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Doug Pederson defends decision to bench Hurts in Eagles’ loss – Sportsnet.ca

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PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles chose to give a third-string quarterback playing time in a game with playoff implications for other teams.

Coach Doug Pederson benched Jalen Hurts for Nate Sudfeld in the fourth quarter of a 20-14 loss to Washington on Sunday night. The victory gave Washington (7-9) the NFC East title. The New York Giants (6-10) would’ve won the division crown if Philadelphia (4-11-1) had won.

The decision didn’t go over well with Giants players posting their reaction on Twitter. Sudfeld hadn’t thrown a pass since 2018 and was picked on his second attempt. He also lost a fumble.

“Yes, I was coaching to win,” Pederson said. “Yes, that was my decision solely. Nate has been here four years and I felt he deserved an opportunity to get some snaps.”

The loss gave the Eagles the sixth pick in the NFL draft. A victory would’ve dropped them to the ninth spot.

“Nobody who stepped on that field wanted to lose,” said running back Boston Scott, who had 65 yards rushing. “Nobody lacked energy.”

Hurts had a pair of 6-yard touchdown runs to help the Eagles overcome a 10-0 deficit but he misfired on his last pass, a 4-yard toss into the end zone that would’ve given them a lead late in the third quarter.

Hurts, who took over for Carson Wentz last month, finished 7 of 20 for 72 yards with one interception. His passer rating of 25.4 was the lowest by an Eagles starting quarterback since Nick Foles posted a 9.3 rating in the final regular season game in 2017. Foles finished that season as Super Bowl MVP.

“As a competitor, I play to win,” Hurts said about getting pulled. “Just trust Coach with that.”

Hurts said he knew Pederson had planned to give Sudfeld some snaps.

“I know Coach had a plan to go about it the way he did and stuck to his plan,” Hurts said.

The Eagles missed the playoffs for the first time since Pederson’s first season in 2016. They face several important decisions in the off-season, starting with their quarterback dilemma. Wentz’s $128 million, four-year contract extension kicks in next season. The team would have to absorb a significant cap hit by trading him.

“I was granted the opportunity to lead the team,” Hurts said. “I had every intention of making it to the post-season. … That will sit on my chest all off-season.”

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Player grades: Vaunted powerplay lays a rotten egg as Edmonton Oilers again fall meekly to Habs – Edmonton Journal

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#6 Adam Larsson, 4. Took a pair of penalties against his own end boards, one for mauling Phillip Danault, one for a late hit on Jake Evans that was deemed interference. Had 0 legal hits. Beyond those two powerplay opps, he didn’t give up a whole lot.

#8 Kyle Turris, 4. Another game chasing the play. Through 4 games and 44 minutes of 5v5 play, the Oilers have mustered barely 30% of the shot attempts (27 for, 59 against) and under 35% of the shots on goal (16 for, 30 against) with Turris on the ice. Oh yeah, and 0% of the goals (0 for, 4 against). On Monday those counts were 5-9, 3-6, and 0-0 respectively, so at least no damage on the scoreboard this time. 1 shot, 0 hits, and 6/15=40% on the dot.

#10 Joakim Nygard, 4. One of the more industrious Oilers, won a few puck battles but generated 0 shot attempts. Drew a penalty, but took a late one of his own for an aggressive backcheck. Celebrated Shore’s goal from the penalty box.

#13 Jesse Puljujarvi, 4. A couple of brief flashes including an early jam attempt, but had very little impact on this game.

#14 Devin Shore, 5. A culprit on Shea Weber’s game winning powerplay goal when he bowled over Koskinen. Made up for it by scoring Edmonton’s lone goal on a fine individual effort, also while killing a penalty, stealing the puck from Jonathan Drouin, waltzing in alone, and firing a perfect shot off the post and in to ruin Allen’s shutout bid with 2 minutes to play.

#15 Josh Archibald, 4. An industrious effort which included 5 hits, but generated nothing offensively. Screened Koskinen on the opening goal, which may have caught a piece of him on the way by.

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How the Maple Leafs spread the wealth of Hyman-Tavares-Marner line – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – Way back in the summer of 2018, when free agents got paid and backyard barbecues didn’t require headcounts, the Toronto Maple Leafs quietly filmed a secret video to help lure John Tavares home.

A 21-year-old Mitchell Marner was asked to buzz around a near-empty barn, flashing his stickwork and spin moves for the cameras. A custom-made sizzle reel of skill served as the cherry on top of the 77 million other reasons for Tavares to take the Leafs seriously. This is the calibre of winger we’ll provide you with, John. Just imagine the possibilities.

It wasn’t so long after Tavares posted his infamous boyhood bedsheets pic that he, Marner and Zach Hyman were tearing up the league, turning that teaser video into a full-length feature that rocked the box office in 2018-19.

