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Faced with first genuine test of 2021 world juniors, Canada falls short – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — Some like the cakewalk, those fluffy two weeks of beating the spread against teams that don’t have a single player who could make Team Canada, had they been born here.

Some look at the cakewalk as a Canadian’s chance to be loud and proud. To paint our faces and travel in groups to foreign lands like hockey vikings. Then, when we predictably beat up on a Germany, a Switzerland, a Latvia — or even a Russia — us Canadians go full Uncle Sam in our chest thumping.

Full disclosure: The world junior team has always been our Dream Team. We may say, “I’m sorry,” more than any other nation, but from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 we become the Ugly Canadians as often as not.

Somehow we’ve created ‘A Holiday Tradition’ out of watching our kids demolish kids from other countries in lopsided affairs that one would think Canadians, of all people, would be more likely to apologize for than celebrate. Instead, we justify it with a chorus of, “It’s not our boys’ fault that they put us on the weak side of the draw.”

As it turns out though, it can be our boys’ problem.

After two weeks of never giving up an even-strength goal, of outscoring their opponents 41-4, of recording shutouts in every second game — OF NEVER TRAILING EVEN FOR A SINGLE SECOND — Canada was defeated 2-0 in the gold-medal game by the United States Tuesday night in Edmonton.

Trevor Zegras had a goal and an assist for Team USA, but his most accurate shots came before the game, when he put into words what every Canadian fan was quietly fearing.

“I don’t think they’ve been tested by a real team yet,” Zegras said. “I don’t think this goalie has been tested five-on-five yet.”

Hey, it’s not bragging if you can do it.

“There are a lot of good teams in this tournament, and they’re one of them,” said the magnificent Canadian defenceman Bowen Byram after the game. “We made the best push we could in the third. We had a lot of chances. It didn’t go in.”

Canada opened the game with a 7-2 run on the shot clock, and then Team USA took over. American defenceman Drew Helleson drifted a harmless wrist shot towards the net, and Alex Turcotte (Alfie’s boy) cruised through the slot and redirected the puck past Devon Levi, and suddenly the record books were wiped clean.

Canada’s even-strength goal streak? Gone in their seventh game.

Levi’s 148 minute, 20 second shutout streak? History.

You haven’t trailed the entire tournament? Well, boys, you’re trailing now.

Zegras scored early in Period 2 and the score was 2-0 after 40 minutes, but there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the game was still absolutely up for grabs.

“Going into the third we have to believe we’re going to tie the game,” said Dylan Cozens, Canada’s best player here. “We had our looks. (Goalie Spencer) Knight played great, but we didn’t get the bounces.”

Had the Hockey Gods dispensed all of Canada’s fortune on goals against the Germans (16 of them), the Swiss (10) and Russia (a 5-0 win)? Had Canada used all its luck up at the 25-cent slots, and now gone hungry at the $20 table?

Look, there are a lot of ways to diagnose a power outage by a team that had scored 41 times in seven games prior to this silver-medal game. We would start with crediting the opponent, and the fabulous play of Knight in the Team USA net.

But something sticks with me:

Throughout the tournament, Canadian coach Andre Tourigny repeatedly sought to find adversity in every game, no matter what the score, that Canada had overcome to find victory. Whether it was a penalty kill in a 4-1 game, the 53 days spent in hotels since training camp opened, the 14-day quarantine in Red Deer or a bad few shifts against Slovakia, Tourigny’s mantra after every game was that his team was learning to deal with adversity and that was a welcome and necessary lesson.

Looking back, was he inventing that adversity? Had it really existed, to the extent that they knew what to do in the face of the genuine article that the Americans threw at them Tuesday?

“The COVID test we had in camp, we had to quarantine for 14 days by ourselves. That’s adversity that we battled through,” declared Cozens. “We played great through all the games, and we ran into a good team like this. But it’s not the first adversity we faced.”

OK, then perhaps the better question is this: Can the adversity of playing a team that is your equal be manufactured elsewhere, using quarantines and a bunch teams that don’t deserve to be on the same ice as Canada?

Is it impossible to manufacture adversity, the way Tourigny tried to?

“It’s the first team that really pushed back, we were not used to it, and we didn’t have enough time to get back at it,” the coach said. “After we adjusted we were really good. But, no one will remember that.

“They’ll remember the score.”

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Blue Jays officially sign reliever Kirby Yates to one-year contract – Sportsnet.ca

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The Toronto Blue Jays have officially signed reliever Kirby Yates to a one-year contract worth $5.5 million.

Yates appeared in six games with the San Diego Padres during the 2020 shortened season before having surgery in August to remove bone chips from his pitching elbow.

During the 2019 season, the 33-year-old recorded an MLB-high 41 saves, walked only 13 batters and struck out 101 through 60.2 innings. In seven seasons with the Padres, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels, Yates has a career 3.54 ERA and 400 strikeouts through 282.1 innings.

