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Canucks getting Jacob Markstrom at his best when they need it most –



VANCOUVER – Four weeks after turning a three-goal lead into their most embarrassing night of the season by disintegrating and letting the Pittsburgh Penguins pour in five goals in the final 14 minutes, the Vancouver Canucks took a conservative approach in the rematch with Evgeni Malkin’s team on Saturday.

They did not allow the Penguins a first-period shot.

Malkin finished with one point instead of five, and the Canucks beat the Penguins 4-1 at Rogers Arena. Those two things were directly related.

But the story underlying both continued to be goalie Jacob Markstrom, who made 28 saves in his seventh straight start. Six of those have come since Canucks backup Thatcher Demko suffered a concussion from friendly fire during practice.

When the Canucks have needed Markstrom the most, the goalie has played his best stretch of the season.

Vancouver is only 3-4 in those seven games, but it’s possible the Canucks wouldn’t have won any had Markstrom not been in supreme form. He has stopped 216 of 234 shots for a save percentage of .923.

And he is doing this after an emotionally-agonizing autumn when Markstrom’s father lost his battle with cancer back in Sweden.

“I don’t think he ever really got in a rhythm just with the way his year has gone,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “Unfortunately, with what happened to him, he has left the team a few times and that probably has derailed him from getting into a rhythm a bit. He’s definitely in one right now.”

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Veteran centre Jay Beagle said: “This guy, he battles so hard in practice. He works hard off the ice. He’s just a true pro; I only have good things to say about him and his game. It’s hard for anyone, obviously, to be in and out of the lineup. You do get rolling once you play some consecutive games. There is a certain thing where rhythm makes a big difference. He’s playing more now and looking like himself. He’s won us a lot of games.”

The Canucks have won two games this homestand when it seemed possible a few days ago they’d win none.

The team was teetering towards a full-blown crisis when it opened with a 3-1 loss on Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens, the Canucks’ fourth defeat in five games.

But the Canucks won 5-4 in overtime Thursday against the Vegas Golden Knights, who they had beaten only once since the National Hockey League opened an outlet in Nevada, and on Saturday managed their win against a Pittsburgh team that was 7-1 in its previous eight games.

You just never know with these Canucks.

“Of course that last game (in Pittsburgh) was in the back of our heads,” centre Elias Pettersson said after scoring for the fourth time in four games. “We didn’t want to think about it too much, but we used it as fuel tonight.”

After a shotless opening 10 minutes, the Penguins must have gotten bored because they started taking penalties to get the game going.

Starting with a high-sticking double-minor to Dominik Simon at 12:24, the Penguins took eight minutes in penalties in a span of 87 seconds, leaving the Canucks with a two-minute five-on-three and an uninterrupted power play of 4:36.

By the time the Penguins’ penalty box was empty, the Canucks led 2-0.

After an opening goal by J.T. Miller was wiped out by a coach’s challenge — Quinn Hughes put himself offside 62 seconds before Miller scored at 14:05 — Jake Virtanen’s one-timer at 15:10 was as beyond doubt as it was beyond Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray’s catching glove.

Miller doubled the lead at 17:00 with a second power-play goal, a deft, top-shelf redirection of Oscar Fantenberg’s shot-pass to the high slot.

The Canucks did not allow a shot on goal in the first period, marking the first time since 2002 that the Penguins did not test the opposition goalie at least once during a 20-minute frame.

Markstrom required that 20 minutes of rest in order to play the second period, when the Penguins had two more power plays and outshot the Canucks 20-6.

Jake Guentzel guided a rebound into the net from Jared McCann’s power-play blast to halve the Canucks lead to 2-1 at 15:28.

But the Canucks, who collapsed when the Penguins leaned on them late in that dismal 8-6 loss on Nov. 27, displayed impressive resilience by answering just 44 seconds later when Pettersson roofed a Tyler Myers rebound after getting free from Penguins defenceman Marcus Pettersson (no relation).

Three of Elias Pettersson’s last four goals have been greasy. The 21-year-old is learning to play in hard areas.

