As Jack Campbell authors a season befitting a story book, he may soon find himself in the record books.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a goaltender who has squeezed more big moments out of eight starts. They’ve included two shutouts, multiple instances where he battled through discomfort or injury, just 11 total goals against and more individual victories than the Buffalo Sabres have managed so far in 36 attempts.
Should Campbell win his next game, he’d match Felix Potvin for the Toronto Maple Leafs record of nine-straight W’s to begin a campaign.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 3, 2021
He was full value for the eighth on Friday night, turning aside 11 third-period shots and all three shootout attempts during a 2-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
“Stellar,” said Travis Dermott. “As it has been the whole season.”
“Just outstanding,” added head coach Sheldon Keefe. “I mean you can just see his confidence growing and you can see the team’s confidence in him growing as well.”
Campbell has helped the Leafs right the ship since Frederik Andersen went down with injury two weeks ago and re-establish their spot atop the North Division standings. They left Bell MTS Place with a four-point lead on the Jets and Edmonton Oilers.
While he’s been a beneficiary of the team’s improved defensive play this season, he was the main reason the Leafs even got a chance to outlast Connor Hellebuyck in the skills competition. The Jets put on a big push in the late stages of a 1-1 game and Campbell had to lunge out of his net to deny Andrew Copp and slide hard to his left to keep Kyle Connor from scoring the winner.
He winced in pain after that last stop, but stayed in the game and kept the door shut.
“He’s playing in a game tonight with virtually no room for error and he was there on all the breakdowns we had today, which I thought we had too many of,” said Keefe. “Yeah he was really good.”
Let’s leave aside the fact his health will again be a point of focus leading into a back-to-back series starting Sunday in Calgary for a moment and appreciate how much Campbell is levelling up right before our eyes.
With each passing game it’s becoming more likely that Keefe could choose to play him over a healthy Andersen in the playoffs. We’re still dealing with a limited sample, but his .951 save percentage sure catches the eye.
“Hockey’s about confidence,” said veteran Jason Spezza, who had the shootout winner. “I think he gives us confidence right now. We’re giving him confidence trying to keep things to the outside. Just a guy that’s really benefiting from getting a little momentum here.”
Campbell praised the plan goaltending coach Steve Briere has put together for him, noting that he’s “getting confident and calmer each time” he’s in the crease.
There was something symbolic about the fact these last two victories came with Hellebuyck at the other end of the ice. The Jets starter is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and would likely win a vote of his peers as the best goaltender in the North Division.
He and Campbell were born one year apart in Michigan, but have taken divergent career paths. Campbell was the 11th overall pick by Dallas in 2010 and is only now starting to maximize his talents at age 29. Hellebuyck was passed over entirely in one draft and taken 130th by Winnipeg in 2012, but quickly established himself as a bonafide NHL starter and appeared in his 300th career game for Winnipeg on Friday.
“He’s amazing. Obviously, I don’t have to pump his tires, he’s already accomplished so much,” Campbell said of Hellebuyck. “He’s a great friend. When I was struggling early in my career, he was always right there and texting me and kind of coached me a little bit back in the early days.”
And here he was in the stretch drive of the season holding his own in two tight divisional games.
With capable goaltending, the Leafs look like legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. They’ve drastically cut down on the shots and chances against from recent seasons and are learning to play in a controlled manner that increases their odds of coming out on the right side of results. Plus they still have elite talent to tip the scales.
“A lot of great signs,” said Spezza.
None greater than the one riding a historic run between the pipes right now.
For Oilers, Archibald’s selfish anti-vaccine stance is not worth the risk – Sportsnet.ca
EDMONTON — One is a player who opted to honour his commitment to his new team in Edmonton. The other, just another selfish anti-vaxxer who is betting on himself, somewhat foolishly.
One is a player the general manager staked his reputation on, with much pedigree and a handful of Stanley Cup rings. A guy who came to town billed as a leader, and then backed it up when he rolled up his sleeve despite obvious misgivings about being vaccinated.
Sure, Duncan Keith should have gotten vaccinated a month sooner. But give him some credit for putting the team — society and the Oilers — ahead of himself. Even if he waited until the 11th hour to do it.
