Nothing like starting the 2020 IIHF World Juniors off with a bang.
As a tradition, the tournament begins on Boxing Day and Day 1 this year sees two of the top contenders, Canada and the United States, go toe-to-toe in the “Battle of North America.” It should be a no-holds-barred event, as national pride and bragging rights are on the line.
“There’s no putting your foot into the water — you’ve got to go full in,” said American, and Ottawa Senators prospect, Shane Pinto to reporters. “It’s going to be a tough one, but I think we’re ready.”
Canada’s Jacob Bernard-Docker — and fellow Senators prospect — added about the rivalry: “Heated . . . Two countries that don’t like each other playing against each other.”
While everyone expects these teams to go the distance, whether they’ll make it is not set in stone. They are in what’s being dubbed, “The Group of Death” as Group B also includes Russia, potential Cinderella team, Germany, and the host Czech Republic. In the first game of the day, the Czechs upset Russia 4-3.
Coming off a silver medal in 2019, the United States once again is pound-for-pound a favorite and built to dominate from the ground up. Florida Panthers prospect Spencer Knight is getting the start in net and should give the Americans a considerable edge; couple that with the firepower up front and defensive skill on the blue line and Canada will have its work cut out for them.
However, Canada won’t be pulling any punches. In between the pipes may be their weakest link, but the forwards’ corps has some of the biggest snipers in the game with names like Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield and Raphael Lavoie. They’ll be backed by a veteran group that includes Ty Smith and Jared McIsaac, which is looking for revenge after a disappointing sixth-place finish last year.
Sporting News will have the blow-by-blow for you as the two teams spar in Game 1 of the tournament.
(All times Eastern.)
Canada vs. USA scores, highlights from 2020 World Juniors
3:15 p.m. — Canada takes a penalty. USA will look to tie this one up.
3:13 p.m. — GOAL. USA makes it a one-goal game with 7:14 left on the clock as Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect Nick Robertson pulls in the puck and fires the wrister. Canada leads 4-3.
3:10 p.m. — PP GOAL. It’s all about the special teams in this one. Alexis Lafreniere dazzles as he cuts to the middle and feeds Barrett Hayton for the easy goal. Canada leads 4-2.
3:07 p.m. — Spencer Stastney takes a penalty. Canada heads to the power play.
3:00 p.m. — USA with a quality chance as Oliver Wahlstrom gets the rebound but it’s Nico Daws who comes up big with the leg save. Quick reminder, Daws is eligible for the 2020 draft.
2:55 p.m. — Back to even strength
2:55 p.m. — Bobby Brink with a good move around the net and pass in front but can’t connect.
2:53 p.m. — Third period starts. USA on the power play and trail by one.
2:41 p.m. — For your viewing pleasure during intermission:
End of second period: Canada 3, USA 2
2:35 p.m. — Yep. The goal is being reviewed . . . and its waved off! USA still trails 3-2 but will start the third on the power play.
2:34 p.m. — PP GOAL. At the buzzer, the United States ties it up! Puck squirts out in front and Shane Pinto buries it as the Canadians lose track of him and the puck. USA celebrates but definitely looks like the period had ended.
2:33 p.m. — With 16 seconds left in the period, Canada’s Kevin Bahl takes a penalty. USA, who needs a goal to tie, is 2-for-2 on the power play.
2:31 p.m. — Off a save, the puck hits a Canadian defender in front and Nico Daws has to make a quick pad save.
2:25 p.m. — Canada back to the power play for the third time in the game. Not a good play as two of Canada’s three goals have come on the power play.
2:20 p.m. — PP GOAL. The tide has turned in the second period. Canada takes a 3-2 lead as Nolan Foote’s shot beats Spencer Knight top shelf. Canada leads 3-2.
2:19 p.m. — Puck deflects out into the slot and Spencer Knight makes the shoulder stop.
2:16 p.m. — Canadians back on the power play. They’re 1-for-2 thus far.
2:09 p.m. — PP GOAL. The Canadian captain Barrett Hayton with an absolute rifle from the right circle ties the game. Game tied 2-2.
