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Canada rebounds vs. Germany Hofer answers the call

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After arguably the worst defeat in the team’s history at the world juniors and the loss of its top player, Alexis Lafreniere, two days prior, it would be understandable if Canada looked shellshocked against an upstart German team.

But that wasn’t the case on Monday.

Canada came out firing, opening the scoring for the first time during its three games at the tournament and holding on for a 4-1 victory thanks to some great goaltending.

The win bumps Canada’s record to 2-0-0-1 as it battles for supremacy in Group B.

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Here are some takeaways from the bounce-back win for Canada:

Hofer holds down fort

Joel Hofer (St. Louis Blues) wasn’t exactly given an easy assignment in his first appearance for Canada in last Saturday’s 6-0 blowout to Russia.

The 2018 fourth-round pick gave up two goals on 22 shots in relief for Nicolas Daws, who gave up eight goals and sports a .840 save percentage across two games.

But in his first start for Canada at any level on Monday, Hofer staked his claim for the starting gig, stopping 21-of-22 shots.

The 19-year-old from Winnipeg stepped up, in particular, during a shaky defensive second period for Canada.

After Liam Foudy (Columbus Blue Jackets) took a questionable tripping call nearly seven minutes into the frame, Hofer made a huge post-to-post save to rob German winger Yannik Valenti. Then, with a second left on the power play, Hofer stopped Valenti again on a break.

But Hofer’s best effort came close to eight minutes in, when Canadian defenceman Jared McIsaac (Detroit Red Wings) broke his stick at the point in Germany’s zone, springing John-Jason Peterka for a clean breakaway. But the Canadian netminder stoned the potential high pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

It provided a massive momentum swing for Canada, as it stretched its lead to 2-0 shortly after.

He was named Canada’s player of the game, with his lone goal against coming on a late 5-on-3 power play for Germany.

Hofer, who stands six-foot-five and weighs 172 pounds, has a 1.81 goals-against average and .937 save percentage — which is second to only Team U.S. goalie Dustin Wolf — in 27 games for the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks.

Offence plugs holes

Despite missing two-thirds of its top line, Canada found a way to generate enough offence to beat the Germans.

Nolan Foote’s (Tampa Bay Lightning) second goal of the tournament at 11:50 of the first period was a much-needed reminder that it still boasts plenty of weapons.

The 2019 first-round pick (27th overall) capitalized on a point shot by Kevin Bahl that appeared to hit a defender and was loose in the slot for the taking.

But it was Foudy’s marker at 12:24 of the second frame, after a series of great saves by Hofer, that restored Canada’s confidence and put it in control.

The 2018 first-rounder (18th overall) — who looked spritely all game and showed plenty of battle, finishing with two points — got possession of the puck at the left point, walked in and sniped it home blocker-side on Hendrik Hane.

Calen Addison (Pittsburgh Penguins) extended the lead to 3-0 at 14:01 of the second on an unchallenged slapper from the point during a 5-on-3 power play.

Ty Dellandrea added an empty-netter, assisted by Foudy, at 19:50 of the third period.

While Canada’s offensive performance sans Joe Veleno (Detroit Red Wings) and Lafreniere was promising and gave the club some much-needed confidence, reinforcements could be on the horizon.

Veleno, who was suspended one game for a head-butt in the loss to Russia, is slated to return vs. the Czech’s on Tuesday, and Lafreniere’s injury may not be as bad as initially feared.

The projected top pick in the 2020 NHL Draft — who crumpled to the ice and left the game in agony after hurting his left knee after an awkward fall on Saturday — hasn’t been ruled out for the rest of the tournament and an MRI showed no fracture or structural damage to ligaments.

Strong penalty kill again

It was another strong game for Canada’s penalty killers, who mostly held a potent German power play in check.

Heading into the game, Germany was 5-for-11 on the power play and had scored all but two of its seven total goals with the man-advantage.

This was the second outing in a row that Canada looked locked in on the PK. The lone bright spot in Canada’s historic loss Saturday was the fact that it held Russia off the board during four power plays.

On Monday, Canada was 1-for-5 on the penalty kill, succumbing during a 5-on-3 after back-to-back German power plays at the end of the third period. German forward Tim Stutzle, who is projected to be a top-10 pick in the upcoming draft, fed Valenti for a one-time goal just outside the right faceoff circle at 18:53.

Canada has looked much improved short-handed after giving up three goals in five chances during its tournament-opening 6-4 win over the U.S.

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The free agent market is sizzling, who’s left for the Blue Jays?

