Welcome to the NHL On Tap. Three NHL.com writers will share what they are most looking forward to on the schedule each day. Today, their choices from the five games Friday.
Showdown for first in the West
First place in the Honda West Division will be at stake when the Vegas Golden Knights visit the St. Louis Blues for the first game of a back-to-back set (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS, FS-MW, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV). The division-leading Golden Knights won six straight before losing their past two games to the on-the-rise Minnesota Wild, so they will be looking to rebound. Vegas will be without goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who was pulled in the third period of a 4-3 loss to the Wild on Wednesday and placed in COVID-19 protocol Thursday. The Blues are one point behind the Golden Knights and 4-0-2 in their past six games. St. Louis forward Vladimir Tarasenko has one assist in two games since returning from offseason shoulder surgery. — Tom Gulitti, staff writer
Wild time for Coyotes
The Arizona Coyotes believe they are good enough to finish in the top four in the eight-team West and make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. One of the teams they’re battling is the Minnesota Wild, who are 9-2-1 in their past 12 games. The game in Minnesota (8 p.m. ET; FS-N, FS-WI, FS-A, NHL.TV) should be a measuring-stick for each as the midpoint of the season approaches. Beyond that, there are great individual storylines to follow. Forward Kirill Kaprizov has been one of the most exciting offensive players the Wild have had in a while, leading them and all NHL rookies with 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists). Goalie Kaapo Kahkonen (11-4-0, 2.19 goals-against average, .922 save percentage, one shutout) has been a revelation and grabbed the No. 1 job from Cam Talbot. Kaprizov and Kahkonen are each a headliner in the discussion for the Calder Trophy given to the player voted rookie of the year in the NHL. For the Coyotes, keep an eye on Jakob Chychrun. Things are falling into place for the defenseman during his fifth NHL season. He is playing more minutes (22:58) than any Coyotes defenseman and has scored 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists), seven off his NHL career high set last season, in 26 games. — Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial
Kings knocking on the door
The Los Angeles Kings are fifth in the West and have an eye on a playoff spot when they visit the Colorado Avalanche (9 p.m. ET; ESPN+, ALT2, FS-W, NHL.TV). I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Kings this season. They’ve been up and down lately (2-2-3 after a six-game winning streak), but I like the makeup of this team, a mix of proven veterans and talented youngsters. They are led by their championship core. Center Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 31 points (seven goals, 24 assists), followed by defenseman Drew Doughty with 22 points (six goals, 16 assists). Forward Dustin Brown has scored 19 points (13 goals, six assists), tied for third with forward Adrian Kempe (11 goals, eight assists). Young players, including rookie forward Gabriel Vilardi and defenseman Mikey Anderson, have been fun to watch too. The fourth-place Avalanche are 5-2-1 in their past eight games after a 2-1 overtime win against the Coyotes on Wednesday. This two-game set (the Kings and Avalanche also play Sunday) should be fun to watch. — Tracey Myers, staff writer
Vegas Golden Knights at St. Louis Blues, 8 p.m. ET (NHLN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS, FS-MW, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV)
Forward Max Pacioretty is tied for first for Vegas with 12 goals and is second with 21 points. He scored a hat trick in a 5-4 shootout loss to St. Louis on Jan. 26, the only game played between the teams so far this season.
Arizona Coyotes at Minnesota Wild, 8 p.m. ET (FS-N, FS-WI, FS-A, NHL.TV)
Clayton Keller has scored eight points (three goals, five assists) during a six-game point streak for the Coyotes, who play the first of three straight against the Wild.
Ottawa Senators at Edmonton Oilers, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN+, SNW, TSN5, RDS, NHL.TV)
Edmonton looks to complete a three-game sweep against Ottawa after a 3-2 win Monday and a 7-1 win Wednesday. The Oilers are 6-0-0 against the Senators this season, outscoring them 28-13.
Los Angeles Kings at Colorado Avalanche, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN+, ALT2, FS-W, NHL.TV)
Kings center Anze Kopitar is fifth in the NHL with 24 assists and tied for eighth with 31 points. He is 19 points away from 1,000 in his career.
