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Adams Award finalists announced – NHL.com

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Bruce Cassidy, John Tortorella and Alain Vigneault were named finalists for the Jack Adams Award on Wednesday.

The award, voted on by members of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association, is given annually to the coach voted as best in the NHL. The winner will be announced during the conference finals. 

Cassidy coached the Boston Bruins to the best record in the NHL (44-14-12, .714 points percentage) and the Presidents’ Trophy as the top regular-season team. Boston was eight points ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division, the largest amount for any division leader, when the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. The Bruins won the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the NHL (167, 2.39 per game) and tied the Philadelphia Flyers for the seventh-most goals (227, 3.24 per game). They were second to the Edmonton Oilers in power-play percentage (25.2) and third in penalty-killing percentage (84.3). Cassidy was a finalist for the award in 2017-18.

Boston will play the Lightning (.657), Washignton Capitals (.652) and Flyers (.645) in the round-robin of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers to determine the top four seeds into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the East.

[RELATED: Complete list of Jack Adams Award winners]

Tortorella guided the Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15, .579 points percentage) to a berth in the Qualifiers. Columbus overcame injuries to numerous players throughout the season, including forwards Josh Anderson, Cam Atkinson and Oliver Bjorkstrand, defensemen Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, and goalie Joonas Korpisalo. The Blue Jackets were fourth in goals-against per game (2.61) and twice had point streaks of at least 10 games (8-0-4 from Dec. 9-Jan. 2; 9-0-1 from Jan. 11- Feb. 7). Tortorella, a two-time Jack Adams Award winner (2017-18 Blue Jackets; 2003-04 Lightning) and a finalist for the award for the fifth time, could join Pat Burns (1988-89 Montreal Canadiens; 1992-93 Toronto Maple Leafs; 1997-98 Bruins) as the only coaches to win it three times.

The Blue Jackets, the No. 9 seed, will play the Maple Leafs (36-25-9, .579), the No. 8 seed in one of eight best-of-5 Qualifier series with the winner advancing to the playoffs.

Vigneault coached the Flyers to the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference (41-21-7) and a berth in the playoffs in his first season. Philadelphia tied Tampa Bay for seventh in goals-against per game (2.77) after ranking 29th in 2018-19 (3.41) and was seventh in goals-scored per game (3.29) after finishing 18th in 2018-19 (2.94). The Flyers had four winning streaks of at least four games and won nine straight from Feb. 18-March 7). A five-time finalist, Vigneault won the award with the Vancouver Canucks in 2006-07.

Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk praised Vigneault’s approach to the qualifiers after a four-month pause in the season.  

“I think the biggest thing with him as far as any coach I’ve played for at any level, he lets other people do their job. For this we’re coming back and want to be in a position where we’re peaking at the right time so he’s leaning on the sports science staff as far how long we practice, how hard we practice, when to push a little bit harder, when to pull back and give us some time to recover,” van Riemsdyk said. “I think because of all that he uses all the tools that are available to him He’s been really smart about that stuff. As players we have ton of confidence in what he wants us to do and it’ll help us be prepared and ready to play as we go thought this process and get to Toronto and start playing games.”

Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders won it last season.

The 2020 NHL Awards were scheduled for June 18 in Las Vegas but were postponed March 25.

Deputy managing editor Adam Kimelman contributed to this report 

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Toronto FC: Everything "caught up with us" in playoffs exit, already looking to 2021 – MLSsoccer.com

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Toronto FC, simply put, didn’t have the sharpness required to keep dancing in the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Head coach Greg Vanney was quick to acknowledge that after the East’s No. 2 seed got upset by Nashville SC, the East’s No. 7 seed, on Tuesday night in a 1-0 defeat at Rentschler Field. The Round One game-winner didn’t arrive until Daniel Rios scored in the 108th minute for the expansion side, but they generated plenty of chances throughout and had three would-be goals called back via offside decisions.

Everything that this season threw Toronto’s way reached a tipping point, Vanney said.

“I think our guys put an incredible shift in over the course of the body of work of the regular season,” Vanney said. “In the end, pushing, things caught up with us a little bit. Some of what you would call our top players, our guys that are difference-makers, our guys who are important to us in getting results in big games were in an out with injuries, starting to come back in the tail end of the season and I felt like we lacked a little bit of fitness, we lacked a little bit of sharpness, a little bit of continuity at times tonight. 

“That might have been part of why we were a little bit slow in some of our actions and didn’t connect as fast as we normally would or would like to, maybe some of that fluid combination play just wasn’t as sharp, so I think we hit the tail end.”

Highlights: Toronto FC 0, Nashville SC 1 (AET)

Toronto were hit hard by injuries down the stretch, and it showed with the club going 1W-3L to end the year. The 2019 MLS Cup finalists were in the running for the Supporters’ Shield until Decision Day presented by AT&T, but they trended in the wrong direction as single-elimination soccer neared.

