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Can adapting Senators muster encore after thrilling win vs. Leafs? – Sportsnet.ca

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The beauty of hockey — it can sprinkle stardust on an ugly game and turn it into something wondrous and magical as well as any Disney studio.

If you like your underdogs, your David vs. Goliath or your Rocky vs. Apollo Creed, then Monday’s game at Scotiabank Arena was for you.

No team seemed less equipped to rebound from a 5-1 second-period deficit than the North Division’s last-place Ottawa Senators and few teams seemed less vulnerable than the first place Toronto Maple Leafs.

And yet, here we are. Thanks to the greatest comeback in Senators franchise history, they own their first two-game win streak of the season. From 1992-2021, an Ottawa team had trailed by at least four goals in a regular season game 240 times and this was the first instance the Senators emerged with a win.

“It’s hockey, anything can happen,” said overtime hero Evgenii Dadonov, who tied the game late in the third. “We didn’t stop playing.”

No, they left that to the Leafs.

A shorthanded goal by Nick Paul late in the second period gave the Senators hope.

“That was huge going into the intermission,” said winger Drake Batherson, who scored Ottawa’s first goal of the night. “The older guys told us through the second intermission to keep going. Anything can happen. And we showed it there by tying it up.”

After that same penalty kill featuring the Paul goal, defenceman Artem Zub emerged from the penalty box and scored his first NHL goal on a breakaway. A gorgeous deke from a player brought over from the KHL for his defensive play. Now, the magic was surely in the air.

Joy can be fleeting in a condensed, pandemic hockey schedule, however. The Senators beat the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Saturday in the dying seconds of a Hockey Day in Canada game, then the smiles were wiped off their faces while getting routed for the better part of 40 minutes of a 5-1 game against the Leafs. Play was as lopsided as in any Ottawa game this season, but as head coach D.J. Smith would say afterwards, his team was due for a break after losing some heartbreakers earlier in the schedule.

Now, the question is can they build momentum from a miracle? Or was it a mirage?

What do the Senators do for an encore?

Before this dramatic turn of events in Winnipeg and Toronto, things looked dire. Starting goaltender Matt Murray was injured and backup Marcus Hogberg was essentially put on notice that he had to turn in a solid game against Winnipeg or the club would find other options.

Hogberg was brilliant in the 2-1 victory against the Jets, and while he yielded five in the early Leafs onslaught, he didn’t give up a sixth. Several stops in the third period and overtime were spectacular, including outlasting Mitch Marner on what could have been the goal of the year if he’d pulled it off. On the night, Hogberg stopped 33 of 38 Toronto shots.

Dorion making moves

On the face of it, a team that had a 2-12-1 record as recently as Saturday morning, would seem likely to be in a state of inertia. It would be easy to get paralyzed into numbness, and just ride out the string, hoping that the months pass quickly so the Senators could turn a page. Play the kids, draft well, move onto next year.

Instead, general manager Pierre Dorion is trying to manage his way out of this latest crisis. Goaltenders have been moving in and around the roster and taxi squad like chess pieces wielded by Beth Harmon. And on the weekend, Dorion moved out two pending unrestricted free agents, forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Cedric Paquette, in exchange for a third pending UFA, former Senators winger Ryan Dzingel.

Don’t look now, but the Senators are 2-0 since making the trade! (Never mind that Dzingel is in COVID-19 quarantine and won’t play until March 1).

As it did in the off-season, Murray’s phone is buzzing.

For starters, Dorion and Smith had to deal with the loss of their No. 1 goalie. Most frustrating about the injury, Murray had only just begun to find the form that Dorion was hoping for when he traded for Murray back in October and signed him to a four-year deal. Murray got hurt in a collision with his own defenceman, Nikita Zaitsev, in Winnipeg last Thursday.

That left the job to backup Hogberg, a frightening proposition considering Hogberg couldn’t seem to find his angles or his net in his seven previous season appearances. But in his eighth game, Hogberg delivered the most inspiring Ottawa performance of the season, stopping 30 of 31 shots (a save percentage of .968) while his teammates got him a last-second goal, a redirect by Brady Tkachuk, to stun the hometown Jets.

Murray practised with the team on Monday and could be back as early as Wednesday. Look for Murray and Hogberg to split the remaining games of the Toronto series, Wednesday and Thursday.

When goaltender Joey Daccord was recalled from AHL Belleville after just one start, a 5-1 loss in Laval on Friday, and moved from the taxi squad to the active roster to backup Hogberg in Toronto on Monday, he became the third different backup the Senators have used.

