Connect with us

Sports

2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2 Preview: Golden Knights vs. Canucks – Sportsnet.ca

Published

on


This series brings together two teams at different stages of development, but who we might discover aren’t so far separated from one another.

Two years ago, the Vegas Golden Knights were the league’s biggest surprise when they advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in their expansion season. A return to the Final in 2019-20 would surprise absolutely no one. No matter which way you study this roster, they’re a formidable opponent.

Offensive stars like Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty headline a deep talent pool of big-game players like Alex Tuch and Reilly Smith, while a lockdown defensive core stifles opponents almost immediately upon entry, making them an incredibly difficult team against which to garner any sort of momentum – just ask the Chicago Blackhawks, who fell to the top-seeded team in Round 1.

The only real question mark above this club is which proven starting netminder will tend to the crease on any given night – both Marc-Andre Fleury and newcomer Robin Lehner are more than capable of backstopping this team to success, as they’ve proven through seven games so far.

Vancouver, meantime, is still building towards its peak, though a six-game series win against the defending Cup champion Blues feels like a defining moment. There was a lot of playoff inexperience on this roster, but they’ve so far shown the poise of a veteran lineup and no one should be surprised if they give Vegas a run for their money, too.

Here’s how the Canucks and Golden Knights match up:

From the Stanley Cup Qualifiers to the Stanley Cup Final, livestream every game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free, on Sportsnet NOW.

ADVANCED STATS

Playoff 5-on-5 numbers via Natural Stat Trick

Vegas: 59.53 CF%, 59.46 GF%, 90.07 SV%, 9.65 SH%, 0.997 PDO

Vancouver: 45.69 CF%, 64.52 GF%, 95.69 SV%, 9.48 SH%, 1.052 PDO

POST-SEASON TEAM STATS

Vegas: 19.1 PP%, 86.4 PK%, 30 GF, 21 GA

Vancouver: 25.0 PP%, 80.0 PK%, 28 GF, 24 GA

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD

Vegas: 1-0-1

Vancouver: 1-1-0

Sign up for NHL newsletters

Get the best of our NHL coverage and exclusives delivered directly to your inbox!

NHL Newsletter

Vegas’ primary strength: Elite two-way play
The Vegas Golden Knights are shooting and scoring at a pace better than most of their peers, yet it’s not just their pure offensive firepower that sets them apart from the rest.

Take it from the coach they just sent packing.

“They have a lot of different elements to their team,” Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton told reporters after Tuesday’s series-ender. “They have some offensive guys who are dangerous whenever they’re on the ice, but for the most part a lot of them play a tremendous two-way game and that’s hard to play against.”

Few players embody Vegas’ elite combination of shutdown and sharp-shooting like Mark Stone. His ability to lock down the defensive zone, orchestrate plays from neutral zone, grind in the corners, and drive hard towards the net – all in just a few seconds – makes him a true difference-maker each time he’s on the ice.

“And then they have the depth guys who are able to tilt the ice and hold you down in your defensive zone and out-change you,” said Colliton. “They’re a physical team. They make you pay a price to make plays and they just come at you over and over again.”

Vancouver’s primary strength: Offence from the core
In a season all about trying to take that “next step,” the Canucks already surpassed expectations and have done it thanks largely to their young core. There was some question as to how young Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes would fare in their first playoff appearances, as well as how captain Bo Horvat would do in his first taste of the post-season, but they, along with JT Miller, have been Vancouver’s top scorers so far.

Entering Round 2, only one team has scored more goals at 5-on-5 than the Canucks and it happens to be their opponents. But their power play, which was a top-four unit in the regular season, has maintained consistency with a 25 per cent conversion rate in the playoffs as well. Vancouver as a team showed a lot of character in upsetting the Blues, coming back from a 3-1 deficit in Game 5 and jumping out to an insurmountable 4-0 lead in Game 6 thanks to key goals from lower in the lineup during those games. But this team is driven by its youngest players at the top of the lineup and this second-round matchup with an up-tempo Vegas team will present a much different challenge than the Blues offered. Can they keep up with the Golden Knights?

Vegas’ primary weakness: Power play
Let’s be honest: using the word “weakness” to describe anything about this Golden Knights squad is a pretty big stretch. They’ve been nearly flawless in the Edmonton bubble so far, going 3-0 in round-robin play to grab the top seed in the West and making quick work of the Chicago Blackhawks in Round 1.

