Connect with us

Sports

Ovechkin saves Capitals from sweep in GOATee Game: ‘It was belief’ – Sportsnet.ca

Published

 on


TORONTO – Call it the GOATee game.

Alexander Ovechkin — the greatest pure goal scorer of all the generations — showed up at the rink with a new look and his old tricks, as the Washington Capitals rose from an 0-3 series deficit and 0-2 Game 4 deficit to inject a furious dose of pushback and belief some doubted we’d ever see from the Metropolitan Division superpower.

Entering Tuesday’s elimination test with just a single bubble win and reared way back on their heels at 5-on-5 play through the first 10 periods of a surprisingly lopsided series to former coach Barry Trotz’s organized New York Islanders, something switched in the 2018 champs.

Sustained pressure, a gradual compounding of positive offensive-zone shifts, a crunching Radko Gudas hip check on Cal Clutterbuck, an Evgeny Kuznetsov strike…

“I could feel the push coming,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden would later say.

Then Ovie went beast mode. A clapper from his circular office smacked a dialled-in Semyon Varlamov in the mask, and a second from the same spot (you know the one) tied the game.

An Ovechkin-led 2-on-1 rush in which everyone on their sofa knew there’d be no pass ended in a wicked wrister, another red lamp, and — scariest of all — a seed of belief.

“Nothing to lose, right? We started playing our game,” said Ovechkin, after his second two-goal effort in three games. “It was great hockey by us.

“You never know what’s going to happen.”

The captain’s winner and 69th playoff goal completed a 3-2 comeback and scooted him past both Gordie Howe and Sidney Crosby for sole possession of 18th spot on the all-time list.

“No one can score goals like this player. It’s the other stuff that went on,” Rierden said post-game. “There was the stuff that was said in the locker room. There was stuff that was said to the teammates. It was stuff that was said on the bench. It was physicality. It was belief. It was the emotion he showed after he scored the goal. Get in line, ’cause we’re goin’.”

Absolutely, the Islanders have been the superior squad since arriving in the bubble. And, yes, Trotz’s consistent, four-line rollout has three more chances to stomp out his former employer. Math and history peg the Capitals’ chances of rallying from 1-3 and stealing the series at a measly 9.4 per cent.

Yet Tuesday felt more like a ground shift than a last gasp, and the Isles may lament all the power plays (all five in this game, 18 of 19 in the series) they’ve left uncashed.

“Momentum is a crazy thing in this game, and you have to earn it,” John Carlson said.

The Capitals’ awakening began with scissors and shavers. Jakub Vrana, goal-less all post-season, arrived at Game 4 with a buzzcut. Kuznetsov chopped his down to the wood. Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie went with mean, clean goatees.

“What happens with the team stays with the team,” Kuznetsov said of the group barbering.

Superstition? Bonding? Symbolism?

“You always try to adapt and do different things that you think can give you an edge physically, mentally. Try different stuff to maybe get yourself out of a funk. That’s happened in every sport for years and years,” Reirden explained.

“So, this was an example of some different things that went on with our team, and there’s obviously many other things that go on behind closed doors. We’ve got a strong leadership group. We’ve got a strong bond in our team and belief. And we know that if we’re going to get anywhere, it’s going to be together. And that was the most buy-in that we’ve obviously had in the playoffs.”

Without rabid fans on hand to unleash their fury, the Capitals have struggled to create their own energy.

It has taken favourites like the Bruins and Blues a few games to do likewise, but they mustered that urgency absent in the round-robin games before putting themselves on the brink.

The Caps left it till the final 40 minutes, and Reirden admitted that self-generating momentum through repetitive, fierce shifts and feeding off their own teammates has proved a greater challenge in the bubble than anticipated.

For at least one night, the Capitals rediscovered their identity, their joy.

Yes, that jump resulted in 63 per cent of Game 4’s even-strength shot attempts. More importantly, it resulted in two more nights at Hotel X — minimum.