San Jose Sharks at Anaheim Ducks, 10 p.m. ET (PRIME, FS-SD, NBCSCA, NHL.TV)
The first of a back-to-back set, the Sharks are 2-0-1 against the Ducks this season. San Jose forward Logan Couture and Anaheim forward Max Comtois each has scored three goals in the season series.
Sharks look to extend perfect start vs. Bruins
It’s been eight years since the San Jose Sharks opened a season with five consecutive victories. And, nearly as long since they beat the Boston Bruins.
The Sharks look to continue their undefeated start when they visit the Bruins on Sunday.
San Jose has been one of the surprise teams through the early days of the 2021-22 campaign. Logan Couture had two goals with an assist and Adin Hill made 30 saves as the Sharks won a third straight game on the road, 5-3 at Toronto on Friday.
Outscoring opponents 16-7, San Jose is trying to go 5-0-0 for the first time since the 2013-14 season. It’s a pleasant beginning for a club that felt good about itself entering this season, despite not having made the playoffs since 2018-19.
“It’s huge to start like this,” Couture, who’s recorded all three of his goals in the last two games, told the official NHL website. “That was the main focus in training camp, to get off to a good start this year.
“We really had a good camp, a really good preseason and we’ve carried into the regular season.”
In addition to Couture’s strong play, veteran defenseman Erik Karlsson has notched two goals with four assists. Hill, meanwhile, has stopped 71 of the 77 shots he’s faced to win his first three starts. Backup James Reimer made 30 saves in a 2-1 victory at Ottawa on Thursday.
San Jose’s hot start, however, will truly be put to the test in this contest. Though these teams haven’t met since Oct. 29, 2019, the Sharks are 0-5-2 against the Bruins since a 3-2 home victory on March 15, 2016. Their most recent victory at Boston came on Nov. 15, 2016.
The Bruins have won two of their first three games of the season, and halted Buffalo’s 3-0-0 start with Friday’s 4-1 road victory. Members of Boston’s famed “Perfection Line,” David Pastrnak tallied his first goal of the season Friday while Patrice Bergeron assisted on the first-period score for his first points of 2021-22.
Boston also got a goal and two assists at Buffalo from center Charlie Coyle, his first points of the campaign. Coyle scored in the team’s most recent meeting with San Jose.
“Happy for him,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of Coyle. “(He found) a little offensive rhythm.”
Boston star Brad Marchand is already feeling it with three goals and two assists. He’s totaled four goals with four assists in his last six home games vs. San Jose.
After Linus Ullmark made 35 saves against his former Buffalo team Friday in his Boston debut, it’s possible starter Jeremy Swayman will be back in net for this contest. Swayman stopped 27 of 28 shots in a 3-1 season-opening home victory, but then allowed five goals during Wednesday’s 6-3 defeat at Philadelphia.
Couture has two goals with an assist in his last three games against the Bruins.
Boston could again be minus veteran forward Nick Foligno, who is in his first season with the team, but missed Friday’s game with an upper-body injury.
“We should know by Sunday,” Cassidy told the Bruins’ official website of Foligno’s availability. “I suspect he’ll miss Sunday, as well.”
–Field Level Media
Raptors outmuscle, out-hustle, and outplay Boston Celtics in dominant victory – Raptors Republic
Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson famously said, “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Last night, the Toronto Raptors threw haymakers at the Boston Celtics in a runaway 115-83 win.
The Raptors had carte blanche in their season opener. After a year in Tampa Bay, they were finally back home, and the fans and players were just happy to be in Scotiabank Arena.
This game painted a picture of what Toronto hopes to be this season: a physical team that uses its size and length to control games defensively and on the glass. The Raptors forced 25 turnovers and outrebounded Boston 60-42.
21 of those 60 boards came on the offensive end, resulting in 18 extra shot attempts for the Raptors. On a night where the team shot worst from the floor than in their opening game (42 percent versus 44.4 percent on Wednesday), their ability to set the tone with their physicality went a long way toward securing their first win of the season.
Five Raptors recorded five or more rebounds. The attack on the glass was spearheaded by two newcomers: Precious Achiuwa (15 rebounds) and Scottie Barnes (13 rebounds).
