Against Vancouver early this month, the Canucks star players managed to shine in an overtime victory over Montreal. Since then, the Canadiens have made it their mission to erase the Canucks’ top players from the game, and on Monday night they succeeded again.
While many of Montreal’s main options were quietly very good, namely the trio of Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, and Brendan Gallagher, along with the Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot pairing, the real shine in the game went to Montreal’s second and third options on offence and defence.
Jeff Petry continued his incredible start with three more points, and next to Joel Edmundson they absolutely hammered the Canucks’ top line. When J.T. Miller was on the ice against the duo, the Canadiens controlled 94% of the shot attempts, and they had at least 80% when matched up with Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat or Elias Pettersson. That’s pure dominance against the Canucks best offensive weapons.
This sort of play wasn’t limited to just the defensive group however, as the Canadiens’ third line was up to their old trick. As they attacked the zone it was Corey Perry who pulled out a bit of magic, dangling Hughes out of position and setting up an easy tap in for Petry.
Artturi Lehkonen had arguably his best game of the season as well. A hard forecheck forced Adam Gaudette into a mistake that Lehkonen took advantage of, sliding a short-handed goal by Braden Holtby to put an emphatic start on the game for the Habs. He linked up with Paul Byron to set up Jeff Petry’s first goal of the night, too.
Getting these sorts of contributions while the incumbent top line is limited offensively is a huge positive for the Canadiens this season. Their depth and their starts are helping them win games by huge margins. Teams like the Canucks don’t have a Plan B for when their top pieces get held in check and it shows. The Habs did similar things to the Oilers earlier this year as well; if you’re not prepared to match four lines and three defensive pairings then Montreal is going to shut you down one way or another.
With six games remaining in the season series, the Vancouver Canucks have already shown that they don’t have an answer, but Montreal has plenty more potential to tap as the season goes on.
Undaunted by history, Flames and Oilers will craft their own Battle of Alberta legacy – Sportsnet.ca
CALGARY — A throng of media-types three times the size as normal welcomed Matthew Tkachuk and the rest of the players to the podium yesterday with questions about a rivalry they know very little about.
What they do know is they’re in the middle of something special, which Tkachuk got a hint of his very first NHL game.
“My first memory was the first game in the new rink in Edmonton,” he said. “Everybody was in their seats for warmups. I thought that was pretty crazy. As I was skating out on the ice, I don’t remember perfectly, but Gretzky and Messier were out there doing a few laps or something. I’m 18 years old, thinking, ‘I don’t think I’m ready for this.’”
A large majority of the players in this series weren’t born when the last BOA series was 31 years ago, sparking shrugs from most of them when asked about what they knew of the hockey played back then.
“Not much,” said Elias Lindholm, 28.
“It wasn’t on in Sweden, so nothing,” added Jacob Markstrom with a grin, as he was a one-year-old then.
“Just big moments in NHL history,” said Tkachuk. “I’m serious when I say I didn’t know about it until I got drafted. It’s gotten bigger the last few years with both teams playing a lot better and maybe meeting each other in playoffs, and here we are.”
Tkachuk’s brother, Brady, has been busy riling up fans in the Dome and throwing out t-shirts in support of his brother’s club. The Senators captain was also seen hoisting a child on his shoulders as part of his celebrations.
“I’m surprised his parents let him go on Brady’s shoulders,” laughed Tkachuk. “I think that was kind of a spur of the moment thing.”
Call Your Shot?
The beauty of The Battle has always been that just when you think they’re going to have a Pier 6 brawl all night long, the Flames and Oilers give us an incredible night of high-skill hockey. And just when you settle in for some buckled down, defensive hockey, you get a goalie fight or — like on a whacky Saturday night earlier this season — a 9-5 shootout.
This season, Edmonton beat Calgary 5-3 and 5-2, and the Flames won 3-1 and 9-5. Neither team won on the road.
“I think you’ve seen both sides when we played each other in the regular season,” said Connor McDavid. “You’ve seen low-scoring, tight-checking games. Obviously the last time we were in here it was a 9-5 gong show, pretty much. We want to be a checking team and that’s the brand that they want to play as well.
“I think you’ll see low-scoring nights and nights where there are a couple more goals, but I would expect it to be a pretty tight-checking series.”
Asked if he still had friends on the Oilers, Milan Lucic smiled.
“For the next however many days? No.”
Asked how he thought Edmontonians feel about Wayne Gretzky’s prediction the Flames would win, Lucic chuckled.
“I’m sure they don’t like it, but he’s just giving his expert opinion,” he said, putting an emphasis on the word expert.
