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MLB Live Tracker: Orioles vs. Blue Jays on Sportsnet




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 12:08:27 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 16:28:47 EDT
Sportsnet Staff




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.

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Canadiens’ Bergevin was ‘not aware’ of Blackhawks’ sexual assault allegations




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 10:23:44 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 10:33:49 EDT
Sportsnet Staff




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.

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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

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Euro 2020 Round of 16 Live Tracker: Belgium vs. Portugal




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 14:51:19 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 16:09:47 EDT
Sportsnet Staff




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.

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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. ]]>


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Canadiens’ opportunity to win Stanley Cup means everything to Price, Weber




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 16:29:25 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 16:56:59 EDT
Eric Engels




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

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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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.

Livestream every game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free. Plus get the NHL Draft, Free Agency, Blue Jays & MLB, NBA Playoffs matchups and more.

“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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Mariners’ Santiago first pitcher ejected amid foreign substance crackdown



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Sun, 27 Jun 2021 15:48:03 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 15:55:07 EDT
Sportsnet Staff




Seattle Mariners left-hander Hector Santiago has become the first pitcher ejected since MLB began its crackdown on illegal foreign substances Monday.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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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.

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Blue Jays’ Guerrero Jr., Semien among finalists for MLB All-Star ballot



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Sun, 27 Jun 2021 13:36:56 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 13:42:40 EDT
Sportsnet Staff




Five Toronto Blue Jays players are among the finalists for the 2021 All-Star Game voting ballot, including home run leader Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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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.

Three other Blue Jays will move on to the next round as Bo Bichette sits second among shortstops, while Teoscar Hernández (sixth) and Randal Grichuk (ninth) are also among the finalists.

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.

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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.

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Canadiens’ Armia in COVID-19 protocol, won’t travel with team to Tampa



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Sun, 27 Jun 2021 09:39:01 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 13:25:47 EDT
Sportsnet Staff




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.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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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.

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Lightning’s Kucherov denies suffering injury in Game 6 vs. Islanders



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Sun, 27 Jun 2021 14:07:56 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 14:07:56 EDT
Sportsnet Staff




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.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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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.

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Novak-Djokovic


What to watch for at Wimbledon: Djokovic closing in on more history



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Sun, 27 Jun 2021 13:04:12 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 13:09:27 EDT
Ben Lewis




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.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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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.

Let ]]>

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.


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.

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Patrik-Schick


Czech Republic beats Netherlands to reach Euro 2020 quarterfinals



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Sun, 27 Jun 2021 14:17:54 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 14:17:54 EDT
Associated Press




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.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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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.

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Barrett-Nembhard


Canada getting acclimatized in Victoria as final roster takes shape



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Sun, 27 Jun 2021 16:46:15 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 16:56:21 EDT
Michael Grange




Some intriguing decisions have been made, and may yet be made, before Canada’s roster for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament is finalized Monday afternoon.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Josh-Naylor


Cleveland outfielder Josh Naylor carted off field after collision



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Sun, 27 Jun 2021 16:21:03 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 16:21:03 EDT
Associated Press




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.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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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.

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31 Thoughts Podcast: The Chicago Blackhawks and a Stanley Cup Final preview







Sun, 27 Jun 2021 11:59:31 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 11:59:31 EDT
Sportsnet Staff







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.

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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. ]]>


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Sportsnet NOW: Choose your plan


Thu, 07 Jan 2021 12:00:24 EST Tue, 01 Jun 2021 16:21:34 EDT
Gary Melo




The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca. ]]>






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(Ryan Remiorz/CP)
habs june 24


How the Stanley Cup Final-bound Montreal Canadiens were built




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 09:46:26 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 12:18:41 EDT
Emily Sadler




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.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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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.

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TRADES

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.

DRAFTED

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

WAIVERS

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.

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Stanley Cup preview




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 12:40:03 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 14:13:21 EDT
Mike Shulman




The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca. ]]>







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Chris O’Meara/AP
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2021 Stanley Cup Final Preview: Canadiens vs. Lightning



Stanley Cup preview 5160443

Sat, 26 Jun 2021 10:04:39 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 10:17:16 EDT
Rory Boylen




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.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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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.

Livestream every game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free. Plus get the NHL Draft, Free Agency, Blue Jays & MLB, NBA Playoffs matchups and more.

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%

TOP SCORERS

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)

Big storyline

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.

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?

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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.

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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.

X-Factor

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.

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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?

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Quick Shifts: Cole Caufield looks like the Canadiens’ missing ingredient



Stanley Cup preview 5160443

Sat, 26 Jun 2021 14:01:54 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 16:42:04 EDT
Luke Fox




“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.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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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.

Enter Cole Goal Caufield, with his catchy nickname, joyful-with-a-dash-of-smugness grin and goal-medal heater.

Livestream every game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free. Plus get the NHL Draft, Free Agency, Blue Jays & MLB, NBA Playoffs matchups and more.

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.”

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.

Think you know how this year’s playoffs will unfold? Before every round, from Round 1 to the Stanley Cup Final, predict the winners and number of games for each series and answer a few prop questions.

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.

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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:

Well now.

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.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

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:

Live Cricket

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.”

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.

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Montreal Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy raises the Stanley Cup in 1993.


What the world was like in 1993 when Canadiens last won the Cup



Stanley Cup preview 5160443

Sat, 26 Jun 2021 09:01:35 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 09:01:36 EDT
Mike Johnston




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 post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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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.

MLB

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.”

NBA

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.

NFL/CFL

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.

NON-TEAM SPORTS

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.

POLITICS

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.

POP CULTURE

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.

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BriseBois on Price: ‘He’s got a Hall of Fame career if he retires right now’



Stanley Cup preview 5160443

Sun, 27 Jun 2021 12:39:12 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 12:39:12 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Julien BriseBois spoke about the impressive play of Carey Price for the Montreal Canadiens and why he’s a Hall of Fame goalie.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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luke-richardson


How Richardson’s circuitous journey prepared him to step in for Canadiens




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 08:44:27 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 08:44:27 EDT
Wayne Scanlan




It’s been a wild, circuitous journey back to the Canadiens for Luke Richardson, but his work under pressure behind the bench has surely put him on the NHL radar for future head coaching opportunities.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Hockey rivers flow freely through Ontario and Quebec.

Historically, they often traversed Peterborough, Ont., where such Mon ]]>
luminaries as Scotty Bowman and Bob Gainey cut their teeth in the game. Even Eric Staal learned his two-way playing centre for the OHL’s Peterborough Petes. Through a fourth-line role, Staal’s leadership and experience alongside Peterborough native Corey Perry have helped provide the surging Habs with the calm and resolve in the room that Carey Price provides in the crease.

Around the time Staal was born in Thunder Bay in the fall of 1984, a teenager from Ottawa named Luke Richardson was trying to figure out his place in the game. Today, of course, that place is behind the bench of the Canadiens, as “interim to the interim” head coach as Richardson puts it.

With Dominique Ducharme still in quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 test, Richardson will continue as acting head coach as the surging Canadiens begin their first trip to a Stanley Cup Final since 1993.

Somehow it feels pre-ordained. One of the Richardson family’s favourite photos is of a young Luke, about five years old, wearing a Canadiens sweater. The sweater was the pride of Luke’s late mother, Sally, who died in 2019.

“It’s almost like she knew,” says Stephanie Richardson, Luke’s wife, about that photo and Habs sweater. “She always liked that picture, as if she knew Luke would have a chance one day to be involved with this organization. What an honour it is to be a part of it.”

Livestream every game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free. Plus get the NHL Draft, Free Agency, Blue Jays & MLB, NBA Playoffs matchups and more.

Young Luke Richardson could not have foreseen such a wild, circuitous journey back to the Habs as a 52-year-old coach. Yet, that calm, commanding presence we see behind the bench was what coaches noted of Richardson the player — a big, robust defenceman at 6-4. He had played his midget hockey at Ottawa West, and the Pembroke Lumber Kings of the CJHL invited Richardson, then 15, to play for them in 1984-85. (Pembroke, of course, was the launching pad for current Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe).

In what would turn out to be one of the best decisions of his life, Richardson left the Lumber Kings after six games.

“It didn’t work out,” Richardson told me years ago, when he was finishing out his 21-year NHL career with the Ottawa Senators. “They weren’t happy that I didn’t want to stay, but I was just sitting on the bench. Pembroke always played their top ten players. They had to have a winner, playing in the Ottawa Valley. So, my dad talked them into giving me my release, as long as I agreed to come home and play Jr. B only. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”

As it happened, Glen Richardson, Luke’s father, was general manager of the Jr. B Ottawa West Golden Knights in those days and Richardson blossomed with the Knights.

A young scout for Peterborough by the name of Jacques Martin took note of this strapping defenceman who put up 31 points in 35 games and convinced the Petes to select him in the second round of the 1985 OHL draft.

Martin would go on to coach the Ottawa Senators to the Eastern Conference Final in 2003 and took the Habs there in 2010.

Richardson, meanwhile, grew his overall game in Peterborough to become the seventh overall draft choice of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1987. A career spanning 21 seasons and 1,417 games saw him play with six organizations, including two stints with the Leafs. Throughout, he was a tough, defensive stalwart.

From his final season in 2008-09 with Ottawa, Richardson stepped right into an assistant’s job with the Senators. For the next several years, including three as an NHL assistant and four as AHL head coach with the Binghamton Senators, it was assumed Richardson was being groomed to become the next head coach in Ottawa, but it never quite worked out.

Think you know how this year’s playoffs will unfold? Before every round, from Round 1 to the Stanley Cup Final, predict the winners and number of games for each series and answer a few prop questions.

As Richardson — and the rest of us — were reminded when Ducharme had to step away due to COVID-19, timing is everything in the coaching world.

After three years as a Senators assistant when his playing career ended, Richardson took the head coaching job in Binghamton to round out his coaching resume. Then-Senators general manager Bryan Murray was like an uncle to Luke. Murray had played senior hockey with Luke’s father, and even coached Glen Richardson with the Shawville Pontiacs, Murray’s hometown team.

The assumption was that Richardson would spend two or three years in Binghamton and jump to Ottawa when the time was right. It was shaping up that way — though he had a young group, Richardson led the 2012-13 B-Sens to a 44-24-1-7 record, earning Richardson a spot behind the bench at the AHL all-star game. A year later, Richardson directed Binghamton to first place in the division with a 44-24-3-5 record.

With an AHL contract through 2014-15 with Binghamton, Richardson was considered for the head coaching job in Ottawa in December of 2014 when Paul MacLean was fired. The job went instead to Dave Cameron, MacLean’s assistant and a former B-Sens head coach.

“Luke was certainly a consideration,” Murray said at the time. “Luke is very happy right now in Binghamton. He’s got a daughter (Morgan) at Cornell and wants to focus on that at this moment — I think that’s fair of Luke to state that back to us. So, Dave was the other guy in line.”

When he wasn’t considered for a head coaching job in Ottawa in 2016, with Guy Boucher getting the gig, Richardson accepted an invitation to coach Canada at the Spengler Cup and the Canadians won gold.

He spent 2017-18 as an assistant with the New York Islanders before joining the Canadiens in 2018, to coach the defence corps.

The poise and defence-first posture of the Canadiens in these playoffs matches the style of Richardson as a player and as a coach, although it must be said that Ducharme remains in constant contact with the team via Zoom and is a strong presence behind the scenes.

Behind the bench, Richardson has made all the right moves. More than anything, the big man’s strikingly calm demeanour has allowed players to carry on despite the loss of their head coach at the most important time of the season.

“Luke Richardson acts and speaks as if he has been an NHL head coach since the days of the Rocket,” wrote Roy MacGregor in the Saturday Globe and Mail.

“He’s always been just a very calm, strong human being,” wife Stephanie says from inside the Canadiens’ bubble in Montreal. “Even though he hasn’t been an NHL head coach, Luke has been in the AHL and played all those games, so it’s nothing new, really.”

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Ducharme took over from Claude Julien after the Habs started their year 9-5-4. The Canadiens stumbled down the stretch and were the 18th ranked team in the post-season, 23 points behind the second-place Vegas Knights.

Montreal’s stunning run has upset favoured teams and “expert” playoff pool picks round by round — first Toronto, after trailing 3-1 in the series, then Winnipeg and then Vegas — the latter series putting to bed the notion that the North Division was weakest of the newly formed divisions.

With Ducharme expected to be in quarantine until Game 3 of the series, Richardson will remain the acting head coach as Montreal tackles the defending champion Lighting in a Stanley Cup Final beginning Monday in Tampa Bay.

Tragic turns of events

A couple of dramatic life events would shape Richardson’s professional career. The first took place in November of 2010 when Luke and wife Stephanie lost their younger daughter, Daron, to suicide. She was just 14.

Within four months, the Richardsons had helped launch the Do It For Daron (DIFD) initiative, both to honour Daron’s name but also to help other young people struggling with mental health issues. The Royal Ottawa Hospital Foundation and Ottawa Senators Foundation spearheaded the campaign.

To date, the DIFD program has raised more than $5 million for mental health programs in Canada and beyond while helping to save countless lives.

“What a testimony to our hockey community,” Stephanie Richardson says. “Right from the beginning there was a need and they are just a strong, compassionate, thoughtful group of people. I think hockey breeds that.”

Following his first win as an acting NHL head coach, in Game 3 against Vegas in overtime, Richardson tapped the DIFD pin on his lapel and blew a kiss up to the heavens. It was a salute to Daron, to let her know she was part of this special moment, part of the family’s long journey.

In 2018, Stephanie and Luke were awarded the Meritorious Service Cross by Canada’s Governor General for their work.

“My wife and myself, everywhere we go we look forward to spreading the message, especially for youth and youth mental health,” Richardson said, when he was hired by the Habs as an assistant coach in 2018.

The loss of Daron, Richardson said, “was something that’s never going to go away in my life and we just thought — if it’s not going away, we might as well do something about it.”

At each of their hockey stops, Luke and Stephanie have been supported by players, coaches and fans.

Even Olympic heroes have taken notice.

At a race in Gatineau in May of 2012, Olympic cycling and speed skating star Clara Hughes stood on the podium and blew a kiss to Stephanie and Luke, just before spraying her Specialized-Lululemon teammates with champagne.

Hughes had just won the Grand Prix Cycliste de Gatineau time trial and wore a purple wristband throughout in Daron’s honour.

“I kept looking at this purple bracelet,” Hughes said. “I’m looking down and saying: C’mon, Clara, Go! As hard as you can!’”

Hughes has publicly shared her own battles with mental health issues.

The other life event that impacted Richardson’s time in Ottawa was the decline of his mentor, Bryan Murray. Diagnosed with colon cancer in 2014, Murray stepped down as GM of the Senators in 2016. That was the same year Ottawa was looking for a head coach. It would be Pierre Dorion’s first hire as the new GM. Richardson, who had already declared he would not return to Binghamton to coach, was not considered for the Senators NHL job at that time. Murray passed away in the summer of 2017.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

The previous winter, Richardson took up an offer to coach Canada’s Spengler Cup team in December of 2016 and the Canadians took home the gold.

“Myself, I’ve been through pretty much every scenario other than probably getting to the finals in the Stanley Cup in this league,” Richardson said, this past week. “I think coaching in the minors helps. I had four years there of running a bench and I think that for me has really given me a lot of help. And then Sean Burke had me over for the Spengler Cup as the head coach as well.”

As these things go and the hockey rivers flow, Burke is today working with Richardson as the Habs goalie coach.

Now that the Canadiens ARE in the Cup final, Richardson can scratch that one off his list.

“I’m just happy for the guys, and so happy to see them with that trophy (the Clarence Campbell Bowl) at centre ice,” Richardson says. “And I’m looking forward to seeing them with the next one.”

Regardless of what happens now, Richardson’s cool work under pressure behind the Montreal bench has surely put him on the NHL radar for future head coaching opportunities.

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Verstappen dominates Styrian GP for his fourth win of F1 season




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 10:53:24 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 10:53:24 EDT
Associated Press




Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen dominated the Styrian Grand Prix on Sunday to win back-to-back races for the first time in his career.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen dominated the Styrian Grand Prix on Sunday to win back-to-back races for the first time in his career.

With a clean start from pole, the Red Bull driver denied Lewis Hamilton an early attack and he remained ahead for the entire race, beating his Mercedes rival by more than 35 seconds.

Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas finished third ahead of Sergio Perez as Red Bull and Mercedes occupied the top four places once more.

It was Verstappen’s 14th career win and fourth of the season, increasing his lead over the seven-time world champion in the drivers’ standings to 18 points after eight races. A race win is worth 25 points.

Racing on its home track in the Austrian Alps, Red Bull stretched its winning streak to four races, as Hamilton’s wait for his 99th career victory reached the seven-week mark.

The last time Hamilton went without a win in four straight races came more than three years ago, spanning the last three races of 2017 and the first three of the following season.

Red Bull squandered a potential 1-3 finish with a slow pit stop for Perez, which lasted for nearly five seconds due to an issue with the left-rear tire.

The Austrian GP on the same track is scheduled for next Sunday.

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How the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning were built




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 09:21:47 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 12:18:31 EDT
Emily Sadler




After finding the winning formula last year, the Lightning are four wins from defending their title with a few new faces added to the Cup-winning core.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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After years of contention that saw them set the standard for skill and speed in the East, the Tampa Bay Lightning found the recipe for a Stanley Cup victory last year in the NHL’s playoff bubble.

Less than a year after they hoisted the Stanley Cup, they’ve got all the same key ingredients still in place and are now four wins away from a repeat.

Here’s a look at how this team came together over the years, and how general manager Julien BriseBois fine-tuned things in an effort to run it back.

Livestream every game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free. Plus get the NHL Draft, Free Agency, Blue Jays & MLB, NBA Playoffs matchups and more.

2020-21 DEPARTURES

While the Lighting core of last year is back for another run this season, there was some roster turnover around the edges. Veteran defencemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Zach Bogosian both revived their careers with 2019-20’s successful Cup run, and proved once again that every Cup-winning team requires defensive depth. Both were UFAs after last season, with Shattenkirk signing a three-year deal with Anaheim in free agency while Bogosian joined the Maple Leafs on a one-year pact.

Forward Cedric Paquette and Braydon Coburn were traded to Ottawa along with a 2022 second-round pick in order to clear up some much-needed cap space.

Another tough cap casualty: Carter Verhaeghe. After helping develop the speedy forward into a promising offensive talent, Tampa Bay simply couldn’t afford to keep him around to see him really blossom. Instead, they set him free on the UFA market by not issuing him a qualifying offer.

Think you know how this year’s playoffs will unfold? Before every round, from Round 1 to the Stanley Cup Final, predict the winners and number of games for each series and answer a few prop questions.

2020 NEW FACES

BriseBois wasn’t quite as active on the UFA and trade front this year, considering the perilous cap situation that comes with going all-in for the Stanley Cup, but the Lightning have seen significant contributions from two newcomers, in two very different ways.

Rookie forward Ross Colton quickly earned himself a reputation as a clutch goal-scorer over the regular season — four of his nine goals in 2020-21 were game-winners. He’s been a good depth piece in the post-season, too, putting up three goals and five points through 18 games in his first playoff stint. Another smart mid-round draft find for the Lightning. What else is new?

David Savard was the NHL’s most-wanted defenceman at the deadline, and the Lightning managed to land him in a three-team trade with plenty of crafty navigating of the salary cap. Savard has lived up to the billing of bringing his physical game to Tampa, at just a quarter of the cost — just one quarter of his $4.25-million cap hit is on Tampa’s books. It did come with a hefty long-term price tag, though, as Tampa paid first- and fourth-round 2021 picks and a 2022 third-rounder in return.

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DRAFTED

Unlike their opponents in Montreal, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s biggest offensive weapons have come up through the draft. In fact, their top six forwards, playoff point leaders, and the biggest stars throughout the lineup were brought in via the draft and developed in-house. While former GM Steve Yzerman’s name is attached to most of these picks, BriseBois didn’t simply inherit them — as assistant GM, he worked with Yzerman on recruitment and development and had a big role in these players becoming the stars they are today.

Three players predate the Yzerman and BriseBois eras: Victor Hedman was drafted by Brian Lawton during his short front-office stint, while captain Steven Stamkos and longest-tenured Lightning Alex Killorn were drafted by Jay Feaster.

What’s most impressive about this group is the fact that only one of the top-six forwards was drafted in the first round.

2016: Ross Colton, C/LW | fourth round, 118th overall
2015: Mathieu Joseph, C/W | fourth round, 120th overall
2015: Anthony Cirelli, C | third round, 72nd overall
2014: Brayden Point, C | third round, 79th overall
2012: Andrei Vasilevskiy, G | first round, 19th overall
2011: Nikita Kucherov, RW | second round, 58th overall
2011: Ondrej Palat, LW | seventh round, 208th overall
2009: Victor Hedman, D | first round, 2nd overall
2008: Steven Stamkos, C | first round, first overall
2007: Alex Killorn, LW | third round, 77th overall

RENEWING ONE-YEAR DEALS IN FREE AGENCY

Yzerman had an eye for undrafted free-agent forwards like Tyler Johnson (2011) and Yanni Gourde (2014). BriseBois’ free-agent dealings have seen him artfully complement his powerful core group with veterans on short-terms deals. Success stories last year included Bogosian, Shattenkirk, Pat Maroon, Curtis McElhinney, and Luke Schenn. The latter three are now back for another run.

Pat Maroon, LW
Two years, $1.8 million

The big power forward brought physicality and an old-school element to the Lightning last year on a one-year deal worth $900,000. He might just be a lucky charm considering one year prior he was part of the St. Louis Blues’ Stanley Cup victory. Brisebois rewarded him with a two-year deal with the same $900,000 cap hit he signed for 2019-20.

Curtis McElhinney, G
Two years, $2.6 million (signed 2019)

McElhinney played just 12 games this season, but has been a solid veteran insurance policy at an affordable price behind Vasilevkiy.

Luke Schenn, D
One year, $800,000

Another example of a player signing a low-risk, minimum deal and finding success. After playing on a $700,000 deal last year, he re-signed for another year at $800,000.

TRADES

Last year’s biggest trade deadline targets are this year’s experienced contributors. Both the transactions of Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, having one more year of term on their deals at the time of last season’s trades, looked smart at the time — and they look just as good now. This year, BriseBois focused his efforts on rentals to bulk up his blue line in a big way.

2021 | David Savard, D
via Blue Jackets, in exchange for 2021 first-round pick + 2022 third-round pick; Tampa also sent a 2021 fourth-round pick to Detroit in the salary retaining move

As mentioned above, the Lightning had to get creative to land the deadline’s most sought-after defender.

2020 | Blake Coleman, C/RW
via Devils, in exchange for Nolan Foote + 2020 first-round pick

Coleman was a revelation in Tampa Bay last year, scoring five goals and 13 points in 25 games while bringing an extra edge the Lighting had previously lacked. He’s been strong this year, too, making Tampa tougher to play against, but hasn’t lit the lamp quite as much.

2020 | Barclay Goodrow, LW
via Sharks, in exchange for Anthony Greco + 2020 first-round pick

The Lightning paid a bit of a hefty price for Goodrow at last year’s deadline, but he was ultimately worth it considering he helped them win the Cup.

2019 | Jan Rutta, D
via Chicago, in exchange Slater Koekkoek

After appearing in just five playoff games during last year’s run, Rutta has been getting top-four minutes this spring.

2018 | Ryan McDonagh, D
via Rangers, in exchange for Vladislav Namestnikov, Libor Hajek, Brett Howden, a 2018 first-round pick + conditional 2019 first-round pick; Tampa Bay also received J.T. Miller.

A rental at the 2018 deadline, the Lightning invested long-term in the d-man shortly after. He’s also helped young defender Mikhail Sergachev take his game to the next level.

2017 | Mikhail Sergachev, D
via Canadiens, in exchange for Jonathan Drouin + conditional 2018 pick; Tampa Bay also received a 2018 conditional second-round pick

Since landing in Tampa Bay, Sergachev has become a promising defender who can play big post-season minutes.

2017 | Erik Cernak, D
via Kings, in exchange for Ben Bishop + 2017 fifth-round pick; Tampa also received Peter Budaj and two late 2017 picks

Cernak has grown into a strong top-four rearguard who’s played a strong role alongside stars Hedman and McDonagh.

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Sportsnet Hockey Predictor


Sat, 16 Jan 2021 14:33:35 EST Fri, 04 Jun 2021 17:12:35 EDT
Gary Melo




The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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sn-features


16247685445160806


The road to the Stanley Cup Final




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 00:39:46 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 00:39:46 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Sportsnet takes a look back at the best moments throughout the playoff run of the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning ahead of Game 1 on Monday.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Sportsnet Video
bc-video


Suzuki-Hedman
Suzuki-Hedman


Canadiens open Stanley Cup Final as underdogs on NHL odds




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 15:58:37 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 16:12:54 EDT
OddsShark Staff




The Montreal Canadiens will make their long-awaited return to the Stanley Cup Final as lengthy plus-170 road underdogs on the NHL odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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The Montreal Canadiens will make their long-awaited return to the Stanley Cup Final when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the series on Monday night as lengthy plus-170 road underdogs on the NHL odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Montreal punched its ticket to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 28 years by knocking off the heavily favoured Vegas Golden Knights in six games during the semifinals, and has now claimed victory in 11 of 13 games ahead of Monday night’s matchup at Amalie Arena.

The Canadiens have fuelled their unlikely run through this year’s playoffs by sticking to a defence-first game plan and seizing offensive opportunities when they present themselves. Goaltender Carey Price has been key to the club’s success. Price has seen his play steadily improve as the postseason has progressed, allowing two or fewer goals in 10 of his past 12 outings. That has enabled Montreal to put together an 11-0 run when scoring two or more goals so far in this postseason.

Despite his heroics, Price looks to his first Stanley Cup Final appearance trailing his Lightning counterpart Andrei Vasilevskiy on the Conn Smythe Trophy odds at online sports betting sites. Vasilevskiy has been equally dominant, with three of his four shutout wins coming in series-clinching contests. That has lifted him to a plus-125 favourite, just ahead of Price as a plus-175 bet.

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Now faced with the task of dethroning the battle-hardened defending Stanley Cup champions in their bid to claim their first title since 1993, the Canadiens also trail on the NHL playoff series prices. Montreal opens the series as plus-200 underdogs to raise the Cup, well back of the Lightning, who are set as minus-240 chalk to claim the third championship in franchise history.

Complicating matters for the Canadiens is a growing concern over the presence of COVID-19 in the team’s camp. Head coach Dominique Ducharme has been absent from the team for the past 10 days after testing positive, and worries have heightened with reports on Sunday that forward Joel Armia will not travel to Tampa Bay for Game 1 after being placed in COVID-19 protocol.

That represents a potentially big blow to a Canadiens team that has struggled in recent years against their Atlantic Division rivals, falling to defeat in 12 of their past 15 meetings, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. As for the Lightning, they expect to have forward Nikita Kucherov in the lineup in Game 1 on Monday night as they seek to extend a three-game home win streak during which they have outscored opponents by a 13-3 margin.

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chris paul suns (1)


After years of playoff heartbreak, Paul on verge of first Finals with Suns




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 02:16:28 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 02:16:28 EDT
Steven Loung




The Phoenix Suns are one win away from reaching their first NBA Finals since 1993 as they took a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Los Angeles Clippers with an 84-80 win in the Western Conference final Saturday. Here are some takeaways from the pivotal game.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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The Phoenix Suns are one win away from reaching their first NBA Finals since 1993 as they took a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Los Angeles Clippers with an 84-80 win in the Western Conference final Saturday.

Devin Booker scored a game-high 25 points as he bounced back a little from a couple of poor performances in Game 2 and 3 of the series, although he still didn’t shoot well from the field.

Booker, who once again started the game wearing a mask, quickly took it off after he missed a shot. The mask was there to protect his broken nose, but it clearly was bothering him and he seemed to play more aggressively and decisively without it, to the Suns’ benefit.

