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Phillip Danault is putting forth a Selke-worthy season – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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The Montreal Canadiens absolutely needed a win last night on the road against the Winnipeg Jets. They got it in convincing fashion, and one of the biggest reasons for that was their number one centre, Phillip Danault.

In the offseason, our own Nathan Ni wondered if we might have our own Patrice Bergeron in Danault. Now that we’re nearly at the halfway point of the season, it is completely fair to say that Danault should be a frontrunner for the Frank J. Selke Trophy.

Every night, Danault is tasked with facing the toughest competition for the Habs. We’re talking Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Nathan MacKinnon, Steven Stamkos, and the list goes on. Whoever the best skater is on the other team, you can expect Claude Julien to tap Danault on the shoulder when that guy steps on the ice.

According to Natural Stat Trick, he starts just 41.71% of his shifts in the offensive zone. From that, he boasts a 59.36% Corsi For, 60.65% Scoring Chances for, and 61.73% high-danger chances for. Fair play to his linemates in Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar, but when he’s on the ice the puck goes in one direction. As the centreman, he’s the catalyst for this.

Against the Jets, it was more of the same. He was out there against the best they had to offer, scored two goals, and started only 20% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Still, he was over 70% for Corsi, and over 80% for scoring chances regardless of whether they were high-danger or not. He was an absolute force, and his two goals were well deserved.

And ‘‘Phil the Trill’’ as I like to call him, just so happens to be on pace for the best scoring season of his career. If he keeps this up, he’ll have over 60 points by the end of the season. This is crazy value for the Habs considering he only cost Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise to get, and the Blackhawks also had to throw in the pick that netted Alexander Romanov.

And Weise is also currently back in the Canadiens organization. And Fleischmann is retired. Boy, did Marc Bergevin fleece the Blackhawks…

It would certainly hurt on the next contract for Danault, but if he keeps this up, it’s only fair that he gets legitimate consideration as the next Selke Trophy winner at the end of this season.

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Dillon Dube scores first NHL hat trick as Flames down Senators – Sportsnet.ca

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CALGARY — Dillon Dube didn’t get a shower of hats from the Saddledome seats for his first career NHL hat trick, but his Calgary Flames teammates helped him mark the occasion.

Matthew Tkachuk retrieved the puck out of the Ottawa Senators net for Dube to keep. Goaltender Jacob Markstrom tossed his ball cap from the bench onto the ice.

“Markie throwing his hat, I appreciate it,” Dube said. “I picked it up for him and gave it back. I didn’t want it to get too wet.”

Dube scored a goal in each period in Calgary’s 7-3 win over the Senators.

“It feels good, but anything at this time, with our division right now, I think winning is kind of everything and that makes it feel even better,” the 22-year-old said.

“If you lost the game and you get that, it doesn’t mean anything. To be able to get the win with it feels really good, especially here at home.”

Sean Monahan, Derek Ryan and Brett Ritchie each had a goal and an assist for Calgary (11-11-2) with Josh Leivo chipping in a goal. Tkachuk assisted on all three Dube goals.

David Rittich made 29 saves for the win in his sixth straight start. He’s gone 3-2-1 in that span.

Josh Norris had a goal and an assist for the Senators (8-17-6) in their second straight loss since beating the Flames 5-1 at home Monday.

Artem Anisimov and Ryan Dzingel also scored for Ottawa.

“Looked to me like we had no legs certainly at the start and right on through looked like we were skating uphill,” Senators head coach D.J. Smith said.

“We maybe found it for a few minutes here and there, but as a whole we just didn’t have much tonight.

After giving up four goals on 11 shots in the first period, Ottawa starter Matt Murray was replaced by Joey Daccord for the remaining 40 minutes. Daccord turned away 15-of-18 shots.

“There was no point for me to keep Matt going there,” Smith said. “Give him a breather, and we’ll get back at it next game.”

Calgary and Ottawa are 2-2 with five games remaining this season in their North Division series. The winner in each of the first four has scored at least five goals in the game.