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Why George Springer is such a big get for the Blue Jays – CBC.ca

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This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

The Blue Jays gave out their richest contract ever

Toronto has lured centre-fielder George Springer away from the Houston Astros with a six-year agreement reportedly worth $150 million US. Here are the key things to know about Springer and the deal, which is awaiting a physical to become official:

This is the largest contract in Blue Jays history. The only other one to hit nine figures was the seven-year, $126-million extension signed by Vernon Wells in December 2006. The previous Jays record for a free agent was the $82 million given to Canadian catcher Russell Martin before the 2015 season. At $25 million per year, Springer’s average annual pay eclipses that of pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu, who signed for $20 million a year for four years last off-season.

But this isn’t the biggest free-agent signing in Jays history. In terms of sheer “Holy s—! I gotta tell everyone I know!” impact, that would be the Roger Clemens deal in December of ’96. The four-year, $40-million pact worked out pretty well too, at least to start. Clemens won the Cy Young in his only two seasons with the Jays before demanding a trade. The signings of Jack Morris (two years, $10.85 million before the ’92 season) and Paul Molitor (three years, $13 million prior to ’93) were also very big at the time and helped propel the Jays to World Series titles.

Springer was one of the top free agents on the market. This list on MLB.com ranked him third, behind Philly catcher J.T. Realmuto and Cincy pitcher Trevor Bauer. Not the greatest class, but Toronto can say it got the best non-battery player available.

Springer is a very good player. His best years were 2017 and ’19, when he averaged about 36 homers and an OPS+ of 145 — meaning his on-base-plus-slugging percentage was 45 per cent better than the average hitter’s in his league when adjusted for ballpark. He hit well in the shortened 2020 season too, smashing 14 homers in 51 games with an OPS+ of 140. Springer was named the MVP of the 2017 World Series after hitting five home runs in seven games vs. the Dodgers. The Astros won that year with the help of their infamous signal-stealing scheme that allowed them to tip off their hitters about what kind of pitch was coming.

He’s a bit old, though. Six years is a lot to commit to a 31-year-old, so the Jays might end up regretting the last few years of the deal. But that’s the price teams usually have to pay to land a player of this calibre.

The Springer signing adds excitement to an already-promising Jays team. Last year’s post-season appearance may have been a pandemic-induced fluke — as much a product of the shortened season and expanded playoff field as the actual skill on Toronto’s roster. A (presumed) return to a full 162-game regular season would probably benefit stronger-looking AL East rivals New York and Tampa Bay, and another 16-team playoff tournament is unlikely. But baseball seems interested in expanding from the old 10-team field, which would give the Jays more hope of making it through their tough division. And Springer joins a talented lineup of hitters whose returning core — Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Teoscar Hernández, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. — are all currently between the ages of 22 and 28. If the pitching can just not be a trainwreck again (prospect Nate Pearson might help there) this team has a lot of upside.

The Blue Jays’ prized free agent signing joins a budding young core ready to take the next step. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press)

Quickly…

The Calgary ski and snowboard bubble burst. The plan, announced two weeks ago, was to hold the world championships for freestyle skiing and snowboarding there in February and March. Some World Cup competitions were also part of the pitch, which was awaiting approval from various authorities. But the world governing body for skiing and snowboarding decided today to pull the plug on the idea, with the backing of the Canadian federations for those sports. Read more about the decision here.

The NHL postponed two more Hurricanes games. Five Carolina players have been placed on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list, resulting in the postponement of last night’s game at Nashville and now a pair of home dates vs. Florida on Thursday and Saturday. These are the first three games to be postponed since the NHL season began. Dallas’ first few games were postponed before the season started. Read more about the Carolina outbreak here.

Marielle Thompson won another medal. Today’s silver in Sweden is the 2014 Olympic ski cross champion’s 45th career World Cup podium spot. This one came in a “sprint” event, where the course is shorter than the standard one. Read more about it and watch highlights here.

Tiger Woods needed another back surgery. This makes five, and it’ll keep the 45-year-old out for at least the PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing, which starts this week and runs through Feb. 21. The operation was to remove a disc fragment that Woods said caused him pain during the event he played with his 11-year-old son last month. Tiger’s friend and fellow tour star Rory McIlroy said he thinks Woods will be out of action “for the next couple of months” but will return in time for the April 8-11 Masters “if not before that.” Read more about Tiger’s latest setback here.

Also…

Philip Rivers retired.

He never made it to a Super Bowl, and he didn’t make it look pretty, but the fiery Alabaman owns one of the best quarterback resumés ever. Rivers’ awful-looking, shot put-style throwing motion should not have worked in the NFL. But he overcame it (and then some) with supreme accuracy and a savant’s understanding of how to attack defences. He spent 17 years in the NFL (all but the last one with the Chargers) and ranks eighth in wins and fifth in completions, yards passing and touchdown passes.

