NHL.com’s Q&A feature called “Five Questions With …” runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Hockey Hall of Famer and three-time Stanley Cup champion Igor Larionov, who will coach Russia at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship:
Igor Larionov is confident Russia has built a team that can win the IIHF World Junior Championship for the first time in 10 years.
Larionov will coach Russia at the 2021 WJC for the first time, replacing Valeri Bragin, who had coached Russia for the previous six tournaments. Larionov was an assistant under Bragin at the 2020 WJC, where Russia finished second.
Russia has finished in the top three in nine of the past 10 tournaments but last won the event in 2011.
[RELATED: More 2021 World Junior Championship coverage]
“I guess it’s time to reconsider the standings … maybe reshape the standings,” Larionov said. “I played for a team that hadn’t won the Stanley Cup for 42 years (before winning in 1997) in Detroit, so now maybe it’s time as a coach, as a leader, to lead [Russia] to success in Canada.”
The WJC is scheduled to be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton from Dec. 25 to Jan. 5, 2021. No fans will be in attendance for the games, and the teams are in a secure zone similar to the one used by the NHL during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Russia will play in Group B during the preliminary round, starting against the United States on Dec. 25. It also will play the Czech Republic (Dec. 27), Austria (Dec. 29), and Sweden (Dec. 30). Group A consists of Canada, Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia and Germany.
All games will be broadcast in the United States on NHL Network.
As a player Larionov helped the Soviet Union win the World Junior Championship in 1979 and 1980, and in 14 NHL seasons he scored 644 points (169 goals, 475 assists) in 921 regular-season games with five teams. He won the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 1997, 1998 and 2002, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008.
Here are Five Questions with … Igor Larionov:
What is your coaching philosophy and how might it differ from Valeri Bragin?
“My philosophy is to teach hockey the right way. To be professional, pay attention to detail and play good, enthusiastic hockey that requires skill, the mindset and the work ethic needed to be successful. I guess maybe it’s not appropriate to compare to a previous coach and someone who I have a lot of respect for, but at the same time I’ve tried to go back to the roots of Russian-style hockey, when we played at high speed and used quick minds and quick feet. I enjoy the smart team play and playing an offensive style that requires imagination. We will play with skill, play for each other and give maximum effort.”
What are the strengths of the Russia team we’ll see at the World Juniors?
“We don’t have that much experience in returning players from last year, other than goalie Iaroslav Askarov (Nashville Predators), and forwards Vasily Podkolzin (Vancouver Canucks) and Maxim Groshev (Tampa Bay Lightning). Since I couldn’t view players during this difficult time (in a pandemic), with no camps and nothing to see from exhibition games in the traditional Canadian Hockey League Canada Russia Series during the November tour in Canada, it gave us an opportunity to see the boys play in the Kontinental Hockey League level, playing against men. I’m looking for skill, character, speed and a mind that’s ready to sacrifice and play for the team.”
Askarov is 18 years old; is he one of the best Russia-born goalies you’ve seen at his age?
“It’s not the secret that everyone is talking about Askarov, but we have three really good goalies, Askarov, Artur Akhtyamov (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Vsevolod Skotnikov (2021 draft eligible). Obviously, [it isn’t often] you have a young talent like [Askarov,] and looking back on [the 2020 WJC], when he had so much pressure, he was kind of a little off his game. This time around we hope it’s going to be his tournament. Obviously we’re not going to rely on just the goalies. We’re going to rely on everybody else too, but [Askarov] is going to be the guy who stops the puck.”
What are the advantages of having three returning players (Askarov, Podkolzin, Groshev)?
“Well, they became one year older and the experience last year wasn’t very pleasant, losing in the final (to Canada), but it’s still experience and this year they came with one purpose: to help the team to be better in every way for the best possible result.”
What has impressed you about defenseman Daniil Chayka, who received an A rating from NHL Central Scouting for the 2021 NHL Draft and is the only projected first-round selection on the roster?
“I like the way he’s developing and the way he plays. Obviously there’s some mistakes and he’s only 18, but I like his hockey sense, his poise with the puck … so there’s a good future. When you see a player like that, it’s obviously a pleasure to have him on the team, believing that players can play with him at the same time and on the same unit because they know he’s going to make the right decisions. Sometimes there are some mistakes made, but you need to expect some mistakes. But he’s good enough and smart enough to play in this tournament.”
Maple Leafs benefiting from Marner’s new shooting mentality – Sportsnet.ca
For three winters now, pass-first Mitchell Marner has vowed to adopt a shooter’s brain, knowing full well that becoming a double threat would keep goalies guessing and the Toronto Maple Leafs winning.
“You’ve got to respect both the shot and the pass option,” goaltender Frederik Andersen explains. “The better you can be at both, the more it’s going to help you.”