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Thankfully for the Suns, DeAndre Ayton kept up his hot play as he went off for 19 points and 22 rebounds while nearly playing 42 minutes in the game.

The Clippers had no answer for the physical play of Ayton on both sides of the ball and, as has been the case for nearly every game in the series now, Saturday’s affair was a tightly-contested, physical contest that lent itself well to Ayton’s game.

Shot-making (from all over the floor) during the game proved to be a key commodity and, arguably, the difference. Phoenix made four more field goals than the Clippers and shot a better percentage than them at the free-throw line (85.7 per cent compared to 65.6 per cent).

Here’s a few takeaways from a pivotal Suns win Saturday night.

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Beautiful basketball this game was not

Even if you’re a fan of defence, Saturday’s game was still a rather ugly affair. It was less great defence and more just poor shooting from both sides that led to the two teams combining to shoot just 34.3 per cent from the floor an even more dreadful 9-of-51 (17.6 per cent) from three-point range.

Obviously, with shooting numbers like that, it’s clear that everyone shot poorly, but the stars on both teams all were particularly off as Paul George was only 5-of-20 from the floor and, once again, missed a key free throw in the dying seconds of the game.

Meanwhile, Booker and Chris Paul combined to go just 14-of-44 from the floor, including an 0-for-8 mark from deep.

There was even a near-four-minute stretch midway through the fourth quarter in which neither team scored, the game locked at a 71-70 stalemate before Paul found Ayton on an alley-oop.

During this stretch George went 0-for-4 from the field and Paul went 0-for-3.

Making matters worse, the final minute of the game turned into a free-throw shooting contest. Paul was clutch nailing five of six attempts but the Clippers, as a team, made just 4-of-8. Los Angeles did try to miss a few intentionally to score more, but it came down to clutch play with no defence and Los Angeles couldn’t convert.

Not exactly the most thrilling end.

A win is, of course a win, and the Suns likely don’t care how it happened, but that doesn’t exactly mean it was all that fun to watch.

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Clippers have a right to be pretty mad

The Clippers had many opportunities to take the lead in the fourth quarter and get right back into the series, but ultimately squandered their chances.

With that said, however, the officials did them no favours as a couple of key non-calls came back to hurt them.

Just take a look at these two clips:

In the first one it was very clear that Terance Mann was fouled, but he didn’t get the and-one call and in the second one, while it’s close, the ball appeared to go off Cameron Payne’s hand, which would’ve meant an extra Clippers possession.

Missed calls happen, but what has to be particularly frustrating if you’re the Clippers is the fact that the Payne play wasn’t reviewed. In an era of basketball where everything is reviewed it was very odd that it wasn’t, and while there’s no way to know if the extra possession could’ve helped the Clippers, the non-review did appear to hurt them.

Los Angeles has a right to be pretty upset right now.

Will Chris Paul finally break his odd curses?

Paul is on the verge of making his first-ever Finals, but, given his heartbreaking playoff record over the span of his career, he’s understandably not all that giddy just yet.

In an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols immediately after the game, when Paul was asked about being up 3-1, he made a point to remind Nichols of the “bad experiences” he’s had up 3-1 in his career.

Paul, of course, is referring to the infamous collapse he suffered in the Western Conference semifinals while with the Lob City Clippers in 2015, when his team blew a 3-1 lead to the Houston Rockets.

Additionally, in 2012, Paul, again with the Clippers, nearly blew a 3-1 series lead to the Memphis Grizzlies, before squeaking out a Game 7 win.

In 2018, Paul technically broke his 3-1 curse while with the Rockets himself as Houston took care of business against the Utah Jazz in the second round, but that then led to, perhaps, the largest heartbreak he’s suffered his entire career. In his first conference finals appearance, he saw his Rockets squad fail to close out the Golden State Warriors after being up 3-2.

Making matters worse with that situation, an injury kept him out of Game 6 and 7, not to mention, in Game 7, the Rockets infamously missed 27-straight threes.

So you’ll have to excuse Paul if he’s feeling a little superstitious right now, just one win away from the Finals with a 3-1 lead to get it done. The fates haven’t been kind to him in similar situations.

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16248127045160963


Blue Jays’ Guerrero Jr. is controlling his at bats while trusting teammates




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 13:01:37 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 13:08:46 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Watch as Shi Davidi and Arash Madani talk about how Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is controlling his at bats while trusting his teammates, how Teoscar Hernández is like a pitching coach, and when Danny Jansen is expected to return.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Sportsnet Video
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16248139045160978


How will Canadiens be affected with Armia in COVID protocol?




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 13:18:20 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 13:18:20 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Sean Reynolds and Eric Engels discuss Joel Armia being in COVID protocol and not making the trip to Tampa, if Jake Evans is ready to make his return to the Canadiens lineup, and Carey Price and Shea Weber playing in their first Stanley Cup Final.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Sportsnet Video
bc-video


16248133035160970


How Blue Jays’ Stripling and Manoah have made mechanical adjustments




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 13:04:10 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 13:04:10 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Watch as Ricky Romero joins Hazel Mae to discuss how Blue Jays pitchers Ross Stripling and Alek Manoah have been able to make mechanical adjustments to be successful over their respective starts this season.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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(Joshua Bessex/AP)
ryu vs. orioles


Hyun-Jin Ryu back in control in Blue Jays’ blowout of Orioles




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 18:34:53 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 19:25:36 EDT
Arden Zwelling




Saturday’s victory was typical for these Blue Jays, a club that has made a habit of bouncing back strong from adversity.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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If you’ve been watching closely over his first four outings for the Toronto Blue Jays this month, you’ve no doubt noticed something’s been a little bit off with Hyun-Jin Ryu. Call it a lack of sharpness. A slight decrease in the fine command and control we’ve come to know him for. We’ve seen him irritated with himself on the mound, displaying rare frustration at crucial pitches he’s struggled to land in the zone. He walked nine through his first four starts this month, a glaring juxtaposition to the eight he walked through 10 starts this April and May. As a guy with MLB’s second-lowest walk rate since 2019 — 3.9 per cent — Ryu doesn’t have stretches like this often.

His strikeout rate dipped in turn, from 25 per cent over the season’s first two months to 11 per cent in June. Meanwhile, his home runs allowed had gone in the same direction, with six balls leaving the yard through his first four starts this month after allowing the same amount over 10 outings prior. Missing off the plate — producing all those walks — and over it — leading to the homers — is antithetical to how Ryu’s put up ace-like production every season since 2017.

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And full credit to him for continuing to find ways to get outs and pitch deep into ballgames despite not feeling his best. Ryu entered Saturday’s start against the Baltimore Orioles having gone at least six innings and allowed no more than three runs in each of his last three outings. Often, the separator between pitchers that last in MLB and those that can’t cut it is an ability to minimize damage and give their team innings on days when they don’t have their best stuff. Ryu hasn’t only done that on those inevitable down days all pitchers experience — he’s thrown quality starts.

Still, it was worth keeping a close eye on how Ryu looked facing the Orioles for a second consecutive outing, not 24 hours after his club’s latest bullpen implosion, trying to work through whatever he’s working through amidst a palpable understanding that his manager, Charlie Montoyo, was in dire need of a deep outing, lest he be forced to turn back to a beleaguered relief corps that’s fluctuated between unsteady and utterly unreliable over the last six weeks.

And, through six innings, he couldn’t have looked much better. Taking the mound for the seventh having thrown only 62 pitches, Ryu appeared on track to throw the Blue Jays’ first nine-inning complete game since Marcus Stroman spun a 99-pitch gem against the Los Angeles Angels more than four years ago. But a couple pitches left elevated, a walk, and some shoddy batted-ball luck sabotaged that possibility, forcing Ryu to settle for a line featuring four runs allowed over 6.2 innings that doesn’t do justice to how well he pitched.

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On another day, when the Blue Jays bats weren’t alive, when runner after runner was being stranded in scoring position, the four spot Ryu allowed in that seventh could have led to a second-straight night spent soul searching after another dispiriting loss. But with Toronto’s explosive offence performing like it’s intended to, as it did in a 12-4 blowout of the Orioles, Ryu’s rough landing will merely be a quickly forgotten tailend to an otherwise stellar performance.

“Going into the seventh, we were thinking we were going to ask him when he came back, ‘do you want to keep going?’” Montoyo said. “‘Or do you want to get out of the game?’ I know what he’s going to say. ‘Yeah, I want to go back.’ Because he always does. But we were thinking that because his pitch count was so low and he was dealing. It was almost like watching a no-hitter.”

Saturday, Ryu worked up with four-seamers, down with curveballs, in with cutters, and away with changeups, painting all four edges of the zone to keep pitches off the barrels of Baltimore bats. Everything was working, but Ryu’s changeup was particularly effective, as the big left-hander tunnelled it off his four-seamer and cutter, which let him get away with a couple missed locations thanks to disrupting hitter timing alone.

That’s encouraging, as Ryu’s changeup command had been spotty during his struggles earlier this month and he admitted after his last start — a seven-inning, one-run performance against the Orioles — to lacking feel for the pitch. He certainly appeared to lose confidence in it during that outing, throwing it only 17 times — a season low. But Saturday Ryu went to it 26 times, 18 of them for strikes.

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“I felt pretty good with my changeup compared to the last two outings I had. I threw a bullpen session and felt where I needed to be with that changeup,” Ryu said through interpreter Jun Sung Park. “The biggest things that I tried to work on were my balance, my mechanics and my arm speed. I want to make sure that it came off at the same slot and the same arm speed as my other pitches. So, during that bullpen session, I tried to make sure that all my pitches came out the same.”

His velocity was back, too. After a slight yet noticeable dip over his last half-dozen starts, Ryu sat 90 m.p.h. with his fastball and 87 m.p.h. with his cutter, both a tick higher than his season averages. That’s an encouraging indicator from a 34-year-old veteran who spent 10 days on the injured list earlier this month with a right-glute strain.

After Freddy Galvis singled in the second, Ryu retired the next 14 batters he faced, 12 of them with four pitches or fewer. He threw just seven pitches in that second inning, nine in the third, eight in the fourth and nine in the fifth. The 13 pitches it took him to carve up three Orioles in the sixth qualified as a stressful inning on a day when Ryu was in complete command of proceedings.

Ryu didn’t allow another baserunner until the seventh, when things quickly unravelled as the Orioles strung together a walk and two soft singles with two out. With a huge lead, Montoyo gave his ace every chance to work out of the inning, but was forced to go get Ryu after his 29th pitch of the frame — an elevated changeup Cedric Mullins drove to right for a two-run double. It was perhaps the only bad changeup Ryu threw all day.

“That was surprising how quickly that happened and that they scored that many runs against him,” Montoyo said. “I was thinking he was going to get out of it — and that he’s probably done now for sure because they’ve already scored. But, yeah, it came pretty quick. Because he was really dealing.”

Meanwhile, it took exactly one trip through the lineup for Toronto’s offence to figure out Baltimore starter Keegan Akin, as leadoff hitter Marcus Semien ripped a two-strike, two-out double to left in the third before Bo Bichette sent the next pitch into the right-centre field gap for a double of his own. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez followed with back-to-back home runs, as the Blue Jays put up a four-spot in the blink of an eye.

“That’s a good thing about having a good lineup. There’s always a chance of that. Second or third time, there’s a chance that we’re going to hit somebody — that we’re going to do well against somebody. Anybody,” Montoyo said. “It’s tough to get hits with two outs. And to get that many runs with two outs, that’s impressive. Great job by the hitters.”

Another run came with two on and two out in the fifth, as George Springer’s flare up the left-field line popped in and out of Pat Valaika’s glove, cashing Bichette — the 23-year-old had doubled earlier in the inning, his 76th extra-base hit through 150 career games — from second. That extended the inning for Randal Grichuk, who got a 2-2 cutter on the inner half and launched it beyond the left field wall for a three-run shot.

And they just kept going from there, as one of the game’s most potent offences did what you’d expect it to against Konner Wade, a 29-year-old career minor-leaguer featuring a 90-m.p.h. sinker that doesn’t sink, in his MLB debut after spending 2019 in independent ball and not pitching an inning in 2020. Santiago Espinal singled, Semien doubled, Guerrero walked, Hernandez singled, Springer singled, Grichuk singled and things quickly got out of hand.

Zooming out, Saturday’s performance was exactly the kind of dominant response you want to see from a club after a demoralizing and avoidable loss a day prior. And it was typical for these Blue Jays, a club that has made a habit of bouncing back strong from adversity. And, boy, there’s been a lot of adversity. That’s why Toronto’s spent the entire season hovering just to either side of .500.

Eventually, the Blue Jays will need to go on a run and push their winning percentage closer to the .600 mark. That’s the only way the team will qualify for the post-season in its hypercompetitive division. But it can only win one game each day, so now the focus turns to Sunday, when there’s an opportunity to take three of four from a lousy Orioles side the Blue Jays really ought to be taking three of four from.

“We’re trying to stay together,” Hernandez said. “Right after the game, it’s going to be a new day, a new game. And we’re going to go out there and we’re going to do what we do best — play baseball, forget about what happened the last day, the last game, or the day before. Whatever happened in the past is in the past. You can’t control that. You can get ready for the present and just go out there and try to win ballgames.”

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Lomachenko returns in vintage form, beating Nakatani in ninth round




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 01:31:15 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 01:31:15 EDT
Associated Press




Vasiliy Lomachenko, the former three-weight world champion was successful in his return to the ring, stopping Japanese veteran Masayoshi Nakatani in the ninth round Saturday night.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Vasiliy Lomachenko is back, and in vintage form.

The former three-weight world champion was successful in his return to the ring, stopping Japanese veteran Masayoshi Nakatani in the ninth round Saturday night.

With Nakatani’s left eye closed after eight devastating rounds, Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KOs) used a flurry of battering lefts in front of an announced sellout crowd of 2,072 inside Virgin Hotel’s The Theater, to finish off his much taller opponent in a statement return in his first bout since an upset loss to Teofimo Lopez in October.

“I’ve accomplished my goals and I’m back on track,” Lomachenko said through an interpreter.

Lomachenko landed 59% of his power punches, as he dominated from the opening bell, peppering Nakatani with a steady stream of hard, straight lefts. Lomachenko was only hit by 12% of Nakatani’s power punches.

Lomachenko’s biggest round prior to the ninth was a destructive sixth, during which he landed a number of punches that caused Nakatani’s head to snap backward several times, eventually bloodying the Osaka-native’s eye, nose and mouth.

Lomachenko also knocked down Nakatani in the fifth, using a three-punch combo near the end of the round.

In his last fight, Nakatani was knocked down twice by Felix Verdejo before responding with a ninth-round KO win. This time, Nakatani never stood a chance as he was outclassed by the former pound-for-pound Ukranian great in every round.

It marked the first time Nakatani (19-2) was stopped in a fight, with his only other loss coming by way of decision, at the hands of Lopez in 2019.

“I realized (I was in control) after the third and fourth rounds because I was punching him with straight lefts and punching him with precision,” Lomachenko said. “I’m very happy because of the strategies that had been chosen, and also all the work, all the preparations, the trainings that had been done, all worked just fine and well, so I’m very happy. The result was as we planned.”

With the win, Lomachenko is hoping to land a rematch against Lopez, who was set for his first title defense in Miami on June 19 until he tested positive for COVID-19. His mandatory bout against George Kambosos, and the entire undercard, has been rescheduled for Aug. 14 in Miami, but could be moved to Sept. 11 in Las Vegas.

Lopez’s father, Teofimo Sr., who was in attendance, told ESPN during an interview after the fight his son’s camp is willing to grant the rematch, but with the caveat it must happen immediately after the Kambosos bout.

“After this performance I think the public wants to see this fight,” Lopez Sr. said. “I think I can convince my son to fight him again. After Kambosos it can be made. It’s gonna be the biggest fight in the world. We can make it happen in December. We can make it happen in Madison Square Garden.”

Lomachenko’s loss to Lopez cost the 33-year-old his WBA and WBO lightweight titles and left the former unified champ on the outside looking in on a division that inherited a youth movement of undefeated fighters, including Lopez (16-0), Devin Haney (26-0), Ryan Garcia (21-0) and Gervonta Davis (25-0), who also fought Saturday, defeating Mario Barrios with an 11th-round TKO in Atlanta.

A Lopez rematch could take place later this year or in early 2022, with Top Rank chairman Bob Arum ready to pull the trigger.

“In case there was any doubt, Lomachenko proved he is still one of the very best fighters in the world,” Arum said. “He is healthy and ready to fight any of the lightweights. As the promoter of these two great lightweights, my job and duty is to bring them together for the fight everyone wants to see. I’m fielding offers now from different places in the world.”

In the 10-round middleweight co-feature, 2016 Olympian Janibek Alimkhanuly (10-0, 6 KOs) continued his ascension up the ladder of contenders with an impressive TKO destruction of former world champion Rob Brant (26-3, 18 KOs). The fight was stopped after the eighth round, when Brant’s cornermen requested referee Michael Ortega.

While Alimkhanuly landed 46% of his power punches (65 of 142, including 20 to the body), Brant struggled the entire fight to find confidence to challenge inside, vividly cautious of Alimkhanuly’s counter punches.

“Ever since I turned pro, I wanted a big fight like this,” Alimkhanuly said. “Whenever a title shot comes, I’ll be ready.”

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MLB Top Plays, June 26




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 20:54:16 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 10:58:32 EDT
Julia Kreuz




The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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16247378055160610


Blue Jays’ Guerrero Jr. crushes MLB-leading 26th home run



MLB Top Plays, June 26 5160745

Sat, 26 Jun 2021 16:04:42 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 16:10:22 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Watch as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. crushes his 26th home run of the season, taking the MLB lead against the Baltimore Orioles.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Cardinals’ Goldschmidt smashes a 470-foot home run against Pirates



MLB Top Plays, June 26 5160745

Sat, 26 Jun 2021 18:51:13 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 18:51:13 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Watch as St. Louis Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt smashes a home run 470 feet against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Joey Gallo crushes two home runs against Royals



MLB Top Plays, June 26 5160745

Sat, 26 Jun 2021 20:02:18 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 20:02:18 EDT
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Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo drilled two home runs against the Kansas City Royals.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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What it’s been like for Springer to watch Guerrero Jr. this season




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 15:09:30 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 15:09:30 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Watch as Blue Jays’ George Springer joins Arash Madani to talk about Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s home run race with Fernando Tatís Jr. and Shohei Ohtani, and how he is finding his own stride getting back into the lineup.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Blue Jays’ bats stay hot early, crush Orioles







Sat, 26 Jun 2021 19:32:33 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 19:33:04 EDT
Sportsnet Staff







Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 26th home run of the season and Randal Grichuk had a 3-run home run as they crushed the Baltimore Orioles 12-4.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 26th home run of the season and Randal Grichuk had a 3-run home run as they crushed the Baltimore Orioles 12-4.

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Baseball


MLB




sn-article


Julio Cortez/AP
manoah-ejection
manoah-ejection


Blue Jays’ Alek Manoah accepts five-game suspension




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 15:51:27 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 15:51:27 EDT
Sportsnet Staff




Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Alek Manoah has accepted his five-game suspension for intentionally throwing at Baltimore Orioles third baseman Maikel Franco on June 19.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Alek Manoah has accepted his five-game suspension for intentionally throwing at Baltimore Orioles third baseman Maikel Franco on June 19.

Manoah’s suspension begins Saturday, making the 23-year-old eligible to return on July 2.

The decision comes after Manoah pitched six innings in Friday night’s 6-5 extra-innings loss to Baltimore, allowing four hits and no earned runs while striking out six batters and walking a pair.

Manoah was ejected in the fourth inning against the Orioles on June 19 after hitting Franco. Following the play, an umpire escorted a visibly upset Franco away from Manoah, who was walking toward home plate. Both benches cleared soon after but cooler heads would prevail.

Manoah told reporters after the game that he didn’t intend to hit Franco and that the pitch “slipped away.”

On Tuesday, both the rookie pitcher and Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo were disciplined for the incident. Manoah was suspended five games – which he said he planned to appeal – while Montoyo served his one-game ban during that night’s game against the Miami Marins.

In six starts for the Blue Jays this season, Manoah sports a 3.34 ERA and 1.112 WHIP with 33 strikeouts and 11 walks across 29.2 innings.

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Baseball


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TOR



sn-article

MLB Highlights (June 26)




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 23:28:25 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 23:28:25 EDT
Thomas Ketko




The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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sn-collection


16247638085160789


Highlights: Red Sox 4, Yankees 2



MLB Highlights (June 26) 5160794

Sat, 26 Jun 2021 23:26:12 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 23:26:12 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Nathan Eovaldi went 7 and 2/3 innings and the Boston Red Sox won their fifth straight against the New York Yankees with a 4-2 win.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Highlights: Dodgers 3, Cubs 2



MLB Highlights (June 26) 5160794

Sat, 26 Jun 2021 23:16:19 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 23:16:19 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Cody Bellinger hits his third career walk-off home run to help the Los Angeles Dodgers edge the Chicago Cubs.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Highlights: Brewers 10, Rockies 4



MLB Highlights (June 26) 5160794

Sat, 26 Jun 2021 21:23:33 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 21:23:33 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Christian Yelich hit a two-run homer in a six-run eighth inning to help the Milwaukee Brewers defeat the Colorado Rockies.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Highlights: Cardinals 3, Pirates 1



MLB Highlights (June 26) 5160794

Sat, 26 Jun 2021 21:00:39 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 21:00:39 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Paul Goldschmidt went 2-for-3 with a home run, Paul DeJong went yard as well to lift the St. Louis Cardinals to a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Frank Augstein/AP
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chiesa-celebrate


Italy survives Austria to book spot in Euro 2020 quarterfinals




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 17:36:38 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 19:56:20 EDT
Associated Press




Substitutes Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina scored in extra time to help Italy beat Austria 2-1 and advance to the quarterfinals of the European Championship.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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LONDON — With three exquisite touches of control, technique and finishing, Federico Chiesa ended 95 minutes of Italian frustration.

This record-breaking team is off to the quarterfinals of the European Championship with a defence that finally allowed a goal after more than 19 hours but with a national team-record 12th straight victory.

After breezing through the group stage at Euro 2020, Italy was made to fight for its 2-1 victory over Austria on Saturday in a last-16 game that came to life in extra time.

It was Roberto Mancini’s substitutes who made the difference with the goals from Chiesa and Matteo Pessina at Wembley Stadium.

“We needed some fresh energy,” Mancini said, “and the guys who came on were brilliant.”

An unmarked Chiesa brought down Leonardo Spinazzola’s high cross with his head, controlled the bouncing ball with his right boot and then used his other foot to shoot low into the net.

“Usually when the ball arrives like this you try a first time on the volley,” Chiesa said. “But I think the goal came because I was composed, I was relaxed and I was focused.”

The goal rolled the clock back 25 years to when European Championship games were last played in England and his father Enrico Chiesa scored for Italy. Euro ’96, however, ended in the group stage for Italy.

Now it’s onto a quarterfinal meeting in Munich on Friday against the winner of Sunday’s match between defending champion Portugal and top-ranked Belgium.

“Ideally we would like to avoid both,” Mancini said, “but it’s not possible.”

After scoring seven goals without reply in the group stage, Italy didn’t have it so easy against an Austrian team playing in the knockout stage at a European Championship for the first time.

“After 90 minutes we said that we just had to improve the quality of the final passes,” Spinazzola said, “and finally the goals arrived in extra time.”

Individual skill produced the breakthrough from Chiesa. Italy’s second was more about calmness in a goalmouth scramble. Pessina, who came on midway through the second half, sent the ball into the far corner of the net in the 105th minute.

“In this team everybody can score and this is our main strength,” Pessina said. “We are a great group.”

The group spirit was clear in the raw emotion of the goal celebrations as teammates collapsed on Pessina, a late injury replacement in the squad.

“He’s not a player I have necessarily unearthed — he has been doing brilliantly for Atalanta,” Mancini said. “He has certainly proved that he is a top player and I think he will have a great future with Italy because I think he is only going to get better.”

Italy was also celebrating in extra time after setting a world record for minutes played without conceding a goal in international soccer. The previous record was also Italy’s and was set with goalkeeper Dino Zoff in the team. The Italians went 1,143 minutes between 1972 and 1974 without allowing a goal.

But Italy soon conceded for the first time in 1,168 minutes, from a set piece in the 114th minute when Sasa Kalajdzic headed the ball in from a corner.

“Maybe Italy was a little bit nervous,” Austria defender David Alaba said.

The Austrian comeback ended there, however, and Italy held on for its 31st straight unbeaten match — another national team record.

Video review helped, too.

Austria took 63 minutes for its first shot, then found the net two minutes later. Alaba headed the ball across the penalty area and Marko Arnautovic nodded the ball past Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. But the video review showed Arnautovic’s right boot was offside.

“We are disappointed and sad,” Austria coach Franco Foda said. “We need justice in football but today it hit us. It was a close offside and we have to live with it.”

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Soccer


UEFA Euro 2020




sn-article


16247545065160732


Highlights: Wings 85, Mystics 74




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 20:44:32 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 20:44:32 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale scored 30 points in 30 minutes of action to lead her team to an 85-74 victory over the Washington Mystics.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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(John Bazemore/AP)
Braves Soroka Spring Baseball


Braves’ Mike Soroka suffers complete re-tear of Achilles




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 12:32:16 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 14:57:47 EDT
Associated Press




Atlanta Braves right-hander Mike Soroka, and one of the top Canadian pitcher in MLB, will require season-ending surgery after suffering a complete re-tear of his right Achilles, the team announced Saturday.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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CINCINNATI — Atlanta Braves right-hander Mike Soroka is facing season-ending surgery after again tearing his right Achilles tendon.

The Braves said Saturday Soroka suffered the new tear on Thursday while walking to the clubhouse at Truist Park, where he was continuing his rehabilitation while the team is at Cincinnati.

“It was his first day out of the boot,” manager Brian Snitker said before Saturday’s game at Great American Ball Park. “He was just walking. I hate it for him. All signs were a go, until he took that step and felt that pop.”

Soroka now faces his third surgery on the Achilles. The team says the procedure will be scheduled within a week.

There was no timetable for Soroka’s return prior to this latest setback, although Snitker said he was hopeful that he could return by the end of this season. Soroka had not yet started throwing off the mound.

Snitker texted Soroka on Saturday morning after hearing the news and later spoke with him by phone.

“He’s put things in perspective,” Snitker said. “He’s ready for this next journey he’s going to be on. The day it happened, it really punched him in the gut.”

Soroka, who was Atlanta’s opening day starter in 2020, first tore the Achilles in a game against the New York Mets on Aug. 3, 2020. He had season-ending surgery and was working to return this season when he suffered a setback in May which led to a follow-up procedure.

Soroka was again working to return this season before tearing the same Achilles. The Braves say an MRI confirmed the new tear.

Soroka emerged as one of the foundations of the Braves’ rotation in 2019, when he went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA. The Canadian earned a spot in the All-Star Game, finished second in NL Rookie of the Year balloting and sixth for the Cy Young Award.

News of Soroka’s setback spread through the Braves clubhouse on Saturday.

“They’re all sick for him,” Snitker said.

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John Locher/AP
Carey Price Montreal Canadiens (5)


The story of the 2021 Stanley Cup semifinals in 73 fun stats




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 08:22:20 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 08:22:20 EDT
Luke Fox




The Stanley Cup semifinals delivered two thrilling series, intense commitment to defence and set the stage for either a repeat champion or one of the greatest Cinderella tales in sport. We recount the battles of hockey’s Final Four through 73 statistics.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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The Stanley Cup semifinals delivered two thrilling series, intense commitment to defence and set the stage for either a repeat champion or one of the greatest Cinderella tales in sport.

We recount the battles of hockey’s Final Four through 73 statistics.

