EDMONTON — It was a cringe-worthy night on Tuesday as players blocking shots had the Rogers Place ice crew out, shovels in hand, scraping up the gruesome residue of a night’s work for guys like Winnipeg’s Tucker Poolman.
The Jets defenceman left a trail of blood all the way to his bench, but returned wearing a cage.
Heading into Game 3 between the Edmonton Oilers and the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, Oilers head coach Dave Tippett was asked if the reward of shot blocking can be outweighed by the risk of players who get injured in the process?
“The fear of losing trumps anything. If you don’t block shots you’re not going to win,” was Tippett’s answer. “You have to have a gut instinct that drives you to do anything you can to help the team win, and basically that’s what players who are all-in about winning do.”
In Game 2 the Oilers blocked 22 shots, and many of those came during four Chicago power plays in the second period. Ten separate Oilers players were credited with a blocked shot, with Kris Russell and Matt Benning blocking four each.
Sure, one shot deflected off of Russell and past Mikko Koskinen. But how many of the shots that were blocked might have gone in, or left a rebound that turned into a Blackhawks goal? Tippett know where he stands on guys risking their health to help the team.
“When you’re blocking shots you’re not thinking about getting hurt,” he said. “You’re thinking about helping the team win.”
Don’t expect any Oilers lineup changes tonight, with every player available according to Tippett. Koskinen will start in goal for Edmonton against, we are guessing, Corey Crawford.
Crawford, who missed camp after contracting COVID-19, was solid in Game 1 despite barely having any training camp time, much to the Blackhawks’ relief. But through two games he has allowed 10 goals and has a saves percentage of just .844. Koskinen has a goals-against average of 2.65 through a game and a half, with a saves percentage of .911.
Crawford carried this Blackhawks team at times this season. With this coming down to a best-of-three series now, it’s highly likely that the team that gets the best goaltending moves on, while the other will move out of the Edmonton bubble.
The Blackhawks get Drake Caggiula back tonight after he missed Game 2 on a one-game suspension for a head shot on Tyler Ennis. Caggiula watched the game from upstairs in the Blackhawks’ management suite, and quickly figured out what makes all of us media types so smart.
“You get some good perspective from up there, the game is a lot slower. Everyone thinks they’re an expert from up top,” he said. “It almost looks like a video game, everything is so much slower and you can see everything develop before it happens. As opposed to being on the ice where you have a split second to make that decision.”
On a team that doesn’t have Andrew Shaw, who is out for the season with concussion issues, Caggiula is the ‘Hawks most physical forward. And against his old team, he admits there are some words flying around out there as well.
“I’m out there talkin’ a little bit,” he laughed, “but no one is purposely going out of their way to chirp guys. If there’s a chirp here or there, that’s part of the game.
While Connor McDavid leads these playoffs with four goals in two games, he also has notched the game-opening goal in both contests. He scored at 2:34 of Game 1 and 0:19 of Game 2, a fact that has not eluded ‘Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton.
“You want to score first, no question,” he said. “It’s tough to chase the game, to come from behind. And it gives them belief that they’re doing the right things. Obviously giving McDavid an early goal isn’t something we want to do.”
Meanwhile, Art Ross Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl (1-2-3) has half the points of both McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who have six a piece. Edmonton scored six goals in Game 2 and the Draisaitl line’s only point came on an unassisted goal by Ennis, though the big German was an even player in over 20 minutes of ice time.
“Leon gets judged on points a lot because he’s the leading scorer in the league,” Tippett said. “But he does a lot more for us than that. We’re asking him to do some things that aren’t about points, but about making sure we play a complete game. He’s been a solid player for us.”
Over on Chicago’s side, Dylan Strome and Alex Nylander each got stapled to the bench in Game 2, watching their ice time fall by 2:43 and 4:53 respectively from Game 1.
“Game 1 they had some really good shifts, and even in Game 2,” Colliton said. “But, we’re looking for more consistency. I think you could say that about a bunch of guys in Game 2.
“It’s their first experience in the playoffs. I know they’re going to be better for us.”
Blue Jays have key decisions to make in coming days as post-season nears – Sportsnet.ca
TORONTO — Just one year after losing 95 games, the Blue Jays are back in the playoffs despite never playing a game in their home ballpark. Sure, they got some assistance when MLB expanded the post-season, but every team had that opportunity and not all of them made the most of it.
It’s an accomplishment to savour — and also an opportunity to seize. The playoffs are notoriously unpredictable, after all, and that’ll be especially true in a year that begins with a best-of-three series. It’s a good time to be an underdog.
Now that the Blue Jays have clinched, they have four days to prepare for their next test, but the last three regular season games are significant in themselves. In theory, the Blue Jays could pass the Yankees and overtake the No. 5 seed in the American League. And if nothing else, these last few games will inform roster moves and playing time decisions for the wild-card round that begins Tuesday.
Here’s a look at what’s at stake for the Blue Jays between now and Sunday afternoon’s regular season finale…
What can Pearson offer in the playoffs?
In theory, Nate Pearson has the pitches to become an important high-leverage arm for the Blue Jays, but translating that potential to results with limited time to spare is another matter. That adds significance to his late-season appearances as the Blue Jays consider how to use him in the playoffs.
“I wouldn’t mind using him in high-leverage, but he could also open for us if we need him,” manager Charlie Montoyo said after officially activating Pearson Thursday.
Either way, it stands to reason Pearson will be on the Blue Jays’ playoff roster as long as he makes it through his upcoming tune-up session healthy.
Can anyone else return from the injured list?
Along with Pearson, Jordan Romano (finger), Julian Merryweather (elbow) and Rowdy Tellez (knee) are each working their way back from injuries as well. All would be big additions, and the coming weekend offers a perfect chance to get some reps in at game speed, yet it’d be a surprise if any of those three see game action against the Orioles.
Romano, who will throw a bullpen session Friday, may be furthest along of those three. And while the Blue Jays were set on seeing Pearson in a regular season game, Romano doesn’t have a new role to get used to, so he doesn’t necessarily have to pitch in a game over the weekend to be a candidate for a playoff roster spot.
As Montoyo said, “They’re different cases.”
How does Shoemaker look?
In his first start back after missing a month with a lat strain, Matt Shoemaker pitched well against the Yankees, holding them to one run over three innings of work. He did walk two in the second inning, but was otherwise effective on a night his fastball topped out at 96 m.p.h.
On Saturday, he’ll have the chance to build off that start and strengthen his bid to start Game 3 of the playoffs should there be one. After throwing 54 pitches in his first start back, it’s reasonable to assume Shoemaker could be stretched to 70 against the Orioles this weekend. If all goes well, he could earn himself a playoff rotation spot.
“If we can stretch him out enough, he’ll be in the conversation for sure,” Montoyo said. “You can count on that.”
The alternative to Shoemaker would likely be Robbie Ray, but the Blue Jays might also like the idea of having Ray available in relief earlier in the series, especially if they play Tampa Bay. Against a lineup including left-handed hitters like Brandon Lowe, Yoshi Tsutsugo, Kevin Kiermaier, Joey Wendle and Nate Lowe, Ray has the potential to be a difference maker.
How much can they expect from Kirk?
The Blue Jays promoted Alejandro Kirk because they wanted offence, and he has delivered so far, making consistently hard contact while putting together quality at-bats against big-league pitching. At this rate, Kirk is likely to get at-bats in the wild-card round, but he could cement his case for regular playing time with a strong final weekend.
Of course, Danny Jansen reminded the Blue Jays of his own offensive ability with a four-hit game including two home runs Wednesday, but Kirk could also factor in at designated hitter. For example, if left-hander Blake Snell starts Game 1 for the Rays, the Blue Jays might prefer to have Travis Shaw, a left-handed hitter, on the bench. That would mean Vladimir Guerrero Jr. starts at first and leaves the DH spot open, potentially for Kirk, who has shown the ability to hit high-velocity pitchers like Snell and Tyler Glasnow.