“I think we just stopped thinking about those Corsi, whatever that stat is, and just trying to play fun hockey. We tried to hold on to the puck, and that’s how we always played,” Kuznetsov said in his second language.

“Maybe I’m not understanding the hockey, but I think that’s how we’re supposed to play. It’s not about the thousand shots — it’s about the possession. It’s about wearing them down, and it’s about enjoying it and having fun.

“That’s maybe not the NHL typical hockey, but that’s how we’re supposed to play. And if we’re going to play like that, we’re going to have joy, we’re going to have fun, and we’re going to have success.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Sports

Astros sweep series as Twins lose 18th straight in playoffs – Sportsnet.ca

Published

 on


MINNEAPOLIS — Shaken up by a scandal before the virus outbreak shrunk the season, the Houston Astros barely played well enough to reach the playoffs — with the rest of baseball actively rooting against them.

Well, they’re not ready to leave yet.

Carlos Correa hit a two-out, tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning for the Astros, who produced another stifling pitching performance and swept Minnesota over two games with a 3-1 victory Wednesday that sent the Twins to a record 18th straight post-season loss.

“I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here,” Correa said. “But what are they going to say now?”

Nine months after Houston’s rules-breaking, sign-stealing system was revealed, the Astros advanced to the Division Series in Los Angeles. As the sixth seed, they’ll face the Oakland Athletics or Chicago White Sox in a best-of-five matchup starting Monday at Dodger Stadium.

“I don’t think they necessarily thought that they had anything to prove. They just had to play ball,” said manager Dusty Baker, who took his fifth different team to the playoffs and advanced for the first time in seven rounds since winning the 2003 NL Division Series with the Chicago Cubs.

The Twins are 0-18 in the playoffs since winning Game 1 of their Division Series at the New York Yankees on Oct. 5, 2004, a total of seven rounds lost. Since that date, the Astros are 43-35 in post-season play, winning 10 of 15 rounds with three trips to the World Series.

Kyle Tucker hit two RBI singles for the Astros and made a key throw from left field for the inning-ending out in the fifth.

Rookie Cristian Javier worked three hitless innings in relief for the victory in his post-season debut and Ryan Pressly pitched a perfect ninth against his former team, giving the Houston bullpen a total of 9 2/3 scoreless innings in this wild card series with three hits allowed.

“From the very beginning, we envisioned ourselves back in the playoffs and playing real well,” Tucker said. “So we never counted ourselves out at any point.”

Nobody on this Twins team has had a hand in more than six of the playoffs losses, but for the second straight year one of baseball’s most potent lineups limped through a brief post-season cameo. In a three-game division series sweep by the Yankees last year, the Twins totalled seven runs and 22 hits. Against the Astros, they mustered only two runs and seven hits.

“We put a lot of balls in play, it seemed like, but they were up in the air and, yeah, it seemed like we played into their trap,” said Max Kepler, one of four starters who went hitless in the series. “At the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done.”

Nelson Cruz gave the Twins an RBI double for a second straight game, this time in the fourth inning against starter Jose Urquidy. Luis Arraez aggressively tried to score from first base, but Correa took the throw from Tucker and fired home to beat Arraez to the plate to preserve the tie after third base coach Tony Diaz waved him in.

“I don’t know why he sent him,” Correa said.

Then in the seventh against losing pitcher Cody Stashak, Correa drove a 1-0 slider into the tarp-covered seats above right-centre field for his 12th home run in 52 playoff games.

After winning 101, 103 and 107 games in the last three regular seasons, winning the 2017 World Series and losing the championship in seven games to the Washington Nationals last year, the Astros stumbled through the 2020 season at 29-31 under Baker and new general manager James Click with a slew of injuries after the COVID-19 pandemic cut the schedule to 60 games.

