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Canucks’ Quinn Hughes showing he isn’t intimidated by anyone –



VANCOUVER – In the first game of his rookie season with the Vancouver Canucks, about 55 minutes before he was scorched by Connor McDavid on the Edmonton Oilers’ game-winning goal, Quinn Hughes turned to defence partner Chris Tanev before the opening faceoff and asked if they were staying out against the superstar once the puck was dropped.

Tanev told him yes. And the then 19-year-old Hughes, according to Tanev, replied: “OK, let’s go.”

Less than three months later, Hughes didn’t have to ask on Monday.

Matched most of the game against the McDavid-Leon Draisaitl line, Hughes not only helped hold the National Hockey League’s top two scorers to three shots on net and a one assist apiece (on the power play), he also blasted in the third-period game winner as the Canucks rallied to beat the Oilers 4-2.

“It’s good, but at the same time it’s humbling,” Hughes, who turned 20 two weeks after that Oct. 2 loss in Edmonton, said of shutting down McDavid. “I know that on any given night, those guys could make me (minus) three. I just try to play my position when I play those guys. It’s a good feeling.”

Checking centre Jay Beagle has had his whole NHL career to train for assignments like defending against McDavid and Draisaitl. Including the five he played for the Canucks straight out of University of Michigan at the end of last season, Hughes had 41 NHL games before Monday.

“For sure, he surprises me,” Beagle said. “I knew he was a great skater coming in. You could tell that from Day 1. Great with the puck. But there are obviously things that you learn about a guy just from playing more games with him, (and) his play away from the puck and his reads, it takes a long time for some guys to get that. He has it right away, which is good for us.”

Only a week ago, the laid-back West Coast (except when it comes to the Canucks or pipelines) was fiercely divided over whether coach Travis Green or general manager Jim Benning should be the first one fired after Vancouver lost four of five games to fall four points adrift of the final wild card playoff spot.

They’ve suddenly built their most impressive three-game winning streak of the season with a cathartic OT win against the Vegas Golden Knights, followed by victories against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Oilers, whose standings lead on the Canucks is down to two points.

But the tying goal on Monday was exceptionally controversial, since it involved the highly-subjective and mysterious “kicking motion” rule, the NHL war room in Toronto, a coin flip and a Ouija board before Bo Horvat’s right-footer was allowed to count for the Canucks.

Goal-less at home this season, which meant he hadn’t scored in Vancouver since he was named the Canucks’ captain on Oct. 9, Horvat clearly turned his right skate to guide the generous rebound from Tanner Pearson’s shot into an open net behind Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen at 4:12 of the final period.

There are less footsy goals in soccer than the one Horvat scored, which is why his celebration was muted. He actually looked guilty putting his arms in the air.

“I wasn’t going to get my hopes up until we went to centre ice and the puck was dropped,” Horvat said. “I came back to the bench and I was like: ‘You know what, with my luck at home right now, this probably isn’t going to count.’ Definitely wasn’t a kicking motion. I’m happy it went in. It couldn’t have come at a better time.”

It was hard to tell post-game which interpretation of the rules was more disappointing to Edmonton coach Dave Tippett: Horvat’s kick or the kick in the teeth of a too-man-men call that preceded Hughes’ power-play winner at 13:48.

“Borderline at that stage of the game,” Tippett said of the penalty. “You get some breaks like that, but ultimately you gotta take care of things like that. It’s the details in winning. If you’re not willing to do them enough, you’re going to lose some games and that’s what happened tonight.”

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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom scored to build a 2-1 lead for Edmonton, which had been 13-0-1 in games they led into the third period. Draisaitl and McDavid each finished minus-three, and the Oilers are just 2-6-1 in their last nine games.

Tyler Motte and Loui Eriksson, into an empty net, scored the other Vancouver goals.

A week ago, nobody foresaw the Canucks going into the Christmas break with this much good cheer.

“We never lost confidence,” Hughes said. “We’ve got a good team. We know it. Our coaching staff knows it and our management knows it. We believe in ourselves.”

Motte said: “Winning fixes a lot of things. The momentum going into the break is good.”

The Canucks’ next game is Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings. The Oilers play Friday against the Calgary Flames.