Battle Goes Net Front
The Calgary Flames are the bigger team — there’s no dispute there. And if it comes down to fisticuffs, Calgary is in a better spot, with their toughness centred nearer the bottom of their lineup in Milan Lucic, Brett Ritchie, Erik Gudbranson and Nikita Zadorov, while two of Edmonton’s toughest guys are 25-miniute man Darnell Nurse and top six left winger Evander Kane.
As such, the Oilers want to make this series about speed.
“We want to be the first mover. We want to put an emphasis on speed,” said head coach Jay Woodcroft. “For us, speed trumps perfection.”
Calgary is not L.A., when it comes to size and the ability to control net fronts at either end of the ice. The Zadorov-Gudbranson pairing is vastly bigger and tougher than anything the Kings had, and up front the Flames have players like Lucic and Ritchie (if he dresses), tough players who go to the net hard.
How do the Oilers go about winning the net front battle at both ends of the ice?
“There are things that we can do defensively, and things that we can do offensively,” Woodcroft said. “Something that we talked about (Tuesday) was that the team that’s going to come out on top is the one that’s willing to pay the price. The one that’s willing to do it harder, and for longer.”
In the end, as one would expect, the challenge gets steeper as a team moves from Round 1 to 2. The Kings took Edmonton to seven games, but Calgary presents a must greater impediment.
“Yes, it’s a new challenge, a new task,” the coach said. “A complete different animal, a team that’s at the top of the Pacific Division for a reason. They do a lot of things really well. We’re gonna have our hands full.”
The phones of Flames alumni have been blowing up the last few days, sparking Joel Otto to say, “Us old guys are relevant again.”
“I think it’s important for the province. I’m a Calgarian now — lived here since the late 90’s — and understanding the passion between the two cities and how important it is to ‘one-up’ one another,” said Otto.
“They used the word hate but it’s a grudge match.”
Incidentally, the last Flames player to score an OT winner in Game 7 at home was Otto 33 years ago, which was a somewhat controversial deflection off his skate.
“I’ll tell all my grandchildren it was similar to what Johnny did,” he laughed.
“There aren’t a lot of comparisons other than it was Game 7.”
Player strike brings CFL to tipping point – CBC Sports
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For a third straight year, the CFL schedule has been interrupted. Players on seven of nine teams launched a strike on Sunday, when the collective bargaining agreement signed just ahead of the 2019 season expired. Elks and Stampeders players are set to join tomorrow when Alberta’s labour laws allow.
At this point, the 2022 interruption remains minor, with the only damage being delayed training camps. The first pre-season game will likely be cancelled if there’s no agreement today. The regular season, slated to begin June 9, remains salvageable — if also a little too close for comfort.
But the latest league tension only underlines the rough recent past of Canadian football. The 2020 season was cancelled when the CFL, under the guidance of commissioner Randy Ambrosie, failed to get its ducks in a row in the wake of COVID-19. Ultimately, players weren’t paid and the league is said to have lost between $60 and $80 million.
Even the 2021 campaign was postponed and shortened as a result of the virus, leading to a Grey Cup in December. Many said the level of play dropped off in 2021, as reflected in lacklustre offences and attendance concerns throughout the league. Meanwhile, the fate of the Atlantic Schooners, introduced as an expansion team ahead of the 2018 Grey Cup, remains unclear nearly four years later.
Contrast that to the Canadian Elite Basketball League. The fledgling organization, which began play in 2019, could likewise have crumbled under the pressure of the pandemic. Instead, led by former CFL player Mike Morreale, it organized a two-week Summer Series in 2020 and returned with a full slate of games in 2021. For the upcoming 2022 season, three expansion clubs will bring the team total to 10 — one more than the CFL.
For now, the CFL’s work stoppage does not appear overly contentious. The sides broke off talks over the weekend, but there’s already a mediator in place who can facilitate negotiations as soon as they’re ready to return to the table. After Ambrosie revealed the league’s latest offer on the weekend, officials from both sides have been unavailable — though Tiger-Cats players picketed outside of Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton yesterday.
While the union has mostly kept its demands quiet, earlier league proposals that included no increases to the salary cap and the complete eradication of the Canadian ratio (which requires 21 players, including seven starters, per team to be Canadian) offer a hint at their platform issues.
The only other player strike in CFL history occurred during training camp in 1974, but was settled in time for the regular season. Maybe by the time the 2022 Grey Cup rolls around in November, the current strike will be viewed as nothing more than a speed bump in a successful return-to-normal season.
But if games are missed for the third straight year, the viability of the CFL itself could be up for debate.
Trudeau says soccer body's invitation to Iran for friendly match not 'a very good idea' – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Canada Soccer, which has been riding a wave of goodwill since John Herdman’s team qualified in style for the World Cup, now finds itself engulfed in controversy over a scheduled friendly match with Iran next month in Vancouver.
