Team Alberta is forcing teams to be aggressive at the Tim Hortons Brier with its remarkably steady play and consistent shotmaking.
Skip Brendan Bottcher has anchored the powerhouse Edmonton side that’s showing it deserves a third straight crack at the national men’s curling championship.
Alberta booked its ticket for another final by topping Saskatchewan’s Matt Dunstone 9-4 in the 1-2 Page playoff game Saturday afternoon at a packed Leon’s Centre.
“I can just tell by looking at everybody that we’re confident and we’re ready for the challenge of tomorrow,” said Alberta third Darren Moulding.
Dunstone had been delivering highlight-reel game-winning shots all week but couldn’t muster much offence against the Edmonton-based foursome.
“They played great and I had a couple stinkers out there,” he said. “That was the difference. We gave up two really cheap steals and one was a three-point swing.”
The Alberta front end of Karrick Martin and Brad Thiessen showed its usual sweeping prowess and Moulding helped set the table for Bottcher, who was solid if not spectacular.
Up one with hammer coming home in the 10th, Bottcher made a hit for four to win.
“I thought we played some pretty good defence,” Moulding said. “We were able to stifle them a little bit. Got a couple good breaks. We got a couple uncharacteristic errors out of Matty. So we’ll take those breaks when they come.”
The Alberta rink suffered Brier final losses to Brad Gushue in 2018 and to Kevin Koe last year.
“I want it bad,” Bottcher said.
“You don’t know how many chances you’re going to get in moments like this.”
Dunstone, who’s making his second career Brier appearance and first as skip, will play in the semifinal on Sunday afternoon. He’ll face the winner of Saturday night’s 3-4 Page playoff game between a pair of Olympic champion skips.
Gushue, from Newfoundland and Labrador, won gold at the 2006 Turin Games and is a two-time Brier champ. He was set to meet Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs, a 2013 Brier champ and 2014 Sochi Games gold medallist.
The semifinal winner will play Bottcher for the championship on Sunday night. The Brier winner will represent Canada at the March 28-April 5 world men’s curling championship in Glasgow, Scotland.
Tourism Kingston on the great success of the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier
Saturday was a long day for Jacobs, who finished the championship round in a four-way tie at 7-4 and needed to win two tiebreaker games to get the fourth seed.
“We’re right in the thick of things,” said Jacobs, who lost three of his first four games here. “We’re in the playoffs now and it feels great. One more strong performance today is what we’re focused on right now.”
Gushue, meanwhile, was well-rested after taking the No. 3 seed at 8-3.
The Leon’s Centre plays an integral role in the 2020 Tim Hortons Brier
In the morning games, Jacobs stole three points in the eighth end for an 8-3 victory over Koe. Ontario’s John Epping eliminated Team Wild Card’s Mike McEwen rink from Manitoba 7-6.
McEwen had a chance to score three for the win but his double-takeout attempt was slightly wide and he settled for a single.
Mike McEwen, Wild Card team out of Brier
The top-ranked Jacobs controlled the final tiebreaker against Epping, scoring three in the fourth end and adding a deuce in the sixth. He sealed the victory with a pair in the ninth.
Curling Canada announced the competition all-star teams Saturday. Bottcher was named to the first team along with second E.J. Harnden of Northern Ontario and Wild Card’s Reid Carruthers (third) and Colin Hodgson (lead).
McEwen took the nod at skip for the second team, which included Northern Ontario’s Marc Kennedy, Wild Card second Derek Samagalski and Canada lead Ben Hebert.
Hodgson won the Ross Harstone sportsmanship award in a player vote. The all-star selections were determined by player votes, media votes and shooting percentages.
Announced attendance for the afternoon draw was 4,979 to bring total attendance to 81,031.
Love of Brier and Curling passed down from father to son
© 2020 The Canadian Press
Oilers' McDavid, Nurse size up new playoff format ahead of potential Hawks clash – CBC.ca
During his downtime in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Darnell Nurse tuned into the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance for a dose of inspiration.
The Edmonton Oilers rearguard plans to draw on motivational lessons from Air Jordan in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“I think that’s the perfect example — to see his mindset in a lot of those games – of creating your own environment, creating your own fire,” Nurse said Thursday on a virtual news conference conducted via Zoom.
“That’s a test that everyone in this situation is going to have to go through, having the ability to create your own excitement.”
WATCH | Nurse remains motivated by opportunity to win Stanley Cup:
There will be no crowd due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The seats, empty. The energy in the building, absent.
“Yeah, there’s no fans there,” Nurse said. “And yeah, you might be in a hub city. But there’s an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. I think that should be enough motivation to get anyone going.
On Tuesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league and NHLPA agreed to a return-to-play format, which concludes the remainder of the regular season and begins a 24-team playoff plan.
The new plan would see the top-4 clubs in the Eastern and Western Conference play two abbreviated round-robin tournaments to determine playoff seeding.
The other eight teams in each conference would play a best-of-five ‘play-in’ series — No. 5 versus No. 12, No. 6 versus No. 11, No. 7 versus No. 10, and No. 8 versus No. 9 — to determine the 16 clubs left standing for the playoffs.
WATCH | 2-minute recap of Bettman’s press conference:
If fans were allowed in the building in Edmonton, Chicago forward Patrick Kane would have no doubt experienced the wrath of the Oiler faithful given the carnage inflicted over the years.
Through 43 career games against the Oilers, Kane has 56 points. And in the post-season against any club, Kane is a certified gamer with 123 points in 127 career appearances and a Conn Smythe Trophy to boot.
The Chicago faithful have reason to hope for an upset — if Kane can keep up the torrid scoring pace and the rest of the Blackhawks can somehow limit the damage inflicted by Leon Draisaitl and captain Connor McDavid.
