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Vladar saves his best for last as Flames win Battle of Alberta

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EDMONTON – Darryl Sutter referred to it as a “scheme,” a plan he came up with long ago to give Dan Vladar more starts, more regularly.

Apparently, he’s yet to fully disclose his ploy with the Flames backup.

No matter, as there was Vladar, denying a frantic, last-minute push by Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Co. to win a quirky version of the Battle of Alberta, 4-3 Saturday.

“I gotta look at a video,” smiled the towering Czech backstop, who made several of his 26 saves in the dying seconds.

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“I think the clock was paused a little bit because those last five seconds felt like 45. It was so long.”

Nothing could have felt longer on Saturday night than the lonely skate his counterpart, Jack Campbell, had to make ten minutes into the game, when he was pulled after being beaten four times by an energized faction of Flames.

By that point the Flames had a 4-1 lead in a game that was literally on pace for 30.

Things settled down from there, and Vladar’s steady influence had plenty to do with that, with a little help, of course, from a diligent group of Flames who knew all too well how capable the Oilers are of erasing large deficits.

A power-play goal by Connor McDavid midway through the second was followed up four minutes later by a Ryan McLeod snipe that closed the gap to one goal, setting the table for a tense third, no matter which side of Red Deer you live in.

“It was just awesome,” said Vladar of a final frame in which he turned aside all eight shots in what will be the Flames’ only visit to Rogers Place this (regular) season.

“After the second period, all the guys were saying, ‘Hey, this is our last 20 minutes in the regular season here. Let’s do everything to bring those two points home.’

“It’s a tough building to play in, obviously a great team, but I think today we showed heart and we battled.”

The fact they did it with their backup was significant, for many reasons.

Was the coach looking to shield starter Jacob Markstrom from an Oilers team that had his number all last season?

Is Markstrom simply feeling the effects of an illness that sidelined him the day before Thursday’s opener?

Will the coach appease a fan base that has been clamouring for Markstrom’s workload to decrease?

“Pretty clear I didn’t make (the decision) today or yesterday,” said Sutter after the game.

“When I looked at the schedule and looked at the first month, that’s what I was doing.

“He was awesome. That’s how he played in the pre-season. He did a really good job for us and that’s what I said this morning.”

Sutter said after the morning skate Vladar could expect more than the 19 appearances he made last year.

“Our theme coming in was there’s 26 weeks in our season and we want to make sure that Vladar gets a game a week,” he said.

“It’s just the way this month works. Quite honest, when Marky was under the weather last game, we thought about playing (Vladar) against Colorado and then Marky here. But he chose Game 1, so this is Game 2.”

It was music to Vladar’s ears after the game.

“It means everything for me, obviously,” said Vladar, who was told of his starting assignment Friday morning.

“That’s why I’m here. I’m here to play my best and help the team every single time I get the call. I didn’t even know that coach said that, but if he said that, it’s great for me. But obviously I have to perform well every single time I get the call.”

On Saturday, he did.

It certainly helped that Mikael Backlund scored 73 seconds in, before his teammates responded to a Cody Ceci equalizer with three more from Michael Stone, Nazem Kadri and Andrew Mangiapane.

Stuart Skinner posted a clean slate the final 50 minutes, with help from the post, which three Flames hit as part of continued pressure through the balance of the first and in parts of the third.

While Stone’s first three-point effort of his NHL career earned him a Hockey Night in Canada interview, Kadri’s goal had most people talking. He made a strong first impression in his provincial battle debut as he raced in alone past a stumbling Brett Kulak before neatly finishing the play with a tuck between Campbell’s legs.

“I just try to skate faster, that’s really what happened,” said Kadri of his mindset while watching Kulak fall to the ice at the blue line.

“I saw he kind of was going down and I just tried to put on the jets and luckily it came out with a chance and I was able to finish.”

A huge power-play goal for the newbie.

“It’s good to see him score,” said Sutter.

“They got the matchup they wanted the first two periods and it was against Naz. His wingers (Mangiapane and Dillon Dube) are going to have to get better for him.

“I thought we played a really strong game. In the second period you knew they were going to shorten the bench and come with a push, and they did early. I thought for the most part we did a pretty good job.”

The win came two days after beating the defending champs, springboarding the Flames into an eight-game homestand that starts Tuesday against Vegas.

Plenty to be excited about if you’re a Flames fan wondering how the re-tooled bunch would mesh early.

“I think it shows a lot of maturity,” said Kadri of the team’s ability to shut things down the final 25 minutes after the Oilers clawed within one and threatened to continue that momentum as they did through last spring’s playoff mismatch.

“We have a mature group in here and I don’t think anyone really hit the panic button. I think that’s what the season is all about. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, you’re going to be up a couple, you’re going to be down a couple.

“Either way, you just have to find that balance and continue to push forward.”

 

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Croatian coach feels disrespected by Canadian coach's comment at FIFA World Cup – Toronto Sun

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DOHA, Qatar — Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic said he felt disrespected by Canada head coach John Herdman for his comment in a group huddle following a loss to Belgium on Wednesday.

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After the emotional 1-0 loss at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Herdman gathered his troops on the field and gave an impassioned speech.

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When asked following the game what he told his team, Herdman admitted he told his group to ‘F’ Croatia, in reference to Canada’s second game at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

On the eve of the game Sunday (11 a.m. ET) at the Khalifa International Stadium, Croatian coach Zlatko Zlatko Dalic was again asked about the comment at the pre-match press conference here on Saturday.

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“Canadians must have respect for us and this way of putting words together is not a sign of respect,” Dalic said through an interpreter. “We are the runners up (2018 World Cup), it wasn’t Brazil or Spain or any other country. We are the runners up, we were second in the world, we are worth of respect the way we played, the way we behave, the way we respect all others, is the reason we are worthy or respect.

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“I shall not focus or comment on other people’s comment. We will be prepared, be fit and we will demonstrate respect from Canada and from everyone else. We expect respect just as we exercise this view.”

Croatia was a surprising World Cup finalist four years ago in Russia, beating England in the semifinal before losing to France. Along the way, Croatia also beat Argentina in the group stage.

Croatia was held to a scoreless draw in its opening match by Morocco on Wednesday. Croatia concluded the group stage against Belgium on Thursday.

“The Croatia team deserves respect from everyone; we have proven that by the way we’ve played with our conduct at the World Cup; since the very beginning we’ve deserved respect and dignity,” Dalic said. “We have two (World Cup) medals in the last 30 years and we’re up there with Germany and France and countries like that have such an achievement. We respect everyone equally so we expect our opposing teams to respect us. We are worth of their respect.”

Croatia striker Ivan Perisic was also asked for his thoughts on Herdman’s comments.

“I second the head coach,” he said. “And I cannot wait for the match to begin.”

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Canada coach Herdman jokes about Croatian tabloid – CTV News

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DOHA, Qatar –

Canada had just lost its first World Cup match in 36 years, outplaying Belgium for much of a 1-0 defeat, and an emotional John Herdman revealed in the on-field interview what he had just told his players during a postgame huddle.

“I told them they belong here. And we’re going to go and F Croatia,” the coach said with a smile, using a single letter to avoid a televised profanity. “That’s as simple as it gets.”

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His words reveberated all the way to Zagreb as Sunday’s Croatia-Canada game approached.

Croatia’s 24 Sata (24 Hours) tabloid ran a fullpage photo of a naked Herdman with Maple Leaf flags over his mouth and private parts and a headline that translated to: “You have the mouth, but do you have the (guts) as well?”

Commenting Saturday on Herdman’s words, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic used the word “respect” 13 times in a 90-second span.

“This way of putting words together is not a sign of respect,” he said through a translator. “The way we play, the way we behave and the way we respect all others are the reasons we are worthy of respect.”

Sitting next to Dalic, winger Ivan Perisic said simply: “I second the head coach and I cannot wait for the match to begin.”

Speaking before Dalic, Herdman used humour in an attempt to defuse tensions.

“When you get a text from your wife telling me you need to start working out before you get home, yeah, you think you know something’s going on,” Herdman said, noting the newspaper image was of a trimmer midsection than his own.

“My wife’s coming after you guys,” he told a reporter from that Croatian paper, laughing. “She wishes she got that guy. I’ve got a bit more of a belly than that. I’ve been eating too much.”

On Thursday, Herdman had explained what his intent was.

“You say those things in an impassioned moment trying to inspire your team in a huddle, and when you’re asked the question what you said in that huddle, yeah, it was what I said,” he said.

“It’s not massively respectful to Croatian people and the Croatian national team. I understand very well where they’re at on the world stage. But in that moment, you’ve taken your men to that next place,” he added.

Playing Croatia for the first time, Canada could be eliminated with another defeat.

Croatia, which lost the 2018 final to France, is the world’s 12th-ranked team and opened with a 0-0 draw against Morocco. Star Luka Modric, playing what is likely his last World Cup at age 37, put a first-half shot over the crossbar.

Canada has played just four World Cup games in its history and still is searching for its first goal. The Canadians outshot the Belgians 21-9 but gave up a 44th-minute goal to Michy Batshuayi from a long pass. Alphonso Davies had a chance to put Canada ahead in the 11th minute but his penalty kick was saved by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

“We know exactly what our slingshot is and we’ve got to be ready to attack that across different games now because, as I say, the cover’s off from Canada,” Herdman said. “I think people come into this game, the next games respecting us a little bit more.”

Captain Atiba Hutchinson, at 39 the only member of the current roster alive when Canada went 0-3 at the 1986 World Cup, can make his 100th international appearance Sunday — Julian de Guzman is second with 89.

Midfielder Jonathan Osorio is looking forward to facing the last World Cup’s runner-up.

“We like to play the best,” he said after the Belgium match. “We’re excited for the challenge.”

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‘We don’t fear anybody’: Canada ready for Croatia challenge at World Cup – Sportsnet.ca

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