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Canucks injuries are making it tough to end their losing streak – Vancouver Is Awesome

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The start of the 2022-23 season hasn’t exactly gone to plan for the Vancouver Canucks. 

Mired in a seven-game losing streak, the Canucks desperately need to find a way to win a game. There are a lot of reasons why the team is struggling to find a win. There have been defensive breakdowns, struggles to break the puck out cleanly, and Thatcher Demko hasn’t stolen games the way he’s shown he’s capable of doing in the past. 

Not that it’s Demko’s fault, per se. He’s repeatedly faced shots that seemed impossible to stop. It’s just that Canucks fans have also seen him make seemingly impossible saves. Without Demko making those saves, the Canucks have been exposed. 

There’s another factor that has made it tough for the Canucks to buy a win and break out of their early-season slump: injuries.

A multitude of injuries on defence

Injuries aren’t an excuse — every NHL team deals with them — but they certainly don’t make things any easier for a team that was already in a tough spot. The Canucks have the forward depth to deal with injuries fairly well but their defensive depth is lacking.

At the start of the season, the Canucks were missing two defencemen — Tyler Myers with a lower-body injury and Travis Dermott with a concussion — as well as newly-acquired top-nine winger Ilya Mikheyev with a lower-body injury. Even as Myers and Mikheyev returned to the lineup after three games, other players hit the injured list. 

Tucker Poolman has played just three games this season and is now on long-term injured reserve with no timeline for a return. His 2021-22 season was ended by migraines, though there is no word on what is currently keeping him out of the lineup.

Riley Stillman hasn’t played since he took a hit to the head against the Minnesota Wild and is considered day-to-day.

That’s not to say there are no forwards injured. Brock Boeser, after recovering from hand surgery in time for the season opener, missed Monday’s game with an undisclosed injury and is day-to-day. Curtis Lazar was added to the injured reserve on Wednesday and is expected to miss three to four weeks after trying to play through an undisclosed injury. 

The injury that has hurt the most the last couple of games is to Quinn Hughes, a lower-body injury that head coach Bruce Boudreau called week-to-week, but general manager Patrik Allvin called day-to-day on Wednesday, saying he expects he’ll return next week.

Hughes is the only Canucks defenceman that can consistently evade the forecheck and break the puck out of the defensive zone. Without Hughes, the defence struggled in that area against the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes. 

With Hughes, Dermott, Poolman, and Stillman all out of the lineup, the Canucks’ defensive depth is being sorely tested. The Canucks have already dressed ten defencemen this season — they’ve had seasons where they’ve never dressed that many, such as the 2019-20 season when they used just eight defencemen all year and one of them, Ashton Sautner, was for just one game.

“It’s our veterans.”

In place of the injured players, Kyle Burroughs has had to play a larger role and has mostly been up to the task. AHL call-ups Guillaume Brisebois and Noah Juulsen have stepped into third-pairing roles with varying degrees of success — Juulsen looks overwhelmed at the NHL level, but Brisebois played a simple game against the Hurricanes, avoiding mistakes and preventing dangerous chances.

The defencemen the Canucks really need more from, however, are veterans Oliver Ekman-Larrson and Tyler Myers, and rookie Jack Rathbone.

Ekman-Larsson and Myers were at least league average as a shutdown pairing last season — they regularly faced tough competition and, with the help of Demko behind them, kept the puck out of the net. 

This season, they’re not doing as well. Myers’ injury to start the year doesn’t help, but it seems like Ekman-Larsson is playing even more conservatively than usual, keeping a wide gap to prevent being beaten wide with his diminished skating ability but, as a result, allowing opposing forwards to enter the Canucks’ zone far too easily. 

Along with being too permissive, Ekman-Larsson’s puck management hasn’t been good enough. He had two bad giveaways in the home opener that led to goals against in the first period. Breakout passes have never really been the strength of Ekman-Larsson’s game — he was always better at skating the puck out but his declining mobility has limited his ability to do so.

Boudreau put the onus on the veterans after Saturday’s game.

