Your first thought when Mitch Marner sprawls out to make consecutive, body-sacrificing saves on David Pastrnak blasts in the dying moments of a one-goal Toronto Maple Leafs’ victory might be that real hockey players do whatever it takes come playoff time.
You may think something similar when Marner — who still prefers his chocolate sundaes stirred, not shaken — runs over his nasty check, Brad Marchand, in the neutral zone.
And you wouldn’t be wrong.
“All those things are contagious. When you see your teammate do something like that, you’re more likely to do it yourself,” coach Mike Babcock said, following Monday’s 3-2 Game 3 win. “They talk about team-building. To me, that’s team-building. That’s just laying it on the line when you need to, and it makes everyone else around you better.”
But consider the victims of Marner’s visceral passion crimes, and you’ve got these tiny, tweetable packages that show the Maple Leafs’ winning — for now — the most crucial battle within this best-of-seven war.
Limit the damage Patrice Bergeron and his mighty wingers inflict at even strength.
That’s why John Tavares is here, swiping 10 of 16 face-offs head-to-head against a four-time Selke winner. That’s why leading scorer Marner is out here playing crash-test dummy and holding the fort at six-on-five. That’s why Zach Hyman, the second young Leaf to knock Zdeno Chara on his keister in the past five days, is relishing the fact Babcock now has last change.
It gives them more time to make the Perfection Line look something less than.
“Home ice advantage — that’s what hockey is. It’s a big deal,” Hyman says. “And you’ve got fans behind you.”
The greatest difference, so far, in this edition of Leafs-Bruins is the job Babcock’s new and improved Shutdown 5 (which includes defencemen Jake Muzzin and Nikita Zaitsev) have done on Bergeron & Company.
“They’re a good line and good pairing,” Bergeron says. “Five-on-five, we’ve got to find ways to create more.
“It’s about being better – bottom line.”
In 2018’s seven-game series victory, Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak ran roughshod, combining for 25 even-strength points. Through three games this April? Just two points combined without the aid of the power-play.
“You do everything you can to at least go 50 per cent in the faceoff circle so they don’t have the puck all the time,” Babcock said. “We have good players too and John here now. We’ve got a veteran guy, he’s been around a while, and he’s gotten better and better and better defensively this year, and it shows.”
Now, the Tavares group isn’t exactly lighting it up either (three combined points at even-strength), and Bergeron has a slight edge in shot attempts, but the Leafs’ top trio is a plus-five while Boston’s is a minus-five.
“They’re essentially man-on-man all over the ice,” Marchand says. “They don’t play with it in their zone. They throw it out and go after it, so it’s a little tougher to get zone time on them, and most of the time you have a guy in your face.
“It’s kinda back-and-forth. There’s not a ton going on for either line. The biggest thing is, you have to take advantage of the opportunities when you get them.”
The challenge, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy says, is that both lines can create offence. So, in Game 3, Cassidy didn’t try, as Babcock has, to adjust on the fly and avoid Babcock’s preferred personnel.
“If that’s a match-up he wants, he’s going to get it, at home or on the road at some points. We tried to get away with it on some icings to see if it would work our way, and tonight it wasn’t able to go,” Cassidy said. “Honestly, I don’t mind it. It’s two good lines going head to head every night. It’s going to tilt our way at some point. Our players are too good.
“If a matchup doesn’t go in our favour, we’re not gonna chase it—until we chase it.”
The Maple Leafs would be fine with a saw-off butting heads with a line that totalled a ridiculous 260 points in the regular season, hoping to outdo the Bruins on special teams (as they did Monday) or by out-producing them via their deeper bottom nine (as they did in Game 1).
“If you’re always in a hurry to get away with something, that’s kinda of a seesaw battle, and we have to rely on our other depth guys to score,” Cassidy said.
“If we feel that it’s really an impediment to us having success, then we’re going to get away from it and break up the line.”
Cassidy admits the Perfection Line is struggling to get within striking distance of Frederik Andersen’s net by trying to beat Toronto’s defenders one-on-one.
“They’ve got to use each other to get there. An old-fashioned goal, whether it’s a centre-lane drive, a puck to the net, a second chance,” explains the coach, requesting more chaos in the Toronto zone.
“They’re pretty determined guys. They’ll find their way. They’re against a very committed fivesome right now to keeping them off the score sheet. That’s playoff hockey. I do believe a second-chance goal is in their future if they start funnelling pucks more.”
Marchand bristled a little in the wake of Toronto seizing a 2-1 series lead as the subject of the speedier, stingier Leafs was raised.
“I don’t think last year had anything to do with this year. Different teams, different year, so doesn’t matter,” Marchand said. “We’re not expecting to dominate out there.”