2:07 p.m. — Canada heads back to the power play as Shane Pinto gets sent to the sin bin. The Canadians will look to tie this one up and are 0-for-1 with the man advantage in the game.
2:02 p.m. — GOAL. Great play by the Canadians as they push out of their own. In the US end, Akil Thomas off the chip feeds Connor McMichael who buries it. USA leads 2-1.
1:59 p.m. — Joe Veleno gets a Grade A chance but Spencer Knight makes the stop.
1:56 p.m. — Second period underway.
End of first period: USA 2, Canada 0
1:40 p.m. — After 1, it’s USA 2, Canada 0. Canada has to stay out of the box in this one as the Americans netted two power-play goals on two opportunities.
1:37 p.m. — PP GOAL. Trevor Zegras controls the puck in the circle and feeds Kings prospect Arthur Kaliyev for the one-timer into the open net as Nico Daws can’t get across. USA leads 2-0.
1:35 p.m. — Jared McIsaac called for hooking; not a smart play by the world juniors veteran. USA heads back to the power play and is already 1-for-1 on the night.
1:32 p.m. — Canada now leads 7-6 in shots, but USA has blocked a ton of shots too. Corsi For tilting Canada’s way at this point in the contest.
1:23 p.m. — Canada starting to throw the body around. Alexis Lafreniere crushes Mattias Samuelsson hard into the glass.
1:19 p.m. — Canada gets its first shot on net, six minutes and 10 seconds into the game.
1:19 p.m. — Alexis Lafreniere showing off the skills that should make him the No. 1 pick in June.
1:18 p.m. — USA’s Jordan Harris called for high-sticking. Canada heads to the power play.
1:18 p.m. — More than five minutes into the game and Canada still doesn’t have a shot on net.
1:13 p.m. — PP GOAL. Shane Pinto sitting in the high slot with the big deflection off the Zac Jones shot from the point. USA leads 1-0.
1:12 p.m. — Canada’s Barrett Hayton called for tripping. USA heads to the power play.
1:09 p.m. — Game on! Spencer Knight (Panthers) vs. Nico Daws in between the pipes.
12:37 p.m. — Canada hitting the ice for warmups in the red threads.
12:21 p.m. — USA wearing the white threads the 1960 Olympic team wore when they captured the United States’ first-ever gold medal.
12:20 p.m. — Canada’s lineup.
12:00 p.m. — USA announces its lineup.
10 Things: Fred VanVleet emerging as Raptors’ clear leader – Sportsnet.ca
One — This win was very similar to their other victory against Boston. The Raptors swarmed the Pacers which took them entirely out of their offence, won the possession battle by a landslide with a 22-10 edge in turnovers along with 16-9 in offensive rebounds, and that almost always results in a win. The Raptors kicked it into another gear defensively in the second half and basically ran the Pacers out of the gym. That effort, coupled with better shooting from their main players, resulted in a blowout win in which the Raptors stamped out every single comeback charge by the Pacers. You will see the Raptors win in this fashion regularly this season.
Two — Fred VanVleet was a charge shy of delivering a vintage Kyle Lowry game. VanVleet has been excellent since the home opener, following his career-high of 17 assists against Chicago with a career-high 10 rebounds in tonight’s win. VanVleet is emerging as the clear leader of this team, his only focus is on winning, and it shows up in the margins as much as it does in his impressive shotmaking.
There was a play in the fourth quarter where VanVleet made four rotations to cut off four Pacers drives, before the possession was ended by Chris Boucher‘s block. That’s the type of commitment it takes to win, and VanVleet is a shining example of how hard everyone else should be working.
This was also VanVleet’s best game of the year with his scoring, as he made several impressive moves off the dribble to create the space for his jumper, which was accurate both from the midrange and from 30-feet out.
Three — OG Anunoby is settling in after his frantic start. Anunoby was sensational all night on both ends, starting in the first quarter where he put up 14 points with ease. Playing out of the post has allowed him to calm down, to assess his options, before making a decisive move, and teams are having to bring double teams to slow him down because otherwise, Anunoby is burying his defender under the rim. The bully ball approach comes much more naturally than when he tries to attack from the perimeter, although he’s starting to find his bearings from there as well, and his touch from three is rounding back to form.