Club captain and center mid Michael Bradley took stock of the match in a similar light, noting Toronto couldn’t solve the riddle posed by Nashville. The Reds were credited with 850 passes to Nashville’s 530 and had nearly 62% of the possession, but were outshot 21-10. It was a case study in how those first two stats don’t always tell the whole story.

“By and large we had decent control of the game, but we weren’t able to really put them on their heels consistently enough,” Bradley said. “We weren’t able to really create situations of wave after wave of really being dangerous. Look, they’re defensively a good team, a team that understands who they are and what they’re about and they don’t give away a ton of goals and they don’t give away a ton of chances.”

Now, after spending the last few months playing in East Hartford, Connecticut – travel conditions with Canada around the COVID-19 pandemic meant TFC set up camp stateside – they’re looking ahead. Vanney highlighted as much, with Toronto denied a chance at a fourth MLS Cup appearance in the last five years.

“Obviously the playoffs will sting a great deal, just because we feel like we have a team that has quality and we should do better, so that will hurt,” Vanney said. “But we’ll lick our wounds, we’ll regroup, we’ll continue to try make the team better and then set afoot again next year for another journey. 

“Hopefully it won’t look like this year, and hopefully we’ll be able to get back into our stadium and hopefully teams will be playing in front of fans and some of that excitement will be driven back into the stadiums and the games and all that stuff. Hopefully it will look like a different season, but the guys will get themselves turned around and ready for another year when that time is right.”

Bradley assumed a similar tact, hoping that public heath in 2021 allows for more games at BMO Field. At the same time, he stressed they don’t want to make any excuses for exiting in Round One. 

“I think when you look at the news that’s come out in the last week or two in terms of some of these vaccines, you certainly hope that as we move deeper and deeper into 2021, that little by little the world can start to return to a new normal,” Bradley said. “Certainly, what that will mean for us as a team and as a club, hopefully getting back to playing at BMO Field as soon as possible with fans at a certain point. So we’re certainly very excited about the prospect of that and hopefully that’s coming quickly.”



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Fred Sasakamoose, Indigenous NHL trailblazer, dies at 86 after battle with Covid-19 – CNN

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“This Covid virus just did so much damage into his lungs, he just couldn’t keep responding, his body just couldn’t keep up,” Sasakamoose’s Neil said in the video.
Sasakamoose played 11 games for the Chicago Black Hawks during the 1953-54 season, according to NHL’s website. He is widely believed to be the first Indigenous player in the league’s history, though the NHL tells CNN this is impossible to determine.

NHL honors a trailblazer

An outpouring of respect has come from across the NHL following the news of Sasakamoose’s death.
“That lasting impact of his legacy will forever be celebrated and continue to bring people together for generations to come,” the Black Chicago Hawks organization said on its website. “To the entire Sasakamoose family that includes his wife, Loretta, four children and over 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the Chicago Blackhawks organization extends our deepest condolences.”
Craig Conroy #22 of the Calgary Flames and Alexei Zhamnov #13 of the Chicago Blackhawks pose for the ceremonial face off being dropped by Fred Sasakamoose at the United Center on October 19, 2002.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement that Sasakamoose was the first Cree player to appear in an NHL game at age 19. Sasakamoose then dedicated his life to “serving the First Nations community — using hockey and other sports to provide opportunities for Indigenous youth,” Bettman said.
“The story of Sasakamoose’s groundbreaking, 11-game NHL career with the Chicago Black Hawks in 1953-54 was the culmination of years of dedication to overcoming adversity in pursuit of a dream, and the pivot point at which he turned his focus to helping others pursue their dreams,” Bettman said.
Bryan Trottier, who is also of Indigenous heritage and is a Hockey Hall of Fame center, called Sasakamoose “a pioneer, somebody looked at with First Nation blood who was an achiever, broke barriers,” according to NHL’s website.
“He didn’t realize how inspiring he was, which makes him a humble man, which, to me, is much like Jean Beliveau and Gordie Howe and all of those guys who we hold in such high regard,” Trottier said.
Fred Sasakamoose reacts as he is presented with a check for Johnny's Jems and Jets Hockey team during a ceremony celebrating at the United Center on October 19, 2002 in Chicago, Illinois. Fred Sasakamoose reacts as he is presented with a check for Johnny's Jems and Jets Hockey team during a ceremony celebrating at the United Center on October 19, 2002 in Chicago, Illinois.
Reggie Leach, who played for the Boston Bruins, California Golden Seals, Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings, said he didn’t know about Sasakamoose until he was 16. He felt proud to be of First Nation heritage when he found out about Sasakamoose, the NHL website said.
“He was one of the players that we wanted to be like him and play in the National Hockey League,” Leach said. “He accomplished his goal and that was a big feat at that time in the 50s, being First Nation and playing in the NHL. If you think back, it’s unbelievable the things he had to go through and what he went through going to residential school and accomplishing what he did. It’s just amazing.”
Residential schools “were part of a government-sponsored, religious education system designed to assimilate the country’s Indigenous children. The schools, which began in the 1880s and closed in 1996, were rife with abuse,” according to the NHL.
The Blackhawks honored Sasakamoose in 2002 and the Edmonton Oilers did the same in 2014 as part of their Celebration of First Nations Hockey, the NHL said.
Sasakamoose was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2007, according to the NHL.