Then there is depth winger Josh Archibald, who will be replaced by Game 1 of the regular season if he doesn’t give his head a shake. He is from that young, conspiracy-oriented demographic that has been suckered in by far-right disinformation, and tweets about idiocy like “the plandemic.”
“I’m happy that he’s going to be part of our team this year, fully vaccinated,” Oilers general manager Ken Holland said of Keith, a player Holland had seriously dug in on to convince him to get vaccinated. Mike Smith took some work, too, we are told, but now both are vaccinated and ready to do what they were brought in to accomplish.
The other player is more selfish than that.
Archibald is a nice, fourth-line penalty killer in a normal season. He’ll get you 10 goals a year. But for this, the third COVID-affected NHL campaign, an unvaccinated Archibald just isn’t worth it.
Holland and head coach Dave Tippett sat down with Archibald on Tuesday and spelled out how many games he would miss and what it would mean to be Canada’s only unvaccinated NHL player. It would cost him up to 40 per cent of his $1.5 million salary. Maybe more.
Now Holland sits, and hopes that Archibald changes his mind before the GM has to send him to AHL Bakersfield. He is virtually untradeable, as Archibald could not play games in Canada for a U.S.-based team, and poses a risk that no fourth-liner can justify.
“There are a team or two out there that have made the decision that unvaccinated players are not welcome at training camp. I have not made that decision as of this time,” Holland said on Wednesday. “I think the player is going through the process to decide. It’s a difficult decision. I’ll give [Archibald] the appropriate time, and I’ll see where I’m at in a week, 10 days from now. We’ll see.”
Editor’s note: With overwhelming consistency, research has shown vaccinations against COVID-19 are safe and effective. Residents of Alberta who are looking to learn more about vaccines can find up-to-date information here. Further details on COVID-19 and the country’s pandemic response are available on Canada’s public health website.
In a strange twist of fate, Keith — who received his vaccination in the United States only this week — is in quarantine until next Friday, while the unvaccinated Archibald is undergoing daily testing while attending Edmonton Oilers training camp.
But here’s the reality of all this: A Canadian team simply can not have an unvaccinated player on its roster.
By Holland’s math, an unvaccinated player who must serve a 14-day quarantine every time he comes over the U.S. border and into Canada, would miss “30-plus games” this season. He’d also miss a ton of practice time, and would lose one-200th of his pay for every day missed due to the federally mandated quarantine.
It would be impossible to hold his place on an NHL roster.
“After you quarantine for 14 days, if we’re playing well you’re not just taking someone out to put that person in,” Holland said. “The number of times we cross the border, it’s going to be very difficult.”
Had Keith and Smith not relented, the Oilers’ season would have been derailed.
Related reading: Edmonton Oilers goaltender Alex Stalock contracted COVID-19 before the shortened 56-game season. Now, the 34-year-old is likely going to miss the 2021-22 season due to a heart condition.
Now that Holland has his starting goalie and No. 3 defenceman in the fold, why on earth would you want an unvaccinated, 13:33-minutes per game player flying on the same charter and inhabiting the same dressing rooms as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl?
Between the peer pressure, the risk of lost salary, and the ridiculous nature of his stance, I expect Archibald to relent and get the jab. Let’s face it: It’s a business, and there is no moral high ground in sport.
“In July I heard talk that there were 80, 90 unvaccinated players,” Holland recounted. “We had a Board of Governors meeting (Tuesday), and Bill Daly said we’ll be in single digits of players unvaccinated going into the season. So, basically, 70, 80, 90 players eventually made the decision to get vaccinated.”
Some because they didn’t want to lose the salary, and some because they put their team and others before themselves.
There is one player left on a Canadian team who puts himself before everything else, and his name is Josh Archibald.
Kiermaier on getting hit by pitch by Blue Jays' Borucki: 'Oh yeah, it was intentional' – Yahoo Canada Sports
The Tampa Bay Rays clinched a spot in the postseason on Wednesday, but that was the secondary story against the Toronto Blue Jays.