When asked after the game how a team without a traditional center can outrebound their opponent, specifically on the offensive glass, Raptors head coach, Nick Nurse, said it was because his team was able to “miss a lot of shots.”
Nurse has allowed Achiuwa to operate similarly to how he played during his lone season at Memphis. Then, after James Wiseman was suspended, the Nigerian was used as a small-ball center who was allowed to make plays with the ball in his hands and attack in transition.
Celtics center, Robert Williams III (nine points and six rebounds in 28 minutes), had a lot of preseason buzz about potentially making a leap this year; Achiuwa (15 points and 15 rebounds in 25 minutes) thoroughly outplayed him tonight.
However, the biggest takeaway from this game has to be the play of Barnes. After Dalano Banton stole the show in the first game, it was Barnes’ turn to be the rookie in the spotlight.
There was no hiding on defense as he was routinely matched up against one of Boston’s all-star wings. Between him, OG Anunoby, and timely help from others, the Raptors forced Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to shoot 11-25 combined.
On paper, Tatum’s 8-14 shooting numbers look fine, but Tatum did most of his damage in the second quarter. Speaking to the media postgame, Barnes said of the team limiting Tatum in the second half, specifically the third quarter, “he’s a really good player, so we just want to keep showing our length in gaps to try and influence him not to get in [the lane]. And when he gets real low, we just bring a bunch of guys and try to swarm him and don’t let him get easy looks.”
While the Raptors’ defense and rebounding were present throughout the game, Barnes’ play led the way for the team in the first half. Toronto only held a four-point advantage at halftime, and the fourth overall pick powered the team with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Offensively, he did a little bit of everything. He made an off-the-dribble three, he connected on catch-and-shoot midrange jumpers, he pushed the pace, he finished at the rim, and he made plays for his teammates.
After the game, Barnes attributed his performance to “playing hard throughout the game.” Barnes said, “it just matters about time and the situation. If we miss a couple, we’ve got to get the ball moving, then try to find the right shot, what’s best for us,” and he finished off with “If they leave me open, I’m gonna shoot it, no hesitation.”
It’s only game two, but this game showed a glimpse of what this franchise hopes peak Barnes will look like and why Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster were elated when he was still on the board when Toronto was on the clock in the 2021 NBA Draft.
“What I liked the most was he was at the front of the rim a lot tonight. Putbacks and cuts and drives, and that’s what we like to see–be able to use some of that size and length,” said Nurse after the game.
The Gary Trent Jr. rollercoaster was ascending upward tonight as he pitched in 20 points and helped Toronto extend their lead in the third quarter where they outscored Boston 34-17.
Trent Jr. got the start tonight and it seems like he will remain in the starting lineup going forward. Nurse said starting, “made Gary more comfortable” and that he was able to “feed off the other [starters].”
The big takeaway from yesterday’s performance is that this group is not a pushover. Their shots weren’t falling once again, but they dug deeper defensively and used their effort to create extra opportunities that ultimately led to them producing a double-digit victory.
The shooting struggles remain a concern–particularly from Anunoby who had looked on the way to taking his game to another level during the preseason–and the half-court offense leaves a lot to be desired. Nurse mentioned after the game that the team needs to “clean up spacing issues,” however, the NBA doesn’t award style points, so a win is a win.
Astros shut out Red Sox, advance to World Series for third time in five years – Sportsnet.ca
HOUSTON — Rookie Luis Garcia showed the poise of an October ace, Yordan Alvarez stayed hot at the plate and the Houston Astros earned yet another trip to the World Series, beating the Boston Red Sox 5-0 Friday night in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series.
The Astros advanced to the World Series for the fourth time overall and the second time in three seasons. They won the championship in 2017, a crown tainted by the team’s sign-stealing scandal, before losing to the Washington Nationals in seven games in 2019.
Manager Dusty Baker’s team will open the World Series on Tuesday night, either at Dodger Stadium or home against Atlanta. The Braves lead Los Angeles 3-2 in the NL Championship Series going into Game 6 Saturday night.