They had the third-worst road record in the major leagues, too, but none of that mattered this week against the third-seeded Twins, who were out of sorts in their two biggest games this year.

Jose Berrios was one of the few who were locked in with five strong innings to start, with just two hits allowed. His two walks were costly, though, issued right before Tucker’s single in the fourth.

“I don’t think anyone was ready to leave, to end this way,” Cruz said. “That’s life.”

KIRILLOFF FOR BUXTON

Already missing third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Twins held another one of their most valuable players out: centre fielder Byron Buxton. Baldelli declined to confirm whether Buxton was experiencing a recurrence of concussion symptoms that kept him out of the last two regular season games. Buxton was picked off first base after pinch running for Cruz in the eighth.

Kepler moved to centre, and Alex Kirilloff — the 2016 first-round draft pick — played right field to become the first Twins player in history to make his major league debut in a post-season game. Kirilloff singled in the fourth. With the bases loaded in the first, he flied out to end the inning.

FEELING BLUE

Both teams took issue with plate umpire Manny Gonzalez’s strike zone, with Astros slugger George Springer the first to visibly complain. After being called out on strikes in the fourth, Springer barked, “No way, man!” multiple times on his way back to the dugout.

Then in the sixth, the Twins lost left fielder Eddie Rosario to ejection after he argued a called strike two that would’ve given him a walk if it were called a ball. After swinging and missing at strike three, Rosario yelled again and was quickly tossed.

First base umpire Tim Timmons missed consecutive calls in the eighth inning on grounders by the Astros when he called the runners safe. Both were reversed to outs after replay review.

UP NEXT

The Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series in each of the last three years, will play Monday against either the A’s or the White Sox. RHP Lance McCullers Jr. is the only member of their regular season rotation who did not pitch in Minnesota.

The Twins enter the off-season with 10 players set to become free agents, including the 40-year-old Cruz who led the team in home runs and batting average (among players with a qualifying amount of at-bats) for a second straight season. Their 2021 opener is scheduled for April 1 at Milwaukee.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Sports

Report: Heat G Dragic tears plantar fascia – TSN

Published

 on


Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic reportedly suffered a torn plantar fascia in his left foot during Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN confirmed the injury and tweeted that Dragic has been able to put pressure on the foot and hasn’t ruled out returning to play in the series.

The Lakers won the opener 116-98 behind 34 points from Anthony Davis and 25 from LeBron James.

Dragic played 14:50 in Game 1 and contributed six points, three assists and two steals before leaving the game.

Game 2 of the series is Friday night in the Orlando bubble.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Sports

Blue Jays' latest implosion shows big changes are needed – The Globe and Mail

Published

 on


Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette tags out Tampa Bay Rays’ Randy Arozarena as he gets caught attempting to steal second base during the sixth inning of Game 2 of their American League wild-card baseball series Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Chris O’Meara/The Associated Press

The book on the 2020 Toronto Blue Jays went like this – mercurial, prone to gaffes, will surprise you.

They managed all three on Wednesday, especially the last one. Because even the greatest Jays cynic (raises hand) could not have seen this collapse coming.

Toronto is one of those teams that puts a great deal of faith in the big-numbers theory of baseball. Make this little move or that little change and you increase your odds incrementally over time, which may result in 0.15 more wins.

Story continues below advertisement

We saw this approach in Tuesday’s Game 1 when cruising starter Matt Shoemaker was pulled early because a computer somewhere said so.

That loss set up for a more mundane approach in Game 2 – roll out your best pitcher, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and pray.

When the Jays spent US$80-million last summer on Ryu, it was a statement of intent. After several years of giving up, they were going to start trying again.

For the most part, Ryu performed as advertised. You could say of him the best thing you can say about any superstar free agent – he earned his money.

But on Wednesday, when it actually mattered, Ryu wasn’t bad. He was much, much worse than that.

Throwing a fastball that drifted toward the plate like a spiked beachball, Ryu could not consistently get north of 90 miles an hour. Without that effective deterrent, Tampa ran wild on all his offerings.

