out to the Blackhawks about Aldrich but its front office would confirm only that he was once an employee.
A lawyer for Aldrich responded to the WBEZ report by noting that his conviction was a matter of public record and added that “any publication of untrue material by WBEZ will be treated as libelous.”
With files from The Associated Press]]>
Euro 2020 round of 16 action continues Sunday as Belgium faces Portugal looking to shut down Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. Follow all the action using our Live Tracker.
The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.]]>
Euro 2020 round of 16 action continues Sunday as Belgium faces Portugal looking to shut down Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. Follow all the action using our Live Tracker. ]]>
Marc Bergevin has seen Carey Price and Shea Weber give their heart and soul to the Montreal Canadiens over the years, and has finally fulfilled their appeals to put together a team that could reward their efforts
BROSSARD, Que.— They are the first players who come to mind when you think about these Montreal Canadiens, two players at the foundation of their success and two players entering the Stanley Cup Final on a mission to have their names removed from the list of all-time greats to have never hoisted hockey’s silver chalice.
Not to say this means more to Shea Weber and Carey Price than it does to anyone else in a Canadiens uniform, but it unquestionably means everything to them. They are Canadian legends, world champions at every level who have combined to play 1745 regular season games and 179 more in the Cup Playoffs without ever getting this far And now, on the back nine of their respective careers, they both realize they might never get a better chance than the one that’s currently in front of them.
Their teammates know it, too.
“It’s pretty crazy, just getting to be with them every day and see what they do on a day-to-day basis and how well they take care of themselves and how much this moment means to them because they’ve been playing for it their whole lives,” said Cole Caufield, who’s just three months into his NHL career and already on the precipice of accomplishing the dream Weber and Price have pursued at this level since he was in grade school.
“Just to be able to share this with them, it’s been a lot of fun, but you see how serious this is,” Caufield added. “I saw that right away when I first stepped in the room.
“This is for them at this point.”
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin built this team for Weber and Price. He may have been more inclined to spend over $100 million to improve the roster over the off-season based on what he saw in young centres Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi in last year’s bubble playoffs, but he said seeing both his captain and his star goaltender also perform at the height of their abilities crystalized his vision for what the Canadiens could become as early as this year.
The GM has always felt this way about Weber and Price. When Bergevin traded P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators in 2016, he said what he was acquiring in Weber was “a diamond in the rough.” When he signed Price to an eight-year, $84-million contract in July of 2017, he said, “Goalies are not important until you don’t have one…It’s a position that’s really hard to find, and we have, in my opinion, our opinion, one of the best in the business, so I’m going to keep him and make sure he’s here for the rest of his career.”
Bergevin has seen both players give heart and soul to the Canadiens over the years, he heard their appeals to put together a team that could reward their efforts, and he spoke on Sunday about what it means to him to have finally provided.
“Well, those two gentlemen,” Bergevin started, “Pricey and Webby, it is special because they are the oldest of our players as far as of the backbone of this team. They’ve been through a lot, these two. Pricer as a goaltender in Montreal, as we know, it’s demanding, there’s a lot of expectation. Yeah, we do have a special relationship…Also, Webby, he came here as part of a trade where PK was traded… And I know there’s a lot of people that were guessing or second-guessing this transaction. And again, to get something that special you have to give up a good player. So I’m not taking anything away from PK, but to get Shea Weber here in Montreal, and what he brings on and off the ice—for me, it’s special and we’re four wins away from winning a championship (and that would) be ultra-special. So that’s where this relationship is.”
It’s one of mutual respect, with both Weber and Price grateful to Bergevin trading for Suzuki and Tomas Tatar and drafting Kotkaniemi and Caufield in the years leading up to last summer’s decisions to bring in Jake Allen, Joel Edmundson, Tyler Toffoli, Josh Anderson, Corey Perry and Michael Frolik.
“Obviously, he did a lot of good things,” said Weber. “Filled some holes for us this off-season, and it’s paying off right now.”
Moves for Eric Staal, Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson ahead of this year’s trade deadline have also paid dividends but were heavily scrutinized prior to the playoffs beginning.
It’s all part of the ups and downs Bergevin has experienced over the past few months, and just a small sample of the turbulence he’s weathered in nine seasons on the job.
Price has been through it all—and then some—since being drafted fifth overall by the Canadiens in 2005. He was an instant success as MVP of the Calder Cup Playoffs in the Hamilton Bulldogs’ run to an AHL championship in 2007, elevated to a starting role with Montreal a season later, bumped down to backup during the team’s run to the 2010 Eastern Conference Final and bumped out of the 2014 ECF when New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider crashed into him and injured his knee.
He experienced the highs of lifting the Hart, Lindsay, Vezina and Jennings Trophies in 2015 and has suffered many lows since, with the Canadiens failing to score the goals to support his best playoff performances and with him failing to prevent enough pucks from getting by him in failed regular seasons.
This past year, Price’s struggles played a hand in Claude Julien and Kirk Muller being replaced by Dominique Ducharme and Alex Burrows, and they were at the heart of Sean Burke taking over from Stephane Waite as goaltending coach.
But Bergevin reaffirmed his belief in Price upon making those decisions and has since taken a front-row seat to watching him answer his critics with a Conn Smythe-worthy performance to get to this point of the playoffs.
The two enjoyed something special after the Canadiens beat the Vegas Golden Knights to advance to the Final, an embrace that stands as one of the resonating images from an unforgettable night.
“We’ve gone through a lot together here in his tenure and gone through a lot of great times, a lot of hard times, and I was just happy to share a joyful moment with him,” the 33-year-old Price said. “He’s really earned it.”
For Bergevin, no player has earned this opportunity more than Price.
“I guess the expression we could use is he’s a big-game player,” the GM said. “He rises to the occasion. He does extremely well under pressure. In big moments, like the Olympics, he was outstanding. I was part of the management group at the World Cup, he was outstanding. When the game is on the line…I think they had a poll at some point in the past, if you need a big game to win, who you want to be your goaltender? It’s Carey Price. I think what you see now, it’s how he’s been.”
Lightning general manager Julien Brisebois, who was a member of the Canadiens brass when Price was drafted, said, “He’s got a Hall of Fame career if he retires right now.”
The same could be said of Weber.
What the Sicamous, B.C. native has been throughout these playoffs has fit perfectly with the legacy he’s built as one of the toughest and best defencemen in the world since he was drafted in 2003. He came into them with a busted left thumb and hurt his right one early in the Vegas series, but he’s soldiered on and played more an average than any player still remaining.
As partner Ben Chiarot said, Weber’s been an inspiration to everyone in Montreal’s room and has epitomized the workmanlike approach that has guided this Canadiens run.
“I think the thing with Webby is once we hit the ice it’s all business. There’s no messing around,” said Chiarot. “He wants everything done exactly the way the coaches said it’s (to be) done. And I think that’s a big reason why he’s been so successful as a player—his attention to details, his seriousness once we hit the ice. And off the ice, he’s got a relationship with everybody in the room. The young guys—he’s dad to the young guys, and he’s buddies with all the older guys. He connects with everybody, and I think that’s why he’s considered one of the best captains in the league.”
A Cup would cement Weber’s status as one of the best ones ever.
It would also propel Price further up the hierarchy of the greatest goaltenders in league history.
“It’s been something we’ve been working towards our whole lives,” Price said, “and finally getting the opportunity, we’re just looking forward to it.”]]>
Seattle Mariners left-hander Hector Santiago has become the first pitcher ejected since MLB began its crackdown on illegal foreign substances Monday.