Tavares erupted for a career-best 47 goals and 88 points. Marner a career-best 26 and 94. Hyman a career-best 21 and 41. Not only did they compose the Maple Leafs’ best offensive line at the time, but Hyman-Tavares-Marner was also the most — and, some nights, only — trio trusted to shut down the enemy’s best forwards.

Outside of Boston’s Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak trio, one would be hard-pressed to name a more dominant triumvirate in the East that season. A recurring debate on Toronto sports radio: Who’s really driving the line, Tavares or Marner?

Then 2019-20 happened.

A combination of injuries, role experimentation and a coaching change conspired to break up the band. Everything got chucked in the blender. Nothing tasted right.

Marner and Tavares saw their production dip from elite to excellent. Hyman rehabbed a torn ACL and ping-ponged between centremen, providing a boost wherever he landed. And Toronto’s other No. 1 pivot, Auston Matthews, began carving out a reputation as a two-way force.

So often we talk about the action of hockey as a series of moving parts, but what Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe has done this season, after months of poring over video, is completely dismantle that 2018-19 engine, repurpose the parts and rebuilt his top nine with the goal of achieving a more specialized and consistent performance.

Tavares, Marner and Hyman — so dangerous as one tight unit just 20 months ago — are now standout drivers on three separate lines.

And Monday’s performance, a decisive 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets, was a fine example of how this sucker can hum when all pistons are pumping.

Let’s start with the captain.

Tavares — my pick to have a serious bounce-back campaign — woke up Tuesday to see his name atop the NHL’s (extremely early) leaderboard in goals (three) and points (six).

Leading wingmen William Nylander and Jimmy Vesey, Tavares has been a silent beast through four games. In addition to working closely with Vesey behind the scenes to help the new Leaf adjust to the top six, Tavares ramped up his conditioning and has become a focal point of assistant coach Manny Malhotra’s new 1B power-play unit.

“He looks quicker to me than he did at any point last season,” Keefe said. “He has an extra step, whether that’s on the rush, or whether that’s coming out of the corners in the offensive zone and attacking the net, or whether that comes back into our zone.”

For all the talk of the Leafs’ influx of leadership and splashy personalities, the understated Tavares has maintained a gold standard of positioning and dependability.

“His work ethic every day has been great. He’s come ready to play and being very competitive, every puck he’s out there against. I mean, that’s what you want out of your leaders. You want them to show and be an example for everyone else,” Marner said.

Even more interesting than Monday’s utter dominance of Tavares’s line, which out-attempted the Jets 13-1 at even-strength, was Keefe’s deployment. One hundred per cent of Tavares’s even-strength draws (all eight) were in the O-zone, meaning he’s being set up for offensive success.

Charged with giving Alexander Kerfoot’s checking third line a boost of credibility and identity, Hyman has been the staff’s Swiss Army knife, providing a jolt of energy further down the lineup while getting tapped for critical shifts in the top six when needed.

On Monday, Hyman led all skaters with 10(!) shots on net despite starting a team-low 14.3 per cent of his 5-on-5 shifts in the offensive zone. He hasn’t had a poor night yet.

Keefe’s fresh disbursement of responsibility means separate but (so far) successful power-play group. It also means entrusting Matthews and Marner with more defensive responsibility and ice time. They appear ready for it in their fifth season.

Each has averaged more than 23 minutes per game in the early going here, and Marner responded from Friday’s dismal zero-shot performance in Ottawa with a pair of standout games.

Marner slammed the winner plus the empty-net insurance marker Monday, tallying five points over the past two games. Just as spicy was his response to Jets’ defenceman Neal Pionk’s attempt to run him during the final shot and Mark Scheifele’s words for him after the lamp illuminated:

“Who cares. We won the game,” Marner said. “That’s all I care about.”

Same goes for Keefe.

The aim is to win the game, and he’ll rearrange the pieces and sprinkle the trust as he sees fit.

Hyman-Tavares-Marner has been remixed, fresh for 2021, and it’s sounding pretty good upon first listen.

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Canadiens @ Oilers recap: Young stars, newcomers shine in another win – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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With a day off on Sunday, the Montreal Canadiens strolled back into Rogers Place with a massive amount of swagger following a 5-1 blowout on Saturday night. With a pair of two-goal efforts from Jeff Petry and Tomas Tatar, plus a stellar showing from Carey Price, Montreal romped through a shellshocked Oilers team.

The Oilers changed their lineup, possibly for the worse by swapping Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear for William Lagesson and Kris Russell on defence, but did add Zack Kassian back to Connor McDavid’s wing.

The Canadiens turned to Jake Allen in net for his first start in a Montreal uniform, while the Oilers stuck with Mikko Koskinen despite his poor showing on Saturday.