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Chiefs' playoff win over Browns becomes an afterthought due to Patrick Mahomes' injury – Yahoo



The Canadian Press

Saints’ Brees exits playoffs, perhaps career, on sour note

NEW ORLEANS — Nearly two hours after the New Orleans Saints’ season had ended, Drew Brees stood on the Superdome field in street clothes, throwing passes to his children while his wife, Brittany, captured images of those moments with her cellphone. Brees routinely throws the ball around with his kids after home games, but after a 30-20 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, he lingered longer than usual — and there was no telling whether that familiar postgame scene would play out again. Two days after Brees’ 42nd birthday, his 20th NFL season ended with statistically his worst playoff performance. Brees threw three interceptions, his most in 18 post-season appearances. His 134 yards passing were a career-playoff low. And because of COVID-19 restrictions, there were fewer than 4,000 fans in the 73,000-seat Superdome to bid him farewell — if indeed it was his final game in a Saints uniform. For now, Brees won’t say. But he’s also said nothing that would lead one to believe he’s prepared to play next season, his last under contract. “I’ll answer this question one time and that is that I”m going to give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things just like I did last year and make a decision,” Brees said. That decision for the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing will come after a fourth straight season that saw the Saints (13-5) win 11 or more games and go to the playoffs, only to come up short of the Super Bowl. This season, Brees missed four games with multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung, but came back in time to see New Orleans through to its fourth straight NFC South crown and a convincing playoff victory over Chicago in the wild-card round. “I would never regret it. Never. No complaints, no regrets,” Brees said. “I’ve always tried to play this game with a great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me. “There are obviously so many incredible memories and so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing this game,” Brees continued. “You find out so much about yourself and you have to fight through so much when you play this game. And I’d say this season I probably had to fight through more than I’ve ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff, to just crazy circumstances. And it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely.” Brees said the way this season ended “won’t have anything to do” with his decision on whether to retire. As for what will go into the decision, Brees said, “I’ll keep that to myself right now.” Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to be taking his cue from Brees when he, too, sidestepped a question about what his decade-and-a-half relationship with Brees has meant to him. “That’s probably for another press conference,” Payton said. “Obviously he’s been tremendous for this team, this city. I could go on and on, but let’s wait and answer that at the right time.” Other teammates didn’t wait, though. “He’s been everything you could imagine a leader could be,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Brees’ teammate since 2011. “He’s the first one in, the last one out. Every stereotypical leadership core value you think of, Drew has. He exemplifies everything that he does in terms of wanting to be a better teammate.” Veteran linebacker Demario Davis said playing with Brees has meant “everything” to him. “When I came to New Orleans, I wanted to help Drew Brees win another Super Bowl because I feel like he deserves it for the accomplishments that he’s had,” Davis said. “I wanted him to have some more championship trophies on the mantle. “He’s a great teammate, a great leader, a great man, a great husband and a great father,” Davis added. “He’s just an example for all us to try to emulate.” Brees, who brought the Saints their only Super Bowl appearance and win in the 2009 season, is not only the all-time leader in yards passing with 80,358, but also completions 7,142. He began this season first in touchdowns, but is now second with 571, behind the 581 of Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, who is moving on to his 14th conference title game at age 43. When the game ended, Brees greeted a couple of Bucs players, including Brady, who he’s known since college, and then pointed to the stands and blew kisses as he jogged to the tunnel leading to the Saints locker room. When he first emerged from the locker room back onto the field in street clothes, he shared a long embrace with Brittany while his three sons and daughter played nearby. “I always soak in the moment and I’m looking up at my family and blowing kisses to my wife and my daughter and fist-pumping my boys,” Brees said. “They’ve become so much a part of this as my kids have gotten older, and they are so invested in this as well. That’s what makes the moment special, to be able to share it all together.” ___ More AP NFL: and Brett Martel, The Associated Press

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Brady bests Brees as Buccaneers advance to NFC Championship –



NEW ORLEANS — Tom Brady‘s best game in three tries against New Orleans kept the Buccaneers moving on in the NFL playoffs, and has Saints quarterback Drew Brees headed home — perhaps for good.

Brady and the Bucs’ offence turned three of four Saints turnovers into touchdowns and Tampa Bay beat New Orleans 30-20 in the divisional round of the playoffs Sunday night.

Two of those touchdowns came on short passes to Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette. And after linebacker Devin White snagged the second of thee interceptions thrown by Brees, Brady drove the Bucs to the 1, from where he scored himself with 4:57 left to virtually ensure his 14th trip to a conference championship game — his first in the NFC.

That game will take place in Green Bay next week, where the 43-year-old Brady will try to advance to his 10th Super Bowl in a showdown with Packers All-Pro QB Aaron Rodgers.

“We worked hard to get to this point. Two road playoff wins is pretty sweet,” Brady said. “We’ve got to go beat a great football team we know pretty well. Aaron’s playing incredible.”

Meanwhile, the Brees era in New Orleans could be over after 15 seasons.