Filip Gustavsson, who was on the bench in Winnipeg on Saturday, was moved to the taxi squad. But with Murray better, Daccord is moving back to the taxi squad while Gustavsson is shifted to the Belleville roster.

Dzingel, two-time deadline transaction?

When Dorion flipped out Galchenyuk and Paquette to Carolina in exchange for Dzingel, there were those who wondered if he was simply rearranging deck chairs on a certain ship that need not be named.

In fact, the move does shake things up around the Senators room. Dorion is letting his group know that he is not going to stand idly by while they lose the bulk of their games, even if they have played much better since their turnaround game in Montreal on Feb. 4.

If the GM can improve the team week to week, even marginally, he will, while recognizing he can always flip out veteran players at the deadline to acquire draft picks or prospects. Clearly, the Hurricanes wanted Paquette and took on Galchenyuk just so Ottawa could dump the contract (one year at $1.05M). Galchenyuk was promptly put on waivers by Carolina before being traded to the Leafs. Fortunately for him, he remained in Ottawa at the time of the trade and so can move to Toronto without facing a cross-border quarantine.

Dzingel, 28, was a two-time 20-goal scorer while with the Senators in his first go-around (23 in 2017-18, 22 in 2018-19). He should have some familiarity and comfort with the organization that drafted him out of Ohio State in 2011 (seventh round, 204th overall), although there are only a handful of players left from the Ottawa team he knew two years ago.

Dzingel said he believes he will get more opportunity with Ottawa than he did in Carolina.

“It’s been a crazy few days and I’m just excited to be back,” Dzingel said on a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday. “I think anytime you get a second chance in anything in life it’s pretty special, so I’m looking at things with a different lens right now.

“Other than this 14-day quarantine, being stuck in the Brookstreet (Hotel in Kanata), I’m excited … to get this thing going in 12 or 13 days when I get out of jail here.”

Dzingel can practice with the Senators on Feb. 28. The team’s next game after that is March 1 vs. Calgary.

As we mentioned last week, the Senators are sure to be busy at the trade deadline, and even beforehand, with as many as nine pending UFAs on their roster. Now they are down to eight. Dzingel will get his chance to help his old team, but is also a deadline trade option.

Why did Dorion sign so many veteran castoffs in the off-season? As near as we can figure, he was auditioning players who should have been motivated to salvage their careers, to see which ones might work out, and either complement the youth corps or push them to be better.

Some have. Winger Austin Watson has come in and been a well-conditioned, gritty, useful bottom six forward.

Not so much for Galchenyuk, Paquette or centre Derek Stepan, who would like to be accommodated with a trade closer to his family in Arizona if possible.

Defencemen Braydon Coburn and Josh Brown have played their way out of the lineup.

Erik Gudbranson has played important minutes for Ottawa, and looked to be in a good pairing with Erik Brannstrom until Brannstrom got hurt.

Dadonov was no castoff, but a significant free agent signing at three years at a $5-million AAV. With his pair of goals on Monday, Dadonov has surged to lead team scoring with six goals and is looking effective with Colin White and Paul, arguably the Senators best line of late.

Now, the teams get to do it all over again. Those pesky Senators, with three of their four victories registered against their eastern rivals from Toronto (2) and Montreal (1) will be tested by the Maple Leafs in Wednesday’s rematch.

They might not want to risk a four-goal deficit this time, but then again, the Senators have trailed in all of their victories this season.

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Stu Cowan: Survivor 2021 — Canadiens edition – Montreal Gazette

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Goalie coach Stéphane Waite is the latest contestant to get voted off Habs Island by GM Marc Bergevin and the timing was very puzzling.

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Welcome to the Habs Survivor reality-TV show.

Maybe the Canadiens can come out with a board version of the game, so fans can play while stuck at home during the COVID-19 curfew and try to predict who will get voted off Habs Island next.

My money would be on Luke Richardson, the only coach who hasn’t been fired during the last week. Or maybe the Zamboni driver at the Bell Centre.

You know it won’t be Carey Price being told to give back his torch. The goalie has basically become bigger than the team with his massive eight-year, US$84-million contract that has five more seasons left after this one and includes a full no-movement clause. The goalie has immunity on Habs Island unless he decides he wants to leave.

Goalie coach Stéphane Waite didn’t have immunity and became the latest person to be voted off Habs Island by GM Marc Bergevin. The decision came one week after head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller were both told to pack their things and leave.

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The bizarre timing of Waite’s firing made for some very interesting reality-TV speculation. Bergevin decided to fire Waite after the second period of the Canadiens’ 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. Maybe Bergevin didn’t like the goal Price gave up late in the second period, which he probably should have stopped.