Holland approves of format
“I’m happy it’s a best-of-five,” Oilers general manager Ken Holland said. “There might be a little bit of rust in the first game or two, but over the course of a five-game series it’s an opportunity to — if you get off to a sluggish start — get back in the series.
In spite of the Kane factor, the Oilers (37-25-9) will enter the series — whenever it happens — as the undeniable favourites against the Blackhawks (32-30-8).
On Thursday, McDavid, who was part of the NHL/NHLPA’s Return to Play Committee, and Nurse addressed the merit of the 24-team format and whether a hub city approach would provide an advantage for the hometown franchise among other topics.
WATCH | McDavid, Nurse discuss polarizing return-to-play format:
The Oilers led the league in power-play efficiency at a whopping 29.5 per cent, and now they have the services of a healthy Mike Green as the quarterback on the point.
As for the penalty kill, they ranked second behind only San Jose at 84.4 per cent.
“We’ve had that same power play for probably two years now, and that helps a lot,” McDavid said. “We’ve had a lot of success on specialty teams, and we’ll probably need to be a little bit better five-on-five.”
Draisaitl a driving force
During Thursday’s conference, a reporter from Germany asked McDavid how he benefits from playing with Draisaitl.
“He gives me nice passes, so that definitely helps me out,” McDavid said. “A lot was made of us playing together or not playing together, and that gives our team a different look.”
After Christmas, head coach Dave Tippett assigned McDavid and Draisaitl their own lines, and the Oilers became way more challenging to defend with the scoring spread around.
“As a general manager, and if you’re a fan of the Edmonton Oilers, we’re very fortunate to have two great players who are 23 and 24 years of age and, really, probably just coming into their prime years as athletes,” Holland said. “They’ve been versatile. Obviously, Leon can move to the left wing and we can play them together as a line.”
And when that happens — even minus fans in the building — the atmosphere will no doubt be electric.
Bruins win Presidents' Trophy for 2019-20 season – NHL.com
The Boston Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy, awarded to the team with the best record in the regular season.
The Bruins were 44-14-12 and led the NHL with 100 points when the 2019-20 season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
The NHL in its Return to Play Plan announcement May 26 said there would be no more regular-season games, instead restarting with eight teams in each conference playing a Qualifying Round for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with a Seeding Round Robin featuring the top four teams in each conference.
The Bruins had five winning streaks of at least four games, including three of at least six games. They had a 13-game point streak (9-0-4) from Nov. 10-Dec. 5 and ended the season with at least one point in 30 of their final 37 games (24-7-6).
It’s the third time the Bruins have won the Presidents’ Trophy since it was first awarded in 1985-86. They did so in 2013-14, when they lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Second Round, and in 1989-90, when they lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final.
Boston was led by forward David Pastrnak, who tied Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals for the NHL lead with 48 goals and was tied with Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers for third in the League with 95 points.
Goalies Tuukka Rask (26-8-6, 2.12 goals-against average, .929 save percentage) and Jaroslav Halak (18-6-6, 2.39 GAA, .919 save percentage) combined for eight shutouts and helped the Bruins allow the fewest goals in the NHL (167, 2.39 per game), earning Boston goalies the William M. Jennings Trophy for the third time (Andy Moog and Rejean Lemelin, 1989-90; Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez, 2008-09).
Ovechkin of Capitals, Pastrnak of Bruins win Richard Trophy – NHL.com
Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins won the Rocket Richard Trophy, awarded to the top goal scorer in the NHL, for the 2019-20 season.
Each forward scored 48 goals (Ovechkin in 68 games, Pastrnak in 70) before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
The League, in its Return to Play Plan announcement Tuesday, said there would be no more regular-season games, and instead would restart with eight teams in each conference playing a Qualifying Round for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and a Seeding Round Robin featuring the top four teams in each conference.
It’s the ninth time Ovechkin has led the League in goals, including each of the past three seasons; he scored 51 goals in 2018-19 and 49 in 2017-18. Ovechkin also led the League in 2007-08 (65), 2008-09 (56), 2012-13 (32), 2013-14 (51), 2014-15 (53) and 2015-16 (50).
The No. 1 pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Ovechkin (34 years and 178 days old at time of season pause) is the third-oldest player to lead the NHL in goals, behind Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings in 1962-63 (34 years, 358 days) and Bill Cook of the New York Rangers in 1932-33 (36 years, 165 days).
Ovechkin, who became the eighth player in NHL history to reach 700 goals when he scored against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 22, began the season in 13th place on the NHL all-time goals list with 658 and finished it eighth with 706, passing Luc Robitaille (668 goals), Teemu Selanne (684), Mario Lemieux (690), Steve Yzerman (692) and Mark Messier (694). Ovechkin is two goals behind Mike Gartner (708) for seventh.
Ovechkin has 11 seasons of at least 45 goals and was two from reaching 50 for the ninth time in his 15-season NHL career.
Named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian in 2017, Ovechkin has won the Hart Trophy (NHL MVP) three times, the Art Ross Trophy (NHL scoring champion) once, and was the Calder Trophy winner as NHL rookie of the year in 2005-06. He is the only player in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP), Calder Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy, the Ted Lindsay Award (voted best player) and the Rocket Richard Trophy.
It is the first time Pastrnak, who turned 24 on May 25, has won the Rocket Richard Trophy. He set an NHL career high in goals this season and has increased his total in each of his past five seasons. He has scored at least 34 goals in each of the past four seasons, and his 155 since 2016-17 are third in the NHL behind Ovechkin (181) and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (158).
Pastrnak led the League with 20 power-play goals and tied for third in points (95) for the Bruins, who won the Presidents’ Trophy with the best record in the regular season.
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