While it’s tough to beat this club at five-on-five, Vegas’ power-play unit hasn’t exactly been known for its dominance. Though their 22 per cent power play conversion rate during the regular season — good for ninth in the category league-wide — can’t particularly be called a weakness, their performance with the man advantage this post-season has generally been lacking.

In 21 power-play opportunities through the round robin and first round, Vegas scored four goals — that’s a 19 per cent power-play success rate, which puts them in the bottom half of those rankings. Narrow the scope to just Round 1, and the Golden Knights’ power-play struggles were particularly evident, tallying just a single marker in 10 opportunities with the man advantage for a 10 per cent success rate — and that came late in the second period of the fifth and final game against Chicago.

We’ve seen how heavily special teams can factor into playoff outcomes. With so much playoff parity, it’s often these details that can give a team the edge.

Vancouver’s primary weakness: Allowing too many high quality scoring chances
No team left standing has allowed more high danger chances against at 5-on-5 than the Canucks, who have given up 23 more than any other. Jacob Markstrom, the team’s regular season MVP, has been their rock again in the post-season, with a league-best .905 high danger save percentage. They’ve been able to lean on Markstrom so far, but Vegas’ relentless offence is a couple steps up from what the Canucks’ prior opponents (Minnesota and St. Louis) could muster.

Vegas is all about puck possession and dominating scoring chances, with a 5-on-5 high danger scoring chance percentage over 60 in these playoffs that has led them to a dominating 7-1 record so far. The Canucks either need to improve on this defence, hope Markstrom stands on his head, or be able to match what they give up to Vegas at the other end of the ice. A tough challenge indeed.

Vegas Golden Knights X-Factor: Max Pacioretty
While the Golden Knights have played a very complete game throughout the lineup, we have yet to see a few of the club’s biggest stars really shine.

After leading the Golden Knights in goals (32) and points (66) in the regular season, Max Pacioretty has been relatively quiet so far in Edmonton. It’s not difficult to see why: he missed much of training camp while dealing with an undisclosed injury, sat out all three round-robin games, and was then thrown right into the intensity against Chicago. And while a goal and an assist through four games is nothing to scoff at – especially when teammates and noted playoff performers like Mark Stone, Reilly Smith, and Alex Tuch are there to power the team — his status, comfort level, and overall production will be worth keeping an eye on as the intensity rises. He was magic in Round 1 of last year’s playoffs, registering a handful of goals and 11 points in the seven-game series loss to San Jose. Now, Vegas will need No. 67 at his best once again if they’re to raise Lord Stanley’s chalice at the end of this.

Vancouver Canucks X-Factor: Contributions from the bottom-six
Whether it’s by generating more offence, or slowing Vegas’ forwards, the Canucks’ bottom-six forwards need to be a presence. Tyler Motte was a Round 1 hero, but it’s hard to continue counting on him as a goal scorer. None of the depth forwards have a Corsi percentage over 50 and all have been on the ice for more scoring chances against than for. Markstrom’s brilliance has helped bail them out, but as the competition ramps up there needs to be improvement and greater consistency at both ends.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Sports

Lakers-Nuggets Game 2 Takeaways: Davis and Jokic deliver classic battle – Sportsnet.ca

Published

on


Midway through the third quarter, it looked as though Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals was going to be another laugher.

The Los Angeles Lakers, holding a 16-point lead with 8:11 to go in the period, appeared to be emulating their Game 1 performance, containing the Denver Nuggets’ go-to actions and scoring with relative ease on the back of LeBron James (who scored his club’s first 12 points) and transition opportunities.

And then the Nuggets tweaked their offence, won key minutes against the Lakers’ small ball lineups, and found some help from unexpected places (hello, PJ Dozier!) to go on a 24–12 run to close the quarter and set up a spectacular, nail-biting finish.

What follows here are some of the key takeaways from the game, including, yes, that marquee Anthony Davis shot.

Adjusting for Mismatches

It was no secret coming into this series that the Jamal MurrayNikola Jokic pick-and-roll was going to be difficult for the Lakers to defend, even with their surplus of (legitimately athletic) big men. And for the first half of this one, they did about as admirable a job as possible, having the big (whether that be Davis, JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard) drop back initially, ready to burst towards the arc if Jokic popped for a potential triple, while the guard fought through and over the ball screen to deter Murray pull-up threes and funnel him into the paint towards help.

