VANCOUVER – Among the handful of new Vancouver Canucks this season who are unencumbered and unscarred by the team’s recent failures, winger J.T. Miller said before Wednesday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes that he didn’t care about the growing panic in the market.
To be kind of accurate, he said the players “don’t give a [expletive] who has a low panic threshold outside the room.”
He explained: “I don’t pay attention to that. I’m just trying to worry about the present and take care of what we can take care of right now. If you’ve been here a long time, maybe you can kind of get the sense in your head, like, ‘Here we go again.’ But we worry about us. I don’t think there’s any panic right now.”
Then in their most important game of the season, the Canucks extended their playoff-imperilling losing streak to four games by falling 4-2 to the Arizona Coyotes, overcoming a third-period deficit only to blow their late lead against one of the teams trying to push them out of the Stanley Cup tournament. Which, to those who have been here a long time, felt so very Canucky.
So did the Columbus Blue Jackets, who scored four times in last eight minutes on Sunday to stun the Canucks 5-3 in Ohio on Sunday, managing their next game out to choke away a late two-goal lead and lose 3-2 Wednesday to the Calgary Flames, another team moving away from Vancouver in the National Hockey League standings.
After holding a nine-point playoff cushion a month ago, the Canucks’ longest losing streak of the season has dropped them into a three-way tie for the two wild-card spots in the Western Conference. Vancouver has games in-hand on both Arizona and the Winnipeg Jets, but since the Canucks are losing all their games these days, those extra at-bats don’t feel very beneficial.
The Minnesota Wild are only one point behind, the Nashville Predators two, and they’ve played the same number of games as the Canucks: 66.
The West Coast was a lot less panicky at 61 games, which is when starting goalie and team MVP Jacob Markstrom suddenly left the lineup with a mysterious knee injury.
Cue the panic.
“We still believe in our group,” winger Tanner Pearson, another of the newcomers unfamiliar with the angst epidemic, said before scoring what briefly seemed like a winning goal on Wednesday. “You don’t want to have lessons like these 65 games into the season. At the end of the day, it’s not the last game of the season where if you lose, you’re not in the playoffs. We still have time to learn from it. That’s a positive.
“Me and Ty Toffoli won a Cup (in 2014 with Los Angeles) and in our first-round series we were down 3-0 to San Jose. Anything is possible.”
Still part of the season-long playoff mosh pit, the Canucks suddenly seem to be way behind everyone.
In their four-game losing streak, they led in the third period twice and in another game were tied, and instead of emerging with five or six points, they’ve gathered none.
Toffoli tied Wednesday’s game 1-1 with a brilliant sharp-angle shot into a top-corner gap Arizona goalie Darcy Kuemper gave him at 3:19 during a Vancouver power play. Pearson then scored the go-ahead goal at 6:16 with his skate on the rebound from Jake Virtanen’s shot.
But with time and space to settle a rimmed pass behind his net, Canucks defenceman Troy Stecher watched in horror as the puck rocketed off his skate and straight out into the path of Coyote Carl Soderberg, who relayed it to Nick Schmaltz for the tying goal at 10:10.
Arizona, which had won only seven of its previous 23 games, won it at 12:39 when Lawson Crouse deflected Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s point shot past Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko, who had plenty of saves but still no luck.
For 43 minutes, the game’s only goal was scored like this: Canuck penalty-killer Oscar Fantenberg, who partially-blocked a shot into his own net for the losing goal Sunday in Columbus, tried to chip the puck out from behind the Vancouver goal, but hit the shaft of Soderberg’s stick, sending the arcing puck at a violent angle back towards Demko. The puck just cleared the cross bar on its way to the crease, kissed off the back of the goalie’s shoulder and rolled into the net to make it 1-0 Arizona at 7:27 of the first period.
Stephen Hawking, arisen from the dead, couldn’t explain the physics behind that goal. But the way things have been going for the Canucks the last week — and the 50 years that preceded it — it was about what you’d expect in the biggest game of the season.
Ekman-Larsson ended the game with an empty-netter at 19:25, shortly after Antoine Roussel’s deflection hit Kuemper.
The most positive thing for the Canucks was the play of Demko, who had his best game since Markstrom was injured. It was something, at least.
The Colorado Avalanche, who are a lot better than the Coyotes, visit the Canucks on Friday.
“It doesn’t really matter the circumstances,” Demko said before the game. “We still believe we can win.”
Late in the game, the music played inside Rogers Arena. Queen. “Under pressure…”
This Battle of Alberta won’t be like the past, but the emotion will be unmatched – Sportsnet.ca
EDMONTON — It’s been 31 years, so long that a generation really only knows the Battle of Alberta in snap shots from Hockey Night in Canada videos.