“A lot of the defencemen that were in there were working their [butts off], the young guys anyway, doing what they could to help stem the tide,” said Boudreau. “But it’s our veterans, they’re the ones — the leaders have got to take this and say, ‘Okay, enough is enough.’ And if they don’t do it, then it’s a long year.”

Rathbone looks good but results haven’t been

That said, what the Canucks really need is Jack Rathbone to step up his game.

Rathbone couldn’t crack the lineup through the first five games of the season, even as the Canucks rattled off repeated losses. It took injuries for Rathbone to finally get into the lineup for the home opener.

Now that he’s in the lineup, Rathbone looks the part of an NHL-caliber offensive defenceman. He has the puckhandling and skating ability to evade the forecheck, he can pass the puck crisply, and he seems to be the only Canucks defenceman apart from Hughes who actually acts as a catalyst in the offensive zone, attacking aggressively from the point with quick give-and-goes to open up passing lanes down low.

The trouble is that the results have not followed yet for Rathbone. When he’s been on the ice at 5-on-5, shot attempts have been 36-to-22 for the opposition and the Canucks have been outscored 3-to-0. His expected goals percentage from Natural Stat Trick is an appalling 17.74%, the lowest among Canucks defencemen, and high-danger chances have been 12-to-0 against. 

That’s not entirely on Rathbone. He’s been hung out to try on occasion by his teammates — one of the Ekman-Larsson giveaways on Saturday led to one of those goals against with Rathbone on the ice — but he’s had some turnovers on his own. 

But with Hughes out for the time being, Rathbone might be the Canucks’ only hope for getting some offensive punch from the back end. At some point, he has to start tilting the ice in the other direction. So far, as good as he’s looked, the Canucks are drowning when Rathbone has been on the ice.

New medical and training staff

The Canucks have an almost entirely new medical staff this season dealing with these early injuries. After the 2021-22 season, the Canucks let go of head athletic therapist Jon Sanderson and head strength-and-conditioning coach Roger Takahashi, both long-time employees. Two assistant athletic therapists, Dave Zarn and Nick Addey-Jibb were also dismissed, along with assistant strength-and-conditioning coach Ken Hetzel.

Josh Termeer, formerly with the Calgary Stampeders, is the Canucks’ new head athletic therapist this season. Mark Cesari, a former strength-and-conditioning coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs, replaced Takahashi. 

The Canucks also hired two chiropractors. Dr. Harry Sese, a chiropractor and massage therapist, was primarily known for his work with golfers before joining the Canucks as a health and performance consultant — he leads the strength-and-conditioning department.

Dr. Erik Yuill was the team chiropractor for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Vancouver Warriors before joining the Canucks. 

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Malaika Mihambo and Dennis Schröder Lead Germany’s Diverse Olympic Team to Paris 2024

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“The goals have definitely not changed,” Malaika Mihambo declared in a recent television interview, reaffirming her determination to compete in the 2024 Olympic Games despite a recent setback from a coronavirus infection. The 30-year-old long jumper aims to defend her Olympic gold medal, which she won in Tokyo in 2021.

While Mihambo is a seasoned Olympian, Paris 2024 will mark a special debut for Dennis Schröder, the captain of Germany’s 2023 world champion basketball team. “It has always been a goal of mine to be at the Olympic Games,” said the 30-year-old Brooklyn Nets player.

Mihambo and Schröder are among the stars of the German Olympic team, which showcases remarkable diversity with around 450 top athletes. This team includes individual talents such as tennis stars Angelique Kerber, the silver medallist at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and Alexander Zverev, the 2021 Olympic champion in Tokyo. Notable teams include the men’s basketball team led by Schröder, the women’s football team, and the men’s handball team.

Among the experienced Olympic stars is table tennis player Timo Boll, who has won several team medals and is immensely popular in China and beyond. Dressage rider Isabell Werth, with seven Olympic gold medals, aims to match the all-time record of nine gold medals held by Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina.

