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Canadiens’ Julien should share some blame for loss to Blackhawks – Sportsnet.ca

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MONTREAL — Claude Julien was asked about Charlie Lindgren’s performance in Montreal’s 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday and his response was that it was a team effort in losing.

The coach played his role, too. And we’re not talking about his decision to start Lindgren over Carey Price, who had stopped 72 of 73 shots in two wins prior to the game against a Blackhawks team that had scraped out an overtime win in Ottawa the night before while the Canadiens were resting and waiting for them in Montreal.

If the Canadiens started this one completely out of sorts, allowing Zack Smith (he of two goals in 40 games) to score two goals in the first nine minutes — and one in comedic fashion thanks to a miscommunication between Lindgren and Tomas Tatar — it was at least in part because Julien didn’t have them as well-prepared as they should have been.

But perhaps the most confounding thing to happen in this one came after Max Domi took a reckless, careless, selfish (or as Julien later referred to it, useless) roughing penalty on Matthew Highmore at the 10:52 mark of the second period. And no, it wasn’t Julien’s decision to park Domi at the end of Montreal’s bench after Alex DeBrincat scored 35 seconds into the ensuing power play.

The real head-scratcher was the coach’s decision to keep Domi on the bench when Smith went off for high-sticking with 4:36 remaining in the middle period.

Julien was asked after the game about how he decided to toe the line between the message he wanted to send to his player and having to rely on an offensive type while trailing in the game.

“I did what I had to do,” the coach responded. “You take a useless penalty like that, there’s consequences.”

When we asked if he was tempted to motivate Domi by telling him he had cost the team a goal and that it was time for him to go out there and get it back with the power play opportunity, Julien said the following:

“Those questions (about) whatever you guys feel like…I did what I had to do, simple as that. I don’t have to explain it more than I did. It’s not the first time he’s taken a bad penalty. There’s consequences, and sometimes those messages (date back a lot further) than the situation right there. And it doesn’t matter who we put on (for the power play) instead of Max. Max is not the guy that’s going to score goals all the time here, so a power play is a five-man unit. It’s as simple as that.”

And this team is made up of 20 players and five coaches and everyone should wear the blame for a performance Julien classified as the team’s worst in 10 games.

We needn’t remind you the Canadiens had lost eight of 10 prior to Wednesday’s debacle.

For as bad as Montreal had started against Chicago, Phillip Danault scored 54 seconds into the second period to get the Canadiens back to 2-1. And even though Domi’s penalty was so ill-timed, and unquestionably worth more time away from the ice than the 35 seconds he spent in the box, he’s the second-highest scoring player on the team and he has to be out there to give you a chance at turning a 3-1 deficit into 3-2 heading to the third period.

Maybe the game plays out differently thereafter, instead of how it actually did — with the Canadiens allowing a goal to Drake Caggiula and getting out-shot 11-6 in the final frame.

“We weren’t there at all. It’s as simple as that,” Julien said. “They’re a team that has good sticks, which was clearly pointed out before the game, but we weren’t there at all. Not at all. We lost our battles for loose pucks, we made bad decisions, and we didn’t deserve a win at all.”

That’s all true.

And Domi, who had apologized for taking a bad penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct on top of it for a double-minor in the third period of a 4-3 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils back on Nov. 16, should have known better.

The 25-year-old, who blamed himself on that night, added, “I can’t do that, and it won’t happen again.”

But Domi is a feisty player, a player who always plays on the edge, and there was never a doubt he’d slip up again — even if he had only taken 10 minors this season before roughing up Highmore.

“During the play I certainly wasn’t trying to take a penalty,” he said about Wednesday’s situation. “But I watched the replay and it’s a penalty. So that’s how it goes. Unfortunately, they scored on that. You can’t do that — especially in the situation we’re in right now. It is what it is. Coach’s decision, and obviously I can’t afford to do that.”

There was consistency in Julien’s decision.

In Montreal’s 16th game of the season, he held Canadiens leading scorer Tomas Tatar out for most of the second period and all but four shifts in the third of a 3-2 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 7. This was after Tatar had taken minor penalties nine and 10 of the young season — both of them lazy stick infractions.

The thing is, the Canadiens are in a much more desperate situation now than they were then. They needed to turn their two-game win streak into three on Wednesday.

Even Larry David understands that, bad penalties aside, goal scorers need to be on the ice in crunch time.

Considering how they played against Chicago, it might not have mattered who came out on that failed power play while Domi was stapled to the bench.

But Domi has 11 points on the man-advantage this season, nearly twice what Nick Cousins, Jordan Weal and Artturi Lehkonen (six points) have combined for in that department, and he was highly motivated to make up for his error.