While just 3,750 tickets were distributed in the 73,000-seat Superdome to comply with local COVID-19 restrictions, the fans made themselves heard with an eruption of cheers when the 42-year-old Brees first took the field for New Orleans (13-5), seemingly sensing this could be their last chance to see him play at home.

Brees, under contract for one more year, declined to say whether he’s retiring. After he’d changed in the locker room, he walked back onto the field and watched his four children play, at one point sharing a long embrace with his wife, Brittany.

“I appreciate all that this game has given to me,” Brees said. “There are obviously so many incredible memories.”

If it was his last game, it won’t be one he’ll want to remember. The NFL’s all-time leader in completions and yards passing was 19 of 34 for 134 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

“A couple of them I probably shouldn’t have thrown and maybe forced it,” Brees said. “That’s what this game came down to is those turnovers because all of those gave them the ball deep in our territory, and you can’t do that with (Tampa Bay’s) offence. They’re too good and they’re going to capitalize on that, which they did.”

Brady finished 18 of 33 for 199 yards in what often resembled more of a defensive struggle. Unlike his previous two meetings with the Saints — both losses — he was not intercepted and largely avoided pressure, taking only one sack.

“Really just locking in and playing a lot better than we did the first two times we played them,” he said. “We had a bunch of turnovers last time. This time they turned it over and that’s usually the story of football games.”

After Brees’ third interception on a tipped pass late in the fourth quarter, the Bucs were able to close out the game with Brady, in his first season with Tampa Bay (13-5) after 20 with New England, taking a knee.

“Obviously they beat us twice in the regular season,” Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith said. “We came around in Round 3 with the knockout.

“We’ve been building. You got to get hot at the right time.”


The Saints led 6-3 when Brees, while trying to flee pressure, underthrew Michael Thomas and was intercepted by Sean Murphy-Bunting, who raced 36 yards along the sideline to the Saints 3. Brady hit Evans one play later to put the Buccaneers up 10-6.

Brees’ 16-yard pass to Tre-Quan Smith put the Saints ahead 20-13, and New Orleans appeared primed to build on that lead when Brees found Jared Cook across the 50. But Bucs safety Antoine Winfield Jr. stripped Cook from behind and White snagged the loose ball, returning it 18 yards to the New Orleans 40.

“It wasn’t nothing Brees did. It was everything our defence did,” White said. “Our mindset the whole week was they won the first two rounds, we had to win round three.”

Five plays later, Brady hit Fournette over the middle for a 6-yard score.

Ryan Succop’s 36-yard field goal made it 23-20 before White’s interception of a pass intended for Alvin Kamara gave the Buccaneers the ball at the New Orleans 20, setting up Tampa Bay’s final TD.


Jameis Winston, forced out of Tampa Bay when Brady became available, threw a 56-yard touchdown pass against his old team on a trick play.

Kamara took a direct snap and gave the ball to receiver Emmanuel Sanders on a reverse before Sanders lateraled back to Winston. The reserve QB launched an accurate pass down the middle to an open Smith.


Fournette finished with 107 yards from scrimmage, 63 on the ground. He had 40 yards in one drive that set up a field goal that tied it at 13 as time expired in the first half.

Kamara had 105 yards from scrimmage, with 85 on the ground. Thomas was held without a catch in his final game of an injury-plagued season.


Buccaneers: Linebacker Jack Cichy went out with an elbow injury in the first quarter.

Saints: Deonte Harris, who returned the first Tampa Bay punt 54 yards to set up a field goal, left with a neck injury in the first half.


The Bucs will try to advance to the second Super Bowl in franchise history with Brady, no stranger to high-stakes games in cold weather after his two decades in New England.

New Orleans might have to ponder life without Brees.

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Why the Maple Leafs put Jason Spezza, Aaron Dell on waivers – The Athletic



The fact is this was always going to happen.

The Maple Leafs were going to run into a cap crunch — either due to injuries or COVID-19 or performance issues — and they were going to have to put more people on waivers.

They tried to wait that process out, through the tail end of training camp, when it felt like half the league was in the bargain bin. They thought, maybe, they could sneak a few players through later on, when rosters were set around the league.

The Leafs were willing to eat a little cap space in order to keep a few veterans on the roster those extra five days, but when rookie Nick Robertson went down with a knee injury on Saturday in Ottawa, that became more difficult.

They needed some more flexibility. And that’s why, in a nutshell, they put Jason Spezza and Aaron Dell on waivers on Sunday afternoon.

More moves are coming, too. The majority of them have to do with the complex machinations of the collective…

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