Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has opted out of the NHL playoffs.
The team announced the change on Twitter on Saturday morning, less than two hours before their third game in their series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I want to be with my teammates competing, but at this moment there are things more important than hockey in my life, and that is being with my family,” Rask said in a statement. “I want to thank the Bruins and my teammates for their support and wish them success.”
The Bruins are currently tied 1-1 in their series against the Hurricanes.
Jaroslav Halak will take over starting goalie duties for the Bruins.
<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NHLBruins?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NHLBruins</a> goalie Tuukka Rask has opted out of the NHL’s Return to Play: <a href=”https://t.co/r3c7wjaTwR”>pic.twitter.com/r3c7wjaTwR</a>
When the NHL first returned to play, Rask missed the start of the play-in due to COVID-19 concerns. After reports of a cough, he quarantined for two days in his hotel room before being allowed to hit the ice.
Rask hasn’t been shy about his criticism when it comes to the playoff environment in Toronto. While you’re trying to play as hard as you can, he said, the series “doesn’t really feel like playoff hockey out there.”
“There’s no fans, so it’s kind of like playing an exhibition game,” he said, adding that while there can still be scrums after the whistle, “there’s no atmosphere.”
Don Sweeney, the Bruins’ general manager, said Rask’s comments weren’t related to his departure but acknowledged that he was having a “tough time being away in this environment.”
“This is playoff hockey, let’s make no mistake about it,” Sweeney said during a media availability before Game 3 on Saturday. “Tuukka, in his own right, felt that he needed to be elsewhere rather than being here in this current situation.
“He’s the same goaltender that went to the Stanley Cup finals in a Game 7 last year … and he’ll be the same player when we get up and running again next year.”
Here are Tuukka Rask’s full comments on the atmosphere up in Toronto: <a href=”https://t.co/5qQU4BDA3N”>pic.twitter.com/5qQU4BDA3N</a>
And while Rask didn’t give any indication to the team that he was “absolutely” going to opt out, Sweeney said the decision didn’t come as a surprise.
“The priority for Tuukka at this point and time — and rightfully so — has to be his family, and we support that,” he said, adding that Rask’s family is healthy and safe.
The Bruins goalie has three daughters, one of them a newborn.
Rask is one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top goaltender.
Blue Jays set to play Rays in playoffs after dropping finale to O's – TSN
BUFFALO, United States — Feeling healthy, confident and ready for the next challenge, the Toronto Blue Jays capped their regular season Sunday by tuning up for their first playoff appearance in four years.
A series against the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays was locked in when the Blue Jays dropped a 7-5 decision to the Baltimore Orioles in a game that meant little for either team.
Toronto gave slugger Teoscar Hernandez the day off and rested most of its relievers so they’d be fully charged for Game 1 on Tuesday at Tropicana Field. The Rays have been the class of the American League but did have some trouble with the Blue Jays at times, making this best-of-three wild-card series all the more intriguing.
“They’re looking forward to the challenge and I love that about our kids,” said Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo. “They really want it.”
By losing to Baltimore, the Blue Jays — who sealed a post-season berth last Thursday — secured the eighth and final seed.
At the start of the day, Toronto had a chance to rise to the No. 5 seed. Potential outcomes existed that could have seen first-round matchups against the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians or the Chicago White Sox.
Toronto was 4-6 against Tampa Bay this season. Four of the Blue Jays’ losses were by one run.
“They’re a good baseball team, they do everything well collectively,” said Toronto starter Tanner Roark, who gave up two earned runs to the Orioles over four innings.
“I think it’s going to come down to whoever makes the least mistakes in that series (will) win it. We’ve played them tough all year. We’ve lost a lot of one-run games and we’ve won a lot of one-run games.”
Toronto looked like it was on its way to closing the 60-game season on a five-game win streak after homers by Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., in the third inning. But the Orioles scored three runs in the fourth and tacked on three more in the fifth.
Shun Yamaguchi (2-4) shouldered the loss after working two frames. Gurriel had four hits and scored three runs.
Toronto right-fielder Jonathan Davis made an all-world play in the second inning to take a home run away from Cedric Mullins. Davis extended his left arm over the top of the wall near the foul pole and managed to squeeze the ball as he crashed to the warning track.
Davis drove in the game’s first run in the bottom half of the frame as his sacrifice fly scored Gurriel, who led off with a double. An inning later, Guerrero hit a solo shot for his ninth homer and Gurriel hit a no-doubt two-run blast for his 11th homer of the season.