Some German athletes, though not yet household names, have garnered attention with impressive performances leading up to the Games. In athletics, the women’s 4×100 meter relay team, decathlete Leo Neugebauer, and marathon runner Amanal Petros stand out. Trend sports also feature promising talents like surfers Camilla Kemp and Tim Elter, and 17-year-old skateboarder Lilly Stoephasius, who will compete in her second Olympic Games.

Swimmer Angelina Köhler has recently emerged as a star, winning gold in the 100 meter butterfly at the 2024 World Championships. Köhler, who has openly discussed her ADHD diagnosis, described participating in the Olympics as fulfilling “a very, very big childhood dream.”

As Germany heads to Paris, this diverse and dynamic team aims to leave a significant mark on the 2024 Olympic Games.

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Thomas Müller: The End of an Era for Germany’s Iconic #13

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It is difficult to write something about Thomas Müller that hasn’t been written before, yet at the same time, it is difficult to capture his essence in mere words. That alone is an indicator of his distinctive nature as a person and brilliance as a footballer.

It is said commonly, there will never be another Thomas Müller. And that rings true today more than ever, for Germany, for football.

Germany has dominated world football so often throughout history, each era marked by superstars in their own right. And even then, Thomas Müller remains unique, apart from the rest. The idea of a dominant die Mannschaft in the ‘modern era’ of football immediately prompts the mental image of an overjoyed Müller wearing any variation of the iconic white-black German kits, busy shouting in celebration amidst the euphoria of scoring yet another goal for his country on the biggest of stages.

Efficient, unorthodox, enigmatic – yet somehow simple. Everywhere he needed to be on the pitch, yet he left the greatest of defenders oblivious, unable to predict his next move. A goalscorer and creator simultaneously and equally brilliant at doing both. Unapologetically himself – both on and off the pitch.

You’d never be mesmerized by Müller’s touch, flair, or skills. But you’d be mesmerized nonetheless. Unpredictable off-the-ball movement, a surprise element with the ball, and a shot from such unbelievable angles that you’d never believe how it found the net. And even then what forever remained stuck in the minds of fans and opponents alike was the scene that followed after his heroics in the opposition box — a group of elated Germans heralding around Müller as the scoreboard reads a scoreline just as memorable.

A little boy from the south of Bavaria had a dream and had the entire world watch as he lived it to the fullest. Müller represented his country a total of 131 times and somehow every single time he was a pleasure to watch and a menace to face. The lights were bright, but he shone brighter.

His football was messy but incredibly effective. Tall, scrawny, and the furthest thing from muscular, but it worked to his advantage. He was never the “typical footballer” — concerning both his personality and playstyle. He was so good at everything going forward that the orthodox football terms didn’t apply. No problem for Müller – “Ich bin ein Raumdeuter,” said the star clearing things up about his position and inventing a role in football no one other than himself has or ever will truly master.

Germany’s first game at the 2010 World Cup saw Müller walk onto the pitch with the number 13 on his back. The same number was coincidentally also worn by legendary German striker Gerd Müller at the ‘76 finals. Thomas scored that night — it was the first of 45 goals he would go on to score for his nation. The fans (and notably Gerd himself) were overjoyed to see a German named Müller, squad number #13, scoring for Germany again after so many decades.

Speaking postgame about his first international goal, Müller said while laughing: “I was just trying to boost the sales of the Müller replica shirts!” – the first of many playful Müller interviews after a masterclass for Germany. 14 years and 44 goals later, Thomas has made that jersey number his as much as it was Gerd’s.

Thomas Müller — forever Germany’s beloved #13.

What once was a need to prove himself and do everything in his power to lead his country to victory turned into a feeling of grounded pride for what he’s greatly helped achieve, but the desire to win never died. Müller, even after everything, still put in the same effort he did on day one.

There was never a dull moment watching Müller play for his country. Not everything has changed — over all these years, Müller has had the same playfulness, the same laugh, the same witty statements that never failed to make fans smile. He is just as loveable as a person as he is as a footballer. “I don’t have any muscles – how can I get hurt?”, or “I already have one Golden Boot, what will I do with another?” Müller captivated audiences with both his football and his words.