Break out your abacus.

Livestream every game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free. Plus get the NHL Draft, Free Agency, Blue Jays & MLB, NBA Playoffs matchups and more.

100 years apart for the inaugural seasons of the Vegas Golden Knights (2017-18) and Montreal Canadiens (1917-18), the largest gap ever between playoff opponents

29 years since every member of the NHL’s final four defeated a higher seed to survive Round 2

3 NHL franchises, including the Vegas Golden Knights, to reach the final four three times in their first four years of existence (New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues are the others)

5 times in the past seven years that the Tampa Bay Lightning reached Round 3

18 regular-season place of the Montreal Canadiens

$525 bet one would need to make on massive semifinals favourite Golden Knights before Game 1 versus underdog Montreal to win just $100

460 days since a Canadian team travelled across the border to face a U.S. opponent, a streak broken when the Habs visited Las Vegas for Game 1

4-4–8 stat line, entering Game 1, of both Vegas’s Max Pacioretty and Montreal’s Nick Suzuki, who were traded for each other in a 2018 blockbuster

5-3 margin by which Suzuki outscored Pacioretty in their series

3 game-winning goals in by Ryan Pulock, busting Denis Potvin’s 1981 record for most in a single post-season by an Islanders defenceman

0 rush chances for the Lightning in Game 1’s loss to the Islanders

447:08 time, in minutes and seconds, of Montreal’s non-trailing streak, ended by Vegas in Game 1

43 goals at all levels (NCAA, world juniors, AHL, NHL) scored by Montreal rookie Cole Caufield, J.J. Watt’s favourite player, in 2020-21

5 consecutive games, through Game 3, with a point for Caufield, who began the post-season as a healthy scratch

7 Tampa skaters on the ice when Ondrej Palat scored the go-ahead goal in Game 2:

13-0 Lightning’s record following a playoff loss, the longest such run in NHL history

4 consecutive series-clinching shutouts for Andrei Vasilevskiy

7.5 weight in pounds and ounces of Carson Elizabeth Coleman, born roughly five hours after dad Blake played Game 1; a Lightning-arranged police escort zipped Blake to the hospital in five minutes after the buzzer, saving a 30-minute drive

Live Cricket

122 career playoff points by Nikita Kucherov

36 more playoff points by Kucherov than anyone else since he made his playoff debut in 2014 (Sidney Crosby is second with 86)

22:42 ice time logged by Mikhail Sergachev in a Game 1 loss, after which he hopped out of his car to make this fan’s day:

46 degrees Celsius (or 115°F), temperature in Las Vegas at puck drop for Game 2

8 consecutive games with a point for Tyler Toffoli, through Game 2

3 consecutive series in which Montreal has faced an opponent missing a top centreman for the bulk of the games (John Tavares, Mark Scheifele, Chandler Stephenson)

90 percentage of readers who are questioning if Stephenson is considered a “top centreman”

9 consecutive games with a goal, through Game 6, for Brayden Point, the second-best playoff goal streak in NHL history

24 NHL franchises that have lost at least one playoff game to the Montreal Canadiens

27 times special guest Usher cranked the siren to hype Golden Knights fans before Game 2:

45 points by Golden Knights defencemen, tops among all playoff teams

7 Golden Knights defencemen with at least one playoff goal, tying an NHL record

.334 batting average, in 1986, by Montreal Expos Hall of Famer Tim Raines, cheering on the Habs in Vegas for Game 2:

3,500 Bell Centre attendance in games 3, 4 and 6 — up from 2,500 in Round 2

10,000 number of fans Canadiens defenceman Erik Gustafsson says “it feels like” during these home games

2/2 bloodshot eyes belonging to Jeff Petry

341 blocked shots by the Golden Knights, more than any other playoff team

779 hits by the Islanders, more than any other playoff team

$130.4 million box office rake of 1984’s The Karate Kid, a film that cost only $8 million to produce and created a movie star out of Islanders fan Ralph Macchio

90 playoff wins by Marc-Andre Fleury, moving two shy of Grant Fuhr (92) for third most all-time

4-0 Lightning’s all-time record in playoff series versus the Islanders

11-0 Montreal’s playoff record when scoring at least two goals

24 consecutive post-season games won by Montreal when scoring three or more goals, a streak dating back to May 6, 2014

9 of 12 all-time Vegas-Montreal games won by the Canadiens

11-2 Canadiens’ playoff record when scoring first

11 seasons Luke Richardson spent as an NHL assistant or AHL head coach before getting his first win as an NHL bench boss — in Game 3, as an emergency substitute for Dominique Ducharme, who tested positive for COVID-19

https://twitter.com/CanadiensMTL/status/1406091024531853314

39-17 Game 3 shots, in favour of the Golden Knights, when Marc-Andre Fleury flubbed a dump-in with 1:55 remaining in regulation and paved the way for Montreal’s dramatic comeback:

12 consecutive games without a goal for Josh Anderson before Fleury’s gift

0 goals allowed in the first period of the first seven home games by Carey Price, a steak ended by Reilly Smith’s strike in Game 6

3,051 kilometres from the road-hockey streets of Grandview, Man., to the ice of Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, the only two places Game 4 hero Ryan Pulock played goalie:

33 games Matt Martin had gone without a goal before roofing Game 4’s winner for the Isles

1 general manager in history to win back-to-back Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Awards — Lou Lamoriello

31 consecutive penalty kills for Montreal

13 consecutive games for Montreal without a power-play goal allowed, a new NHL post-season record

+1 Montreal’s goal differential on the penalty kill

6-8 stitches necessary to mend the gash on Corey Perry’s face by Jonathan Marchessault’s uncalled high stick in Game 3; Perry nose was repaired just in time to celebrate Montreal’s OT victory

44 days between victories for Vegas’s Game 4 starter, Robin Lehner

4 hours before puck drop Lehner arrived at Bell Centre, half of which he says he spent “watching you guys talk s— about me on Twitter to get me motivated”

10 pounds, weight (approximate) of Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer’s cojones, for switching out Fleury (9-6, 1.97, .921) after Game 3’s loss… and then going back to Fleury after Robin Lehner’s stellar showing in Game 4… only to go back to Lehner

$12 million cap hit of the Golden Knights’ goalie tandem

18-0 high-danger chances, in favour of Game 4 loser Montreal, through 60 minutes; Vegas’s only high-danger attempts came in overtime, by Quebec-born hero Nicolas Roy

45 seconds into Game 5 that Steven Stamkos needed to score the winner, his first of the series, pass Martin St. Louis for third all-time in club playoff scoring, and quiet questions that the Lightning captain was underdelivering or too injured to be effective

19 of 19 playoff games in which the Islanders were the betting underdogs

19 consecutive games in which the Islanders finished Period 1 without a lead

7 road wins for Carey Price, leaping him over Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy for a new Canadiens record

5 total goals scored by Golden Knights forwards in the semifinals

$1,000,000 “value” of the phoney bill embedded in the T-Mobile Arena ice prior to Game 5 puck drop:

2 nasty and unpenalized cross-checks delivered by Scott Mayfield to Tampa Bay stars Stamkos and Kucherov prior to scoring Game 6’s tying goal and helping deliver one last victory at Nassau Coliseum

2,167,916 combined populations of Tampa and Montreal — and the estimated number of people who recently learned what Chris Lee does for a living

$30 price of a large baked clam pizza — chopped littleneck clams topped with areganato, breadcrumbs and fresh oregano — from Islanders fan favourite Borrelli’s Restaurant, part of Nassau County executive Laura Curran’s series bet with Tampa Bay mayor Jane Castor

3 nights Montreal’s Phillip Danault has capped off a series victory with a press conference pizza party

1 “Eastern Conference” team to win the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, awarded to the Western Conference champions

0 Canadiens who touched the trophy, named for the commissioner who touched off the Richard Riot — on the 37th anniversary of Campbell’s death no less

15; 60 arrests made and tickets handed out by Montreal police in wake of the Habs’ series-clinching overtime victory

21 blocked shots by Tampa Bay in their lockdown 1-0 Game 7 win

Statistics pilfered from NHL.com, helpful Twitter users, CapFriendly, ESPN, Natural Stat Trick, Elias, Sportsnet Stats, Sportlogiq, and the occasional flat-out guess.

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Former Blackhawks player sues team, alleges sexual assault by assistant




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 09:45:53 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 10:00:06 EDT
Associated Press




An unidentified former Chicago Blackhawks player says in a lawsuit against the team that a then-assistant coach sexually assaulted him in 2010 during a playoff run to a Stanley Cup title and that the team did nothing after he informed a now-retired employee.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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CHICAGO — An unidentified former Chicago Blackhawks player says in a lawsuit against the team that a then-assistant coach sexually assaulted him in 2010 during a playoff run to a Stanley Cup title and that the team did nothing after he informed a now-retired employee.

After leaving the Blackhawks, former assistant coach Bradley Aldrich 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, Chicago public radio station WBEZ reported in a series of stories based on legal filings, police records and interviews.

Inaction by the Blackhawks helped enable Aldrich to go on and assault the Michigan student, and possibly others, said Susan Loggans, the former player’s attorney.

“This entire man’s life has been destroyed,” Loggans told WBEZ. “These professional athletes have to function at the top of their game at all times in order to be competitive, and these things are really debilitating.”

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 then-skills coach Paul Vincent in May 2010 of inappropriate behaviour by Aldrich.

Vincent told the news outlet he told team executives, including team President John McDonough and general manager Stan Bowman, to report the allegations to Chicago police but that his request was rejected.

“I feel a weight has been lifted off of me,” Vincent told TSN. “I will stand up in court and say what happened. I know what the team did to cover this up and coming forward was the right thing to do.”

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.

The eight-page suit says Aldrich, then a video coach for the Blackhawks, “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.

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.

The Associated Press left messages with the Blackhawks and the NHL on Thursday seeking comment. In the May statement to WBEZ, team spokesman Adam Rogowin said the team was confident it would “be absolved of any wrongdoing.” Vincent did not return emails seeking comment.

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 online Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry as of Thursday said Aldrich was 38 and gave an address for him in Hancock, Michigan, some 400 miles (644 kilometres) north of Chicago.

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.”

“Everything that I have read in the WBEZ report is 100% accurate,” Loggans told The Associated Press Thursday.

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Stephane Mahe/AP
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Van der Poel honours grandfather winning second stage at Tour de France




Sun, 27 Jun 2021 12:36:18 EDT Sun, 27 Jun 2021 14:42:03 EDT
Associated Press




Tour de France debutant Mathieu Van der Poel snatched the race leader’s yellow jersey with a win in the second stage on Sunday.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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MUR-DE-BRETAGNE, France (AP) — What his grandfather failed to do in 14 editions of the Tour de France, Mathieu van der Poel achieved at his first attempt.

The Tour debutant pointed a finger toward the sky in memory of his grandfather, Raymond Poulidor, as he crossed the finish line of the second stage at cycling’s biggest race on Sunday to snatch the coveted yellow jersey.

“It’s a shame he is not here, but what can I do,” the 26-year-old Van der Poel said about Poulidor, while holding back tears after his maiden Tour stage win following a blazing attack.

Poulidor, who died in November 2019, took part in 14 Tours from 1962-76, finishing in second place overall three times and third five times. Nicknamed “Poupou” and “The Eternal Runner-up,” Poulidor was adored by French fans but could never win the famed yellow tunic worn by the race leader after each stage.

“I imagine how proud he would be,” said Van der Poel, whose father, Adri, was also a professional cyclist and wore the yellow jersey for one day in 1984.

Van der Poel jumped out of the group of favorites in the 2-kilometer climb leading to Mur-de-Bretagne, where the finish was set. The Dutchman used his greater power with 700 meters left to drop all the main contenders in the long stretch of road.

Defending champion Tadej Pogacar was next across the line, six seconds back, and Primoz Roglic completed the stage podium.

“I knew today was my last chance to take the jersey, it’s incredible to succeed,” Van der Poel said.

A versatile rider, Van der Poel has won titles in many disciplines and plans to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in mountain bike. A quadruple cyclocross world champion, he also won the Strade Bianche earlier this year and the prestigious Tour of Flanders last year.

The powerfully built Van der Poel, however, is not among the main contenders at the Tour due to the high mountain and time-trialing elements of the race.

Sunday’s 183.5-kilometer (114-mile) route from Perros-Guirec did not feature a major difficulty until the finishing loop, including the iconic Mur-de-Bretagne ascent. Called the “Alpe d’Huez of Brittany” by the cycling-crazed Bretons because of its steep gradient, the climb was tackled twice Sunday and the finish line was set up at the top.

Van der Poel produced his first effort in the opening ascent to cross first at the summit and seize a time bonus of eight seconds that helped him claim the yellow jersey.

World champion Julian Alaphilippe, who had led after the first stage, ended the stage in fifth place.

“Yesterday he was disappointed not to win and came to see me to me to say he was happy for me,” Alaphilippe said. “Today it’s the same, we compete against each other throughout the year, we both like to attack. I’m very happy for him, he deserves it.”

Thanks to the time bonus, Van der Poel has an eight-second lead over Alaphilippe in the general classification. Pogacar is in third place, 13 seconds off the pace.

Among the top contenders, former Tour champion Geraint Thomas was unable to follow Van der Poel’s pace and dropped to 20th overall, 41 seconds back.

After a brutal Saturday marred by two massive pile-ups that saw dozens of riders hit the ground, the peloton was happy to let a breakaway form in the early stages.

Along the stunning rocky coastline of the Cote de Granit Rose, Alaphilippe chatted with rivals at the front of the pack as Anthony Perez, Edward Theuns, Simon Clarke, Jonas Koch, Ide Schelling and Jeremy Cabot opened a gap of about four minutes.

Tony Martin, the German veteran rider who was hit by a placard being held by a spectator on the side of the road during the opening stage, rode with bandages on his left arm and left leg but gave a thumbs-up and smiled to TV cameras.

Tour organizers have started legal action following the crash and French police are trying to trace the spectator who caused the accident.

Theuns tried a solo effort with 70 kilometers left and was joined by Cabot as the leading group broke apart in the Cote de Saint-Brieux. With all the main contenders looking to come through the double ascent of the Mur-de-Bretagne unscathed, the peloton accelerated the pace — first to catch the remaining breakaway riders, then to get their leaders in good positions at the foot of the hill before the final battle started for the stage win.

The peloton will remain in Brittany for Monday’s third stage, a flat 182.9-kilometer (113.6-mile) trek between Lorient and Pontivy which is tailor-made for sprinters.

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Tanner Boser


Alberta heavyweight Boser bounces back with UFC win over Saint Preux




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 20:47:06 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 20:47:06 EDT
Canadian Press




After a sluggish first-round showing, Saint Preux tried for a takedown a minute into the second round, eventually getting Boser to the ground after they clinched at the fence. Boser was warned for grabbing the fence with his right hand as he worked his way to his feet, prompting Saint Preux’s corner to scream foul.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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LAS VEGAS — Alberta heavyweight Tanner (The Bulldozer) Boser stopped Ovince (OSP) Saint Preux in the second round of the co-main event of a UFC Fight Night card Saturday.

The win snapped a two-fight losing streak for Boser, but it came with some controversy.

After a sluggish first-round showing, Saint Preux tried for a takedown a minute into the second round, eventually getting Boser to the ground after they clinched at the fence. Boser was warned for grabbing the fence with his right hand as he worked his way to his feet, prompting Saint Preux’s corner to scream foul.

Replays were unclear whether he had indeed grabbed the fence.

Boser then caught Saint Preux with a knee and, two punches later, felled him with a right to the head. Referee Jason Herzog stepped in to stop the punishment at 2:31 of the round.

Boser (20-8-1) accepted the fight on short notice after Saint Preux’s original opponent, Russian Maxim Grishin was unable to compete due to visa issues. Saint Preux (25-16-0) agreed to move up to heavyweight to face Boser, who had requested a quick return to action after a June 5 loss to Sweden’s Ilir (The Sledgehammer) Latifi.

“I’m feeling pretty good, what can I say,” Boser, a 29-year-old from Bonnyville, Alta., who now calls Edmonton home, said after the bout. “I had to right the ship. I lost a very close decision three weeks ago. I wasn’t injured. Of course, I think I won that fight. Of course, my opponent would disagree. That’s how it goes in a fight like that.

“But I needed to save the summer.”

The main event at the UFC Apex production facility saw France’s Cyril (Bon Gamin) Gane, ranked third among heavyweight contenders, win a unanimous (50-45, 50-45, 49-46) decision over No. 5 Alexander (Drago) Volkov of Russia.

Boser weighed in at 240 pounds while Saint Preux was 230. At six foot three and a half inches, Saint Preux had a 1.5-inch height advantage and five-inch reach advantage.

Boser, a mobile heavyweight, was the early aggressor. He came out firing kicks at Saint Preux while mixing jabs and looking to land power shots with his right hand. Saint Preux did little in the first round.

“What are you waiting on? … We gave that round away,” Saint Preux’s cornerman said after the round.

The 38-year-old Saint Preux, who was coming off a December loss to light-heavyweight Jamahal (Sweet Dreams) Hill, fought as a heavyweight in May 2020 when, after weighing in at 240.5 pounds, he lost a split decision to 265-pound Ben Rothwell.

Saint Preux, a former University of Tennessee football player, has missed the 206-pound light-heavyweight non-title limit in the past.

He made his UFC debut in April 2013 at UFC 159 and is now 13-11-0 in the promotion. He fought for the interim light-heavyweight championship in April 2016, losing to Jon (Bones) Jones at UFC 197.

Against Latifi, Boser was at the wrong end of a 28-29, 29-27, 28-29 split decision despite the fact that Boser had a 45-10 edge in significant strikes, according to UFC Stats.

Boser saw his two-fight win streak snapped in a loss to former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei (The Pit Bull) Arlovski in November. Boser landed 68 of 119 significant strike attempts while Arlovski was good on 34 of 82 attempts. But Arlovski showed more power.

While all three judges scored the fight 29-28 for Arlovski, each awarded Boser a different round. Boser blamed himself afterwards, saying he had been too complacent.

Boser, who raised his UFC record to 4-3-0, is no stranger to short-notice assignments.

In 2019, he beat Daniel Spitz on Oct. 18 and lost to Gane on Dec. 21. And last year he posted wins over Philipe (Monstro) Lins and Raphael (Bebezoa) Pessoa on June 27 and July 25, respectively.

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Victoria organizers get green light for fans at Olympic basketball qualifying




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 11:47:32 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 11:47:32 EDT
Canadian Press




Victoria will feel like home court for Canada’s men’s basketball team after all.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Victoria will feel like home court for Canada’s men’s basketball team after all.

Organizers for Canada’s last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament which tips off Tuesday in Victoria have been given the green light to have fans at games.

"After working closely with BC Public Health, we have just now been approved to host up to 10 per cent of capacity at the Save on Foods Memorial Centre for games on July 1, 3 and 4," the West Basketball Festival organizing committee tweeted on Saturday.

Organizers told "ever-patient" ticket-holders that they’re ironing out the final details.

The Save-On-Foods Centre has a capacity of 7,500.

Canada Basketball bid to host the tournament well before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020, with dreams of a home court helping lift the Canadian men to their first Olympic appearance since the 2000 Sydney Games.

Rowan Barrett, the general manager of Canada’s men’s program, was on the 2000 team, and has fond memories of the Olympic qualifier in Puerto Rico, saying the experience galvanized that team.

When Canada acquired the qualifying tournament, he’d hoped noisy Canadians would help the team clinch a berth. But COVID-19 obviously had other ideas.

"If we can get that home-court advantage, get the wind at your back, in the big game, and help put some pressure on the other team, it’s what we face constantly when we go to play and so to be able to maybe have that for us this year would be tremendous," Barrett said recently.

B.C. announced a reopening structure in late May that Canada Basketball had hoped would see fans in the arena.

"We will obviously follow the lead of the government and health officials to see if that is safe and possible; if it is, that would be great," Canada Basketball’s president and CEO Glen Grunwald said recently. "One of the reasons we worked so hard to host this tournament here was so we could have some kind of home-court advantage and some fans in the stands."

Canada, which must win the tournament to play in Tokyo, opens Group A action on Tuesday versus Greece, which will be missing Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Canadians play China on Wednesday.

Group B has Uruguay, Czech Republic and Turkey. The top two teams in each group face off in the semifinals.

Tokyo organizers announced earlier this week that fans will be permitted at Olympic events. Crowds will be limited to 50 per cent, with a maximum of 10,000.

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[Pavel Golovkin, File/AP]
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Declan Farmer


U.S. downs Canada, claims gold medal at world para hockey championship




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 17:29:37 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 17:29:37 EDT
Canadian Press




Declan Farmer had two goals and an assist as the United States defeated Canada 5-1 Saturday in the gold-medal game of the 2021 IPC World Para Hockey Championship.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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OSTRAVA, Czechia — Declan Farmer had two goals and an assist as the United States defeated Canada 5-1 Saturday in the gold-medal game of the 2021 IPC World Para Hockey Championship.

Travis Dodson, Josh Pauls and David Eustace also scored for the U.S., which won its fifth championship and ninth medal overall. Jack Wallace added three assists.

Billy Bridges scored for Canada, which defeated the U.S. 2-1 in the preliminary round.

It was a rematch of the 2019 final in Ostrava, which the Americans won 3-2 in overtime. The 2020 tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier Saturday, Russia beat South Korea 7-0 in the bronze-medal game.

The top five teams at the tournament qualified for the 2022 Beijing Paralympics. Host Czech Republic edged Norway 2-1 in Friday’s fifth-place game.

Farmer opened the scoring on a power play 7:28 into the first period, and Dodson made it 2-0 at the 10:33 mark.

Bridges scored with just over a minute remaining in the first to cut the American lead to 2-1 heading into the first intermission.

Pauls restored the two-goal U.S. lead with a power-play goal 4:20 into the second period, and Farmer scored his second of the game as the period was winding down.

Eustace capped the scoring at 8:27 of the third period.

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Alec-Martinez


Golden Knights’ Alec Martinez played through broken foot in playoffs




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 15:49:34 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 15:52:53 EDT
Sportsnet Staff




It’s one thing to play through a nagging or minor injury, it’s an entirely different thing to skate more than 22 minutes a game on a broken foot for over a month while blocking a playoffs-leading 72 shots. But that’s exactly Alec Martinez did.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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It’s one thing to play through a nagging or minor injury, it’s an entirely different thing to skate more than 22 minutes a game on a broken foot for over a month while blocking a playoffs-leading 72 shots.

But that’s exactly Alec Martinez did.

The Vegas Golden Knights veteran defenceman revealed the injury Saturday as the team conducted its exit interviews following its Game 6 ouster from the Stanley Cup semifinals at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

“I was getting wheeled around a lot. Our medical staff is awesome here,” Martinez told reporters, per The Athletic‘s Jesse Granger.

“I couldn’t have done it without the medical staff. They were pretty incredible to put me in a position to go out there and compete with the guys. So a big thank you to them.”

In addition to bravely risking further injury with 72 blocked shots — 20 more than No. 2 and teammate Alex Pietrangelo — Martinez also put up six points in 19 post-season games, including the clutch third-period tally that forced overtime in Game 6.

Martinez recorded 32 points in 53 regular-season games with the Golden Knights, scoring at a career-best 0.60 points per game.

The 33-year-old is slated to become an unrestricted free agent as his six-year, $24-million contract — signed while a member of the Los Angeles Kings in 2014 — expires in the off-season.

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Korda, Salas pull away and share lead in Women’s PGA




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 16:47:10 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 16:47:10 EDT
Associated Press




Lizette Salas relied on precision and big putts to make up for a big power gap against Nelly Korda, and they wound up tied for the lead Saturday going into the final round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Lizette Salas relied on precision and big putts to make up for a big power gap against Nelly Korda, and they wound up tied for the lead Saturday going into the final round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Salas was practically flawless in delivering a 30 on the front nine to go from a one-shot deficit to a two-shot lead. She then made her first bogey of the week after 45 holes and didn’t make another birdie in a third straight 5-under 67.

Korda, the 22-year-old coming off a victory last week on the LPGA Tour, played bogey-free but failed to use her length to capitalize on the par 5s on the back nine of Atlanta Athletic Club. She had a 68.

They were at 15-under 201, five shots clear of a trio that includes Patty Tavatanakit, the Thai star who won the first LPGA major of the year at the ANA Inspiration. Tavatanakit ran off four straight birdies toward the end of her round for a 65.

Joining her five shots behind were Giulia Molinaro of Italy (66) and Celine Boutier of France, who had a 69 while playing in the final group with the co-leaders.

Boutier had reason to think she was out of the tournament when she fell nine shots behind as the group was approaching the turn. She was playing fine. It’s just that Salas was playing out of this world, and Korda was not too far behind.

Salas, who began the week by sharing her emotional struggles of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, began her round by holing a 45-foot putt across the green. After a wedge to 3 feet for a birdie on the par-5 second, she drained a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 3.

That was set up by another fairway metal. Korda was constantly some 35 yards beyond her off the tee, hitting short irons when Salas was hitting hybrids and fairway metals. It’s a wonder her caddie, John Killeen, didn’t lose any head covers.

No matter. The 31-year-old Californian couldn’t miss. She brought a U.S. Open game — fairways and greens, nothing fancy — to the Women’s PGA and it worked.

Salas took the lead for the first time with a 5-hybrid into 25 feet and another long birdie putt on the par-3 seventh, and she hit a 4-hybrid into 12 feet into No. 8, a hole that yielded only eight birdies the entire round.

But after 45 holes without a bogey to start this major, Salas caught a tough lie on the edge of a fairway bunker left of the 10th feet, the ball above her feet as she tried to find balance on either a slope or in the sand. She played short, hit a weak wedge and two-putted from 25 feet.

Korda caught her with a birdie on the 13th, and they both made pars coming in.

Both will be seeking their first major on Sunday and will be in the final twosome. Salas has only one LPGA Tour victory seven years ago.

Korda is a rising star, the younger sister of Jessica Korda and the daughter of former Australian Open tennis champion Petr Korda. She already has five wins and is No. 3 in the world, the highest-ranked American. She has the gallery on her side, with throaty cheers for the tall, athletic Korda on just about every green.

Salas kept plugging away, determined to stay happy even as the grind of a major deep into the weekend began to take its toll.

Tavatanakit never lost hope even as she fell 10 shots behind, even after her driver cracking in the first round and two subsequent days trying — and failing — to find a replacement she could trust. The former UCLA star made up ground in the final hour with four straight birdies, including her 6-iron to 10 feet on the tough par-3 15th.

"I was just trying to go left, then I pushed one right and I was like, `For God’s sakes just carry that water.’ And I did it, and it ended up real being really close."

Not so close are the co-leaders, though Tavatanakit did not lose hope. It’s different from her victory at the ANA Inspiration, where she started the final round with a five-shot lead.

"Not going to lie, I like chasing more than I love having the lead," she said. "I have something to look forward to or just look up to all the the time. Regardless of what what happens tomorrow, I feel like I already have a solid week, considering my situation with the driver. I feel like I really have proved to myself that I can play out here under any circumstances."

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Lightning’s pursuit of history to meet 2021’s team of destiny in Cup Final




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 22:44:19 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 01:33:26 EDT
Chris Johnston




The Montreal Canadiens arrive in this Stanley Cup Final feeling like a team of destiny. But to complete the job, they’re going to have to derail the pursuit of history by the NHL’s gold-standard franchise.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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The Montreal Canadiens arrive in this Stanley Cup Final feeling like a team of destiny. But to complete the job, they’re going to have to derail the pursuit of history by the NHL’s gold-standard franchise.

What makes the Tampa Bay Lightning such a formidable opponent isn’t that they’ve won more games, scored more goals and experienced more big playoff moments than anybody else these last seven years.