Davis in particular showcased why he was voted All-Defensive First Team this year when involved in those actions, freely switching onto Murray if necessary and gobbling him up on drives or using his otherworldly athleticism to recover to Jokic to contest shots that typically would have been open.

Then, in the second half, the Nuggets not only adjusted well by aggressively forcing more switches than they had in the 24 minutes prior, they executed on those adjustments by attacking those switches, finding mismatches at every turn.

Suddenly, their offence roared back to life, with Jokic in particular finding himself pitted against smaller players who he could easily take advantage of.

On top of this, Denver’s two stars simply began doing what great players do, drilling tough shots against high quality defenders. Murray managed to squeeze past Davis a few times for some acrobatic layups, and Jokic hit some tough hooks and turnaround shots in the post against the opposing bigs.

In the end, of course, it wasn’t enough to get them across the finish line, but if they are able to continue to exploit the Lakers in the pick-and-roll going forward, Los Angeles is in for a tougher fight than they’ve had through the totality of two games.

Pulverizing the Paint

Again, this really was a tale of two halves.

After the first 24 minutes, the Lakers were leading the points in the paint battle 24–12. By the time the game finished, the Nuggets wound up outscoring them 38–34.

It’s not so surprising that the Nuggets gave up so many points inside—during the regular season, they had the 10th-worst mark (64.1) for defended field goal percentage at the rim in the league. They simply don’t have any particularly formidable rim protectors, and while their defence has been marginally better throughout the playoffs, the athleticism of the Lakers was always going to be problematic.

In a microcosm of these issues, the Lakers have found a pet play in backdoor lobs, with a big man (or even James, who completed the play Sunday night, for example) appearing to come up towards the arc before quickly spinning back towards the baseline and rising for a lob from a guard (often Rajon Rondo) standing up top.

The Nuggets’ interior dominance, however, was far more unexpected, as the Lakers house multiple big men who are plus-defenders. In stark contrast to their opponents, Los Angeles was the sixth-best team in terms of defended field goal percentage at the rim (61.7) this past season.

But Jokic finding his touch inside, cutters making smart reads whenever doubles appeared, and Murray managing to weave and glide his way to the hoop out of the pick-and-roll despite some tight defence surrounding him allowed Denver to erase Los Angeles’ edge in that category completely.

There would seem to be a fair amount of things that the Nuggets can take away from this game, despite the loss, and be pleased with, and their interior play will be high on that list.

No Laughing Matter



It looked as though Jokic was going to be stuck in the mud once again throughout the first half, finding it difficult to score with the Lakers doing a good job of keeping him matched up against an opposing big (Howard has been particularly good at getting beneath Jokic’s skin) to equal his size and strength, and guarding him in single coverage, thereby staying home on his teammates and lessening the chances of any potential cuts that would allow him to make use of his otherworldly passing.

In the latter half, though, that all changed, with Jokic getting loose as the Nuggets created more opportunities for him via switches, allowing him to match up with smaller players whom he could easily see over and score against. Once he’d scored once or twice in those scenarios, the Lakers’ resolve faltered, and they began to send double teams which he immediately capitalized upon, spraying pinpoint passes all across the half-court.

Once the fourth quarter came, he also simply began to nail extremely difficult looks he’d missed before and that the Lakers could only shrug at, including a massive three-pointer against a swiftly closing Davis to cut the lead to one point with 1:04 to play.

If it had been Jokic with the ball in his hands for the last shot of the game rather than Davis, the discussion right now could be about him instead (he finished with 30 points, six rebounds, nine assists and four steals). He’s as potent an offensive force as there is in the league today, and if he’s able to dictate the terms of Denver’s offensive possessions, this series could turn around in the blink of an eye.

Sign up for Raptors newsletters

Get the best of our Raptors coverage and exclusives delivered directly to your inbox!

Raptors Newsletter

Hero Ball

As great as Jokic was in this game, Davis seemed to have answers at every turn.

Not only was he exceptional with his individual and team defence (flying around the floor to contest shooters and switching whenever necessary without giving up an advantage), Davis found his offensive rhythm in the second half after a rough early start and closed out the game by scoring Los Angeles’s final 10 points.

And, oh yeah, he hit a pretty nifty buzzer-beating three, too.

That triple was only the second time Davis has hit a buzzer-beater in his career, and the first time he’s done so in the playoffs. It was also the first time a Lakers player had hit such a shot in the post-season since Metta World Peace back in 2010.

