3 Keys: Kraken at Avalanche, Game 2 of Western 1st Round
(WC1) Kraken at (1C) Avalanche
Western Conference First Round, Game 2
Seattle leads best-of-7 series 1-0
9:30 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN360, FX-CA, TVAS, ALT, ROOT-NW
DENVER — The Seattle Kraken can become the first NHL team to debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with two road wins by defeating the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round at Ball Arena on Thursday.
The Kraken, who joined the NHL last season, can become the seventh team to win each of its first two playoff games. They won 3-1 in Game 1 on Tuesday.
“Flip the page,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “The next opportunity is Game 2. Our guys have done a nice job of being able to flip that page, be ready for the next challenge, and we’ll be ready.”
Taking a 2-0 series lead would further energize Seattle for Game 3 at Climate Pledge Arena on Saturday, the Kraken’s first home playoff game. But they can’t get ahead of themselves against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
“The biggest thing for us is not to get too high,” Kraken forward Jordan Eberle said. “I think we know our opponent over there. We know the team that they have, and obviously this is a new experience for us as a team.
“There’s a lot of individuals on this team who have been in long runs, who have won Cups, and I think that’s important that we have that experience. But it’s about getting back to ground level.”
Teams that take a 2-0 lead are 342-54 (86.4 percent) winning the best-of-7 series, including 5-2 (71.4 percent) last season.
Here are 3 keys for Game 2:
1. Avalanche lineup
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said he would consider splitting center Nathan MacKinnon and forward Mikko Rantanen.
Including a goal in Game 1, MacKinnon and Rantanen have factored on the same playoff goal 38 times, the most by a pair of teammates in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history. But Bednar might want to spread them out on the top two lines at 5-on-5 instead of loading them up on the first line.
“We’ll see what the lineup is, but I’m ready either way,” Rantanen said. “Not going to change too much.”
Forward Artturi Lehkonen joined the first power-play unit at the morning skate. Colorado went 0-for-2 in Game 1.
“I think he’s relentless on puck retrievals,” Bednar said. “He’s good in the middle.”
The Kraken were aggressive in Game 1, pressuring the Avalanche all over the ice, taking away the middle and winning races and wall battles. Hakstol said they had to continue to improve and become more consistent in doing so.
“It’s something that’s easier said than done against these guys,” Hakstol said. “You’ve got to win races against these guys, races back into the defensive zone, on the inside. And then if you’re just going to stand around on the inside and let them do their thing, you’re going to be in trouble. So from there, you’ve got to find your pressure. You’ve got to skate to check to try to take away some of that time and space against some of their elite players.”
The Avalanche feel they just need to play like they usually do, with better focus, more grit, smarter decisions and crisper execution.
“Execution on our end is kind of all we’re focused on,” said Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews, who committed a turnover that helped give Seattle a 1-0 lead in Game 1. “We feel like we’re a team that when we play our game, we’re hard to play against, and we made it way too easy on them in Game 1.”
The Kraken didn’t do anything the Avalanche hadn’t seen before or didn’t expect.
“It’s not something new to us,” Toews said. “We know how to create our space out of it. We didn’t move our legs. We looked slow and a little methodical. I think the big thing there was the execution was just a little bit off, so we shortchanged ourselves on the amount of time and space that we were able to create for our teammates.”
Kraken projected lineup
Jared McCann — Matty Beniers — Jordan Eberle
Jaden Schwartz — Alex Wennberg — Morgan Geekie
Eeli Tolvanen — Yanni Gourde — Oliver Bjorkstrand
Brandon Tanev — Ryan Donato — Daniel Sprong
Vince Dunn — Adam Larsson
Jamie Oleksiak — Will Borgen
Carson Soucy — Justin Schultz
Scratched: Cale Fleury, Jaycob Megna, Jesper Froden, Chris Driedger
Injured: Andre Burakovsky (lower body), Joonas Donskoi (upper body), John Hayden (lower body)
Avalanche projected lineup
Artturi Lehkonen — Nathan MacKinnon — Evan Rodrigues
Valeri Nichushkin — J.T. Compher — Mikko Rantanen
Matt Nieto — Lars Eller — Denis Malgin
Alex Newhook — Ben Meyers — Logan O’Connor
Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Samuel Girard — Bowen Byram
Erik Johnson — Josh Manson
Scratched: Kurtis MacDermid, Brad Hunt, Keith Kinkaid
Injured: Jack Johnson (lower body), Darren Helm (lower body), Andrew Cogliano (upper body)
Seattle isn’t expected to make any lineup changes from Game 1. … Manson is expected to play despite not being a full participant during the morning skate. … Bednar had no updates on forwards Helm and Cogliano and defenseman Jack Johnson, each of whom is considered day to day.