It’s that they’ve become the team who likes to beat you at your own game along the way. And after polishing off the determined New York Islanders with a performance straight out of Barry Trotz’s playbook — a tense 1-0 victory in Game 7 — the Lightning are hungry to add another championship to the one they claimed 10 months ago inside the Edmonton bubble.

“To do it two years in a row, multiple times, you’re talking about now your team is special,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “And years down the road they say ‘Well, that Tampa team during some time was a hell of a team’ and I think you can really put a stamp on that if you win another one.”

The Lightning are like a fireball pitcher that added a deceptive curve to the repertoire and became nearly unhittable. During one stretch of the Stanley Cup semifinal series with the Islanders they exploded for 12 straight goals and yet when everything was on the line Friday they bent the game in their favour.

Livestream every game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free. Plus get the NHL Draft, Free Agency, Blue Jays & MLB, NBA Playoffs matchups and more.

This was clinical. They dominated 5-on-5 play and stayed patient until Yanni Gourde’s breakthrough goal while short-handed. And in the final period they allowed just seven shots to get through to Andrei Vasilevskiy, throwing bodies in front of 10 more attempts to seal the victory.

“That was just a textbook Game 7,” said Vasilevskiy.

It sets up a Cup Final that should reward whichever team can stick with it longest, starting with Game 1 at Amalie Arena on Monday night.

The Canadiens caught lightning in a bottle this spring by becoming the absolute best version of themselves. They’ve stifled the most dangerous scorers in Toronto, Winnipeg and Vegas while scaling heights not seen in la belle province since 1993.

You won’t get any freebies against the Habs. They are elite at limiting chances off the rush and have a pretty significant insurance policy in Carey Price when opponents establish momentum on the cycle.

The Canadiens have proven to be pretty opportunistic offensively — 20-year-old Cole Caufield scored four times in the six-game series against the Golden Knights — and they haven’t allowed a power-play goal-against since midway through the first round, which will be tough to maintain against Tampa’s 37.7-per cent juggernauts.

“They’re going to get the best team that they’ve played against so far and we’re going to get the best team that we’ve played against so far,” said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos.

“It’s going to be a tough grinding series. If anything we can carry over from this [Islanders] series, it’s the style of play in terms of the defensive aspect that we’re going to be going up against — an amazing goaltender who’s on his game right now. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us, and that’s where we go back to all the times that we’ve been in this situation.

“And this core now, there’s guys that this is their third final. We just go back on past experiences and go from there.”

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The other major development from Friday’s victory was that playoff scoring leader Nikita Kucherov managed to play. He said there was never any doubt he’d be in the lineup after getting knocked out of Game 6 on the first shift by a Scott Mayfield cross-check, but Cooper described the situation as “dicey.”

There were all kinds of ways the Lightning could have fallen short in this series. They squandered a 2-0 lead with a chance to finish things off Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum, bringing a little more chance into play.

Gourde acknowledged feeling some nerves before Game 7. He’s one of the shining examples of why this organization has climbed the heights it has — an undrafted former ECHLer signed in free agency who became a productive middle-of-the-lineup contributor for the Lightning — and he was a difference-maker with the season on the line.

Gourde put the only puck behind Semyon Varlamov after slipping off the bench undetected during a line change and burying an Anthony Cirelli feed.

“Scoring a goal in Game 7 is a really amazing moment,” he said.

“For me, it’s big to play against Montreal. This is the team I watched growing up. I’m excited to play a Stanley Cup Final against the Canadiens, but we have to stay calm and manage our emotions well.”

They do it better than most.

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It helps having a goalie as calm as Vasilevskiy, who incredibly has shutouts in the team’s last four series-clinching efforts. He was only asked to make 18 saves in this Game 7. These aren’t the same Lightning that used to try and race opponents to five goals.

“They can beat you with a grind game and a defensive game,” said Trotz. “I think in the earlier years they weren’t going to beat you with a defensive game. They would get frustrated if they didn’t outscore you and to me they’ve got a really good balance.

“Sometimes the labels aren’t really accurate: Tampa Bay is known for total offence, but they’re very good defensively.”

Just like the Canadiens.

The biggest discernible difference in a series that will pit two Atlantic Division teams against one another is experience. The Lightning have won a Cup, lost a Cup and reached two other Game 7’s in the conference finals in just the last seven years alone. The Canadiens have plenty of accomplished veterans on the roster, but they’re currently charting their first lunar mission together.

Asked what he learned about his group these last few weeks, Cooper replied: “Never to doubt ‘em.”

“It took a lot to get here,” he said.

They’re saying that on both sides of this once-in-a-lifetime Final.

May the best team win.

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Giannis, Bucks get statement win over Hawks in Game 2 to even series




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 00:13:33 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 00:13:33 EDT
Craig Battle




The Milwaukee Bucks got contributions from up and down their lineup Friday night to even up the Eastern Conference final at one game apiece. Here are three takeaways from Game 2.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, the heavily favoured Milwaukee Bucks seemed to underestimate the Atlanta Hawks team that had already dispatched the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers in these playoffs. Trae Young went off for 48 points, and the Hawks walked away with a 116–113 win.

Now, after a dominant Game 2, they look merely like the NBA-team equivalent of an MLB hitter who sits on the first pitch to see what the pitcher’s working with.

The Bucks got contributions from up and down their deep lineup Friday night, held Young to a playoff-low 15 points, and won the game going away — 125–91 was the final score after a full quarter of garbage time.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Sloppy Start

Neither team came out putting their best foot forward Friday night. In fact, early on the Bucks seemed to have not learned from some of the lessons they got in Game 1, giving up points off turnovers and showing a lack of urgency on boxouts, which at one point led to this:

Luckily for them, they were making their threes — a ridiculous seven of 12 in the first quarter. They also woke way up by the end of the frame, collecting a total of five offensive boards in the quarter and leading the second-chance points battle (despite that Collins dunk).

The Hawks, meanwhile, started ice cold. They made just one field goal in the first six minutes of the frame, and took just seven shots from the floor in total in that stretch thanks in part to turnover issues of their own.

They caught fire for a few minutes and ended up down just six points at the break, but that was as close to a victory as they’d get.

Game of Runs

Halfway through the second quarter, it was 51–40 Bucks. Then the game essentially ended on a 26-5 Milwaukee run that at one point included 20 straight for the home team.

Even better than the scoring burst was how they got it — namely, without climbing onto Giannis’s back. Antetokounmpo had been dominant early, putting up 15 of those first 51 on a steady diet of shots at the rim. But he had just two points in the second-quarter run — and he got them on free throws.

Holiday, meanwhile, scored 14 of them. And he got them in all sorts of ways — getting to the line, catch-and-shoot threes, leaking out and cherry picking easy layups, you name it.

He finished with 22, and at this point it feels safe to say his offence has rebounded from his shaky performance against the Nets in Round 2.

Giannis still led the Bucks with 25 points, all of them coming in the paint or at the line (though he did take and miss three threes, drawing the ire of TNT broadcaster and NBA Hall of Famer Reggie Miller). But he got significant help from fellow starters Holiday, Brook Lopez (16 points) and Khris Middleton (15 points), and bench scoring from Bobby Portis (8 points), Pat Connaughton (three of three from three-point land) and Bryn Forbes (two more threes).

That scoring depth was a significant advantage for this team leading into the series that didn’t show up in Game 1, but has leading into Game 3.

Silver Mining in Atlanta

Back to Young for a second: Much was made of not just the 48-point explosion from Game 1, but also the shoulder shimmy before one of his many three-pointers on the evening:

On Friday, as you would expect, the Bucks threw everything at him. And it worked.

Young didn’t shoot the ball well en route to his 15 points — one for eight from three-point land — but more troubling was the fact that he committed more turnovers (nine) than he did in Game 1 (six) while taking just three free throws.

That said, when Young went off for 48 he was just a single game removed from a 5-for-23 performance against the 76ers. So it’s not like he hasn’t very recently shown a capacity to bounce back and/or rise to the moment. This team prides itself on its resiliency and its short memory, and they’ll need all of it in Game 3.

In terms of other silver linings, Cam Reddish returned to the floor for the first time since Feb. 21, which is huge considering De’Andre Hunter is out and Bogdan Bogdanovic still doesn’t look like himself. Reddish scored 11 points in 17 minutes, and will no doubt receive a warm welcome from the home crowd next game.

And here’s the biggest one: They’ve still got home-court advantage. They’re losing this series 238–207 on aggregate, but they’re tied 1–1. And as we saw in Game 1, their leader is capable of offensive explosions that few in the NBA can rival.

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Montreal Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy raises the Stanley Cup in 1993.


The ’93 Habs and the last time the Cup came home to Canada




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 09:00:17 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 09:17:58 EDT
Ryan Dixon







Revisit Montreal’s 1993 Stanley Cup run with the players, coaches and executives who lived through a record 10 overtime wins en route to Canada’s last Cup.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Sportsnet announces Stanley Cup Final broadcast schedule




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 23:19:44 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 23:19:44 EDT
Sportsnet Staff




The final chapter of a championship series 28 years in the making is set to begin — and it’s on Sportsnet. Find the full broadcast schedule here.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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The final chapter of a championship series 28 years in the making is set to begin — and it’s on Sportsnet.

Following a Cinderella story run through the NHL post-season, the Montreal Canadiens booked their first ticket to the Stanley Cup Final since 1993, where they will face the defending champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Exclusive English-language national coverage of the final showdown for Lord Stanley’s Cup can be seen on Sportsnet and CBC. Punjabi-language broadcasts will be available on OMNI and via live stream on SN NOW and NHL Live.

Prior to puck drop each night, the Hockey Central team will deliver 30 minutes of pre-game coverage, including exclusive interviews, analysis and up-to-the-minute news. Fans can go beyond the on-ice action with original content and get the latest news on sportsnet.ca, the Sportsnet App and across Sportsnet’s YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook channels. Plus, viewers can join Steve Dangle for a rollercoaster ride of emotions on Watch the Stanley Cup Final with Steve Dangle, exclusive to Sportsnet’s YouTube channel.

Livestream every game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free. Plus get the NHL Draft, Free Agency, Blue Jays & MLB, NBA Playoffs matchups and more.

Editor’s note: An asterisk (*) next to a date signifies the game will be played on this day if necessary, pending the outcome of prior matchups in the series.

The Stanley Cup Final

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens

In the booth
Play-by-play: Chris Cuthbert; Game Analyst: Craig Simpson; Reporter: Kyle Bukauskas

In the studio
Hosts: Ron MacLean and David Amber; Analysts: Kevin Bieksa, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Elliotte Friedman and Kelly Hrudey

Hockey Night in Canada, Punjabi Edition: Harnarayan Singh, Randip Janda , Harpreet Pandher, Gurpreet Sian, Amrit Gill, Mantar Bhandal and Taqdeer Thindal

Game 1: Mon., June 28
Montreal @ Tampa Bay, 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT (SN / CBC)

Game 2: Wed., June 30
Montreal @ Tampa Bay, 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT (SN / CBC)

Game 3: Fri., July 2
Tampa Bay @ Montreal, 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT (SN / CBC)

Game 4: Mon., July 5
Tampa Bay @ Montreal, 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT (SN / CBC / OMNI)

*Game 5: Wed., July 7
Montreal @ Tampa Bay, 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT (SN / CBC / OMNI)

*Game 6: Fri., July 9
Tampa Bay @ Montreal, 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT (SN / CBC / OMNI)

Game 7: Sun., July 11
Montreal @ Tampa Bay, 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT (SN / CBC / OMNI)

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Finland sees spike in COVID-19 cases from returning soccer fans




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 10:48:40 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 10:48:40 EDT
Associated Press




Finnish health authorities have detected a spike in coronavirus cases that has been traced to soccer fans returning from neighbouring Russia following European Championship matches in St. Petersburg.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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HELSINKI — Finnish health authorities have detected a spike in coronavirus cases that has been traced to soccer fans returning from neighbouring Russia following European Championship matches in St. Petersburg.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare on Saturday urged “all passengers who have traveled from St. Petersburg to Finland by any bus company to apply for a coronavirus test.”

“Any bus or minibus may have been exposed,” the institute said.

Finland played two of its Euro 2020 group games in St. Petersburg, facing Russia on June 16 and Belgium on Monday. At least 2,000 Finns are estimated to have traveled to the city for those matches.

The Finns finished in third place in their group and were eliminated. Russia was also eliminated after finishing last.

St. Petersburg hosted six games in the group stage of the tournament and will host one of the four quarterfinal matches on Friday.

Authorities in the Russian city tightened anti-coronavirus restrictions last week in an effort to curb a spike in new infections. That included closing food courts in the city’s shopping malls and its Euro 2020 fan zone.

The Finnish health institute’s director, Mika Salminen, told public broadcaster YLE that more than 120 virus cases have so far been detected from passengers returning from St. Petersburg, mostly soccer fans, and the number is likely increase.

Though the Finnish Border Guard was prepared for heavy return traffic from St. Petersburg, the key Vaalimaa border station got badly jammed Tuesday with lines of dozens of buses carrying soccer fans and hundreds of cars waiting for the required coronavirus test after border formalities.

As the queue got longer and the border station was to be closed, Finnish authorities decided to let passengers into the country without testing, on the condition they would take one at their respective home region after arrival.

Finnish health officials said earlier this week that they traced some of the infections to a German beer hall-style restaurant in St. Petersburg.

There are two main crossing points between the countries in eastern Finland, making it a trip of between 180-220 kilometres (112-135 miles) from the border to St. Petersburg.

The Russian city’s population of more than 5 million nearly equals the entire population of Finland.

According to the latest information from Russia’s national coronavirus taskforce, there were 8,457 new infection cases in Moscow and 1,247 in St. Petersburg detected in the past few days.

Finland is one of the least affected European countries by coronavirus with just under 95,000 cases and 969 deaths detected since the start of the pandemic. The 1,340-kilometre (832-mile) long Finnish-Russian land border has been closed for passenger travel from both sides since March 2020 and remains so with certain exceptions, such as traveling to Euro 2020 matches.

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GSI: With short-handed goal, Gourde books Lightning’s ticket to Cup Final







Fri, 25 Jun 2021 21:30:31 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 22:40:36 EDT
Sportsnet Staff







Tampa Lightning Forward Yanni Gourde gives his team the lead with a short-handed goal in Game 7 against the New York Islanders.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Gotta See It: Gourde short-handed goal gives Lightning lead in Game 7
Tampa Lightning Forward Yanni Gourde gives his team the lead with a short-handed goal in Game 7 against the New York Islanders.

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Islanders lament opportunity lost after seeing hopes felled by one shot




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 01:01:31 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 01:01:31 EDT
Iain MacIntyre




A four-line team built to win at even strength, the New York Islanders lost another chance to make it to a Stanley Cup Final by surrendering a dismal shorthanded goal that was all the Tampa Bay Lightning needed for a victory in Game 7.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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A four-line team built to win at even strength, the New York Islanders lost another chance to make it to a Stanley Cup Final by surrendering a dismal shorthanded goal that was all the Tampa Bay Lightning needed for a 1-0 victory Friday in Game 7.

The Islanders have earned more playoff games than any team in the National Hockey League over the last three seasons, but are still looking for the franchise’s first trip to the Final since New York’s glittering dynasty ended with a loss to the Edmonton Oilers in 1984.

It is against those great players – Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin and Clark Gillies – that all Islanders since have been measured. Generally, they’ve disappointed, although this New York team, full of guile and grit and lineup depth instead of superstars, appeared capable of finally pushing aside some of the old ghosts whose accomplishments are impossible to replicate.

But for the second straight season, it was the Lightning – better than they were last year when they won the Stanley Cup — who crushed Islander hopes with a semifinal victory.

Everything in sports hurts more with age, and this veteran New York team eventually will run out of chances.

It’s impossible to know, but Friday’s game may be the closest some of them will ever get to a Stanley Cup.

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“I said to them: ‘This group is special,’” Islanders coach Barry Trotz told reporters. “Their character, their work ethic, their will, their commitment, to me it’s undeniable. It’s so strong. This group believed that we could do this. We still believe we could, but it’s just a lot of pain. They gave their all.

“There’s really a bond between all the players that is really strong. The disappointing thing is we didn’t get this game and that group in that room won’t be together again.”

Mathew Barzal, the only Islander with skill and flair to rival the best players on Tampa, choked back tears as he talked about the impact of losing on New York’s senior players.

“We’ve got guys like Bails (career-Islander Josh Bailey, 31) and Greener (38-year-old Andy Greene) and veteran guys,” he said. “You know, I’ve got a few more years but you want to win for those guys. It hurts seeing those guys in the locker room afterwards.”

It hurts as well that the Islanders, whose special-teams play under Trotz has starkly failed to match the team’s even-strength efficiency since the coach arrived three years ago, surrendered the game’s only goal during the game’s only power play.

On a New York advantage that began 50 seconds into the middle period, Bailey puck-watched and wandered out of position as Yanni Gourde burst from the Lightning bench, skated unchecked on to Anthony Cirelli’s pass in the slot and snapped the puck past Islander goalie Semyon Varlamov at 1:49.

One shot. Seven ferocious games and one shot was the difference between going to the Stanley Cup Final and going home.

“We gave a goal away,” Brock Nelson, another career Islander, lamented of a shorthanded goal that matched the number of power-play goals New York generated in the series.

“No matter what, that’s a situation we’d really like to have back,” Bailey said. “It stings. It’s so hard to just get to this point.”

Outshot 27-11 in the first two periods, the Islanders managed to coax only 18 saves from Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. But they actually attempted one more shot than the Lightning, 49-48, but had a staggering 21 shots blocked by fearless Tampa players.

Lightning defencemen Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev blocked five apiece.

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And it didn’t help the Islanders’ attack that Barzal, who orchestrated New York’s 3-2 comeback win in overtime in Game 6, played only 4:23 of the first period and received just eight shifts from Trotz in the first half of the game.

On a night when most Islander skaters had shots-for percentages under 50, Barzal easily led his team with a 65.2 percent Corsi-for.

The Islanders’ Kyle Palmieri-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Travis Zajac line was caved in during its matchup against the Gourde line. With Pageau clearly playing hurt, the Islanders were outshot 11-2 when he was on the ice.

“Being down one goal going into the third period of Game 7 of the conference final, you’ll take that,” Barzal said. “They locked us up pretty good in the third period, and (we) just couldn’t find one. It’s not our time. We’re right there. Hopefully, we’re back next year and it’s a different story.”

“It’s a lot of pain for this group,” Trotz said. “We put something together here with the character and the constant work ethic that they bring, and commitment that they bring, and a really tight group. They’re not scared of the challenge and they don’t cut corners. To me, that’s an exceptional group that really values each other. You have some teams and some guys don’t value the other guys, and that’s maybe why you don’t go as far as you want to. I think this group values everybody’s importance.”

He later added: “I’ve had the opportunity to win a Cup and know how that feels. And I just really wanted this group to feel that as well.”

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Nathan Denette/CP
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MLB-Blue-jays-atkins


If Blue Jays are trade deadline buyers, what might they be giving up?




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 12:06:32 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 12:06:32 EDT
Ben Nicholson-Smith




The Blue Jays expect to be buyers, but that means giving something up. So which names might come up in trade talks as the deadline approaches? Ben Nicholson-Smith takes a look.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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This piece first appeared in Sportsnet’s weekly Blue Jays newsletter. Submit your email address below to get exclusive content about the team in your inbox every Friday.

With wins in five consecutive games, the Blue Jays are playing far better baseball of late. George Springer’s back, the bullpen appears to be stabilizing a little and the Blue Jays are doing what they should against the lesser competition they’re now facing: winning games.

Of course, wins against the likes of the Orioles and Marlins are necessary but not sufficient for a Blue Jays team that’s been hovering around the .500 mark for too long. At some point, a substantial run will be required, and that will mean beating up on some better teams, too.

On that front, some reinforcements would certainly help — ideally multiple relievers, a starter and a left-handed bat. And at this point, the Blue Jays are expecting to add. But since every addition comes at a price, I’ve started wondering: Who might go the other way?

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In theory, the Blue Jays could part with a top prospect this summer, using their reserve of catching and infield talent in the minor leagues to bolster the big-league team. Yet the front office would undoubtedly prefer to acquire help without trading away the likes of Gabriel Moreno, Austin Martin and Jordan Groshans.

With that in mind, we arrive at four prospects who will all be Rule 5 eligible over the winter, meaning the Blue Jays will have to add them to their 40-man roster or leave them exposed. The combination of their roster status and their current performances suggests they’re likely to draw interest from rival teams in the weeks ahead.

LHP Zach Logue, 25

In his first start at triple-A, the left-hander struck out eight over seven scoreless innings while allowing just one hit. Before that, he’d struck out 51 while walking just seven in 35.2 innings at double-A. Is he a top prospect? No, and at 25 years old he probably never will be. But that doesn’t mean he’s without value, either for the Blue Jays or a seller looking to add young pitching.

IF Kevin Smith, 24

For Smith, the last four years have been a roller coaster. In 2018 he broke out with a 25-homer season at Class A, but he struggled badly the following season, and his prospect stock tumbled as a result. But after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he’s putting up big numbers through his first 40 games at triple-A. With 10 home runs, 10 stolen bases, a .284 average and a .982 OPS, he’s pushing closer to the majors every day. But will the Blue Jays keep him? Or, knowing infield prospects like Martin and Groshans are also on the way, could they dangle Smith in trades?

OF Logan Warmoth, 25
When the Blue Jays drafted Warmoth in the first round four years ago, he was a shortstop. Since then he’s transitioned to the outfield, mostly centre and right, while posting a .752 OPS with seven stolen bases at triple-A. It’s not a skillset or statline that necessarily jumps off the page, but beauty is often in the eye of the beholder this time of year, and he’s likely expendable for the Blue Jays.

Of note: Steve Sanders, now the assistant GM of the Pirates, was the Blue Jays’ amateur scouting director when Logue, Smith and Warmoth were drafted, among many others. That should make it easier to get on the same page as the Pirates, who have many interesting big-leaguers including Richard Rodriguez, Colin Moran and Adam Frazier.

IF Samad Taylor, 22
Over the winter, the Blue Jays left Taylor off their 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft — a sign they were prepared to lose him. Yet he went unclaimed and now ranks among the double-A leaders with 12 home runs, 17 stolen bases and a 1.008 OPS.

Suddenly the guy who appeared to be an afterthought in the 2017 trade that sent Joe Smith to Cleveland appears to have far more trade value. With numbers like that at age 22, it’s likely fair to assume the Blue Jays would have to get something substantial back in any deal for Taylor.

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Euro Round of 16




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 11:51:49 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 11:54:59 EDT
Geoff Lowe




The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Matthias Schrader/AP
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robin-gosens


UEFA Euro 2020 Round of 16: One key to each match



Euro Round of 16 5159958

Thu, 24 Jun 2021 13:34:49 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 10:18:29 EDT
Peter Galindo




The group stage at UEFA Euro 2020 has concluded, which means the knockout stage is upon us. Here is one key to every match in the round of 16.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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The group stage at UEFA Euro 2020 has concluded, which means the knockout stage is upon us.

All of the favourites are still alive, but they are joined by the likes of Wales and the Czech Republic, who exceeded expectations in their respective groups. Then there’s Denmark, who overcame the devastation of Christian Eriksen’s collapse in their opening match versus Finland to qualify as the runner-up in Group B.

Every team will now feel confident about their chances of reaching the final at Wembley Stadium on July 11. Here is one key to every match in the round of 16.

Wales vs. Denmark: The midfield maestros

If you want high-octane soccer, you’ll probably receive that in spades from Denmark and Wales. Both sides are among the fastest and direct teams at Euro 2020 when comparing passes per attacking sequence to the speed of those attacks, per Opta.

Live Cricket

The drivers of those attacks have been Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Denmark) and Aaron Ramsey (Wales). Therefore, it’s safe to assume either player will be integral to their respective sides’ chances of reaching the quarterfinals.

No other player has created more chances from open play than Hojbjerg, according to Opta. He’s also been involved in more attacking sequences that ended in a shot (25) than any other player at the tournament. If the Welsh want to contain Denmark, it starts by nullifying Hojbjerg.

On the flip side, no other Welsh player has a higher expected goals (xG) than Ramsey’s 1.64. The partnership with Gareth Bale, who is among the Euro 2020 leaders in most attacking categories, will be vital as well. Ramsey’s off-the-ball runs and Bale’s vision caused issues for every side in Group A – even the near-invincible Italy – so Denmark will have to be on high alert.

Italy vs. Austria: Italy’s left flank

Italy might be the most impressive side to compete at Euro 2020 so far. They’ve shown an ability to score on the counter-attack, via the high press and by passing their opponents to death. One glance at Opta’s team statistics back up those claims. Defensively, the Azzurri have yet to concede, so Austria’s task looks impossible.

But Italy appears to have an Achilles’ heel.

Leonardo Spinazzola has been integral to Italy’s buildup, but there is a trade-off. It leaves the left side exposed to counters. Spinazzola (No. 4) was constantly pushing forward, as seen in Italy’s average positioning against Switzerland on June 16, but the Swiss couldn’t capitalize on this due to how deep they were sitting in their defensive third.

Live Cricket

Austria has the ability to counter incisively and directly, racking up around 10 deep completions per 90 minutes, almost level with Italy’s output. That could provide the first proper test for the Italian defence.

Netherlands vs. Czech Republic: Denzel Dumfries

If you had Denzel Dumfries as the Netherlands’ top performer through three games, then kudos because he’s been the key to the Dutch’s success so far.

But it’s not just the timely goals, it’s the timely runs he executes from deeper positions before bursting towards the box, as seen in the graphics below.

That’s why the task facing Czech Republic left-back Jan Boril is immense. He’ll need ample cover from one of Tomas Soucek or Jakub Jankto to defend against Dumfries’ runs, then if possible, counter swiftly into the open space vacated by the Dutch full-back.

Belgium vs. Portugal: The Belgian defence

The battle between Romelu Lukaku and Portuguese centre-backs Pepe and Ruben Dias is going to be fantastic, but Belgium will live and die by its defence.

Russian striker Artem Dzyuba singlehandedly bossed Belgium’s centre-backs in its group-stage opener. Denmark’s pressing forced a mistake out of Jason Denayer for Yussuf Poulsen’s goal. There were even wide gaps for Finland to exploit, but they didn’t have the cutting edge finish to capitalize.

Live Cricket

That clearly isn’t a bother for Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo, although Diogo Jota could be equally impactful. Jota’s off-the-ball movement routinely pulls defenders out of position and opens space for his teammates, as he often demonstrated with Liverpool last season.

Croatia vs. Spain: Modric vs. Busquets

There shouldn’t be much surprise that Spain’s best performance of the tournament coincided with the return of Sergio Busquets.

The Barcelona stalwart dictated the tempo and with a tireless Koke partnering him in midfield, Busquets wasn’t forced to cover a ton of ground on his own.

Luka Modric is experiencing a similar renaissance for Croatia. Scotland stood off the Real Madrid midfielder at their peril in their group-stage finale as Modric dominated the proceedings with a goal and countless line-breaking passes.

Live Cricket

It’s easier said than done, but if Modric is man-marked and pinned in his defensive third, that’ll behoove Spain. Ditto for Croatia against Busquets, who’s become very passive defensively when he’s isolated in midfield.

France vs. Switzerland: Pogba and Kante

It’s easy to highlight the threat of N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, but it’s an entirely different prospect to shut them down.

Portugal managed a 2-2 draw on the final matchday of Group F, but the French midfield pivot were equally influential as the previous two matches. Kante effortlessly broke up the Portuguese attacks and Pogba whipped 30-yard diagonal passes with ease. One of those balls led to Karim Benzema’s strike.

The obvious route past France’s midfield is to catch Les Bleus on the counter when Pogba roams further up the pitch. Targeting the flanks in that instance could pay off because Germany managed to create a handful of scoring chances by sending crosses to the back post during the opening match of Group F, but failed to convert.