Davis’s performance (he finished with 31 points, nine rebounds and two blocks) was perhaps made even more enthralling by the fact that the vast majority of his buckets came either against Jokic or in response to him, generating a classic clash of superstar versus superstar. He worked Jokic in isolation all game long, taking him off the dribble to muscle his way to the rim or pulling up for mid-range jumpers and sticking them in his grill.

These are exactly the kinds of battles that elevate NBA basketball beyond any ordinary limitations, fabricating something ethereal that will stick in one’s mind forever after. And with at least two games remaining in this series, there’s plenty of room left for more.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Sports

Wilson throws 5 TDs, Seahawks make goal line stop to beat Patriots – TSN

Published

on


SEATTLE — Russell Wilson continued his sizzling start throwing five more touchdown passes. Unheralded second-year defensive end L.J. Collier made the play that assured those five TD tosses came in a victory.

Collier stuffed Cam Newton at the 1-yard line on the final play, and the Seattle Seahawks held off the New England Patriots 35-30 on Sunday night.

Wilson and Newton — two of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL — claimed the spotlight in a wild primetime showcase. Wilson was masterful, leading Seattle to a 35-23 lead with less than 5 minutes remaining.

But Newton took over the final minutes and yet another Seahawks-Patriots matchup was decided in the closing moments on a play snapped at the 1.

This time, it was the Seahawks erupting off the sideline in celebration.

“It’s an extraordinary moment for football players and for a team. You either come through or you don’t,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “There’s so much intensity in that moment. The guys on the field will never forget it.”

Newton led New England 80 yards in the closing moments. They reached the 1 on a pass to N’Keal Harry with 3 seconds left. On the final play, Newton tried to run power to the left, but was upended by Collier in the biggest play of his young career. Newton, who had two rushing touchdowns in the game, never got close to the goal line.

Collier and Jamal Adams said from the formation it was clear where the Patriots were going with the play.

“Just to finish it off it’s a hell of a play. Imagine if we had fans here today. It would still be shaking,” Collier said.

Newton was excellent in his first road game with the Patriots throwing for 397 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He ran for another 47 yards, but couldn’t get the last three feet to give New England a victory.

“We put ourselves in position to win. When you do that, you’ve just got to finish and we didn’t do that,” Newton said.

Wilson was masterful on the other side, completing 21 of 28 passes for 288 yards. It was his fourth career game with five touchdown passes. Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore, Freddie Swain and Chris Carson all took turns celebrating in the end zone. Carson was the last, running under a 18-yard rainbow toss from Wilson against the blitz with 4:32 left to give the Seahawks a 35-23 lead.

Wilson became the first QB in Seahawks history to throw at least four TDs in consecutive games after he had four TD tosses in Week 1 against Atlanta.

“They’ve got a great quarterback. Glad we only have to play him once every four years,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.

The entire night in a normal setting would have left CenturyLink Field shaking with delirium, especially after the final play. But the stadium built for noise was empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving fans to celebrate Seattle improving to 2-0 for the second straight year at home.

“You missed the fun of it all. This game is meant to be played in front of thousands and thousands of people, it’s so special,” Wilson said.

Newton did his best to spoil any celebration. His second TD run pulled New England to 35-30 with 2:16 left. It was his eighth career game with at least two rushing TDs, setting an NFL record.

New England held the Seahawks to a three-and-out after Seattle threw on third-and-1 and Wilson couldn’t connect with Lockett on a deep shot.

Newton needed just five plays to move New England from its 19 to the Seattle 36 with 41 seconds left. After a penalty, Newton hit Edelman for 18 yards to the Seattle 13 with 20 seconds left and the pair nearly connected again in the end zone but Newton’s pass was high with 9 seconds remaining. Newton found Harry but was stopped at the 1 and New England used its final timeout, setting the stage for the final play.

Edelman finished with eight catches for 179 yards.

RARE TD

Metcalf’s 54-yard TD catch came against Stephon Gilmore, the reigning defensive player of the year. It was the first TD allowed by Gilmore as the primary defender since 2018. Gilmore shadowed Metcalf most of the night and at one point the two tussled into the Seattle bench.

“Like I said, it’s a physical game,” Metcalf said.

