NEW YORK – Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, Winnipeg Jets left wing Kyle Connor and Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Feb. 9.
FIRST STAR – ELVIS MERZLIKINS, G, COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Merzlikins went 173:39 before allowing a goal last week, posting a 2-1-0 record, 0.67 goals-against average, .971 save percentage and two shutouts as the Blue Jackets improved to 30-17-9 overall (69 points), third in the Metropolitan Division. Merzlikins began the week by stopping all 32 shots in a 1-0 overtime victory over the Florida Panthers on Feb. 4. Three nights later, he stopped all 16 shots in a 2-0 triumph over the Detroit Red Wings, extending his win streak to eight games (the longest ever by a Columbus rookie) with his League-leading fifth shutout – all in a span of eight games. He closed the week with a 20-save effort Feb. 8 in a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, stopping each of the first 17 shots he faced. Merzlikins, 25, a native of Riga, Latvia, has a 12-7-4 record through 25 games in his first NHL season (2.19 GAA, .930 SV%, 5 SO). Only three different Blue Jackets goaltenders have recorded more than five shutouts in a single season, with Steve Mason (10 in 2008-09) the only to do so as a rookie.
SECOND STAR – KYLE CONNOR, LW, WINNIPEG JETS
Connor led the League in points with eight (3-5-8) as the Jets (29-23-5, 63 points) gained seven of a possible eight points to move from three points outside the playoff picture into the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. Connor was held off the score sheet in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators on Feb. 4 and recorded one assist in a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 6. Over a weekend back-to-back set Feb. 8-9, Connor recorded 1-3-4 in a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators followed by two goals and one assist in a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. In doing so, Connor became the seventh different player in franchise history to record at least three points on consecutive days (and third to do so since the club moved to Winnipeg). Connor, 23, a native of Shelby Township, Mich., is in his fourth NHL season and sits 13th in League scoring with 59 points (28-31-59 in 57 GP). He needs two goals to become the third player in Jets/Thrashers history with at least three consecutive 30-goal seasons.
THIRD STAR – ANDREI VASILEVSKIY, G, TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Vasilevskiy went 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .936 save percentage to guide the Lightning to a perfect week and an overall record of 35-15-5 (75 points), second in the Atlantic Division and third in the entire NHL. Vasilevskiy led Tampa Bay to 4-2 wins against the Vegas Golden Knights (Feb. 4; 27 saves) and Pittsburgh Penguins (Feb. 6; 29 saves) before closing the week with 17 saves in a 3-1 triumph over the New York Islanders on Feb. 8. All three victories came at AMALIE Arena as Vasilevskiy pushed his home winning streak to eight games, matching the franchise record for the third time in as many seasons. Vasilevskiy, 25, a native of Tyumen, Russia, owns an overall record of 29-9-3 in 41 games this season (2.48 GAA, .918 SV%, 2 SO) as he aims to become the second Lightning goaltender to record three consecutive 30-win seasons. His active 18-game point streak (16-0-2 dating to Dec. 17) is one of 16 in NHL history of at least that length – and the second-longest by any active goaltender.
Andreescu earns thrilling 1st-round win over Kasatkina at National Bank Open in Toronto – CBC Sports
Bianca Andreescu feels as though she has found her fighting spirit after a tough, but thrilling 2 1/2 hour two-set victory on Tuesday.
The Mississauga, Ont., native defeated world No. 9 Daria Kasatkina 7-6 (5), 6-4 in her opening round match at the National Bank Open.
“A win is a win no matter how you pull it off and today really showed me a lot about myself and how I can push through these things if I really want it,” Andreescu said.
“It just shows that fighting spirit that I still have in me. I want to continue building on that.”
WATCH l Andreescu advances to 2nd round:
The win didn’t come without difficulty though.
On a number of occasions, Andreescu was in discussion with her trainers and seemed to be breathing heavy at different points of the match.
But the 22-year-old insisted she felt much better post-match.
Asked if she thought of retiring from the match, Andreescu was adamant about not wanting to.
“I did not want to at all. There was one moment where I was a bit afraid that I couldn’t [continue] but it’s not like I had that thought in my head where I wanted to quit. I really couldn’t today, something came upon me even though I was feeling like absolute crap,” she said.
“Especially during the tiebreaker, I hit a shot and I was seeing double almost. That was kind of the point where I didn’t feel the best. But the crowd, they really pushed me to continue.”
Andreescu, who won the event in 2019 in Toronto, was sharp and active early, making comebacks within games she later won. She also went 3-for-3 on break points through the first five games.
Up 3-2, she mixed up her shots, using forehands, backhands and drop shots, making Kasatkina work. A Kasatkina error allowed Andreescu to have some breathing room with a 4-2 lead.
“Changing it up with my drop shot — I feel like I brought it out more today than (these) past four months,” Andreescu said. “I’m very happy with that.”
After Kasatkina eventually tied the set at 6-6, Andreescu scored six out the final eight points in the tiebreaker to win the set, punctuated by a powerful forehand. The set took 85 minutes to play.
In the second set, Andreescu jumped out to a strong start, outlasting Kasatkina through multiple lengthy exchanges as the Russian committed multiple errors, sending shots into the net.
Andreescu again began to mix it up between drop shots and forehands that Kasatkina struggled to return with accuracy at times, as the Canadian grabbed a 2-0 lead.
After Kasatkina took the next three sets, Andreescu followed with three straight wins of her own, finishing with a forehand winner that had her opponent visibly upset.
Getting the Canadian crowd fired UP 🇨🇦<a href=”https://twitter.com/Bandreescu_?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Bandreescu_</a> | <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBO22?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NBO22</a> <a href=”https://t.co/0OhPRbtfP3″>pic.twitter.com/0OhPRbtfP3</a>
With the home crowd behind her, Andreescu went up 40-0 in the clinching game before committing two errors. She then used another drop shot that Kasatkina could not run down to close the match.
She immediately raised her hands as the crowd gave her a standing ovation.
Andreescu will play against Alize Cornet of France in the second round, a player she hasn’t defeated in two career outings.
Eyeing her revenge against Cornet, Andreescu feels more confident in her chances after beating Kasatkina.
“It definitely gives me confidence for the next match. Alize kind of plays like Daria a little bit in a way — more consistent and all that,” she said. “So having this match under my belt and going into tomorrow against Alize definitely gives me confidence.”
In women’s doubles, Canada’s Leylah Fernandez won her opening match alongside younger sister, Bianca Jolie. The duo topped Belgium’s Kirsen Flipkens and Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4, 6-1.
Shapovalov, Pospisil eliminated
An opening double-fault. Two wayward backhands. Another mistake on match ball.
Denis Shapovalov’s rain-suspended match was over shortly after it resumed Tuesday afternoon as he dropped a 7-5, 7-6 (4) decision to Australia’s Alex de Minaur at the National Bank Open men’s tournament in Montreal.
The players were in a tight battle a night earlier but rain forced a postponement with the tiebreaker tied at three. Shapovalov was hoping to force a decisive third set but instead was eliminated after just a few minutes on court.
“I haven’t had this exact experience before so it was tricky,” Shapovalov said.
WATCH | Shapovalov labours in straight-sets loss:
The result capped a tough day for the Canadians in the 56-player singles draw. Vasek Pospisil dropped a 6-4, 6-4 decision to American Tommy Paul and 15th-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov posted a 6-4, 7-5 win over Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que.
That left sixth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal as the last Canadian remaining in singles play. He had a first-round bye and will likely play his opening match Wednesday.
Groans could be heard at last Friday’s draw ceremony when de Minaur’s name was called out as Shapovalov’s first opponent.
At No. 21, de Minaur is one spot ahead of Shapovalov in the world rankings. The five-time winner on the ATP Tour had also beaten the Canadian in both previous meetings at the pro level.
De Minaur wasn’t fazed by Shapovalov’s power game during the match and was able to handle the left-hander’s wide serves. Tremendous retrieving skills helped blunt the Canadian’s aggressiveness and led to some mistakes.
Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., has recorded just one win since beating Rafael Nadal last May in Rome.
In men’s doubles, Shapovalov and Russian partner Karen Khachanov lost a tough three-match set in 86 minutes to Rohan Bopanna of India and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands 7-6(5), 4-6, 10-6.
Pospisil, meanwhile, had three break points in the final game of the opening set but was unable to convert. Paul went on to complete the victory in one hour 25 minutes.
“[It] just wasn’t one of my best matches for sure,” Pospisil said. “Tommy played his match. He didn’t play anything that was so exceptional that I couldn’t have given myself a better look. But yeah, wasn’t the best of matches. Had good moments, but not consistent.”
WATCH | Pospisil loses in straight sets:
The native of Vernon, B.C., is entered in the doubles draw with Italy’s Jannik Sinner. Calgary native Cleeve Harper and Liam Draxl of Newmarket, Ont., are the other Canadians in the doubles field.
The start of Tuesday’s opening session was delayed about 90 minutes due to wet weather. Another rain delay forced a 20-minute pause in the afternoon.
Marin Cilic, the No. 13 seed, defeated fellow Croatian Borna Coric 6-3, 6-2. Other seeded players to advance were No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and No. 17 Gael Monfils of France.
The lone upset in afternoon play saw Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta surprise 11th-seeded Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2.
British wild-card Andy Murray, who was ranked world No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals for 41 straight weeks in 2016, couldn’t find that old magic against 10th-seeded Taylor Fritz of San Diego in the feature evening match.
Fritz made quick work of the 35-year-old Murray, winning 6-1, 6-3.
The US$6.57-million tournament continues through Sunday.
WATCH | Galarneau loses to Bulgaria’s Dimitrov:
Canada’s Rebecca Marino lost 6-3, 6-7 (5), 4-6 to China’s Zheng Qinwen in her opening-round match on Tuesday.
The Vancouver native entered the tournament coming off a quarterfinal appearance at the Citi Open, where she fell to Daria Saville of Australia.
Marino, who made it into the WTA top 100 rankings for the first time since 2012 and is currently No. 96, got rolling early as she took the first set with relative ease.
WATCH | Marino bounced in 1st round:
Marino overcame a strong start from Zheng in the second set, but had trouble with unforced errors in the tiebreaker.
The Canadian went up 4-3 in the final set before losing the final three games.
Marino fired 12 aces to Zheng’s 10 and was a perfect 2 for 2 on break points in the loss.
The 19-year-old Zheng, ranked 51st, will next play fifth-ranked Ons Jabeur in the second round.
Fellow Canadian Carol Zhao also dropped her first match, 6-1, 6-3 to American Amanda Anisimova.
Osaka’s struggles continue
Naomi Osaka’s recent struggles continued Tuesday with an early exit in Toronto.
The four-time Grand Slam champion retired from her first-round match with a back injury. Osaka was losing 7-6 (4), 3-0 against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi when she withdrew from the contest.
“I felt my back from the start of the match, and despite trying to push through it, I just wasn’t able to today,” Osaka said in a written statement. “I’d like to pay credit to Kaia for playing well and want to wish her all the best for the rest of the tournament.”
Entering the tournament, Osaka had been eliminated from her last three competitions in the first or second round, including a straight-sets loss to Coco Gauff at last week’s Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic.
That was her first competition since the French Open as she recovered from an Achilles injury.
Prior to that run, she had her best tournament of the year making it to the final of the Miami Open in early April before losing to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.
The 31st-ranked Kanepi will next play No. 8 Garbine Muguruza of Spain.
Another successful young star had an early exit Tuesday when ninth seed Toronto-born player Emma Raducanu of Great Britain lost 7-6 (0), 6-2 to Italy’s Camila Giorgi.