Seattle Mariners left-hander Hector Santiago has become the first pitcher ejected since MLB began its crackdown on illegal foreign substances Monday.
Santiago was tossed during the Mariners’ game vs. the Chicago White Sox on Sunday after umpires appeared to find something on his glove during a between-innings check. An MLB authenticator was later seen placing the glove in a bag.
It is unclear what penalty Santiago will face beyond the ejection, but MLB said it would suspend pitchers caught using illegal foreign substances to doctor baseballs 10 games.
The 33-year-old reliever checked out with 2.1 innings pitched, four strikeouts, two walks, three hits and one earned run.
Santiago came into the game with a 2.45 ERA across 14.2 innings.]]>
Five Toronto Blue Jays players are among the finalists for the 2021 All-Star Game voting ballot, including home run leader Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Five Toronto Blue Jays players are among the finalists for the 2021 All-Star Game voting ballot, with home run leader Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leading the way.
After Phase 1 results, Guerrero Jr. remains atop the MLB ballot with 2,704,788 total votes, joining José Bautista (2011, 2014) and Josh Donaldson (2015) as the lone Blue Jays to finish atop the majors in all-Star balloting. Marcus Semien leads all second basemen with 1,810,230 votes.
Guerrero Jr. leads MLB with 26 home runs and 64 RBI this season while slashing .341/.444/.685. Semien tops all second basemen with 18 home runs and is second with 45 RBI wit a .278/.344/.520 line in his first season with Toronto.
The second phase of voting, which begins June 28 and lasts until July 1, will determine the starters for the game.
This year’s All-Star Game takes place July 13 at Coors Field in Colorado.]]>
Montreal Canadiens forward Joel Armia is in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol and won’t be on the team’s flight Sunday to Tampa Bay for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Montreal Canadiens forward Joel Armia is in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol and won’t be on the team’s flight Sunday to Tampa Bay for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, according to general manager Marc Bergevin.
Armia did not participate in the team’s practice Sunday. He previously had COVID-19 in late March.
The 28-year-old right winger has eight points in 17 post-season games, after putting up 14 points in 41 regular-season contests.
The Stanley Cup Final between the Canadiens and Lightning kicks off Monday with Game 1 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and SN Now.]]>
Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov is denying that he suffered an injury in Game 6 of the team’s Stanley Cup semifinal series against the New York Islanders.
Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov is denying that he suffered an injury in Game 6 of the team’s Stanley Cup semifinal series against the New York Islanders.
Kucherov, the leading scorer in the playoffs, missed the majority of Wednesday’s Game 6 with an undisclosed injury, but returned for Game 7 to help the Lightning clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens.
When asked by reporters how he felt returning to Game 7 and if he had any lingering effects from the injury, Kucherov downplayed the incident.
“There was no injury, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, per Sportsnet‘s Chris Johnston.
The 2019 Hart Trophy winner missed the entire regular season after having off-season hip surgery. Since returning in Game 1 of the opening round against the Florida Panthers, he has looked like his old self, scoring five goals and 27 points in 18 games.
Game 1 between the Lightning and Montreal starts Monday in Tampa with coverage beginning at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT on Sportsnet.]]>
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the event to cancel its proceedings last season, however Wimbledon is now set to return for its 134th edition. Sportsnet’s Ben Lewis previews the action that lies ahead at the most prestigious event in tennis.
It has been two long years since we have seen tennis played on the beautifully manicured grass courts of the All England Club. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the event to cancel its proceedings last season, however the Wimbledon Championships are now set to return for its 134th edition.
Djokovic closing in on more history
It’s been another historic and dominant season from world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who continues to shatter records, narrow the Grand Slam race and stake ]]>
At Wimbledon, Djokovic has the opportunity to win his 20th major title and pull into a three-way tie with his greatest rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slams in men’s tennis history.
He will be the overwhelming favourite. Djokovic is coming off an unbelievable run at Roland Garros, where he dethroned Nadal on his favourite surface in the semis before rallying from down two sets to love to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas for the title.
He will be chasing a sixth crown at Wimbledon and has won the last two installments in 2018 and 2019.
If Djokovic delivers, talk will certainly heat up of a quest for the rare “golden slam” – winning all four majors in a calendar season and earning Olympic gold. Djokovic intends to play the Tokyo Olympics later in July.
One final shot for Roger?
Though 39-year-old Federer has shown no inclination of an impending retirement, it’s simply incredibly difficult to compete at the highest levels of sport into your 40s. Federer does, however, have a particular gift for making the incredibly difficult seem easy.
Fans of the Swiss maestro might perhaps be reliving nightmares from his Wimbledon Championship two season ago as he returns to the tournament.
Federer held two championship points on that occasion, leading Djokovic 6-7, 6-1, 6-7, 6-4, 8-7 and 40-15. He also won 14 more points than Djokovic in the match and had higher efficiency on both his first and second serves. Novak’s mental fortitude, however, proved too much.
The weight and expectations this time around are more diminished, as Federer was sidelined for nearly 15 months after undergoing two separate surgeries to his knee.
He still managed a run to the round of 16 at the French Open before listening to his body and pulling out of the tournament.
Federer is the greatest grass court player in the history of the game, with a record nine singles titles on the surface. It would be irresponsible to discount his chances at a run here.
What we simply don’t know is how many more of these opportunities he will have.
Can the Canadian men make noise?
Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Vasek Pospisil will lead the men’s Canadian charge and all have shown promising form on grass.
After missing Roland Garros due to a nagging shoulder injury, Shapovalov returned promptly on the grass courts with two solid tournaments.
He made quarterfinals in Stuttgart, and advanced to the semifinals of Queen’s Club, earning notable wins over veteran Feliciano Lopez and the dynamic young American Frances Tiafoe.
Shapovalov is a former junior champion at Wimbledon and will open his tournament Monday against Philippe Kohlschreiber.
World No. 19 Auger-Aliassime did well to shake off the disappointment of the clay-court season as he adapted wonderfully to the surface change.
He reached his eighth career ATP final in Stuttgart two weeks ago, then produced a signature upset of Federer at the Halle Open.
On his best days, Auger-Aliassime possesses an all-court game that can dismantle the best of the tour.
Veteran Pospisil has played limited tennis in 2021, missing the clay-court campaign and dedicating much of his time and energy toward the newly formed Professional Tennis Players Association.
He did compete in two grass-court warmup events, reaching the quarterfinals of the Eastbourne International.
Wimbledon is arguably Pospisil’s best event; he made the quarterfinals in singles in 2015 and won his lone grand slam title in doubles here in 2014.
Bibi and Leylah draw tough assignments
The good news for Bianca Andreescu heading into 2021 Wimbledon: she’s healthy.
The bad? She has a very challenging opening round.
Andreescu went 1-2 on grass ahead of the Wimbledon Championships, with one of those losses coming against French veteran Alize Cornet.
Sure enough, the two are set for a rematch in the first round of play Tuesday.
Andreescu reached the finals of the Miami Open back in March of this year, but since then has had some trouble stringing together consecutive wins.
Her clay-court season was disrupted by a positive COVID-19 test and she bowed out in the first round of Roland Garros to eventual semifinalist Tamara Zidansek.
Bibi though has the makings of a streak shooter in basketball – once she seizes a couple of wins, she gets rolling.
18-year-old Fernandez will compete for the first time at the All England Club and has a tall order in her first-round match.