Live Cricket

England vs. Germany: The flanks

England coach Gareth Southgate has been criticized for deploying tactics out of “a fear of losing.” But that strategy might benefit England.

The conservative approach has been especially evident with England’s full-backs, who are some of the most gifted attackers in the squad. But as Portugal showed in their loss to Germany, being too lenient with defensive duties can be exploited.

Germany’s wingbacks, particularly Robin Gosens, consistently targeted the space left behind by Portugal’s full-backs and delivered man-of-the-match performances.

Defensively, England has been one of the best teams at Euro 2020. According to StatsBomb, the Three Lions have conceded the second-lowest expected goals at the tournament thus far and haven’t allowed a shot via an opposing counter-attack.

Containing those wide areas before breaking forward when Germany is caught higher up the pitch might play into England’s hands as a result.

Sweden vs. Ukraine: The Ukrainian midfield

It’s no surprise that Ukraine’s brightest attacking displays have coincided with Mykola Shaparenko starting in its midfield.

Shaparenko, 22, injects creativity in advanced positions and alleviates the attacking burden off Ruslan Malinovskyi’s shoulders. That, in turn, leads to a dynamic and balanced Ukrainian midfield.

With Sweden’s discipline off the ball, Ukraine coach Andriy Shevchenko needs Shaparenko, Malinovskyi and Oleksandr Zinchenko in top form to pick a lock that few teams have seldom broken through.

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UEFA Euro 2020




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Ettore Ferrari, Pool via AP
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UEFA Euro 2020 Power Rankings: Italy enters round of 16 on top



Euro Round of 16 5159958

Fri, 25 Jun 2021 09:38:33 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 10:21:03 EDT
Geoff Lowe




With a third of the 24-team field eliminated, it’s time to take stock of the 16 sides set to take part in the first round of the UEFA Euro 2020 knockout stages.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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If you’re a fan of the beautiful game, the Euro 2020 group stage certainly delivered.

Loads of goals, plenty of drama, a couple of teams that have emerged as the favourites but many more capable of making a surprise run.

With a third of the 24-team field now eliminated, it’s time to take stock of the 16 sides set to take part in the first round of the knockout stages.

Here’s how the remaining Euro 2020 squads stack up heading into the last-16.

Note: All Euro 2020 betting odds courtesy of Odds Shark

1) Italy

Group stage record: 3-0-0
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 7
Round of 16 opponent: Austria
Odds to win Euro 2020: +550

The most complete team of the group stage, Italy has played an exciting brand of football so far in this tournament while still managing to keep the ball out of the back of the net: the Azzurri haven’t allowed a goal in more than 1,000 minutes of play.

2) Belgium

Group stage record: 3-0-0
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 1
Round of 16 opponent: Portugal
Odds to win: +800

The world No. 1 waltzed through the group stage with relative ease aside from a first-half scare against Denmark in its second match, and Romelu Lukaku continues to play his best football at this tournament. But the Belgium defence is still a big question mark, and the back line faces a stiff test in Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the round of 16.

3) France

Group stage record: 1-2-0
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 2
Round of 16 opponent: Switzerland
Odds to win: +350

The world champion’s group stage wasn’t pretty but we’re willing to give this team the benefit of the doubt. Two draws in France’s last two matches has surely raised some eyebrows but remember that Les Bleus weren’t the most convincing side in the World Cup group stages three years ago, either. With the talent and depth France boasts, Didier Deschamp’s side are odds-on favourites for a reason.

4) Netherlands

Group stage record: 3-0-0
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 16
Round of 16 opponent: Czech Republic
Odds to win: +900

The Dutch returned to tournament football with a thorough handling of their opponents in Group C despite questionable tactics from manager Frank de Boer. The Netherlands enter the Round of 16 as the tournament’s leading scorers and should have little trouble with the Czech Republic, but a deep run from the Dutch will likely require the side to tighten up in the midfield and defence.

5) England

Group stage record: 2-1-0
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 4
Round of 16 opponent: Germany
Odds to win: +650

The success of the Three Lions‘ group stage depends on your outlook. On one side, the attacking prowess many expected from this talented group of players didn’t come to fruition, and Harry Kane’s lack of involvement is concerning. On the flip side, England hasn’t allowed a goal in this tournament yet and look as defensively sound as any team in the competition.

6) Sweden

Group stage record: 2-1-0
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 18
Round of 16 opponent: Ukraine
Odds to win: +5000

Sweden’s matches aren’t necessarily going to be the most exciting to watch from a neutral standpoint, but the play of breakout star Alexander Isak and the Blue and Yellow‘s defence-first mentality is the type of strategy that could result in an unexpectedly deep run.

7) Spain

Group stage record: 1-2-0
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 6
Round of 16 opponent: Croatia
Odds to win: +750

Luis Enrique’s side looked destined to miss out on the round of 16 altogether before a five-goal explosion on the final group-stage matchday showed the world that Spain actually does know how to score. That performance gives Spain a boost in these rankings – if Wednesday’s performance is a sign of things to come, this could be a dangerous side in the knockout stages.

8) Germany

Group stage record: 1-1-1
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 12
Round of 16 opponent: England
Odds to win: +700

Germany’s group results were literally all over the map and Joachim Low’s side enters the knockout stages lacking consistency in a system that has both worked brilliantly and seemed to have its players out of sorts.

9) Portugal

Group stage record: 1-1-1
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 5
Round of 16 opponent: Belgium
Odds to win: +1200

With Ronaldo in his current scoring form (he leads Euro 2020 with five goals), it would be foolish to rule out a deep Portugal run this early – even with a last-16 clash versus Belgium looming and multiple defensive lapses in the group stage.

10) Denmark

Group stage record: 1-0-2
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 10
Round of 16 opponent: Wales
Odds to win: +2000

It’s impossible not to root for the Danes after what the squad has dealt with at this tournament following the harrowing collapse of captain Christian Eriksen in the first match. Monday’s dominant win over Russia proved this team is more than just a good story – they’re a real threat.

11) Wales

Group stage record: 1-1-1
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 17
Round of 16 opponent: Denmark
Odds to win: +8000

Robert Page’s Welsh side exceeded expectations in the group stage thanks to the impacts of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. Wales will only go so far as their star dynamic duo carries them.

12) Croatia

Group stage record: 1-1-1
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 14
Round of 16 opponent: Spain
Odds to win: +5000

The group that propelled Croatia into the World Cup final in 2018 looked old and out of sorts at times during the group stage, but Tuesday’s display against Scotland to earn a spot in the last 16 showed that the Croatian midfield, and Luka Modric in particular, still have the talent to take over football matches.

13) Czech Republic

Group stage record: 1-1-1
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 40
Round of 16 opponent: Netherlands
Odds to win: +10000

The Czechs outperformed expectations in the group thanks in large part to the heroics of striker Patrik Schick, whose two-goal performance in his country’s opener against Scotland was one of the highlights of the group stage.

14) Switzerland

Group stage record: 1-1-1
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 13
Round of 16 opponent: France
Odds to win: +8000

Through their first two matches, it felt as if this Swiss team lacked any real football identity. That changed slightly in Sunday’s 3-1 win over woeful Turkey, where the squad’s talisman Xherdan Shaqiri finally made a real impact.

15) Austria

Group stage record: 2-0-1
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 23
Round of 16 opponent: Italy
Odds to win: +15000

Group stage wins over North Macedonia and Ukraine are what we expected from this Austria team and it was enough to get them into the last 16, but it’s hard to imagine further advancement for this team. Anything is possible with a world-class player like David Alaba in the side, but Italy will likely be too much to handle.

16) Ukraine

Group stage record: 1-0-2
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: No. 24
Round of 16 opponent: Sweden
Odds to win: +12500

Andriy Shevchenko’s Ukraine has flashed attacking brilliance at times in this tournament – their heartbreaking loss to the Netherlands on Matchday 1 was one of the best games so far – but they limped into the last 16 with a poor showing against Austria and could find it difficult to break down Sweden in the first knockout round.

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UEFA Euro 2020




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What should we expect from the Euro 2020 knockout stage?



Euro Round of 16 5159958

Fri, 25 Jun 2021 09:40:09 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 09:40:09 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Faizal Khamisa and James Sharman analyze the quality of play after the group stage at Euro 2020 and look ahead to the drama & theatre of the knockout rounds.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Soccer


UEFA Euro 2020





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Bernadett Szabo, Pool photo via AP
France’s Kylian Mbappe
France’s Kylian Mbappe


France, Italy lead way atop updated Euro 2020 odds



Euro Round of 16 5159958

Thu, 24 Jun 2021 16:35:57 EDT Thu, 24 Jun 2021 20:07:46 EDT
OddsShark Staff




After finishing atop the Group F table by a narrow margin and earning a favourable matchup in the Round of 16, the French have climbed to short +350 betting favourites on the odds to win Euro 2020.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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After finishing atop the Group F table by a narrow margin and earning a favourable matchup in the Round of 16, the French have climbed to short +350 betting favourites on the odds to win Euro 2020 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The defending FIFA World Cup champions were put to the test early on after drawing into this year’s tournament’s group of death alongside Germany, Hungary, and defending Euro champions Portugal. While they failed to dominate, Les Bleus emerged from the group stage undefeated, setting the stage for a Round of 16 matchup with Switzerland on Monday at Arena Nationala in Bucharest, Romania.

Winners by a slim 1-0 margin in their tournament opener versus Germany, the French were forced to settle for draws in their subsequent clashes with Hungary and Portugal. But despite sporting the weakest record of any first-place finishers in the group stage, the French are likely to benefit from their date with Switzerland to open the knockout stage as they are undefeated in six meetings across all competitions with the Swiss since 1992. However, Les Bleus can expect to face stiff competition the rest of way.

A potential opponent for France in the semi-finals, the Italians are second on the Euro 2020 odds as a +550 wager at sports betting sites, followed by England at +650, Germany at +700, Spain at +750, and Belgium at +800.

Joining England as the only two squads to keep clean sheets in all three group stage matches, Italy marched to the top of the Group A table with three straight wins. The Italians have been rewarded for their efforts with a Round of 16 matchup with Austria, but will then have to get past the winner of Sunday’s clash between Belgium and Portugal to advance to the semi-finals for just the second time since 2000.

The stingy defence of the English was crucial to their climb to first place in Group D but earned them a Round of 16 date with Germany, whom they have not defeated at a major tournament since 2000. The Three Lions must also find a way to revive a moribund attack that produced just two total goals during the group stage, and only eight total goals over their past seven overall contests.

Germany’s second-place group stage finish extends a middling stretch of 16 matches during which they have won consecutive contests on just two occasions. However, Die Mannschaft have reached the semi-finals in nine of their 12 previous Euro appearances.

Further down the Euro 2020 odds, Netherlands leads the middle of the pack at +900, just ahead of Portugal, who are pegged as a +1200 wager to repeat as European champions.

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UEFA Euro 2020




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16247147145160455


Gourde’s lone goal of Game 7 sends Lightning back to Stanley Cup Final




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 10:00:51 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 10:00:51 EDT
Sportsnet Video




It’s Morning Glory after Day 42 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, as Yanni Gourde’s lone shorthanded goal was enough to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Game 7 win over the New York Islanders and earn a second-straight berth in the Stanley Cup Final.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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roger-federer


Federer unsure about Olympics; will reassess after Wimbledon




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 10:23:41 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 10:23:41 EDT
Associated Press




Roger Federer is still not sure whether he will compete at the Tokyo Olympics, saying Saturday that he and his team plan to “reassess the situation after Wimbledon.”

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Roger Federer is still not sure whether he will compete at the Tokyo Olympics, saying Saturday that he and his team plan to “reassess the situation after Wimbledon.”

Speaking to reporters in a video conference from the All England Club before the grass-court Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Federer said that how things go over the coming fortnight will affect his plans for the next couple of months.

“Obviously, if I play really good here or really bad, I think it has an impact on how everything might look for the summer,” he said. “Still, my feeling is I would like to go to the Olympics. I would like to play as many tournaments as possible. But I think we decided now let’s just get through Wimbledon, sit down as a team, and then decide where we go from there.”

Wimbledon ends July 11. The Tokyo Games — which were postponed a year because of the coronavirus pandemic — are scheduled to open on July 23.

At least two top men’s tennis players will not be at Wimbledon or in Japan: Rafael Nadal, who said his body needs to rest and recover, and Dominic Thiem, who recently injured his right wrist.

Federer, who shares the men’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles with Nadal, has won two Olympic medals for Switzerland: a silver in singles at the 2012 London Games, which held the tennis competition at the All England Club, and a gold in doubles with Stan Wawrinka at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Federer sat out the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics because of a left knee injury.

He missed most of last season while having two operations on his right knee and heads into Wimbledon, where he has won eight championships, having played a total of merely eight matches in 2021.

His 40th birthday is approaching on Aug. 8, and Federer said that changes the calculus when it comes to figuring out a schedule, too.

“In previous years, it was definitely easier,” Federer said. “At the moment, things are not as simple as in the past. With age, you have to be more selective. You can’t play it all.”

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Tennis


ATP




sn-article

Vegas Fallout




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 12:57:56 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 16:32:29 EDT
Geoff Lowe




The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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sn-collection


16247392695160626


Lehner reflects on supportive, positive relationship with Fleury



Vegas Fallout 5160546

Sat, 26 Jun 2021 16:29:26 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 16:29:26 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Robin Lehner explained why his relationship with Marc-Andre Fleury has been very supportive and revealed that Fleury’s daughters gave him drawings wishing him good luck during the playoffs.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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16247255855160531


DeBoer shines light on big moments for fans in Vegas this season



Vegas Fallout 5160546

Sat, 26 Jun 2021 12:41:41 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 12:41:41 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Watch as Peter DeBoer shines light on the big moments that fans were able to experience in Vegas this year including clinching two series in front of them during the playoffs.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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16247252725160527


Despite lack of production, Stone delivered for Golden Knights



Vegas Fallout 5160546

Sat, 26 Jun 2021 12:39:56 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 12:57:46 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Watch as Vegas Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer speaks to the media about Mark Stone delivering when they needed him to against the Colorado Avalanche, and how the Conference Finals loss isn’t his fault.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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16247389285160617


Pacioretty says Golden Knights will be motivated next season



Vegas Fallout 5160546

Sat, 26 Jun 2021 16:25:28 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 16:25:28 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Max Pacioretty spoke about how the Vegas Golden Knights are feeling after a third-round playoff exit.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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16247146675160453


Need To Know: Lightning in Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back seasons




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 10:36:51 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 10:36:51 EDT
Sportsnet Video




In this edition of Need To Know, the Tampa Bay Lightning dispatched the New York Islanders in seven games to advance back to the Stanley Cup Final in hopes of defending their championship.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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froome-tour
froome-tour


Froome’s return to Tour de France could be short-lived after crash




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 13:19:23 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 16:37:45 EDT
Associated Press




After a three-year absence from the Tour de France, Chris Froome’s comeback might already be over. After only one stage.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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LANDERNEAU, France — After a three-year absence from the Tour de France, Chris Froome’s comeback might already be over. After only one stage.

The four-time champion was in a massive high-speed crash about 10 kilometers from the finish of Saturday’s opening stage in Landerneau.

Froome, who missed the last two Tours after a 2019 crash threatened to end his career, stayed on the road for a moment and struggled to get back on his feet.

He finally got back on his bike and finished the stage lagging more than 14 minutes behind stage winner Julian Alaphilippe.

"Not how I planned for today to go but I managed to finish," he said.

Scans revealed no fractures and his team said he will be monitored by medical staff overnight.

"Another update will be given tomorrow morning," the team said.

Froome was tasked with a role of road captain at his new Israel Start-Up Nation team and was expected to work in support of leader Michael Woods.

Froome’s career took a turn for the worse during a training crash at the 2019 Criterium du Dauphine, an event he had been using to fine-tune his bid for a record-equaling fifth Tour title. In the accident he broke his right femur, elbow and ribs.

After getting back to competitive racing, Froome has not returned to his previous best level.

In addition to his four Tour titles, Froome has also won the Spanish Vuelta and the Giro d’Italia.

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Justin Tallis, Pool photo via AP
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Czech Republic captain Darida doubtful for last-16 match vs. Netherlands




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 10:55:24 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 10:55:24 EDT
Associated Press




Czech Republic captain Vladimir Darida is doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Netherlands in the round of 16 of the European Championship.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Czech Republic captain Vladimir Darida is doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Netherlands in the round of 16 of the European Championship.

The team says Darida sustained an unspecified injury during practice on Friday and didn’t participate in pre-match training in Prague.

A Czech team spokesman says the medical team has been treating Darida and it was not yet clear if he will recover in time for Sunday’s game in Budapest.

Darida’s loss would be a blow for the Czechs. The 30-year-old midfielder is the engine of the team and its most experienced player with 73 international appearances.

The team’s flight to Budapest was postponed until later in the day because of a technical problem with the plane.

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AP source: Mavericks hiring Jason Kidd as coach, Nico Harrison as GM




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 13:35:41 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 15:21:19 EDT
Associated Press




The Dallas Mavericks have reportedly agreed to terms with Jason Kidd and Nico Harrison to become the franchise’s next head coach and general manager, respectively.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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DALLAS (AP) — Jason Kidd is coming back to Dallas again, this time to replace the coach he won a championship with as the point guard of the Mavericks 10 years ago.

A person with direct knowledge of the agreement said Kidd and the Mavericks agreed on a contract Friday, eight days after Rick Carlisle resigned abruptly in the wake of general manager Donnie Nelson’s departure. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn’t been announced.

Carlisle, who took the Indiana job Thursday, gave ESPN an unsolicited endorsement of Kidd for his old job because of the impact Carlisle thought Kidd could have on Luka Doncic, the sensational young point guard who carries the hopes of the Mavericks.

The Mavericks have also found Nelson’s replacement in Nike executive Nico Harrison, who will carry the titles of GM and president of basketball operations, the person told AP. Harrison was on board with the Kidd hiring, the person said.

It’s already the third head coaching stop for the 48-year-old Kidd, who took Brooklyn to the second round in his debut in 2013-14 before bolting for Milwaukee. Kidd was fired during his fourth season with the Bucks after first-round exits two of his first three years. He was 139-152 with the Bucks after going 44-38 with the Nets.

Kidd, who is coming off two seasons on Frank Vogel’s staff with the Los Angeles Lakers, had two stints as a player in Dallas, the second highlighted by the franchise’s only title when he directed the offense that ran through star Dirk Nowitzki. His career started with the Mavericks as the No. 2 overall pick in the 1994 draft.

A year and a half after being named Co-Rookie of the Year in 1995, Kidd was traded to Phoenix amid turmoil with teammates Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn, both selected fourth overall in the two years before Kidd arrived.

Now Kidd’s success in Dallas will depend how he develops Doncic, a two-time All-Star whose playmaking skills had Carlisle calling him one of the five best players in the world before the coach’s unexpected departure.

It could be considered Kidd’s second chance with a European superstar, although Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t yet a two-time MVP when Kidd was fired in Milwaukee. The “Greek Freak” did blossom into an All-Star under Kidd, whose hiring in 2014 under new ownership in Milwaukee cost the Bucks two second-round draft picks.

The first step for the Mavericks will be getting out of the first round of the playoffs, which they haven’t done since Kidd helped them beat LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. Doncic’s first two postseasons ended in the first round against the Clippers.

Harrison has been in Nike’s basketball division for nearly 20 years, rising through the ranks through relationships with stars such as the late Kobe Bryant. He’s also had interactions with Doncic through shoe contracts.

Cuban’s relationship with Nelson was a more traditional basketball arrangement, with Nelson’s expertise coming in player evaluation even though he held the title of president of basketball operations longer than that of general manager. Nelson’s roots were in Europe, where he discovered Nowitzki and Doncic as teenagers roughly 20 years apart.

Harrison’s background is more in marketing and building relationships, and fits the model some clubs have used in putting former agents in key personnel roles.

Nelson’s departure came amid reports of a power struggle in the front office. With the executive who once called him “our Jerry Sloan” gone, Carlisle didn’t hang around long.

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A look at how the Canadiens have silenced top scorers in the playoffs




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 14:51:38 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 14:51:38 EDT
Rory Boylen




The key to Montreal’s run to the Stanley Cup Final, aside from Carey Price, is the team’s ability to shut down its opponents’ top offensive threats. Rory Boylen looks into how the Canadiens have done it throughout the post-season.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Where have Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner gone?

In the Montreal Canadiens‘ Round 1 playoff series, they first came for Toronto’s top players and when they were successful in shutting them down, existential questions followed for the Leafs.

Trade Marner? Trade William Nylander? Is Toronto’s core group just incapable of rising to the moment and winning a playoff round or two? What is wrong with us?

In Montreal’s second-round series against Winnipeg, they came for Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kyle Connor. That the Jets lost Mark Scheifele to suspension after one game was certainly a blow to the team (just as losing John Tavares in Game 1 was to the Leafs), but they had a strength up front and plenty of weapons to presumably overcome scoring against the North Division’s fourth seed (hey, that sounded like the Leafs too).

When those players were shut down, the Jets were left scratching their heads as well: this was their opportunity to get back to the Cup hopefuls they were just a few years ago before roster attrition stripped down their defence. Winnipeg was also left wondering what’s wrong with us?

Livestream every game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free. Plus get the NHL Draft, Free Agency, Blue Jays & MLB, NBA Playoffs matchups and more.

In Round 3, the Montreal Canadiens were finally meeting the team that was going to prove too much to handle. Vegas has been on the cusp each year of their existence and after getting past Colorado in six games, the No. 2 regular season team in the league seemed to have a clear path back to the final. Depth throughout the lineup was a strength and, surely, the league’s No. 3 offence would be able to solve Montreal’s defence and Carey Price often enough to move past an inferior looking lineup.

Live Cricket

Well, maybe not.

Vegas’s defence was able to generate, but we all know most NHL goals are scored tight to the net and that forwards are key to unlocking that. Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson were all neutralized against the Habs.

Like Montreal’s previous opponents, frustration set in for Vegas. Is the Golden Knights’ lack of centre depth a fundamental weakness holding them back (and thus, will they now be after Jack Eichel?), or were they perhaps just getting “goalied” again?

Maybe we need to recalibrate our takeaways on Toronto, Winnipeg and Vegas.

Maybe it’s not you. Maybe it’s Montreal.

Live Cricket

TORONTO’S TOP SCORERS

The team that carved through the North Division all season and finished with the league’s sixth-best offence seemingly had everything in place for its first playoff series win of the salary cap era. Their offence is their calling card, but Toronto’s defence was also much improved and allowed the fifth-fewest shots against per game. They dominated the Habs in the regular season, too, winning seven of their 10 matchups.

Whenever you’re facing Price, though, you worry about getting beaten by him alone. And, yes, Price is a major factor to Montreal’s success here. But like we saw with Vegas, Toronto’s scorers were frustrated by Montreal’s defence. The start was decent enough and the Maple Leafs grabbed a 3-1 series lead…

Live Cricket

Though Matthews had just the single goal through four games and Marner none, there was every reason to expect that it was just a matter of time. Matthews’ shots per game were up from his regular season rate, though his high quality opportunities were down. Marner’s shots per game were ever so slightly down, but his high danger opportunities were up. Zach Hyman, the third member of the top line, was getting a high percentage of high quality opportunities. Nylander, meantime, had scored four times and was breaking through in the playoffs.

Then Montreal got into the groove we’ve seen ever since against the opposition’s best weapons.

In three Toronto losses from Games 5-7, Matthews’ shot rate fell below his season average, but his high danger rate crept up. That’s the Price effect showing itself, the NHL playoff leader in save percentage and high danger save percentage. Marner’s shots and shot quality both fell below his season averages and Nylander wasn’t having near the same success he was earlier in the series.

Live Cricket

The top four offensive weapons up front that combined for five goals in the first four games managed just two in the final three and, as has been discussed ad nauseam, Matthews and Marner just never got going. Leafs fans won’t care about any silver lining here, but we’ll see that they may have fared the best against Montreal, so should we reconsider how we view the loss?

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WINNIPEG’S TOP SCORERS

The Jets series was much different because they never had a hope. While Toronto’s top players actually held an advantage in shots and high danger shots throughout their series (even after it went sour), the Jets were always chasing. None of their top four options were on the ice for more high danger chances for than against, and only one had an expected goals for percentage over 40 per cent. By the end of the round, Dubois was so disengaged he had fallen to the fourth line.

Not good.

Winnipeg had three players score at least 20 goals this season: Ehlers, Connor and Scheifele, who was suspended after Game 1 and missed the rest of the series. Ehlers was getting nearly a shot less per game against Montreal compared to his regular season and the percentage of those that were high quality dropped, too. Connor maintained his regular season shot rate, but his high quality looks were almost non-existent.

Live Cricket

Wheeler, fifth in team goal scoring on the year, was the only one to get enough quality looks to think he might breakthrough, but it never happened and was far from enough anyway.

Round 2 also brought into greater focus the impact Phillip Danault was having on keeping the opposition’s best off the score sheet, as explored by Sportlogiq earlier these playoffs.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

VEGAS’S TOP SCORERS

Not until Game 5 did the Golden Knights get a goal from any of their top forwards, and Pacioretty’s marker came in the third period of what was a 3-0 game. Smith’s first period equalizer in Game 6 was the only goal of consequence from this group.

Given the stakes, the depth and skill of their opponent and these numbers, you could argue Round 3 was Montreal at its best. All of Vegas’s top scoring options had high danger scoring rates lower than their regular season averages and only one averaged more shots (by a very tiny amount).

Live Cricket

The Canadiens have done a great job clogging the middle, clearing the front of the net, and forcing shots from the outside. It’s a similar formula to what the Islanders have found so successful. But the Golden Knights became far too comfortable allowing the Habs to dictate that.

Three of Vegas’s top five shot generators in the series were defencemen, and while the Golden Knights outshot Montreal 193-165 in the series, the Habs had a 71–60 high danger shot advantage.

“I got skunked this series,” Stone said. “That can’t happen. I’m the captain of this team. The leader of this team. I take a lot of responsibility for what just occurred.”

The captain will take the brunt of the blame for this after he was shut out entirely (again, the Danault/Price effect), but Marchessault was the highest scoring second-liner for the Golden Knights this season and he managed a solitary secondary assist all series. When any of these five scorers were on the ice, Vegas generated less than 40 per cent of all of the highest-quality shots put on net.

The Canadiens have been lucky at times, sure, but the fact is their team defence has gotten better as the playoffs have gone along and they are a much different team than they were in Games 1-4 against Toronto. They haven’t allowed a power-play goal against in 13 games and this all lowers the pressure on an offence that was 17th in the regular season and ranked 14th out of the 16 playoff teams. Two is their magic number: the Habs are 11-0 in games where they scored at least twice in a game. That’s it.

The key to that has been keeping the opposition’s best off the board, and the reason for that isn’t only because Price has stepped up to a world class level. The chances created by the best scorers Montreal has faced have been in decline.

Every series win for Montreal has left those opponents wondering what happened to their stars, why they didn’t rise to the occasion or if, perhaps, the cores they have are flawed in some way.

Maybe it wasn’t you, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vegas. Maybe it’s just the Habs finding their own way to success.