Dube completed his hat trick at 1:17 of the third period to give the Flames a 6-1 lead. The Senators then scored twice before Ryan produced his first goal of the season in his first game in a month.

Ryan, who was sidelined 12 games with a broken finger, roofed the puck at 7:05. Dzingal scored on a solo effort at the six-minute mark after the puck bounced over the stick of Flames defenceman Oliver Kylington.

Anisimov scored a power-play goal for the Sens on a sharp-angled shot at 2:13.

Dube went forehand to backhand and lifted the puck over Daccord’s left pad at 7:16 of the second period.

Listless in a their loss Monday to the Senators, two quick and early goals spurred the Flames to a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes Thursday.

Leivo earned his first as a Flame with 39 seconds remaining in the period. Ottawa turned the puck over along the boards for Johnny Gaudreau to feed Leivo in the high slot.

Monahan snared a Tim Stutzle neutral-zone turnover, skated the puck over the blue-line and beat Murray with a high shot far side at 11:56.

Norris shovelled the puck under Rittich in a goal-mouth scrum at 5:25.

The hosts sprang from the gates with Ritchie and Dube both scoring in a 57-second span starting at 2:22 of the first period.

“It was a good start for us,” Flames head coach Geoff Ward said. “I thought we were purposeful. I thought we had energy. I thought were emotionally engaged and attached to the hockey game.”

The Flames are in Edmonton on Saturday to face the Oilers before coming home to host the Senators again on Sunday, which will be Ottawa’s third in a six-game road swing.

Notes: Flames forward Sam Bennett was a healthy scratch Thursday … Calgary goaltender Jacob Markstrom dressed after sitting out five games with a lower-body injury.

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Flames fire head coach Geoff Ward, hire Darryl Sutter as replacement – Sportsnet.ca

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CALGARY — The Calgary Flames have rehired the coach that brought the organization its greatest playoff success since winning the 1989 Stanley Cup.

The Flames announced the hiring of Darryl Sutter and the firing of Geoff Ward about an hour after Calgary’s 7-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.

Sutter coached the Flames from 2002 to 2006, and served as the team’s general manager from 2003 to 2010.

The 62-year-old from Viking, Alta., guided Calgary to the Stanley Cup final in 2004 when the Flames lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Calgary also lost in the first round of playoffs four other years during his tenure.

The Flames were 11-11-2 this season under Ward, who took over as interim head coach when Bill Peters resigned in November 2019. The interim tag was removed from Ward’s title in September.

The Flames are two points back of the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens in the all-Canadian North Division. The Habs fired Claude Julien last week and replaced him with Dominique Ducharme, the only other coaching change in the NHL so far this season.

Calgary’s coaching carousel continues. Sutter is the fourth head coach general manager Brad Treliving has hired in the last five years.

Sutter coached the Los Angeles Kings from 2011 to 2017 and won Stanley Cups in both 2012 and 2014. He was most recently an adviser to the Anaheim Ducks coaching staff.

His record behind Calgary’s bench was 107-73-15-15.

Sutter has 18 seasons of head-coaching experience in the NHL with Chicago, San Jose, Calgary and Los Angeles. His overall coaching record of 634-467-101-83 ranks him 17th all-time in NHL wins.

A .500 team when Peter resigned amid allegations he’d directed racist comments at a player in the minor leagues a decade earlier, the Flames rallied from the controversy to go 25-15-3 for a .616 winning percentage under Ward.

Calgary downed the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 in a in a best-of-five qualifying series to advance in last summer’s Western Conference playoffs in Edmonton.

The Dallas Stars bounced the Flames from the first round of the playoffs in six games. Calgary imploded in Game 6, allowing seven straight goals after leading 3-0.

Sutter played eight seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks from 1979 to 1987.

He scored 161 goals and had 118 assists in 406 regular-season games, and 43 points in 51 playoff games.

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Walter Gretzky, father of hockey legend Wayne, dies at 82 – CTV News

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Walter Gretzky, the ultimate Canadian hockey dad who taught and nurtured the Great One, has died. He was 82.