When it comes to determining playing time for their catchers, all kinds of variables are in play — who do pitchers prefer throwing to? Does the schedule include a day game after a night game? Is Tellez an option at DH? — but the better Kirk hits down the stretch, the more options he gives the Blue Jays.
Either way, rostering a third catcher such as Caleb Joseph or Reese McGuire would allow Montoyo to use Kirk as a pinch hitter without having to worry. Otherwise, the Blue Jays would be an injury away from losing their DH.
“That’s never easy because if someone gets hurt it becomes a National League game,” Montoyo said.
Who pitches Sunday?
At this point, Tanner Roark lines up as the likely starter for Sunday’s season finale — a game that will likely have no bearing on the standings. With that in mind, the Blue Jays face a decision. Do they save Roark for the playoffs or let him contribute by soaking up some innings for the rest of the staff?
Considering Roark recently expressed frustration with the short leash starters often find themselves on, he might embrace the opportunity to pitch seven or eight innings.
“Just because the computers are saying something different — I hate it,” he said after a game earlier this month. “I’m old school. They signed me here for a reason, to not go three, four innings and throw only a certain amount of pitches. I throw a lot of pitches. I try to go as deep as I can.”
Soon, Roark may get his chance. The conversation would be different if Roark were pitching better, yet with a 7.01 ERA and 14 home runs allowed in just 43.2 innings, it’s hard to imagine him pitching high-leverage innings in the wild-card round. But by saving the rest of the staff on Sunday, he could still contribute and potentially re-join the active roster for the ALDS should the Blue Jays advance.
Halep opens with Sorribes Tormo, Serena set for rematch – WTA Tennis
PARIS, France – 2018 champion Simona Halep will begin her quest for her second Coupe Suzanne Lenglen against Sara Sorribes Tormo, while Serena Williams faces a familiar foe in the first round of the French Open.
The draw for the last Grand Slam of 2020 was released today, featuring several mouth-watering first-round clashes and plenty of potential landmines for seeded players.
Top seed Halep will seek to build on her momentum after winning two clay titles in the buildup to Paris, lifting the Prague trophy and achieving her career first triumph in Rome last week. Halep is in the same quarter of the draw as No.5 seed Kiki Bertens, who opens against Ukraine’s Katarina Zavatska. The Romanian could face No.25 Amanda Anisimova in the third round, though an unseeded Jil Teichmann could derail those plans.
Elsewhere in Halep and Bertens’ top quarter, last year’s finalist Marketa Vondrousova, the No.15 seed, will take on 19-year-old Iga Swiatek, while No.9 seed Johanna Konta faces off against teen phenom Coco Gauff in the first round.
Karolina Pliskova, the No.2 seed, anchors the bottom quarter of the draw, and begins her Roland Garros campaign against a qualifier. A potential clash with former champion Jelena Ostapenko could be looming in the second round, should both players advance. The winner could get a third round match against former finalist Sloane Stephens, the No.29 seed who starts against Vitalia Diatchenko.
No.7 seed Petra Kvitova landed in the same quarter as fellow Czech player Pliskova, and will take on home hope Oceane Dodin in her first match. No.31 seed Magda Linette is a potential third round opponent, though the Polish player will have to get through the rising Canadian Leylah Fernandez in the first round.
No.18 seed Angelique Kerber was also drawn into this quarter, as she resumes her quest to complete the career Slam with a victory at Roland Garros. She is on a possible third-round collision course with former US Open finalist Madison Keys, the No.12 seed.
Elina Svitolina leads a stacked quarter highlighted by US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka and 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams. The No.3 seed herself will open against Varvara Gracheva, a rising Russian player who impressed with a run to the US Open third round in her Grand Slam debut. Svitolina could meet No.27 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova in the third round.
For the second tournament in a row, No.6 seed Serena will face Kristie Ahn in the first round as she kicks off her quest for an all-time record tying 24th Grand Slam crown. Should she advance, Serena could get another US Open rematch with Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round.
