Things can certainly change, but it’s difficult to imagine that we haven’t seen the last of Henrik Lundqvist as an NHL player. Assuming Zdeno Chara does indeed play this season, ‘King Henrik’ would have already been the fourth-oldest player in the league and the oldest NHL goalie in 2020-21. It’s hard to fathom that someone even of Lundqvist’s mettle could endure recovering from a heart condition and missing a full season of hockey, then coming back to the best league in the world at the age of 39.
So it may very well be that our last memory of Lundqvist will have been a 4-1 loss in the qualifying round of the bubble playoffs in which Lundqvist stopped 30 of 34 shots back on Aug. 3. If that’s the case, Lundqvist is, of course, a no-brainer Hall of Famer in 2023. After Lundqvist announced Thursday that he will have to sit out the season due to a heart condition, we do know for sure that we will not get to see him chase the elusive Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals. Lundqvist did not definitively close the book on his career when he made his announcement, but it’s very likely the book has been closed for him.
So we’ll have to be content with remembering Lundqvist as one of the game’s all-time greats and add him to the inauspicious list of the greatest players in NHL history to not win a Stanley Cup, where he’ll be joined by Marcel Dionne, Joe Thornton (probably), Eric Lindros, Pavel Bure, Cam Neely, Adam Oates, Brad Park, Gilbert Perreault, Darryl Sittler, Peter Stastny and Mats Sundin. (As well as fellow former Ranger goalie Eddie Giacomin, who is right there – along with Mike Richter – in the discussion of the Rangers’ all-time greatest goaltenders.)
And of course it’s not all on Lundqvist that he failed to bring a Stanley Cup to a franchise that has delivered less to its fans than any other in NHL history. And we’re including the Toronto Maple Leafs. For all the individual star players they’ve had and the resources they’ve had at their disposal, it’s actually remarkable to consider how historically putrid the Rangers have been at hockey.
When top players have surrounded Lundqvist on the international stage, he has delivered the goods. He backstopped Sweden to an Olympic gold medal in 2006 and a World Championship in 2017. He also won two Swedish League titles with Vastra Frolunda, where he was named the league’s top goalie three times and the top player once. In New York, Lundqvist and the Rangers were not bereft of opportunities, particularly in 2014 when they made it to the Stanley Cup final and were overwhelmed by the Los Angeles Kings and the next year when they finished first overall in the NHL, but lost in the Eastern Conference final in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The one that probably stings the most was in 2012 when Lundqvist won the Vezina and the Rangers were the best team in the Eastern Conference, only to lose in the conference final to the New Jersey Devils in six games. The Rangers had five very good seasons in the middle of Lundqvist’s career, but for the first five and the final five, they were basically either a bad team or an average one that was in no danger of being a serious Stanley Cup contender.
If Lundqvist doesn’t play another game in the NHL, he’ll likely be sitting sixth on the league’s all-time wins list with 459 for some time. That’s because the active goalie with the next-highest number of wins is 40-year-old Ryan Miller, who has 387, and Miller has yet to be signed for this season. Next after that is 38-year-old Pekka Rinne with 359. In fact, the only active goalie with a real shot of catching Lundqvist at the moment is Carey Price, who is 111 victories in arrears. And Lundqvist’s career save percentage of .918 puts him tied for 10th all-time in that category.
And that’s even before you consider that whenever Lundqvist does leave the game for good, he’ll go down as one of the most respected players of his generation. Guys from Sweden are, generally speaking, some of the most humble and low maintenance hockey players you’re ever going to meet and in that respect, Lundqvist was no exception. And he loved playing the game. Perhaps that’s what is most disappointing, that it looks as though Lundqvist won’t be able to leave the game to which he has given so much on his own terms.
Toronto Raptors waive centre Alex Len after just seven appearances – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
TAMPA, Fla. — The Toronto Raptors waived seldom-used centre Alex Len on Tuesday.
The Raptors signed the seven-foot, 250-pound Len on Nov. 25, but he appeared in just seven games for Toronto, averaging 2.3 points, 1.6 rebounds and 10.8 minutes.
Len signed with Toronto after playing 55 games last season with Atlanta and Sacramento. The Ukrainian-born player was selected No. 5 overall by Phoenix in the 2013 NBA draft.
The centre position has been a weak spot for Toronto since Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka departed during free agency.
Aron Baynes, who also joined the Raptors during free agency, has struggled at the position. Canadian Chris Boucher, however, has been excellent coming off the bench.
Boucher is averaging career highs of 16.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.5. He had 21 points and 10 rebounds in Monday’s 116-93 victory over Dallas.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021.
Report: Blue Jays finalize agreement with reliever Kirby Yates – Sportsnet.ca
TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays are closing in on a significant addition for a bullpen in need of reinforcements.