“If I was accepting, like, being stamped out, boxed out, I wouldn’t be able to score that goal,” he said. “So I’m always trying to be hard on myself and work hard.”

“I think he’s evolving,” Green said. “He’s a very bright, young player. He listens. In hard games, he knows he’s got to go to hard areas, and he is. All the top players in the league, they play in those types of games and they go to hard areas.”

Brock Boeser made it 4-1 with 5:29 remaining, intercepting a Pittsburgh clearance before working a give-and-go with Pettersson.

“We did a lot of good things and it was nice to get the win,” Beagle said. “But we’ve got to continue to build here. We’ve got to be better. We can’t be satisfied with 14 shots (and) Marky standing on his head.”

Well, the goalie-standing-on-his-head part is pretty good.

The Canucks finish their pre-Christmas homestand Monday against the Edmonton Oilers.

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Jake Muzzin strikes nerve with Matthew Tkachuk, earns retribution for Maple Leafs – Yahoo Sports



Matthew Tkachuk lost his cool. (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

For 60 complete minutes there was, perhaps predictably, little-to-no response from the Toronto Maple Leafs in their return clash with the Calgary Flames following Matthew Tkachuk’s contact with now-injured backup netminder Jack Campbell in their previous engagement two days ago. With no code enforced, the Flames forward wasn’t pressured into a fight with Wayne Simmonds or Zach Bogosian, and was instead provided the opportunity to simply play his game.

But just as the Leafs secured their third and fourth points from the two-game road set in Calgary, there was a perfectly subtle, savvy and veteran effort to acknowledge both Tkachuk’s presence and wrongdoings.

It appeared totally innocuous, but Leafs defender Jake Muzzin clearly connected with a nerve when he flipped a perfectly-weighted puck at a kneeled Tkachuk, which landed softly in his lap just as the buzzer finished sounding to end the game.

Failing to appreciate how easy he was let off in the game in that moment, or perhaps just incensed with the result, Tkachuk lost his mind in response to the perceived disrespect, trying desperately to confront Muzzin.

But after failing to accomplish anything with his initial contact with the howling Leafs defender, all he managed to do was make a mess of the game, coming up short in his attempts to work back through the mess of uninterested parties.

Tkachuk then took out his frustration at the Flames bench while his teammates patiently waited for the outburst to conclude.

For Muzzin and the Leafs, it couldn’t have worked out better. Tkachuk was largely a non-factor in the game and wasn’t given the chance to earn respect by fighting a bigger and stronger opponent to atone for his role in the Campbell incident, like he has several times previously in his career.

Instead he’ll have to stew on the incident, the outburst and the jokes online for nearly another month before the two teams finally meet again.

Then we’ll see if he’s the one looking for payback.

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Jake Muzzin strikes nerve with Matthew Tkachuk, earns retribution for Maple Leafs – Yahoo Canada Sports




