During the early afternoon, rumours were starting to circle on Twitter that Shea Weber’s injury would be much worse than expected. In fact, the wildest rumours before he went in to see a trusted medical expert in Wisconsin suggested that his career may even be over.
Quickly, Montreal went out to poke a hole in the rampant speculation with a newsflash of their own, stating that their captain would miss the upcoming four to six weeks, which leaves the possibility for a return later in the year.
At this moment, we do not know how severe the conditions of the injury are or whether there was any legitimate truth to the earlier rumours. What it does mean is that an already weak defence will be even weaker for the remainder of the season. After Wednesday night’s loss against the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens find themselves even further away from playoff contention, operating from seven points back with three-quarters of the season behind us and more games played than any team above in the Eastern Conference.
In the most optimistic of Habs circles, there was a slight shimmer of hope that this team, once healthy, could go on a run to squeeze into a wild-card spot. Weber’s absence — one of not only a steadfast member on the Habs’ shaky blueline but the captain and leader — has put an end to that. This defence is not strong enough to create a winning team in the NHL with Weber, let alone without.
Instead, these next two weeks will be The Marc Bergevin Show. Will he keep his team intact hoping for better things in the future, or will he finally admit that this team is still a few years away from contending and start selling off assets to further strengthen the prospect pool?
My hopes are that he senses the desperation in the market and cashes in. Earlier this week, the Minnesota Wild got back a haul of a first-round-pick, a top prospect, and a middle-six rental in Alex Galchenyuk from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Jason Zucker. Zucker is not a bad player by any means, being on a 50-point pace if he were to play this whole season. Also, the first-round-pick comes with conditions for the 2020 NHL Draft and could possibly be postponed, and would likely be a late one in either year. Still, this means that it is worth exploring thoroughly how the trade landscape views players like Tomas Tatar, Jeff Petry and Ilya Kovalchuk, as well as less valuable rentals like Marco Scandella and Nate Thompson.
Tatar is having a stellar year, already eclipsing the 50-point mark ahead of the trade deadline. Petry could very well be the best right-handed defenceman on the market. Kovalchuk may be old, but imagine if a cap-strained contender could get a player with power-play pedigree and point-per-game potential for about $150,000. Which of the 20 teams still hoping to make a run to the Stanley Cup would pass that option up?
Personally, it aches writing these lines as I have grown fond of the players I just mentioned, but from a team-building standpoint this is a no-brainer. Earlier this week, Scott Wheeler of The Athletic ranked Montreal’s current prospect pool as the second-best in the league. If only a handful of these highly touted youngsters turn into NHL assets, the Canadiens will have a core to build on for years to come. Unfortunately, there are few scenarios where the players listed above will be taking part once that future finally arrives.
It’s better to sell high now and get significant building blocks back instead of just postponing what is clearly inevitable for one more season.
Canada's Alphonso Davies shines as Bayern dismantle Barcelona in Champions League – CBC.ca
Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies had a night to remember Friday as Bayern Munich put Barcelona to the sword in a lopsided 8-2 Champions League quarterfinal win.
The 19-year-old fullback set up Bayern’s fifth goal in the 63rd minute with a sensational run down the left flank. Davies beat three Barca players, befuddling Portuguese international Nelson Semedo before racing past several more defenders into the penalty box and sending a perfect pass to Joshua Kimmich to slot in from close range.
“Best left back in the world!” tweeted Canadian international Ashley Lawrence.
“Proud to see a Canadian shine in @ChampionsLeague @AlphonsoDavies,” tweeted Dwayne De Rosario, the Canadian men’s all-time leading scorer.
WATCH | Davies’ marauding run masterfully sets up Bayern goal:
The wide-open game gave the young Canadian an up-close and personal look at Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi with the Argentine star spending most of his time on Davies’ side of the pitch.
Prior to the match, Davies said he had had a laugh with his parents on the phone — saying they couldn’t believe he was going to play against one of his idols growing up.
The 33-year-old Messi took Davies down in the 11th minute, rewarding the young Canadian with a pat on the head after helping him back to his feet.
Davies whipped in a fine cross a minute later that the Barcelona defence had to clear.
Up 4-1 after 31 minutes, Bayern had another chance soon after but no one spotted an unmarked Davies on the left.
Davies, the Bundesliga rookie of the year, has excelled in Champions League play, turning heads with a fine performance in late February in Bayern’s 3-0 win at Chelsea in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie.
The Canadian was booked in the 52nd minute Friday for a robust challenge on Chilean Arturo Vidal. And he went down in the 66th minute after a clash of heads going for the ball.
The Armies: Captain Canada Bo Horvat puts on a show – The Athletic
IWTG: Canucks defuse the Blues with thrilling overtime win in Game 2 – Vancouver Is Awesome
You’re an NHL goaltender in Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s overtime and the game is on the line. The puck is on an opponent’s stick, but instead of confidently staring him down as he shoots the puck, you’re not even in the crease. You’ve completely lost your net and are scrambling wildly on your hands and knees, desperately trying to get back as the puck comes off his stick towards the empty net…
Then you wake up in a cold sweat. It was just a dream. It wasn’t real.
