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Maple Leafs' goalie Petr Mrazek exits with groin injury vs. Senators – The Athletic



Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Petr Mrazek exited after the second period of a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday with what the team called a groin injury. The team had no further update on his status after the game.

Mrazek went down awkwardly on the final shot of the period from Ottawa’s Victor Mete, then hobbled down the tunnel at the end of the period. Mrazek made 26 saves but allowed three first-period goals. Jack Campbell came on for the Leafs in goal to start the third period.

Mrazek, 29, was making his debut with the Leafs after signing a three-year deal in the offseason.

(Photo: Chris Tanouye / Getty Images)

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5 Maple Leafs takeaways: Sandin carried off during ‘gong show’ in Winnipeg –



“A gong show.”

That is how Auston Matthews described the spiraling debacle — on the ice and on the trainers’ table – that brought the Toronto Maple Leafs’ eight-game point streak on the road to a screeching halt on Sunday.

Heading into this frigid weekend back-to-back in the northernmost outposts of the Central Division, Minnesota and Winnipeg, things had been going so swimmingly for the lads in Blue and White that the events of the past 48 hours served up a harsh reminder of some of the club’s weak spots.

Let’s dig into a few takeaways from the Leafs’ 6-3 loss to the Jets on the night Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler celebrated his 1,000th game.

Dubois ragdolls Matthews

Referee Brad Meier might be wise to steer clear of Leafs Twitter for a minute.

Here’s where the gong began to clang.

With the score 5-3 Jets in the third period, Meier dinged both Matthews and Pierre-Luc Dubois for coincidental minors for this exchange:

Matthews took the high road post-game, allowing only that he’d be leaving the rink with a sour taste in his mouth.

“One of the best players in the world is in a situation that should be a power-play there,” said coach Sheldon Keefe, grabbing his sniper’s back. “That’s how it should work, and it didn’t.

“On the very next shift, you get one of your guys carried off and there’s no call there. Should be a 4-on-3, a five-minute power-play in a two-goal game, and it’s not. I just felt at that point, we needed some response.”

Pionk takes Sandin down with controversial knee

Through 26 games, the full health of the Maple Leafs’ seven-man D corps was a lingering source of mild tension, as every night a deserving blueliner was getting scratched.

Well, if Rasmus Sandin’s injury is as serious as it appeared, GM Kyle Dubas will be thankful he didn’t pull the trigger on a trade.

Immediately after Sandin let a shot fly in the third period, Jets defenceman Neal Pionk clipped the 21-year-old with a knee-on-knee hit.

No penalty was called on the play.

Sandin left the ice with assistance from Wayne Simmonds and Ondrej Kase and did not return. There was no immediate update on his condition.

“It looks to me like it’s a five-minute major. It’s a knee-on-knee. A guy gets carried,” Keefe told reporters postgame. “Obviously, [the officials] didn’t see it. I think if they see it, they probably would’ve called it differently. The league, I’m sure, will have a look.”

The Pionk hit set the Leafs off, captain John Tavares admitted.

So, we saw mild-mannered Jason Spezza lunge at Pionk’s head, and Wayne Simmonds chuck knuckles with Logan Stanley as the thing winded down to its messy conclusion.

Power-plays on fire

To be clear: When it came to the actual hockey portion of the hockey game, the more deserving side earned the two points.

That’s thanks, in large part, to Winnipeg’s reawakened offence, which struck thrice on the man-advantage.

The Maple Leafs, too, looked dangerous on the PP, with Michael Bunting and Matthews both cashing in on clean shots.

Matthews extended his goal streak to six games and is the first player to have four goal streaks of at least five games in a single calendar year since Brett Hull.

Toronto has 16 power-play goals over its past 18 games, solidifying it as a weapon. Which is probably why Keefe believed a couple calls might’ve salvaged his club a point.

Missing Marner

Not unlike Tavares’s absence in the 2021 post-season, when you subtract Mitchell Marner from the Leafs lineup, the trickle effect exposes a lack of depth on the wings and on the PK.

Spezza filled in admirably in Minnesota and on the man-advantage, yet the rejigged first line took on water against the high-powered Jets attack.

With Pierre Engvall dropping to Spezza’s spot on the fourth line and Nick Ritchie moving to David Kampf’s line, that checking unit had a rough go dealing with Winnipeg’s speed.

The Leafs fed the home team’s transition game and exposed rookie goalie Joseph Woll to a rash of odd-man rushes. Plus, Marner’s instincts could’ve come in handy on the kill.

“[Marner] is not a guy you can just replace,” Matthews said. “But we have a lot of belief in our group. No matter who I play with, I have confidence in every single guy out there.”