Unfortunately, they just might need to.
Mitch Marner just showed the whole @NHL what type of player he is. Not only can he score, but he can block shots in the most important time of the game. Respect to him!
— Jeremy Roenick (@Jeremy_Roenick) April 16, 2019
Sportsnet faces challenges after Don Cherry departure
Sportsnet brass made the call to end Don Cherry’s nearly four-decade run on Hockey Night in Canada’s Coach’s Corner after his rant over the weekend. Their next big decision may be even tougher.
With his bombast, insight, experience and over-the-top delivery, Cherry created an institution with his appearances on the popular Saturday evening segment.
Love him or hate him, he’s hard to replace. Therein lies the challenge for Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley, Rogers Media president Jordan Banks and other company powerbrokers.
Consistently a ratings hit, the first intermission this Saturday night will be appointment viewing.
“It’s going to be very, very interesting to see what they do and I wouldn’t be surprised if they just let it slide for a while and put something else in there,” said David Shoalts, a former Globe and Mail sports reporter and author of Hockey Fight in Canada: The Big Media Face Off Over the NHL.
“It’s not as difficult as it would have been for them, because under Rogers they did cut [the segment] to five minutes. At the CBC, he had come to take up the whole first intermission, so that would have been a big problem.”
A spokesman said Sportsnet is “still considering options” for the first intermission segment and that company executives would not be doing interviews at this time. Segment co-host Ron MacLean did not immediately return a telephone message.
However, it’s likely Sportsnet already had ideas for the segment’s future post-Cherry.
A complete Coach’s Corner reboot is possible or there could be a shuffling of other segments. Extended highlight packages could help fill the gap. The segment could be dropped altogether, although that’s unlikely given its history and showcase status.
The network may choose to recognize the massive impact Cherry had as a commentator, but it would be tricky to balance that with his rather ignominious exit.
A career overview could buy some time since the seat might be a little too hot for an immediate replacement. Of course, it’s possible the page gets completely turned and Cherry’s name is not mentioned at all.
Just like when he was on the air, there will be no shortage of critics and plaudits.
Burke is a 3-2 pick to replace Cherry this Saturday and a 5-4 pick to fill the role next season, according to odds released Tuesday by SportsBettingDime.com. Sportsnet hockey commentators Kelly Hrudey, Colby Armstrong and Craig Simpson were listed among the other early favourites.
HNIC was a longtime CBC Saturday night staple, but the show and its games moved to Sportsnet when Rogers landed a 12-year, $5.2-billion US national broadcast rights deal with the NHL that began in 2014. Coach’s Corner and HNIC are still broadcast on CBC in a sub-licencing deal with Rogers Media, which owns Sportsnet.
Sportsnet apologized Sunday for Cherry’s comments about his belief that new immigrants don’t wear poppies, and in turn, don’t support veterans.
Cherry prefaced his on-air remarks Saturday night with the phrase, ‘You people’ — drawing criticism from all quarters – but denied in interviews after his departure that he was singling out visible minorities. He has not publicly apologized for his comments.
“If I had to do it over again, I probably would have said ‘Everybody,”‘ Cherry said Tuesday in an interview on Sirius XM Canada’s “Canada Talks” channel. “But I didn’t and there’s no sense of whining about it and I paid the price.”
Given his long tenure, how — or if — his departure is addressed this weekend will be fascinating, as will MacLean’s thoughts. The veteran HNIC anchor apologized last Sunday.
“I had a good time,” Cherry said. “I’m 85 years old and I’m still having a good time. As I have always said, ‘I’m glad I’m going out on my shield. I’m not going out with a whimper.”‘
Don Cherry defends Hockey Night in Canada comments but says he would have ‘used different words’
Don Cherry says he won’t apologize for his divisive comments about new immigrants not wearing poppies, but the former co-host of “Coach’s Corner” says if he could do it again, he would have chosen different words.
“I think the closest I’ll come to apologizing is I wish I had used different words,” Cherry told Global News.
“I should have said everybody. If I had to do it over again, I would have said everybody.”
Cherry, 85, was fired from the Hockey Night in Canada segment by Sportsnet Monday, following televised comments Saturday night in which he singled out “you people that come here” in Toronto and Mississauga, where he lives, for not wearing poppies, implying they don’t support Canada’s soldiers.
“You people that come here… whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you could pay a couple of bucks for a poppy,” he said on Saturday.
In an interview with Global News, Cherry refused to back down from his comments and said that everyone should wear a poppy to honour Canada’s fallen soldiers.
“I do believe to this day that everybody in Canada should have a poppy on, out of honour and respect of the fallen soldiers that have fallen in the Second World War, Korea and the whole deal,” Cherry said.