What cannot be questioned is his defence, which remains airtight and suffocating each and every minute he’s on the floor. Anunoby collected five steals, but his best play was on a closeout to end the first half, where he had a step inside the paint as the shot was released but was somehow still able to swat the shot out of play.
Four — Scottie Barnes keeps wowing us. You can see the maturity in his approach even as compared to Summer League and pre-season. Nick Nurse’s message is for Barnes to attack downhill and to attack every time, and he’s starting to get it. Barnes is so strong that he’s going to get to whatever spot on the floor he damn pleases, and he’ll be balanced enough to fire the shot off cleanly.
Even when he misses, Barnes has a great chance of getting the putback because the momentum of his drives often knocks his defender backwards. Case in point: Barnes took it strong to the cup against Domantas Sabonis, who stands seven-foot weighing 260 pounds, yet it was he who bounced back from the contact instead of Barnes, who collected the second chance basket off the initial miss.
Keep in mind that Barnes is only 20-years-old, and that he will continue to gather strength and agility through more time with a professional training staff. It’s genuinely scary to think about how more dominant he will be in a few years.
Five — Nurse was a man of his word and moved Dalano Banton into his rotation. Nurse dismissed Malachi Flynn‘s claim to more playing time and he benched accomplished veteran Goran Dragic because he believes in Banton and his faith was rewarded. Banton was the first player off the bench in both halves, and he was great each time in how he changed the energy of the game.
Banton mixed in two driving layups along with two catch-and-shoot threes for his 10 points in 16 minutes, which is the best guard play the Raptors have had off the bench all season. Banton’s speed really pops when you see it in person, because a six-foot-nine player handling the ball should not be anywhere close to as fast as Banton is. On one of his two layups, Banton got the inbound pass off a Pacers basket, and raced downhill so fast that he beat every single player down the court, and a helpless T.J. McConnell could only swipe at him as he dashed in for the and-one finish. Banton is the fastest player on the team changing ends with the ball.
Six — The introduction of Banton as the backup point guard had a cascading effect on the Raptors’ defence. The smallest player on the floor became VanVleet, who is an all-word defender on account of his anticipation and his toughness. The next smallest players were Svi Mykhailiuk and Gary Trent Jr., both at six-foot-six with a combined seven steals between them, and the rest of the rotation were six-foot-nine forwards with seven-foot wingspans. Simply put, the Pacers had nowhere to go because the Raptors had a hand in every passing lane, were aggressive in their double teams, and there were no mismatches anywhere for a Pacers player to attack one-on-one.
One of the oddest sights from this game was seeing the ease in which Banton swatted McConnell’s driving layup, because not only did Banton match him for quickness which allowed him to cut off the drive, but he was also a foot taller against someone at his own position.
Seven — Nurse’s defensive scheme against Sabonis continues to be excellent. Sabonis is normally a dominant post player who is crafty with his passing while also being physical in the paint, but Nurse’s strategy of swarming him with triple teams at times completely cut him off. Sabonis went from scoring 33 points in his season opener, to only attempting four shots. The Raptors closed down on him so hard that Sabonis didn’t even score a single basket after the seven-minute mark of the first quarter.
Credit goes to Precious Achiuwa and Khem Birch for bodying him up and denying him position, but the way Trent Jr., Anunoby, and VanVleet flustered him was breathtaking to watch. Even though Sabonis is an elite passer for a center, he recorded only three assists against four turnovers.
Eight — Chis Boucher finished the game much stronger than he started it. He opened his account with many of the same mistakes that drive coaches crazy, such as being late to closeout, failing to hold his position because he didn’t seal his man and taking ill-advised shots. But he did get 18 minutes tonight from Nurse because his defence came around in the fourth quarter.
Boucher recorded a block at the rim, changed a pair of shots at the rim with his length, and on his most positive sequence, he resisted his urge to leave his feet on a pump fake, kept his man in front, and forced a shot-clock violation. Boucher needs to understand that Nurse will reward him for being solid, not for the spectacular.