Mullins helped the Orioles (25-35) cut into the lead with a two-run triple in the fourth inning and Austin Hays drove him in with a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Yamaguchi gave up three straight hits at the start of the fifth and the Orioles pulled ahead to stay.
Travis Lakins Sr., (3-2) worked two innings for the victory. Cesar Valdez pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.
The Blue Jays finished the pandemic-shortened 60-game campaign with a 32-28 record. Toronto was 17-9 at Sahlen Field, normally home of the team’s triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons.
“Our confidence right now is great,” Gurriel said via translator Hector Lebron. “We have pretty much everybody healthy. From one through nine, the lineup is good and everybody is feeling great right now which is what you want going into the playoffs.”
Under Major League Baseball’s expanded playoff structure, 16 teams will play in the post-season. Division winners are seeded Nos. 1-3 in each league, second-place teams are seeded fourth through sixth and two wild-card teams get the seventh and eighth spots.
The Blue Jays last reached the post-season in 2016 as a wild-card entry. Toronto went on to reach the American League Championship Series for the second straight year.
Toronto’s last World Series victory came in 1993. A long playoff drought followed until the Blue Jays returned to the post-season in 2015.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2020.
Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.
Heat advance to NBA Finals with Game 6 win over Celtics – Sportsnet.ca
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It was exactly one year ago Sunday when Jimmy Butler walked into the Miami Heat practice gym, took a seat on a makeshift stage and said he wanted to be part of the team’s next title run.
He’ll have that chance.
The Heat are going to the NBA Finals — surprising many, perhaps, but not themselves. Bam Adebayo scored a season-high 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, Butler scored 22 points and the Heat won the Eastern Conference finals for the sixth time by topping the Boston Celtics 125-113 on Sunday night.
“A great series. It was so competitive,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I mean, in many ways, this was a seven-game series, just how competitive it was. Extremely well-coached and well-put together and we are just honoured to be a part of that type of series in the conference finals, and then we get an opportunity for the next stage. Our guys will look forward to it. We’re going to try to enjoy it for a night.”
The Heat won the series 4-2 — and now, waiting on that next stage to decide the NBA title, are LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is Wednesday night.
Tyler Herro scored 19 points, Duncan Robinson and Andre Iguodala each had 15 and Goran Dragic added 13 for the Heat.
“We deserve to be here,” Dragic said.
Jaylen Brown scored 26 points, Jayson Tatum had 24 and a career-high 11 assists, and Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker each scored 20 points for Boston — which fell in the East finals for the third time in the last four seasons.
“Miami deserves a lot of credit,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “They’re super physical, super tough, very, very savvy. I think they’re the best team in the East and deserve to be representing the East in the way that they have played.”
Miami was down by six early in the fourth before regaining control. A 6-0 burst — Herro had the last five of those points, needing only 31 seconds to do so — tied it at 96. Boston took the lead twice more, with Adebayo answering both times, first with a dunk, then a go-ahead three-point play with 6:16 left.
He smacked the floor in celebration.
It’s like they knew what was coming. They never trailed again. Herro had a pair of baskets in a 9-0 burst that put the Heat up by 10, Adebayo found Butler for a layup and a 116-102 lead everyone on the Heat bench was on their feet.
“This means everything,” Herro said.
And before long, all the Celtics could do was offer their congratulations.
“Regrets, I don’t have any,” Walker said. “I don’t have any, man. I thought we fought hard. A lot of credit to Miami. Those guys are really good.”
The Heat are the only NBA franchise with six Finals appearances in the last 15 years. They’re seeking their fourth title, and this chance didn’t come easily.
The Heat had a 5-for-5 stretch from 3-point range in the first quarter, but otherwise struggled again from beyond the arc in the first half. They were 6 for 14 from deep in the first 24 minutes, Boston was 11 for 23 before the break and the Heat took a 62-60 lead into halftime.
And the margin remained two going into the fourth.
Iguodala’s fourth 3-pointer — in as many attempts — with 4:20 left in the third put the Heat up eight, before Brown had five points in a 10-2 Boston spurt to tie it. Dragic had a go-ahead layup on Miami’s final shot of the quarter and it was 88-86 Heat with 12 minutes remaining.
The Celtics scored 10 of the first 12 points of the fourth, going up 96-90. From there, all Miami.
The Heat scored 35 of the game’s final 52 points. The game was theirs. So was the silver trophy that conference champions get.
“Four more,” Adebayo said. “That’s what matters.”
Celtics: Tatum took 15 shots in the first half, the first time in his 270-game career that he’s done that. He had taken 14 on four other occasions. … Tatum’s top four assist-total games of his career have come in the bubble.
