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.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 20, 2019
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…
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.
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.
• 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.
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• 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.
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.
Jimmy Butler steals the show on NBA media day with ‘emo’ phase look following Damian Lillard’s trade to the Milwaukee Bucks
Whether or not Miami Heat’s golden child Jimmy Butler’s new “emo” look is just a phase, the NBA star carried it off with some aplomb, drawing plenty of laughs from his teammates.
One year on from his memorable fake dreadlocks look, the 34-year-old outdid himself by turning up at the Heat’s media day on Monday sporting a straightened fringe, piercings in his eyebrow and lips and painted black nails.
Butler said he’s now “emo” and after the summer he and the Heat have had, who can blame him?
After former Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and his agent publicly stated on numerous occasions that he would only want to play for Miami, it seemed like a matter of when, not if, the 33-year-old would end up in South Beach.
Butler led the Heat to an improbable NBA Finals appearance as the eight seed last season, so it’s easy to imagine his excitement at the prospect of Lillard’s addition to the roster pushing the team over the top and to its first title in the post-Lebron James era.
However, the Milwaukee Bucks swooped in last week with a package that blew Miami’s out of the water, meaning Lillard will now be plying his trade in Wisconsin and not Florida.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, laugh it up,” Butler said as he entered his press conference, pushing his fringe out of his eyes. “I’m emo. This is my emotional state, I’m at one with my emotions so this is what you get.”
Despite failing to acquire Lillard and losing key contributors Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, Butler remains confident ahead of the upcoming season, telling reporters the Heat are going to win it all.
If it’s good news that he’s now at one with his emotions, Butler might just also be a gifted method actor and isn’t actually going through a belated “emo” phase. The six-time All Star could be heard saying “don’t make me break character” as he entered the press conference.
His new character was certainly a hit with his teammates and had Bam Adebayo crying tears of laughter as the pair were having their photos taken for the new season – which means, yes, Butler will have this hair in official photos for the entire year.
Certainly not someone to do things by halves, Butler was fully immersed in his new state and even posted songs from emo bands on his Instagram story throughout the day.
Finding Your Perfect Match: The Best Ways to Choose an Online Sportsbook
In the ever-expanding world of online sports betting, selecting the right sportsbook is crucial. This is to ensure an enjoyable and secure gambling experience. With numerous options available, it can be challenging to find the perfect fit. For instance, you can be looking into sites like BestOdds to find a sportsbook to go with but do not know what exactly to check.
This article will explain the basics of finding an excellent online sportsbook.
Licensing and Regulation
The first and most critical factor when choosing an online sportsbook is ensuring it operates in a legal and transparent manner. A reputable sportsbook should possess a valid license from a recognized regulatory authority. These licenses indicate that the sportsbook adheres to strict standards, including fair play, responsible gambling and financial security.
Before registering, check for the sportsbook’s licensing information. In most cases, you will find this in the footer of their website. Some of the most reputable regulatory bodies for online sports betting include the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission.
Additionally, research the sportsbook’s track record for regulatory compliance and any previous non-payment or unethical practices incidents. User reviews and industry news sources can provide valuable insights into the sportsbook’s reputation.
Odds and Betting Markets
The quality of odds and the variety of betting markets offered are key factors in determining the suitability of an online sportsbook. Competitive odds provide better potential returns for your bets, while a wide range of markets allows you to explore different betting options.
Compare odds from multiple sportsbooks to ensure you get the best bet value. Some websites and apps even offer odds comparison tools to make this process more convenient.
Moreover, consider the breadth of sports and events covered by the sportsbook. Whether you’re into mainstream sports like football, basketball, or soccer or niche sports and events, the sportsbook should offer diverse markets to cater to your preferences.
Security and Payment Options
Security is paramount when sharing personal and financial information with an online sportsbook. Look for sportsbooks that employ the latest encryption technologies, such as SSL (Secure Socket Layer), to safeguard your data. Consider factors like two-factor authentication (2FA) to enhance account security further.
Payment options are another critical aspect. Ensure the sportsbook offers convenient and secure methods for depositing and withdrawing funds. Common payment methods include credit/debit cards, bank transfers, e-wallets (like PayPal or Skrill) and cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin). Choosing a sportsbook that supports your preferred payment method is essential to streamline your betting experience.
As LeBron James enters Year 21, the theme of Lakers media day was passing the torch and sharing the load
The budding relationship between fifth-year forward Rui Hachimura and four-time MVP LeBron James has been one of the stories of the offseason for the resurgent Los Angeles Lakers. Stories of the two working out together have become commonplace. “I call him my Daniel-san and I’m Mr. Miyagi,” James joked at Lakers’ media day Monday. It was an appropriate comparison not just between James and Hachimura, but the legend and his entire team.
Now that Udonis Haslem has called it a career and Andre Iguodala is seemingly headed in that direction, James is officially the NBA’s oldest active player. He proved that he is still a superstar on the court last season, but aside from Anthony Davis and Taurean Prince, all of his Laker teammates are at least a decade his junior. In a perfect world, the days of James pushing for 30-point triple-doubles on a nightly basis are now over. He has a group of young teammates eager to learn from his example and lift him up when he needs it.
“I think with this team we have the most depth,” new Lakers big man Christian Wood said Monday. “No team in the league has more depth than we have.” This was the goal of the Lakers’ offseason. Though they didn’t make any particularly splashy additions, six of the seven Lakers to play at least 200 postseason minutes are back this season. Joining them are Gabe Vincent, a starter on Miami’s finalist from a season ago, and Wood, one of the NBA’s most dynamic scoring big men. Rounding out the new-look bench are former first-round picks Taurean Prince (29), Cam Reddish (24) and Jaxson Hayes (23). That youth-oriented approach was no accident, as Lakers coach Darvin Ham explained Friday.
“Now that we have, top-to-bottom, what we feel is a highly balanced, skilled, athletic, younger team of guys that have logged a ton of NBA minutes, we can surround both he and AD with these players who are coming in eager to contribute, eager to show that they can impact winning,” Ham said. “That’s gonna allow us to be able to be more efficient with his game-to-game minutes.”
Managing James’ minutes was difficult last season. The Lakers lacked depth on a roster depleted by the Russell Westbrook trade, and when Davis was hurt, James needed to carry a remarkable burden just to keep the Lakers afloat. He averaged 24.1 shots and 34.6 points per game between Dec. 18 and Jan. 24, Davis’ longest extended absence of the season. Roughly one month later, he suffered the foot injury that hampered him for the rest of the season. It’s an outcome Davis is hoping to avoid this time around.
“It’s my goal every year to play 82,” Davis said. Though likely unobtainable, keeping Davis on the floor will be essential to the Lakers’ championship hopes this season. In fact, James might even argue that his co-star’s health is more important than his own. “He is the face [of the franchise],” James said at media day. For stretches last season, he was among the NBA’s best players. Between Nov. 13 and his own injury on Dec. 13, Davis averaged 32.4 points per game while doubling as the league’s best defensive player.
But for the Lakers to realize their considerable potential, he’ll have to sustain that dominance for longer stretches. The supporting players, who were so instrumental in lifting the Lakers from out of the top-10 in the West and into the Western Conference finals, will have to continue to benefit from James’ presence as Hachimura has. The Lakers went from cellar-dweller to contender last season when they morphed from an older, star-driven roster to a younger, balanced one, and whether that means Davis stepping into James’ role as the focal point of the team or the role players improving with another year in the system, the Lakers made it clear at media day that they plan to continue that transformation.
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