“Of course,” Domi said. “I think we’re all sitting there (wanting to do that)…”

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But Julien made his decision and held firm to it. He could have gone all the way with it by sitting Domi out for the rest of the game, but with only 20 minutes left for the Canadiens to come back he decided to play him — making the decision to leave him off that power play late in the second even more curious.

We have been outspoken about the job he’s done under the circumstances he’s had to deal with this season. We believe he’s done as well as anyone could with the roster he’s had and the injuries the Canadiens have been hit with.

But Julien’s decision on Wednesday played a role in Montreal’s loss to Chicago, and he should share some of the blame for the outcome.

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Esposito, Gainey celebrate legacies with Stars, Lightning in Cup Final – NHL.com

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The 2020 championship series being played at Rogers Place in Edmonton is the first Stanley Cup Final between two Sun Belt teams, each aiming for its second title.

Watching on TV from his hometown of Peterborough, Ontario, Gainey is pulling for the Stars, having arrived in Dallas in 1993 as GM of a relocated team that had been founded as the Minnesota North Stars as part of the NHL’s 1967 six-team expansion.

Bob Gainey behind the Dallas Stars bench.

It was Gainey who from the mid-to-late 1990s built Dallas into a Stanley Cup contender, then hit the pot of gold with the 1999 team going all the way.

“I’m happy to see the Stars where they are now,” said Gainey, who won five championships while playing his entire 1,160-game NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens. “I know that their fans in the Dallas area and those who follow them from afar are happy to see them there and they deserve to be there. They’re a really good team.

“I have the lucky situation where I could have a team in each conference and that would give me two horses in the race. I wouldn’t be in a danger zone unless the Canadiens and Stars ended up in the Final against each other.”

From a makeshift broadcast studio in Tampa Bay’s Amalie Arena, where he’s doing radio color commentary, Esposito loudly proclaims himself to be a fierce fan of the Lightning, having been a driving force in bringing the expansion team to Florida in 1992.

In Tampa Bay’s fledgling days, Esposito was team president, general manager and chief marketer, selling sponsorships, tickets and pretty much everything except arena beer. 

The native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, played 1,282 games between 1963-81 for the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, winning the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972 with the Bruins. He was a Lightning radio broadcaster when the team won its Cup in 2004.

Bob Gainey (left) and Phil Esposito early in their NHL careers.
 

As they now pull for their respective sides, Gainey, 66, and Esposito, 78, take great pride in the roles they played in building the Stars and Lightning, cherishing memories of importing the NHL into non-traditional hockey markets.

Gainey was coach and GM of the North Stars when the team moved south to begin the 1993-94 season, having coached and managed the team in Minnesota after cutting his coaching teeth in France in 1989-90, diving in immediately upon his NHL retirement as a player.

If Texas had a rich minor pro hockey history dating to the 1940s, the NHL would be a different product, one that hoped to share a crowded stage dominated by the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, baseball’s Texas Rangers and the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

“It was an unknown for me and for many of us who were involved,” Gainey said of the move. “We learned quickly more than 25 years ago that Dallas is a very avid sports-minded community. And people came to our games. The business community gave us a chance. They said, ‘This is a new entity, why not? This could be good.’ It took a lot of work by the parts of the organization that were trying to establish ticket and sponsorship sales. But eventually we got there, and we had a very, very good relationship with the community.”

Esposito, who was GM of the Rangers from 1986-89, had been feeling out the expansion process in the early 1990s when then-NHL President John Ziegler told him to stay away from Texas. Esposito had his eye on Florida anyway, and believed that the North Stars might be headed to Houston, his goaltending brother Tony’s final minor-pro stop on his way to the NHL.

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Phil Esposito with defenseman Roman Hamrlik, the No. 1 pick in the 1992 NHL Draft.
 

He recalls playing golf in Orlando when he took a call inviting him to Tampa to meet with high-profile lawyer Henry Paul, who ultimately would be a Lightning co-founder.

“As I’m driving into the city, there are no buildings. No buildings!” Esposito said. “I’m saying to myself, ‘Where are the buildings? How can this be the 12th largest television market in the country?’ I didn’t know anything about St. Pete, Clearwater, Bradenton or Brandon, where we’d have fans. I didn’t know anything about Tampa then. All I knew was that they had the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they weren’t very good. I thought we could steal a lot of their business. 

“I went to Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville before deciding to come to Tampa. The decision was clear as a bell to me. I asked Henry Paul in our very first meeting, ‘Do you think hockey can survive in this area?’ Henry said, ‘Well, Phil, we love football, (NASCAR) car crashes, boxing and wrestling. Seems to me you’ve got all of that in hockey.’ I said, ‘I’m going for it, are you with me?’ and he said, ‘Yes, I am.’ That’s how it started — myself, Henry and our partner Mel Lowell.”