Ryu’s resultant boxscore read like a pitching coroner’s report – seven runs on eight hits in less than two innings, including two home runs.

Story continues below advertisement

That was that. All that remained was for the rest of us to spend two hours listening to the homers on the Sportsnet broadcast trying to convince themselves that a seven-run disadvantage against the best team in the American League isn’t that bad. It ended 8-2.

“That’s what happens in the playoffs,” Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said afterward. “Not always the good players hit.”

Amazingly, Ryu was not the worst Blue Jay in this game. Because while he was ineffective (which will occur), Bo Bichette was careless (which shouldn’t).

Bichette made two terrible errors in the early going. The second of them killed the Jays – extending an inning that should have been over and setting up a Tampa grand slam.

“It happens,” Montoyo said.

Bichette is the future of the Blue Jays, but on the evidence of Wednesday afternoon, he isn’t the present. That’s a tidy way of summing up where the Jays are right now.

Story continues below advertisement

Is this team good? Yes.

Is it good enough? Not even close.

The risk now is letting one weird season obscure that reality.

The main thing the Jays did this year was changing their fundamental question.

For most of the Mark Shapiro/Ross Atkins era, the question was, ‘When will this team be good?’

Management devoted most of their effort to obscuring the answer. They loved talking about their processes and talent-acquisition stratagems and performance maximization. Anything to avoid giving a deadline.

Story continues below advertisement

This year, the question became, “How good can we be?”

During their run at the Yankees in early September, they looked very good indeed. But baseball isn’t about the streaks. What matters is aggregate performance over the longest season in sports.

At what point this year did the Jays seem like a team that could regularly dominate the opposition? That point never arrived.

The team is young, and it plays that way. The players don’t know what they don’t know. They win games they shouldn’t and lose others they should.

In the midst of all this to’ing and fro’ing, Montoyo carries himself like a guy who still can’t believe he’s got the top job. Perhaps because it often feels as though he hasn’t. You think it was Montoyo’s idea to pull Shoemaker in Game 1? Because no fully empowered manager does that.

Do you work well when you feel micromanaged? People who are pressed on too hard are erratic. They may perform in spurts, but they have a tendency to crack when it matters.

Story continues below advertisement

How else would you describe what happened on Wednesday? The Jays didn’t lose. They imploded.

“Sky’s the limit,” Montoyo said, sounding far too happy for a manager who’d just lost the way he’d lost. “We’re just kids.”

“Days like today happen,” Bichette said.

There’s no point in self-flagellation, but a few light lashes might’ve suited the result better. It’s great they have all this perspective, but they did just get wiped out.

In the long run, it can be a good thing. That learning experience so-so teams always talk about when they’ve been run over by a much better team. But some things have to change.

For one, this club needs room to breathe. A good first move in that regard would be letting Montoyo do his job without a bunch of baseball-ops wonks sitting in his lap as he does it.

Story continues below advertisement

Second, investment. The expansion of the playoffs has widened the contention window for every team in baseball. But it does not follow that every team will do well in this new free-for-all.

The Jays have an opportunity this off-season to marry some experience to their surfeit of innocence. A few steadying hands on the roster might eliminate all the late-game collapses and post-season detonations.

Third and most important, the Jays oughtn’t kid themselves into feeling satisfied. If coming in third in the AL East is cause for celebration, the club should give former managers such as Jim Fregosi, Carlos Tosca and Tim Johnson a call. Someone in Toronto owes them a Champagne shower.

The only way this Jays season can be considered a success if it’s the beginning of actual success in the seasons to come. Not theoretical seasons years from now. Next season.

The short-term goal should be turning that institutional question into a statement: “We’re good.”

How will we know when that’s happened? When this team stops talking as though there’s nothing wrong with losing as long as you’ve won a little bit more than everyone expected.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending