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IWTG: Canucks need overtime to vanquish the Knights before Christmas – Vancouver Courier

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‘Twas the Knights before Christmas at Rogers Arena
Many seats appeared empty (Or were filled by John Cena)

The fanbase was hanging by the slimmest of threads
With visions of tanking another year in their heads

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Jacob Markstrom was starting his sixth straight fixture
Since Demko is still on the injured reserve

All of the Canucks, led by Horvat the cap
Were determined that losing four-straight wasn’t hap-

-penning. Ahem.

And out on the ice, there arose A. Gaudette
Who chased down a dump-in and quickly shot it

Marc-Andre — The Flower — made like a brick wall
But Gaudette stuck with it and set up Roussel

Just like that, one-nothing, but the Canucks weren’t through
They added another to make it oh-two

Away down the wing, Leivo flew like a flash
And centred for Pearson and in he did cash

The Knights would respond on a Miller turnover;
He made up for the error, ‘twas the net that he drove’er

Creating a rebound for Petey to poke
To make it three-one and the arena awoke

The game took a turn in the middlest of frames
As Vegas responded with accurate aims

The Knights scored two goals amid some controversy
The refs missed a Knight boarding Leivs without mercy

They entered the third period in a tie game
And Travis Green shouted and call’d them by name

Now, Boeser! Now, Petey! Now, Miller and Tanev!
On Huggy! On Horvat! On Gaudette and Virtanen!

As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly
Came Boeser down right wing — cross-ice he did spy

Elias Pettersson along the left wing
And into the net, the puck did he fling

Yet the curse of puck management struck them once more
A turnover led to a Golden Knights’ score

That made it four-four, with four minutes to play
Was this one more Canucks lead that they’d piss away?

Late in the third, the Knights came in waves
And Markstrom came up with a big blocker save

That led to more hockey — oh what a gift!
Chris Tanev came out for an overtime shift

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work
Took a sweet sauce from Horvat and deked with a jerk

He tucked the puck under the left pad of Fleury
With a confident move — we were silly to worry

We should have predicted that Chris would deliver 
A bunch of his goals are OT gamewinners 

He gave us a gift like his last name was Kringle
Left ladies (and some men) wond’ring if he is single

He’s not (I am sorry), but I heard him exclaim
“Merry one-week ‘til Christmas,” after I watched this game.

  • This wasn’t an amazing game by the Canucks, who were out-shot by the Knights 43-to-34, but the biggest difference was how they went to the net. The team has been satisfied of late with too many shots from the outside, but four of their five goals in this game were scored from the top of the crease.
  • Or, in Antoine Roussel’s case, inside the crease. Jake Virtanen tipped in a Tyler Myers’ pass from centre, then Adam Gaudette went to work, beating everyone to the puck and chipping it on net. Fleury couldn’t handle the shot, and Gaudette got a whack at the rebound, sending it through Fleury into the crease, where Roussel was all over it like a snake on a Christmas tree.
  • Tanner Pearson gave the Canucks a 2-0 lead at the very last second of the Canucks’ first power play. Myers made a nice play at the blue line to keep the puck in, then Josh Leivo’s give-and-go with Virtanen was nearly broken up. Virtanen kept the puck alive to Leivo, whose end-line pass was jammed in by Pearson, who had boxed out Nate Schmidt in front.
  • The Golden Knights responded on a pretty awful turnover by J.T. Miller. He circled the zone, then made an ill-advised backhand pass at the blue line that was picked off by Reilly Smith. Miller quickly got back on defence, but got fixated on the puck and stopped moving his feet, allowing William Karlsson to slip in behind him. Smith fed Karlsson, whose shot was turned aside by Jacob Markstrom, but Miller didn’t pick up the trailer, Jonathan Marchessault, who banged in the rebound.
  • Everyone makes mistakes; what matters is what you do next, and Miller made up for it by manufacturing a goal out of nothing. He picked off a Schmidt pass at the Vegas blue line, then cut into the slot past Brayden McNabb, backhanding the puck on net as he was dragged down to the ice. Fleury mishandled the shot and Pettersson made like a golfer and chipped it in for Birdie.
  • That 3-1 goal wasn’t possible without an incredible save by Markstrom at the other end. He stretched out his left pad to rob Mark Stone on the doorstep, then Brock Boeser lifted Stone’s stick at the last moment to prevent him from banging in the rebound. That would have been the httpITALICS turning point of the game if there hadn’t been half a dozen more turning points to come.
  • The Knights’ first line struck again midway through the second period on a nice passing play, catching the Canucks running around in their own zone. Both Quinn Hughes and Chris Tanev ended up reaching for the puck instead of marking their respective checks and, as Michael Jordan once said, “You reach, I teach.”
  • Then the controversy: Nick Holden hit Leivo squarely in the numbers, throwing him hard into the boards, where Leivo appeared to hit his right knee hard. Leivo stayed down and a scrum ensued, but the referees somehow didn’t call a penalty. Call it boarding, call it checking from behind, call it interference — bottom line, it should have been called.

