Sheldon Keefe has been able to fix plenty since becoming the coach of the Maple Leafs.
For the most part, Keefe has given his players free rein to play to their strengths, and for the most part, wins have been the result.
Defensive shortcomings, however, remain part of the equation for the Leafs.
And so it was that the Leafs’ six-game winning streak ended on Saturday night with a 5-4 overtime loss against the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Arena.
The Leafs, who were down by two goals in the third period before rallying, lost at 52 seconds of the extra period when Tony DeAngelo beat Frederik Andersen, not long after Alexandar Georgiev had stoned Morgan Rielly.
“That’s a big point for us coming from behind like that,” Keefe said. “But playing from behind is tough. We haven’t done that very much as a team here of late, but we’ve had to now three games in a row.
“That’s not a good recipe for us, not a good recipe for anybody. You get a chance to talk about resilience and we’re able to do that, but we would like to flip this trend here and get back to playing with the lead.”
Auston Matthews tied the game with 52.1 seconds remaining, scoring his second of the night when he ripped a one-timer past Georgiev.
When Toronto wasn’t making mistakes in its own zone, it got an ordinary performance from Andersen, who has allowed at least three goals in each of his past four starts.
“I could have been better,” said Andersen, who made 33 saves. “The guys gave us a chance to win it. Could have come up with maybe another save or two, but it happens.”
Already dealing with a handful of injuries, the Leafs lost Mitch Marner for a brief span midway through the third period after Marner took a puck off his left ear. Marner returned after getting stitches and Leafs Nation exhaled.
The Leafs, who don’t play until Tuesday in Minnesota against the Wild when they reach the mid-point of 2019-20, dropped to 2-6-2 in the second game of back-to-back sets. Toronto lost for just the second time in 10 games, and fell to 12-4-1 under Keefe.
Pierre Engvall brought the Leafs to within one when he tipped a Tyson Barrie shot past Georgiev at 6:22 of the third.
Without forwards Ilya Mikheyev (wrist), Trevor Moore (concussion) and Andreas Johnsson (leg) and defenceman Jake Muzzin (foot), the Leafs know we’ll get a true sense of their depth. The Leafs likely will finish the regular season without a full lineup, as Mikheyev is at least three months from returning.
“I don’t think we look at it as a toll,” captain John Tavares said of the various injuries the Leafs have endured. “Having a versatile group, versatile players, guys that can play up and down the linuep, play with everybody, allows us to continue to be the team we want to be.”
Adam Brooks made his NHL debut, centring a line between Frederik Gauthier and Jason Spezza at the outset before Spezza was moved up to play with Engvall and Kasperi Kapanen. None of Brooks, Gauthier and Dmytro Timashov saw much ice as Keefe went with a short bench. Still, it was a day Brooks, whose parents flew in from Winnipeg, won’t forget. “An awesome experience,” Brooks said. “It was a crazy 24 hours for me, definitely cool to get this opportunity to play here Saturday night.” … New York carried a 4-2 lead into the third after Mika Zibanejad beat Andersen with a low shot, after faking initially, at 17:05 of the second … Matthews scored on a one-timer in the second after a pass from Marner. Matthews’ blast over the left shoulder of Georgiev was his 25th goal, making him the first Leafs player to score 25 in each of his first four NHL seasons … Ryan Strome, with his second of the game, beat Andersen from a tough angle at 4:37 of the middle period … The Leafs trailed 1-0 when Brett Howden scored at 1:41 of the first … William Nylander scored for the third game in a row when he put a Tavares pass behind Georgiev at 4:21 of the first on a Leafs power play … Strome made it 2-1 Rangers at 7:59 after a lazy cross-ice pass in the defensive zone by Engvall. Artemi Panarin anticipated Engvall’s pass to Cody Ceci, took control and fed Strome … Andersen stopped Pavel Buchnevich on a penalty shot, called at 11:28 of the first after Barrie hauled the Ranger down on a breakaway … Rielly’s slump without a goal has reached 28 games.
Keefe on Martin Marincin, who gets a chance with Muzzin out: “I’ve seen him play very well. He and (Justin) Holl, in my time in the American League, that was a dominant pairing and a big reason why we were able to win a Calder Cup (in 2018). This is a good opportunity for (Marincin).” … Elliotte Friedman reported on Hockey Night in Canada that the Leafs may be shopping, to various degrees, Timashov and the Marlies’ Jeremy Bracco and Ben Harpur. If general manager Kyle Dubas can get anything tangible for any of the three, all the power to him … I would have been more intrigued if Justin Bieber instead had invited Matthews, Marner and Barrie to sing on his next album.