But the deja vu wouldn’t be over yet, as Serena could see familiar foe Azarenka as early as the round of 16, in a rematch of the pair’s electrifying US Open semifinal. Azarenka herself will start her French Open campaign against Danka Kovinic, and could face an unseeded Venus Williams in the second round.
To make things even more interesting, No.17 seed Anett Kontaveit, No.16 Elise Mertens and No.23 Yulia Putintseva have also landed in Svitolina, Serena and Azarenka’s quarter, ready to spring a potential upset.
No.4 seed Sofia Kenin tops a quarter of on-the-rise stars as she seeks to lift her second Grand Slam title. The Australian Open champion will face Liudmila Samsonova in the first round, with a potential third-round clash against No.26 Donna Vekic awaiting should both players advance.
No.8 seed Aryna Sabalenka and No.11 Garbine Muguruza have also been drawn into Kenin’s quarter and are on a Round of 16 collision course. They’ll have to get through their opening matches, with former champion Muguruza taking on Tamara Zidansek in the first round and Sabalenka starting against Jessica Pegula.
Two of the most in-form players of the year also make an appearance in this section, as No.30 seed Ons Jabeur and No.21 Jennifer Brady look to make their mark at Roland Garros. Jabeur, who became the first Arab woman to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam at the Australian Open, will take on Zarina Diyas in the first round, and could advance to face Muguruza in the third. Lexington champion Brady will start against a qualifier, and could meet Sabalenka in the third round herself.
To view the full draw, visit rolandgarros.com.
Jays win and clinch a playoff spot – Bluebird Banter
That was a nice game. A fun one for those of us who miss the idea of a pitcher going late into a game.
Hyun Jin Ryu went 7 innings, allowed 5 hits, 2 walks (1 short of his season high) with 4 strikeouts. He only really had trouble once, in the sixth inning, he allowed back-to-back singles to Luke Voit and Aaron Hicks, to start the inning, then he got Giancarlo Stanton to strikeout, Gleyber Torres to fly out and Gio Urshela to ground out.
Ryu gave up just one extra base hit, a Urshela double. And there were few hard hit outs.
Anthony Bass came in for the eighth and had all sorts of trouble, giving up a hit and 3 walks while getting just 2 outs. And one of the outs was on a very nice play by Vladimir Guerrero, going a long way towards second to get the ball and then making a nice throw get the fielder’s choice at second base. They came close to a double play, Bass (unusual for a Jays’ pitcher this season) got to first base in plenty of time, but Bo Bichette’s throw was just a bit late.
Rafael Dolis came in with the bases loaded and pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez up. Sanchez took a pitch high, but the ump called it a strike, then chased a pitch that bounce, then barely avoided a pitch inside off the plate. He should have let it hit him. Then Sanchez hit one to the wall in center field that Randal Grichuk got to and made a nice catch. Five feet further and the Yankees would have been in front.
Dolis, who hasn’t pitched in a few days, didn’t look all that sharp, but he got Aaron Judge to strikeout (on a full count) to start the ninth.
On offense, it was the big boy’s night. Vladimir Guerrero was 3 for 4, with a home run in the second inning and Alejandro Kirk had a 2-run double in the sixth.
In between we had back-to-back doubles from Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette to get our other run, in the third inning.
With 10 hits, maybe we should have scored more. Vlad had the 3 hits and Grichuk had 2. Everyone else had a hit excepting Teoscar Hernandez (0 for 3, walk, 2 strikeouts) and Danny Jansen (0 for 3, 2 strikeouts, after the two home run day yesterday). Then DJ LeMahieu struck out. But Voit tapped one up the third base line for an infield single. Thankfully Aaron Hicks chased strike three and the party was on.
Jays of the Day: Ryu (.386 WPA), Dolis (.125), Vlad (.133) and I’m giving one to Kirk (.067) just because it is near the end of the season and I don’t want to have a lot of these sitting around gathering dust all winter.
Suckage: No one had the number, but I’m giving one to Bass (-.077) for making me sweat.
We had 600 comments into the game thread. EMK19 led us to the playoff clinching win!
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