But that nightmare situation was all too real for Jacob Markstrom on Friday night in Edmonton. A sudden 2-on-1 down low led to a desperation save for Markstrom on David Perron, as Markstrom stacked the pads to save a goal. That left him a good five feet out of his crease as a wild scramble ensued around his goal.
“It’s not very good thoughts,” said Markstrom about what goes through a goaltender’s mind in that moment. “It’s half-panic mode… You just want to get back in your net, it’s not a good feeling when you’re out there and the puck gets behind you.”
As Markstrom tried to scramble back, tracking the puck as it bounced around, his teammates crashed the crease. The puck came to Ryan O’Reilly in the crease, but in the same way that O’Reilly has shut down Elias Pettersson at even-strength all series, Pettersson shut him down, knocking the puck off O’Reilly’s stick.
The panic wasn’t over yet. Perron got the puck on his backhand with the net still wide open. Markstrom dove back, but once again Pettersson made the save, stacking the pads like Kirk McLean.
“To be honest, you almost feel like just closing your eyes and hopefully you don’t hear someone celebrating when it gets like that,” said head coach Travis Green.
“Marky first made a good save,” said Pettersson, not wanting to sell Markstrom short on the initial stop. “I saw the puck, I just tried to clear it. They still had the puck and I was just trying to cover the ice. It hit me again and we got the puck out and cleared iit.
“All of us just trying to play hard defence and I’m happy I got the stop there, but I know all my teammates would put their body on the line there.”
It’s true. While Pettersson was the hero in that moment, Brock Boeser was also lined up to block Perron’s shot and Quinn Hughes was also in the crease, blocking a centring pass a moment earlier.
“I think we had four guys in the crease, they did a great job and bailed me out when I was out of position,” said Markstrom.
Canucks head coach Travis Green frequently talks about buy-in, and it’s clear that everyone in the lineup has fully bought in.
“Our guys are willing to sacrifice, they’ve shown it, they had a lot of blocks again tonight,” said Green. “And it’s not just the guys on the penalty kill, it’s anyone. You see Petey go down to block a shot like that, I think that’s bleeding through our team: that sacrifice, that resiliency that you need to have. Again, every game’s a teaching moment for our group and they passed a hard test tonight.”
And they passed that test while I watched this game.
- Bo Horvat had a signature performance in Game 1, but apparently he’s not tired of signing his autograph, because his name was once again all over Game 2. Not only did he open and close the scoring with two brilliant goals, he also blocked three shots and went 20-for-29 in the faceoff circle, a very nice 69% winning percentage.
- Horvat’s opening goal was a toe-drag masterclass. 10 seconds into a Blues power play, Horvat picked up a loose puck caused by a Chris Tanev pokecheck and was off to the races. Brayden Schenn moved to catch him in the neutral zone, but Horvat faked inside, then dragged the puck past him. Then, seeing a forward back defending, Horvat charged in 1-on-1, powering to the middle, then dragging the puck back to the outside as Jaden Schwartz turned on his skates. All that was left was Jordan Binnington, who was no match for Horvat’s move to the forehand.
- The goal was so good that veteran play-by-play caller Chris Cuthbert was lost for words, something pretty uncommon in his profession. All he could say was “Bo Horvat did that!” in sheer surprise.
When your goal is so insane Chris Cuthbert can only blurt out “BO HORVAT…..DID THAT.” pic.twitter.com/nIZfTVdtTu
— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) August 14, 2020
- The goal meant Horvat had already scored in every situation — 5-on-5, power play, and shorthanded — in this series. He’s excelling in literally every facet of the game, and he would add another goal in yet another situation before the game was done.
- Early in the second period, it looked like the Canucks had taken a 2-0 lead. J.T. Miller came out of the penalty box right as Oscar Fantenberg lofted the puck out of the Canucks’ zone, giving Miller a clear cut breakaway from the blue line in. He dangled and delivered a goal, but iit was quickly overturned on a coach’s challenge: Miller failed to drag his trailing skate as he entered the zone and was ruled offside. Miller evidently needs some drag lessons from Brooke Lynn Hytes.
- With the goal overturned — and therefore no shot on goal recorded — the Canucks didn’t get a single shot on goal in the first 11 minutes of the second period. The Blues were calling and the Canucks didn’t know what to do with those tossed salads and scrambled eggs. Markstrom, however, had them pegged and kept the Canucks in the lead.
- The Canucks’ second power play unit has struggled so far in the postseason, but Newell Brown came up with a solution: don’t use the entire second unit. Horvat and Miller changed for Jake Virtanen and Tanner Pearson, but Pettersson, Hughes, and Boeser all stayed on from the first unit and, together, they made some magic. Pettersson stepped down the left boards and floated a picture-perfect saucer pass to Pearson, who punched in his first goal of the series.
— Daniel Wagner (@passittobulis) August 15, 2020
- Perhaps Pettersson, Boeser, and Hughes stayed on the ice because they were completely fresh. With the Canucks getting into penalty trouble early in the second, their ice time was a little more limited than usual. “I don’t think I felt like I was really in the game tonight, to be honest,” admitted Hughes. “It’s definitely a little bit challenging sometimes when you’re sitting for five or six minutes and then you’ve got to get your legs going, but that’ll happen once in a while.”