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Duel for Home Run Lead




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 22:45:36 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 00:34:40 EDT
Thomas Ketko




The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Guerrero Jr. re-takes home run lead with his 25th of the season



Duel for Home Run Lead 5160296

Fri, 25 Jun 2021 20:29:39 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 20:32:27 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Vladimir Guerrero Jr. re-takes the home run lead with his league leading 25th home run of the season against the Baltimore Orioles.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Sportsnet Video
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Tatis Jr. hits three home runs in game, ties Guerrero Jr. with 25 on season



Duel for Home Run Lead 5160296

Sat, 26 Jun 2021 00:30:23 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 00:46:29 EDT
Sportsnet Video




San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. hits his 23rd, 24th and 25th home run of the season to tie Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the league lead.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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16246676305160237


Ohtani crushes 24th home run of year, a 453-foot bomb



Duel for Home Run Lead 5160296

Fri, 25 Jun 2021 20:34:30 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 20:34:30 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Shohei Ohtani launches his 24th home run of the year in the top half of the first inning, briefly tying Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for home run lead in the majors.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Kylie Masse, Penny Oleksiak to lead Canadian swim team into Tokyo




Thu, 24 Jun 2021 19:56:06 EDT Thu, 24 Jun 2021 19:56:06 EDT
Canadian Press




Olympic champion Penny Oleksiak and world champions Kylie Masse and Maggie Mac Neil headline Canada’s 26-swimmer team for the Tokyo Olympics.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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TORONTO — Olympic champion Penny Oleksiak and world champions Kylie Masse and Maggie Mac Neil headline Canada’s 26-swimmer team for the Tokyo Olympics.

Canada’s swim team was announced Thursday after five days of trials at the Pan Am Sports Centre in Toronto.

Sixteen women and 10 men will wear the Maple Leaf at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre and Odaiba Marine Park.

Pool competition in Tokyo runs July 24 to Aug. 1 followed by open-water marathon swims Aug. 4-5.

The trials were cancelled in 2020 with the postponement of the Tokyo Games to 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s trials in April were postponed from May and again to June while Ontario grappled with COVID-19.

“I think we were the last major swimming nation to run our formal trials, so our athletes and coaches watched the rest of the world compete and post times,” Swimming Canada high-performance director John Atkinson said Thursday on a conference call.

“Our athletes certainly rose to the occasion over the last five days.”

For the majority of the Canadian team, trials were their first real races in a 50-metre, or long-course pool, in over a year and a half because of the pandemic.

“Without having raced for so long, I think it was really exciting to see what we could do finally in a race again and see how our training has come together in our races,” Masse said.

“Having raced this last week definitely gave me a lot more confidence.”

Canadians won six swim medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which tied for the most with track and field athletes.

A 16-year-old Oleksiak led the charge in the Rio pool with a freestyle gold and butterfly silver. She also anchored the freestyle relay teams to a pair of bronze medals.

Canada then claimed eight medals in the pool and another in open-water swimming in the 2019 world championship in Gwangju, South Korea.

Masse, of LaSalle, Ont., is a two-time world champion in 100-metre backstroke since winning bronze in Rio. Mac Neil of London, Ont., is the reigning world champ in 100-metre butterfly.

Atkinson hasn’t set hard targets in medals or finals made for Tokyo.

“We’re going to be ready to improve and see every athlete that goes over there post times faster than they did in qualification,” he said. “With that said, we’re not going just to take part.

“We are going there to challenge for medals, but we don’t put any specific target on that.”

Now 21, Oleksiak qualified to race the 100-metre and 200-metre freestyle and is expected to be a key cog in three women’s relays.

Brent Hayden came out of retirement to make his fourth Olympic team. The 37-year-old from Mission, B.C., won Olympic bronze in the men’s 100 freestyle in London in 2012.

Katerine Savard of Pont-Rouge, Que., will compete in her third Games.

Toronto’s Summer McIntosh, 14, had a breakout trials beating Oleksiak in the 200-metre freestyle as well as winning the 800-metre freestyle to earn a berth on the Olympic team.

Mac Neil will make her Olympic debut in Tokyo as will McIntosh, Finlay Knox of Okotoks, Alta., Toronto’s Josh Liendo and open-water swimmers Kate Sanderson of Toronto and Hau-Li Fan of Burnaby, B.C.

The two open-water swimmers qualified via races in Portugal while pool trials ran in Toronto. They hadn’t competed in open water since the world championship almost two years ago.

“Our athletes have been really resilient,” Atkinson said. “I’m delighted with what they did this week and I think we’re in a pretty good spot.”

Returning veterans from Rio’s team include Toronto’s Javier Acevedo, Taylor Ruck and Kierra Smith of Kelowna, B.C., Markus Thormeyer of Delta, B.C., and Sydney Pickrem of Clearwater, Fla.

The swim team will gather July 3 in Vancouver for a camp before travelling July 16 to Tokyo.

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Meet the NLL ref working to spread love and acceptance in sport




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 15:02:45 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 15:02:45 EDT
Ryan Dixon







The stress and pain of hiding his sexuality nearly killed National Lacrosse League ref Kyle Kennery. Now he’s hoping his story can help and heal others.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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George Springer drills first home run since returning from injury




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 19:53:19 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 20:02:07 EDT
Sportsnet Video




George Springer hits his first homer since returning from injury to give the Toronto Blue Jays the lead against the Baltimore Orioles.

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Caufield bringing confidence through Canadiens playoff run




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 19:54:54 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 19:54:54 EDT
Sportsnet Video




The Hockey Central panel look back at the Montreal Canadiens Game 6 win from Friday and how important Cole Caufield has been to the run and what he’s brought along the way.

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GSI: Nola ties Seaver’s MLB record with 10 strikeouts in a row







Fri, 25 Jun 2021 18:04:00 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 18:04:00 EDT
Sportsnet Staff







Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola tied Tom Seaver’s MLB record by striking out 10 batters in a row against the New York Mets.

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Gotta See It: Nola ties Seaver’s MLB record with 10 strikeouts in a row

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola tied Tom Seaver’s MLB record by striking out 10 batters in a row against the New York Mets.

Tagged with charmingotta

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Breaking down the OT goal that sent Montreal to the Stanley Cup Final




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 12:39:08 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 12:59:33 EDT
Justin Bourne




Artturi Lehkonen sent the Canadiens back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993 with a beautiful OT winner that started with a Vegas chance at the other end. Justin Bourne breaks down the play.

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Well there you are, sleepyheads. Good afternoon! I know it feels like morning, you Canadiens fan you, but trust me, it’s the afternoon by now. Mix in a cup of black coffee, a Tylenol, and if you can muster it, get outside and get yourself a little bit of fresh air. It’s a great day, even if you’re feeling a little fragile right now.

Thursday night was a night for “who the heck cares how it happened, we won,” I’m sure. But would you like to re-live it, and bask in some of the secondary endorphins? I’m happy to be your guide. I haven’t done a Systems Analyst-style post in a while, and this felt like the perfect candidate.

Let’s pick through the goal that put the Habs through to the Stanley Cup Final, and give out some well-earned flowers to Carey Price, Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher, and of course, Artturi Lehkonen.

Livestream every game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free. Plus get the NHL Draft, Free Agency, Blue Jays & MLB, NBA Playoffs matchups and more.

First off, I’d like to note that “Carey Price, Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher, and of course, Artturi Lehkonen” were on the ice with Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot…against Keegan Kolesar, Tomas Nosek, Will Carrier, Zach Whitecloud, and Alec Martinez very early into the overtime period.

That’s a pretty lopsided matchup.

To understand why that’s who Vegas had out there through just 1:28 of the extra frame:

The top three Vegas lines had already touched the ice. Granted, the line of Janmark-Roy-Tuch saw just the first eight seconds of the period before a favourable icing call led to a line switch. But you can understand Pete DeBoer seeing a chance to use his fourth line in an O-zone start situation and being locked and loaded to follow with his best nine forwards next, with what would be Montreal’s top line back on the bench.

(And hey, it’s not like the Danault line ever scores anyway, right? It’s easy to see that shift playing out as a wash.)

With that, it looks to me like Vegas was down to five D (Nick Hague’s last shift came with six minutes to go in the third, and was just his fourth of the period), and so DeBoer wanted to get Whitecloud a shift (you weren’t going to see Hague/Whitecloud anymore in this game). He went out with the responsible Alec Martinez.

Still, seeing “O-zone start” and putting what I’d say are the four guys at the lowest end of your depth chart on the ice at once was undeniably a gamble. Should Janmark-Roy-Tuch have jumped back over the boards? Hindsight makes that an easy yes, but DeBoer’s line choice was never guaranteed to hurt Vegas (who mostly played well on the goal against).

Let’s take a look at the goal as a whole, shall we? That’s always fun.

Live Cricket

Y’know what really kills me about this goal? It’s pretty rare to see a player cut laterally inside the blue line, avoid all the defensive sticks, then manage to sneak a pass on their backhand back through the traffic from whence they came, get it to the off-hand of an open teammate on the wing, and have that guy then get off a good shot.

Only it happened just seconds before, for the Golden Knights, too. Look at the contrast in these moments and consider that they both happened in the first 100 seconds of overtime. What a clear definition of one side getting it done and the other…not.

Live Cricket

And…

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You could search for hours and not find two offensive plays that unfold so similarly. Vegas’s arguably comes from a more dangerous spot on the rink, too.

These stats seem relevant here:

Live Cricket

Anyway, time to pick it apart.

The puck gets won back to Martinez, who lets a real heater of a half-knucklepuck go from the point. This was a dangerous shot that Price tracks and gets his collarbone in front of, but it’s impossible to control. It hit high enough up his body, and with such force, that it launched up high back into the slot.

As you can see from the picture below, if it comes out much lower at all Nosek is probably able to grab it in a pretty dangerous spot, and you can see the Golden Knights have some players in good offensive positions for any chance that may come off a grabbed puck there. Kolesar is underneath Chiarot by the faceoff dot for any potential rebound.

Live Cricket

The problem with having your players in offensive positions is if the puck hops over a stick, or say maybe, floats over everyone’s head then “good offensive position” immediately becomes “bad defensive position.”

Based on Nosek reaching for the puck and heading downhill to the net, and Danault having a little lateral momentum going, the Habs forward is able to cut up ahead of Nosek, and turn a 2-on-2 in a 3-on-2.

Live Cricket

I think the Vegas D, by and large, played this oncoming rush really well. What Martinez wants to do is pressure Gallagher before the red line to force him into making a decision, and hopefully either ice the puck or force a play and turn it over.

Live Cricket

If it’s a clean 2-on-2 maybe Martinez would have pressed a bit harder, but because they don’t have numbers, he stayed back just enough (you can see his stick still reaching at the centre red) for Gallagher to make a poised play, maintain possession, and use his teammate (Danault) streaking up the middle of the ice.

Live Cricket

So here’s where this all really goes to pot for Vegas.

Nosek is in a Sort Out situation, and I capitalize Sort Out because Sort Outs are a thing teams practice on rushes back into their D-zone. The first forward back has to make a read. If they can get back and pressure the puck carrier, they should. Nosek can’t do that here. In that case, if the D are locked into two guys, the Sort Out guy should work back hard to cover the weak side forward, as there’s likely a Kick Out coming.

Most 3-on-2s in the NHL play out the same way when they don’t have pace like this. Generally, the guy who’s Danault with the puck in the middle almost always kicks this out right away and drives the net. Nosek is within a stick length of Danault in the frame below, and with Chiarot wisely pulling up out of the rush, it’s now clearly on him to be the Knights’ third guy back to even up the numbers.

Live Cricket

Nosek stops skating, and never takes another real stride past the centre red.

Now, Whitecloud has done a nice job managing the gap in the middle, not backing in so deep that Danault has the zone uncontested, and staying up enough that Danault thinks the usual kickout might possibly maybe perhaps get tipped, and you do not want to turn the puck over there. I like where Whitecloud is just fine (if you’re being picky you’d like him up about six inches), and I like his stick position, too.

Live Cricket

Danault is actually in a dangerous spot here to turn the puck over, but it’s an odd-man rush so he doesn’t want to just chip it in deep. Instead, he basically decides to make the puck a huge container ship trying to navigate the Suez Canal (I’m told that can be perilous), only he doesn’t get stuck. Look at how narrow the ice is where he’s handling the puck, right inside the opposing blue line:

Live Cricket

It closes even tighter on him, yet he greases the thing through…

Live Cricket

…And then has some daylight on the other side, shown below.

Also: just a terrible time for Nosek’s controller to disconnect.

Live Cricket

It’s becoming panic-mode for Vegas now. Martinez wasn’t able to disrupt the puck from Danault’s stick and is now left to sprint to get to the guy Nosek should be hot after.

Danault is now in a less risky spot on the rink, and so decides to throw one of those backhand passes that probably comes with the thought “Unlikely this will work but if it doessss….” And it finds a puck-sized hole by Whitecloud’s feet.

Live Cricket

Martinez again almost gets a tip on the puck as you can see below, but everything came up absolutely Milhouse on this goal for the Habs.

Live Cricket

Now something important I want to address. Let’s not act like this was some tap-in for Lehkonen. I feel like he’s not getting nearly enough love for this finish. This is an off-hand one-timer past a big goalie who’s by no means out of the play. It needs to be shot hard, and up, and placed well.

Look how far out he’s shooting this from. He’s barely inside the faceoff dot. Pass your buddies a few off-hand one-timers in this spot against no goalie and see how often they can hit this spot with any force.

Live Cricket

And like Martinez, who almost disrupted the play a handful of times, Lehner falls short of getting a blocker on this by the breath of a Montreal Canadien ghost.

Live Cricket

There’s some sort of life metaphor for how this play unfolded: all you can control is getting by the moment you’re in, and sometimes you survive enough of them and look back and go “how the heck did I get through all that?” None of the moments between the Price save and the goal were, in isolation, impossible. But they were all challenging, and yet the Habs conquered each one en route to scoring the goal that put them back in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993.

It was a beauty, and well-deserved for an opportunistic team that’s made its hay in this post-season capitalizing on rush chances.

After the game 3,500 people in the building felt like 35,000, to put the estimate on the conservative side. A few more moments like that, and they could sound like 3.5 million or more. Swear to God.

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Storm’s depth beyond Stewart leading to sustained success




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 11:56:46 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 13:28:12 EDT
Hayley McGoldrick




It’s easy to look at the Seattle Storm and pinpoint where their success comes from. Breanna Stewart has won more awards in the last year than some players will win in their career — and rightfully so. But it’s all 12 players in the lineup that are keeping the defending champions in contention again this season.

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It’s easy to look at the Seattle Storm and pinpoint where their success comes from. Breanna Stewart has won more awards in the last year than some players will win in their career — and rightfully so.

The Storm’s leader in both points and rebounds per game, the impact Stewart has when she’s on the court is evident.

The six-foot-four forward, who has never averaged less than 18 points per game in her career – which was her rookie season average – plays a style where she can pretty much do it all. She’ll fight in the paint to get points with her physical play, can hit the mid-range jumper and isn’t afraid to shoot from beyond the three-point arc. She also possesses grit on the boards defensively that helps spark Seattle’s transition offence.

It’s easy to swoon over her play, and she rightfully deserves her flowers, but Stewart alone is far from the reason why the Storm have done as well as they have in recent years. The foundation for what looks like it could be a new dynasty relies on how the Storm constantly have 12 strong players who will all make waves when called upon.

“I look at our depth in a great way, obviously sometimes having a lot of depth some players don’t get a lot of that playing time, but if you look at a team like Vegas, they have (Dearica) Hamby who goes to the four and plays the three, looking at that guard match-up can bring different lineups for us,” said Storm head coach Noelle Quinn.

Of course, we’re witnessing history as 40-year-old, four-time WNBA champion Sue Bird is still one of the most elite playmakers in the game, and has broken many assists records in her time in the league, but the Storm only get deeper from there in their guard rotation.

Take for example Jewell Loyd, who has been with the Storm her entire career and was one of the key guards for Seattle in the wubble, averaging 17.8 points per game in the 2020 playoffs. Her clutch fadeaway 3-point buzzer-beater against the Los Angeles Sparks last September is just a snippet of what her capabilities are, and it’s no shock she pulled another game-saving moment as she dropped 25 points and the OT game-winner against the Dallas Wings three weeks ago.

Even with Rookie of the Year, WNBA All-Star, WNBA champion and now USA Olympian all now on Loyd’s resume, she continually flies under the WNBA radar, but none of that phases the guard, especially not coming off a 23-point, nine assist performance in Seattle’s four-point loss to Washington.

“It’s never really been about me, it should never be about me, it’s just finding ways to help the team out as much as I can and do my job to my ability,” said Loyd.

Even in the off-season when the Storm lost one of the league’s best defensive players in Alysha Clark, and lost a three-point specialist in Sami Whitcomb, they managed to pick up one of the best young shooters in Katie Lou Samuelson and new addition Stephanie Talbot has brought out the best of the forward’s bench game as she is currently having a career year.

That’s the key to a lot of Seattle’s success: their depth. With bench players being able to contribute on both sides of the ball in their limited minutes, the Storm is able to give some of their starters adequate rest without feeling like there’s a chance the game could be thrown away with players like Talbot, Candice Dupree and Jordin Canada as one of the strongest secondaries in the league.

Seattle has only lost three games this season to three teams that also have quite the collection of talent — Dallas, Las Vegas and Washington — and even in those losses, the Storm have never lost by more than four points.

The way that Seattle moves the ball and having players that are able to shoot from all areas of the floor combats any team’s plan to double-team a player like Stewart to try and shut her down. Even if a team can successfully do that, they would also have to shut down the Storm’s post and their hot three-point game as well.

“Everybody knows opportunities are going to come at different times, different chances obviously, I think honestly every single person on our bench is always ready for the moment, for the minute,” said Storm centre Mercedes Russell. “Obviously we encourage them to bring the energy and bring the effort, but I think one through 12 everyone knows what they need to bring.”

Even with another tough match against the Aces on the horizon — a deep team who is currently on a five-game win streak and has also only lost three games this season — the Storm are confident that they can regroup and show why their title defence is still very much a reality thanks to their well-rounded team.

“Being creative with what we have, understanding that our depth at some point is going to come into play with players who maybe haven’t been in the rotation or haven’t had a lot of minutes early on, but that preparation and mindset in practice is that we have all 12 available in order to scheme,” said Quinn.

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At The Letters: One month from deadline, Blue Jays build some momentum







Fri, 25 Jun 2021 11:41:23 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 11:41:23 EDT
Sportsnet Staff







Finally, a win streak for the Blue Jays – not that they don’t still need help. Ben Nicholson-Smith and Arden Zwelling discuss the Jays’ deadline options, give the starting rotation some credit and look at some names to watch in the minors.

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Finally, a win streak for the Blue Jays – not that they don’t still need help. Ben Nicholson-Smith and Arden Zwelling discuss the Jays’ deadline options, give the starting rotation some credit and look at some names to watch in the minors.

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Dave Hakstol on picking up a Kraken-sized job







Fri, 25 Jun 2021 12:54:36 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 13:07:01 EDT
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The coach of the NHL expansion team discusses whether Seattle’s operations are much different from other NHL organisations he’s worked for, what made Ron Francis hire him, how he’ll approach this job differently vs. his time as the bench boss for the Flyers, how involved he’ll be with the expansion draft, the style of play he would like to institute, his time with Claude Giroux & Shayne Gostisbehere, and his time as an assistant coach for the Maple Leafs.

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MLB says 23 teams have reached 85 per cent vaccine threshold




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 13:12:29 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 13:12:29 EDT
Associated Press




A 23rd Major League Baseball team has reached the 85% vaccination threshold for players and other on-field personnel, which allows relaxed protocols, but there were few additional vaccinations in the past week.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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NEW YORK — A 23rd Major League Baseball team has reached the 85% vaccination threshold for players and other on-field personnel, which allows relaxed protocols, but there were few additional vaccinations in the past week.

Major League Baseball and the players’ association said Friday that 85.4% of tier 1 and 2 tier individuals had been fully vaccinated, up just 0.1% from the previous week, and 86.5% had received at least one dose, unchanged from the previous week.

Tier 1 includes players, managers, coaches, team physicians, athletic trainers and strength and conditioning staff.

Tier 2 includes ownership, front office staff, travel staff, head groundskeepers and ballpark operations staff.

Once a team reaches 85% vaccinations among tiers 1 and 2, it has the option to apply loosened protocols to tier 2.

There were no positive tests in the last week. There were 1,854 tests, down from 9,104 the previous week.

So far this season, there have been 66 positive tests — 37 players, 29 staff — among 205,377 samples tested, a 0.03% positive rate. The positive tests are among 25 teams.

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Canadiens fans erupt after Montreal clinches spot in Stanley Cup Final




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 00:12:46 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 00:17:24 EDT
Shannon Coulter




It’s official, the Montreal Canadiens are Stanley Cup Finalists. With their first time back to the Stanley Cup Final since 1993, Canadiens fans had lots to celebrate on Thursday, whether that was in the streets of Montreal on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day or on social media.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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It’s official, the Montreal Canadiens are Stanley Cup Finalists.

With Artturi Lehkonen’s overtime goal in Game 6, the Canadiens sealed a meeting with either the Tampa Bay Lightning or the New York Islanders, who will play their series-deciding Game 7 on Friday.

As well, for the first time in Montreal’s 103 year history, the club won the Clarence Campbell Bowl, traditionally given to the winner of the Western Conference champions. This will be the Canadiens’ 35th trip to the Stanley Cup Final, which begins on Monday.

The crowd outside the arena was so enthusiastic about the win that the Bell Centre was placed in lockdown for a short period of time as Montreal Police intervened.

With their first time back to the Stanley Cup Final since 1993, Canadiens fans had lots to celebrate on Thursday, whether that was in the streets of Montreal on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day or on social media.

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Andreescu hopes to reverse fortunes against Cornet at Wimbledon




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 08:53:33 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 08:53:33 EDT
Canadian Press




Canada’s Bianca Andreescu will have a chance to exact revenge on France’s Alize Cornet when they square off in the first round at Wimbledon next week.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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LONDON — Canada’s Bianca Andreescu will have a chance to exact revenge on France’s Alize Cornet when they square off in the first round at Wimbledon next week.

The draw, released Friday, sees the fifth-seeded Andreescu facing Cornet for the second time in a month on a grass court.

Cornet, ranked 56th in the world, beat Andreescu 7-6 (2), 7-5 in the second round at Berlin.

Andreescu, from Mississauga, Ont., has lost three of her past four matches, including in the first round at the French Open.

After missing all of 2020, the 2019 U.S. Open champion appeared to be finding her rhythm when she advanced to the final in Miami in the spring. But a foot injury there forced Andreescu to retire from the match against Ash Barty and she later tested positive for COVID-19.

Leylah Annie Fernandez of Laval, Que., the other Canadian in the women’s singles draw at Wimbledon, faces Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko in the opening round.

On the men’s side, 10th-seeded Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., is the top-ranked Canadian. He’ll meet Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first round.

No. 16 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal faces Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro, while Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil squares off with Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena.

The main draw starts Monday.

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WTA




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Pride Month




Tue, 01 Jun 2021 08:08:35 EDT Mon, 21 Jun 2021 11:38:13 EDT
Craig Battle




The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Mark Schiefelbein/AP
Laurel-Hubbard-Olympics-weight-lifting


Laurel Hubbard to become first transgender athlete competing at Olympics



Pride Month 5144720

Sun, 20 Jun 2021 20:09:41 EDT Sun, 20 Jun 2021 22:53:56 EDT
Associated Press




Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will be the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Laurel Hubbard hefted 628 pounds (185 kilograms) in two lifts on the way to qualifying in the women’s super-heavyweight division for the Tokyo Olympics.

That’s heavy. But it’s nowhere near the figurative weight Hubbard has carried to become the first transgender athlete to compete at an Olympic Games.

Hubbard was among five weightlifters confirmed Monday in New Zealand’s team for Tokyo. At 43, she will also be the oldest weightlifter at the games, and will be ranked fourth in the competition on Aug. 2 for women 87 kilograms (192 pounds) and over.

Hubbard won a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships and gold in the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa. She competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games but sustained a serious injury that set back her career.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said in a statement. “When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end. But your support, your encouragement, and your aroha (love) carried me through the darkness.

“The last eighteen months has shown us all that there is strength in kinship, in community, and in working together towards a common purpose. The mana of the silver fern comes all of you and I will wear it with pride.”

The additional burden Hubbard has had to carry is that her efforts have made her a flashpoint in the debate around the fairness of trans athletes competing in women’s events. She has faced anger, scorn and ridicule, and has been directly criticized by some opponents.

Competing as Gavin Hubbard, her birth name, Hubbard set national records in junior competition and had a best, combined snatch and clean and jerk total of 300 kilograms (661 pounds).

Hubbard transitioned eight years ago at the age of 35. She has since met all of the requirements of the International Olympic Committee’s regulations for trans athletes and fair competition.

The IOC policy specifies conditions under which those who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the female category.

Among them is that the athlete has declared that her gender identity is female and that the declaration cannot be changed, for sporting purposes, for a minimum of four years.

The athlete must also demonstrate that her total testosterone level is below a specific measurement for at least 12 months prior to her first competition.

Hubbard met those standards.

The IOC policy also states: “the overriding sporting objective is and remains the guarantee of fair competition.”

Yet some within the weightlifting community argue the policy does not guarantee fair competition. The determining criteria — a maximum reading of 10 nanomoles per litre of testosterone — is as least five times more than a biological woman.

Belgium’s Anna Vanbellinghen, who will likely compete against Hubbard, said the New Zealander’s presence would be “like a bad joke” for women competitors.

“I am aware that defining a legal frame for transgender participation in sports is very difficult since there is an infinite variety of situations and that reaching an entirely satisfactory solution, from either side of the debate, is probably impossible,” Vanbellinghen has said. “However, anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: this particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes.

“Life-changing opportunities are missed for some athletes — medals and Olympic qualifications — and we are powerless. Of course, this debate is taking place in a broader context of discrimination against transgender people and that is why the question is never free of ideology.”

Similar sentiments have been expressed by other athletes and weightlifting officials, who claim Hubbard has a natural advantage in terms of physiology and strength.

But New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith said it’s clear Hubbard has met all the criteria to compete in Tokyo.

“We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play,” Smith said. “As the New Zealand Team, we have a strong culture of manaaki (hospitality) and inclusion and respect for all.

“We are committed to supporting all eligible New Zealand athletes and ensuring their mental and physical wellbeing, along with their high-performance needs, while preparing for and competing at the Olympic Games are met.”

Hubbard, whose father is a wealthy cereal manufacturer who became mayor of New Zealand’s largest city, seldom grants media interviews.

In 2017, she explained her approach to the criticism she faces on sporting and moral grounds to the New Zealand news website Stuff.

“All you can do is focus on the task at hand and if you keep doing that it will get you through,” Hubbard told Stuff. “I’m mindful I won’t be supported by everyone but I hope that people can keep an open mind and perhaps look at my performance in a broader context.

“Perhaps the fact that it has taken so long for someone like myself to come through indicates that some of the problems that people are suggesting aren’t what they might seem.”

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Olympics





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Andrew Lahodynskyj/COC/Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Marnie McBean


Q&A: Canada’s chef de mission Marnie McBean proud to stand for diversity



Pride Month 5144720

Wed, 16 Jun 2021 09:30:46 EDT Wed, 16 Jun 2021 12:36:34 EDT
Julia Kreuz




As chef de mission in a uniquely challenging time for Canada’s athletes, Marnie McBean is headed for Tokyo knowing she’s exactly where she needs to be.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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In times of impermanence, Marnie McBean’s resolution is evergreen.

As Team Canada’s chef de mission for the 2020 Olympic Games, the former rower and perennial athlete mentor has been constantly adapting her leadership style and message since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020 — all while she and her partner, Deanah Shelly, and their five-year-old daughter, Isabel, strive to find the balance of life at their home in Toronto.

McBean is a leader by nature. Her stellar partnership with Kathleen Heddle led to three Olympic gold medals, a record for Canadian Summer Games athletes that stands to this day. A quarter-century after the pair’s last gold — a Double Sculls thriller at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics — this year will be the first time McBean can’t pick up the phone and call her former rowing partner during the Games. Heddle passed away in January, at 55, after a battle with cancer, leaving McBean with fond memories and an occasionally overwhelming legacy.

Now, McBean is headed for Tokyo knowing she’s exactly where she needs to be. Rowing has taught her that goals aren’t always achieved by following a straight line.

From her basement — because her daughter had taken over the upstairs level during school hours — McBean spoke about coming out after retirement, the many adjustments she had to make as Canada’s chef de mission and how meaningful it will be to watch the pairs rowing competition at the Olympics this year.