Müller playing for Germany is what made myself (and so many others) a fan of the beautiful game – because the game was only beautiful when Müller had the ball. A mesmerized young boy and a superstar footballer formed an unlikely, one-sided bond over the television screen a decade ago, and that bond only strengthened over the years.

As Müller announces his international retirement today, it is difficult to fathom that we might never see such an icon play for Germany ever again. We might never see him celebrate or joke around in the Germany shirt. We might never see someone represent everything German football stood for as well as Müller did. We might never see him film a challenge video with Mats Hummels at the German camp. And we might never forget the heartbreak of his last game for Germany.

Yet we as fans can look back on one of the greatest international careers of all time. His antics on the world stage are some of the best highlights of a career filled with highlights. There is no need to mention his countless achievements for his country – he is the most decorated German player of all time after all. Even then, Müller, who has always had impeccable timing knew exactly when it was his time to depart. He didn’t want to push it or ever make things about himself.

Müller’s iconic moments turned into unforgettable games. Those unforgettable games made legendary tournaments. And those legendary tournaments? They are the crown jewels of an illustrious career.

So here is a thank you, from the bottom of our hearts – thank you for showing us what football is really about. Thank you for some of the greatest memories a football fan could ask for. Thank you for always giving everything on the pitch, and finally – thank you for being yourself. We will never forget Thomas Müller in the iconic German white. Danke, Thomas.

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Missed Opportunities Plague Yankees in 6-4 Loss to Rays

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NEW YORK — The New York Yankees fell to the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 on Sunday afternoon, continuing a troubling trend of failing to capitalize on scoring opportunities. The loss came despite Aaron Judge’s efforts, including his MLB-leading 35th home run of the season.

The Yankees’ inability to hit with runners in scoring position (RISP) was the primary issue. In the first inning, hits from Juan Soto and Aaron Judge loaded the bases, but Gleyber Torres and Alex Verdugo couldn’t drive in any runs. Soto then grounded into a double play to end the second inning with the bases loaded.

Aaron Judge hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning, his 35th of the season, bringing the Yankees within two runs. However, his contribution was not enough to overcome the deficit. Marcus Stroman pitched 5.1 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits, including two home runs. He struck out five and did not walk any batters. Despite his solid performance, he received minimal run support.

Gleyber Torres made a critical error in the fourth inning, leading to a run. His 0-for-4 performance at the plate dropped his batting average to .229, adding to the Yankees’ woes. Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected after disputing a strike call on Alex Verdugo. This marked his 38th career ejection and fifth of the season.

Soto’s ninth-inning RBI double provided some hope, but it was too little, too late. The Rays’ Jose Caballero homered in the ninth, extending their lead and sealing the victory.

The Yankees began the series with a 6-1 win on Friday but faltered with a 9-1 loss on Saturday, followed by Sunday’s 6-4 defeat. This inconsistency has been a recurring issue for the team. Despite the loss, the Yankees (59-42) remain two games behind the Baltimore Orioles (60-39) for first place in the AL East, as the Orioles also lost 3-2 to the Texas Rangers.

Aaron Judge commented, “No weight. I’ve got good guys behind me. It’s baseball. You’re going to go through some ups and downs, and you’re going to click for a little bit, but there’s months where other guys are going to carry this team and there’s months where I’ve got to pick it up and carry the team, and it’s all part of it.”

Marcus Stroman reflected, “It’s hard to be incredible for 162. I think we have a lot of confidence … how good (Soto has) been — all year, him and Judge — I think we’re kind of losing sight of how incredible those two guys have been. So they can’t do everything, each and every single time. We can’t put all the pressure on them.”

Aaron Boone added, “This game’s hard for us right now, and we’ve got to find a way. We know we’re better than this, and we’ve got to come ready and salvage a series tomorrow.”

The Yankees will aim to split the series against the Rays in the final game on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET. With their recent struggles in key situations, the team must find a way to improve their performance with runners in scoring position to turn their season around.

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