She meets 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko to begin her tournament.
Ostapenko is one of the more erratic talents on the tour, who is often fluctuating between brilliant peaks and hideous valleys on court.
She enters here at a peak. She captured the Eastbourne International last week, her first WTA singles title since 2019.
Two Canadian women will also compete in doubles.
2019 finalist Gabriela Dabrowski is partnered with Caroline Garcia of France.
Toronto’s Sharon Fichman is set to play alongside Giuliana Olmos of Mexico.
Veteran experience in the women’s field with a shot?
While plenty of youth are making their mark on the WTA, there are several veteran women’s players who should like their chances of adding another Grand Slam trophy to their cabinet this fortnight at Wimbledon.
All eyes will be directed on Serena Williams as she again resumes her quest for an elusive 24th major, one that would bring her into a tie with Margaret Court for the most all time.
Williams has been especially close to tying the record at the All England Club. She was runner-up in 2018 and 2019 and is a seven-time champion at the major.
Ahead of the tournament, she revealed she will not be competing at the Tokyo Olympics, so it is overwhelmingly clear Serena is going all in for a potential run here.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) June 25, 2021
Angelique Kerber produced a spectacular run at the All England Club in 2018, capturing her third major. She had struggled with consistency since that victory, but enters this major fresh off a grass court title on home soil at the Bad Homburg Open in Germany.
A potential third-round clash with Williams could await.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova is always a dangerous grass-court presence; her booming lefty serve and punishing ground strokes can disrupt many opponents’ rhythm from the baseline quickly.
The 31-year-old Czech has not won a major since her Wimbledon crown in 2014, but is 19-9 this season with a title in Doha.
Garbine Muguruza of Spain was a 2017 champion at Wimbledon, and had been playing some of the best tennis on tour in the early months of this season, with a title in Dubai and two runner-up finishes in Doha and Melbourne.
Her penchant for grass makes her a top threat, though she did have an injury setback just a few weeks ago at Roland Garros.
Men’s Next Gen ready to challenge
While the next generation of top men’s tennis players have continually made strides the last few seasons on the ATP circuit, none have produced a significant run at Wimbledon.
Beyond the Big Three of the game, the All England Club has largely been ruled by the previous generation, with consistent deep runs from veterans like Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori, Kevin Anderson, Sam Querrey, and Grigor Dimitrov.
Perhaps it is time youth cracks the code on grass.
World number four Stefanos Tsitsipas is now a grand slam finalist, after his exceptional play at the French Open. He also has seven singles titles including a Masters 1000 at Monte-Carlo and an end of year championship at the ATP Finals in 2019.
He has not however, been past the round of 16 at the All England Club. Tsitsipas looks to be a complete, all-surface player; he is tremendously athletic, his groundstrokes are both measured and penetrative, and his serve is precise.
Germany’s Sascha Zverev possesses a big power game that lends to success on fast surfaces and he has drawn a friendly opening matchup against a qualifier.
World number two Daniil Medvedev now looks acclimated to the surface, having won his first career title on grass last week at the Mallorca Open. He has two grand slam finals appearances to his name, at the 2021 Australian Open and the US Open in 2019.
Russian Andrey Rublev is the fifth seed here at the Wimbledon Championships and will also be keen to mend his game after an early round exit at the French Open.
He made the finals of the Halle Open in his lead-up event. He is in Novak Djokovic’s quarter.
Must-watch first rounders
Sprinkled across the draw are some enticing first round matchups on both the men’s and women’s field.
Here are some must watch showdowns:
Ugo Humbert vs. Nick Kyrgios
Ugo Humbert of France won the biggest title of his career at the Halle Open just over a week ago, and the left-hander has compact, quick-strike groundstrokes which play perfectly into the grass court surface.
One-of-a-kind talent Nick Kyrgios is a former Wimbledon quarterfinalist, has one of the most powerful serves on tour, and, when invested, turns the entertainment and trickery dial up to 11 in front of a packed crowd.
Daniil Medvedev vs. Jan-Lennard Struff
Daniil Medvedev should fancy himself a contender at Wimbledon, but he will have to navigate a difficult first round draw.
Medvedev gears up for a rematch with big-serving German, Jan-Lennard Struff.
Struff produced a 7-6, 6-3 upset of the world number two in Halle and is a big match player who is often lurking in draws, seeking to spur an upset.
Andy Murray vs. Nikoloz Basilashvili
It is hard not to be inspired by British tennis legend Sir Andy Murray.
The two-time Wimbledon champion and former world No. 1 returns to the All England Club to compete in singles for the first time since 2017 and his crowd support should be enormous.
Murray has withstood so much physically the past few seasons and now, unbelievably, competes with a metal hip.
He gets a challenging opening-round assignment against 24th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.
The Georgian has had a resurgent 2021 with titles at the Bavarian International in Munich and the Qatar Total Open from Doha.
Iga Swiatek vs. Hsieh Su-Wei
This is an intriguing matchup of differing styles.
2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek is one of the top young talents on the WTA, and the 20-year-old is rapidly improving on every surface.
She has not yet won a match at Wimbledon.
Her opponent is 35-year-old Hseih Su-Wei of Taiwan, one of the most unorthodox players in the game.
She is remarkably tricky on grass with her short-angle drop shots, skillful volleys and flat groundstrokes, and has two Grand Slam titles at the All England Club in doubles.
Get the popcorn ready.
Petra Kvitova vs. Sloane Stephens
Petra Kvitova will be the favourite in this first-round encounter, but she’d likely prefer to face someone other than a Grand Slam champion.
2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens looks to be rediscovering her game after a tumultuous couple of seasons on tour. She reached the round of 16 at the French Open with a pair of upsets over Karolina Pliskova and Karolina Muchova.
She made the quarters of Wimbledon back in 2015.]]>
Tomas Holes and Patrik Schick scored second-half goals Sunday to give the Czech Republic a 2-0 victory over 10-man Netherlands and a place in the European Championship quarterfinals.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Tomas Holes and Patrik Schick scored second-half goals Sunday to give the Czech Republic a 2-0 victory over 10-man Netherlands and a place in the European Championship quarterfinals.
Netherlands central defender Matthijs de Ligt was sent off for a handball in the 55th minute when under pressure from Schick. The red card was given following a video review.
Holes then put the Czechs ahead in the 68th minute with a powerful close-range header. He sprinted into the left of the penalty area and squared the ball to give Schick his fourth goal of the tournament in the 80th.
Only Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo has more goals at Euro 2020 with five.
The Czechs will next face Denmark in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The Czechs reached the last eight of a major tournament for the first time since Euro 2012, when they lost to Portugal. Ronaldo scored the winner that day. They have not qualified for past three World Cups and finished last in their group at Euro 2016.]]>
Some intriguing decisions have been made, and may yet be made, before Canada’s roster for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament is finalized Monday afternoon.
VICTORIA, B.C. – The countdown clock is winding down, the ball will be going up soon enough.
The Canadian senior men’s team has been in Victoria, B.C. in advance of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament since Thursday, getting acclimatized to the time change and life in yet another bubble.
Fourteen players made the trip and, although there aren’t any big surprises from the 19 head coach Nick Nurse had with him in Tampa, some intriguing decisions have been made, and may yet be made, before the roster is finalized Monday afternoon.
