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In the Habs' Room: Jake Allen is becoming a tour de force in net – Montreal Gazette



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Who will be the starting goaltender when the Canadiens meet the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday in a battle for first place in the Canadian Division?

The question must be asked after Jake Allen’s latest tour de force in Montreal’s 2-1 win over the Senators in Ottawa on Saturday.

The Toronto game is the first in a back-to-back set at home with the Edmonton Oilers supplying the opposition Thursday. These situations call for the goaltenders to split the duties and, under normal circumstances, Carey Price would be start against Toronto, which is the more formidable foe.

The problem is Allen, who was brought in to ease Price’s workload, is currently Montreal’s best goaltender.

He proved that Saturday when he made 34 saves to give the Canadiens the victory in Ottawa by a razor-thin margin.

The win left Allen with some of the best numbers in the NHL — a 1.81 goals-against average, a .940 save percentage and a 4-1-0 record. He would have been 5-0-0 if the NHL’s top-scoring team had scored on a night when Allen stopped 31 of 32 shots against Calgary.

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Furor grows over photo of champion trainer Gordon Elliott sitting on dead horse – The Globe and Mail



Trainer Gordon Elliott during the Grand National Festival on April 6, 2017.

Reuters Staff/Reuters

Until last week, Gordon Elliott had the kind of backstory the sports world loves – the son of a car mechanic who rose from nothing to become a superstar in British and Irish horse racing through sheer guts and determination.

His renown as a horse trainer is unparalleled. He’s won the Grand National steeplechase three times and dominates the Cheltenham Festival on a regular basis. He’s transformed a derelict dairy farm in Ireland into a racing juggernaut stacked with nearly 200 horses, including Tiger Roll, the first two-time winner of the Grand National in nearly 50 years. “There’s only one thing I want to be,” he once said “That’s a champion trainer. I don’t really care about anything else.”

But now Elliott’s future has been thrown into turmoil over a scandal that has shaken the sport and raised questions about how the racing industry treats horses.

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It centres around a photograph of Elliott taken in 2019, which surfaced on social media this week. The picture showed him sitting on a dead horse named Morgan, flashing a “V” sign while chatting on his cellphone.

The image sparked a public outcry and led to calls for Elliott to be banned from racing. Several companies, including gambling giant Betfair, immediately cut their ties to the trainer and some owners pulled their horses from his Cullentra House stables. “It is just such an appalling image,” champion jockey Peter Scudamore told the BBC this week. “It just hit the bottom of my stomach.”

On Friday the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board banned Elliott for 12 months, with the last six months suspended. In its ruling the IHRB said the photograph showed “appalling bad taste” and added; “There can be no doubt but that the production of the subject photograph has been a cause of enormous distress to all those who appreciate the enjoyment that horses brings to their lives.” The British Horseracing Authority is expected to impose a similar sanction and it has already banned Elliott from racetracks in Britain.

Elliott has offered several apologies and he didn’t contest the IHRB’s ruling. “I am paying a heavy price for my error but I have no complaints,” he said in a statement on Friday. “I was disrespectful to a dead horse, an animal that had been a loyal servant to me and was loved by my staff.”

In a statement earlier this week he explained that the horse had suffered a heart attack during training. He added that he was standing over the body when he received a phone call. “Without thinking, I sat down to take it. Hearing a shout from one of my team, I gestured to wait until I was finished,” he said. “I appreciate that an initial viewing of this photo suggests it is a callous and staged photo but nothing could be further from the truth.”

His comments have done little to quell the uproar or the growing debate about the welfare of race horses. “The main subject of that picture is the dead horse,” said Dene Stansall of Animal Aid, a non-profit group that campaigns for better treatment of race horses. “Why did he die and how many of these horses are dying?”

Few argue that horse racing is dangerous, especially steeplechase, in which horses jump over barriers that stand up to 1.5 metres tall. The Grand National covers 7.2 kilometres and horses have to clear 30 jumps made of woven spruce branches. In 2019 Up for Review fell at the first fence and television viewers briefly watched the horse convulsing on the turf before dying. Two other horses died during the three-day series of races.

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According to figures complied by the BHA, 135 horses died in all races last year across Britain. That was down from 177 in 2019, although there were fewer races in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 202 horses died in 2018.