Nine — The only issue with the Raptors stacking up so many forwards is the lack of shooting. It didn’t hurt them tonight since VanVleet and Anunoby combined for 10 of their 14 threes, but their shooting drops off significantly when one or both players hit the bench. The spacing is especially tight for the second unit, where Mykhailiuk is often the only threat from deep, and that’s one threat that Dragic and Flynn provide which Banton ordinarily wouldn’t.
There’s not a great in-house solution to this problem outside of Boucher finding his rhythm, which is why Nurse should look to keep giving him chances. And with Banton’s length on the floor at point guard, maybe there is some more leeway defensively to where Boucher can make up the gap with his shooting.
Ten — Adding Pascal Siakam and Yuta Watanabe back to this group will supercharge the defence. There will be a new rotation to be sorted out, both in how Siakam slots in with the starters and how Nurse wants to deploy Wanatabe with the bench, but managing the fit is simply a matter of getting enough scoring on the floor. Watanabe could either take Mykhailiuk’s minutes at shooting guard, or he can be Boucher’s replacement as the backup power forward, while Siakam joining a starting group with Anunoby, VanVleet, Barnes, and one of Trent Jr. or Achiuwa is a scary proposition in how versatile and tough the Raptors will be on defence.
Penguins’ Sidney Crosby remains out of lineup Thursday vs. Flames – Sportsnet.ca
Crosby has yet to play this season after having wrist surgery in August. On Wednesday, Sullivan told media Crosby was “real close” to returning to the lineup.
“We’ll see how he responds,” Sullivan said Wednesday. “We’ll listen to the medical staff and we’ll make decisions accordingly. But we’re really encouraged with his progress.”
Crosby has been practicing regularly with the Penguins in recent days and was a participant in the team’s optional morning skate Thursday morning.
Sullivan also provided brief updates on his two players in COVID protocol, saying Kris Letang remains symptomatic and Jeff Carter is still asymptomatic. He added that Carter could rejoin the team for practice on Friday.
The Penguins have a light schedule over the next week with a game against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday and then four days off before they face the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 4.
NBA roundup: Thunder shock Lakers with 26-point comeback
Alexander scored 27 points to help the host Oklahoma City Thunder rally from 26 down to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 123-115 on Wednesday night.
The comeback matched the largest in Thunder history and helped the team claim its first win of the season despite several late miscues.
Up three in the final minute, Oklahoma City had a timeout remaining but didn’t use it, and Gilgeous-Alexander couldn’t get the ball across halfcourt in time, giving the ball back to Los Angeles with 16.8 seconds remaining. Malik Monk then missed a 3-pointer, the Thunder gave up the ball again, and Carmelo Anthony missed another.
Russell Westbrook, making his first appearance for the Lakers in the city where he spent his first 11 NBA seasons, was ejected in the closing seconds after being called for his second technical foul of the game. Westbrook was upset after Darius Bazley’s steal and dunk in the last five seconds.
Kings 110, Suns 107
Harrison Barnes buried a tiebreaking 3-pointer at the final horn, allowing Sacramento, after blowing a late 13-point lead, to escape with a dramatic victory at Phoenix.
Buddy Hield came off the bench to score a team-high 26 points, Barnes finished with 22 and De’Aaron Fox chipped in with 18 for the Kings, who opened a four-game trip by snapping a two-game losing streak.
Devin Booker paced the Suns with a game-high 31 points while DeAndre Ayton had 21 to go with a game-high 21 rebounds, but the Suns never went ahead after losing the lead for good late in the third quarter.
Hawks 102, Pelicans 99
Trae Young scored 31 points and John Collins added a double-double as visiting Atlanta held off New Orleans.
Collins finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, including a tiebreaking putback in the final minute. Atlanta’s De’Andre Hunter scored 13, and Bogdan Bogdanovic added 12.
Devonte’ Graham scored 21 points, Brandon Ingram had 20 points and eight assists and Jonas Valanciunas had 16 points and 15 rebounds for the Pelicans.