(This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.)

SPORTSNET: As chef de mission, how are the preparations for the Olympics? I’m sure it’ll be different than what you expected.

MARNIE MCBEAN: I think when I get to 14 days away from going to Tokyo, I’ll start getting into the easy bits, because it’s almost like when you’re traveling and you finally leave the house and whatever you’ve forgotten, you’ve forgotten. You’re in the pattern of going to the airport and traveling and all that stuff. So, 14 days is when I’ll start monitoring my close contacts and that sort of stuff, and then I’ll have a couple of tests to do. I can’t imagine what would derail the games at this point in time — I don’t even want to guess, because it’s that kind of year that it would actually happen.

The athletes are a group of rule followers, so they totally get the structure of doing this. And I think my expectations for Tokyo, there’s two sets: There’s the expectation of my experience as chef de mission and what do I expect from the team.

My experience, I think it’s going to be really weird, because this is this super cool gig, right? The chef de mission is a gig that I personally wanted since probably Beijing 2008. I was in the village, and Sylvie Bernier was the chef and Peter Giles was the assistant chef, and I was like, actually, I want Peter’s job, the assistant chef, because he did the assistant chef the way that we now do the chef job. It’s basically very athlete-facing. And it’s an infinity button.

As a journalist, you might have three sports that you get to cover. I’ve had that. But (this time) I was going to go with infinity — from the fancy levels to the athlete field-of-play levels. Infinity everywhere. Now we’re still going to be discovering what that means.

I know I’m going to be in the Olympic Village. We don’t have an athlete lounge, which historically I always thought was a great place for incidental and almost accidental conversations. (But) the thing I’ve learned about roles like mine, mentoring and stuff like that, is there’s often a really hidden impact. And the people you think you’re there to help, you might end up helping an entirely different population. And it makes a huge impact.

And from the team, I actually expect something kind of extraordinary. We have been in a vacuum of results, but in a surplus of training. I remember one of our athletics athletes in 2012. He was the world champion in shotput. And he was pretty sure he could get like a world-best throw at the Olympics, but he would have to stay home and train for it the whole time. Instead, he was going to go around Europe and do Diamond League and stuff like that and make an income that was going to support his family for decades.

So here they are. They’re now at home, with these incredible training blocks. I don’t know what their results are going to be, but I know that their performance is going to be extraordinary.

Did your mentality, your mindset as chef de mission, change at all with the postponement and the idea of no fans?

I had to reset everything. I was selected as chef in July 2019. And I remember thinking I didn’t have enough time to talk about the Olympics, about believing in yourself and reaching for the podium. I believe in a philosophy of “more.” More that I can do, more that I can learn, more that I can be, more that I can try. I learned it in sport, but I realize it applies to everything. It applies to relationships, career, hobbies. It applies to my own personal health. And not in an anxious way of more — like, you can be good with nothing because it depends how you crave “more.” It depends on the amount of ambition you applied to the goal.

But if your ambition is ramping up, you care a lot about “more” anyways. So, I’m like, Okay, I don’t have enough time to talk about that.

In January we realized there was something going on. In February I had a trip to Japan canceled already.

When we got to the decision-making in March, it was like, we can’t just be there walking along thinking we’re all good. Actually, Chicken Little kept saying the sky is falling. So, my messaging from March to May was probably more into care and comfort. “Stay at home, take care of your family. Thank you for organically embracing what we need to do.” I was this care-and-comfort person. If you ask most people who competed against me, those might not have been my strong suits when I was an athlete. But coming through to this side of it, having mentored for so long and also having my own family, it was definitely an easier voice to have.

Recently, I switched it up and started going, “Okay, look, there’s a Games coming up and we have to start talking about performance again — ramping back up.”

So, yes, I totally had to adjust my conversation. I took the concept of pushing “more” out, because you know what? They’re doing more all the time. They have recreated the wheel so many times in this pandemic. I don’t have to tell them to believe in more, because clearly they do. They are doing more, learning more, trying more and being more every day. And they have been for 15 months, if not the two years before that, through all the qualifying.

Now we’re into the fine tuning, and it’s kind of like, “Believe in perfect, but let perfect go. If you’re waiting for perfect, it’s never going to come. Unchain yourself from that burden and you’re on the right path — just believe in it.”

When you talk about changing your message and slowing down, I see a little bit of that in rowing as well — especially in that 1996 Olympic gold medal race in Atlanta. You’ve got to know when to push, when to slow down, how to call the race. I wonder if that philosophy extrapolates sport and enters your life as well.

I guess so, for sure. If you make a mistake in rowing, what a rookie will do is they will get really flustered and drop down. They’ll take all that adrenaline they have from that moment where they kind of f— up, and they’ll spend it and then all of a sudden you’re in a deficit.

What you need to do is just recover. And just allow it. It happened. Recover, push on, reassess and get back to your race plan a little bit.

When you’re going down a lane, if you’ve got a crosswind, you actually don’t go straight and across. Your boat tracks on an angle the whole way. So, the lane is like a lane of a street only instead of a car going straight down, the car would be almost sideways, going straight down the road. And you’re going to be really comfortable with letting go, looking over here, but going perfectly straight. It’s messed up. But you have to have a lot of faith.

And I guess it goes to the relationship that you have with a partner, too. In that race that you’re watching, as I’m talking to Kathleen, it might look like I’m talking a lot, but we had single words that meant tons of stuff. A certain word or a phrase would mean a week, if not a whole year of training. It’s about trust.

In that race, we knew we’d put most of our energy in the middle of the race and we get way ahead of people. And that was how we always raced. We knew that the Dutch for sure, and the Chinese showed that, too, that they were going to be able to close the gap on us. And we just had to know that, you know, don’t let them do it, but don’t panic either. It’s a 2,000-metre race.

You mentioned your partnership and your trust with Kathleen. It’s been 25 years since that gold medal. If you’re comfortable talking about it, I wonder how it feels not having her here to celebrate and share this moment with you.

I am comfortable talking about it, but hold on — I had put some Kleenex around me earlier and the closer Kleenex is to me, the less likely I am to cry too much.

It’s kind of weird with the Olympics coming up and Kathleen not being around, because I would always call her up during the Olympics and, respectfully, we would always be like, “Why are other people making it look so hard?” Because we just saw ourselves as these two girls who kind of got together and rowed, and we beat everybody three times. And why can’t everybody else do that? So, it’s kind of a fun conversation for us to get together and go, “Oh my god.”

I’ve always said that part of my role as the mentor has been to… I need to strip myself of this title of Canada’s most successful summer Olympic athlete. Somebody’s got to win four gold medals. Please, somebody win four gold medals because then somebody will win five and then someone will six and seven and eight. And I think Canadians are so capable of it.

I would love to see that. That would be a huge thing for me as a chef to just see me go from this title that’s lasted for 25 years that Kathleen and I have shared. I think it’s time to go.

And then, you know, now that I’m thinking about it specifically, probably watching the double and the pair race (in Tokyo) will mean a lot more this time.

When you think back to that race, 25 years later, what does it mean to you to have won that medal with so many Canadian fans and your families there?

Atlanta was very much like a home Games, because it’s so close. There was (also) a grandstand of 30,000 people watching rowing, which is probably one of the bigger grandstands we’ve had. A huge contingent of Canadians had come down to watch — that was pretty awesome.

But when I think about that campaign, like the whole campaign for Team Canada, because it was an extraordinary team, it wasn’t just Kathleen and I…. When I think about the medal, when I show people the medal, it’s really not that moment that is my fondest memory of the whole campaign. It’s the work we did, and it’s the highs and lows that came throughout the whole four years.

And part of that with Kathleen was that after ’92, she actually kind of retired. She went off and was just trying to figure out if she was done rowing. I would call her up like every month and go like, “Do you want to come back to rowing?” Because I was in the single, but I hadn’t really yet embraced being a single sculler.

Then in ’94, I was the overall World Cup champion in the single. But in a final race with Silken (Laumann) … she set the world-best time. We had Canadian records by far, but Silken beat me in that race. And I remember coming home and calling Kathleen and she said, “Oh, you caught me at a really bad time, because (going back to rowing) sounds like a good idea.” That might be one of my favourite memories of that whole quadrennial.

And then the race, everything in Atlanta was complicated. Because the expectation on us was so high, and … these expectations kind of killed the joy in it. Even right now — Naomi Osaka, that would be Kathleen. Kathleen got into rowing to row…. She didn’t get into it for everything. We turned down cereal boxes. We turned down magazine covers. The whole thing.

Into ’96, people were really focusing on us…. We were this go-to, so the expectation on us wasn’t just us thinking that we could win because we had this experience and we were going extraordinarily well. It was the external expectation that really sucked the fun out of the experience. The racing and the rowing was amazing. But the highlights of that campaign are almost all behind the scenes, which is typical of any experience with Kathleen.

In the interview right after the gold-medal race in Atlanta, Scott Russell comes over to Kathleen and says, “Three gold medals — that’s amazing!” And she says, “Oh, yeah, I hadn’t even thought about it. But now that you mention it, yeah, it’s pretty neat.” And that’s a very clear indication that she was in it because she loved to row. And obviously she loved the partnership that you guys had.

And her answer was so fulsome — she kept going! Generally everyone would ask Kathleen the first question because they knew her answer would be slow, short and articulate and beautiful, but she would be done with it. But (that time) she kept going. It was amazing. It was like the first time she, like, spoke. She was just so good with it. Kay Worthington, who had done the call on that race, still comments that it was the most Kathleen ever spoke in public.

Your journey to self-discovery in terms of your sexuality came after you retired from rowing. How did that come about and what was that experience like for you as a retired athlete?

It was funny. It was just really a weird team in that we really didn’t focus on our personal life. Not in the way that people were told to leave your personal life out the door — we just were so focused on what was going on in the water.

I don’t think I knew a gay person … who was (out). So there was no one for me to go, “Oh, maybe that’s why I can’t find any guy that I fit with. I can’t figure out where I belong.” And so I think it took until I came out of sport and I just kind of chilled and I stopped focusing so much on rowing that the world got a lot bigger and I started letting more people into my circle.

And then, you know, you meet someone…. I remember a woman looked at me and our eyes met, like, “Whoa! What was that?” And I was just like, “Well, that was really weird. I don’t want to hang around her so much.” And then you’re like, “No, I do like this.”

I only want to hang around her.

Right! And there goes my productivity.

There was also such an advantage in that I was in my 30s at the time. I had my own house. I kind of just did what I wanted to do. Certainly I was in the closet for a while, because I was trying to figure out, “Is this a phase?” Like, “What’s going on?” And then I’m like, “This is definitely not a phase.” And it wasn’t until my first broken heart that I was like, “Well, I can’t go through this in the closet. I can’t do that. I have to come out because I just need more support.”

I remember going onto dating sites and thinking, well, everyone’s going to know I’m Marnie McBean. So I would have like a hat on and glasses and then I’d go out for a date with some girl and she’s like, “Oh, I totally knew you were Marnie McBean.” And I was like, “Oh, okay. Well, there goes that.”

And then just spending more time down on Church Street (in Toronto). There used to be a place — Slack’s. it used to be great, and I felt really comfortable.

And this is part of Pride. For a long time, I felt really comfortable on Church Street, but it was one of those things where you’d be holding people’s hand and then as soon as you crossed Jarvis, (you let go) as you’re getting too close to Bloor.

But then I got stronger again.

I think to some extent that’s why I embrace and I’m very proud to be an ambassador of the LGBT community. But I have a tough time speaking as a member of the sport community doing it, because I don’t have that experience. I never had to overcome, you know, a bias.

I do wonder, because I was strong and muscular at a time when women weren’t strong and muscular, I would say culturally people were calling me gay or butch before I was. Like, “Oh, she’s so strong, she must be gay.” It was one of those things where female athletes by definition were gay, whereas a male athlete by definition was straight. Guys could hide in sport and girls were exposed by it.

Sometimes I wonder about that, before I had figured myself out and I had my own internalized homophobia at the time. I didn’t identify with like a (more masculine-presenting) gay woman, and I felt like hanging out with a (masculine) gay woman said something about me. And, you know, I realized that was just outrageous and homophobic. It took my wife to sort of spell it out to me — and she’s like, “You know, that’s homophobia, right?” And yeah, it totally was.

I remember at the beginning (of my time as chef), I said, “Well, I just want people to be their authentic self.” And I meant it in a far broader sense than just being part of the LGBT community — and when I say that, I do mean the LGBTQI2S+, of course.

But I think your authentic self is so many different things, right? It is your sexuality. It is your gender expression. It is whether you want to be an extrovert like me or an introvert like Kathleen. I really want people to be authentic. I want all of our introverts on the team to know that you don’t have to be (loud) to be a champion. Because Kathleen was by far the better athlete than me. And your authentic self is being authentically true and understanding how you want to represent your race and your culture, your faith — and all these things are who you are.

I want to be the chef to that team.

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Happy Pride Month from Canadian Women’s Basketball Team



Pride Month 5144720

Fri, 11 Jun 2021 16:31:12 EDT Fri, 11 Jun 2021 16:31:12 EDT
Sportsnet Video







Some of the members of Canada’s Senior Women’s Basketball team share a heartwarming message to the LGBTQ+ community as we continue to celebrate Pride Month.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Kaitlyn Weaver


Former Canadian ice dancing champion Kaitlyn Weaver comes out as Queer



Pride Month 5144720



Fri, 11 Jun 2021 20:51:33 EDT Fri, 11 Jun 2021 20:59:30 EDT
Canadian Press







Pride month means a little bit more to Canadian figure skater Kaitlyn Weaver this year.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Pride month means a little bit more to Canadian figure skater Kaitlyn Weaver this year.

The two-time Olympian and former Canadian ice dancing champion publicly came out as a queer woman on Friday in an interview with CBC and in a post on Instagram.

Sharing her authentic self with the world has been “overwhelming,” Weaver said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“I made my post this morning, which was scary but exciting. And then I put my phone down and we went paddle boarding. … I just wanted to kind of let it soak in,” she said from the Hamptons, where she’s on vacation.

Hours later, she returned to messages of love and support.

“It’s just such a heartwarming feeling to know that now I can be my most authentic self and I have some people in my corner as well.”

It’s been about a decade since Weaver, 32, realized she was queer but she avoided facing her sexuality, concerned about the impact it could have on her career. She was afraid people would think she was faking her connection with skating partner Andrew Poje — and that it would affect their scores.

“LGBTQ+ people are not accepted everywhere in the world and you just never know who you’re talking to. And when your livelihood depends on that, it’s scary. If it’s scary to tell friends, it’s definitely scary to tell people who are judging you for a living,” she said.

“It was just never an option to come out when I was still competing. It just wasn’t even an idea I would entertain.”

Instead, Weaver spent years directing all her attention toward skating and away from facing her true identity.

“As an elite athlete … you put your personal life second and your sport first,” she said. “So it was easy for me to kind of set everything aside, especially things that I didn’t really like and focus all of my energy on becoming the world’s best ice dancer.”

As COVID-19 gripped North America, it became harder for Weaver to find ways to stay distracted. She and her skating partner Andrew Poje had already stepped away from competing but were still doing shows, and she was skating on CBC’s “Battle of the Blades.”

“When the pandemic hit, I didn’t have any of that and I was facing this skeleton in the closet of just understanding and accepting my own identity as a queer woman,” she said. “It was a lot.”

Weaver worked with a mental health team to process and accept herself, and has slowly come out to loved ones. Telling Poje was difficult, she said.

“That was probably the scariest. But he’s nothing but supportive,” Weaver said. “He’s just a pillar in my life and always has been and, lucky for me, always will be.”

The pair plan to continue working together, she added, but aren’t sure whether they’ll go back to competitive skating.

“I’m not sure if my body could take it,” Weaver said with a laugh.

As a lifelong figure skating fan, Weaver plans to continue working in the sport as much as possible and wants to find ways to make the sport more accessible for others.

“I just want to show people that you can do it,” she said. “And I want to be here making it feel safe. And that’s where I’ll start and see where the work takes me.”

She knows that her story will be important in opening figure skating to other queer athletes. While some male skaters have come out publicly in recent years, there are few — if any — openly queer female skaters.

“Queer women don’t see themselves in our sport,” Weaver said. “They don’t see their identities being represented in our sport because stereotypically, it’s the hyper-feminine pretty princess, that’s the stereotype of the female figure skater and that’s not necessarily what everybody identifies as.

“It’s similar, in my opinion, to a guy coming out on a football team or a soccer team. It’s just like you’re the odd one out. It’s hard to do that. It’s hard to be the first.”

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How Stripling turned his season around by making one minor adjustment




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 16:27:55 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 16:27:55 EDT
Sportsnet Video







Blue Jays starter Ross Stripling joins Baseball Central with Blair and Barker to discuss how he’s been able to turn his season around by making a minor adjustment to his hands mid-season.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Sportsnet Video
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Mark Humphrey/AP
Michael Bradley Toronto FC


TFC’s Bradley calls on fans to keep faith despite run of poor results




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 15:38:03 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 15:38:03 EDT
Canadian Press




"Nobody here is happy or satisfied with how things are going right now," Bradley said Friday. "Nobody is ready to write anything off. But the reality is that it’s a new team, it’s a new group coming together. Circumstances have made it a little bit more challenging, for sure, but we are going to get things going.”

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Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley is calling on fans to keep the faith despite the MLS team’s troubles this season.

After finishing second in the Supporters’ Shield race last year, Toronto (1-6-2) is mired in a four-game losing streak, winless in five (4-0-1) and languishes in 26th place in the 27-team league. Its record in all competitions this season is 2-8-3.

Toronto, which conceded late goals in recent 3-2 losses to Orlando City and Nashville SC, looks to pull out of its nosedive on Saturday against FC Cincinnati (2-5-1) at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium.

"Nobody here is happy or satisfied with how things are going right now," Bradley said Friday. "Nobody is ready to write anything off. But the reality is that it’s a new team, it’s a new group coming together. Circumstances have made it a little bit more challenging, for sure, but we are going to get things going.

"I think the team and the club has earned the respect and the pride of our fans over the last five, six, seven years. And so I get it. Nobody likes or is happy with the results right now. And we feel that part as well. But whether we’re in Orlando or Hartford or Toronto, we need our fans to stay close with us, because we’re going to get this thing right. We’re going to continue to push forward in a strong way, and that’s that."

While the standings say otherwise, it has not all been doom and gloom. Toronto has played some good football in stretches, only to shoot itself in the foot.

After conceding twice in the first eight minutes against Orlando last Saturday, Toronto fought back and tied the game before conceding an 84th-minute winner. It scored first against Nashville mid-week, then pulled ahead 2-1 in the 81st minute on a Patrick Mullins goal — only to concede goals in the 83rd and 92nd minute.

"We continue to feel like there are a lot of good things. But we have to now find the ways to reward ourselves," said Bradley. "We have to find ways to take the good moments, all the positive things that we feel good about and make them count for more."

And while the team is reluctant to lean on excuses, the pandemic has taken its toll on the group.

It had to endure a COVID-19 outbreak — goalkeeper Quentin Westberg, his wife and their four kids all contracted the virus. among others — during training camp. Pandemic-related travel restrictions forced the team to set up shop in Florida. The club is still getting used to new coach Chris Armas’ aggressive pressing style of play. And it has missed top players through injuries and other reasons.

"Nothing has been easy for anybody in the last 18 months," said Bradley. "We’ve tried our hardest to still be a team that, with everything going on, can step on the field, can play in a way that makes the people who watch us back home proud. I think over the last five, six, seven years we’ve been able to do that on a lot of days. Maybe not every one, but on a lot of them."

Toronto, which has played its last 24 league games on the road since its last match at BMO Field on Sept. 1, 2020, is off to the second-worst start in club history with five points through nine matches. The only worse opening was 2012 when the team lost nine straight.

Armas remains optimistic.

"We’re not harping on negativity. We’re not harping on where we are in the standings," he said. "We’re looking forward, three points at a time."

Sorting out the defence is key. Toronto has given up a league-worst 18 goals and ranks 26th in the 27-team league, conceding an average of 2.00 goals a game. Only Cincinnati, at 2.13, leaks more goals a game.

Cincinnati is tied with Vancouver and Inter Miami for 23rd in the league in scoring, averaging 0.89 goals a game.

Toronto may be without Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo, who was substituted at halftime mid-week because of hamstring tightness.

"He’s got just this small soft tissue thing brewing." said Armas, who was awaiting word from his medical team.

"We as a club will be smart how we use him this weekend, if at all," he added. "We’ve just got to see because we can’t afford to lose him for extended time."

Armas said midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who also left the Nashville game early due to hamstring tightness, is good to go.

While Toronto has won all three previous encounters with Cincinnati, the third-year team has been making strides of late after opening the season winless in four games (0-3-1). Cincinnati has gone 2-2-0 since and won back-to-back away matches for the first time in club history, dispatching the Fire 1-0 in Chicago on Wednesday and CF Montreal 2-1 on May 22 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The six points earned on the road come after collecting just five in its previous 15 away games (1-12-2). Cincinnati was 4-21-3 on the road in its first two seasons.

"They’re a team that can give trouble. They’re organized defensively and they become a really dangerous team in transition," said Armas.

In other injury news, Armas says Venezuelan winger Erickson Gallardo is healthy again. He has been absent since April 7 when he was injured in TFC’s first outing, a 1-1 draw with Mexico’s Club Leon in Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League play.

Gallardo, while training with the first team, is currently on loan to Toronto FC 2. GM Ali Curtis said the move was to give him games. Armas suggested it had to do with roster compliance.

Fellow Venezuelan Yeferson Soteldo, who had been nursing a hamstring injury, is also healthy again and has joined Venezuela at the Copa America, according to Armas. The 23-year-old designated player has missed Toronto’s last three games.

Venezuela (0-2-1) is currently at the bottom of the five-country Group B at the South American tournament. It finishes group play Sunday against Peru.

FC CINCINNATI (2-5-1) AT TORONTO FC (1-6-2)

Saturday, 7 p.m. ET at Exploria Stadium, Orlando.

LOSING STREAK: Toronto has lost four straight for the first time since 2015. The club has not lost five in a row since April-May 2013.

FORMER RED: Defender Nick Hagglund, in his third season with Cincinnati, has appeared in six games this season, including three starts. He spent five seasons with Toronto before joining his hometown club and is tied with Chris Mavinga for ninth on the club’s all-time appearances list with 115 in all competitions.

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Soccer


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sn-article


(Ryan Remiorz/CP)
bergevin


Through long and testing road, Canadiens find way back to Cup Final




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 01:58:06 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 12:04:39 EDT
Eric Engels




These Canadiens fought through in six games against the Golden Knights, overcoming this challenge like every other one they faced before it: ferociously and all together.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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MONTREAL — It was a Saint Jean Baptiste Day celebration like no other, with the Montreal Canadiens playing for the first time ever on Quebec’s cherished Fête Nationale and punctuating it by stamping their 34th ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.

Unique? How about unheard of.

This has been the year of the unexpected — for all of us, but most certainly for these Canadiens, who were given no chance against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round 1 and even less of one in this semifinal against the Vegas Golden Knights. No team has had worse odds to make it this far in over 30 years, and it’s perfectly fitting this one defied them.

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These Canadiens fought through in six games, overcoming this challenge like every other one they faced before it: ferociously and all together. And this series-clinching win was a microcosm of that, with Artturi Lehkonen scoring 1:39 into overtime to end Game 6 at 3-2 and send them back to the Final for the first time since 1993.

Prior to that, the Canadiens allowed two one-goal leads to slip away and fell back on their heels to end the third period.

They stayed there to start overtime, but were lifted off their toes to celebrate Lehkonen’s goal after Brendan Gallagher cut through the neutral zone and fed the puck to Phillip Danault, who slashed through the middle and found Lehkonen’s stick.

The 3,500 fans at the Bell Centre erupted, handshake lines were formed, and then Shea Weber skated over to accept the Clarence Campbell Bowl — he didn’t touch it — for the first time in over 100 years of Canadiens history.

Weird? No, just more of the same stuff this year’s been made of.

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“We’ve been through a lot,” said the captain, who scored the opening goal — his first of the playoffs, a booming slap shot from the left point that made you almost forget he missed the final eight games of the season with a left-thumb injury.

The drama of the last six months could’ve filled a dozen soap operas.

This team started off on a tear and then played so badly it got its coach fired. This team came out of a break and then jumped into a pause when Joel Armia caught COVID-19. This team had to finish the season by playing 25 games in 44 nights, travelling across the country three times just to get it done. This team faced a salary-cap dilemma and a roster crunch that handcuffed its coach from dressing the optimal lineup when he desperately needed the flexibility post trade deadline. This team lost Weber, star goaltender Carey Price and every other key player to injury while a playoff spot hung in the balance. This team clinched with a loss in its second-to-last game of the season — one of 14 they endured over their final 21. This team was dead to rights down 3-1 to the Maple Leafs, shut out on home ice in what was expected to be their last game of the year at the Bell Centre. And this team left Vegas tied 1-1 in the series with the Golden Knights, returning to Montreal, where head coach Dominique Ducharme was diagnosed with COVID-19 and placed into quarantine for the remainder of this series — and possibly beyond.

This team prevailed.

“We wouldn’t be here right now if we didn’t believe,” said Price, who made 37 saves in Game 6. “We’ve always stuck with it.”

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On Thursday, with a city’s worth of people flooding the streets outside the building and a few thousand more filling the seats within its walls, the Canadiens were the team who surrounded that Campbell Bowl for a picture and then left it right there on the table.

“Obviously there’s a bigger one out there that we’re chasing,” said Cole Caufield, whose goal in the second period featured every element of what will make him a special player for years to come.

The 20-year-old rookie pushed a stretch pass over Brayden McNabb’s stick in the neutral zone, double-clutched from second gear to fourth and ripped his wrist shot over Robin Lehner’s glove and under the bar of the Vegas net to make it 2-1 Canadiens 9:36 into the second period. It was the fourth goal of the series for the kid who started the playoffs watching the first two games from the Toronto press box.

Resilient.

After Lehkonen sealed the deal, Lehner shared his appreciation for the Canadiens’ determination.

“Hell of a team,” Lehner said. “Works really hard. Sticks with their structure, and they have a lot of great players. Everyone underestimates them. Good for them.”

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All of them.

You don’t get through everything the Canadiens have been through and pull off something entirely unexpected without every single person doing what’s expected of them — and some doing even more.

“It’s really fun to see the guys enjoying themselves in the dressing room,” said Ducharme’s stand-in, assistant coach Luke Richardson. “They deserve it. It’s really heartwarming to see a group of guys that work that hard together. I know every team is the same, it says the same thing, but these guys are a special group and a really good mix. It’s hard to put into words how proud we are of them, but they deserve it, and they’re not done yet.

“I saw a fire in their eyes. They’re already talking about it. We are shifting our focus right away. We’ll probably step away (Friday) and just take some rest and come back on Saturday and do a little work and Sunday, get right back at it. And we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

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VGK



sn-article


16246498745160132


Barnes was ‘very excited’ for the opportunity to join Blue Jays




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 15:41:46 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 15:41:46 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Newly-acquired Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jacob Barnes discusses what he knew about the team prior to being traded from the New York Mets.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Sportsnet Video
bc-video


(Ryan Remiorz/CP)
vgk june 24


Golden Knights caught in Canadiens’ destiny as latest playoff run ends




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 00:50:37 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 00:51:09 EDT
Mark Spector




The Vegas Golden Knights have been nothing but a contender since getting their expansion team four seasons ago, yet they just watched hockey’s eldest franchise show them a thing or two about playoff hockey.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Sometimes you get caught in the path of destiny’s freight train. A fate train, if you will.

That’s where the Vegas Golden Knights spent the past couple of weeks, trying simultaneously to beat the Montreal Canadiens and a 28-year curse, where the country that cares the most about the Stanley Cup annually has watched it ship south for the summer each year.