Tkachuk: Sens who tested positive for COVID-19 are 'doing well' – TSN
Brady Tkachuk is hunkered down with family in St. Louis trying to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ottawa Senators winger has also been also keeping close tabs on a pair of teammates who tested positive for the disease.
“Those guys, they’re doing well,” Tkachuk said on one of the NHL’s video conference calls Monday. “We’re a tight group, so we’re always in contact with one another.”
Two of the league’s four players to test positive since the season was suspended March 12 amid the novel coronavirus outbreak are unnamed members of the Senators.
The team played in San Jose, Calif., against the Sharks on March 7 despite a warning from officials in Santa Clara County against holding large public gatherings. The Colorado Avalanche played at SAP Center the following night, and two members of that team have also since tested positive for COVID-19.
“All of us are concerned about (the Ottawa players) and everybody impacted by it,” Tkachuk added.
Reporters have been asked by the league to submit questions ahead of time for the video conferences calls.
Despite being on one of two teams to have players test positive, Tkachuk was only asked one question on the subject by a member of the NHL’s public relations staff during a 35-minute session that also included a trio of Atlantic Division rivals — Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and Detroit Red Wings centre Dylan Larkin.
The Senators said March 17 the first player had tested positive before making the second announcement four days later.
Gord Wilson, the club’s veteran radio colour commentator, revealed Friday he also tested positive for COVID-19.
The Senators had two days off in California following their game in San Jose before meeting the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings on consecutive nights. Ottawa’s contest at the Staples Center on March 11 came 24 hours after the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets — who had four players test positive — played at the same arena against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Avalanche faced off against the Kings at Staples Center on March 9.
COVID-19 pandemic has killed thousands of people across the globe, devastated economies and brought about an era of social distancing and self-isolation.
As for the pause to the NHL season, Tkachuk said he and older brother Matthew, who plays for the Calgary Flames, have been doing their best to stay active.
“Been keeping busy with him and my younger sister,” Tkachuk said. “We’ve got the Peloton (bike) downstairs that we’ve been going on. We’ve been just keeping active with basketball and stuff like that. It gets fired up.
“It’s not stuff we’re not used to, but I’m trying to make the most of it.”
Tavares, who’s at home in Toronto with his wife and young son, said it took some time to process this new reality.
“First couple days just try to get an understanding of kind of where things are at and what’s hit us,” Tavares said. “Since then just try to develop some type of routine, some type of structure.”
Select players from the Metropolitan Division and Pacific Division took part in video conference calls late last week, while the Central Division is scheduled to go Tuesday.
Chara provided the funniest moment of his session when he was asked — every player has been lobbed the same question — which teammate he’d least like to spend time with in quarantine?
The answer: Boston goalie Tuukka Rask.
“The way he farts … the smell is awful,” said Chara, who had the other players cracking up. “He likes his chicken wings.”
Turning serious, Chara, whose Bruins sat first in the overall standings when the league paused after falling in Game 7 of last spring’s Stanley Cup final, said it’s important to put everything in perspective.
“It’s one of those situations that you can’t really control,” said the 43-year-old defenceman. “Right now we all have to look after each other and look after our families. Hockey’s secondary.
“Hopefully we will play again and we’ll see when that’s gonna be.”
On a separate call with a representative from the remaining Atlantic Division teams later Monday, Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber touched on the public service announcement he did on the importance of listening to public health and government officials during the crisis.
“We’re in this together,” Weber said. “As soon as someone’s messing around or not taking it seriously, that’s when things can turn bad for everyone.
“It’s tough times, but we’ve just got to stick together and come through this together.”
Players were also asked their preference for how the league should proceed if it’s allowed to resume this spring or summer.
“It would be tough to jump straight into playoffs, there’s no question about it,” Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman said. “But this is uncharted waters for everyone.
“It’s tough to see where this is going to end.”
Added Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel: “We really don’t know what tomorrow holds, never mind a month from now.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2020.
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Ottawa Race Weekend cancelled due to COVID-19 – CBC.ca
Ottawa Race Weekend is the latest event to be cancelled due to COVID-19.
Organizers announced Monday they’re calling off the annual race, scheduled this year to take place May 23-24, over fears it would be impossible to maintain a safe distance between runners of the marathon, half-marathon, 10K, 5K, 2K or children’s event.
It’s the first time the event has been cancelled since it began in 1975.
But before you hang up your Vaporflys and hit the couch, Run Ottawa, the organization behind Race Weekend, is offering an alternative that will allow runners to compete while still following the physical distancing guidelines set out by Ottawa Public Health.