Kirby Yates, who was at the team’s training facility in Dunedin, Fla. Tuesday, is now in agreement with the Blue Jays, as first reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. While the Blue Jays have not confirmed that an agreement is in place, sources tell Sportsnet that the contract is for one year with $5.5 million in guaranteed salary and $4.5 million in performance bonuses.
Considering that Yates underwent surgery in August to remove bone chips from his pitching elbow, a physical may have been a necessary step to completing a deal.
When healthy, Yates has been among the game’s best relievers. As a member of the 2019 Padres, for instance, he posted a 1.19 ERA with a league-leading 41 saves on his way to an all-star selection and Cy Young votes. In 60.2 innings that year, he walked only 13 while striking out 101.
Clearly, that kind of arm would be a welcome addition to a Blue Jays bullpen that lost Anthony Bass and Ken Giles to free agency. On Monday, the Blue Jays agreed to terms with Tyler Chatwood, who could also factor into the bullpen mix for manager Charlie Montoyo.
Also in the Blue Jays’ projected bullpen are Jordan Romano, Rafael Dolis, A.J. Cole, Ryan Borucki and Shun Yamaguchi. While Anthony Kay, Julian Merryweather and Thomas Hatch contributed in relief this past season, they’re likely to be stretched out as starting pitchers in 2021.
Beyond the pitching staff, the Blue Jays are also pushing for George Springer, believed to be their top off-season target.
The Blue Jays’ 40-man now includes one empty spot, which means one more player will have to be removed if Yates eventually joins Chatwood on the team.
What we learned from the Leafs pummeling the Jets – Pension Plan Puppets
The Maple Leafs pummeled the Jets in most statistical categories, and the only reason the score was an ENG-padded 3-1 was Connor Hellebuyck. The Jets did not have Patrik Laine, and that might have made that game a lot easier for the Leafs.
The Leafs laid down a glorious power play for five seconds less than two minutes on the only penalty called on the Jets. It had movement of all kinds, and might be the single best execution the team has done in some time.
The Jets had four full power plays, and their total shooting on those four looked like this:
Oh, look, the Leafs had two shots on the Jets’ power play making the total shot difference in the Jets’ 8 minutes to the Leafs’ 1:55 minutes 12 to 14. However, not only would it be unwise to give up that penalty differential if Laine is in the lineup, it’s very unwise to do it against Edmonton.
This was the Oilers last night:
I mean, yes, on the one hand, LOL Oilers, but on the other, that’s a very intimidating orange blob when you consider who is doing that shooting. That was a relatively poor showing for the Oilers too, considering they had 11:36 of five-on-four to the Canadiens 9:03.
Yeah, that’s the other thing. This is a weird NHL season, but it’s still NHL, so the penalties are frequent to the point of absurdity in some games. That should go away in about two weeks There were only 36:46 minutes of five-on-five in that Montreal – Oilers game.
The Leafs finished off the Jets with a Corsi of 62% and Expected Goals of 71%. Meanwhile the Kerfoot line had 39% Corsi and 60% Expected Goals (the worst of any line).
At the same time, however, Hyman had seven shots (Corsi or all shots, not shots on goal) second only to Matthews and Tavares with eight each.
How can you be on the worst line, and one of the best shooters?
The entire 6:49 seconds the Kerfoot line was together only five shots of any kind were produced by any Leafs player. In 1:49 of Hyman with Marner and Matthews, there were six.
Zach Hyman has been cloned in a way. He plays two deeply distinct roles on the team as the muscle winger of the “shutdown” line that doesn’t shut down top lines very well, and as the support the offence winger on the top line in his free moments.
No one should be too concerned about the Kerfoot line in that Jets game, they were more than good enough, but there’s not much about their matchup results that recommends them for the role against better teams. They dummied Ottawa okay. They folded like wet tissue against the Canadiens, and using Kerfoot’s stats as a proxy for the line since he only played two minutes away from Hyman and Ilya Mikheyev, you get this:
- 31% Corsi against Nate Beaulieu and rookie Logan Stanley
- 31% Corsi against Mark Scheifele
- 34% Corsi against Paul Stastny
The only forward they really shut down was Matthew Perreault. To give them their due, they did keep those top two lines on the Jets to less effective Expected Goals while allowing them to dominate the matchup. But when the Matthews line, and particularly the Tavares line rolled over the entire lineup, this doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence that this third line, as constructed, can handle life outside the North Division. Or the Habs. Or even the Oilers for that matter, although, we’re about to find out.
There’s a lot of time to get to a place where that can be a priority to fix, and I don’t think it is now, but no one actually needs a shutdown line that only works against Ottawa.
All numbers are from the Natural Stat Trick Full game report. All are five-on-five, score and venue adjusted, unless other wise specified or in reference to specific Corsi counts, and then they are unadjusted.
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