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Burrows’ passion, experience, messaging helping Canadiens improve power play – Sportsnet.ca

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It was a 45-minute breath of fresh air, with the words flowing out of Alexandre Burrows clearly and deliberately.

The 39-year-old’s Zoom press conference provided a perfect explanation for why he was taken off the Laval Rocket bench, after just one year in the AHL, and promoted to replace Montreal Canadiens associate coach Kirk Muller on Feb. 24.

It was one thing for general manager Marc Bergevin to repeat on that day that both Dominique Ducharme (taking over as head coach for Claude Julien) and Burrows would offer new voices to a Canadiens team in need of them, but it was another to hear Ducharme’s voice for ourselves over the last couple of weeks and to finally, on Tuesday, get a sample of what the players are experiencing beyond what we see on the ice with Burrows.

It is there where he bounces from drill to drill with the energy of a 10-year-old who just chugged six Pixie Sticks, but it was in some backroom of Rogers Arena, with the Canadiens’ makeshift backdrop behind him, that Burrows gave us a glimpse of the serious and measured guy who’s also spending his time crafting power-play schemes and conducting video tutorials off-ice.

He spoke for a long time, but made it clear within seconds why he was the precise person chosen to join Ducharme’s bench. He told us what this opportunity means to him as a lifelong Canadiens fan who caught a lot of flak from his Vancouver Canucks teammates for never losing his allegiance to the team of his childhood, the team he would ritually watch play the early games while the Canucks were preparing to play the late ones.

But Burrows also talked about how the last season in Laval prepared him for this and how 998 NHL games (regular season and post-season combined) gave him all the insight he needed to make this transition. He then shared how long-time Canucks assistant coach Newell Brown inspired the mentality he’s brought to reviving a Canadiens power play that struggled immensely under Muller but is suddenly clicking under his guidance.

“He was always open,” Burrows said. “You could talk to him, share ideas, plans. We could comment on some stuff, so it was really working as a group.

“He always had a plan, made sure it was clear, and there weren’t any grey areas. And there’s plans on the breakouts, on the in-zone, on 5-on-3s, 4-on-3s, faceoffs, so it made it easier for players to play instead of always think, so it kind of became second nature going on the power play.”

That’s what it’s looked like for one unit of Montreal’s power play since Burrows took over.

It seems the plan has been crystal clear to Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Tomas Tatar, Brendan Gallagher, Corey Perry and Jeff Petry, and they’re executing as though it’s engrained.

Now Burrows has to get the other unit going. The one with Jonathan Drouin and Shea Weber rotating from the top of the point to the flank, with Nick Suzuki and Tyler Toffoli switching off with each other in the bumper position, and with Josh Anderson in front of the net.

It’s a unit filled with cerebral players in Drouin, Suzuki and Toffoli — crafty playmakers not unlike Henrik and Daniel Sedin, with whom Burrows enjoyed the greatest success of his career.

When asked how he could lend some of what the Sedins did so successfully to this trio of bright Canadiens, Burrows pointed to simplicity.

“I think we don’t have to force plays,” he said. “Even with the twins, they were efficient by being the experts at simple plays… It wasn’t always the crazy, between-the-legs saucer pass and back door and tic-tac-toes. The way they had success was by keeping it simple over and over and becoming experts at that. It comes down with execution.

“It comes down with knowing where teammates are going to be on the ice, because the game is so fast now [that] if you take that extra second to hope that, or you’re wishing or holding onto the puck for an extra second to find a lane or find a guy and hoping that the guy’s going to be there, it’s going to be too late and you’ll be breaking out once again. So, we try to keep it clear, simple, efficient and direct.”

But the challenge with that is avoiding being predictable.

The Canadiens have been particularly predictable on this unit — certainly in the way they break into the zone and attempt to set things up from there, but mostly with Weber’s shot being habitually overused. It’s part of the reason Weber’s got just two power-play goals this season despite producing 102 over his previous 15 seasons in the NHL.

When Burrows was asked if it was time for the Canadiens to remove Weber from the power play and opt for someone more mobile in his place — Alexander Romanov wasn’t specifically brought up, but he’d be a logical choice for such an assignment — he explained why he wasn’t going to do that.

“Shea’s got one of the best shots in the league or the best one-timer I’ve seen,” Burrows said. “He’s a weapon, for sure, on your unit. Team’s PKs are going to shadow him as much as they can so they don’t let that shot come out. For me, I have different [formations] and Shea, when he’s on the flank, I’d love to see him tee it off every time he has a chance. If we’re able to tee it up for him, that would be a great play. If he’s at the top and we have Jo on the flank, it’s different looks.

“But sometimes he might be a decoy and we’ll run another play knowing that they’re going to shadow him. A lot goes into it. I’m not worried about Shea. I know how he prepares, I know how he cares about this team. He’s the ultimate captain, I’ve seen only good things about him so far — the way he acts and conducts himself, the way he cares about his teammates, the way he cares about [how] the team does, so I’m not worried about him at all.

“But as we move forward, we’ll need him to shoot that puck and we’ll need to find for him or create lanes for him to let that shot go because it’s one of the best weapons in the league.”

When asked what this unit, presumed to be the top unit by this reporter, can borrow from the one that’s actually clicking, Burrows revealed much more about what he’s trying to establish with both units.