Now, at the expense of the Golden Knights, Canada gets another shot.

And a town that has had nothing but a contender since getting their expansion team four seasons ago? They just watched hockey’s eldest franchise show them a thing or two about playoff hockey, closing off this series in overtime with a 3-2 win in Game 6.

“(Montreal) owned the key moments of the series,” said Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer, in the wake of another close-but-no-cigar season for the Golden Knights. “When they got a chance, they stuck it in the net. When they needed a save, they got a big save. They won the overtime battles. They won the special teams battles.

“If you’re losing those areas of the game, you’re putting yourselves in a tough spot.”

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Artturi Lehkonen was the unlikely overtime hero, “Finn-ishing” the Golden Knights with a dandy roof job off a slick pass from Phillip Danault. The goal came after Max Pacioretty had stared down Carey Price from tight, shooter’s range, but failed to beat the man who enters the Stanley Cup Final as Montreal’s Conn Smythe favourite.

It was a microcosm of the series: Perhaps Vegas’ most lethal scorer could not solve Price, and moments later Lehkonen — a third-liner who will give you 12 goals a season — pots his first of the series to drive the stake through the Golden Knights’ armour.

“It just came down to they did a better job scoring goals in the series,” said Reilly Smith, Vegas’ most dangerous forward in this series. “The opportunities were there for us. They got a breakaway or an opportunity and it ended up in the back of the net. We didn’t do a good enough job on our chances.”

Let’s face it: Vegas’ biggest shooters choked in this series.

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Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Alex Tuch all had zero goals versus Montreal. Pacioretty and Smith each had one.

The power play finished the series at 0-for-15, a crippling outage and likely the decisive failure in this series for Vegas.

“Their D play hard. They’re big, they’re strong. Their forward group is responsible,” Stone said of the Canadiens. “I can praise them all I want, but ultimately it falls down on myself and the top players on this team. We had some guys produce night in, night out, but as far as myself and a number of other guys…

“I got skunked this series,” he concluded. “That can’t happen. I’m the captain of this team. The leader of this team. I take a lot of responsibility for what just occurred.”

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Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki were miles better than any Vegas forward — two small, skilled Montreal players whose ability to pull you out of your chair is off the charts. That two kids could become the difference makers against a Vegas team with this much playoff experience is simply amazing, befitting of the tale the Habs are penning here.

How hard are these Habs to play against?

“They stick with their 1-1-3 structure,” said goalie Robin Lehner. “And they made it hard for not just us. The made it hard for Winnipeg and Toronto, with some of the best goal scorers in the world.”

“When you’re concentrating on defending and you have the ability to counter-punch with guys who don’t need multiple looks to stick a puck in the net, you’re a very dangerous team,” DeBoer said of Montreal. “That was the story here. They concentrated on defending, shutting guys down. And when the puck went the other way, on Caufield’s stick, Suzuki’s stick — they put it in the net. That’s playoff hockey.”

In their four seasons since joining a an expansion team, the Golden Knights have bowed out once as a Stanley Cup finalist, and twice more in the Round of Four. They have never missed the playoffs, small solace as they pack up their gear and head home to the desert as a failed semi-finalist for the second straight year.

It doesn’t have to get much better in Vegas, but it can’t stay the same either.

“There’s another door we have to find a way to barge through at this time of year,” agreed DeBoer. “Everyone. Coaches included.”

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Sports betting legislation a decade in the making







Fri, 25 Jun 2021 15:57:50 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 15:57:50 EDT
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Member of Parliament Brian Masse shares his insights regarding Bill C-218 – a bill which amends Criminal Code provisions around gambling on single sports games, and it being just a royal assent away from becoming law.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Party on in Montreal as Canadiens punch ticket to Stanley Cup Final with OT win




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 09:00:05 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 09:00:05 EDT
Sportsnet Video




Best sights and sounds from game 6 of Knights vs. Canadiens in today’s Morning Glory, where Price was brilliant again, and they’re partying in the streets of Montreal as Artturi Lehkonen scored the thrilling OT winner to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Steelers sign five-time Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner to one-year deal




Fri, 25 Jun 2021 13:49:57 EDT Fri, 25 Jun 2021 13:49:57 EDT
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The Steelers signed five-time Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner to a one-year deal on Friday, a day after cutting David DeCastro in a somewhat surprising move.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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PITTSBURGH — It didn’t take long for the Pittsburgh Steelers to find a replacement for David DeCastro.

The Steelers signed five-time Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner to a one-year deal on Friday, a day after cutting DeCastro in a somewhat surprising move.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Pittsburgh did find itself with a little money to spend after releasing DeCastro, a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro who served as the linchpin of a line that was among the league’s best for the second half of the 2010s.

Turner comes to Pittsburgh three months after getting cut by the Los Angeles Chargers. The 28-year-old Turner spent just one season in Los Angeles, playing in a career-low nine games.

Pittsburgh is hoping Turner can return to the form he showcased during a six-year stint with the Carolina Panthers, when he became a Pro Bowl fixture after the Panthers selected him in the third round of the 2014 draft. Turner made the Pro Bowl every year from 2015-19 before being traded to Los Angeles in 2020 for Russell Okung.

Turner will get a chance to compete for the starting right guard spot created by DeCastro’s departure. He will be part of a new-look offensive line for the Steelers following the retirement of center Maurkice Pouncey, DeCastro’s release and the departure of Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler in free agency.

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NHL’s Top 15 RFAs of 2021: Latest rumours and reports




Sat, 26 Jun 2021 14:15:49 EDT Sat, 26 Jun 2021 16:45:17 EDT
Luke Fox




We look ahead to an award-winning, talent-rich 2021 RFA class, ranking the best of the bunch and gathering the latest rumours and reports on their next deals… or trades.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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Yes, one could quibble about the ranking on this list, or the players left just outside the cut. That’s because the quality of impending NHL restricted free agents this summer is deep.

And loaded with top-tier defencemen.

It’s a youth-driven league, folks.

We have some top-line wingers and at least one franchise centreman who will be due for raises, but the amount of young top-pair defencemen and emerging goaltenders with No. 1 potential is staggering.

Vancouver’s Jim Benning may be under the most pressure to negotiate long-term extensions with his RFAs. He got a jump on his workload by inking goaltender Thatcher Demko to a five-year, $25-million whopper on April 8, setting a comparable for more to follow.

But as RFAs shine in their platform seasons and executives wrestle with a flat salary cap, the mid-season extensions have been few and far between, setting up some compelling negotiations (or trades?) in the off-season.

Here’s where things stand with the top 15 pending RFAs of 2021, a class led by some electric defencemen.

1. Cale Makar Live Cricket
Age: 22
Position: Defence
2020-21 salary cap hit: $880,833
Arbitration rights: No
Bargaining chips: 2020 Calder Trophy champ. 2021 Norris Trophy finalist. Game changer. Rated third-best defenceman in the NHL by his peers. Logs 24-plus minutes nightly. Nimbler in skates than most of us are in shoes. Only pending RFA averaging a point per game.

The latest: Makar is a franchise player, a game-breaker and a future Norris champ. Dude is 22. This season he required the fewest games by a defenceman in NHL history (79) to record five outings with three or more assists.

Colorado GM Joe Sakic will be hard-pressed to lock up Makar on a bargain deal the way he did with Nathan MacKinnon during his RFA negotiation.

Makar either inks a max contract using Thomas Chabot’s eight-year, $64-million whopper in Ottawa as a starting point or goes the patient bridge route and waits for the cap to rise. Such was the path stud RFA D-men Charlie McAvoy ($4.9 million times three years) and Zach Werenski ($5 million times three years) took in recent off-seasons.

Makar is top priority in a hectic summer, but Sakic also needs to find raises for captain Gabriel Landeskog and starting goalie Philipp Grubauer. Some other impending free agent will walk.

“This is as deep of team as we’re going to have here,” Sakic said, after adding rentals at deadline. “We’re going to have to get cheaper starting next year at some of those positions.”

According to colleague Elliotte Friedman, “there’s some evidence the two sides are going to try for term.”

Sakic should.

2. Miro Heiskanen Live Cricket
Age: 21
Position: Defence
2020-21 salary cap hit: $894,166
Arbitration rights: No
Bargaining chips: Earned votes for the 2020 Norris, Lady Byng and all-star team. Plays an eye-popping 25 minutes per game. Phenomenal performance in the 2020 playoffs, putting up 26 points in 27 games in the bubble. Increased his physical play, great penalty-killer and matches top forwards heads-up.

The latest: How good is Heiskanen? We were this close to ranking him ahead of Makar and had to triple-check that he’s only 21. Like Makar, Heiskanen’s value should surpass Chabot’s $8-million cap hit, pandemic and all.

Over the past decade, P.K. Subban is the only RFA D-man to leap the $8-million barrier. Montreal gave him a $9-million AAV at age 25… and later traded him.

Jim Nill loves the versatile left-shot Heiskanen and decided not to trade pending UFA Jamie Oleksiak at the deadline — despite interest from Winnipeg, Toronto, and others — in part because he sees them as an integral pairing.

Nill’s budget will be put to the test this summer with RFAs Roope Hintz, Joel Kiviranta and Jason Dickinson also seeking pay bumps.

“I let my agent do all the talking,” Heiskanen told NHL.com’s Mike Heika on June 17. “I’m not too worried about it. I want to get a deal done, but I don’t know when.”

Heiskanen refused to say whether he wanted long or short term.

3. Quinn Hughes Live Cricket
Age: 21
Position: Defence
2020-21 salary cap hit: $916,667
Arbitration rights: No
Bargaining chips: 2020 Calder runner-up. Power-play quarterback. 97 points through first 129 NHL games. Key building block in Vancouver. Averages nearly 23 minutes per game.

The latest: Preliminary contract talks got underway between Benning and the two most important engines of the Canucks’ rebuild in early April, according to Friedman.

Hughes has been putting up gaudier numbers than recent RFA defencemen (McAvoy, Werenski, Mikhail Sergachev) and is arguably more important to his franchise’s future.

Benning drew mild criticism for the in-season extensions he handed out to Demko and Tanner Pearson, essentially signing some smaller fish before dealing with the biggies.

While some money is coming off the books — Brandon Sutter, Alex Edler — Vancouver is still overpaying on the back half of its lineup and dealing with Roberto Luongo’s cap recapture penalty.

Perhaps bridge is the only solution. The good news for panicky people in Van City: Hughes is classified as a 10.2(c) RFA, meaning he cannot sign an offer sheet.

On June 15, agent J.P. Barry suggested to Donnie and Dhali on CHEK that he is exploring a deal longer than five years for Hughes.

4. Elias Pettersson Live Cricket
Age: 22
Position: Centre
2020-21 salary cap hit: $925,000
Arbitration rights: No
Bargaining chips: 2019 Calder Trophy winner. Finished 16th in Hart voting in 2020. 66 points in each of his first two seasons. Plus-19 player. Career 17.6 per cent shooter. No. 1 centre. Put up 21 points through 26 games in 2021, and it still feels like underachieving.

The latest: In late January, Pettersson switched agents, leaving Michael Deutsch at Eclipse Sports Management and joining teammate Hughes at CAA. Power brokers Pat Brisson and Barry will handle their extension negotiations — and hold a great deal of leverage.

Barry told Rick Dhaliwal that the plan is to work on both deals together, like the twin monsters Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane signed in the summer of 2014. Unlike Hughes, Pettersson could theoretically ink an offer sheet.

Barry, you may recall, put the screws to Benning in securing lucrative contracts for Tyler Myers and Loui Eriksson in recent off-seasons. But they were UFAs, not RFAs.

“The Canucks have cap issues. I don’t think we can do long-term deals for Petey and Quinn. We have started the dance; we are engaged in talks,” Barry told Donnie and Dhali.

“We are exploring shorter term for Elias, five years and under. Quinn longer.”

Friedman has estimated that somewhere in the ballpark of $15 million in total AAV could get both stars under contract. One would have to bet that means going the Auston Matthews–style, five-year route and keeping the door ajar for another windfall when the cap escalates.

5. Kirill Kaprizov Live Cricket
Age: 24
Position: Left wing
2020-21 salary cap hit: $925,000
Arbitration rights: Yes
Bargaining chips: 2021 Calder favourite. Blew up with 27 goals and 51 points in 55 games as an NHL rookie, while logging 18-plus minutes nightly. Most points and goals by a rookie in Wild history. Instant star and fan favourite. Minnesota is desperate for young, exciting offensive talent.

The latest: Wild insider Michael Russo of The Athletic reported in late March that Kaprizov’s agent, Paul Theofanous, sat down with GM Bill Guerin to kick off “a long conversation that will eventually lead to a new contract” for the most exciting young talent to pull on a Wild sweater since… who? Marian Gaborik?

Kaprizov’s status as a 10.2(c) RFA means he’s immune to an offer sheet. He can become a UFA as early as the 2024 off-season, so Guerin should be gunning for term here.

In polling execs and agents, Russo’s sources’ predictions on Kaprizov’s next contract range from a $6.5-million AAV on a two-year deal to a $9-million AAV for a lockup of six years plus.

Kaprizov headlines a Minnesota RFA class that includes prized forwards Kevin Fiala and Joel Eriksson Ek. All deserve pay bumps. (The club took care of Ryan Hartman, another impending RFA, in late April.) UFAs-to-be Marcus Johansson, Nick Bonino, Nick Bjugstad, Ian Cole and Brad Hunt will be candidates to walk.

Kevin Weekes caused a stir on June 18 with his report that talks had gone cold and that Kaprizov was threatening to sign back in the KHL, yanking on his only leverage in this situation.

6. Brady Tkachuk Live Cricket
Age: 21
Position: Left wing
2020-21 salary cap hit: $925,000
Arbitration rights: No
Bargaining chips: Finished fifth in Calder votes in 2019. 125 points through first 198 NHL games. Plays 18-plus minutes per night. Willing to fight Shea Weber. Hits hard and often. Beloved by teammates and fans. His prime will align with Sens’ ascent. Captain material.

The latest: Tkachuk has expressed his love for playing in the nation’s capital. He’s also revealed that his in-depth conversations with management regarding a new contract have been limited.

“That’s a good question,” Tkachuk told reporters in January. “Where the world’s at right now, we haven’t really been talking about (my extension), and we don’t know how the salary cap is going to look for the next couple of years.

“I love being here. I love the crew, love the teammates and the staff, so definitely love it here. But we’ll see how it unfolds.”

GM Pierre Dorion has the cap room to commit and has shown a preference to go deep with RFAs he deems worthy of the core (see: Chabot, Colin White and Matt Murray).

Tkachuk is absolutely worth the investment, so it’ll be fascinating to see how he plays this out. Senators fans needn’t be reminded of past free agents who’ve departed for more money elsewhere.

“We haven’t really started to talk yet,” Tkachuk told the Cam and Strick podcast in June. “So, I’m going to give you the hockey answer and then I’m going to give you the real answer. I will let my agent [Newport Sports’ Craig Oster] and Pierre figure it out.

“I think it’s pretty cool going through this for the first time. Of course, it’s a little stressful, and people say you shouldn’t think about it, but it’s your life.

“For it now to be kind of getting into the works this summer, it’s definitely going to be exciting, and I hear different stories about different negotiations and how they go. Being there with Matthew and with his negotiations [with the Calgary Flames], I’m just excited that it’s happened to me.”

7. Igor Shesterkin Live Cricket
Age: 25
Position: Goaltender
2020-21 salary cap hit: $925,000
Arbitration rights: Yes
Bargaining chips: Superior track record in KHL. 23-12-3 record and .921 save percentage through first 47 NHL appearances. Seasoned, well-developed pro. Tagged as New York’s goalie of the future.

The latest: In a deep summer for emerging RFA starting netminders, we’ve placed Shesterkin on this list because he’s emerging as the bona fide No. 1 starter in a spotlight market. And his prime should align with the Rangers’ run back to Cup contender status.

Even with limited fans permitted into Madison Square Garden, “I-gor! I-gor!” chants rang through the rink late season as the Russian stood on his head.

“He’s been great all year. Obviously, he had a little bout with injuries. He’s always giving us a chance to win and makes key saves for us,” defenceman Adam Fox said.

At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, Shesterkin has taken the baton from Henrik Lundqvist and has the makings of being New York’s backbone in net for the next eight years.

A two-year bridge deal could land in the range of $4 million ballpark. That AAV goes up if rookie GM Chris Drury wants to lock up the netminder.

8. Andrei Svechnikov Live Cricket
Age: 21
Position: Right wing
2020-21 salary cap hit: $925,000
Arbitration rights: No
Bargaining chips: Second-overall pick. Big power forward (six-foot-two, 200 pounds) entering prime. Two 20-goal seasons before age 21. Power-play weapon. Skating a career-high 17-plus minutes.

The latest: “I’m open,” Svechnikov said way back in August regarding re-signing. “I think my agent (Mark Gandler) is going to do that job, and I tell him I don’t want to know anything (until) it’s going to be done. So, he’s going to tell me when it’s going to be done and I just don’t want to worry about that.”

Extension talks with Svechnikov reportedly quieted in February but picked up after Carolina was eliminated in Round 2.

Owner Tom Dundon is always looking for a deal, and it’s no coincidence the Canes’ last high-profile RFA, Sebastian Aho, signed the NHL’s most recent offer sheet.

Carolina also has decisions to make on top UFA defenceman Dougie Hamilton and a few other integral RFAs.

“We will be talking every day. The goal from our end is to get him signed, make sure we don’t miss anything this summer, and get him ready for the start of the season,” GM Don Waddell told reporters on June 17.

9. Patrik Laine Live Cricket
Age: 23
Position: Right wing
2020-21 salary cap hit: $6.75 million
Arbitration rights: Yes
Bargaining chips: Second-overall draft pick. Three-time 30-goal man. Capable of 44 goals and 70 points. Columbus already gave up prized centre Pierre-Luc Dubois to acquire him. Wrist shot concocted by Finnish gods.

The latest: Had his production not fallen off a cliff, had his transition to his new club not been so rock, Laine would be top-five on this list, easy.

A few highlight moments notwithstanding, this is hardly how GM Jarmo Kekalainen envisioned Laine’s migration to Ohio. Former coach John Tortorella benched the star early, and as Laine struggles to find his groove and the Jackets struggle to find playmaking centres, the sniper’s 10 goals and 11 assists through 45 games in Columbus is a disappointment.

Shortly after the trade, Laine said he’d be open to a long-term extension in Columbus: “Hopefully that’s a spot where I’m enjoying life and enjoying playing hockey.”

Does Tortorella’s departure bode well for Laine’s chances of sticking?

“I don’t think it matters who is behind the bench. I still have to go out there and do what I do, and I couldn’t do that this year. I’ll do that next year,” Laine vowed before flying home for the summer.

“I have enjoyed every minute I’ve been here. It was great to see the fans in the stands… I love it here, and I want to stay here for sure.”

Kekalainen said that because the sniper is under team control, it is “self-explanatory” that he’ll be back in Columbus.

“I am pretty sure that nobody is more disappointed in Patrik Laine’s year than Patrik himself,” the GM said upon season’s end, noting that some players struggled with performing in a pandemic. “I think you have to give them a fresh start and a new opportunity to show what they can do in a normal year.”

If Laine forces his way out of another city, well, chalk up this blockbuster as a loss for Kekalainen — who desperately needs Laine and Seth Jones (UFA 2022) to stick around.

“If I’m Laine’s agent, I feel really, really good about my leverage in these talks, and yes I realize he isn’t playing well right now. Doesn’t matter,” Jackets insider Aaron Portzline wrote in a recent mailbag at The Athletic.

Laine now holds an arbitration hammer and could force a one-and-done.

10. Pavel Buchnevich Live Cricket
Age: 26
Position: Left wing
2020-21 salary cap hit: $3.25 million
Arbitration rights: Yes
Bargaining chips: His 20 goals and 48 points in 2021 puts him top-three among all RFAs. Registered his third 40-point campaign. Skates nearly 19 minutes a night, a career high. Following up a career year with a career year.

The latest: Probably the least-discussed name on this list, Buchnevich punctuated his quietly impressive 2021 platform season with a birthday hat trick on April 17.

The inevitable summer buyout of Anthony DeAngelo should free spending dollars for Buchnevich and a number of other pending RFAs on Drury’s roster.

Recent winger comparables Buchnevich could use on a longer deal include Anthony Mantha ($5.7 million AAV over four year) and Oliver Bjorkstrand ($5.4 million AAV over five years).

If Drury balks at a serious commitment, Buchnevich could earn a tidy sum short-term via arbitration.

11. Filip Hronek Live Cricket
Age: 23
Position: Defence
2020-21 salary cap hit: $714,166
Arbitration rights: No
Bargaining chips: 2017 Calder Cup champ. 2019 Red Wings rookie of the year. Team Czech staple who won Best Defenceman at 2019 worlds. Puck-moving, right-shot defenceman yet to reach his ceiling. Led team in points (26) and assists (24) this season. Logs 23:23 per game. Improved discipline and defensively during platform year.

The latest: Fantasy managers know: Hronek is that rare Red Wing worth hanging onto, even during the mighty franchise’s patient rebuild.

“A year from now, Filip Hronek’s up and we’ll extend his contract,” promised GM Steve Yzerman back in October, during an appearance on 97.1 The Ticket.

As recently as the 2021 trade deadline, when he dealt away Mantha, Yzerman highlighted Hronek as a core member of a roster he’s slowly building back to prominence.

Detroit is flush with cap space, so Hronek should surface this summer with more term than any of his teammates. Yzerman was prudent in managing his internal cap in Tampa, so the bar he sets with Hronek will be one worth watching.

12. Conor Garland Live Cricket
Age: 25
Position: Right wing
2020-21 salary cap hit: $775,000
Arbitration rights: Yes
Bargaining chips: Back-to-back 30-point seasons. Career-high ice time. Steals pucks. Provides 5-on-5 offence on a team that needs all it can get. Won 2021 world championship bronze with Team USA.

The latest: GM Bill Armstrong fielded more than one tire-kicking call on the cap-friendly Garland at the trade deadline and ultimately decided to stay pat.

Interesting case here. Arizona has more than enough cap space to give Garland the raise he deserves, and if the player wishes to take this thing to arbitration, he’ll hold decent leverage.

But the Coyotes desperately need to stock up on prospects and picks, and Garland could still be used as a trade chip on the 2021 draft floor.

The club must ask itself: Will the late-blooming winger’s best hockey align with a Coyotes’ contention window?

“It’s just something that has to be addressed. I don’t look forward to it,” Garland said on exit day, regarding his RFA status.

“It’s not something that’s on my mind. It’s something that just has to happen. It’s part of the process. It’s the business side of the game. I have an agent for that. He deals with it. He fills me in whenever he needs to, but my job is just to play hockey — get better and that stuff takes care of itself.

“Of course, I’d love to be back here, and hopefully the Coyotes want me back here, and that’s something we can look forward to for years to come.”

13. Sam Reinhart Live Cricket
Age: 25
Position: Centre / Right wing
2020-21 salary cap hit: $5.2 million
Arbitration rights: Yes
Bargaining chips: Second-overall pick in 2014. Four consecutive 20-goal, 40-point seasons. Hot off career-best 25 goals in 54 games. Improving defensive play and showing signs of being an adequate centre substitute.

The latest: Reinhart’s trade value may never be higher, and this summer seems ripe for a trade. GM Kevyn Adams should take advantage of Reinhart’s abnormally high 19.2 shooting percentage.

Reinhart could take the Sabres to arbitration, get a one-year raise and walk as a UFA in 2022.

“It’s almost tougher this year, personally, feeling good toward the end of the year, feeling like my game was in a good place,” Reinhart said in his exit interview.

“To not be playing any meaningful games down the stretch and into the playoffs is definitely disappointing right now. In terms of the future, I don’t really have much for you right now. I’m going to take some time. That stuff’s all going to get figured out when the time comes.”

In need of top-six forwards, the Devils, Canucks, Blue Jackets, Kings and Red Wings are among the teams who could benefit from Reinhart’s offence.

“The Canucks absolutely should be linked to Sam Reinhart because he wants to play in the West. There’s no question about that. He’s fed up in Buffalo. I don’t think there’s much in Buffalo that he likes or wants to be around, so I think he’s ready to move on.” WGR Sports Radio’s Paul Hamilton told The People’s Show in June.

“Buffalo has never offered him a long-term contract. It’s always one- or two-year deals…. I would imagine he feels disrespected by that.”

14. Juuse Saros Live Cricket
Age: 26
Position: Goaltender
2020-21 salary cap hit: $1.5 million
Arbitration rights: Yes
Bargaining chips: World junior gold medallist. Natural successor to UFA Pekka Rinne’s long run as Nashville’s No. 1 netminder. Career .920 goaltender coming off a personal-best 21-win, .927 season. Started all 2021 playoff games for the Predators and showed well.

The latest: GM David Poile said at his season-ending conference that he and Saros’s representatives had yet to dive into negotiations, but with Rinne at or nearing the end of his career and Saros proving he can handle No. 1 duties, anything less than an extension will be a shock.

The question will be whether Nashville goes long-term (see: Matt Murray in Ottawa or Thatcher Demko in Vancouver) or bridge (Tristan Jarry in Pittsburgh, Mackenzie Blackwood in New Jersey) with its RFA netminder.

15. Alex Nedeljkovic Live Cricket
Age: 25
Position: Goaltender
2020-21 salary cap hit: $737,500
Arbitration rights: Yes
Bargaining chips: 2021 Calder Trophy finalist. Carolina’s other two goalies, Petr Mrazek and James Reimer, could walk in unrestricted free agency. Earned starting duties in post-season. Sparkling 15-5-3 record, 1.90 goals-against average and.932 save percentage. 2019 Calder Cup winner and AHL goalie of the year. 2016 world junior medallist.

The latest: “He didn’t have it turned over to him. He earned it,” GM Don Waddell said of Nedeljkovic. The rookie went from going unclaimed on waivers to claiming No. 1 duties from proven teammates Mrazek and Reimer.

“What he did throughout the season was remarkable. It was great, and he got the nod to go in in Game 1 [of the playoffs], and he’s carried the ball.”

Nedeljkovic’s breakout places pressure on Waddell to commit to the only goalie he has under team control.

“There’s always that little bit of uncertainty when you don’t have a deal. It’s a little different as an RFA since there’s one team to focus on,” Nedeljkovic said, following Round 2’s elimination.

“I’m excited. I’ve loved living in North Carolina. The time I had in Charlotte was great. It was an awesome city. Being able to spend time in Raleigh this year was great, learning more about the city and area. Living here and meeting the people, these are some great fans.”

More notable RFAs: Andrew Copp, Rasmus Dahlin, Drake Batherson, Carter Hart, Jordan Kyrou, Ilya Sorokin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Neal Pionk, Jakub Vrana, Ilya Samsonov, Maxime Comtois, Joel Eriksson Ek, Travis Sanheim, Dante Fabbro, Kevin Fiala, Jake Bean, Kailer Yamamoto, Vince Dunn, Pius Suter, Adin Hill, Nikita Zadorov, Brandon Carlo, Danton Heinen, Ondrej Kase, Sam Bennett, Artturi Lehkonen, Warren Foegele, Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech, Anthony Duclair, Nick Ritchie, Andreas Athanasiou, Adam Erne, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Teddy Blueger, Casey Mittelstadt, Ross Colton, Adin Hill

All salary info via the essential CapFriendly.com.

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How family has pushed Canadiens’ Ben Chiarot to succeed







Thu, 24 Jun 2021 20:03:45 EDT Thu, 24 Jun 2021 20:03:45 EDT
Sportsnet Staff







Ben Chiarot talked about his extremely athletic family, his decision to join the Montreal Canadiens, and how it felt to rally against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round.

The post Blue Jays’ bullpen instrumental in closing out series against Orioles appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.

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