Other women’s winners Tuesday included Shuai Zhang of China, Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain and Elise Mertens of Belgium.
Judge rules three LIV players will not be permitted to join FedEx Cup playoffs – Yahoo Canada Sports
The battle between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour has reached the first of what will surely be many courtrooms.
U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman heard arguments from attorneys representing both the PGA Tour and a consortium of eleven LIV-affiliated players on Tuesday afternoon. Three LIV players — Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones — were seeking a temporary restraining order that would permit them to compete in this week’s tournament, the first event of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
However, after a two-hour hearing, Judge Freeman ruled that the players had not proven that they would suffer “irreparable harm” if they were not permitted to play. She also indicated that the players were fully aware of the potential consequences of joining LIV when they did earlier this summer, and that they had earned a substantial amount of purse revenue as a result of their decision to play on the LIV tour. Accordingly, the LIV players will not be in the field this week or the rest of the PGA Tour playoffs.
The players’ temporary restraining order was only one part of a much larger lawsuit that the LIV players, led by Phil Mickelson, have brought against the Tour on antitrust grounds. That suit charges that the PGA Tour has engaged in anticompetitive behavior and coerced other entities in the golf world — the four majors, various vendors, courses — to shun LIV and its players. The Tour has responded that it is protecting the interests of its members — the players — by keeping walls high against players from competing tours seeking to, in the Tour’s oft-repeated words, “have their cake and eat it too.”
While Tuesday’s hearing focused primarily on the narrow issue of the three players’ eligibility to play in the Tour’s playoffs — an event for which they’d already qualified prior to leaving for LIV — both the LIV players’ attorneys and the Tour’s attorneys previewed the arguments that will be at play in the coming months.
Judge Freeman seemed to take issue with the breadth of PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan’s power to suspend and otherwise control the destiny of players on the Tour. On the other hand, she raised significant doubts about the level of antitrust violation at work here, given how successful LIV has been in attracting and retaining some of the biggest names in the sport. Five of the 10 most popular players on Tour, according to the Tour’s own metrics, have now joined forces with LIV.
Some significant revelations also surfaced during the hearing, the most significant of which concerns the way at least some LIV players are paid. According to the players’ own attorney, at least some LIV players have their tournament winnings deducted from their upfront payment — which, in effect, works like an advance rather than as an actual, discrete payment. So under that arrangement, a player who hypothetically received $10 million to play for LIV would need to earn $10 million in tournament purses before earning additional money on the LIV tour. That’s a significant and substantial difference from the way that PGA Tour players are paid.
The FedEx St. Jude Classic, the first of the three-event FedEx Cup playoffs, starts Thursday. The next LIV Golf event is scheduled for early September in Boston.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
Contact Jay Busbee at email@example.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.
What you need to know ahead of the restaged 2022 World Junior Championships – ESPN
The World Junior Championship is a holiday hockey tradition like no other.
This year is an exception.
The tournament is still coming your way during peak vacation time, only now it’s happening mid-summer, rather than post-Christmas. Confused? Let’s recap.
The 2022 WJC was set to be played as usual last December. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the location was moved to Edmonton, Alberta, under restrictive “bubble” conditions. The International Ice Hockey Federation hoped strict protocols would allow the event to go off as scheduled. Spoiler: It did not.
Four days in, the IIHF was forced to call things off after the United States, Czechia and Russia each forfeited preliminary round games because of mounting COVID cases through their ranks. The IIHF didn’t know at the time whether the tournament could be rescheduled.
In April, a new plan was announced. The IIHF said it would restage the 2022 iteration of its event from Aug. 9-20 in Edmonton. The results from games that were played last December would be thrown out. Players born in 2002 or later would retain their eligibility to participate. And so, here we are.
When preliminary action begins (again), all eyes will of course be on the tournament’s perennial favorites from the U.S. and Canada. Those countries highlight two groups of participating nations: Group A has the U.S., Austria, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland, while Group B is Canada, Czechia, Finland, Latvia and Slovakia.