Here are the 14 @CanBball athletes in Victoria for Olympic Qualifying Tournament, we have gleaned. The 12-man roster to be finalized Monday; play begins Tuesday. Melvin Ejim out for personal reasons, otherwise no big surprises vs. the 19 that were in Tampa: pic.twitter.com/Dr2sCuGH3E
— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) June 27, 2021
Those who didn’t make the trip to Victoria predictably included youngsters Charles Bediako (Alabama) and Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona), who are expected to join what projects to be a very strong under-19 entry at the world championships next month, while European pro Isiaha Mike was a long-shot given the NBA depth Nurse and general manager Rowan Barrett had on hand.
Due to the lack of overall depth among the bigs, it was somewhat unexpected that long-time national team stalwart Owen Klassen didn’t travel to Victoria. Meanwhile, Melvin Ejim – perhaps the player with the most appearances for Canada in the past six or seven years – had to bow out due to personal reasons, which had to be a difficult decision given his loyalty to the program over the years.
The remaining 14 will yield the deepest national team Canada has ever fielded, with potentially eight current NBA players and two more – former first-rounder Andrew Nicholson and 2013 first-overall pick Anthony Bennett – with recent NBA experience.
It’s telling that seven-foot-four Purdue freshman Zach Edey travelled to Victoria and it will be more so if he makes the final roster. With NBAers Khem Birch, Tristan Thompson and Kelly Olynyk not available, Canada is a bit thin up front. Even with Dwight Powell and Nicholson on hand, the roster lacks the one true big that could match up with some of the more traditional bigs that China and Turkey can put on the floor. At just 19, Edey is listed at 285 pounds and averaged 8.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on 59.7 per cent shooting in just 14 minutes a game last season.
Since FIBA doesn’t have a defensive three-second rule as in the NBA, having a true big to plant in the paint is still considered useful, if even situationally.
“Zach, as you know, he’s big. He’s big and he’s got some hands, man,” was Nurse’s assessment of the Toronto native early in training camp. “You throw it up to him and he goes and catches it down there. I think it’s a great learning experience for him and it’ll be interesting, again, to see how he progresses.”
If Edey – who is still eligible for Canada’s U19 team – is on the final roster, it could mean that Bennett, coming off a knee injury, or long-time national team veteran Aaron Doornekamp, who has been playing in Spain’s top league, won’t be. Both slot as big wings who could play some small-ball five.
The other interesting choices will be likely be between point guards Andrew Nembhard, who played for Canada at the 2019 World Cup and starred at Gonzaga during their Final Four run this past spring, and Trae Bell-Haynes, a late bloomer who had a career year in Germany and helped Canada during a number of qualifying windows.
Canada practised twice Sunday and had team and individual pictures done for FIBA. Its first media availability will be Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. local time.
Canada opens the six-team tournament against Greece on Tuesday and plays China on Wednesday. Turkey, Czech Republic and Uruguay are in the other pool. Four teams advance to the semifinals on Saturday and the winners play in the final Sunday. The last team standing advances to the 12-team Olympic tournament in Tokyo July 23-Aug. 8. The last time the men’s team qualified for the Olympics was in 2000 in Sydney.]]>
Cleveland Indians right fielder Josh Naylor was carted off the field on a stretcher after colliding with rookie second baseman Ernie Clement during Sunday’s game in Minnesota.
MINNEAPOLIS — Cleveland Indians right fielder Josh Naylor was carted off the field on a stretcher after colliding with rookie second baseman Ernie Clement during Sunday’s game in Minnesota.
Naylor and Clement converged in shallow right on a popup by Jorge Polanco in the fourth inning. Naylor went sailing in the air after the collision and his right foot got caught underneath him, twisting his foot the wrong way.
Naylor immediately called for medical attention and appeared to be in serious pain while writhing on the ground.
After being attended to for several minutes, Naylor was put in an air cast and left on a cart.
The ball glanced off Clement’s glove for a single. Clement was playing his seventh game in the majors.
Naylor, 24, has hit .253 with seven home runs and 21 RBIs in his first full season with Cleveland after being acquired in a trade from the San Diego Padres. He was replaced in the outfield by Bradley Zimmer.
Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman address the sexual assault allegation within the Chicago Blackhawks organization in 2010, preview the Stanley Cup Final and wonder where the New York Islanders go from here.
Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman address the sexual assault allegation within the Chicago Blackhawks organization in 2010, preview the Stanley Cup Final and wonder where the New York Islanders go from here. ]]>
The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca. ]]>
From a long list of trades to some smart signings and a strong young group of draftees, here’s a look at how Marc Bergevin built Montreal’s Cup-contending roster over the years.
Marc Bergevin always keeps things interesting.
It feels like every year, there are both musings about his job security and marvelling about his ability to pull off bold trades (and even bolder suits). This year alone, the Montreal Canadiens general manager went from the hot seat to being a GM of the year finalist.
After years of constantly adjusting his roster and toeing the line between rebuilding and contending, Bergevin has finally found the formula for a Stanley Cup run.
All but two players — franchise cornerstones Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher — were initially brought in by Bergevin, and the majority originally landed in Montreal via trades.
Here’s a look at how this 2020-21 Montreal Canadiens roster came together.
Here’s where Bergevin does most of his work. Never afraid of making a splash on the trade market, Bergevin has made a career out of bold transactions — particularly when it comes to our favourite kind: the good old player-for-player hockey trade. This year, Bergevin’s deadline deals saw him take advantage of his ample draft capital. What’s more impressive is that he’s still got all of his first- and second-round picks for the next three years.
Between this past off-season and April’s trade deadline, Bergevin added six players via trades for the 2020-21 campaign.
The 2020 trade-and-signs:
2020 | Josh Anderson, RW
via Columbus, in exchange for Max Domi
Both Anderson and Domi were RFAs in need of new contracts and fresh starts. Bergevin wasted no time locking up Anderson with a seven-year, $38.5-million contract upon his arrival.
2020 | Joel Edmundson, D
via Carolina, in exchange for 2020 fifth-round pick
By trading for the pending UFA, Bergevin bought himself some crucial negotiation time with the top-four d-man, who won the Stanley Cup with St. Louis in 2018.
2020 Jake Allen, G
via St. Louis, in exchange for a 2020 third-round pick + seventh-round pick
Ever since Price took the starting role for the Canadiens, there’s never been a question about who owns the crease. But No. 2 has been a different story, especially in recent years as the Habs struggled to find a suitable, steady backup. Bringing in Allen, and investing a little more in net by handing him a two-year, $5.75-million extension, was crucial in keeping Montreal afloat during Price’s injury absence and helped ease the workload, too. Clearly, that’s paid off as Price has been unbeatable this post-season.
Another note from this trade: The third-rounder sent to the Blues was the one acquired from Washington in the Kovalchuk trade at the 2019-20 deadline.
Low-risk deadline deals:
March 2020 | Eric Staal, C
via Buffalo, in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick + 2021 fifth-round pick
Sending a pair of picks to Buffalo in exchange for a veteran leader who knows how to win was Bergevin’s way of telling the rest of the North that he wasn’t waiting for deadline day to make his move. Staal brings a dependable two-way game and some much-need depth down the middle in a bottom-six role that’s proven clutch through this post-season.
April 2020 | Erik Gustafsson, D
via Philadelphia, in exchange for 2022 seventh-round pick
There’s no single recipe for playoff success, but… bulking up your blue line feels like the closest thing.
April 2020: Jon Merrill, D
via Detroit, in exchange for Haden Verbeek + 2021 fifth-round pick
In Gustafsson and Merrill, Bergevin was able to buy some much-needed veteran depth.