During the game prior, Rays centrefielder Kevin Kiermaier was the centre of attention as he from Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk, which the Rays refused to hand back to the visiting club. Less than 24 hours later during the series finale between the two AL East teams, Kiermaier re-entered the spotlight as he was struck by a pitch thrown by Blue Jays reliever Ryan Borucki in the eighth inning.
Borucki was ejected after the umpires met to review the struck batter, which then caused Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo and a very red-faced pitching coach Pete Walker to storm onto the field.
Walker was also tossed from the game for his outburst.
Kiermaier didn’t let up after the 7-1 victory, focusing on the late-game dramatics.
“Oh yeah, it was intentional,” “Pretty much almost went behind me. I thought it was a weak move, to be quite honest. It’s over. It didn’t hurt by any means, so I don’t care. Whatever. We move on. We got a series win, and I hope we play those guys, I really do.”
When Kiermaier was asked why he wants to face the Blue Jays again, it was mysterious to say the least. “The motivation is there,” he said. “That’s all that needs to be said.”
Despite Kiermaier being so sure it was intentional, Montoyo had a different idea of what happened, but was certainly sympathetic to the Rays’ reaction.
With just 10 games remaining in the regular season, Toronto is on a hot Wild Card race with fellow divisional rivals Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. The two clubs involved in the ruckus will not face each other again unless the Blue Jays earn a spot in the postseason and are able to beat their opposition in that single-game playoff matchup.
As if the MLB postseason wasn’t dramatic enough, now there’s an underlying narrative ready to boil over at any moment if the two face each other in a series.
More from Yahoo Sports
Eichel stripped of Sabres captaincy, placed on LTIR – TSN
Jack Eichel is no longer captain of the Buffalo Sabres.
Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said Thursday morning Eichel has been stripped of the ‘C’ after three seasons in the role.
“I spoke to Jack two days ago, I spoke to the team yesterday and addressed this, Jack Eichel is no longer the captain of the Buffalo Sabres,” Adams said. “From our perspective, the captain is your heartbeat of your team, and we are in a situation where we felt we needed to make that decision.”
Adams added the Sabres will not have a captain this season.
Adams also confirmed that Eichel will start the season on long-term injured reserve as he remains in a holding pattern with the team on how to best treat his neck injury.
“I think we would all agree that we were hoping to avoid surgery…unfortunately, yesterday Jack did not pass his physical. At this point, Jack is not willing to move forward with what our doctors are suggesting…we will continue to work toward a solution,” Adams said.
TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger reported Wednesday that there is nothing close on the trade front for Eichel, who has been looking for a trade throughout the off-season.
“Well, it’s tough to pinpoint a timeline but we do know there is ongoing discussions with Jack Eichel’s agent Pat Brisson and Kevyn Adams, the general manager of the Buffalo Sabres. They’re on good terms, they have an excellent relationship,” Dreger said on Insider Trading. “We also know that Jack Eichel will start the regular season on LTIR. Now, he saw a team of specialists over the course of the off-season. Some encouraged the artificial disc replacement surgery; however, the Buffalo Sabres remain adamant that the fusion surgery is the best option.
“It’s possible that Eichel gets traded and has the disc replacement surgery under the blessing of a new club, but there’s no guarantee and it doesn’t seem like anything is real close on that front.”
Eichel was limited to 21 games last season due to the neck injury and there has been a long-standing dispute with the team this summer over how to treat the injury.
The 24-year-old centre has been the subject of trade talk since the end of last season and his former agents released a statement in July trying to spur a trade. He switched agents to Pat Brisson in August.
“What’s critically important to make sure is clear is that we’re in control of this process,” Adams said in July, prior to the statement from Eichel’s then-agents. “We have a player under contract. We don’t feel any pressure.
“If there’s a deal out there that we feel is the right thing for the Buffalo Sabres, that’s going to help us improve – whether that’s improve right away or improve down the road, those are all the things weigh – we’d be open to it. But we’re not in a position where we feel we’re just going to do something to do it. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Eichel had two goals and 18 points in 21 games last season and has five years remaining in the eight-year, $80 million contract he signed with the Sabres in 2017.
He had served as captain of the Sabres since 2018.
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