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Canadiens Takeaways: Nick Suzuki stars in big win over Flames – Sportsnet.ca

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What a wild league this is.

The Montreal Canadiens collected three points over an eight-game span from the middle of November through the beginning of December, and with their win on Thursday night in Calgary they capped a 6-2-0 run and took control of second place in the Atlantic Division.

You just never know what you’re going to get in this NHL.

On this night, there was no way of predicting anything about the game between the hometown Flames, who wore white, and the visiting red-dressed Canadiens.

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It started with Calgary, who came into the game ranked dead last in the NHL in first-period goals, opening up a 2-0 lead over the first 20 minutes.

Then Flames goaltender David Rittich, who appeared infallible through the first half of the game, let a Brendan Gallagher shot from an impossible angle squeak through him.

Joel Armia tied the game for Montreal on a goal that was challenged for offside and easily could have been considered offside. Earlier this season in Montreal, Boston’s Charlie Coyle kicked a pass up to his stick but crossed the line before the puck caught up to his blade, and the goal that came off this skill play was disallowed on review because it was deemed he wasn’t in full possession of the puck. And on Thursday, in Calgary, Montreal’s Artturi Lehkonen tipped a pass to himself and crossed the line before the puck caught up to him, but it was deemed on a review he was in possession.

It was Lehkonen who set Armia up for his 12th goal of the season and the Canadiens got a power play on the failed challenge from Flames head coach Geoff Ward. Go figure.

After that, who would have predicted the Flames, who were 4-0-1 when tied after two periods, would take a 3-2 lead and then squander it and eventually lose it 4-3 in overtime to the Canadiens, who came into the game with a 4-6 record at three-on-three?

Not I. But here we are…

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Julien continues to show trust in Suzuki

With two minutes left in the third period, Canadiens coach Claude Julien had Nick Cousins, Nick Suzuki and Jordan Weal on the ice for a neutral-zone faceoff and motioned for them to make a change as soon as the puck was dropped.

On came Montreal’s top line of Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault and Gallagher.

Why?

Because Julien wanted to put Suzuki on with Cousins and Nate Thompson in the final minute. Yes, the coach with a (long-time) ill-perceived bias towards older players wanted his 20-year-old centreman on the ice in that pivotal situation.

Here we have yet another example of what coaches need to do in order to win games in today’s NHL and Julien is complying. They have no choice but to trust their young players, and the rewards of doing so often outweigh the pitfalls.

It helps that Suzuki is a rookie Julien referred to as “low maintenance” just last week.

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“He’s a good rookie, a smart rookie, and there’s been a lot of those coming through the league,” Julien said. “He’s having a good year so far. He’s shown progression since the start of the season. There’s still some areas we’d like to see him improve on, and that will come with time. It’s not because of a lack of something, it’s experience and him finding his way through this league.”

Last Saturday, following 2-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Julien said he felt Suzuki was one of several players he wanted to see more on the inside of the action as opposed to on the perimeter, and he added that the young star in the making shouldn’t get ahead of himself and start buying the hype around his game and thinking he’s already a star.

But after a strong performance for Suzuki in a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, the kid was arguably Montreal’s best skater in Calgary and Julien didn’t hold him back.

Suzuki had tied Thursday’s game at 3-3 at the end of the 12th minute of the third period, making a brilliant tip off a Cousins shot from the sideboards. It was his team-leading sixth puck on net and it resulted in his seventh goal of the season.

And Suzuki’s shift in the final minute of the third, and the one he got in overtime, put him up to 17:28 of ice time for the game, which is exactly as much as leading-goal scorer Gallagher played.

To say the London, Ont., native’s development is coming along well would be understating it. And Julien—and the other Montreal coaches, and Suzuki’s teammates—deserve as much credit for that.

QUICK HITS:

• Canadiens goaltender Carey Price was beat for three goals for the first time in six games, but had no chance on any of them. Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm scored tap-ins on cross-crease passes, and Oliver Kylington capped off a beautiful play from Johnny Gaudreau in the third period for his first goal of the season.

Meanwhile, without Price, the Canadiens would have had no chance at gaining one point in the standings, let alone two. He made remarkable saves throughout, finishing the game with 24.

In the second, Price made a brilliant stop on Tkachuk, who pulled the puck between his own legs and tried to beat the Montreal goaltender over his right shoulder. That kept the game at 2-0 Calgary and gave the Canadiens a chance to get back into it a couple of minutes later with Gallagher’s goal.