Previous trades throughout Bergevin’s tenure:
2018 | Nick Suzuki, C + Tomas Tatar, LW/RW
via Vegas, in exchange for Max Pacioretty; Montreal also received a 2019 second-round pick
The Canadiens ended an era when they dealt their captain to Vegas, and also put to rest the many swirling rumours of trade talks. Tatar, who hasn’t played since Round 1 against the Maple Leafs due to injury, had a career year in his first season with Montreal and then topped that point total in his second.
Suzuki makes up a major part of the Canadiens’ bright future, his strong chemistry with newcomer Cole Caufield and increasingly strong play down the middle ushering in a new and exciting chapter for Montreal.
2018 | Joel Armia, LW
via Winnipeg, in exchange for Simon Bourque; Montreal also received Steve Mason and two late-round picks
Bergevin took on Mason’s cap in the Jets’ salary-shifting move, immediately buying out the final year of the goaltender’s deal, while landing a solid depth forward in Armia, an RFA at the time.
2017 | Jonathan Drouin, LW
via Tampa Bay, in exchange for defenceman Mikhail Sergachev and a 2018 conditional second-round pick; Montreal also traded a 2018 conditional sixth-round pick
When the Canadiens take on Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup Final, they’ll get a first-hand look at what could’ve been: Lighting defence partners Mikhail Sergachev and Ryan McDonagh. Both were Canadiens prospects to start their respective careers, with Sergachev being selected ninth overall by Bergevin in 2016 and McDonagh 12th in 2007, way before Bergevin’s time.
Montreal needed some offensive firepower, and Drouin brought that — that he did so in his home province was extra special. He hasn’t been with the team throughout the post-season, with the club announcing in April his indefinite leave for personal reasons.
2016 | Shea Weber, D
via Nashville, in exchange for P.K. Subban
It’s not a very well-known trade, and definitely isn’t revisited and re-assessed often, so you probably haven’t heard of it. Let’s move on.
2016 | Phillip Danault
via Chicago, in exchange for Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann; Montreal also received a 2018 second-round pick
Bergevin knew exactly what kind of player he was getting when he traded for Danault five years ago. After all, the longtime executive was assistant general manager of the Blackhawks when Chicago drafted Danault 26th overall in 2011.
Looking back on this one, and considering how instrumental Danault has been during this incredible run to the Stanley Cup Final, it’s safe to say this transaction was one of Bergevin’s best. As for the second-round pick they also acquired alongside Danault, that wound up being Alexander Romanov.
2015 | Jeff Petry, D
via Edmonton, in exchange for a 2015 second-round pick + conditional fifth-round pick
Petry has been a strong, steady presence for Montreal and is as composed as they come, with offensive production to boot.
2020 FREE AGENCY SIGNINGS
Clearly, trades are Bergevin’s bread and butter — but this year, he dabbled in free agency and is looking incredibly smart for it.
Tyler Toffoli, LW
2020 | Four years, $17 million ($4.25M AAV)
After upping his value in a short stint in Vancouver, it was surprising to see the Canucks let him walk last fall. Toffoli has been excellent since landing in Montreal, leading the club in goals and points in the regular season (28 goals, 44 points) and throughout the playoffs (five goals, 14 points).
2020 | Corey Perry, RW
One year, $750,000
Just like he did in Dallas last year, Perry brings a physical presence, winning experience, and that signature clutch gene to Montreal that every Cup Final team needs.
2019 | Ben Chiarot, D
Three years, $10.5 million
Along with Weber, Petry, and Edmundson, Chiarot makes up one of the most efficient blue lines in these playoffs, a crucial top-four defender who’s been a workhorse this spring.
Of those on Montreal’s regular rotation, just seven players were originally drafted by the Canadiens. Of those seven, five were drafted by Bergevin — including two of the most exciting young forwards of this new era of Habs hockey:
2019: Cole Caufield, RW | first round, 15th overall
2018: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C | first round, 3rd overall
2018: Alexander Romanov, D | second round, 38th overall
2014: Jake Evans, D | seventh round, 207th overall
2013: Artturi Lekhonen, LW | second round, 55th overall
Bergevin inherited Gallagher (fifth round, 147th overall, 2010) and Price (first round, 5th overall, 2005). Price was drafted early in Bob Gainey’s seven-year tenure, while Gallagher was selected by his successor, Pierre Gauthier. He’s made sure to build around both of them, locking both crucial players up to long-term deals and never leaving any doubt about their value to the organization.
Overall, the Canadiens have eight first-rounders on the roster, with Price, Kotkaniemi, and Caufield being the only three originally draft by Montreal. Other first-rounders on the roster:
Nick Suzuki, C: 13th overall, 2017, Vegas
Joel Armia, LW: 16th overall, 2011, Buffalo
Phillip Danault, C: 26th overall, 2011, Chicago
Eric Staal, C: 2nd overall, 2003, Carolina
Corey Perry, RW: 28th overall, 2003, Anaheim
2015 | Paul Byron, LW
Six years after scooping up the forward off waivers from Calgary, Bergevin — who twice signed Byron to keep him in Montreal since picking him up — has thrice waived the forward himself this season to send him to the taxi squad and navigate the salary cap.
The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca. ]]>
Everything is on the line now with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens just four wins away from winning the Stanley Cup. Here’s how the teams match up.
Normally around this time of year we’d be consumed with draft talk and trade speculation with free agency on the horizon. This year it’s even better: we have a Stanley Cup Final still to look forward to.
Beginning with Game 1 in Tampa Bay, the Lightning are back for the secon ]]>
The series will shift in Game 3 to la belle province, the first time in 28 years the all-time winningest NHL franchise will host a Stanley Cup Final game. It’s the longest the Montreal Canadiens have been between finals appearances in their history and their fans are starting to get 1993 vibes through this underdog run.
Everything is on the line now with the Lightning and Canadiens just four wins away from glory. Here’s how the teams match up.
PLAYOFF TEAM STATS
Montreal: 2.53 GF/G, 2.18 GA/G, 20.9 PP%, 93.5 PK%
Tampa Bay: 3.22 GF/G, 2.06 GA/G, 37.7 PP%, 83.0 PK%
PLAYOFF ADVANCED STATS
(all numbers 5-on-5, via Natural Stat Trick)
Montreal: 47.83 CF%, 49.57 xGF%, 48.21 GF%, 52.63 HDCF%
Tampa Bay: 48.29 CF%, 49.33 xGF%, 55.93 GF%, 54.21 HDCF%
Montreal: Tyler Toffoli (5-9-14), Nick Suzuki (5-8-13), Cole Caufield (4-5-9)
Tampa Bay: Nikita Kucherov (5-22-27), Brayden Point (14-6-20), Alex Killorn (8-9-17)
Canada has its first Stanley Cup finalist in a decade as the Montreal Canadiens claimed the Clarence Campbell Bowl for the first time in team history. What a strange year.
But unlike the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks that last represented the north in the final, this year’s Montreal Canadiens are the plucky underdogs, the 16th-ranked playoff team that turned around a five-game losing streak at the end of the regular season and a 3-1 first-round series deficit to be here.
The Canadiens have drawn comparisons to other teams that went on unexpected runs, like the 2012 Los Angeles Kings, a Corsi-monster before it was cool and a low-scoring team that got by on relentless defence and excellent goaltending. These Habs, by the way, were second in Corsi this regular season, 17th in goals per game and, yes, Carey Price has a .934 save percentage and 2.02 GAA in the playoffs. It’s not quite the Kings, but you get the idea.
