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Hutchinson shines, Marner scores OT winner as Leafs beat Senators – Toronto Sun

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On a night that Michael Hutchinson continued to get his swagger back, Kasperi Kapanen’s took a hit.

While Hutchinson was doing his part to help the Maple Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators in overtime on Saturday night, Kapanen watched from the press box, a healthy scratch for what coach Sheldon Keefe called “internal accountability.”

Keefe refused to elaborate on Kapanen’s benching, saying the player would address the issue with media on Monday after the Leafs’ day off on Sunday.

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“It’s a one-time thing,” Keefe said. “You guys will get a chance to talk to Kappy on Monday.

“We had chatted about it (Friday) a little bit and then made our decision. I wanted to sleep on it, we talked with Kappy (Saturday) morning and made a decision and went from there.”

Speculation was that Kapanen — whose name has popped up in trade rumours with the NHL’s deadline on Feb. 24 looming — was late for practice on Friday or missed a team meeting. It was the first game of the 2019-20 season that Kapanen did not play.

It was intriguing that the Leafs were willing to let the issue linger until Monday, rather than have Kapanen address it on Saturday night.

Still, good on Keefe for putting the team ahead of the player.

As it turned out, the Leafs managed okay without Kapanen, getting a power-play goal from Mitch Marner at 3:54 of the extra period to beat the Senators 2-1 before a crowd of 19,406.

In winning for the third time in three games since the bye week ended, the Leafs moved back into third place in the Atlantic Division with 63 points, two up on the Florida Panthers. The Panthers will be in Toronto for a rather large match against the Leafs on Monday night.

Hutchinson made 24 saves, winning his fourth start in a row and perhaps putting to rest the idea that GM Kyle Dubas needs to upgrade the position behind No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen.

“Sharp, confident, we had breakdowns and he was there when they had a couple looks,” Keefe said of Hutchinson. “He was at the top of his crease, he was confident, he was aggressive. He just looked like he was out there to win the game for us and that’s what you want to see.”

Hutchinson had a couple of rough outings in relief of Andersen in January, but has not lost a start since the end of November. He was awarded the Raptors basketball in the post-game celebration in the dressing room.

“I feel like I’ve been positive all year, even at the start when things weren’t going well,” Hutchinson said. “Just kept working hard. Now that bounces are going our way a little bit and the team is playing great, we have a lot of confidence and our whole team has that swagger back.”

With Kapanen out, Keefe moved Jason Spezza to the wing on the third line with centre Pierre Engvall and Andreas Johnsson, and inserted Dmytro Timashov into the lineup to play on the fourth line with Frederik Gauthier and Trevor Moore.

After defenceman Mark Borowiecki gave the Senators a 1-0 lead at 6:08 of the second period when his shot from the point got past a screened Hutchinson, the Leafs netminder made top-notch saves on Chris Tierney and Brady Tkachuk.

Spezza, in his first game on the Leafs side of the Battle of Ontario, used his patented shot to tie the game during a Toronto power play at 10:41. Spezza took a pass from Rasmus Sandin and ripped a shot over the left shoulder of Sens goalie Craig Anderson, who barely flinched.

The goal was Spezza’s eighth of the season in 40 games, equalling his output in each of the past two seasons with Dallas, when he played in 78 games and 76 games respectively.

Spezza acknowledged that playing in Toronto has lived up to his expectations (though we would add Spezza might have felt differently until Nov. 20, the day Mike Babcock was fired and Keefe took over).

“I really appreciate the Original Six, the history behind it, the nostalgia of Saturday night games,” Spezza said. “I enjoy that. Just the fact that we’re a team trying to establish ourselves and become a real contender has been exciting for me, it gives you a purpose and it gives you a role and it has been enjoyable so far.”

LOOSE LEAFS

Marner on his one-timer from the slot: “I don’t think anyone really thinks I’m going to shoot that. Luckily, it went in.” … William Nylander’s second five-game goal-scoring streak of the season came to an end … Leafs captain John Tavares had the fan base wringing its hands when he departed the game for a chunk of the first period. Later, Tavares said it was an ankle issue and that he was fine … Spezza has been hearing for years that he should use his lethal shot more often. “My whole life I’ve been told I’ve got to shoot the puck more,” Spezza said. “You take what’s there.” … Defenceman Travis Dermott missed the game with an illness and was replaced by Martin Marincin on a pair with Tyson Barrie … This was Auston Matthews’ take on Spezza’s shot: “I find it’s really deceptive. He can look you off, make a pass or fake like he’s passing and shoot it. He has that long stick and he just snaps it really well. It’s pretty impressive.” … Anderson had a fine evening for Ottawa, stopping 34 Leafs shots.

tkoshan@postmedia.com

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Croatia coach sends Canada a stern message ahead of World Cup showdown

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Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic sent Canada a message Saturday at the World Cup. And he didn’t need the F-word to deliver it.