Gretzky down the wing on Vernon. Smith, in off of Fuhr. Fleury break dancing across the Northlands Coliseum logo. Dave Brown, startin’ the lawn mower on Jim Kyte.
Glen Sather, alternately cheering an OT goal in Calgary and issuing a hand gesture to Flames fans that would have garnered him a healthy fine today.
We’re here to tell you: societal norms dictate that the old Battle of Alberta will never be re-lived. This can not be that.
But although we might know what we’re NOT going to see when the Calgary Flames hook up with the Edmonton Oilers starting on Wednesday night, you never know what you might see in a matchup set to consume this prairie province for the first time since 1991. A grudge match that — in its best days — was as good a rivalry as the National Hockey League has seen in all its many years.
“You always knew going into it that there was going to be bloodshed, and it was going to be some of your own,” former Oilers (and Flames) defenceman Steve Smith said in my book, The Battle of Alberta. “It was real then. There were going to be fights and you were expected to be part of fights and physical hockey.”
“They were big, strong, physical,” added Edmonton defenceman Jeff Beukeboom. “They were dirty. Just like us,”
The sheer violence does not exist anymore, and for that the NHL is a better place. But the emotion that has gone missing with that violence?
That, we’d like to surgically implant back into the game, like a ligament from a cadaver that could put the hop back in the step of a league where too many players are buddy-buddy, asking how the wife and kids are rather than putting a glove in their opponent’s face.
It was that emotion that fuelled the high-octane dragster that was The Battle.
Emotion that would drive Doug Risebrough to slink into the penalty box with an Oilers jersey purloined from the latest Pier 6 brawl, and slice it into ribbons with his skates. Emotion injected into a practice from Flames head coach Bob Johnson, who dressed a Junior A goalie in an Oilers jersey so his players could feel the thrill of blowing pucks past a Grant Fuhr lookalike.
“That’s the thing we’re missing in the game today. Emotion,” said former Flames goalie Mike Vernon. “Those games had so much emotion, and there was a price that had to be paid. Like the time Dave Brown fought Stu Grimson. Grimmer sat in the penalty box for 10 minutes with a broken face.
“You want to see real? That’s real.”
Emotion from players who knew, this wasn’t going to be a normal game. And if I play like it is, I won’t survive it.
“I had no problem [expletive] cuttin’ your eye out. Wouldn’t have bothered me a bit,” said Theoren Fleury, a small man who cut a big swath through the Battle. “Hey – you’re trying to [expletive] kill me? This was survival. It was that unpredictability that allowed me to have the room that I had.”
On a macro level, Edmonton and Calgary have always been contesting each other.
They fought over who would get the first Canadian Pacific Railway terminal (Calgary), way back in the 1800s. They argued over who would be designated the provincial capital, or lay claim to the University of Alberta in the early 1900s (Edmonton, and Edmonton).
Today the contest has been mostly won by the city that is simply 300 kilometres closer to the rest of the world than its rival. Calgary is the Dallas to Edmonton’s Houston, where the oil patch is concerned, an industry orchestrated by the white collars in the South, but serviced and operated by blue collars up North.
But where all this has impacted the sports scene is this: Anecdotally, more people born in Edmonton continue to live in Edmonton, while Calgary has become a city more rich in people from elsewhere; Edmonton is a city you leave, whereas Calgary has become somewhere people come to, with allegiances to other teams in tow.
That assessment is subjective, sure, but it’s backed up by the fact the Oilers tend to post better media numbers than the Flames do, whether it’s radio, TV or print. There is simply more local interest in Edmonton’s team than Calgary’s, a phenomenon that will be invisible to the naked eye these next two weeks.
When the original Battle began however, there was no question who was the big brother, and who was the little one.
Edmonton had joined the NHL from the old World Hockey Association in 1979, and the Flames arrived from Atlanta a year later. Soon, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey et al. were clearly a group the Flames could not match, or catch up to via the draft. So the Flames, with former University of Wisconsin coach Bob Johnson behind their bench, built a team using older college grads like Joe Nieuwendyk, Joe Mullen, Joel Otto, Jamie Macoun and Gary Suter.
In the end, the Flames only won one of five playoff meetings between the two, but they played the Boston Red Sox to Edmonton’s New York Yankees, or Don Cherry’s Boston Bruins to the 70’s Habs that were Edmonton.
“Ali needed Frazier,” Messier once said. “That top opponent that pushes, and challenges, and makes you better.”
As the two teams ready for a meeting beginning Wednesday night in Calgary, that old Saddledome is perhaps the only visual that will provide a similar look, outside the familiar jerseys of each team. The landscape is unfamiliar, with teams full of players who have never faced each other in a post-season series.