They’re also drawing some comparisons to the 1993 Canadiens, the last Cup champion from Canada. The soft end to the regular season. The balanced scoring. The first-round rally and second-round sweep. The elite, winking goalies. It might be destiny.
— John Bartlett (@BartsBytes) June 15, 2021
The Canadiens are going to experience a different foe in the final than any of their historical comparisons, though. The Lightning are the defending champs, a near-perfect mix of everything you could want from quickness and puck skills to patience and brawn. The Lightning have a chance to be the first repeat winners since the 2016 and 2017 Penguins.
Where Montreal has morphed into something much different than they were when trailing 3-1 in their opening-round series, the Lightning are as tough as ever. Top five in goals, goals against, power play and penalty kill percentage this regular season, they can beat you with any game. Montreal has so far found success in neutralizing the opposition’s key forward scorers and the Lightning will be the ultimate test of that. Andrei Vasilevskiy is more than capable of going save for save with Price, while Tampa’s back end is just as sizeable and tough around the net as Montreal’s.
The team of destiny seeking to break Canada’s Cup curse, or the proven best in the game today that’s trying to make its own mark on history — who are you taking?
The big question for each team
Montreal: Can they again erase the opposition’s stars?
Price is Montreal’s top Conn Smythe contender coming into the final, but Phillip Danault has earned a lot of shine for his role in frustrating the likes of Auston Matthews, Blake Wheeler and Mark Stone. He’ll again be a central figure in this series and will undoubtedly make the job harder for any line Tampa throws at him.
But now the challenge may run even deeper than it has in the previous three rounds. Every step of the way Montreal has faced an opponent that’s lost a key centre, first John Tavares, then Mark Scheifele and finally Chandler Stephenson. Tampa will start with centres Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli, Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson all relatively healthy.
Point scored a goal in nine straight games until being kept off the board in Game 7 by the Islanders, one shy of tying Reggie Leach’s all-time record. Their wingers are pretty OK, too, with Nikita Kucherov the top-scoring player in the playoffs and Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn tied for third. There is some question how healthy or able Kucherov and Stamkos are — the latter of whom scored in just two of seven games against New York.
And the Montreal PK that hasn’t allowed a goal since Game 4 against Toronto? Now it meets one of the league’s deadliest power plays that is converting on 37.7 per cent of its opportunities in the post-season.
Tampa: Will they try and disturb Price in the crease?
The Golden Knights got far too complacent with taking outside shots against Montreal and lost the high danger shot battle, while only getting two goals all series from its top-six forwards. Three of their top five shooters in the series were defencemen, and an awful lot of those went unscreened. Perhaps that’s a credit to the Habs’ presence of sizeable defencemen, but Vegas could have ventured to do more.
Now that job falls to the likes of Pat Maroon, Barclay Goodrow, Blake Coleman and the like to just make it harder on Price to see and work with anything coming from the outside. That may be easier said than done, but it’s a necessity because a comfortable Price is one who could single-handedly steal a series.
The other way to make life harder on Montreal’s goalie is to just not settle for as many point shots as Vegas did, which has been a tall order against a Habs team that’s proven adept at clogging central ice. The Lightning are the best, most creative and electric offence the league knows today and remember, they’ve triumphed over teams who find success very similarly to the way Montreal does, beating the Islanders two years in a row and downing the D-heavy Stars in last year’s Cup final.
Brendan Gallagher, Montreal: It’s gotta start coming, doesn’t it? Gallagher is the sort of player built to rise to these moments. In Round 3 against Vegas he was buzzing, recording a team-high 17 shots and not scoring once. He actually hasn’t scored a goal since Game 1 of the Winnipeg series, but leads Montreal forwards in shots, high danger shots and expected goal for percentage, per Natural Stat Trick.
Playing next to Danault, Gallagher has executed a key shutdown role and been on the ice for only three 5-on-5 goals against all playoffs. It will be crucial for this line to keep finding success on that side of the puck, but if the opportunities Gallagher is getting on offence start turning to goals it could make all the difference.
Brayden Point, Tampa Bay: Can he break away from what’s happened to other top scorers the Canadiens have faced? Even against the tight-checking Islanders, Point scored six goals. Last year against New York in the Eastern Conference final he scored three times in four games, and in the final against Dallas, he added five in six games.
But every team the Canadiens have left in their wake has been pointing fingers at their top, reliable scorers who vanished. Point rides with Kucherov on his wing, who’s averaging 1.5 points per game and picked up nine assists against the Islanders. Will that duo be the one to break Montreal’s run?]]>
“Goal” Caufield is shining like the game-breaker Montreal has been waiting for; why Vegas needs to spend less on goalies; does a Matthew Tkachuk trade make sense?; and more in the latest Quick Shifts.
A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. Started this blog smelling of cigarettes, finished smelling like beer.
1. One should admit when one is wrong.
And, boy, have I been wrong about the Montreal Canadiens.
Whether it was entering the regular season or watching Cinderella glide into the ball, my assessment was, yes, this was a hardworking, defensively stout group with an all-timer between the pipes.
But with all due respect to the Tyler Toffolis and Josh Andersons, I didn’t see enough elite game-breakers up front.
Cole Goal Caufield, with his catchy nickname, joyful-with-a-dash-of-smugness grin and goal-medal heater.
From the bench to the final, Montreal’s youngest player rises to meet every occasion.
“He was a little disappointed that he didn’t get to start against the Leafs, but he’s handled that well,” said Caufield’s centreman, Nick Suzuki.
Four times Caufield scored in the semifinal, nearly matching the production of the entire Vegas Golden Knights forward cast (five goals). And Caufield’s strikes were clutch and beauties.
Dude is a game-breaker. The missing ingredient.
“In the prescout, either he goes high or he goes five-hole, and it just looked like he was going five-hole, so I closed my legs,” Vegas’s Robin Lehner said after nullifying a golden Caufield chance in Game 4.
It was the only match in the series the 20-year-old was held off the board.
Caufield shot back: “I think that’s a good thing that he’s thinking about what I’m gonna do… It’s good that he opened his mouth.”
Then backed up his verbal darts with a strike on Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 5 and bigger one in Game 6, despite seeing fewer than 13 minutes in each contest.
This time Caufield went high on Lehner:
“Kid’s got a ton of swagger. He knows he’s a scorer,” Suzuki said. “Maybe they (were) trying to get in his head, but he’s going to shoot any time it’s open.
“He’s been doing it his whole life.”
2. Former Chicago Blackhawk Erik Gustafsson nailed it with his Cole Caufield comparison.
“The first time I came here and saw him in practice, I thought it was (Alex) DeBrincat out there,” Gustafsson said. “They’re both great scorers. Every time they touch the puck, something happens.”
OLE OLE OLE OLE OLE OLE
— Jay Baruchel (@BaruchelNDG) June 23, 2021
3. Vegas owner Bill Foley has one setting: win now.
So, where does his perennial contender go from here?
Tight to the cap and loose with the purse strings, the loss to Montreal underscores a need to redistribute the wealth.
Paying another $12 million for a talented but (at times) distracting goaltending tandem through 2021-22 doesn’t seem like a wise allotment of wealth.
Some of that money, plus the cash coming off the books from UFAs Alec Martinez and Mattias Janmark (if unsigned), needs to be invested in dependability at the centre position.
