Aaron Rodgers was lamenting the sudden end of a remarkable season he’ll treasure long after he’s retired, running through a list of Green Bay Packers teammates he’s grown the closest to.
“There’s a lot of guys’ futures that are uncertain, myself included,” Rodgers said, managing a slight laugh as if to momentarily soften this harsh reality in the immediate aftermath of the loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC championship game. “That’s what sad about it most.”
The 37-year-old produced by most measures in 2020 the finest performance of his brilliant career, making him a leading contender for a third NFL MVP award.
The Packers went 13-3 for the top seed in the NFC, cruising past the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round and finally giving Rodgers a home game to play for a spot in the Super Bowl. His other four shots at it as the starter, including the win at Chicago (2010 season) that preceded his only championship, were on the road. They lost in the semifinals at San Francisco (2019), Atlanta (2016) and Seattle (2014).
Ten years and counting since the Packers won it all with Rodgers, this 31-26 loss to Brady and the Bucs will sting for awhile. Especially considering what happened last spring, when Green Bay drafted quarterback Jordan Love in the first round. Rodgers is signed through 2023, but that sure doesn’t guarantee in this league that he’ll stay that long — or that he’d want to.
“I’m going to have to take some time away for sure and clear my head and just kind of see what’s going on with everything, but it’s pretty tough right now,” Rodgers said. He later added: “It’s a grind to get to this point, and that makes the finality of it all kind of hit you like a ton of bricks.”
Rodgers went 33 for 48 for 346 yards and three touchdowns, but this wasn’t exactly his best. He had one interception that Tampa Bay used to set up a last-second touchdown before halftime and completed only two of nine attempts on goal-to-go situations. He also took five sacks.
Both of his goal-to-go completions went for scores, though, and coach Matt LaFleur twice took away a fourth-down chance to finish a drive in the end zone by settling for short field goals.
The fourth-and-8 decision with an eight-point deficit and 2:09 left — after Rodgers left the pocket and threw an incompletion to Davante Adams, eschewing the alternative of running for the pylon — was the surprisingly safe choice that Packers fans will have to chew on for years. Rodgers didn’t agree with it, though he used his words carefully.
“I understand the thinking, above two minutes with all of our timeouts, but it wasn’t my decision,” Rodgers said.
He was frustrated, of course, by the consecutive three-and-outs in the fourth quarter after the defence came up with interceptions No. 2 and No. 3 of Brady. He was mad about the pass interference call on Kevin King that allowed the Bucs to extend their drive with 1:41 left and salt the game away.
Mostly, though, Rodgers sounded sad about what he won’t get to do anymore this season — play with a Packers team that he enjoyed as much as any of his career.
There’s no telling that Love would actually be ready, if the conclusion were to be reached, mutually or not, that the Rodgers era in Green Bay has ended. Throughout his video news conference with reporters from the basement of Lambeau Field, however, Rodgers sure sounded a lot like a guy saying goodbye.
Will he be back in green and gold?
“I certainly hope so,” LaFleur said. “The guy is the MVP of this league. He’s the heart and soul of this football team. Hell yeah, he better be back here. He’s our leader. Just so appreciative of him buying into what we’re trying to get done around here and believing in that group. I feel for him to be in this situation and for us not to get it done. It hurts.”
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Stastny's overtime goal gives Jets win over Habs – TSN
WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets managed to weather the storm as the Montreal Canadiens unloaded a barrage of shots. And then it took the Jets just 36 seconds in overtime to end the game.
Paul Stastny‘s overtime goal clinched Winnipeg’s 2-1 victory over Montreal, extending the Jets’ winning streak to four games.
“I think overtime is a crapshoot, especially three-on-three, right? So, you might as well just go out there and play aggressive,” Stastny said.
Nikolaj Ehlers also scored for Winnipeg (13-6-1). The Jets were victorious despite being outshot 41-21. Connor Hellebuyck made 40 saves in the winning effort at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg.
“I was able to get into a good flow. I thought the guys in front of me blocked a lot of key shots tonight and really controlled where the shots were coming from. Not only that, but we were controlling the rebounds. I think the whole team’s defence was very solid down our middle tonight,” Hellebuyck said after the game.
Nick Suzuki scored for Montreal (9-6-5) while goaltender Jake Allen made 19 saves in the loss.
Montreal’s winless streak is now at five games. The streak includes back-to-back losses to the Jets. Montreal held a 3-1 lead on Winnipeg Thursday night before the Jets scored five unanswered goals en route to a 6-3 win.