Dalic offered up a stern statement when asked about John Herdman’s emotional words after Canada’s 1-0 loss to Belgium on Wednesday.

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Asked in a pitchside interview what he had said to his team in a post-game huddle, the Canada coach replied: “I told them they belong here and we’re going to go and eff— Croatia. That’s as simple as it gets.”

While Herdman delivered the last line with a smile, Dalic clearly did not see the humour.

When a Canadian reporter at Saturday’s pre-game news conference asked Dalic for his team’s response to Herdman’s heat, the Croatia coach lectured his opposition ahead of Sunday’s showdown at Khlalifa International Stadium.

Dalic used the word “respect” 12 times in his answer.

“The Croatian team deserves respect from everyone … We respect everyone, equally so,” he said through an interpreter. “We expect our opposing teams to respect us. We are worthy of their respect. The Canadians must also have respect for us. This way of putting words together is not a sign of respect. We are the (2018 World Cup runners-up), not Brazil, Spain or other countries.”

“I shall not focus or comment on any other people’s comments,” he added. “We will be prepared (Sunday), we will be fit and we will demonstrate respect for Canada … and for everyone else. We expect respect just as we exercise this view”

Croatian forward Ivan Perisic then backed up his coach, saying simply: “I second the head coach and I cannot wait for the match to begin.”

Sunday may prove otherwise but it seems, motivationally speaking, Canada has taken a knife to a gunfight.

Both the 41st-ranked Canadians and No. 12 Croatia need to get points out of the match. Belgium tops Group F with three points while Croatia and Morocco both have one point after their scoreless draw.

Canada needs to secure at least a point if it hopes to have any chance of reaching the knockout round. A loss Sunday and the Canadians can finish with no more than three points while Croatia ups its total to four. And no matter what happens in Sunday’s match between No. 2 Belgium and No. 22 Morocco, one of those teams will have at least four points.

With only two teams advancing out of the group, that would render Canada’s final group game next Thursday with Morocco meaningless in terms of tournament progression.

“At the end of the day, both teams really have to win this game,” said Herdman.

Croatian reporters didn’t bother engaging Zlatko on Herdman’s inflammatory words. They had already done so, with tabloids back home having a field day.

In contrast, three of the first four questions in Herdman’s availability were about his post-game hot take. Another came later.

The Canada coach, who had already addressed the issue on Thursday, tried to laugh off the reaction he had sparked in the Croatia camp.

He insisted he was on task “and loving the experience.” And he rejected the assertion that his words were just another motivational tool.

“We’ve been waiting 36 years to get here. I’ve used all my motivation tactics in the 20-odd games it took to get here,” he said in self-deprecating fashion.

But he maintained his words to his players in the post-game huddle after Belgium were simply “to remind them that there’s another task ahead.”

And he was quick to compliment Croatia, calling it a “top top top top football team.”

“(A) hell of a test. Hell of a test for this team,” he added. “But we’re excited.”

Herdman called Sunday’s match a “defining moment for Canada in this World Cup. It’s one of those do-or-die games now that we have to perform in to stay at a World Cup.”

Dalic, meanwhile, called Canada “a tough team full of self-confidence.”

The two sides have never met before.

The Croatian roster features the likes of Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Perisic (Tottenham), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea) and Mario Pasalic (Atalanta). Only six of its 26-man roster play at home in Croatia, with four of those at Dinamo Zagreb.

Despite that talent, Croatia had its hands full with No. 22 Morocco in its tournament opener, playing to a scoreless draw in a game that saw each team put just two shots on target.

Croatia goes into Sunday’s match riding a seven-game unbeaten streak (5-0-2) dating back to a 3-0 loss to Austria in June in UEFA Nations League play. Croatia avenged that defeat with a 3-1 decision over the Austrians in September.

Croatia has outscored the opposition 9-3 over that run, which includes a win and tie against No. 4 France.

“With all due respect to Croatia, they have a very very good team. It’s going to be tough for us,” said Canadian midfielder Stephen Eustaquio. “But it’s going to be tough for them as well.”

The Canadians, who blamed traffic for showing up 41 minutes late for their news conference before the Belgium game, arrived two minutes early Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2022.

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Croatian coach feels disrespected by Canadian coach’s comment at FIFA World Cup

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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.

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

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.

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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.

“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.

“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

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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 reverberated 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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