And in the third, Price’s point-blank toe-save on a T.J. Brodie one-timer was out of this world and it kept the score knotted at 3-3.

Senior Writer Ryan Dixon and NHL Editor Rory Boylen always give it 110%, but never rely on clichés when it comes to podcasting. Instead, they use a mix of facts, fun and a varied group of hockey voices to cover Canada’s most beloved game.

• One of the reasons 20-year-old Ryan Poehling was sent down to the American Hockey League’s Laval Rocket after his first four games with the Canadiens this season was because there was no room at centre and he looked terribly out of place on the wing, where he had never played before at any other level of hockey.

Well, it’s a clear sign of Poehling’s greatest skill—his hockey sense—that he has played exceptionally well on the wing since return from Laval four games ago. He’s looked so good at the position that Julien was asked on Thursday morning if that’s where he belongs.

“I’m not going to write off the fact that he can’t play centre,” Julien said. “But it’s nice to see those guys being able to be versatile because you need that. If something happens at centre and I need somebody, I know he can play there. There’s a lot of other guys, too, on our team, whether it’s (Jordan) Weal and that, we have a lot of guys who can play that position. But it’s not a bad thing for him to be able to play there right now.

“Maybe a little less responsibilities down low, although he’s been good at it. It just gives him an opportunity to play more energetic (and) forecheck. Instead of coming from low in your end, he’s up a little higher so his forecheck is valuable. He’s a big body, which we can certainly use, and he’s physical on the forecheck and also a big body going to the front of the net. So that’s been a good asset for us.”

Poehling was a good asset against Calgary.

• The game-winner off Max Domi’s stick was his seventh goal of the season, his first in 12 games and just his third goal in his last 22. Meanwhile, it was his 23rd point in his 35th game, which isn’t quite as disappointing as some have made it out to be.

Granted, Domi’s on pace for only 54 points after registering a career-high 72 a season ago. But it’s fair to say the 25-year-old misses Jonathan Drouin (injured on Nov. 15 and expected to be out until at least mid-January) more than just about anyone else on the Canadiens.

UP NEXT:

The Canadiens travel to Edmonton, where they’ll take on the Oilers on Saturday. They’ll be rested, but the Oilers will play against the Pittsburgh Penguins at 9 p.m. ET on Friday before playing at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday against Montreal.

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Chicago sexual assault scandal raises culture questions for NHL – CBC.ca

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WARNING: This story contains distressing details

For three weeks in 2010, they did nothing. That’s how long it took for the leadership of the Chicago NHL team to act on allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player.

Three weeks. Three weeks that — more than a decade later — rocked a once-proud franchise and raised more questions about the culture of sports.

In the span of 107 pages, featuring interviews with 139 witnesses, more than 100 gigabytes of electronic records and 49 boxes of hard-copy records, a report by an outside law firm detailed how senior leaders of the Chicago team seemingly ignored the sexual assault accusations raised with the franchise days before the team won its first Stanley Cup title since 1961.

The ramifications of the independent review, commissioned by the team in response to two lawsuits, stretched into several corners of the NHL, which fined the team $2 million for “the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response.”

Florida coach Joel Quenneville is slated to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday, and Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is planning to talk to the commissioner on Monday. Both were with the Chicago team when the accusations by Kyle Beach were first reported to team leadership.

Kyle Beach, a 2008 first-round draft pick, said Wednesday he felt ‘alone and dark’ in the days following the alleged assault. He said he is only now beginning the healing process. (Patrick Doyle/Reuters)

According to the report, Donald Fehr, the leader of the NHL players’ association, was contacted twice about allegations connected to the assistant coach, including by a Beach confidant. Fehr told investigators he couldn’t recall either conversation, but did not deny that they had occurred.

Beach felt ‘alone and dark’

Messages were left by the AP seeking comment from the NHLPA.

Beach, a 2008 first-round draft pick playing professionally in Germany, told TSN on Wednesday he felt “alone and dark” in the days following the alleged assault. He said he is only now beginning the healing process.

Beach, 31, had been referred to as John Doe in his lawsuit against the team. The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly.

In a statement attributed to the team, Chicago commended Beach for his courage in coming forward, and reiterated the organization’s “deepest apologies” for what he has gone through and its failure to promptly respond in 2010.