Despite the loss, Suzuki says head coach Dominique Ducharme told the team they were heading in the right direction and that they deserved better Saturday night.
“I thought we played a great game. Outshot them a lot, had a lot of chances. Just didn’t come out on the right side of the scoreboard,” Suzuki said.
Ducharme is still looking for his first NHL win as head coach. The Quebecer was named interim head coach Wednesday after the Canadiens fired Claude Julien and associate head coach Kirk Muller.
Saturday night’s affair saw both teams fail to score in the opening period. Montreal, however, doubled Winnipeg’s shot total, leading 14-7.
Neither team took a penalty until the second period when each had a pair of minors, with Jeff Petry serving time for both of Montreal’s infractions.
As Petry sat in the box for his second penalty, Ehlers opened the scoring with a power play goal. Jets forward Andrew Copp won a faceoff in the offensive zone and flicked the puck behind him. Ehlers was first to it, sniping it past Allen for his 11th of the season.
Suzuki replied with his fifth of the season almost five minutes later. The goal was unassisted. The forward, while standing to the goalie’s left, banked the puck off of Hellebuyck and into the net. Hellebuyck had covered the left post, but the puck still beat him.
“It was one of those goals that you could do 99 out of 100 (times) it’s not going to go in. I got caught on the one which seems to be a theme this year.” Hellebuyck said.
The Canadiens and Jets remained deadlocked in the third, but it was Montreal that applied most of the pressure. The Canadiens outshot the Jets in every period, including the third where they led 14-2.
As the game headed into overtime it took Stastny only 36 seconds to get the puck past Allen and give the Jets the win. Ehlers fired a shot on net that was trickling towards the goal line after it beat Allen, and Stastny then pushed it in.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021.
Everything came up Maple Leafs in most complete win of year over Oilers – Sportsnet.ca
If you could, you’d bottle it.
You’d have scientists extract the formula and you’d reproduce this exact recipe of hockey every night the puck drops.
NHLers so often trot out “the full 60” objective that it doesn’t just feel cliché. That lofty achievement feels almost mythical, unattainable in a game composed of a zillion tiny mistakes on a slippery surface.
That a full 60 was executed without its No. 1 goaltender in the pipes or the league’s No. 1 sniper in uniform made Toronto’s NHL-best 16th victory all the more impressive.
“Everything really came up Leafs here tonight,” Sheldon Keefe said.
The coach began running down the checklist:
• The Leafs’ slumping power play ended its 0-for-12 stretch as William Nylander sniped through Joe Thornton’s stirred net-front havoc in the game’s lone 5-on-4 opportunity.
• Toronto did not commit a single penalty, marking the first time all season the deadly Oilers failed to draw a power play.
• Connor McDavid was limited to one shot on goal and finished the evening a dash-3, his worst stat line in more than five years. And he wore that frustration on his face.
• The Leafs scored in each period and produced even-strength goals from three different lines.
• After being sidelined for a month with a leg injury, Jack Campbell pitched his first shutout as a Maple Leaf — a 30-save gem — and improved his record to a pristine 3-0-0.
• Justin Holl instantly stuck up for Campbell when the goaltender’s head was clipped by a net-charging Tyler Ennis.
• And captain John Tavares thrived on the top unit in Auston Matthews’ absence, drawing the penalty, contributing two assists (his first multi-point effort in more than two weeks) and winning 72 per cent of his faceoffs. A seamless promotion to the Mitch Marner and Thornton line.
“John has not gotten enough credit for how he’s defended through this season,” Keefe said. “You ask a lot more of him here tonight, taking on tougher matchups, even more matchups, against their best players, and I thought he was outstanding. He was above the puck all night long. I don’t know how many shots he ended up with (a team-high five), but he had his own opportunities to score.”
McDavid, too, had a couple chances early — a wicked backhander off the rush blocked by Campbell, and a cut to the slot denied by T.J. Brodie’s deft stickwork — but once Toronto seized the lead, the visitors’ defensive structure took hold.
Sometime between Jason Spezza fooling Mike Smith with his patented fake-the-clapper, unleash-the-wrister snipe and Zach Hyman firing a beauty in tight, Leon Draisaitl could be seen smashing a Gatorade bottle in disgust.
Dave Tippett chucked his forwards into the Vitamix, but the consistency was off.
Edmonton entered this three-game set the hotter team with the hotter goalie.