At issue is whether Canada should be hosting Iran given the Canadians who died on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 when it was shot down on Jan. 8, 2020, minutes after taking off from Tehran, by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. The Canadian government says 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 people killed.
Hamed Esmaeilion, spokesperson for the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, says his group has been against the match since it was first rumoured. But the issue took centre stage Tuesday when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about it by a reporter, who said families who had lost loved ones considered the game a “slap in the face.”
“This was a choice by Soccer Canada,” Trudeau said in St. John’s. “I think it wasn’t a very good idea to invite the Iranian soccer team here to Canada. But that’s something that the organizers are going to have to explain.”
In a statement, the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims called for Canada Soccer “to cancel the game immediately.”
“They call that a friendly game,” Esmaeilion, whose wife Parisa and young daughter Reera were among those who died on Flight 752, said in an interview. “What kind of friendship do we have with the Islamic Republic of Iran?
“We want the (Canadian) government to take them to international court. And instead of that, we get humiliated by them â€¦ I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the back – (as well as) the other family members. After 28 months we don’t see any sign of seeking justice here. We don’t see sign of taking Iran to any international forum. And instead of that they invite the (Iran) soccer team here.”
Canada Soccer issued a brief statement in the wake of Trudeau’s comment.
“At Canada Soccer we believe in the power of sport and its ability to bring people from different backgrounds and political beliefs together for a common purpose,” it said. “Iran is one of 32 participating member associations at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and Canada Soccer continues to follow all international protocols in staging this match.
“We are focused on preparations for our men’s national team to compete on the world stage.”
Asked about the prime minister’s comment, Canadian international Lucas Cavallini said: “That’s his opinion.”
“But for us guys, for soccer players, we want soccer to grow here in Canada. And games like these are important for our nation, to bring the people closer to soccer,” added the Vancouver Whitecaps striker.
In its statement, the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims said it “recognizes the athletes’ rights to play diverse opponents and supports the sport and what the World Cup represents.
“However, it is offensive to the loved ones of Flight PS752 victims given the incredible loss they have endured at the hands of the IRGC, and their ongoing efforts to seek justice for the victims.”
“I understand that this announcement causes pain for the families and loved ones of the victims,” federal sport minister Pascale St-Onge said in an interview. “While Canada Soccer, an independent organization, is responsible for the team’s preparation for the competition, they should have considered this before moving forward. Sport Canada was not part of this decision.”
Esmaeilion, who noted the federal government is in charge of issuing visas, called it “sportswashing.”
Canada Soccer and the federal government had not responded to families who had complained about the game, he said
“This is a way to normalize relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran â€¦ And this is not the first time it has been used by dictators. Russia has used this in the past and Iran is following,” he said from Richmond Hill, Ont.
He also said the Iranian team will be accompanied abroad by intelligence and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers.
“And now we’re welcoming the IRGC officers, IRGC – the same entity that downed PS752. And we’re issuing visas for them. This is a danger for national security in this country.”
Esmaeilion also noted that Iran does not allow women to attend soccer matches. “This is against Canadian values,” he said.
The federal government has said Canada’s priority “is to seek answers and pursue justice by holding Iran accountable and pursuing reparations, while continuing to provide the families and loved ones of the victims with the support they need.”
Canada is hosting Iran on June 5 in Vancouver, part of a two-game homestand at B.C. Place Stadium. The Canadian men will open CONCACAF Nations League A play there against Curacao on June 9 before closing out the FIFA international window with another CONCACAF Nations League game against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on June 13.
Canada, ranked 38th in the world, and No. 21 Iran are both preparing for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar this November.
The Vancouver matches are the first for Canada on home soil since qualifying for the World Cup in a 4-0 win over Jamaica at Toronto’s BMO Field on March 27. It also marks the Canadian men’s first visit to B.C. Place since March 2019 when they beat French Guiana 4-1 in CONCACAF Nations League qualifying.
The Canadians topped the final round of CONCACAF qualifying with an 8-2-4 record. Their last game was a 1-0 loss in Panama on March 30.
Canada has a 1-2-0 all-time record against Iran, winning the most recent encounter 1-0 in April 2001 in Cairo. Iran posted 1-0 wins in 1997 and 1999 games in Toronto and Edmonton, respectively.
The Iran fixture is one of the few World Cup warm-ups for John Herdman’s team in advance of Qatar. Herdman has said he will look to take the team to Europe in the fall to play several more matches to prepare for Qatar.
Canada opens World Cup play Nov. 23 against No. 2 Belgium before facing No. 16 Croatia on Nov. 27 and No. 24 Morocco on Dec. 1.
With files from Gemma Karstens-Smith in Vancouver and Lori Ewing in Toronto
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.
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