Campbell or bust?

The 3-0 career start of Woll is a lovely story.

He’s a great, hard-working kid who has endeared himself to the big club.

But until he stared across at Connor Hellebuyck and the Jets, Woll had only faced offences in the weaker half of the league: Sabres, Islanders, Sharks. Non-playoff teams, all of them.

The likes of Wheeler, Dubois, Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, and Nikolaj Ehlers pumping 41 shots in your direction?

That’s a whole other animal.

Sure, Woll could’ve used more help in his own zone. But he let in six — a reminder why Toronto spent millions on an NHL-proven backup over the summer.

So… how’s he doing?

Petr Mrazek lost 5-1 to Laval on Sunday starting for the Marlies in Game 1 of his AHL conditioning stint, stopping 22 of the 26 shots he faced. Coach Greg Moore liked what he saw.

“He looked good, didn’t look like he was hesitant. I thought he gave us a great effort and kept us in the game and a lot of mistakes and reasons for the pucks going in the net were on us,” Moore said.

After 53 days between starts, Mrazek said he felt great despite the loss.

“It’s good to get the action going and see the plays from the ice and how the game goes,” Mrazek said. “So, happy to be back and happy to see the action.”

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Blue Bombers persevere to set up Grey Cup rematch vs. Tiger-Cats –



WINNIPEG — It would have been easy for Zach Collaros to throw up his hands in the air and get discouraged.

After all, he’d driven the Winnipeg Blue Bombers down the field on each of the first two possessions and done his part to ensure his team found its way into the end zone in Sunday’s CFL West final.

Instead of watching his team build an early two-touchdown advantage after a pair of impressive drives, the quarterback was probably left in disbelief by a bobbled ball by Nic Demski in the end zone that led to an unlikely interception and a fumble by Drew Wolitarsky at the two-yard line that turned into a 94-yard recovery going the other direction.

But that’s not the way that Collaros rolls.

He wasn’t about to feel sorry for himself and he was quick to look for solutions and for ways to lead his team to victory.

So, no this will not go down as an offensive explosion for Collaros, but thanks to a stout defensive effort and an impressive ground attack led by the return of running back Andrew Harris from a knee injury, the Blue Bombers are heading back to the Grey Cup after earning a 21-17 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday before a raucous crowd of 31,160 at IG Field.

“There were some things that happened where there were some turnovers but nobody panicked in any phase of our team,” said Collaros, who finished the game 17-of-21 for 229 yards, with one touchdown (to Rasheed Bailey) and three picks. “(Coach Mike) O’Shea came in and gave us a little talk, obviously not rah-rah or anything, just told us to be ourselves. We were able to do that.”

The remarkable thing is that Collaros had only one pass attempt hit the ground and that came on a drop by fullback Mike Miller.

The three other misses ended up in the hands of an opponent, including two ill-advised passes — one into coverage and the other caused by pressure when he was trying to throw the ball away but put it into the hands of linebacker Nigel Harris.

That first interception came at the end of an impressive drive to open the game and should have been a touchdown for Demski, who lost the handle and deflected the ball right into the waiting hands of Ed Gainey.

However, when his team needed him most, the West nominee for the Most Outstanding Player award delivered a couple of important strikes on methodical drives that put Winnipeg ahead.

The first of those was an outstanding grab by Kenny Lawler late in the third quarter as he was falling to the turf and the other was a Darvin Adams completion early in the fourth that extended a drive.

One of the feel-good stories coming out of the game was the return of Harris, a Winnipegger who had been plagued by a knee injury for the past seven weeks.

Although he was officially listed as a game-time decision and his only full practice came on Wednesday before he suffered a setback, Harris wasn’t about to miss out on an opportunity to play in front of his hometown crowd with a spot in the Grey Cup on the line.

Harris, who was the MVP of the 2019 Grey Cup, played the role of a bulldozer in this one, pacing the offensive attack with 23 rushes for 136 yards, averaging nearly six yards per carry.

And these weren’t easy yards either, as many of them came with Harris dragging the pile along with him.

Earlier this week, Blue Bombers offensive lineman Pat Neufeld called Harris the heartbeat of the team.

On Sunday, Harris did his part to provide an emotional lift.

When he wasn’t in the backfield providing protection or running the ball ferociously, there was Harris running up and down the sideline, trying his best to get the fans into it as the defence pushed for a stop.

Harris recognized the importance of playing in a West final against the team’s biggest rival and as he’s done so often during the course of his career, he raised his level of play on the grand stage.