Garcia pitched no-hit ball into the sixth inning, leaving to a huge ovation with two outs after a triple by Kike Hernandez. It was an impressive bounce-back performance for the 24-year-old, who started Game 2 and gave up a grand slam in the first inning before leaving with no outs in the second because of discomfort in his right knee.
Alvarez continued his scorching streak, a year after watching at home after surgery to both knees as the Astros came one game shy of reaching the World Series. The slugging designated hitter had four hits, including a triple and two doubles. He led a Game 5 win with three hits and three RBIs.
Catcher Martin Maldonado made the defensive play of the game on a strikeout-throwout double play to end the seventh with Houston ahead 2-0.
It will be the 72-year-old Baker’s second trip to the Fall Classic as a manager and first since leading the San Francisco Giants to the NL pennant in 2002. As a player, he made three trips with the Dodgers, winning it all in 1981.
Boston’s best shot to score came in the seventh. They had runners at first and third with one out in after a single by Alex Verdugo. But Kendall Graveman struck out pinch-hitter Travis Shaw and Maldonado made a perfect throw to Carlos Correa, who was covering second, to beat Verdugo there and end the inning.
Maldonado beat his chest with glee as Graveman and Correa both pumped their fists in celebration to roars from the crowd of 42,718.
Kyle Tucker broke it open with a three-run homer with two outs in the eighth. Television cameras flashed to Houston’s Hall of Fame duo of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, who stood together and cheered as Tucker rounded the bases.
Ryan Pressly closed it out in the ninth. The Red Sox, who looked so formidable at the plate at the start of the season, were held to two hits in their final game.
Alex Bregman singled with two outs in the first before the double by Alvarez put the Astros up 1-0. Hernandez was in position to make the catch, but it hit off his arm below his glove and dropped in for the hit.
Consecutive romps by Boston and its bashers made it appear that the Red Sox were in complete control of the series after Game 3, but as the long fly by Alvarez proved, they didn’t have a firm grip on things.
The Astros, buoyed by their young pitchers and rediscovered offense, won the next two games by a combined 18-3 to return home a win away from a World Series. Then their rising 24-year-old stars, Garcia and Alvarez, did the rest.
Houston had a chance to add to the lead in the fourth when Bregman singled and another double by Alvarez left him at third with no outs. But they came up empty after Nathan Eovaldi worked out of the jam.
Alvarez tripled with no outs in the sixth to chase Josh Taylor and Tanner Houck plunked Correa. Tucker then smacked a grounder right at first baseman Kyle Schwarber who tagged Correa for the unassisted double play as Alvarez slid safely into home to make it 2-0.
Eovaldi got the win in a solid Game 2 start but was charged with the loss in Game 4 after giving up the go-ahead runs after coming in with the game tied in the ninth.
On Friday, he permitted five hits and one run as the Red Sox lost a playoff game where he started for the first time after entering the game 5-0 in his starts.
Garcia is the first pitcher to take a no-hitter into sixth of a potential playoff clincher since the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard got two outs in sixth against the Giants in 2016 NL wild-card game.
Garcia allowed Schwarber to reach on a wild pitch after a strikeout to open the game and walked Verdugo with one out in the second. He settled in after that, sitting down the next 13 with five strikeouts, before Hernandez got Boston’s first hit on a triple with two outs in the sixth. Garcia finished with seven strikeouts.
Phil Maton took over and retired Rafael Devers to end the inning.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Boston manager Alex Cora has heard the speculation that the Astros are relaying signs from the bases and said the Red Sox protect themselves against that.
“It’s not about technology or other stuff,” Cora said. “There’s stuff that happens on the field that you have to be guarded. The same way that teams play defense against us, we play defense against other teams. Not only them we did it against the Yankees, we did it against the Rays. It’s the nature of the game. We’re prepared for that.”
Cora knows better than most about Houston’s sign-stealing history having been the team’s bench coach during the 2017 season when they were found to have violated rules by using a television camera to steal catchers’ signs.
Game 1 of the World Series is Tuesday night where the Astros will host if the Braves advance or Houston will travel to LA if the Dodgers win the NL pennant.
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