Unlike the first contest, it was the Oilers who started the game in control, taking advantage of a poorly timed icing to start their offensive attack. The top line tried to take advantage of their matchup with the Habs’ fourth line, but a strong series of saves from Allen denied them the game’s opening goal.

Josh Anderson came up a bit lame after a hit deep in the Habs’ zone, but his absence was immediately forgotten by what happened next. An in-zone faceoff went back to Brett Kulak at the left point. Kulak, not seeing a lane, dished it off to Alexander Romanov playing to his right. The rookie waited a second, then snapped off a quick shot that hit Koskinen, then slowly slithered through him and into the back of the net, putting Montreal up by a goal midway through the first period.

The Canadiens threatened their own lead shortly afterward, with Phillip Danault taking a two-minute stop in the penalty box for interference. Connor McDavid, bafflingly, missed a clean chance, but a second penalty on Joel Armia also gave the Oilers a short crack at a two-man advantage. An incredible solo effort from Ben Chiarot to stop a pass then maul the puck-carrier allowed Montreal to kill off Armia’s holding penatly, only for Chiarot to then fire the puck out of play for a third straight penalty.

An impressive nearly seven-minute stretch of penalty-killing came to an end without a goal against, thanks to some extremely strong work across the board, but with a big nod to Jake Evans and Paul Byron during the final stretch. The heroic showing from the penalty-killers ensured Montreal took its one-goal lead into the first intermission, thanks to Romanov’s first career goal.

The second period started with the Canadiens’ top line nearly doubling the advantage on an ill-timed Koskinen rebound. Kulak fired a puck on net, and it dribbled to the right of the Oilers’ net, but Brendan Gallagher just missed the follow-up chance with Koskinen kicking out his pad to deny the Habs winger his first goal of the season.

The rookie goal-scorer put the Canadiens short-handed early into the period, being called for a hefty crosscheck into the back of Alex Chiasson. Some impressive speed from Evans and more timely clears fended off the Oilers for a fourth time, keeping the one-goal lead intact with just over 13 minutes left to play in the second period.

Danault managed to draw a call of his own shortly after the kill, sending Adam Larsson to the penalty box and Montreal to the power play. While the Habs generated a few looks, they didn’t find a breakthrough, but were given another shot late in the period after dominating possession in the Oilers zone for several minutes. The two units had plenty of chances, including Tyler Toffoli alone in the slot, and Nick Suzuki just as the penalty expired, but it was Koskinen finally coming up with a big save to keep the Habs from adding to their lead.

A badly timed late hit from Gallagher on Darnell Nurse put the Habs back on the penalty kill, however a kick save, and sprawling cover by Allen, denied Edmonton a chance to tie the game.

Then, a somewhat dubious call on Connor McDavid put the Habs back on the power play with just under two minutes left to play in the period. Devin Shore got tangled up with Jeff Petry on the ensuing attack, taking down Koskinen at the same time as Shea Weber broke in for a chance on net. He followed his own rebound, then banked the shot in off of Koskinen’s head as the Oilers goalie attempted to sort himself out. It was initially called no goal on the ice, but a bold challenge by Claude Julien forced the officials to reverse their call, giving Montreal a late two-goal lead.

While Chiasson nearly scored before the clock expired, his heavy shot clanged off the post, and the Canadiens went into the second intermission with a two goal lead and a heap of momentum behind them.

Montreal started the final period slowly chipping away at the clock and keeping the Oilers’ big line quiet as best they could. Another cross-checking penalty, this time on Weber put Montreal short-handed for a sixth time with 16 minutes or so left to play. Again the rolling units of the Montreal penalty kill stymied the Oilers.

The penalty parade continued between the two clubs, with Larsson drilling Evans in the numbers, taking a two-minute penalty for interference just before the halfway mark of the final period. A massive pile up in the dying moments of the man advantage looked like it gave the Habs another goal, but a last-second whistle blew the play dead just as a Montreal stick chipped it past a sprawled Koskinen.

A seventh penalty by Montreal put the inept Oilers power play back on the ice, and Montreal took that personally. Petry poked the puck away in the slot, starting a two-on-one with Artturi Lehkonen and Danault, and the Finnish winger wired his first goal of the year under Koskinen’s glove to put the Habs firmly in control of the game.

A late Habs power play allowed the Oilers to get on the board, as Shore poked a puck off Jonathan Drouin’s stick, breaking in on Allen and rifling one by the Habs goalie. It allowed the Oilers a chance to also pull Koskinen, but they never got closer than two goals as Montreal saw out the end of the game without issue, winning 3-1.

Montreal continues the road trip, heading to Vancouver for a three-game stint with the Canucks, with a back-to-back on Wednesday and Thursday night, and a Saturday meeting to finish the week.

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