“I think for both units we’ve kept it pretty simple since Day 1,” Burrows said. “We have a different plan, and we have this wolf-pack mentality that we can strike from anywhere. We can strike from the low plays, we can strike from shots from the top, we can shoot from the flanks, we converge towards rebounds, and that’s the way I see it.

“I know both units can do the job and we’ll keep getting better. It’s a work in progress, it’s going to take some time. You look around the league, the best units have been together for four, five, six years of the same guys in the same spots doing the right things over and over. That’s how I got taught to play the game. I think if we can be direct, keep it simple and efficient, that’s how we’re going to have some success when the game’s on the line and we need a big power-play goal late in the game or it’s playoff hockey and the game’s on the line and we need to score a goal.

“If we keep the same mentality, I think the odds are on our side that we’ll be able to shine when the light’s the brightest.”

Burrows said it with passion and conviction and communicated it directly, which is at the heart of why he was given this job.

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UEFA threaten to ban breakaway clubs from all competitions

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By Simon Evans

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – European soccer‘s governing body UEFA has warned clubs linked to a breakaway Super League that they face being banned from domestic and international competitions if they set up a rival to the Champions League.

In a joint statement https://www.uefa.com/insideuefa/mediaservices/mediareleases/news/0268-12121411400e-7897186e699a-1000–statement-by-uefa-english-fa-rfef-figc-premier-league-laliga-le with Spanish, English and Italian leagues and federations, UEFA said it will consider “all measures”, including the courts and bans from domestic leagues, in opposition to plans for a breakaway competition.

UEFA said it had learnt that clubs from those countries “may be planning to announce their creation of a closed, so-called Super League”.

“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we….(and) also FIFA and all our member associations – will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever,” UEFA said.

“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way,” the statement added.

In January, FIFA had said that a breakaway league would not be recognised and that “any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by FIFA or their respective confederation” – meaning players would be banned from the World Cup.

Sunday’s UEFA statement said: “The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.

“We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”

 

(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge)

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Netherlands and Poland seal narrow Billie Jean King Cup playoff wins

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(Reuters) – The Netherlands and Poland both needed deciding doubles wins to battle through their Billie Jean King Cup playoffs on Saturday but Britain, Italy and Canada all enjoyed easier passages.

In Den Bosch, the Dutch were without world number 11 Kiki Bertens for the second day because of injury and found themselves trailing China 2-1 after Wang Xiyu beat Lesley Kerkhove in Saturday’s opening singles.

But Aranxta Rus beat Wang Xinyu to level the tie and then teamed up with Demi Schuurs to defeat Zhang Shuai and Zu Yifan to send the hosts through.

It was equally tight in Poland where the hosts were pushed to the brink by Brazil.

Brazil’s Carolina Meligeni Alves took the tie into a deciding doubles with a win over Katarzyna Kawa but the Poles prevailed 3-2 as Kawa and Magdalena Frech came back from a set down to beat Meligeni Alves and Luisa Stefani.

Kazakhstan also won a deciding rubber to see off Argentina.

Britain led 2-0 overnight against Mexico in London but Marcela Zacarias beat Heather Watson to keep alive the tie.

Katie Boulter proved too strong for Giuliana Olmos though to clinch the tie for the hosts.

Italy beat Romania 3-1 while Canada‘s teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez sealed her country’s path as she gave her side an unassailable 3-0 lead over Serbia thanks to a three-set win over Nina Stojanovic.

Ukraine eased past Japan 4-0 while Anastasija Sevastova secured Latvia’s 3-1 victory over India.

The eight winners move forward to next year’s qualifying round where they will hope to reach the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

The old Fed Cup was re-branded last year and named after the American great and 12-times Grand Slam singles champion who won the inaugural tournament nearly 60 years ago.

This year’s 12-team Finals were postponed because of the pandemic and a new date has yet to be finalised.

 

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon)

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Motor racing-Canadian Grand Prix cancelled for second year

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(Reuters) -The Canadian Grand Prix scheduled for June 13 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal has been cancelled for the second year in a row, CBC Radio reported on Thursday although Formula One said discussions remained ongoing.

With the spread of new COVID-19 variants and Canada battling to contain a third wave of the virus, Montreal public health authorities concluded that even if run behind closed doors without spectators the risks were too high, reported the CBC.

F1 officials, according to the CBC, wanted to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine for the hundreds of staff, crew members and drivers and rely on private medical staff and have the entire operation run in a bubble.

The race is scheduled to follow on immediately from Azerbaijan, whose grand prix is scheduled for June 6 in Baku and is due to go ahead after also being cancelled last year.

“We are continuing our discussions with the promoter in Canada and have no further comment,” an F1 spokesperson told Reuters.

The Autosport website quoted a spokesperson for the Canadian promoter as saying the radio report referred to “a document of recommendations from public health.

“We as an organisation have not had confirmation from our public health officials and won’t comment until we get an official confirmation.”

Canada, with some of the world’s toughest travel rules, obliges its citizens and residents arriving from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days.

International arrivals are required to quarantine for up to three days in a hotel.

One of Canada‘s biggest sporting events, it would mark the second consecutive year the grand prix has been removed from the F1 schedule due to the spread of COVID-19.

Media reports have suggested Turkey is on standby to be slotted in as Canada‘s replacement.

The Istanbul circuit is logistically convenient for freight coming from Baku and was brought in last year also at short notice to bolster a calendar ravaged by the pandemic.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto/Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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