Gainey looks back fondly at the Stars 1999 Stanley Cup championship team, one that he helped assemble. 

From left, Bob Gainey, Marcel Dionne and Lanny McDonald with the Hall of Fame rings as members of the Class of 1992.

“We were able to pick up a player like Joe Nieuwendyk, for instance,” he said, the future Hall of Fame center acquired by trade from the Calgary Flames in 1995 for forwards Jarome Iginla and Corey Millen. “Free-agency arrived, and we found Pat Verbeek (in 1996) and Ed Belfour (1997). We learned how to win over two or three years of playoffs where we were eliminated — by Edmonton early (seven-game 1997 Western Conference Quarter-Finals), then a disappointing loss deeper in the playoffs to Detroit (six-game 1998 conference final). But those are the things that ultimately take you up to the next level of competition and allow you to really compete for the Cup.

“In 1999, we won our first game of the year, started the season in first place and didn’t leave it to win the Stanley Cup,” Gainey said. “It was an end-to-end commitment by the team and players to accomplish what had just been out of our reach the previous couple of years.”

It was the Stars’ championship parade, modest by most standards, that Gainey says was one of his most enjoyable and rewarding moments in Dallas.

“I realized that we had a cross-section of the whole city that was really enjoying the team’s success,” he said. “For me, that was the message that we weren’t just a flash like a sports team that enters a market and stays for a little while then leaves. We’d penetrated deeper and broader and the franchise, handled properly, could be there for a long time.”

Brothers Phil and Tony Esposito play a 1970s table hockey game bearing their names.

More than 1,000 miles to the east, Esposito remembers delegating many of the Lightning roster decisions to his brother, Tony, whom he brought in as director of player personnel. 

“I was busy selling tickets,” he said. “Tony would come to me and ask for my opinion and I’d just say, ‘Brother, do what you think is right, that’s fine with me.’ 

“I remember the first couple years, people up in Canada and the Boston and New York area saying that I was a raving (expletive) lunatic for trying to put hockey in Florida. I just didn’t understand it. I think it was the ego of the Canadian media that couldn’t deal with it. The fact is, you play indoors. You keep the building at 69 or 70 degrees and the ice is fine.”

It’s with fatherly pride that Esposito supports the Lightning, and he gets a kick out of fans asking him whether he cheers for the Bruins, with whom he enjoyed his greatest playing success as a fearsome, record-setting sniper, or Tampa Bay.

“I tell them, ‘Are you kidding me? I gave birth to the Lightning. There’s no question. None,’ ” he said. “If the Lightning were out of the playoffs and Boston was still in, yeah, I’d probably cheer for Boston a little bit.

“Of course, I’m pulling for the Lightning. I’d love to see them win the Cup for (owner) Jeff Vinik and for the fans. It’ll make it even better around here. What’s going on downtown is amazing. And you know what? There are buildings in Tampa now. Lots of them.”

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Blue Jays sit 1 win away from clinching playoff berth after thumping Yankees – CBC.ca

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The Toronto Blue Jays showed Wednesday night why they could be a dangerous wild-card team in the playoffs.

Danny Jansen hit two solo homers as the Blue Jays used a 16-hit attack and eight-run sixth inning to bulldoze the New York Yankees 14-1 at Sahlen Field. Jansen had four hits and three runs to help the Blue Jays move closer to nailing down a playoff berth.

“Putting ourselves in this spot is a great feeling,” Jansen said. “But we’ve still got work to do.”

Toronto (29-27) trimmed its magic number to one with the victory and can secure its first post-season spot since 2016 with a win in Thursday’s series finale.

Cavan Biggio scored three times, Randal Grichuk added a pair of runs and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., had three RBIs. Starter Robbie Ray was effective over four-plus innings and A.J. Cole threw a scoreless fifth inning for the win.

Under Major League Baseball’s expanded playoff structure, 16 teams will reach the post-season. Division winners will be seeded No. 1 through No. 3 in each league, second-place teams will be seeded fourth through sixth, and two third-place wild-card teams will get the seventh and eighth seeds.

The Los Angeles Angels, currently ninth in the AL, kept their faint playoff hopes alive earlier Wednesday with a 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres.

Facing veteran right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (3-3), the Blue Jays took advantage of a couple breaks to put up two quick runs in the first inning.

With Biggio on after a leadoff walk, Teoscar Hernandez hit a double-play ball up the middle that took an unexpected high bounce near the lip of the grass and rolled into the outfield.

Guerrero stroked a single that scored Biggio with the game’s first run. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez tried to pick the young slugger off first base but a wide throw went down the right-field line as Hernandez trotted home.