Blue Jays cut ties with pitcher Anthony Bass amid backlash over anti-LGBTQ social media post – CBC Sports
Reliever Anthony Bass has been designated for assignment by the Toronto Blue Jays.
It’s the latest development in a controversy that began last week when Bass shared a social media post that supported anti-LGBTQ boycotts.
Bass, who made a public apology last week for the post, had been scheduled to catch the ceremonial first pitch by LGBTQ advocate leZlie Lee Kam when the Jays hosted Minnesota on Friday night to kick off their Pride Weekend.
The Blue Jays said pitcher Kevin Gausman would catch the first pitch instead.
WATCH | ‘Distraction’ of Bass saga a factor in parting ways:
The decision to include Bass was met with criticism by some on social media.
Bass has a 0-0 record and 4.95 earned-run average over 22 appearances this season.
Toronto called up right-hander Mitch White in a corresponding roster move.
Bass had shared a since-deleted video post urging others to spurn Target and Bud Light over the support they showed for the LGBTQ community.
He said in a scrum that he initially did not think the video post — which described the selling of Pride-themed merchandise as “evil” and “demonic” — was hateful.
“That’s why I posted it originally,” he said. “When I look back at it, I can see how people can view it that way and that’s why I was apologetic.”
WATCH | Bass apologizes for Instagram post:
Before Friday’s game, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said the decision to cut Bass was primarily motivated by performance and not by the pitcher’s off-the-field circumstances.
“There’s a myriad of variables,” Atkins said. “Performance is usually the driving one and performance was a large aspect of this decision. Distraction was a small part of it and something we had to factor in.”
Atkins refused to say whether Bass would still be on the team if his performance had been better.
“We’re trying to build the best possible team we can build,” Atkins said. “This was a baseball decision to make our team better.”
Atkins also said it was not “a realistic option” for Bass to land in Toronto’s minor league system.
“We won’t stand in his way to be with another organization,” Atkins said.
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Stanley Cup Final: Matthew Tkachuk exits after huge hit, returns to send Game 3 to OT
Matthew Tkachuk is well-known around the NHL for his elite combination of skill and grit, one of the few superstars in the league who can affect the game in a variety of ways.
Tkachuk got a taste of his own medicine in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night when Vegas Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar caught him with a crushing hit in open ice early in the first period.
Tkachuk was slow to get up, stumbling to his feet before slowly skating over to the Panthers’ bench.
The 25-year-old remained in the game for his next shift on the power play, but was visibly uncomfortable. After speaking with trainers on the bench, Tkachuk was seen heading down the tunnel and remained there for the first of the opening frame. While the immediate concern for Tkachuk was a head injury, he was seen favouring his right shoulder on the bench.
He returned to play early in the second period and would finish the game.
And, as he has all playoffs long, Tkachuk came up clutch for the Panthers once again, despite being battered and bruised, tying the game at two goals apiece late in the third period to send Game 3 to overtime.
Florida would go on to win the game in overtime after Carter Verhaeghe‘s shot found its way to the back of the net with none other than Matthew Tkachuk screening Vegas goaltender Adin Hill.
Tkachuk dished out arguably the biggest hit of the postseason in Game 2 when his flattened Vegas star forward Jack Eichel in the second period.
Eichel would eventually return to the game and add an assist to his team-leading 22 points in the playoffs.
Tkachuk leads the Panthers in points with 24, playing a pivotal role in Florida’s unlikely run to the Stanley Cup Final.
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