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  • Leivo was clearly upset, which is generally not a good sign — athletes know their own bodies and it seemed like he could tell something was very wrong — and his teammates echoed his upsetness. A couple people — presumably Canucks — could be heard saying, “Keep your head up,” and “I’ll take a f***ing five gamer,” presumably referring to the five-game suspension he’d receive for whatever terrible thing he would do to Holden, leaving the actual act earning the suspension up to Holden’s imagination, thereby increasing the potential terror.
  • To add insult to literal injury, Holden tied the game up on the next shift, as his point shot deflected in off Bo Horvat’s skate. He should have been in the penalty box and the Rogers Arena crowd was not shy to let the refs know that.
  • After the 3-3 goal, Travis Green called a crucial timeout to allow his team a chance to regroup. They were significantly better through the rest of the second period after the timeout and it may have stanched the bleeding.
  • Pettersson was feeling it in this game, scoring the 3-1 goal, then adding a crossbar in the second period on a rocket of a wrist shot, then finally scoring the 4-3 goal in the third period. It was a lovely cross-ice give-and-go: Pettersson banked the puck to Boeser on the right wing, then Boeser threaded the needle back to Pettersson on the left wing, and he cradled and released the puck all in one motion.
  • The Knights couldn’t be repressed, tying the game up again. After a Myers turnover on a 4-on-4, the Knights put the Canucks on the spin cycle, rotating until the Canucks’ coverage broke down and Mark Stone opened up at the back door, with Hughes and Horvat miscommunicating who was supposed to mark Stone. The man they call Stoner scored with 4:20 remaining.
  • Despite the four goals against, Markstrom was fantastic all game, particularly in the third period, where he faced 19 shots on goal. His biggest save came with two minutes left, as the Golden Knights poured on the pressure on a late power play. Jay Beagle didn’t pick up Paul Stastny at the back door, but Markstrom lunged across with the blocker, turning aside what looked like a sure goal. It was the biggest robbery since Divina de Campo didn’t win Drag Race UK.
  • In overtime, Horvat was looking for his first goal at home of the season, but had to settle for a gorgeous assist. Tanev rotated down from the point and shook off Max Pacioretty, then took Horvat’s lovely saucer pass, evaded Fleury’s pokecheck with a deke to the forehand, then tucked the puck under Fleury’s pad. It was the most unexpectedly slick move since Lube Man slid into a street drain on Watchmen.
  • Also a great move: Tanev’s uninhibited fist-pumping celebration, which looked like it owed a debt to Adam Gaudette’s pumped-up goal celebrations. I’m all for it: the more joy and exuberance, the better, because this team could learn to let loose a little more.

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Maple Leafs’ Robertson to miss about four weeks with knee injury – Sportsnet.ca

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Toronto Maple Leafs rookie forward Nick Robertson, who suffered a knee injury in his NHL regular-season debut over the weekend, will be sidelined roughly four weeks, coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters Monday.

Robertson was injured in the first period of the team’s 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators after a hit from Drake Batherson.

The 19-year-old Robertson appeared in four of the Maple Leafs’ five playoff games against the Columbus Blue Jackets, scoring one goal. He replaced fellow rookie Alexander Barabanov on the fourth line Saturday and had one shot in 2:20 of ice time before his injury.

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Toronto Maple Leafs Make Tough Decision in Waiving Jason Spezza and Aaron Dell – The Hockey Writers

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We knew the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to have to be creative with the salary cap situation. General Manager Kyle Dubas said there would be a lot of paperwork to file out to stay compliant, but it was just a formality for the most part. But that paperwork started a dumpster fire on Sunday morning. Jason Spezza hit the waiver wire, and within minutes it got worse. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnson spoke with Spezza’s agent, Rick Curran, who said Spezza would “simply retire” if another team claimed him.

What just happened? Spezza has played well as a fourth-line centre. He won all 10 of his face-offs on Saturday night in a win over the Ottawa Senators. He recorded his 600th career assist in the opening game against the Montreal Canadiens. He even played a few shifts on the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander. These facts did not lead anyone to imagine that his hometown team would waive the 37-year-old veteran.

Jason Spezza has been waived by the Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

I’m sure Dubas did not come to this decision lightly. It’s a ripple effect of Nic Robertson injuring his knee in the first period of the game on Saturday night. A move had to be made to bring up another player from the taxi squad. According to his agent, Spezza understood the risks of these roster moves when he resigned with Toronto. He was happy to continue to play a depth role and offer leadership.

Rough Ride for Spezza in Toronto

I get that this is business, but you have to feel for the guy. He came to Toronto to pursue his dream of winning a Stanley Cup. In his first game with the organization, Mike Babcock gave the veteran the healthy scratch with several family members in attendance. A move that lit up the Toronto sports commentators for weeks. Now just three games into his second season with the Maple Leafs, he is put on the waiver wire.

It seems unlikely Spezza will be claimed. However, Toronto may lose its third goalie. Aaron Dell has also been put on waivers. Toronto was carrying three goalies to offer more downtime to Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell. Andersen didn’t dress on Saturday night.