“Definitely a memorable one for the fans and for this organization,” said Harris, who was limited to seven games during the regular season after suffering the knee injury following a touchdown against the Edmonton Elks on Oct. 16. “I’ve been in this league for a long time and played a lot of snaps. I know that it’s win or go home in these situations. There’s a certain attitude, a certain stigma, a certain feeling that you get in playoff time. I never want to go home in these situations. I want to give it all that I have. That energy, that enthusiasm, that fire in your belly just elevates and your play kind of comes out after that.”

Harris was quick to credit the play of the offensive line and also shared his appreciation for those on the defence.

“It means that we’re resilient and we’ve got thick skin,” said Harris, who finished with 145 all-purpose yards and scored on a one-yard touchdown run. “There’s no quit in our team. We didn’t give up, we didn’t falter. We came in at halftime and really just looked around and said ‘hey, what are we doing here guys?’ We were just making small mistakes, little things. We definitely secured our emotions and came out in the second half with a different attitude.”

Speaking of that vaunted defence, the Blue Bombers had some extraordinary performances from the defensive dozen this season.

But it was the collective unit that delivered what was mostly a masterpiece in this game — with the exception of a couple of missed tackles on a 67-yard catch-and-run for Duke Williams.

However, the defence was the biggest reason the Blue Bombers faced only a three-point deficit at halftime, despite a whopping five turnovers in the opening two quarters.

In the final minute of the fourth quarter, with the Roughriders putting a drive together much like they did a week earlier to defeat the Calgary Stampeders, the Bombers defence came up big again.

On a third-and-three, Blue Bombers defensive back Nick Taylor knocked down a pass that was intended for Mitchell Picton.

That was the exclamation point for a defence that kept Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo in check — especially in the running game as the fleet-footed pivot was limited to 21 yards on six rushes.

Speaking of impact plays, Blue Bombers defensive ends Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat each finished with two tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

But Winnipeg has things to work on before next week’s Grey Cup in Hamilton against the host Tiger-Cats.

In addition to the three interceptions, the Blue Bombers had a couple of fumbles that were forced by good defensive plays.

Punter Marc Liegghio failed to convert on a botched fake in the third quarter as he was trying to catch the Roughriders with too many men on the field, and the Blue Bombers finished with a six-pack of giveaways.

For a team that prides itself on ball security, that didn’t sit well with O’Shea.

The Blue Bombers know full well they’ll need to do a better job on the ball security front.

“Absolutely. It’s a good lesson. There’s a couple things to take away from that,” said O’Shea. “One is just move on and focus on the next play. Just understand the situation and move on. And two, that we have to play cleaner, or it’s not always going to look like that. They trust each other as a team and they have each other’s backs, and that’s very important. That gets tested, don’t get me wrong. That gets tested in a game like this. But if I looked back at how they passed this test compared to other teams I’ve been associated with would fare on that test, it was amazing. And not just the outcome. I’m talking about how they figured it out and stuck together and got going.

“I don’t feel lucky, if that’s what you’re asking. I mean, we’ve got a good defence. And we know Sask took the ball away and our defence held them in check. So it’s not good fortune. That’s hard work and preparation, guys going out there with the right mindset saying, ‘I love this opportunity,’ not ‘Woe is me, oh my gosh, we turned the ball over.’ They step on the field and go, ‘This is awesome. Let’s go. Make our teammates proud.’”

Instead of lamenting an upset loss that would have haunted them throughout the off-season, the Blue Bombers overcame the adversity presented to them and will now have the opportunity to extend their reign as champions.

Great teams find a way even when they might not be clicking on all cylinders and the only thing that matters right now to the Blue Bombers is that they found a way to extend their season.

There are no style points at this time of year, just a recognition they’ll need to be sharper next Sunday.

“I can’t really explain it. It’s not like us. It’s unexplainable and it’s inexcusable,” said Harris. “We’ve got to be better. All parties need to be better and everyone on offence needs to be better.

“The ball is the Cup. If you don’t have the ball, you can’t win games and you can’t win the Grey Cup. So, we need to have the ball in our hands, to secure it and hold onto that and keep it for long drives.”

The Grey Cup is a rematch of the 2019 event, although this time the Tiger-Cats will be on their home field — which should only add to the intrigue.

“It means everything because it’s the only goal we set out to do,” said Blue Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill. “This is such a special group of guys that put in such a huge amount of work, collectively, for each other. No egos. No Me’s and no I’s. It’s all we’s and for each other. Our locker room is something special. It’s something that I love and value so much and I know all the guys do, too.

