In our Christmas Day version of the NHL news and rumors rundown, we’re focused on the Toronto Maple Leafs and just how critical Jack Campbell will be to their success this season. In Edmonton, there could be a trade to narrow down the right-wing depth on the team. How quickly will Alexander Romanov rise up the ranks on the Canadiens blue line? And, is it worth asking why Nikita Kucherov didn’t elect to have surgery immediately following the end of the 2019-20 season?
Campbell Could Be Key for Maple Leafs
NHL insider Elliotte Friedman joined the hosts of Leaf Off with Rusic and Ziggy recently and talked about just how important three goaltenders will be for the upcoming 2020-21 NHL season. When it comes to the Maple Leafs, Friedman suggested Jack Campbell’s role was “going to be huge.”
The Maple Leafs have 10 back-to-back games this season and Friedman wasn’t sure how many of those games Campbell might start. He pointed to the series against Edmonton in particular in which the Leafs play every other night. Andersen could get all three games but that’s not likely.
NHL insider Elliotte Friedman joined the hosts of Leaf Off with Rusic and Ziggy and discussed the importance of having a strong backup netminder in this condensed 2020-21 NHL season. For the Leafs, who have to hope that Frederik Andersen has a bit more of a consistent regular season that last year, Campbell becomes increasingly important to the Maple Leafs overall success over the course of 56 games.
The Leafs have 10 back-to-back games this season. Friedman was asked how crucial Campbell would be to the Leafs success and he responded, “It’s going to be huge.” He added:
“Now, there’s some of them they ended up getting spread out a bit. It’s going to be interesting. The one I think is most fascinating if the schedule holds is three games with Edmonton, in Edmonton over five days.”
Friedman explained, “Now, there’s some of them they ended up getting spread out a bit. It’s going to be interesting.” He added that not only will the backup become key, but so will the third goalie and on paper the Leafs look pretty good with Aaron Dell. “I think this year, you’re gonna need three guys,” Friedman said.
Oilers Could Make a Trade Before Season
According to Allan Mitchell of The Athletic, the Edmonton Oilers might be ready to move a forward thanks to a surplus of players at the right wing position. He made these comments while talking about why fans should expect the Oilers to be a 2020-21 playoff team coming out of a Canadian Division.
I suspect we get a trade either before the season or early on, as the club has five regulars for four positions. Archibald, a key penalty killer, is on the outside looking in. Unless Puljujarvi struggles badly, a good winger will be in the pressbox opening night.
source – ‘Lowetide: Why fans should expect an Oilers playoff berth in Canadian division’ Allan Mitchell – The Athletic – 12/24/2020
He also noted that Joakim Nygard may get squeezed out of a left wing spot and start the season on the taxi squad, while on defense he notes, “The list could grow.” He said NHL teams love to add extra defenseman and rumours abound that Oilers general manager Ken Holland has his eyes out for an NHL veteran for the blue line.
Finally, since the Oilers have 11 back-to-back games, Mitchell expects third-string goaltender Anton Forsberg to make an appearance during the season.
Romanov Could Jump Up Quickly on Canadiens Blue Line
According to of The Athletic’s Arpon Basu and Marc Antoine Godin, while predicting the line combinations and where players will slot on this very different version of the Montreal Canadiens, the two scribes noted that Alexander Romanov’s advancement up the line up should be worth watching.
They write, “Romanov is most likely to be starting on the left side of the third pairing.” But, they also say that could change quickly. They explain:
How Romanov will perform is the big unknown right now. If he takes off the way the Canadiens seem to expect, he might very well force his way into a top-4 role before his rookie season is over. Should that happen, Julien will have a ton of options, the most intriguing one being to put Romanov and his exceptional skating ability on a pair with Shea Weber.
source – ‘Canadiens training camp primer: Projected lineup, battles, taxi squad and more’ – Arpon Basu and Marc Antoine-Godin- The Athletic- 12/21/2020
Interesting Question Worth Asking in Tampa
Right now, it seems like the Nikita Kucherov injury is nothing more than interesting timing, but there are some quetsions that are sure to arise as the playoffs creep closer and Kucherov is listed as available — if, in fact, he turns out to be ready to go.
The problem isn’t so much that Kucherov is severely injured, it’s that the Tampa knew about this injury, why wait until just before the season to announce surgery? If Kucherov was always going to get the work done, why not do so right after the Stanley Cup Finals? Had the Lightning and Kucherov gone that route, he’d have likely been back for part of the regular season and to help the Lightning secure a postseason spot.
Finally, from myself to all of you, Happy Holidays! While this is going to be a strange year and a particularly down time for many of our readers — since visits with family and friends will be far less frequent than in the past, there is hope and a silver lining as far as sports are concerned.
There is so much to watch over this weekend that there should be no shortage of content to sink your teeth into. Stay safe, enjoy and look forward to some tremendous World Junior Championship action!
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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s
The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.
Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.
Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.
Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.
He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.
Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.
“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.
“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”
Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.
(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)
Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills
It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.
The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.
Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.
Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.
Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.
A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.
Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.
Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.
Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.
If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.
Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.
When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.
Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards
Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.
Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.
Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.
“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.
“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”
After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.
Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.
Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.
“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.
“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.
“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”
Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.
“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.
“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”
For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.
“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.
“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)