Sounds simple enough.
But on a night when your team has coughed up 2-0 and 3-1 leads on the road, when the game is tied, and the tide has turned, and your centreman plants one on your tape with under eight minutes left… you still gotta bury the sucker.
Which is precisely what Marner did Tuesday in Calgary, drifting into a quiet space in the high slot, pounding a one-timer past Jacob Markstrom, and delivering Toronto its sixth nail-biting victory in eight games.
“I’ve really been working on that shot with Matts. If I can try to find that shot more, I know Matts can find me there,” said Marner.
For years now, Auston Matthews and Marner have routinely been the final two Leafs to glide off the ice during pre-game skate, using every last second of warm-up to feed each other one-timers until the buzzer sounds, the lights dim, and the music stops.
“It’s just trying to get it off my stick quickly and on to the net, for a chance on net, for a rebound or something,” Marner said. “I’m trying to get more of a shot mentality in there, trying to be more of a threat. It was a great dish by Matty, and that’s a big goal.”
Marner’s strike completed an eight-point swing in the North Division standings in favour of the Leafs over the Flames in the rivals’ first two-game miniseries.
Marner’s fifth multi-point effort and second game-winner also vaulted the winger into a tie with Connor McDavid for the NHL points lead with 12.
Critics may be quick to point out that Marner has a league-high two empty-netters or that his 31.3 per cent shooting percentage is unsustainable. Fair. But there is little doubt Marner has embarked on a mission to make his impact felt after a disappointing experience in the 2020 post-season bubble.
“A real differentiator for the true great players, the truly elite players of the league: they’re not satisfied,” coach Sheldon Keefe said. “When you see Mitch Marner, John Tavares, Auston Matthews, William Nylander out on the ice every day, practising and working on different things and spending their off-season trying to add different layers to the game, if you’re a player that is not at their level, there’s no excuses.”
Instrumental to both the Leafs’ top power-play and penalty-kill units, Marner has seen his average ice time climb to 23:33, tops among all NHL forwards.
In effort to convert his muffin to a missile, Marner has bulked up his body and stiffened his stick flex. He’s also tried to rethink his options when he gets within striking distance.
“The last two years I’ve been trying to work on it. I feel like it’s a mentality thing,” Marner said. “I feel like I really want to try and make an extra play most of the time, but this year around, trying to be more of a threat. More of a guy that can be a more consistent shooter on net, kind of change things up on goalies — and that’s what I did tonight.”
Andersen faces Marner’s shot daily in practice and believes it’s an “underrated” weapon, noting that placement can trump power.
“He’s good at picking spots and being pretty elusive and tricky about where he’s going to go,” Andersen said. “He wants to be more than an incredible passer and playmaker. I know he wants to add to his game, and I think he’s done that throughout the years I’ve played with him.”
Much of the juicy morning chatter around the Leafs’ 4-3 win will be about Jake Muzzin flipping the game puck into Matthew Tkachuk’s logo at the buzzer and Tkachuk blowing a gasket in response to the unwelcome souvenir.
But Muzzin’s take-that gesture would not have been possible had the Maple Leafs not received contributions from their bottom six — taxi-squad graduate Travis Boyd notched his first as a Leaf, and Wayne Simmonds is now running a two-game goal train — or a double dose of the Matthews-Marner connection.
“It just looks like he’s flying,” Morgan Rielly says of Marner. “I know he’s pretty motivated, and he’s in a good place right now. He’s just having fun with it, and it’s great to be around him at the rink when he’s feeling like that.”
New Leafs T.J. Brodie and Zach Bogosian have both had their eyes opened by Marner’s elite ability to make reads and contribute defensively.
“So, he’s the total package,” Bogosian says.
Even higher praise for Marner came from Leafs president Brendan Shanahan when addressing the club’s season-ticket holders in a Leafs Nation Network interview earlier this month.
“He’s got an energy that the players all love. He laughs at himself. He’s self-deprecating, but he’s also very serious about his job and the pressure that he puts on himself,” Shanahan said.
“He just cares. He cares a lot. This is a guy that I hope plays his entire career in Toronto. And if he does, I have no doubt he will bring us success. And I have no doubt that he’s going to have a statue outside of the arena one day.”
Schilling requests to be removed from HOF ballot going forward
Curt Schilling wants nothing more to do with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
The longtime major-league pitcher shared a letter on his Facebook Tuesday night, requesting his removal from Hall of Fame ballots going forward.
“I can say at this point I am mentally done,” Schilling wrote. “I know math and I know trends and I know I will not attain the 75% threshold for induction.”
Schilling missed out on induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame for the ninth straight year after receiving 71.1% of the vote. He received more votes than any other eligible player but still fell 16 votes shy of enshrinement.