Father seemed in good spirits hours before death

Neil spoke to his father on the telephone mere hours before his passing and said he seemed in good spirits and was unafraid of what may lie ahead.
“I’m not scared, I’m ready to go, if I gotta go, I’m going to go,” Neil recalled his father saying.
“You know what, dad? If you’re tired, you go. You go and don’t worry about us over here. You go. If you’re getting tired and you’re getting beat up and your body is fighting, you go ahead and you go,” Neil told his father.
Neil said his mother Loretta — his father’s partner of 65 years — was currently in lockdown, as were Neil’s sisters. Prior to his death, Sasakamoose lived on the Ahathkakoop Cree Nation reserve in Saskatchewan.
Sasakamoose has an autobiography scheduled to release in the spring of 2021, titled “Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL’s First Treaty Indigenous Player.”

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Toronto FC’s season ends with stunning loss to Nashville SC in extra time – Sportsnet.ca

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EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Toronto FC saw its Major League Soccer season end Tuesday, dropping a 1-0 extra time decision to Nashville SC in playoff action.

Toronto was heavily favoured heading into the game, having finished the regular season with a 13-5-5 record, the second-best in the league.

Nashville’s Daniel Rios scored in the 108th minute to secure the expansion club’s victory at TFC’s temporary home in East Hartford, Conn.

Toronto defenders tied up Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar in deep, but couldn’t stop the German designated player from getting a shot off. Goalkeeper Quentin Westberg made a stop but couldn’t control the rebound, which Rios tapped in to the net.

Westberg had held fast through a Nashville blitz to close out regulation, making a stunning stop on Alex Muyl in the final minute to force extra time. The `keeper had five saves for Toronto.

Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis stopped five on-target shots.

Tuesday marked the first-ever meeting for the two sides, coming after Nashville advanced through the play-in round with a 3-0 win over Inter Miami CF on Friday.

The upstart club posted an 8-7-8 record in regular-season play, finishing in seventh spot in the East.

Toronto nearly found the back of the net early in extra time when Richie Lareya sent a beautiful ball across the six-yard box to Ayo Akinola, who couldn’t quite catch up to the pass to tap it in.

Mukhtar did ripple the netting for Nashville in the 100th minute, sending a shot high over Westberg and in.

But on the sideline, the offside flag was raised. It was the third time a Nashville goal had been called off in Tuesday’s game.

The visiting squad also appeared to take a lead early in the second half after Auro Jr,. was called for taking down Mukhtar in TFC territory.

Daniel Lovitz took the ensuing free kick, landing a ball on the head of Jhonder Cadiz at the back post. Cadiz headed it in and reveled in the play with his teammates before the goal was called off.

Toronto started the game slowly, controlling possession but content to stay outside Nashville’s 18-yard box to begin the game.

Nashville briefly appeared to open the scoring in the 13th minute after Lovitz sent a cross in to Cadiz, who sent a header deep in to the Toronto net. His celebration was quickly cut short by a raised offside flag.

Back at the other end of the field, TFC began to open up the game midway through the half, systematically breaking down the Nashville defence.

A strong back end has been key for Nashville all year and the club conceded just 22 goals in regular-season play.

Nick DeLeon got a prime chance to put Toronto on the board in the 26th minute, putting a hefty shot on net from the top of the six-yard box, but Willis made the save.

TFC controlled possession through the first 45 minutes of the game and had the only shot on target heading into the half.

There were some tense moments for Toronto fans watching from home in the 32nd minute, however, when Jonathan Osorio got tangled up with Muyl in the middle of the field. A bit of a skirmish followed and a replay appeared to show Osorio kicking out at the Nashville midfielder. Instead of showing Osorio a red card, referee Robert Sibiga allowed play to continue.

NOTES: Tuesday’s game was the fourth of the MLS playoffs to go to extra time… Pablo Piatti and Laryea returned to Toronto’s lineup after missing time with injuries… Nashville midfielder Anibal Godoy was unavailable for Tuesday’s game after suffering a hamstring injury on Friday.

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