Back to school: Brad Gushue pursuing master’s degree amid chaotic curling season

World Junior champion. World champion. Olympic champion. Three-time Brier champion. The list of accomplishments for Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue is lengthy. There isn’t anything left in curling for him to win. He’s done it all. Now in the winter of his career, the 40-year-old, who’s preparing to head to Calgary next month for upwards of eight weeks to compete in a number of bonspiels, is heading back to class. Gushue is the early days of working towards his Masters of Business at Queen’s University. “I’m a sucker for punishment I think. It just felt like the right time,” Gushue said. “I don’t think I would have done this if the pandemic wasn’t here and didn’t have the curling season we’ve had.” Sitting around and thinking about things isn’t something Gushue particularly enjoys. He’s a perfectionist on the ice — early in his career he’d throw more than 100 rocks a day. That changed when curling great Kevin Martin told him to tone it down. So when there was some down time this past summer in the midst of an incessant pandemic, Gushue started to think about life after curling in a way he hasn’t before, and decided on going back to class. “I was kind of thinking post-curling career, whether that’s in a year in a half, five and a half years or nine and a half years, what do I want to transfer into?” he told CBC Sports from his home in St. John’s, N.L. “As a business owner right now, there were a lot of positives to doing this. I guess the downside is that for this next year I’m going to be pretty busy and have to get back to studying, which I haven’t done in 17 years. Gushue is co-owner with teammate Mark Nichols of Orange Theory Fitness studio in St. John’s. Out of his comfort zone All those years ago Gushue got his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Memorial University. It’s been a long time since he’s been in this type of setting. He’s certainly out of his comfort zone — in the rings and in the hack — and now fully immersed in the books. The only thing he’s finding some sort of resemblance to curling is the team aspect of the program. Gushue says about 50 per cent of the course is team-based learning. During their first meeting Gushue says some of his team members recognized him. Others didn’t, but quickly googled who he was. “Then the questions came,” he said, laughing. “It’s been interesting.” Gushue says his six other team members, many who are fresh off their first degree, have been a massive support system so far. The skip is used to calling the shots, confident in his every move. That’s not the case on this school-studying team. “I feel like I’m the weak link. I’d be fifth if this was a curling team. No disrespect to fifths,” he said. “I wouldn’t be throwing the last rock. Let’s just say that.” WATCH | Breaking down Calgary curling bubble: Brier schedule Gushue, like he does before any major competition, has mapped out what his Brier schedule and school schedule are, and how much time he’ll be able to put into his studies while trying to win a fourth national championship. In the beginning of the event he says he’ll probably put about two hours a day into his studies between or after games to end the day. The ideal plan for Gushue is to win the Brier, play in the mixed doubles national championship, play in the men’s world championship and then stay a little longer to compete in the two Grand Slam events — he then has to quarantine for two weeks when he returns to St. John’s. It’ll be a long haul but Gushue takes comfort in knowing he’s using that time effectively by working towards a master’s degree. “When I went into this I spoke to the director and I talked to him about my priorities in trying to get back to the Olympics,” Gushue said. “It shouldn’t conflict with any classes.” His classes are every second Sunday and Monday. Curling championships are played on Sundays. Gushue won’t say what championship event and classes could collide, not wanting to jinx it, but he insists they’ve talked about a plan should it come to that. “That’s a problem I’m willing to entertain.”

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BBWAA rejects Schilling's removal request – TSN



Curt Schilling’s request to be removed from Baseball Hall of Fame consideration appears to be heading for rejection.

A day after the three-time World Series champion asked to have his name taken off the ballot for 2022 following his failure to reach Cooperstown for a ninth time, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America released a statement saying that such an accommodation cannot be made and is a violation of the rules set forth by the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s board of directors.

 The BBWAA secretary Jack O’Connell cited one rule in particular that would prevent Schilling’s wish from being granted:

“The duty of the Screening Committee shall be to prepare a ballot listing in alphabetical order eligible candidates who (1) received a vote on a minimum of five percent (5%) of the ballots cast in the preceding election or (2) are eligible for the first time and are nominated by any two of the six members of the BBWAA Screening Committee.” 

Schilling appeared on 71.1 per cent of ballots, falling 16 votes shy of the 75 per-cent threshold. The BBWAA urges the board to leave the six-time All-Star on the ballot for his final year of eligibility in 2022.

The Hall of Fame assigned the BBWAA to be the electorate in 1936,” O’Connell said. “This association has abided by the rules for 85 years and shall continue to do so. The BBWAA urges the board to reject Mr. Schilling’s request.”

Schilling’s candidacy has been a controversial one because of the views espoused by the 54-year-old right-hander in retirement.

A staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, Schilling voiced support for the Capitol riots of Jan. 6, causing a number of Hall of Fame voters to ask if their votes for Schilling could be rescinded.

Along with Schilling, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will also appear on the ballot for the final time in 2022.

Schilling is not the first person to ask to have his name removed from the ballot.

In 2009, after falling a single vote short of Cooperstown, former MLBPA executive director Marvin Miller asked to be taken off the 2010 ballot.

“Many years ago, those who control the Hall of Fame decided to re-write history instead of recording it,” Miller said at the time. “The aim was to eradicate the tremendous impact the players union on the progress and the development of the game as a competitive sport, as entertainment and as an industry.”

Miller would finally be elected to Cooperstown in 2019, seven years after his death in 2012.

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