You’ve probably already heard speculation that Vegas could join Pacific Division rivals like the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings in the Jack Eichel bidding. Middle-six stability and experience could be found in a veteran UFA like Ryan Getzlaf or former Knight Paul Stastny at a fraction of the cost.
All due respect to Chandler Stephenson and prospect Cody Glass, but the Knights’ pattern of paying for star wingers and skimping up the middle helped lead to their undoing the past two post-seasons.
Marc-Andre Fleury, 36, played superb in 2021. Perhaps there’s a trade for his contract season, which would save Vegas $7 million in cap space — and only cost an acquiring team $6 million in actual dollars.
Just a thought: the Carolina Hurricanes’ net is open. A tandem of Fleury and RFA Alex Nedeljkovic could be dangerous and cost effective.
4. Quote of the Week.
“That building coming into overtime was smelling like cigarettes, and now it smells like beers.” —Anthony Beauvillier, New York Islanders Game 6 overtime hero at Nassau Coliseum
A beautifully bonkers way for the old barn to go out.
5. For the third straight year, an interim coach has led his team all the way to the Stanley Cup final.
The success of St. Louis’s Craig Berube (2019) and Dallas’s Rick Bowness (2020) earned them contracts.
I wonder if the success of interim head coach Dominique Ducharme and interim to the interim head coach Luke Richardson doesn’t do the same.
6. For the second consecutive post-season, the Toronto Maple Leafs will go down as the least likeliest to throw a body check.
In 2020, Toronto registered 19 hits per 60 minutes, finishing 24th in the category. The least physical team to reach the final four, Vegas, averaged 39.22.
In 2021, Toronto upped its rate to 28.05 hits per 60 in the Montreal series, but still ranks 16th in hits among the 16 playoff teams. The gentlest member of the final four was the Tampa Bay Lightning at 34.47 hits per 60.
I’m not saying more finished checks guarantees success — scoring goals and preventing them forever reign supreme. I am saying there is another level to reach in terms of truculence.
When titles are on the line, the game is still heavy.
6. Shane O’Brien dropped quite the trade rumour this week during his appearance on The Power Play with Steve Kouleas.
O’Brien said he has heard that the Calgary Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk would like to play for his hometown St. Louis Blues and that a trade for sniper Vladimir Tarasenko could be the key. Listen to the clip:
While changes are expected in both Calgary and St. Louis after underwhelming performances by both squads, this doesn’t seem like a deal Brad Treliving would make.
Yes, the cap hits of Tkachuk ($7 million) and Tarasenko ($7.5 million) align, but Tkachuk is six years younger, still under club control at the end of his contract and doesn’t come with the recent injury history of Tarasenko.
Like A Quiet Place monsters, I can’t see it.
7. We have reached peak parity in winter team sports.
Not only did none of the NHL’s No. 1 divisional seeds reach the final four, but this is also the first post-season since 1994 that neither the NBA’s East or West No. 1 seed reached the conference final.
Since ’94 was also the first year the NHL instituted a bracket system, 2021 is the first year in which zero No. 1 seeds advanced to the final four in hockey or basketball.
Individual superstars are feeling the brunt of parity.
In the NHL, not one top-10 scorer from the regular season survived Round 2, and only two of the top 33 point-getters (Vegas’s Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty) reached the semis.
Montreal has qualified for the final despite losing more games (37) than it has won (32) this year — and the same will hold true if they win the Cup.
In the NBA, the Eastern Conference final features one all-star, the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo — tying the fewest combined all-stars in a conference, division or NBA Finals series since 1951 and the fewest since the 1978 NBA Finals between the Seattle SuperSonics and Washington Bullets.
8. Heckuva run for the New York Islanders, who have now won six series in their three post-seasons with Barry Trotz behind the bench and pushed the star-studded Lightning to the brink.
Not since 2019 has Tampa even faced an elimination game, and the Lightning needed 21 shot blocks — and the first short-handed goal allowed by New York all year (!) — to grind out a 1-0 Game 7 victory.
The Isles’ core will be back, and there is no reason they cannot implement their all-hands-on-deck system and be in the mix for contention next season.
RFAs Ilya Sorokin and Anthony Beauvillier are due raises that will likely render Kyle Palmieri just a rental.
The biggest question mark might be UFA Casey Cizikas, a 30-year-old role player who might need to take a pay cut to keep the Identity Line in tact. Much like Matt Martin did last off-season.
Good news: This entire run was accomplished without the services of captain Anders Lee, who led the roster in goals per game (0.44) this season.
10. The fine folks at CapFriendly compiled a list of the 18 players the NHL has exempted from the Seattle Kraken expansion draft due to injury:
11. Heck of a career for 2007 seventh-round jewel Carl Gunnarsson, who lasted 12 seasons and won a Stanley Cup.
Gunnarsson, 34, announced his retirement Wednesday with a lovely goodbye letter.
My favourite Gunnarsson story involves the urinal.
In and out of the lineup during the St. Louis Blues’ magical run in 2019, the stay-at-home defenceman — he of 30 goals in 629 career games — rang a post in the final minutes of the third period in Game 2.
Gunnarsson stood beside Craig Berube in the team’s restroom during the third intermission.
“I just need one more chance,” Gunnarsson told his coach.
“I liked hearing it,” Berube recalled.
Three minutes and 51 seconds into overtime, the Swede let rip a heavy blast from the point that beat Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, giving St. Louis the victory.
Gunnarasson was the unlikeliest of heroes that night. He never scored a playoff goal before or since.
That was No. 1, and he called his shot at “the pisser,” as forward Oskar Sundqvist so eloquently put it.
“I can’t deny that. That’s where it happened,” Gunnarsson said that night. “That makes it even more fun, I guess.”
One of the best teammates ever! You made us believe with that OT goal in Game 2! Will never forget that moment & more together! Our battles in practice like we were 2 young guys trying to make an impression! Loved every minute of it! Enjoy retirement & take care of your family pic.twitter.com/bXb6Bkd9jo
— David Perron (@DP_57) June 23, 2021
12. Wonderful moment in the Vegas-Montreal handshake line as Robin Lehner tapped the Do It for Daron (DIFD) pin on Luke Richardson’s lapel.
Lehner was the starting goalie under Coach Richardson’s Binghamton Senators squad in 2012-13, two years after Richardson lost his 14-year-old daughter to suicide.
“Daron is always in my heart and in our hearts,” Richardson said. “I just thought it was a perfect time to pay a little tribute to her because we definitely miss her.”
Lehner, a mental health advocate himself, showed great class in the face of defeat.]]>
The Montreal Canadiens advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993. It was a different world then, so let us take a trip down memory lane.
The Montreal Canadiens eliminated the Vegas Golden Knights to win the franchise’s first Clarence S. Campbell Bowl – typically reserved for teams in the West – and more importantly booked their ticket to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.
Led by predictably stellar play from Carey Price, balanced scoring and solid team defence, the Canadiens have gone 11-2 since facing elimination down 3-1 in their opening-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It’s the first time since 1993 that Montreal will compete for hockey’s top honour, which evokes images of Patrick Roy hoisting the Cup in front of a raucous crowd at the Montreal Forum. It was the last time a Canadian NHL franchise won it all.
Even though it was nearly three decades ago there are some clear similarities between the ’92-93 Habs and this year’s edition.
The Canadiens finished fourth in the Prince of Wales Conference in 1993, while this year’s Canadiens were fourth in the North Division before going on this impressive run.