“Those people who gave their lives, at least we can buy a poppy.”
Pressed on whether his comments were racist, Cherry said his comments weren’t directed at minorities, and that what he said applies to anyone.
“It could have been Irish, it could have been Scottish, it could have been anybody,” he said, adding that the “silent majority” supported him.
“It was picked up the way it was picked up.”
Cherry said he was planning to apologize on this week’s upcoming Hockey Night in Canada, but was never given the chance.
“I was ready to apologize,” Cherry said. “I was gonna put out a tweet, or whatever they do, saying I was wrong and I think it could have smoothed over pretty good. But that’s the way they wanted it and that’s the way it goes.”
Global News has contacted Sportsnet about whether Cherry would have apologized, but they said they had nothing further to add.
Cherry, a former player and NHL coach, had worked as a broadcaster for more than 37 years on Hockey Night in Canada, drawing attention for a number of controversial statements including calling progressives “left-wing pinkos,” describing Quebecers as “whiners,” and making derogatory comments about European hockey players.
Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley said in a statement Monday that it was “the right time for him to immediately step down.”
“During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for,” Yabsley said.
Coach’s Corner co-host Ron MacLean also apologized Sunday for Cherry’s remarks. During Cherry’s rant, MacLean could be seen nodding and giving a thumbs-up.
‘We were wrong:’ Ron MacLean apologizes for Don Cherry’s comments on Hockey Night in Canada
MacLean issued a televised apology that Cherry’s remarks were “hurtful, discriminatory” and that he wished he had responded differently on air.
“Don Cherry made remarks which were hurtful, discriminatory, which were flat out wrong,” MacLean said. “I owe you an apology, too. I sat there, did not catch it, did not respond.
“Last night was a really great lesson to Don and me. We were wrong, and I sincerely apologize. I wanted to thank you for calling me and Don on that last night.”
Cherry told Global News that he was “disappointed” in his co-host Ron MacLean, but that the two were still friends.
“He buried me. I was very disappointed the way he handled [it],” Cherry said. “I don’t want to condemn him but I was very disappointed.”
Cherry’s remarks were roundly criticized by politicians across Canada including Toronto Mayor John Tory and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. The National Hockey League also weighed in, saying the comments “made last night were offensive and contrary to the values we believe in.”
Steven Purewal, a historian on the contribution of Indian soldiers during the First World War, told Global News on Monday it was wrong for Cherry to suggest immigrants don’t support Canadian veterans, noting the broadcaster has no way of knowing who’s an immigrant and who was born in Canada.
“It endorses a stereotype that the immigrant is somehow unpatriotic, is thankless about the sacrifices it took to build the country,” he said.
“What we need to be telling Canadians is that many, many diverse communities fought in the Great War and the Second World War. Without their contributions, we wouldn’t have the freedoms we have today.”
Meanwhile, some have been calling for the hockey host’s return. A Change.org petition called ‘Bring Back Don Cherry!’ has amassed over 108,000 signatures.
As for the long-time hockey pundit, Cherry said he is still processing being fired.
“I don’t think it’s hit yet,” he said. “It will be a little different Saturday when I sit down and watch where I was for 38 years.”
“I have no idea and I don’t think Ron Maclean has any idea what they’re going to run after the first period… It’ll be watched that’s for sure because everybody will want to see what goes on at the end of the first period.”
— With a file from Sean Boyton
Brian Burke considered favourite to replace Don Cherry
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, November 12, 2019 10:56AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 12, 2019 11:09AM EST
TORONTO – Former NHL executive Brian Burke is listed as the heavy favourite to be Don Cherry‘s successor on “Hockey Night in Canada” on one sports betting site.
SportsBettingDime.com has released odds on candidates to replace Cherry after the commentator was sacked by Sportsnet yesterday for a rant about immigrants not wearing poppies on his “Coach’s Corner” segment on Saturday.
Burke, who currently works as an analyst at Sportsnet, is listed as the 3-2 favourite (must bet $2 to win $3) to appear on Cherry‘s longtime “Coach’s Corner” segment on Saturday.
Burke is the 5-4 pick to be the full-time replacement next season.
Sportsnet has not said whether it plans to keep the “Coach’s Corner” segment, which has been a first-intermission staple on HNIC.
Sportsnet hockey commentators Kelly Hrudey, Colby Armstrong and Craig Simpson are among the other betting favourites for Cherry’s job.
The site also is taking odds on what Cherry does next, with working for another media organization the favourite.
If he goes into politics, the odds consider Cherry’s most likely destination to be under Ontario Premier Doug Ford and the Conservative party.
Cherry is listed as a 2,000-1 pick to join the NDP.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 12, 2019.
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