“I wanted to reiterate this final point. I will not participate in the final year of voting,” he said. “I am requesting to be removed from the ballot. I’ll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player. I don’t think I’m a Hall of Famer as I’ve often stated but if former players think I am then I’ll accept that with honor.”
Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the board for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, said Schilling’s request would be considered at their next meeting.
Since retiring after the 2007 season, the six-time All-Star has come under fire for his political views. In 2016, Schilling was fired from his position as an analyst for ESPN after making anti-transgender remarks on social media. Prior to that, he had been suspended for comparing radical Muslims to Nazis on Twitter.
Across 20 seasons between the Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles, and Houston Astros, Schilling compiled a 216-146 record with a 3.46 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 8.6 K/9.
Source: – theScore
Oilers still looking for complete effort after swapping comebacks with Jets – Sportsnet.ca
EDMONTON — They haven’t won back-to-back games yet this season, which tells us that the Edmonton Oilers simply haven’t found their game yet in 2021.
Get a lead? No problem. Hold on to it? Problem.
Two games at Winnipeg. Two third-period leads. Two points to show for it — and it took a wild comeback to pull that off.
“You put yourself in a good position and you can’t waste those,” admitted Darnell Nurse.
Getting those road leads is worth something, isn’t it? Is the glass half full, or half empty, Connor McDavid?
“Not sure what it was,” McDavid said, when asked what the issue is with holding leads. “Same type of story as the other night. I thought we did a good job most of the 40 minutes and then in the third period we kind of just let it get away. We were able to battle back the other night, but not tonight. It’s frustrating.”
Three Jets goals in 3:27 turned a 3-2 Oilers lead into a 5-3 deficit. This, after a few chances — by Zack Kassian in particular — had been wasted that would have extended the Edmonton lead to two goals.
Seven games into his season, Kassian doesn’t have a goal yet. We applaud the plethora of scoring chances he is creating — that’s more than some guys can say. But Kassian is missing the net on too many Grade A chances. He’s a vet who has to figure out how to bear down and help his team get through a tough stretch.
Here are a few more observations on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Winnipeg:
Minus Too Many
Here’s the deal on Oilers defenceman Tyson Barrie: He’s dangerous at both ends of the ice.
The problem is, so far this season he’s only been dangerous in one end — the defensive zone — and isn’t scaring anyone with his work on offence. Barrie has two assists in his first eight games as an Oiler and has been taken off the top power play unit. Meanwhile, after an even night against Winnipeg he is now six below par.
We get it — plus-minus is an antiquated stat. But minus-6 just eight games into a season? That’s not good enough for a guy who came here to play an important role.
“Well yeah, you’ve got to do both sides of it,” said head coach Dave Tippett when asked about Barrie’s game. “His game has got to be some good puck moving, some creative play at the offensive blue line. There’s been glimpses of it, but not enough of it.”
Barrie left his check alone on Nikolai Ehlers’ goal, the first of three straight in the third period for Winnipeg. It was a straight two-on-two, and then Ehlers was wide open for a pass from Paul Stastny.
Barrie simply blew the assignment.
You can deal with those defensive deficiencies when the points are flowing at the other end. But they’re not — Barrie’s game as advertised has yet to arrive in Edmonton.
Or, if you listen to Leafs fans, perhaps it has…
Bad to Better
It’s funny: The Oilers felt great about erasing a 3-2 deficit and winning on a last-second goal Sunday. Now it is the Jets who are satisfied, having broken open the game in the third and grabbed the two points.
Neither team played a full 60 minutes in either game. But the one that gets the points always sees the positives, as Edmonton did on Sunday.
“Our mentality is just staying in the battle and knowing we’re better than that,” said Ehlers. “That first period wasn’t good. Bucky (Connor Hellebuyck) gave us a chance to stay in the game and we got the two points, We’re happy with that, will probably take the day off tomorrow and look forward to the next game.”
Meanwhile, Edmonton will search for some positives, heading home from a 2-2 road trip for a pair against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“We did play some good hockey for long stretches,” Nurse said, “but we put ourselves in good position going to third and you have to find a way to get the next one or get momentum going your way. When we gave up the first one, we kind of just let it pile on more and more.
“There’s things in our game that we can build off of, but when we put ourselves in that position we have to find a way to close it out. You put yourself in a good position and you can’t waste those.”
Tippett did contemplate a time out after McDavid scored with 1:50 to play, pulling the Oilers to within one.
“Yes, we were,” he said. “But if you take a time out then, they’ve got to play that whole 1:50. We wanted to get 30 seconds (out of another line), so we’d (call a time out) and play them the last 1:20. If you take your time out then you’ve got to play them for two full minutes. That’s a lot of time at the end of a game.”
The Jets ended up scoring into an empty net, with the McDavid unit on the ice. Two late comebacks, alas, was too much for Tippett to ask for.
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