Two teams who once combined for 780 goals in a season settled for 576 this season. And penalty minutes?
Forget about it…
In 2022 however, there are some similarities. Connor McDavid will play the part of Wayne Gretzky, while the Elias Lindholm line will lend depth and execution the way Johnson’s old Flames would attack Edmonton using his oft-referenced — but never actually seen — “Seven Point Plan” to beat the Oilers.
Today Matthew Tkachuk is the spoon that stirs the emotional bouillabaisse, whereas before it was Esa Tikkanen or Neil Sheehy, the Flames defenceman and Gretzky-pesterer whose refusal to fight anyone on Edmonton wound the Oilers up like a top.
When it’s done, all we can hope for is some lasting memories, some players who might not tee it up together the way they may have a summer ago, and two organizations that see each other as they once did — as the in-division hurdle that had to be jumped on the way to a Stanley Cup.
“All the most important, most memorable team meetings we ever had were held in that dressing room in Calgary,” Craig MacTavish once said. “We were the best two teams in the NHL of that day, and we would meet very early in the playoffs.
“They were absolute wars,” he added. “A pleasure to be a part of, in hindsight.”
We leave you with this anecdote, from Beukeboom.
“I think it was a pre-season game,” he began. “I was going up ice and got two-handed on the back of the legs by Fleury. Whack! I remember a pile-up in the corner one day, after Simmer (Craig Simpson) had taken out their goalie, and Fleury was running his mouth. ‘You guys suck. You can’t skate, you big [expletive].’ So now we’re in the pile in the corner, and he’s on top of me. But, we come out of it together, and now he’s saying, ‘It’s OK. I’ve got you. No problem.’ Like, now he’s being a nice guy.”
So, what did Beukeboom do? Exactly what Fleury would have done, had the shoe been on the other foot
“I suckered him. Cut him open for stitches,” he said. “It was one of the few times [head coach] John Muckler paid me a compliment.”
Barkov, Bergeron, Lindholm named as Selke Trophy finalists – Sportsnet.ca
The Calgary Flames‘ Elias Lindholm joined fellow centres Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers and Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins as one of three finalists named for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, the NHL announced Tuesday.
The award, which is given “to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of
the game,” is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, with the top three vote-getters listed as finalists.
Lindholm, 27, has never won the award, but posted a plus-61 rating that was second only in the league to teammate Johnny Gaudreau’s plus-64. The Swedish centre was the fifth-best in the league at faceoffs, with a 52.9 per cent success rate in 1,592 attempts.
Barkov, who won the Selke last year, led the Panthers to the Presidents’ Trophy this season with the league’s best record. The 26-year-old from Finland posted a career-best 57 per cent success rate in faceoffs and led his team’s forwards in average ice time (20:18) for the fifth straight year. His plus-36 was fourth best in the league amongst forwards.
Bergeron, who may retire this off-season, has won the Selke four times in his 19-year career, which is tied with former Montreal Canadiens great Bob Gainey for the most in NHL history. The 36-year-old from L’Ancienne-Lorette, Que., has been a finalist for the Selke 11 times and led the league this season for the seventh time in his career in faceoff wins, with a success rate of 61.9 per cent.
The NHL plans on revealing its 2022 award winners during the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final.
England to host 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup
World Rugby (WR) has named England as the host nation for the 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup.
In addition, WR also unanimously approved Australia as hosts for the men’s World Cup in 2027 and the women’s in 2029 with the United States (US) hosting the men’s tournament for the first time in 2031 and the women’s in 2033.
WR is hoping to generate US$1 billion from the World Cup in 2031 as it seeks to tap into the US’ vast sporting culture and commercial potential.
“The USA is the golden nugget everyone wants to get a hold of. It’s the world’s biggest sporting market,” said WR chairperson, Sir Bill Beaumont.
2031 and 2033 World Cups have 25 or so venue bids on the table from all over the country. WR delegates have already been shown around the Denver Bronco’s impressive Empower Field home. One possibility could see the tournament start in the west of the country and gradually move east. There is also the possibility of using localized pools, where each group plays in a different part of the country before congregating for its grand finish.
The whole process is expected to cost in the region of US$500 million and has already received bipartisan support, alongside the seal of approval from President Joe Biden, who wrote a letter to Sir Beaumont promising regulatory support and infrastructural guarantees.
In the US, there have been many attempts to crack the market, but none have yet succeeded. However, the continued presence of rugby in the Olympics, the growing footprint of Major League Rugby (MLR) and an acceptance of where things went wrong in the past, means there is optimism around the next decade.
The US men’s team faces one of the biggest games in their history in June when they have their two-legged playoff against Chile for a spot in the 2023 Rugby World Cup scheduled to take place in France from the 8th of September to the 28th of October 2023.
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