Trail Blazers 116, Grizzlies 96
CJ McCollum recorded 25 points and six rebounds and Damian Lillard added 20 points and 10 assists to help Portland post a victory over visiting Memphis.
Jusuf Nurkic added 17 points, eight rebounds and three steals and Anfernee Simons scored 17 points off the bench for the Trail Blazers. Portland committed 14 turnovers after giving the ball up 30 times in Monday’s 116-86 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Desmond Bane scored 19 points for the Grizzlies on Wednesday before leaving with a cut over his eye late in the third quarter. Ja Morant had 17 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds for Memphis, which dropped to 1-2 on a four-game Western road swing that ends Thursday against the Golden State Warriors.
Raptors 118, Pacers 100
Fred VanVleet scored 26 points and grabbed a career-best 10 rebounds and Toronto defeated visiting Indiana.
OG Anunoby added 25 points with five steals and Scottie Barnes had 18 points, seven assists and seven rebounds for the Raptors, who won for the second time in five games this season and for the first time in four home games.
Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, who had 18 points, left the game early in the third quarter with a sore left hamstring and did not return. Chris Duarte scored 14 points for the Pacers, who have lost four of five games.
Cavaliers 92, Clippers 79
Collin Sexton scored 26 points, Evan Mobley recorded 12 points and 10 rebounds in his return to Los Angeles and Cleveland led the Clippers nearly wire-to-wire.
Cleveland never trailed en route to its third consecutive win and second on a five-game road swing, and the score was tied only once. A Sexton free throw inside the first three minutes gave the Cavaliers a 3-2 lead, and they were on top the rest of the way.
Cleveland locked up Los Angeles defensively, holding the Clippers to just 35.6 percent shooting from the floor and 22 percent (9 of 41) from behind the 3-point arc. The Cavaliers struggled from long range as well, going 3 of 20 (15 percent).
Timberwolves 113, Bucks 108
D’Angelo Russell scored a team-high 29 points and had six assists as Minnesota held on for a win at Milwaukee.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards finished with 25 points apiece for the Timberwolves, who won their first road game of the season. Jarred Vanderbilt posted a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds in his first start of the season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 40 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists for the Bucks. Khris Middleton added 16 points and Grayson Allen had 13.
Heat 106, Nets 93
Bam Adebayo totaled 24 points and nine rebounds as visiting Miami dominated inside against Brooklyn.
Jimmy Butler added 17 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and four steals. P.J. Tucker added 15 points and seven boards as the Heat survived shooting 39.6 percent.
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 25 points, but the Nets shot just 38.8 percent and scored two baskets in the final 4:33. The Nets lost for the third time in five games this season, and each loss has been by double digits.
Wizards 116, Celtics 107
Montrezl Harrell tallied 25 points and 11 rebounds, Spencer Dinwiddie added 22 points and Washington held off host Boston.
Dinwiddie’s layup with 48.8 seconds to go made it 112-107 and he sealed the game with four free throws in the final 27.1. Beal had 17 points and 10 rebounds, Kyle Kuzma scored 12 with eight boards and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 11 for Washington, which has won three of four to open the season.
Jayson Tatum had 23 points and seven rebounds and Schroder scored 22 with six assists to lead the Celtics, who fell to 0-2 at home.
Hornets 120, Magic 111
Miles Bridges scored 31 points, Jalen McDaniels and Cody Martin combined for 28 points off the bench, and Charlotte returned to the win column vs. host Orlando.
Bridges went 11-for-21 from the floor, knocking down five 3-pointers, as the Southeast Division-leading Hornets rebounded from an overtime loss to Boston two days earlier. Bridges hit 20 points for a fourth straight game, marking the longest such streak of his career. Gordon Hayward contributed 24 points, five rebounds and five assists, helping Charlotte improve to 3-0 on the road this season.
Orlando, which fell to 0-2 at Amway Center this season, had five players score in double figures, led by Cole Anthony’s 24 points. Wendell Carter Jr. contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds and Terrence Ross came off the bench to score 18 points.
–Field Level Media
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