- Canucks fans are rarely happy with officiating and they were given ample opportunity to voice their displeasure, albeit not in the arena, of course. The most frustrating moment came when Sammy Blais hit Brandon Sutter in the numbers, leading to a scrum along the boards. Inexplicably, the Blues ended up on the power play, with Jay Beagle getting a double minor for roughing. At the very least, you’d expect the penalties to even out, with even Blues beat writers expressing their surprise.
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 15, 2020
- O’Reilly found some room on the subsequent power play and sniped the 2-1 goal past Markstrom’s blocker, which only made the Canucks feel more aggrieved. When asked if he got an explanation of why the Blues got a power play, Green managed to avoid risking a fine like that received by Rod Brind’Amour for his complaints about the officiating, but was still quite blunt: “I didn’t get an explanation on any calls tonight.”
- Things continued to get nasty and Tyler Myers paid the price. Schenn, pursuing Myers on the forecheck, shoved from behind, sending the towering defenceman crashing hard into the boards. Myers writhed on the ice before leaving under his own strength and did not return to the game.
— Daniel Wagner (@passittobulis) August 15, 2020
- It was a tough break for Myers, who was having a bounceback game after some early struggles this postseason. His time was split between partners Hughes and Oscar Fantenberg, and he was thriving alongside Hughes early on. There was no update on Myers’ condition after the game. If he’s unable to play, Jordie Benn might slot into the lineup on his off side or the Canucks could turn to Brogan Rafferty.
- Perron has been a thorn in the Canucks’ side early in this series, but he got a little too thorny in the second period, knocking down Pettersson away from the puck in the neutral zone. Like Matthew Patel, Pettersson made him pay for his insolence, and didn’t even get right-hooked into pocket change afterwards.
- Off the zone entry on the power play, Pettersson wound up in an unusual position: net-front presence. Boeser, from Pettersson’s usual stomping grounds at the top of the right faceoff circle, whipped a shot on net. The rebound popped up in the air and Pettersson bunted it into the net with the hand-eye coordination he honed while juggling on a unicycle.
- Despite the two-point night, Pettersson was once again kept completely quiet at even strength. Both his points came on the power play, but when he was on the ice against O’Reilly, the Canucks didn’t register a single shot on goal, just like in Game 1. That matchup has gone the Blues’ way, but the Canucks might be able to get Pettersson a more favourable matchup with the last change in the next two “home” game in the Edmonton bubble.
- “That’s a matchup that they wanted,” said Green. “That’s a line that plays every top line in the league. A line that’s won a Stanley Cup. You’re not going to get a much harder matchup than that. It’s been two games where [Pettersson’s] line hasn’t created a lot 5-on-5, but they’ve done a lot of damage on the power play. That’s part of the learning and growth with young players. I’ve got a lot of faith in them, they’re going to be fine. We’ll see what we decide to do next game.”
- The Blues clawed their way back in the third period, again with a little (unintentional) assistance from the officials. With the puck in the defensive zone, Edler got hit with a high stick by Robert Thomas. Expecting a call, Edler was momentarily disoriented, and gave the puck away to Sammy Blais, who burst in on Markstrom and beat him with a wicked move to the backhand.
- Then, with just 5.5 seconds left, the Blues tied the game 3-3. It seemed unthinkable and, for a moment, it was: the referees waved the goal off for a high stick, as it looked like Perron’s stick was above the crossbar when it deflected Alex Pietrangelo’s point shot. On video review, despite seemingly scant evidence, the call on the ice was overturned, with Schwartz credited for the goal as it nicked his knee on the way in.
- Pettersson’s defining moment of the game wasn’t his pretty pass to Pearson or his impressive hand-eye coordination on his goal. It was the game-saving play he made in the crease in overtime. As much as he’s lauded for his offensive game, Pettersson is a complete player, as responsible in the defensive zone as he is exciting in the offensive zone.
- Pettersson’s defensive play allowed for the thrilling conclusion. Hughes stole the puck from Vladimir Tarasenko down low and sent a brilliant bank pass up the boards to Horvat, who swept in on goal and caught Binnington off guard with a quick snap shot that snuck under the goaltender’s stick and went through the legs. The Canucks were targeting Binnington’s blocker all game: did he cheat his blocker up in anticipation of the blocker side shot, lifting his stick infinitesimally off the ice?
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 15, 2020
- Hughes mind processed the situation quickly as he came out with the puck down low: “I don’t know who the D was, I think it was [Vince] Dunn, but he was in the middle, not too much on the boards, and especially him being a leftie, I thought it would be hard for him to get that pass.” It was.
- The capper on the goal: Hughes ducking a hit from Tyler Bozak after making the pass, then just casually lying on his stomach to watch Horvat score the winner, then just as casually getting up, leaning over to Bozak and saying what appeared to be, “Good game.” As any longtime gamer knows, “gg” is the most devastating thing you can say after ripping an opponent’s heart out.
— Daniel Wagner (@passittobulis) August 15, 2020
- gg, Blues.
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