Austria retained its place in a top division despite finishing in 10th place last year. Normally, it would have faced relegation, but the cancellation of various U20 tournaments altered regulations and they remain in the mix.
The top four teams from each group will play in the quarterfinals, starting on Aug. 17. That will be followed by the semifinals on Aug. 19, and the gold and bronze medal games on Aug. 20.
Before things get rolling, we’re checking in on some of the major storylines and more intriguing players populating this year’s tournament. As hockey fans know, there is no comparison for the drama the World Juniors can bring. (Editor’s note: A version of this story was posted in December ahead of the initial start of the tournament. This has been updated to account for what has changed between then and now)
Can Team USA go back-to-back?
Spencer Knight made 34 saves and Trevor Zegras recorded two points when Team USA shut out Team Canada 2-0 to win gold at the 2021 World Juniors tournament.
That marked the fifth WJC title for Team USA, along with victories in 2004, 2010, 2013 and 2017. What the U.S. has never accomplished is winning gold in consecutive years. And there’s no time like the present to give it another shot.
Head coach Neal Leaman will be behind the bench again this year, after guiding Team USA to gold in 2021. Leaman has been the men’s coach at Providence College for 11 seasons and won an NCAA title in 2015.
Team USA has four skaters returning from that championship-winning roster in 2021 in Brock Faber, Landon Slaggert, Brett Berard and Tyler Kleven, and retained 17 of the 25 players who were originally slated to be in the December tournament.
Standing prominently in the U.S.’s way of a repeat will be Team Canada, although they’ve suffered significant losses to their numbers from before. Nine players from Canada’s December roster aren’t returning this time around, including Owen Power and Kaiden Guhle. However, Canada does boast impressive goaltending depth highlighted by the Canadian Hockey League’s goalie of the year, Dylan Garand.
Canada was also the last team to win consecutive WJC titles, earning five straight gold medals from 2005 to 2009. Will the U.S. be next to go back-to-back?
Can Connor Bedard dominate — again?
Technically, the last 16-year-old to play for Canada in the World Juniors was some guy named Connor McDavid.
In December, another Connor followed in McDavid’s footsteps — and the (then) 16-year-old Connor Bedard was off to a great start. Bedard entered Canada’s winter selection camp with an outside shot at being the team’s 13th forward. He made the final roster and proceeded to become the youngest player in tournament history to score four goals in a game during Canada’s preliminary round rout of Austria. One day later, the IIHF shut the championship down.
Bedard returned then to the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats and produced an electrifying 76 points in 38 games.
It’s no wonder then that Bedard enters this tournament re-do not only on Canada’s top line with Mason McTavish, but as the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
Canada’s head coach Dave Cameron said the three months of playing time that elapsed for Bedard between one championship and the next made a “huge” impact on his overall game. The center agrees, telling reporters this week he felt improved from the second half of last season, particularly when it comes to his face-off percentage. Bedard will be angling to show off those advancements on an international stage.
There’s no reason to doubt he can. Bedard has long been an overachiever, like when he became the first player in WHL history to be granted exceptional status to join the Pats as a 15-year-old. So maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise when Bedard came to last winter’s camp and was Canada’s leading scorer through exhibition play with two goals and four assists.
Even still, Bedard wasn’t projected to play a huge role for Canada. That’s changed quickly. Expectations are now sky-high for what Bedard can produce on a squad hungry to get back on top.
Same goes for the USA’s Logan Cooley. He was part of the team’s original WJC roster, tallying an assist in one preliminary round game before the COVID shutdown. Leman thought Cooley made great plays in that match against Slovakia and expected he’d rely on Cooley more from there.
That should be especially true now, given all that’s happened for Cooley since. He returned to the US National Team Development Program and had a terrific year with the U-18 squad, collecting 75 points in 51 games. That translated to Cooley being drafted third overall by Arizona in last month’s NHL Entry Draft. Confidence boost? You bet.