Sweep the Leafs, and they’d seize first place. Now, the Oilers must regroup and figure out how to beat a Toronto team that has twice come out on top when Matthews takes time to rest his injured wrist.
“Even without Auston, they’re a very good team,” Tippett said. “They don’t get to be on top of the standings without being a good team.”
Campbell said Matthews was “fired up in room” when he greeted the boys in his civvies post-game and can’t wait to get back in. Maybe as soon as Monday.
“You lose a guy like that, you’re essentially taking a goal away from your lineup,” said Keefe, commending the defensive commitment. “If you’re going to score one less, you’ve got to make sure you give up one less. I think the players recognize that.
“For the most part, we had four lines, six defencemen and, certainly, the goaltender that were really on the same page here tonight.”
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) February 28, 2021
The fellas stepped up for Campbell, and Campbell held the fort for them.
“Man, we just played great. Every single guy on this team played amazing tonight,” said Campbell, his forever smile growing like the Leafs’ standings cushion.
“That was a full 60 minutes.”
Defending champion Kerri Einarson secures Scotties playoff berth – Sportsnet.ca
CALGARY — Kerri Einarson took a significant step toward defending her Canadian women’s curling championship by skipping her team to a playoff berth Saturday.
Einarson’s foursome out of Manitoba’s Gimli Curling Club beat Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges 7-4 to get to a record of 10-1 with a draw remaining Saturday night.
“We’re definitely just focusing on ourselves and what we need to do,” Einarson said. “We’re in control of our own destiny.”
Ontario’s Rachel Homan (9-2), Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones (8-3) and Alberta’s Laura Walker (8-3) were in contention for the two remaining playoff spots heading into the final draw of the championship round.
The top seed emerging from the championship round earns a bye to Sunday evening’s final, while second and third square off in the afternoon semifinal.
A tie for third would be solved by a tiebreaker game in the morning.
The 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts is one of four Curling Canada events to be held in a spectator-free, controlled environment at the WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary.
The COVID-19 pandemic thwarting many provincial and territorial playdowns prompted Curling Canada to add two wild-card teams to the Hearts field for a total of 18, which in turn shrunk the playoff window.
Instead of the traditional four teams in a Page playoff, only three advance.
Einarson is attempting the first back-to-back Hearts titles since Rachel Homan in 2013 and 2014.
Sunday’s victor earns $100,000 in prize money and a return trip to the 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont., as Team Canada.
The winner doesn’t have a world championship, however, in which to wear the Maple Leaf.
The March 19-28 tournament in Schaffhausen, Switzerland was cancelled by the World Curling Federation because of the pandemic.
The 2020 world championship in Prince George, B.C., was called off for the same reason, so Einarson wasn’t able to represent Canada there.
Six-time champion Jennifer Jones of Manitoba thumped Ontario’s Homan 9-1 on Saturday afternoon before facing Einarson at night.
Jones had struggled the previous evening in a loss to Alberta, but the skip and her teammates were on their game against three-time champion Homan.
“We definitely regrouped and decided we needed to step it up a little bit,” Jones said. “Last night’s loss doesn’t impact our confidence at all. I think that just comes with experience.”
It wasn’t the first time that Jones’ lead Lisa Weagle faced former skip Homan, but it was the first time at a Tournament of Hearts.
Homan, third Emma Miskew and Weagle won three Canadian titles and a world title together. They also represented Canada in the 2018 Winter Olympics with Joanne Courtney.
Homan dropped Weagle from her lineup last year and replaced her with Sarah Wilkes.
Weagle met her former teammates Nov. 12 in an Okotoks, Alta., event. Homan won the game 7-1.
There was a time when Weagle might have felt extra satisfaction in beating Homan for the first time, but the all-star lead says that time has passed.
“If you’d asked me that a few months ago, or over the summer, probably,” Weagle said.
“Today, I was really just out there playing for me and I was playing for my team. I just wanted to find a new level of excellence and play really well and I feel like that’s what we’ve been doing here.
“It wasn’t really my focus today that we were playing them. I was definitely excited for the game, but I was focused more on myself.”
Quebec, Saskatchewan’s Sherry Anderson, and wild-card teams skipped by Beth Peterson and Chelsea Carey are out of contention with their fifth losses.
Alberta’s Walker stayed in the hunt with a 9-4 win over Saskatchewan.
The host province was to take on Carey’s Wild Card One and Homan faced Saskatchewan on Saturday evening.
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