Waite, who had been with the Canadiens for eight years, was told to pack his stuff and leave the Bell Centre during the third period. The Canadiens didn’t announce the news until an hour after the game ended and the post-game video conferences, which included Price and new head coach Dominique Ducharme, were over.

What should have been a good-news day for the Canadiens on Wednesday — with the focus on Ducharme getting his first NHL win as a head coach, the team playing better defence and Price making 26 saves after working one-on-one with Waite for a few days to find his game — suddenly became all about the goalie coach and what the heck happened.

“Just to be clear, nothing happened,” Bergevin said when he held a video conference Wednesday morning. “There was no fight, argument, none of that. I think they had a good relationship. I made the decision for the organization, for the team, for the players. That’s my job and I take full responsibility to making that change today.”

Price has struggled this season with a 6-4-3 record, a 2.96 goals-against average and a .893 save percentage. Jake Allen, who is 4-2-2 with a 2.12 GAA and a .929 SP, deserved to start Tuesday, but Ducharme decided to go with the $84-Million Man and Price played well. If Price had let in five goals in the first two periods, the timing for the firing of Waite might have made sense.

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The other thing that makes the timing strange is that Sean Burke, who has been named the new director of goaltending, lives in Arizona and will have to go through a 14-day COVID-19 quarantine before he can even start working on the ice with Price. In the meantime, Laval Rocket goalie coach Marco Marciano will work with Price and Allen.

If Price had played better this season, Julien, Muller and Waite might still all be on Habs Island, but Bergevin bristled when that suggestion was made.

“No, please don’t go there at all,” the GM said. “I’m not here to protect Carey, but I’m not here to blame him, either. … You win as a team, you lose as a team. So please don’t go there at all.”

Bergevin was also asked if Price should assume more accountability for his performance.

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“Where do you see there’s no accountability here?” Bergevin asked, obviously not appreciating the question. “He has accountability. Every player, if it’s Carey, if it’s Ben Chiarot, Shea Weber, Phil Danault, Brendan Gallagher, they’re all responsible for their performance. That’s on them. Every one of them. My job is to provide them the best tools I can for them to have success. But … it’s on the players to perform and if they don’t perform then that’s where I come in and try to help.

“I had a talk with Carey recently and he knows that he’s not on top … he knows,” Bergevin added. “It might not come across when he talks to you guys that he cares, but he knows. He knows that his game is not where it should be. He knows more than anybody else, even me. So that’s not an issue.”

Now that there’s one less scapegoat, Price’s play will become a bigger issue for the Canadiens.

Outwit, outplay, outlast is the motto for the Survivor TV series. Bergevin has been able to last nine seasons as GM of the Canadiens.

If they miss the playoffs this year, you have to think Geoff Molson will be the one voting Bergevin off Habs Island.

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

  1. “It’s surprising, obviously,

    Canadiens GM says Carey Price had no input in decision to fire coach

  2. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin says he still believes Carey Price is one of the best goalies in the NHL despite having a 2.96 goals-against average and a .893 save percentage.

    Canadiens Notebook: GM went with ‘gut feeling’ to fire Stéphane Waite

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Quick Reaction: Pistons 129, Raptors 105 – Raptors Republic

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Plenty of teams have dealt with goofy lineups this season because of protocols. Unfortunately, it was the Raptors turn.

Sorry, had to go manual style. The grade generator is having some technical difficulties. Fred Vanvleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Matt Flynn and Patrick McCaw missed the game due to health and safety protocols. Jalen Harris and Donta Hall were available but did not play.

Chris Boucher (Grade: B)

25 min, 18 pts (5-11 FG, 1-5 3pt), 8 reb, 2 blk

Boucher was the lone bright spot off the bench, no surprise there. Took advantage rolling on passes from Lowry and one beauty pass from Powell in the 4th quarter.

Kyle Lowry (Grade: A-)

35 min, 21 pts (5-11 FG, 3-5 3PT, 8-9 FT), 4 reb, 6 ast

Lowry is used to playing minutes with the second unit. So essentially this game was an extension of that. Continued his hot shooting as of late with 12 points and 4 assists in the first quarter. But the team predictably fell apart when he had to take a breather. Reserves missed plenty of open shots that would have been assists for Lowry. Cloning Kyle would have been nice. One Lowry can only do so much.

Norman Powell (Grade: A)

38 min, 36 pts (14-20 FG, 5-8 3PT), 5 reb, 4 TO

Once again, starter Norm ignited the offence early with 23 first half points, 8-10 shooting and making all four of his threes. Predictably had to do even more on offence than he has been lately. Resulted in four turnovers but that was to be expected. Second straight 30-plus scoring game. Powell finished one point shy of tying his career-high.