Ray earns timely outs

Ray breezed through the first inning but issued two walks in the second. Gio Urshela singled to load the bases and a passed ball allowed Luke Voit to score the Yankees’ lone run.

New York loaded the bases with none out in the fifth inning. But Cole (3-0) held off the heart of the Yankees’ order by fanning Giancarlo Stanton and getting Voit — who leads the majors in homers — on an infield fly and then Gleyber Torres on a flyout.

“That was really the game,” Jansen said. “Saving that was huge for us. Bases loaded, no outs, coming in and getting that. There’s a lot of momentum swing right there.”

Toronto followed New York’s lead by putting its first three batters on base in the sixth. The Blue Jays took full advantage by batting around with a two-run single by Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Biggio’s two-run double serving as highlight blows.

The victory came a day after New York dumped Toronto 12-1.

“Today was a big game after yesterday,” said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. “That’s what they’ve done all year — come back from top losses. It was great to see, facing another good pitcher like Tanaka, coming back tonight and scoring all those runs. A big win for us.”

New York (32-24) had four hits and a season-high four errors. The Yankees have a magic number of one to secure a second-place finish in the East Division.

Ray, who was pulled after the first two batters reached in the fifth, allowed three hits, four walks and had five strikeouts. Tanaka gave up three earned runs, eight hits and three walks while striking out five.

Jansen, who went deep off Tanaka in the fourth, added another shot in the eighth off Yankees catcher Erik Kratz, giving the Toronto backstop six homers on the season.

Toronto was a wild-card entry when it last reached the post-season four years ago. The Blue Jays went on to reach the AL Championship Series for the second straight year.

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Jays win big, magic number is 1 – Bluebird Banter

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Yankees 1 Blue Jays 14

Our magic number is now 1. A win tomorrow (or in any of our last four games) would put us into the playoffs.

It is nice when the other team forgets how to play baseball. The Yankees made 4 official errors and a few unofficial ones. They were just playing bad baseball all night.

We got a good start from Bob Rae (as much as it hurts the old man in me to say that 4+ innings is a good start). Through four innings he allowed just 2 hits and 3 walks with 5 strikeouts. There was an unearned run against him, scoring on a passed ball (he and Jansen got crossed up, Ray threw a fastball, Jansen thought something bendy was coming). He went to full counts too much, but he kept the Yankees off the bases.

Ray allowed a walk and a single to start off the fifth and that was it. A.J. Cole came in a gave up a walk to load the bases. Looking at the final score, it doesn’t seem like there should have been a big moment of the game on the pitching side, but this was a big moment. We were up 5-1 with Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Viot and Gleyber Torres coming up. But Cole got a strikeout, popout and fly out. It was nice to see because Cole has had a rough time of it lately.

Ross Stripling pitched the last four inning, giving up just 1 hit with 1 strikeout. He gets a save on a game we won by 13.


We scored 2 in the first, 1 in the third, 2 in the fourth, 8 in the sixth and 1 in the eighth. Our hitters:

  • Cavan Biggio was 2 for 5 with a walk, double and 2 RBI.
  • Bo Bichette was 2 for 4, with 2 walks, double, 2 RBI (he had 3 walks on the season before tonight).
  • Teoscar Hernandez 1 or 4.
  • Randal Grichuk 1 for 4, 1 walk, 1 RBI.
  • Vladimir Guerrero was 2 for 5, double, 3 RBI. He had an interesting night. He misjudged a popup in the first inning. Thankfully it didn’t cost us a run. He drew a pick off throw from Gary Sanchez, by taking a few steps towards second on a strike and Sanchez threw wide of first, getting us a free run. Then an crushed RBI double in third, an RBI ground out. And he made a very nice play, again a going a long way off first to get a ball, but Stripling got to the bag at first in plenty of time, and Vlad made a nice throw hitting the moving target.
  • Lourdes Gurriel was 3 for 5 with an RBI.
  • Travis Shaw was 1 for 5 with an RBI.
  • Joe Panik only managed a walk.
  • Danny Jansen hit 2 home runs on a 4 for 4 night, with 3 RBI. Yes, one of the home runs was off Yankees’ catcher Erik Kratz (but it still counts).

Jays of the Day: Cole (.119 WPA), Vlad (.190) and Jansen (.107).

No Suckage Jays. Shaw had the low mark at -.063.

Tomorrow is our last game of this four game series against the Yankees and then we have a weekend series against the Orioles to end the season.


We had 847 comments in the GameThread. I led us to victory (and I didn’t even have a beer tonight). But I did have a nice day. I took a drive out in the country and saw the changing of the colours, while avoiding the news for a day. I’d say it was a mental health day, but there really is no mental health left.

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