Competitors will be offered a spot in a virtual race, where they’ll determine their own route and run or walk their chosen distance through their own neighbourhood. The virtual race will start as early as May 23, but will be spread out over the spring and summer months, until August 31. They’ll receive a race kit, including medal, T-shirt, and even a photograph of them crossing a virtual finishing line.
“Part of having a long runway to complete the event is that maybe things will be a little bit different further into the summer, and will allow people to run in groups of two or three,” said Ian Fraser, executive director of Run Ottawa.
Run Ottawa said it will partner with the international race timing company Sportstats to create a virtual finish line, using “e-bibs.” Participants will be able to share their results with friends and family, and compare their times with other runners once the final results are published.
The reality is that a full refund for all participants would bankrupt us, and there wouldn’t be a race weekend in 2021.– Ian Fraser, Run Ottawa
Registration, which was halted two weeks ago with around 18,000 runners signed up, will be reopened to allow for more people to join up for the virtual races.
“There’s a great spirit in the running community that I think is going to see this as something they can celebrate, to push something positive forward in difficult times,” Fraser said.
Run Ottawa had been expecting some 33,000 runners this year.
The virtual race won’t be a sanctioned event, and the results will not qualify runners for major marathons elsewhere, such as Boston.
There will be no refunds, according to Fraser.
“Pretty much all of the registration money that we take in is spent quite a ways before you actually get to the start line,” he said. “The reality is that a full refund for all participants would bankrupt us, and there wouldn’t be a race weekend in 2021.”
Instead, people who have already registered will be given a 50 per cent discount on next year’s race, which is scheduled for May 28-29.
Run Ottawa considered postponing the event until fall, but worried about the crowded running calendar, and the possibility of ongoing mitigation efforts over COVID-19.
“We’re also not certain that the world’s going to be in a better place by then, and we were really mindful to not double disappoint our participants,” Fraser said.
The decision to proceed with a virtual event is meant to encourage runners to keep going with their fundraising efforts for local charities. In years past, runners have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities including The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.
Fraser said he understands people will be disappointed.
“I’ve been a runner since I was eight years old,” Fraser said. “I understand the hard work that goes into preparing for one of our events. But the journey to get to the finish line is every bit as important as the actual event itself…. I think using running as a way of coping with what we’re going through is really important. I think there are more people running now than I’ve ever seen before.”
Belarus defiantly keeps playing while the rest of the sports world goes on hiatus – The Globe and Mail
With most sports around the world shutting down because of the coronavirus pandemic, longtime Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is proudly keeping soccer and hockey arenas open.
The Eastern European nation of nearly 9.5 million even started a whole new soccer season this month as coronavirus cases rose.
The move has the full support of Lukashenko, who took to the ice in an amateur hockey tournament on Saturday with a few hundred spectators in the stands.
“It’s better to die standing that to live on your knees,” he said, defending Belarus’ refusal to introduce isolation measures and border restrictions like its neighbours, such as Russia.
With foreign sports networks having little to show and few other options for sports betting, Lukashenko says the pandemic is a perfect opportunity to put the country’s soccer league on display.
“I look at Russia and some people there are winning a lot on bets, because beforehand they didn’t really know our teams,” Lukashenko said. “Someone’s losing, someone’s winning. It’s all useful.”
Fans entering the stadiums in Belarus are given antiseptic hand gel and some have their temperatures monitored by medics. Few wear masks because they’re not considered necessary for open-air events, Belarus soccer federation spokesman Alexander Aleinik said.
Belarus doesn’t publish daily figures on the spread of the virus. On Friday, the last day for which statistics are available, the country recorded 94 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with no deaths.
The Belarusian league isn’t usually an international attraction. Crowds this season barely average 1,200 and UEFA ranks it the continent’s 25th strongest, just below Norway, Israel and Kazakhstan.
But Russian TV has given its games prominent slots on state sports channels and betting firms around Western Europe are streaming them for customers.
British fans on social media have picked teams to follow and thrown themselves into a new fandom, elevating obscure players to hero status and berating coaches for supposedly negative tactics.
There isn’t much competition, with betting sites offering little more than Nicaraguan soccer, Tajikistan basketball and Russian table tennis as rivals.
Sergei Melnikov is one of those hoping to make an impression on the mostly empty global sports stage. He is the director of the Isloch club, which beat Smolevichi 1-0 on Sunday to keep pace with the leaders on points.
“The whole world is watching our soccer right now,” Melnikov said. “That means we have to show the best that we’ve got.”
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