Stansall and others believe the death toll is higher because the BHA doesn’t include horses that die in training, which could account for an additional 200 deaths annually. He adds that horses are being put under increasing strain through over-racing, intensive training and specialized diets that are not designed for the horse’s well-being.

The Grand National and BHA insist that racing has improved and that animal care is paramount. “As a consequence of British racing’s investment in safety, welfare and health, the number of horses that have died on racecourses has decreased by one third in the last 20 years, to 0.18 per cent of runners,” the BHA said. The Grand National said it has changed fences to make them more forgiving and improved postrace care for horses to prevent injuries.

Many people have stood by Elliott, including Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair, who co-owns Tiger Roll and Morgan, the horse in the photograph. “We accept Gordon’s sincere, profound and unreserved apology and we will continue to support him and his team at Cullentra,” O’Leary said in a statement.

But Elliott’s career remains uncertain and he spoke this week about the toll the scandal has taken. “When your world starts crumbling in front of you, it’s a scary place to be,” he told the Racing Post. “My whole life has revolved around horses since I was a child. I know nothing else. Horses are all I have. I came from nothing and built a dream.”

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Maple Leafs ‘have to look in the mirror’ after being swept by Canucks –



We often describe this game we love with rugged adjectives.

Hockey is gritty and requires sandpaper. It’s greasy and gutsy. Hard-nosed. A series of tough battles that will be won by the side triumphing in the dirty areas. Those ugly trenches.

The game can be looked at another way, too.


A disappointed Sheldon Keefe used that adjective twice on Saturday in the aftermath of his Toronto Maple Leafs’ 4-2 defeat by the hand of the 21st-place Vancouver Canucks, who swept this mini-series without top-line centre Elias Pettersson in their lineup.

It marked the first comeback victory of Vancouver’s campaign and the first set of consecutive regulation losses the Maple Leafs have suffered all year. It’s also the first time Toronto superstars Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner have both been held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games.

Much like Game 1 of the series, Toronto ran up against a hot power-play and a razor-sharp goaltender in Thatcher Demko.

Unlike Thursday’s defeat, however, the visitors controlled the run of play for the bulk of the night.

Brock Boeser converted net-front on a beautiful cross-ice J.T. Miller pass on an early rush with Matthews serving a high-sticking minor, but the Leafs responded with a pair of pretty passing plays on their own at even-strength.

John Tavares clapped a blast clean and high by Demko after a nifty one-touch area pass from winger Alexander Kerfoot. Then Jimmy Vesey converted a tic-tac-toe sequence from Jason Spezza and T.J. Brodie.

Toting a 2-1 lead into the third, Toronto fired the first nine shots of the final period and looked poised to lock up another ‘W’.

Momentum spun on a dime when an unpressured William Nylander committed a puck-over-glass penalty — “Can’t just give them a freebie like that,” Keefe said — and Bo Horvat promptly tied the game with the man-advantage.

“We’ve got to get a kill. We’ve got to get a blocked shot. These are the kind of things that make a big difference,” Keefe said. “We didn’t really go through that in [sweeping] the Edmonton series. We were in full control. We built big leads for the most part.”

The Canucks’ power-play went a perfect 3-for-3 in the series; Toronto went 0-for-3. There’s the difference.

“The power-play goal really gave them some life,” Tavares said.

A pair of neutral zone giveaways by the Leafs led to odd-man rushes the other way. Bang, bang: A hungry Miller and Nils Hoglander cashed in.

In 42 seconds, a win poofed into a loss and a great road trip got downgraded to a good road trip.


Beat on the Miller strike, fumbling at the puck first with his hands then with his feet, Morgan Rielly pointed to sloppy details: special teams, puck management and D-zone breakouts.

“We have to take responsibility for what happened in terms of two losses,” Rielly said. “I mean, we have to look in the mirror.”

Marner wondered if the top line was trying to force plays that weren’t there.

“Sometimes it slips away. It happened tonight,” said Marner, a minus-2 for the first time all season. “Turnovers were the reason for it, so just make sure we clean that part up. Obviously starting [with] myself.”

The Maple Leafs will fly home Sunday and sharpen their details on Monday in preparation for next week’s three-game series versus their nearest pursuers in the North, the Winnipeg Jets.