Cooley wants to go pro quickly but is committed to play at Minnesota next season. The World Juniors should be an ideal segue into his freshman year. The Pittsburgh native is a highly skilled center who can take on a top-six role for the USA and be toe-to-toe with Bedard and other elite skaters in this tournament.
This is the first time ever that a World Junior championship won’t include Team Russia.
They’ve been involved since the tournament’s outset in 1974 and claim the most medals (37) of any participating nation. Russia was also part of the championship taking place in December. But in February, the IIHF ruled all teams from Russia and Belarus were suspended from competing in any IIHF-sanctioned events. The verdict was made amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of the Ukraine.
“The IIHF is not a political entity and cannot influence the decisions being taken over the war in Ukraine,” IIHF President Luc Tardif said in a statement at the time. “We nevertheless have a duty of care to all of our members and participants and must therefore do all we can to ensure that we are able to operate our events in a safe environment for all teams taking part in the IIHF World Championship program.”
So, with Russia out, Latvia is now in. This will be Latvia’s first appearance in the tournament since 2017, and its seventh trip overall. Latvia earned its spot by placing second in the tournament’s Division 1A competition in December. Belarus finished first and would normally take Russia’s spot in this instance, but Belarus is also banned.
Will new faces emerge?
All players from the tournament in December could have returned for this summer showcase. Naturally not all of them will be, requiring some reinforcements on just about every roster.
Say hello to (a few of) the new guys.
William Dufour, F (Canada)
Dufour didn’t made Team Canada the first time he tried out. But that was then. The New York Islanders’ prospect put together a tremendous 2022 season with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, leading the league in goals (56) and finishing second in points (116). It was good enough to earn Dufour the QMJHL’s Michel-Briere trophy as league MVP — and he didn’t stop there. Dufour earned another MVP title when he led the Sea Dogs to a Memorial Cup championship this spring, tallying the most goals (7) and points (8) in the tournament. Dufour has the goal-scoring prowess that Canada needs and should be a lock for big minutes at even-strength and on the power play.
Sean Behrens, D (USA)
Technically, Behrens isn’t totally new here. He did make Team USA’s roster in December but couldn’t travel to the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19. The defenseman has another crack at playing now and will be coming into this championship on a high. The Colorado prospect just wrapped up a sensational freshman season at the University of Denver, producing 29 points in 37 games and helping guide the Pioneers to a national title. Behrens is a talented overall skater with great puck-moving ability that will make him especially fun to watch in Edmonton.
Thomas Bordeleau, C (USA)
This opportunity has been a long time coming for Bordeleau. He was supposed to play for Team USA in both 2021 and last winter but was thwarted by COVID-19 protocols on both occasions. The 20-year-old did get to play a small role for the U.S. during the men’s World Championship this year. He should have a bigger role at the Juniors. Bordeleau projects to be a top-six center, using his creativity and high-end skill set to generate plenty of offense for the U.S. A San Jose Sharks draft pick, Bordeleau signed his entry-level contract with the team at the end of last season.
Jonathan Lekkerimaki, F (Sweden)
Keep an eye out for this Vancouver Canucks draftee. Lekkerimaki has had a great international season for Sweden already, notching a tournament-high 15 points in the U18 World Championship (where he won gold) and five goals at the Hlinka tournament. Add to that a seven-goal performance back in the Swedish Hockey League and there is little surprise the 18-year-old is generating some big buzz — and expectations — about how he’ll help lead Sweden’s offense in this championship.
Aatu Raty, F (Finland)
This season was a real turning point for Raty. The Islanders’ prospect got off to a poor start with the Finnish League’s Karpat, registering little ice time through the team’s first six games. Raty was then traded in October from Karpat to Jukurit, where he played under head coach (and former NHLer) Olli Jokinen. It was a perfect match, and Raty excelled in his new quarters putting up 13 goals and 40 points in 41 games. After being left off Finland’s roster entirely last year, he’s now centering their top line with Roni Hirvonen and Joakim Kemell and could end up being the tournament’s top scorer. Talk about a glow up.
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