“Because it’s such a good feeling that we lay it out there on the line for each other and we believe in each other, and we know we’re going to get it done and we’re going to leave it all out on the field. Defending the Cup is right where we want to be, and our hard work has got us to this point.”

As Harris was departing the field waving a massive blue flag with a W on it and handed out a few high-fives with fans in the crowd, you got the sense he would like to be part of another celebration.

If that’s going to happen, you can expect Harris to find himself in the middle of the action once again.

When asked if the Tiger-Cats might have a score to settle dating back to the result in 2019, Harris ended his press gathering with two words that served as the equivalent of a mic drop.

“Let’s go.”

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REPORT: Jim Benning and Travis Green out, Bruce Boudreau in as Canucks head coach – Vancouver Is Awesome



On Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada, Rogers Arena echoed with boos and chants of “Fire Benning.” It was clear that the Canucks could no longer ignore the calls for change from their fanbase.

Less than 24 hours later, the Canucks heeded that call for change.

While the chants on Saturday called for the Canucks to fire general manager Jim Benning, many Canucks fans also want to see a coaching change. Like a rich child at Christmas, Caanucks fans are apparently getting everything they wanted. 

As first reported by Elliotte Friedman, the Canucks have hired Bruce Boudreau as their new head coach. 

According to Darren Dreger, Boudreau will be joined by Scott Walker, who played 15 seasons in the NHL, including parts of four seasons with the Canucks before embarking on a coaching and front office career.

Walker was a development coach with the Canucks for two seasons from 2015-2017, then served as the team’s director of player development for the 2018-19 season.

The report came prior to any notice of now-assumedly-former head coach Travis Green being fired. Green just signed a two-year deal as the Canucks’ head coach in May, but was left dangling by a thread as the team struggled to start the season, with news leaking that the team was actively seeking his replacement.

Green got the Canucks to the playoffs in just one of his four full seasons as head coach, albeit with a team that was rebuilding at the start of his tenure. Green ends his time with the Canucks with a 133-147-34 record.

What was missing from these reports is the status of Benning, the person at whom Canucks fans have aimed most of their ire. Satiar Shah added an interesting tidbit to the mix: Boudreau was not Benning’s hire.

There has been speculation that Benning does not have autonomy to make decisions at this point, which isn’t entirely unsurprising. There have been questions regarding how independent his decisions have been from ownership for quite some time. 

There were reports that the Canucks were granted permission to talk to Claude Julien about the Canucks’ head coaching job. Julien and Benning have a relationship that goes back to their time with the Boston Bruins. It seems likely that Julien was the coach that Benning wanted but was vetoed. If he didn’t even have the authority to hire a coach, how much longer could he last as GM?

Sure enough, as first reported by Irfaan Gaffar and confirmed by Rick Dhaliwal, Benning and his right-hand man, John Weisbrod, are also out, along with assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner. One of Stan Smyl or Chris Gear is expected to take over as interim GM as the team seeks a long-term management fix.

The Canucks missed the playoffs in five of seven seasons under Benning and had a 242-257-61 record during his tenure. 

Boudreau, then, is presumably a coach that the Canucks’ ownership agreed on and it’s not hard to understand why. Boudreau is a big name, with 13 seasons of experience as an NHL head coach, most famously with Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals but most recently with the Minnesota Wild.

Boudreau is known for being a more offensive-minded, with a willingness to unleash talented forwards to be creative, sometimes at the expense of the team’s defensive structure. Ovechkin thrived under Boudreau en route to a Presidents’ Trophy, although they had minimal playoff success together. With two of the Canucks young stars, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, struggling to score, perhaps the thought is that Boudreau might be able to get more out of them than Green.

Despite his reputation, Boudreau showed that he can coach sound defence with the Minnesota Wild, although their offence, in turn, took a hit. The question, then, is what style will Boudreau bring to the Canucks? 

One interesting aspect is that Boudreau is not an interim coach. Boudreau has reportedly signed a two-year deal with the Canucks, same as the outgoing Green. If the Canucks do end up hiring a new general manager at some point in the future, he’ll have to decide whether to retain Boudreau or bring in his own head coach, potentially leading to the Canucks paying three head coaches simultaneously.

Boudreau’s hiring fits neatly into the pattern of the Edmonton Oilers in their final season under Peter Chiarelli as GM. The Oilers fired their head coach at about this same point in the season and hired a veteran, big-name coach in Ken Hitchcock. 

There have been many parallels between Benning’s Canucks and Chiarelli’s Oilers, but the Canucks are likely hoping that the rest of their season isn’t one of them. The Oilers were exactly as bad after Hitchcock’s hiring as they were before.

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