“These are really close, very fragile games. You’ve got to be good every single shift and every puck,” Keefe said. “Vancouver plays four lines. They play extremely hard and very competitive. They don’t give you anything for free.

“It just goes to show that, first of all, anybody in our division can beat you on any given night. We’ve got to be good all the time and we’ve got to stay with the process that works for us. Go off script and get the results you get here.”

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Flames start hot, burn out vs. Oilers as new coach Sutter watches from afar –



The Jolly Rancher didn’t even have to be behind the bench to start Sutterizing his new team.

While Darryl Sutter watched from his farmhouse in Viking, Alta., as part of his COVID-19 protocol, the Calgary Flames responded to his hiring with a first period that exhibited the type of spirited start the veteran taskmaster will be pushing for.

Fully engaged from puck drop, the Flames took it to the Oilers in a rugged fashion befitting the Battle of Alberta and Sutter’s style.

Two first-period fights, 21 shots, a whopping 19 hits and a tenacious forecheck that led to a power play goal and a 1-0 lead.

Clearly they knew the boss was watching.

And then came the predictable drop-off that got Geoff Ward fired.

Failing to record a shot in the first seven minutes of the second, the Flames allowed the Oilers to push back and eventually even the game late in the frame.

From there the see-saw battle continued.

By night’s end it was the Oilers earning kudos for persevering through a tough spell that ended with Connor McDavid’s late goal, ending his club’s three-game losing skid.

While there’s little time in this shortened season to celebrate moral victories, no one could fault the Flames’ effort on this one.

“It’s obviously difficult to lose – I thought we had a really good start,” said Noah Hanifin, whose first goal of the year early in the third put the Flames up 2-1 following the type of grind-em-out shift from Elias Lindholm’s line Sutter would cherish.

“I think if we play that way and compete that way we’ll have success more often than not. The one thing we’re looking to improve on is our compete and work ethic and I think that was there tonight. It was a step in the right direction.”

Perhaps Sutter’s tack will include being furious with the mere suggestion progress was made.

However, it didn’t seem there was much Sutter could fault his new troops on early in the third when Lindholm, Dillon Dube and Matthew Tkachuk put their work boots on for a series of battles down low that led to Hanifin’s goal.

“When we have big, heavy shifts like that it’s going to help us wear down teams and have success,” the defenceman said.

“That’s the game we want to play.”

McDavid spoiled Ryan Huska’s coaching debut by setting up a Kailer Yamamoto goal five minutes later, before picking up his third point of the night with a snipe from the face-off dot that bounced in off the far post with four minutes left.

“I think we played the whole game — I thought we played great,” said Jacob Markstrom, who made 30 saves in his return from injury, yet still tried to fall on his sword post-game.

“The biggest difference tonight was goaltending. I think Smitty (Mike Smith) made a couple saves and I didn’t when I needed to. It sucks feeling like you didn’t bail out your teammates.

“I thought we played a great game over 60 minutes. There are obviously things to improve, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. It sucks getting the loss out of this game when the guys played so well in front of me.”

The highly entertaining display of big boy hockey saw the Oilers finish the night with two more hits than the Flames (42-40), and they deserve plenty of credit for the moxie they displayed throughout.

Darnell Nurse did his best to stop the Flames’ early momentum by dropping the gloves with his former teammate and pal Milan Lucic, earning the latter the distinction of being the only player ever to earn a fighting major while playing on either side of the provincial punch-up.

James Neal fought Tkachuk later in the period with what would have brought the house down had there been fans at Rogers Place.

“I think (the emotion) was where it needs to be and that’s the challenge moving forward,” said Huska, whose NHL head coaching experience now matches the number of games he played in the show – one.

“The effort in the first period was really good. There was an emotional attachment to the game, which was important for us. That’s something we have to work on maintaining for 60 minutes, not just the first period. I thought we gave up a little too much room as the game went on and we allowed them to get into our zone too easily, which is really how they got their three goals.”

Huska will be behind the bench again Sunday night when the Flames host Ottawa.

Sutter expects to complete his COVID-19 protocol before joining the team for practice Tuesday and will make his return to the Flames’ bench Thursday at home against Montreal.

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