DeAndre Bembry (Grade: C-)

27 min, 0 pts (0-1 FG), 5 ast

Bembry deservedly has been playing much more as of late, but was guilty of trying to do too much. Drove into traffic without a plan a couple times. Bembry did have five assists.

Yuta Watanabe (Grade: F)

11 min, 0 pts (0-3 FG, 0-2 3PT), 4 reb

Yuta started for the first time in his 55-game career but was barely noticeable. Only played seven minutes in the first half. Second half wasn’t any better, air balling an open three and missing a transition layup. Unfortunately Watanabe simply wasn’t ready to provide production in a starting role.

Terence Davis (Grade: F)

21 min, 6 pts (2-11 FG, 0-5 3PT), 3 reb, 2 stl, 3 TO

Davis made his third start of the season but was a negative across the board with untimely turnovers, missed open shots and silly fouls. The most brutal foul was on Dennis Smith Jr. at half court with the Pistons in the bonus. Tipped in his own miss early third for his only made basket before garbage time. In my opinion, this was his worst performance of the season.

Aron Baynes (Grade: B-)

24 min, 13 pts (4-7 FG, 1-3 3PT), 4 reb

Good energy from Baynes against one of his former teams. Set screens to free Powell, grabbed offensive boards, and finished inside a little better than he has been this season. Solid game.

Stanley Johnson (Grade: D+)

18 min, 0 pts (0-3 FG, 0-2 3PT), 1 reb, 1 ast

Stanley got an extended look because of Davis and Watanabe’s struggles. But he couldn’t find his corner three shot, going 0-3, including an air ball.

Matt Thomas (Grade: C)

22 min, 11 pts (4-7 FG, 2-4 3PT)

Thomas is simply in a funk. He came in shooting 3-16 since January 31 and missed both of his three point attempts in the first half. Was also beat off the bounce by Rodney McGruder for a and-1 and was subbed out right after. Did manage to make a couple of threes in the fourth. Hopefully that’s a turning point because Thomas needs to make shots to stay on the court.

Paul Watson (Grade: C-)

19 min, 0 pts (0-3 FG, 0-3 3PT), 4 reb, 1 ast

Watson got 19 minutes of run. Did one of the better jobs of closing out on Detroit’s surprisingly potent shooters. But like almost every other Raptor reserve, he couldn’t make an open three.

Sergio Scariolo (Grade: C-)

Scariolo was acting head coach for the second straight game. It’s asking a lot to be on the same page defensively without three of your best defenders in Siakam, Anunoby and VanVleet. Detroit put up 43 first quarter points, tied for the most the Raptors have given up this season. Had to play a box-and-one on Wayne Ellington at one point to temporarily slow him down. Key word: temporarily. As for the offence, the Raptors got plenty of open looks but couldn’t make them. One can argue that Scariolo should have taken out Davis earlier, but for who? Mama said there would be days like this.

Things we saw:

  1. Only four Raptors made a field goal in the first half, even though the Raptors did manage 60 points. Lowry tried to get some of his struggling teammates involved, but his efforts were in vain. Overall, Raptors not named Powell, Lowry, Boucher, Baynes or Thomas shot 2-21.
  2. Wayne Ellington shot only 26% from three in February. Safe to say that slump is over. Despite that, he was still at 41% from deep this season. Ellington tied a career-high with eight threes in this game, so that percentage is about to go back up.

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Report: Raptors’ COVID-19 outbreak caused by coaches’ improper mask-wearing – Yahoo Canada Sports