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With MLB’s 2022 Winter Meetings in San Diego this week, the number of free agent signings has reached a frenzied pace. As of this writing, 44 free agents have already signed deals worth a combined $1.9 billion so far this offseason, headlined by monster deals for Yankees OF and AL MVP Aaron Judge (nine years, $360 million), new Phillies SS Trea Turner (11 years, $300 million), and new Texas ace Jacob deGrom (five years, $185 million). That figure doesn’t include the reported five-year, $90 million guaranteed deal that Japanese star OF Masataka Yoshida apparently agreed to on Wednesday. The average free agent contract so far has been for 2.4 years and $44 million total value.

The Toronto Blue Jays have so far been unlucky in their free agent pursuits, highlighted by starter Kyle Gibson passing up the same one-year, $10 million offer made by Toronto to sign instead with the Baltimore Orioles. The Jays have also been mentioned in relation to starters Justin Verlander, Andrew Heaney and Jameson Taillon, as well as reliever Kenley Jansen and CF Cody Bellinger, who have all signed with other teams. All of their other AL East peers have been active this week signing and trading for players.

The need for a power-hitting left-handed bat to balance out the Jays lineup has been clearly defined as necessary to improve this club’s postseason chances following the Teoscar Hernández trade last month. A number of LHH OFs have agreed to deals already, including the above mentioned Masataka Yoshida, Joc Pederson, who accepted the San Francisco Giants $19.65 million qualifying offer (QO), and Cody Bellinger, who signed a one year, $17.5 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.

Remaining LHH free agent options in CF include Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Kiermaier. Should the Jays decide to keep George Springer in CF instead of moving him to right to reduce the wear and tear on his body, they could also look at left-handed hitters Joey Gallo or Michael Conforto in RF. Trading Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in a package for starting pitching or a CF like the switch-hitting Bryan Reynolds or Dalton Varsho might make sense if they were were able to sign one of Michael Brantley or Andrew Benintendi for LF, But those trades would both be costly in terms of the likely drain on an already bottom third ranked farm system.

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Further, with the St. Louis Cardinals signing free agent catcher Willson Contreras to a five year, $87.5 million contract, it appears less likely that the Cards might be a trade destination for one of the Blue Jays three catchers. One of Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk or Gabriel Moreno in a deal for switch-hitting OF Dylan Carlson or LHH RF Lars Nootbaar looked good on paper, but now seems less likely.

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Marner and Matthews stay hot, Samsonov earns shutout as Maple Leafs beat Kings – Sportsnet.ca

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Marner and Matthews stay hot, Samsonov earns shutout as Maple Leafs beat Kings

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Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record point streak to 21 games with a second-period goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

With Toronto in front 3-0, thanks to goals from Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander just 1:06 apart earlier in the second, Marner checked in with a slapshot marker after a Kings turnover inside their blue line.

Gotta See It: Maple Leafs’ Marner scores to extend point streak to 21 games

The Maple Leafs (17-5-6) won for the seventh time in eight outings and handed Los Angeles (14-11-4) its seventh loss in 10 games.

With Canadian pop star Justin Bieber among the 18,567 at Scotiabank Arena, Marner scored his 11th of the season. He has 10 goals and 16 assists in his 21-game point streak.

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Marner’s streak is now tied for 23rd all-time in the NHL with Dave Taylor, Adam Oates and Bobby Hull.

Marner also became the 10th different player in the past 35 years to string together a point streak of 21 or more games and the third active skater, behind Patrick Kane (26 games in 2015-16) and Sidney Crosby (25 games in 2010-11).

Toronto goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout in a Maple Leafs sweater and the seventh of his career.

The Maple Leafs outshot their opponents 41-29.

Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, who made 36 saves, kept his club in the game for the opening 25 minutes.

The Maple Leafs had outshot the visitors 19-7 when Engvall beat Quick with a wrist shot for a power-play goal 5:10 into the second period.

Twenty-six seconds later, Kampf employed linemate Alex Kerfoot as a decoy to score on a two-on-one rush started by Kerfoot to provide the Maple Leafs with a two-goal advantage.

Nylander checked in with his 15th of the season, and fifth in seven games, on a breakaway goal 40 seconds later. He also set up Auston Matthews for his 14th goal midway through the final period.

Kerfoot was good for two assists against the Kings.

Engvall’s night ended early in the third period when he was given a match penalty for intent to injure after he high-sticked Kings defenceman Sean Durzi, a former Toronto draft pick, in the back of the head in the neutral zone.

During the ensuing five-minute power-play, Los Angeles winger Adrian Kempe scored but the goal was rescinded after a video review determined the play was offside.

BRODIE’S BACK

Maple Leafs defenceman T.J. Brodie returned to the lineup after a 12-game absence because of an oblique injury, playing alongside newcomer Conor Timmins. Toronto went 9-0-3 without Brodie.

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