A Move Was Coming

Before Saturday’s game, Sheldon Keefe was asked about his ability to make lineup changes. His answer left it open to this kind of move. “You get the extra goalie insurance the depth there, and of course we value,” said Keefe. “I think when you look at our situation carrying a 21 man roster, and one of those guys is a third goalie, it limits our ability to make lineup changes. But a lot can happen in a season, and things can change quickly.”

Aaron Dell Sharks
Aaron Dell, San Jose Sharks, Nov. 28, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Those changes did happen quickly. Not only in Toronto, but the Edmonton Oilers are facing challenges. Mike Smith was placed on the long-term injured reserve list. Edmonton lost back-up Anton Forsberg, who had earlier been claimed off waivers. This left Edmonton one minor injury from a disaster in the net. The Oilers have signed two goalies since, but due to quarantine restrictions, they are not available to the team until January 27. Edmonton is 19th on the waiver wire list. Not only that, the Oilers are in Toronto for a game on Wednesday and Friday. It’s hard to imagine that Dell will not be claimed.

We are just three games into the 56-game regular season. We are getting a sense of how difficult it will be for teams and players to manage the new world of quarantine restrictions. Who could’ve predicted that Robertson’s knee injury could lead to a possible retirement of Spezza and could possibly help out a North Division rival? This is the new normal.

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Saints’ Drew Brees mum on future after playoff loss to Buccaneers

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NEW ORLEANS — Nearly two hours after the New Orleans Saints’ season had ended, Drew Brees stood on the Superdome field in street clothes, throwing passes to his children while his wife, Brittany, captured images of those moments with her cellphone.

Brees routinely throws the ball around with his kids after home games, but after a 30-20 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, he lingered longer than usual — and there was no telling whether that familiar postgame scene would play out again.

Two days after Brees’ 42nd birthday, his 20th NFL season ended with statistically his worst playoff performance.

Brees threw three interceptions, his most in 18 post-season appearances. His 134 yards passing were a career-playoff low. And because of COVID-19 restrictions, there were fewer than 4,000 fans in the 73,000-seat Superdome to bid him farewell — if indeed it was his final game in a Saints uniform.

For now, Brees won’t say. But he’s also said nothing that would lead one to believe he’s prepared to play next season, his last under contract.

“I’ll answer this question one time and that is that I’m going to give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things just like I did last year and make a decision,” Brees said.

That decision for the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing will come after a fourth straight season that saw the Saints (13-5) win 11 or more games and go to the playoffs, only to come up short of the Super Bowl.

This season, Brees missed four games with multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung, but came back in time to see New Orleans through to its fourth straight NFC South crown and a convincing playoff victory over Chicago in the wild-card round.

“I would never regret it. Never. No complaints, no regrets,” Brees said. “I’ve always tried to play this game with a great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me.

“There are obviously so many incredible memories and so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing this game,” Brees continued. “You find out so much about yourself and you have to fight through so much when you play this game. And I’d say this season I probably had to fight through more than I’ve ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff, to just crazy circumstances. And it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely.”

Brees said the way this season ended “won’t have anything to do” with his decision on whether to retire.

As for what will go into the decision, Brees said, “I’ll keep that to myself right now.”

Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to be taking his cue from Brees when he, too, sidestepped a question about what his decade-and-a-half relationship with Brees has meant to him.

“That’s probably for another press conference,” Payton said. “Obviously he’s been tremendous for this team, this city. I could go on and on, but let’s wait and answer that at the right time.”

Other teammates didn’t wait, though.

“He’s been everything you could imagine a leader could be,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Brees’ teammate since 2011. “He’s the first one in, the last one out. Every stereotypical leadership core value you think of, Drew has. He exemplifies everything that he does in terms of wanting to be a better teammate.”

Veteran linebacker Demario Davis said playing with Brees has meant “everything” to him.

“When I came to New Orleans, I wanted to help Drew Brees win another Super Bowl because I feel like he deserves it for the accomplishments that he’s had,” Davis said. “I wanted him to have some more championship trophies on the mantle.

“He’s a great teammate, a great leader, a great man, a great husband and a great father,” Davis added. “He’s just an example for all us to try to emulate.”

Brees, who brought the Saints their only Super Bowl appearance and win in the 2009 season, is not only the all-time leader in yards passing with 80,358, but also completions 7,142. He began this season first in touchdowns, but is now second with 571, behind the 581 of Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, who is moving on to his 14th conference title game at age 43.

When the game ended, Brees greeted a couple of Bucs players, including Brady, who he’s known since college, and then pointed to the stands and blew kisses as he jogged to the tunnel leading to the Saints locker room. When he first emerged from the locker room back onto the field in street clothes, he shared a long embrace with Brittany while his three sons and daughter played nearby.

“I always soak in the moment and I’m looking up at my family and blowing kisses to my wife and my daughter and fist-pumping my boys,” Brees said. “They’ve become so much a part of this as my kids have gotten older, and they are so invested in this as well. That’s what makes the moment special, to be able to share it all together.”

Source: – Sportsnet.ca

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