Heat: The Heat are now guaranteed no less than $4,399,686 for their playoff share, and that number would rise to $5,791,041 if they win the title. … Udonis Haslem is the only player to be on all six Heat teams that have made the finals.
WALKER VS. HEAT
Walker has been to the playoffs three times, and his team has been eliminated by Miami in all three of those appearances — with three different nicknames. Charlotte was still the Bobcats when the Heat swept them in the 2014 first round, the Heat rallied to beat Charlotte’s then-rebranded Hornets in seven games in the 2016 first round, and now this win over the Celtics.
The Celtics and Heat were getting some support from afar before Game 6. Celtics coach Brad Stevens was pleased to hear video of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick signing off from his postgame news conference Sunday by saying “good luck to Brad and the Celtics tonight. We’ll be pulling for them.” And at the Miami Marlins’ regular season finale, outfielder Lewis Brinson had a Butler jersey (in the popular Heat `Vice’ theme) underneath his game jersey.
Is what Jamal Murray did in the playoffs sustainable? We asked NBA executives – Hoops Hype
Can Jamal Murray’s historical play in the bubble be sustained next season and beyond? Will he become an All-Star?
HoopsHype posed those questions to two general managers, one executive and three scouts to get the answers.
“I think All-Star is likely, but I would argue he’s been playing at All-NBA borderline superstar level in the bubble,” one Eastern Conference general manager told HoopsHype. “That level I’m not sure about.”
Murray shot 50.5 percent from the field, 45.3 percent from three-point range and 89.7 percent from the foul line this postseason. How good are those numbers? Since the NBA added three-pointers in the 1979-80 season, only Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Malcolm Brogdon have shot 50-40-90 over a full season.
“I don’t know if he can shoot this consistently over time, but he’s still a very good player,” one Western Conference scout told HoopsHype. “He’s probably a guy who can be an All-Star, but not a game-changer like this like a superstar level. I’m not sure he can do that consistently. Maybe he can, he’s still young, but I’d bet a little lower than what he’s doing right now.”
In Game 4, Murray displayed a new bag of tricks in his scoring repertoire with an off-balance left-handed floater, a high-arching one-handed fall away shot over Anthony Davis, and an up-and-under layup that drew comparisons to Michael Jordan.
After leading the league in playoff minutes, and battling through a right knee contusion in Game 5, another Eastern Conference general manager believes Murray’s bubble play is sustainable and could be a preview of him scratching the surface of his potential.
“I expect him to continue to get better,” the general manager told HoopsHype. “His confidence should be through the roof going into next season. He can score so many ways. He doesn’t have the pressure to create for others since they play through (Nikola) Jokic.”
Murray proved to be a willing passer averaging 6.6 assists in the playoffs, but his mentality has always been scorer-first. Murray dropped 20 or more points in seven straight playoff games. The last Nugget to do this in a single postseason was Carmelo Anthony in 2009.
“He’s an All-Star for years to come in my book,” one Eastern Conference scout told HoopsHype. “I forget which game it was, but in last year’s playoffs, he scored like 21 straight points to beat the Spurs in a game. He has a high-level skill and confidence with a green light.”
“It’s been pretty impressive,” another Western Conference scout told HoopsHype. “I feel it will springboard him into the All-Star conversation each year. He’ll make it, maybe just not every year.”
Next season, Murray begins his five-year, $170 million maximum-salary contract extension, so All-Star expectations are certainly warranted given his play in the bubble and upcoming paycheck.
While Murray is now on the verge of realizing his potential, the groundwork was laid several years ago while he was in high school. According to one Eastern Conference executive, Murray’s All-Star foundation was built while learning from a Canadian legend and playing against older competition.
“I don’t think it’s a fluke at all,” the executive told HoopsHype. “I saw him work out with Nash the year before he went to Kentucky and saw the talent then. It’s just a matter of time for him, not if, in my opinion. I’m happy that it’s coming together for him. During that time, he was a high school graduate going at Cory Joseph and CJ McCollum after Canadian National team practices.”
Those workouts with Nash, Joseph and McCollum raised Murray’s game rapidly. The former Kentucky Wildcat became the second Canadian to win MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic International Game in 2013. Two years later, Murray scored a game-high 30 points and was named MVP of the Nike Hoop Summit.
Soon, the Canadian guard could add some hardware for his country in the Olympics as well.
“He’s really becoming a superstar in the league,” Toronto Raptors and Canadian National team coach Nick Nurse said. The coach added all signs point to Murray playing for Canada.
You can follow Michael Scotto on Twitter: @MikeAScotto
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