WATCH | Kyle Beach comes forward as ‘John Doe 1’ in Chicago scandal:

Kyle Beach comes forward as accuser in Chicago NHL sexual assault investigation

15 hours ago

Former draft pick Kyle Beach came forward in a TSN interview as the ‘John Doe’ who accused a former video coach for the Chicago NHL team of sexual assault. 2:05

Chicago’s CEO Danny Wirtz, the son of team chairman Rocky Wirtz, met with current players Wednesday, a day after the graphic report was released, leading to the departures of president of hockey operations Stan Bowman and Al MacIsaac, another top executive.

“I think the overriding message was that we, as in the organization, we’re here for you,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “The family is behind us. The organization’s behind us, and we’re going to do everything we can to move forward here.”

Rocky Wirtz said Tuesday that he and Danny were first made aware of the accusations ahead of a May filing of a lawsuit by Beach alleging sexual assault by then-assistant coach Brad Aldrich in 2010. The team also is facing a second lawsuit by a former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.

The team said their lawyers contacted Susan Loggans, an attorney who represents John Doe and the former student in the second lawsuit, on Tuesday about possible settlements. A call was set up for early next week.

According to the report, the encounter between Beach, then a 20-year-old minor leaguer called up in case Chicago needed help in the playoffs, and Aldrich, then 27, occurred on May 8 or 9 in 2010.

Stan Bowman on Tuesday resigned as Chicago GM following the release of the findings of a probe into allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player in 2010. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Beach told investigators that Aldrich threatened him with a souvenir baseball bat before forcibly performing oral sex on him and masturbating on the player’s back, allegations that he also detailed in his lawsuit.

Aldrich told investigators the encounter was consensual. Asked Wednesday about the law firm’s report, Aldrich responded: “I have nothing to say.”

About two weeks later, on May 23, 2010, right after Chicago advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, Bowman, MacIsaac, team president John McDonough, executive vice president Jay Blunk and assistant general manager Cheveldayoff met with Quenneville and mental skills coach Jim Gary to discuss the allegations.

Former federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who led the investigation, said accounts of the meeting “vary significantly.” But there was no evidence that anything was done about the accusations before McDonough contacted the team’s director of human resources on June 14 — a delay that violated the team’s sexual harassment policy, according to Schar.

During those three weeks, Aldrich continued to work for and travel with the team. Schar said Aldrich also “made an unwanted sexual advance” toward a 22-year-old team intern.

Beach told TSN seeing Aldrich around the team made him feel sick.

WATCH | Bowman resigns amid team’s sexual assault allegations:

Chicago’s GM resigns, team fined over delayed action after sexual assault allegations

2 days ago

The Chicago NHL team’s decision to delay taking action after a sexual assault allegation was made against a video coach has led to the resgination of the team’s general manager, a $2-million fine and questions about what needs to happen to other team officials who didn’t act sooner. 2:00

“I reported this and I was made aware that it made it all the way up the chain of command by [Jim Gary] and nothing happened,” Beach said. “It was like his life was the same as the day before. Same every day.

“And then when they won, to see him paraded around lifting the Cup, at the parade, at the team pictures, at celebrations, it made me feel like nothing.”

McDonough, Blunk and Gary are no longer employed in the NHL. Now Bowman and MacIsaac are out as well.

But the report makes clear that 11 years ago, winning the Cup took priority over taking immediate action on the Aldrich allegations; Bowman recalled that during the May 23 meeting, McDonough and Quenneville talked about the challenge of reaching the Stanley Cup Final and “a desire to focus on the team and the playoffs.”

‘These are human beings’

Bowman’s description of what happened was reminiscent of scandals at Baylor University, where assault claims against football players were mishandled by school officials, or at USA Gymnastics, still reeling from its mishandling of convicted serial sex abuser and team doctor Larry Nassar.

Loggans said she hopes what happened with Chicago leads to changes across sports.

“There has to be a change from a mentality of complete animalism, like let’s just completely ramp up the masculinity factor of these players and whatever it takes to win a game, we’ll do that,” she said. “There has to be some context, no different than being concerned about concussions in football games.

“It’s not winning at all costs. These are human beings. They’re not gladiators whose lives are going to be sacrificed in the game.”

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10 Things: Fred VanVleet emerging as Raptors’ clear leader – Sportsnet.ca

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Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors‘ 118-100 win over the Indiana Pacers.

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.

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Penguins’ Sidney Crosby remains out of lineup Thursday vs. Flames – Sportsnet.ca

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Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will not be making his season debut Thursday against the Calgary Flames, head coach Mike Sullivan announced.

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.

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