Two other numbers essential to the Rivers story: nine (how many kids he has) and zero (how many games he missed after becoming an NFL starter in 2006). Rivers played his only conference championship game on a torn ACL on Jan. 20, 2008 — one of the reasons he chose today to announce his retirement with a charmingly down-home statement that included the word “dadgummit.” Read more about Rivers’ career here.

And finally…

Donald Trump isn’t the only polarizing Republican we’ll be hearing less from now.

As the 45th President left the White House today, Kelly Loeffler also appeared set to vacate her most public-facing roles. The pro-Trump U.S. Senator recently lost her seat to Raphael Warnock in one of the two high-profile Georgia run-offs that resulted in Democrats grabbing control of the Senate. As Warnock was sworn in today, a sale of the Atlanta Dream was being finalized that would presumably see Loeffler give up her 49 per cent stake in the WNBA team.

If that goes through, it will fulfill the wish of the WNBA players who openly campaigned for Warnock and called for Loeffler to sell her piece of the Dream after she criticized the league for embracing the Black Lives Matter movement. Read more about Loeffler’s potential departure from the league here.

You’re up to speed. Get The Buzzer in your inbox every weekday by subscribing below.

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Chiefs QB Mahomes practises, still in protocol – TSN

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes remained in the NFL’s concussion protocol Wednesday, but practiced in a limited capacity, raising hopes that the reigning Super Bowl MVP can play in Sunday’s AFC title game against Buffalo.

The Chiefs typically breeze through their midweek practice with little contact before ramping things up with their longest workout Thursday, and coach Andy Reid said afterward that fit perfectly with what Mahomes was able to do.

“He looked good,” Reid said. “He’s in the protocol so there’s only certain things he can do, but he took all the snaps and he feels good. So, I mean, we’re just going to follow this protocol as close as we possibly can.”

There are five steps in the league’s return-to-play protocol: rest until signs and symptoms return to baseline clearance to begin cardio; stretching and balance training with medical oversight; an increase in exercises that includes monitored strength training; the resumption of non-contact football activities; and finally, the player is cleared by team physicians and passes an independent neurological exam, at which point he is cleared to practice and play.

Reid didn’t specify which step Mahomes was in Wednesday, but the work he described coincides with the fourth step. If all goes well, that could mean the Chiefs’ quarterback is cleared to participate more fully in practice Thursday or Friday.

“He’s done well up to this point and they just progress you through the day,” Reid said, “so today was limited work and no contact, I think was the schedule for today. And that’s kind of what we’re doing on Wednesday, so it fit perfectly with that.”

Mahomes was hurt in the third quarter of last Sunday’s 22-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns when he was tackled around the neck while keeping the ball on a quarterback option. His head did not appear to strike the ground hard — if at all — and that led to reports that he had tweaked a nerve that runs up the neck.

Chad Henne finished the game and would be the starter if Mahomes was unable to play against the Bills.

“It’s definitely not the easiest if you don’t get the reps during the week,” Henne said, “but mentally you have to stay in it. When Patrick was in last week, during every practice, Matt (Moore) and I are in the back doing our drops, our progressions. That doesn’t change. After practice we get the throws we need that Patrick took and we go about our business.”

The return of Mahomes was only the start of the positive injury news for Kansas City.

Defensive back Bashaud Breeland, who also left the Browns game with a concussion, got in some limited work as the Chiefs moved practice from outdoors inside because of gusty winds.

The availability of their No. 1 cornerback is important with Bills quarterback Josh Allen riding a hot streak and All-Pro wide receiver Stefon Diggs coming to town.

Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and wide receiver Sammy Watkins also practiced Wednesday, which means the Chiefs could have a full complement of playmakers regardless of their quarterback for the first time in weeks.

Edwards-Helaire, who was fourth among rookies with 1,100 yards from scrimmage this season, sustained a high-ankle sprain in Week 15 against New Orleans and missed the final two games of the regular season. He returned to practice last Wednesday but was held out the next two days, and he was inactive for the Chiefs’ playoff game against Cleveland.

The injury-prone Watkins hurt his calf muscle in Week 15 against Atlanta. He sat out the regular-season finale and did not practice last week, joining Edwards-Helaire on the inactive list for the Browns.

“It’ll be good to have both of those guys back,” Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman said. “Hopefully they can play with us and take the necessary steps to be fully healthy or healthy enough to get some production from them.”

NOTES: The only player who did not practice in some capacity Wednesday was linebacker Willie Gay Jr. He’s been out with a sprained ankle. … Diggs isn’t the only All-Pro wide receiver on the field Sunday, and Chiefs counterpart Tyreek Hill was sure to make everyone remember it. He continually referenced a dig by Jalen Ramsey from a couple of years ago, when the Jaguars cornerback made it a point to say Hill had been voted an All-Pro as a return specialist as a rookie. “(Diggs) is one of the top receivers in the game and I really respect him,” Hill said, “so we just got to see who has the better game, him or (Travis) Kelce, but I’m still just a return specialist.”

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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