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The Canadian Press

Lawmakers can’t cite local examples of trans girls in sports

Legislators in more than 20 states have introduced bills this year that would ban transgender girls from competing on girls’ sports teams in public high schools. Yet in almost every case, sponsors cannot cite a single instance in their own state or region where such participation has caused problems. The Associated Press reached out to two dozen state lawmakers sponsoring such measures around the country as well as the conservative groups supporting them and found only a few times it’s been an issue among the hundreds of thousands of American teenagers who play high school sports. In South Carolina, for example, Rep. Ashley Trantham said she knew of no transgender athletes competing in the state and was proposing a ban to prevent possible problems in the future. Otherwise, she said during a recent hearing, “the next generation of female athletes in South Carolina may not have a chance to excel.” In Tennessee, House Speaker Cameron Sexton conceded there may not actually be transgender students now participating in middle and high school sports; he said a bill was necessary so the state could be “proactive.” Some lawmakers didn’t respond to AP’s queries. Others in places like Mississippi and Montana largely brushed aside the question or pointed to a pair of runners in Connecticut. Between 2017 and 2019, transgender sprinters Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood combined to win 15 championship races, prompting a lawsuit. Supporters of transgender rights say the Connecticut case gets so much attention from conservatives because it’s the only example of its kind. “It’s their Exhibit A, and there’s no Exhibit B — absolutely none,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a prominent trans-rights attorney. The multiple sports bills, he says, address a threat that doesn’t exist. There’s no authoritative count of how many trans athletes have competed recently in high school or college sports. Neither the NCAA nor most state high school athletic associations collect that data; in the states that do collect it, the numbers are minimal: No more than five students currently in Kansas, nine in Ohio over five years. Transgender adults make up a small portion of the U.S. population, about 1.3 million as of 2016, according to the Williams Institute, a think-tank at the UCLA School of Law that specializes in research on LGBTQ issues. The two dozen bills making their way through state legislatures this year could be devastating for transgender teens who usually get little attention as they compete. In Utah, a 12-year-old transgender girl cried when she heard about the proposal, which would separate her from her friends. She’s far from the tallest girl on her club team and has worked hard to improve her times but is not a dominant swimmer in her age group, her coach said. “Other than body parts, I’ve been a girl my whole life,” she said. The girl and her family spoke with The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to avoid outing her publicly. Those who object to the growing visibility and rights for transgender people, though, argue new laws are needed to keep the playing field fair for cisgender girls. “When the law does not recognize differences between men and women, we’ve seen that women lose,” said Christiana Holcomb, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed the Connecticut lawsuit on behalf of four cisgender girls. One of those girls, Chelsea Mitchell, defeated Terry Miller — the faster of the two trans sprinters — in their final two races in February 2020. The ADF and others like it are the behind-the-scenes backers of the campaign, offering model legislation and a playbook to promote the bills, most of them with common features and even titles, like the Save Women’s Sports Act. When asked for other examples of complaints about middle or high school transgender athletes, ADF and the Family Policy Alliance, cited two: One involved a Hawaii woman who coaches track and filed a complaint last year over a trans girl competing in girls’ volleyball and track. The other involved a cisgender girl in Alaska who defeated a trans sprinter in 2016, then appeared in a Family Policy Alliance video saying the trans girl’s third-place finish was unfair to runners who were further behind. Only one state, Idaho, has enacted a law curtailing trans students’ sports participation, and that 2020 measure is blocked by a court ruling. Chase Strangio, a transgender-rights attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, notes that in several states with proposed sports bans, lawmakers also are seeking to ban certain gender affirming health care for transgender young people. “This is not about sports,” he said. “It’s a way to attack trans people.” Some states’ school athletic organizations already have rules about trans participation in sports: 19 states allow full inclusion of trans athletes; 16 have no clear-cut statewide policy; seven emulate the NCAA’s rule by requiring hormone therapy for trans girls; and eight effectively ban trans girls from girls’ teams, according to attorney Asaf Orr of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Texas is among those with a ban, limiting transgender athletes to teams conforming with the gender on their birth certificate. That policy came under criticism in 2017 and 2018, when trans male Mack Beggs won state titles in girls’ wrestling competitions after he was told he could not compete as a boy. While Beggs, Miller and Yearwood were the focus of news coverage and controversy, trans athletes more commonly compete without any furor — and with broad acceptance from teammates and competitors. In New Jersey’s Camden County, trans 14-year-old Rebekah Bruesehoff competes on her middle school field hockey team and hopes to keep playing in high school. “It’s all been positive,” she said. “The coaches have been really helpful.” While New Jersey has a trans-inclusive sports policy, Rebekah is distressed by the proposed bans elsewhere — notably measures that might require girls to verify their gender. “I know what it’s like to have my gender questioned,” Rebekah said. “It’s invasive, embarrassing. I don’t want others to go through that.” The possibility that any athlete could have to undergo tests or examinations to prove their gender was among the reasons that Truman Hamburger, a 17-year-old high school student in North Dakota, showed up at the statehouse to protest a proposed ban. “Once you open up that door on gender policing, that’s not a door you can easily shut,” he said. Sarah Huckman, a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, ran track and cross country for three years at Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, after coming out as trans in seventh grade. Huckman showed great talent in the sprints and hurdles but was not dominant on a statewide level. In her senior year, she won several events in small and mid-size meets, and had sixth place and 10th place finishes in the Division II indoor state championships. The proposed bans appall her. “It’s so demeaning toward my group of people,” she said. “We’re all human beings. We do sports for the love of it.” ___ Associated Press reporters covering statehouses across the U.S. contributed to this report. ___ This story has been corrected to show that the Bruesehoff family lives in New Jersey’s Camden County, not Sussex County. David Crary And Lindsay Whitehurst, The Associated Press

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