NO WHITE

New England played without running back James White after his father was killed Sunday in a car crash in Florida, authorities said. The wreck that killed Tyrone White happened around 1 p.m. in Cooper City, Florida, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. White, who was the captain of the Miami-Dade Police Department, was pronounced dead at the scene.

SAFETY PLAN

Seattle lost its starting and backup free safeties in the first half. Starter Quandre Diggs was ejected late in the first quarter for a helmet-to-helmet hit on New England’s N’Keal Harry. On fourth-and-3 from the Seattle 30, Newton hit Harry on a slant for 13 yards. The rookie was immediately hit by Diggs in a violent collision that snapped Harry’s head backward. The penalty helped lead to Newton’s 1-yard TD run.

Diggs was the first Seattle player ejected since 2017 when Sheldon Richardson and Quinton Jefferson were both ejected in a loss at Jacksonville.

Marquise Blair moved from nickel cornerback to safety in place of Diggs, but left with a right knee injury in the second quarter. Blair had to be helped off the field and the team immediately ruled him out. Lano Hill took over at free safety with Blair out.

Carroll said Blair still needs and MRI but they believe it to be a significant injury.

UP NEXT

Patriots: Return home to host Las Vegas.

Seahawks: Host Dallas next Sunday.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Sports

James White misses Sunday's game after father dies in car crash, mother in critical condition – Yahoo Canada Sports

Published

on



<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="New England Patriots running back James White will miss Sunday’s game after his father was killed in a car crash earlier in the day, according to Fox Sports 640’s Andy Slater.” data-reactid=”16″>New England Patriots running back James White will miss Sunday’s game after his father was killed in a car crash earlier in the day, according to Fox Sports 640’s Andy Slater.

White’s mother also was reportedly in the car and is in critical condition. His father, Tyrone, was a captain in the Miami-Dade Police Department.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The news was later confirmed by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.” data-reactid=”20″>The news was later confirmed by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Patriots owner Robert Kraft offered to fly White straight to Miami after hearing the news, but White decided he would still fly home with his teammates, according to NBC Sports’ Michele Tafoya. White is reportedly not believed to be at the Seattle Seahawks’ stadium.” data-reactid=”21″>Patriots owner Robert Kraft offered to fly White straight to Miami after hearing the news, but White decided he would still fly home with his teammates, according to NBC Sports’ Michele Tafoya. White is reportedly not believed to be at the Seattle Seahawks’ stadium.

James White on the field before a game last season.
James White is out Sunday for awful reasons. (Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

<h2 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Patriots, Russell Wilson voice support for White” data-reactid=”33″>Patriots, Russell Wilson voice support for White

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Patriots safety Devin McCourty gave his support to White with a shoutout after scoring a pick six for the first touchdown of the game, yelling “2-8, we love, bro” at the camera in the end zone.” data-reactid=”34″>Patriots safety Devin McCourty gave his support to White with a shoutout after scoring a pick six for the first touchdown of the game, yelling “2-8, we love, bro” at the camera in the end zone.

Seattle’s Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Patriots’ opponent and White’s teammate at Wisconsin, also sent a message of support.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The Patriots announced White would be inactive for Sunday night’s game, which they went on to lose 35-30. After the game, Wilson again sent a message to White.” data-reactid=”40″>The Patriots announced White would be inactive for Sunday night’s game, which they went on to lose 35-30. After the game, Wilson again sent a message to White.

“My heart’s heavy because one of my teammates, James White, from Wisconsin, one of the nicest guys, teammates, one of the hardest workers, one of the best people I know, had a tough one,” Wilson said to NBC’s Michele Tafoya. “My heart’s been heavy all day thinking about him … James, I’m praying for you man if you can hear me.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Many other former teammates of White’s also came out in support of him, including Tom Brady.” data-reactid=”42″>Many other former teammates of White’s also came out in support of him, including Tom Brady.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="White had 30 receiving yards and 22 rushing yards on eight touches in the Patriots’ season opener against the Miami Dolphins. Without him, Rex Burkhead saw the most action in the passing game out of the Patriots backfield with four catches and 47 receiving yards.” data-reactid=”43″>White had 30 receiving yards and 22 rushing yards on eight touches in the Patriots’ season opener against the Miami Dolphins. Without him, Rex Burkhead saw the most action in the passing game out of the Patriots backfield with four catches and 47 receiving yards.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="More from Yahoo Sports:” data-reactid=”46″>More from Yahoo Sports:

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending