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Canucks Post Game: Myers speaks up, Demko delivers, Ward's World, Lucic's rope – The Province

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Thatcher Demko gets th victory hug from Elias Pettersson on Sunday.

Sergei Belski / USA TODAY Sports

CALGARY —Points to ponder before, during and after the Canucks extended their win streak to five games Sunday in a 5-2 win over the Flames at the Saddledome that vaulted them into second place in the Pacific Division:

MYERS IS LOUD, PROUD:‘When we’re chipping them in and when we have the speed like we had tonight, you can tell other teams have trouble breaking the puck out’

Tyler Myers simply goes about his business. He doesn’t talk a lot and doesn’t score a lot.

So when the towering defenceman scored twice Sunday and saw his teammates play a pretty flawless game, he couldn’t help but open up about what has gone right after everything looked wrong when the club dropped four of five games.

That seems like so long ago.

“We talk about it every day — simple hockey,” stressed Myers, who had more shots (4) and points (3) than anyone in the opening period. “We’re starting to realize more and more that chipping pucks in because one of our biggest strengths is our forecheck. When we’re chipping them in and when we have the speed like we had tonight, you can tell other teams have trouble breaking the puck out.

“It resulted in a lot of chances and we’re not spending as much time in the D-zone. That can tire you out if you’re doing it too much. It was really good structure tonight and we just have to continue that.”

And what about netting more goals? Myers had 11 in his Calder Trophy winning rookie season with the Buffalo Sabres in 2009-10. He’s also scored nine goals in a season on three other occasions.

“I’ve been around long enough now to know they (goals) come in bunches and that’s what it seems like my last 10 years,” he added. “You really just try to play as consistent as you can and keep the same mindset going in.”

Tanner Pearson also scored twice on a night where the big guns — Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller — didn’t find the net.

“We’re not a team that can just rely on one or two guys,” said Canucks coach Travis Green. “We have to have buy-in throughout the group whether defending or trying to score. We had a good meeting and our team responded.”

DEMKO BUOYED BY RETURN:My recovery from this one (concussion) was a little bit smoother. I was able to get back on the ice quicker’

Two concussions in a 15-month span, and not playing since a wild 6-5 overtime win over the Sabres on Dec. 7, made the Thatcher Demko curiosity meter move Sunday.

How would he react after coming back from his second concussion from friendly fire? Would he fumble the ball after Jacob Markstrom made nine-straight starts and a career-high 49 saves Saturday in a 3-2 win our the Los Angeles Kings? 

There was early evidence that there wasn’t reason for any long concern. Maybe it was that body of work when Markstrom was away on a leave of absence to visiting his ailing father in October. Demko went 2-1-0 and allowed just five goals to provide early proof that Green could call upon the backup whenever he needs to spell off Markstrom or if the coach wanted to go with his gut feeling.

The 23-save win Sunday was satisfying, but so was how quickly he recovered from his second concussion.

“My recovery from this one was a little bit smoother,” he said.  “I was able to get back on the ice quicker and was only off the ice eight days, so that helps. Just being in your gear helps and I was really excited to get back in tonight and to get the win is the cherry on top.

“The big thing was playing our game and not sitting back. Our goal is to get into the playoffs and be good all year and you can’t turn it on late.You have to be solid all season to stay in the mix.”

It made the Flames’ final goal Sunday easier to digest because Demko was totally out of position and scrambling to face the shooter.

“A little old school,” laughed Demko. “I don’t know if I’ve ever thrown a skate out like that before. It was just kind of a weird play and sometimes you’ve just got to laugh.”

WARD PUSHES RIGHT BUTTONS:‘When players have ownership, they’re a lot more committed and a lot more accountable.’

Geoff Ward had a lot of draw upon when he replaced Bill Peters as Flames interim head coach on Nov. 26.

Amid a dark cloud of disturbing discontent within the franchise when Peters resigned  — his former minor-league player Akim Aliu said via Twitter that the coach had directed a racial slur toward him during the 2009-10 season — Ward had to quickly weather the storm as the promoted assistant.

He not only leaned on a rich coaching resume in the OHL, ECHL, Europe, AHL and more than a dozen years as an NHL assistant in Boston, New Jersey and Calgary — a calm and measured demeanour moved the mood meter from panic to pleasure on the ice and in the room.

It’s why the Flames won their first seven games under Ward’s direction.

“It’s the having fun thing,” Flames captain Mark Giordano said before Sunday’s loss. “When every win is a relief, it’s not a good thing and when every loss feels like you’re at rock bottom, that’s when you know you’re not going through a good time.

“He has been an easy guy to communicate with. We went through a tough time as an organization together and handled it the right way. We wanted to make sure we stuck together and his little tweaks have helped our system. He sees the game well and is not afraid to tell us when we’re doing things right or wrong.”

There was a noticeable difference in the mood of the Sunday morning scrum and the atmosphere in the room. Ward sounded a lot like Green in preaching a partnership with his players as opposed to a dictatorship.

“When you have players who feel like they have ownership, they’re a lot more committed and a lot more accountable,” said the 57-year-old Waterloo, Ont. native. 

“It’s making sure we’re really hitting on what we need to focus on in practice, so we’re not out there a long time. It’s short, hard and a get off.”

LUCIC HAS COACH IN CORNER:‘Just be Looch. Play your game. Do what you do. He brings a strong winning culture to our room.’

Three goals in 39 games aren’t going to move the applause meter.

However, three goals in a four-game span following a coaching change piqued the curiosity of how Milan Lucic can benefit the Flames in the tough second-half push toward a playoff position. The Vancouver native not only has a history with Ward — the Flames interim boss was an assistant coach with the Bruins for seven seasons — so Lucic is getting a lot more rope to just do his thing.

Lucic had a career-high 30 goals as a 22-year-old terror as the Bruins outlasted the Canucks in the seven-game 2011 Stanley Cup final. He seems far removed from four additional 20-goal seasons with the Bruins, Kings and Oilers, but Ward sees something else.

What’s the message to a 31-year-old left winger with three more years at a US$6 million annual cap hit, who was aligned with Derek Ryan and Dillon Dube on Sunday?

“Just be Looch,” said Ward. “Play your game. Do what you do. He brings a strong winning culture to our room and we have a lot of guys who don’t have a lot of playoff experience, so the intangibles that he brings to our room are huge.

“He knows what it takes to win and he preaches it all the time on the bench and he works a lot with our young guys. He’s almost like an extra coach some days. And you know what you’re going to get on the ice with him all the time — the effort, the physicality and the strong defensive play.

“And playing with a right-shot centre has always helped. He had David Krejci in Boston. That plays into his strengths with us and a lot of nights it’s been our best line.”

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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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