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NHL, NBA to return Saturday as leagues reschedule after protests over Jacob Blake shooting – CBC.ca

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The professional sports schedule is busier Friday after a string of postponements the past two days, but it won’t be back to normal just yet.

The NBA announced Friday it will resume its playoffs on Saturday after three days without games in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wis., last weekend.

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association made the announcement in a joint statement.

The Toronto Raptors will start their best-of-seven NBA Eastern Conference semifinal against the Boston Celtics on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

The NHL, meanwhile, will have a second straight day without games on Friday before it resumes its playoff schedule on Saturday with three games in Toronto and Edmonton.

WATCH | Powerful pause for the sporting world:

Devin Heroux of CBC Sports reflects on a week in sports that saw a united show of solidarity across professional leagues in support of racial justice. 2:48

The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning kick things off Saturday at 12 p.m. ET with Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal in Toronto. The New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers square off in Game 4 of their series on Saturday night in Toronto, and the Vancouver Canucks face the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal in the final game of the night in Edmonton.

“It’s about any type of social injustice and racism. But obviously hockey is close to our hearts and right now it’s about supporting our fellow players and be there for them and supporting them,” Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron said. “Within the hockey world we definitely want to accomplish some things, but then that also means to go broader than that and help in society as well and try to bring change.”

Lightning defenceman Luke Schenn said the two-day pause gave players time to educate themselves.

“It doesn’t matter who was here first. The whole point of the conversation now is that we’re all having the conversation at this point in time and we’re all looking to educate ourselves and wanting to improve,” he said.

“We all realize that nothing’s going to be fixed by tomorrow morning, but this is a situation where everyone needs to continue to learn and ask questions and do what’s right, be a good person in this world. Educate your kids and teach them and grow and show them the right way. It definitely is a long-term thing, but the whole point of the pause was to get everyone to sit back and listen and reflect.”

WATCH | Rob Pizzo recaps historic day for the NHL:

In his daily recap, Rob Pizzo breaks down the last 24 hours that led to the NHL and NHLPA postponing their games. 2:47

NBA forms social justice coalition

The NBA and its players also agreed to resume after establishing a commitment to move forward in three areas.

The NBA and its players will form a social justice coalition; franchise governors will work with local elections officials to convert team-owned arenas into voting locations for the U.S. election in November; and the league will work with players and network partners to create advertising spots in each playoff game dedicated to promoting greater civic engagement and raising awareness around voter access.

The Raptors were one of at least four teams to cancel planned media sessions on Friday as they awaited clarity on the NBA’s situation.

An emotional Chris Paul, the union president, detailed the events of the previous two days, when players upset by the latest police shooting of a Black man left them considering leaving the Disney campus and going home.

“We’re all hurt, we’re all tired of just seeing the same thing over and over again and everybody just expects us to be OK just because we get paid great money,” Paul said. “We’re human, we have real feelings and I’m glad that we got a chance to get in a room and talk with one another and not just cross paths and say good luck in your game today.”

The Milwaukee Bucks triggered two days of cancellations by refusing to take the court Wednesday to protest social and racial injustice.

Newest Blue Jay hopes protests spark change

One of the leaders on a Seattle team that decided to sit out a game Wednesday to protest racial and social injustice, pitcher Taijuan Walker hopes the actions of the Mariners and other big-league clubs will help keep the conversation going.

“I think it was huge for all the teams just to send that message,” he said Friday, a day after being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. “Instead of just speaking words, we are going to take action.”

The Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox sat out Thursday night’s game in Buffalo, N.Y., with the game set to be made up in a doubleheader on Sept. 4.

“Moving forward it’s just to continue to talk about it, to have those really tough conversations and learn,” said Walker, who was wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt on a video call with reporters.

“And try to figure out a way to help, once you do learn and once you are educated.”

Toronto was set to return to action Friday night against the visiting Baltimore Orioles. Walker, the lone African-American player on the Blue Jays, was tabbed to make his first start for Toronto on Saturday.

Walker is a member of the Players Alliance, a group of more than 100 current and former Black major leaguers working to combat racial injustice. Those players will be donating salary from Thursday and Friday in honour of Jackie Robinson Day.

It has been a whirlwind week for the 28-year-old native of Shreveport, La.

Walker, who lives in Paradise Valley, Ariz., said he has family in Louisiana — including his father in the coastal city of Lake Charles — who “lost everything,” including property and belongings after Hurricane Laura lashed the state.

“It’s pretty emotional for me and for them too,” he said, his voice cracking.

Action resumes

Tennis also returns after play was postponed Thursday. Canadian Milos Raonic is in semifinal action at the Western & Southern Open in New York.

Major League Soccer is resuming its season after several midweek matches were postponed when players decided not to play. The league said Friday that the move comes after a “period of reflection and conversation” with the group Black Players for Change, other league players and the MLS Players Association.

“It was really important for us as Black athletes to take the stand that we did on Wednesday to remind people that this needs to be a priority for us, especially within these league that have so many Black athletes,” said D.C. United goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr., a member of the executive board of Black Players For Change. “We need to prioritize our lives and do everything they can to to make sure our lives are being seen equally in this country.”

A game in Montreal between the Impact and Toronto FC is scheduled for Friday night after five of the league’s last six games were postponed on Wednesday.

The WNBA also resumes tonight with three games after postponing games the past two days at its bubble in Bradenton, Fla.

Kayla Alexander of Milton, Ont., and Bridget Carleton of Chatham, Ont., will play for the Minnesota Lynx against the Atlanta Dream in the first game on Friday night.

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Lightning favourites against Stars for Game 3 of Stanley Cup Final – Sportsnet.ca

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The Tampa Bay Lightning will be looking to grab the series lead in this year’s Stanley Cup Final when they face off against the Dallas Stars in Game 3 on Wednesday night as -155 favourites on the NHL odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

After opening up an early 3-0 lead in Game 2, Tampa Bay held on to post a 3-2 victory to even up the series at one game apiece going into Wednesday’s matchup at Rogers Place.

The Lightning have now claimed victory in eight of nine contests in which they have scored first since the start of the first round of the postseason. However, even with their scoring outburst in the opening period of Game 2, the Lightning have struggled to score goals with consistency. The highest scoring team in the NHL during the regular season, Tampa Bay has potted just seven total goals over its past four contests, and has averaged just 3.05 goals per game in the playoffs.

Tampa Bay’s diminished scoring has contributed to a steady 12-5-4 run for the UNDER at online betting sites. However, the UNDER is on a 2-1-3 run over the club’s past six contests.

Despite the scoring concerns, Monday’s win proved to be enough to invigorate the Lightning on the NHL playoff series prices, where they have returned to -190 favourites to claim the Stanley Cup after briefly slipping to narrow underdogs following a 4-1 loss in Game 1.

The Stars will try to reclaim the series lead when they hit the ice on Wednesday night as +135 underdogs. Winners in six of their past eight outings while sporting positive odds, the Stars have been remarkably resilient during the march to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 2000. Dallas has rebounded to claim victory in the next game following five of their six losses since the start of the first round, averaging four goals per game in those contests.

It is a punishing physical game plan combined with the outstanding play of goaltender Anton Khudobin that has been key to the Stars’ playoff success. With Khudobin playing arguably the best hockey of his career, the Stars have surrendered just 12 total goals over their past seven contests, and have limited opponents to three or fewer goals in nine of their past 10 outings.

However, that has not been enough to maintain their position on the series prices, where the Stars have slipped back to +165 underdogs at betting sites.

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Lightning show grit in Final, adapt after first-round sweep last season – NHL.com

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The Tampa Bay Lightning are three wins from a Stanley Cup championship because they were willing to change and adapt to overcome their shocking and crushing end to last season.

The Lightning were swept in four games by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round after tying the NHL single-season record with 62 wins (1995-96 Detroit Red Wings). Now they’re even with the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Final after going 12-4 in the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including a five-game win against Columbus in the first round.

Game 3 of the best-of-7 series is at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the hub city for the Final, on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

“I think experience and being humbled can help right a ship,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “I truly believe last year’s experience, we’re seeing the fruits of that awful setback. What do they say the definition of insanity is, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? We couldn’t do that.”

The Lightning are bigger, tougher, stronger and grittier than they were a season ago. Former Lightning forward Ryan Callahan, who played for them last season and was a guest on the NHL @TheRink podcast Tuesday, said they have more “sandpaper.”

Tampa Bay signed forward Pat Maroon to a one-year, $900,000 contract last Aug. 24. The Lightning then bolstered their roster during the season by acquiring forwards Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman in trades, giving up a first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in each, and signing defenseman Zach Bogosian to a one-year, $1.3 million contract after he was placed on waivers by the Buffalo Sabres.

Goodrow and Coleman play on the aggressive, attacking, fast and physical third line with center Yanni Gourde. Goodrow has become one of Cooper’s go-to players late in close games; he took three face-offs in the final minute of a 3-2 win in Game 2 on Monday.

“I commend [general manager Julien BriseBois] because he stuck his neck out on the line,” Cooper said. “I know he was probably questioned or criticized for the amount people perceived he gave up, but to me it doesn’t matter. It’s what your assets do to build your team to win. He did that. They weren’t sexy trades, they weren’t sexy signings, but they were gutty ones, and it was what we needed.”

The third line is evidence of what is different about the Lightning: It doesn’t have to score to be effective.

“We used to be a team that it wasn’t good enough to beat you 3-0, we had to beat you 9-0,” Cooper said. “We had to change that attitude.”

For example, Tampa Bay took a 3-0 lead against Columbus in the first period of Game 1 last season, got comfortable, thought it would come easy and ended up giving it away and lost 4-3.

On Monday, the Lightning took a 3-0 lead in the first period of Game 2, stood in as the Stars tried to punch back, took a few blows but limited Dallas to two shots after Mattias Janmark scored to make it 3-2 at 5:27 of the third period.

Video: The Tampa Bay Lightning come away with Game 2

They are 10-2 this postseason in games decided by one goal, including 4-1 in overtime. They have won 10 games scoring three or fewer goals.

“The M.O. on the Lightning the last few years is that they’re offensive and they’re skilled and the way to beat them is to play them hard,” said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who is in his first season with Tampa Bay. “I think things have changed this year. The perception of our team will be changed after this playoffs is over. We make it a point to play defense and play structured, and we know that because we have all the skill in our lineup when our offensive chances do come we have the ability to take advantage of it.”

Cooper said the change in attitude came from Tampa Bay’s best players. Nikita Kucherov is the perfect example.

Last season, the forward was voted the Hart Trophy winner as NHL most valuable player and the Ted Lindsay Award winner as most outstanding player as voted by members of the NHL Players’ Association, and won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL scoring leader with 128 points (41 goals, 47 assists). But he was suspended for Game 3 against Columbus for boarding defenseman Markus Nutivaara late in the third period of Game 2, a 5-1 loss.

This season, Kucherov has set the Lightning record for most points in a postseason with 28 (six goals, 22 assists), including two assists in Game 2. He hasn’t missed a game and is arguably setting the tone for Tampa Bay with how hard he’s playing.

“Look no further than Nikita Kucherov’s game last night, and how he was getting beat up in ways that for anybody it’s hard to come back,” Cooper said. “All he did was come back and run a power play that scored two goals and be a big part of why we won. When guys understand that it’s now what you keep out of your net and not how much you put in your net, good things will happen, and that’s what’s going on so far.”

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How the Lightning built a dominant line at the trade deadline – NHL

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After their shockingly disappointing playoff loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets a year ago, it would have been easy for the Tampa Bay Lightning to conclude that they needed to do something drastic to a team that kept falling short in the most frustrating ways come playoff time.

They could have made a major trade.

They could have fired coach Jon Cooper.

Pretty much anything that would have sent a jolt through the team.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

It also would have been completely reckless, because that is not at all what the Lightning needed.

Even with their late-round collapses (and one early round collapse) this has still been one of the league’s most successful franchises for six seasons. It is a team that is — and has been — loaded with All-Star talent at every level of the roster.

They didn’t need a massive shake-up. They needed a couple of tweaks. General manager Julian Brisebois and his staff were all smart enough to realize that. Some of those tweaks started in the offseason when they signed Kevin Shattenkirk and Patrick Maroon to cheap, one-year contracts to add some depth.

But those were nothing compared to the two trade deadline moves (Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow) that helped Tampa Bay build not only one of its most effective lines this postseason, but one of the most effective lines in the entire NHL.

It is one of the biggest reasons they are three wins away from a championship.

The Trades

It all started on February 16 when they sent a first-round draft pick (previously acquired from Vancouver for J.T Miller) and 2019 first-round pick Nolan Foote to the New Jersey Devils for Coleman.

A week later they sent their own 2020 first-round pick, as well as Anthony Greco (who had just been acquired a couple of days earlier) to the San Jose Sharks for Barclay Goodrow and a 2020 third-round pick.

It’s a lot to give up, no question. When the dust settled they sent what amounted to three first-round picks for the two forwards, neither of which would be what anyone considers to be a top-line player.

Coleman was the most notable of the two given his status as a 20-goal scorer in each of the past two seasons. Add in his defensive ability and cap-friendly contract ($1.8 million salary cap hit this season and next season) and he carries a ton of value. So it’s not a shock he carried a steep price in trade.

[Lightning vs. Stars: 2020 Stanley Cup Final schedule]

The price for Goodrow, however, was probably a little more eye-opening because you don’t usually see teams trade a first-round pick for a 27-year-old forward with a career high of 27 points.

He is not bringing you offense. What he does bring you is defense. A lot of it. Over the past two seasons Goodrow was one of the Sharks’ most impactful defensive forwards when it came to suppressing shot attempts, scoring chances, expected goals and, yes, actual goals.

Also like Coleman he carries an extremely team-friendly salary cap number ($925,000 per season) through next season.

That means the Lightning added two outstanding defensive forwards, including one with 20-goal ability, for a combined salary cap hit of just $2.7 million through the end of next season.

Individually, those have proven to be two very solid moves.

When put together around Yanni Gourde they have produced a game-changing line.

The Results

The Lightning’s best line this postseason has obviously been its top trio of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Ondrej Palat. They have dominated every phase of the game and two of them (Kucherov and Point) are contenders for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

But the Coleman-Goude-Goodrow line is not far behind them in terms of overall effectiveness, as the table below outlines.

All data via Natural Stat Trick.

(CF% = shot attempt percentage; xGF = expected goals for percentage; CA/60 = total shot attempts against per 60 minutes; xGA/60 = expected goals against per 60 minutes; GA/60 = goals against per 60 minutes).

The top line is dominating across the board, which is exactly what you expect with two All-Stars (including the reigning league MVP) playing next to each other.

But look at the second line. There is a decent gap in terms of possession (shot attempts) and scoring chances (expected goals), but they are shutting teams down at an elite level and have scored goals at a rate similar to the All-Star top line. Keep in mind, this is only 5-on-5 data and Kucherov-Point line has a ton of power play points together to drive the offense. But it is still impressive at how close they are in terms of overall effectiveness at even-strength.

As good as that top line is, it takes more than one great line to compete for a championship and ultimately win one.

Thanks to some shrewd moves at the deadline, as well as the scouting and player development system that produced Gourde as an undrafted free agent several years ago, the Lightning have given themselves a second great line to help drive their team.

It is all still in place for next season as well, and when Gourde’s contract is added in it still only costs them $7.8 million against the cap. Tough to beat that value, especially if it helps produce a championship.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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