Both teams were led by tremendous goaltending, with Roy named playoff MVP and Price currently the odds-on favourite to win the Conn Smythe.
Both teams had to battle back from first-round deficits and were clutch in overtime. The 1993 Canadiens won a record 10 overtime games that spring – you can hear Bob Cole yelling, “Desjardins! And the Canadiens win in overtime!” can’t you? The 2021 Canadiens have gone 5-1 in games where 60 minutes wasn’t enough to settle things.
Montreal defeated a star-studded Los Angeles Kings team that advanced to the Cup after a memorable series against the Maple Leafs that featured one of the most notable non-calls of the 1990s.
Wayne Gretzky recorded a whopping 40 points in 24 post-season games but his team fell three wins short of bringing the Cup to Hollywood.
The NHL looked quite different back then. There were only 24 teams, including the Quebec Nordiques, Hartford Whalers, Minnesota North Stars and the first installment of the Winnipeg Jets.
The Florida Panthers and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim had their expansion drafts in the off-season and the Ottawa Senators, after finishing with an 10-70-4 record in the 84-game season, selected Alexandre Daigle with the first-overall pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft ahead of future Hall of Famers Chris Pronger (second-overall to the Whalers) and Paul Kariya (fourth-overall to the Ducks).
Teemu Selanne of the Jets and Alexander Mogilny of the Sabres led the league with 76 goals that year. Mogilny did it in fewer games, but Selanne did it as a rookie and won the Calder Trophy. Boston’s Adam Oates led all players with 97 assists, Marty McSorley led the way with 399 penalty minutes as Gretzky’s de facto bodyguard in L.A., and Pavel Bure had 407 shots on goal with the Canucks.
Ed Belfour won his second Vezina Trophy with the Blackhawks, his teammate Chris Chelios won the Norris Trophy as top defenceman, the Islanders’ Pierre Turgeon won the Lady Byng and Toronto’s Doug Gilmour won the Selke.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were the defending Cup champs and Mario Lemieux, whose season was interrupted due to his Hodgkins Lymphoma diagnosis, won the Hart Trophy. Lemieux picked up his second consecutive Art Ross Trohy as leading scorer despite only playing 60 games. The all-time great put up an astonishing 69 goals and 160 points, which is the third-highest points-per-game total in NHL history.
Those are some video game numbers right there – cue the segue – and speaking of video games! Hockey fans began running up the score with Jeremy Roenick in the popular NHL 94, which was released in October of 1993.
Prior to that game hitting the shelves there was NHLPA Hockey ’93, a game notorious for not receiving licensing permission from the NHL so no team names or logos were allowed.
So, what else was happening in 1993? Let’s take brief trip down memory lane.
Barry Bonds won his third NL MVP award in four years, his first with the Giants, after leading the league in home runs and RBI for the first time, while Frank Thomas won his first of two straight AL MVPs with the White Sox.
Mike Piazza (NL) and Tim Salmon (AL) each won Rookie of the Year, Greg Maddux (NL) and Jack McDowell (AL) won the Cy Young Awards and Alex Rodriguez was selected first overall by the Mariners.
Blue Jays fans will never forget Tom Cheek’s classic call when Joe Carter hit a walk-off home run at a sold-out SkyDome to clinch Toronto’s second World Series championship in as many years.
“Touch ’em all, Joe, you’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.”
The Chicago Bulls won a third consecutive NBA title before Michael Jordan, coming off his seventh consecutive scoring title, announced his first retirement.
Phoenix Suns superstar Charles Barkley was named league MVP and Shaquille O’Neal was Rookie of the Year with the Orlando Magic. Chris Webber was selected first overall by the Magic that summer and traded to the Golden State Warriors for Penny Hardaway plus three first-round picks.
Three weeks prior to the 1993 NBA Draft, Dražen Petrović, who had developed into one of the NBA’s most talented guards, died in a car accident at age 28. Petrović played 280 games split between the Portland Trailblazers and New Jersey Nets but his legacy supersedes his playing career. To learn more about Petrović, his life growing up in war-torn Yugoslavia and his fractured relationship with Hall of Fame centre Vlade Divac you should seek out ESPN’s 30 for 30 episode titled “Once Brothers” that explores a fascinating chapter in basketball history.
Toronto was formally awarded a franchise following NBA Board of Governors approval and a $125-million expansion fee. The team name wouldn’t be decided upon until the following year but more on that below.
The Dallas Cowboys were at the height of their powers as Super Bowl champions led by MVP running back Emmitt Smith. Drew Bledsoe was the top pick of the New England Patriots in the draft and that season also marked beginning of modern free agency.
North of the border the Edmonton Eskimos (now the Edmonton Elks) won the Grey Cup. Doug Flutie won yet another Most Outstanding Player Award and Michael “Pinball” Clemons was making a difference off the field winning the CFLPA’s Outstanding Community Service Award.
That year also marked the beginning of the CFL’s United States expansion experiment with the introduction of the Sacramento Gold Miners. The 1994 and 1995 seasons also featured a handful of American teams before reverting back to an all-Canadian league in 1996.
The world’s No. 1 women’s tennis player, Monica Seles, was stabbed in a horrifying on-court incident, which kept her away from the sport for two years. The No. 1 men’s player that year was Pete Sampras after he won Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles.
Bernhard Langer, Lee Janzen, Greg Norman and Paul Azinger won golf’s four major tournaments on the men’s side and Helen Alfredsson, Patty Sheehan, Lauri Merten and Brandie Burton did the same on the women’s side.
With Mike Tyson serving a prison sentence, the heavyweight boxing ranks featured the likes of Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe, Michael Moorer and Lennox Lewis jockeying for position. The top two pound-for-pound fighters at the time were Julio César Chávez and the late Pernell Whitaker, who fought to a disputed draw (Whitaker was robbed) in an anticipated welterweight bout.
Also, the Ultimate Fighting Championship was founded and its first event featured an unknown, undersized grappler named Royce Gracie who introduced the combat sports world at large to the art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Gracie won the UFC 1 tournament and influenced an entire generation of fighters.
Canada had three different people serve as Prime Minister during the year – Brian Mulroney, Kim Campbell and Jean Chrétien – while Bill Clinton succeeded George H. W. Bush as President of the United States.
The Parliament of Canada passed both The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and Nunavut Act, which led to 1999 creation of Nunavut in the largest Aboriginal land claim settlement in the country’s history.
Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their roles in ending apartheid in South Africa.
You thought Mario Lemieux and Michael Jordan had dominant years? Well, Steven Spielberg had perhaps the most impressive single year from a director in film history in 1993. Not only did Spielberg direct Jurassic Park, which finished No. 1 at the box office (and inspired the Toronto Raptors team name), but he also directed Schindler’s List, a Best Picture winner that is widely considered one the most revered and moving films of the decade.
On the small screen, the debut of Monday Night RAW had a huge impact on professional wrestling. Royal Canadian Air Farce, This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Theodore Tugboat debuted on Canadian television. The most-watched network TV shows in North America were 60 Minutes, Seinfeld, Roseanne and Home Improvement (shout-out Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor and flannel king Al Borland).
The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album was the top-selling album of the year and Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” topped the Billboard charts.
Barbie Dolls were among the top-selling toys and Beanie Babies hit the market with a bang.
Oh and the Internet, ever heard of it? Yeah, it wasn’t really much of a thing in 1993.]]>
Julien BriseBois spoke about the impressive play of Carey Price for the Montreal Canadiens and why he’s a Hall of Fame goalie.