The father of Wayne Gretzky became a name himself, a constant in Wayne’s world. As Wayne’s star ascended, Walter remained a blue-collar symbol of a devoted hockey parent in a country filled with them.

Wayne Gretzky confirmed his father’s death on Thursday night with a social media post.

“It’s with deep sadness that Janet and I share the news of the passing of my dad,” said Wayne. “He bravely battled Parkinson’s and other health issues these last few years, but he never let it get him down.

“For me, he was the reason I fell in love with the game of hockey. He inspired me to be the best I could be not just in the game of hockey, but in life.”

The two were also often intertwined, their father-son story used in commercials from Tim Hortons to Coca-Cola. And following in the footsteps of Alexander Graham Bell, they made Brantford, Ont., famous.

Walter was celebrated for far more than just fathering a superstar, however. His down-to-earth, no-airs approach to life and devotion to his family struck a chord with Canadians.

“Sometimes, I swear to you, I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming,” Walter wrote in his 2001 autobiography “Walter Gretzky. On Family, Hockey and Healing.”

“Wayne says the same thing.”

Walter’s celebrity status increased after making a remarkable recovery from a stroke suffered in 1991. His autobiography and a 2005 made-for-TV movie told the story.

Walter Gretzky was the son of immigrants — a Polish mother and Russian father — who started a vegetable farm in 1932 in Canning, Ont., just outside Brantford, on the Nith River, where Wayne learned to skate when he was two. They bought it for $600.

Walter’s father Tony, whose parents had emigrated to the U.S., came to Canada from Chicago to enlist during the First World War with his name switching to Gretzky from Gretsky because he did not know how to write in English. Walter’s mother Mary came to Canada by herself in 1921 as an 18-year-old.

Walter’s parents met in Toronto in the 1930s. He was the fifth of seven children.

He played minor hockey in Paris, Ont., then junior B for four years in Woodstock. He went on to play some senior hockey but said he wasn’t good enough to play pro.

Walter met Phyllis, his wife to be, at a wiener roast at the family farm. She was 15 at the time. Three years later, they got married.

Wayne was the first born in 1961, followed by Kim, Keith, Glen and Brent. Keith and Brent also played professional hockey.

The same year as Wayne was born, Walter fractured his skull in a work accident as a Bell lineman. He spent some time in a coma and was off work for 18 months. Left deaf in his right ear, he was eventually transferred to another Bell department and became an installer/repairman.

The winter when Wayne was four, his father turned the backyard of their Brantford home into a rink which young Wayne called The Wally Coliseum. From the time he was a tot, Wayne wanted to do nothing but play hockey.

Walter decided to make his own rink to avoid having to freeze standing outdoors at some outdoor rink elsewhere — or sit in his car with the engine running to get some heat — while Wayne skated. Gas was too expensive, he said.

“It truly, truly was self-preservation,” he explained.

Walter fed his eldest child’s obsession, recruiting bigger kids for Wayne to practise against in the backyard rink, and finding him a spot on a team of 10-year-olds when he was six.

“You knew he was good at his age at what he was doing,” Walter said in a 2016 interview. “But to say that one day he’d do what he did, you couldn’t say that. Nobody could.”

Wayne recalled crying after that first year of organized hockey when he didn’t get a trophy at the year-end banquet.

“Wayne, keep practising and one day you’re gonna have so many trophies we’re not going to have room for them all,” his dad said.

Walter preached an old fashioned ethic — hard work pays off.

After a bad game when he was 11, Wayne got a chewing out from his dad: “People are going to judge you on how you perform every night. Never forget that.”

The NHL star recalls getting a similar earful when he was 21, during the 1983 Stanley Cup playoffs.

“I don’t know where I’d be without him, but I know it wouldn’t be in the NHL,” Wayne said in his autobiography.

“I just think I told him to play good,” said Walter.

At times, hockey got in the way. Walter recalled missing the 1972 birth of Brent, their youngest, because Wayne was playing at a big minor tournament south of the border.

“Phyllis remembers that when I walked into her room in the maternity ward, the first thing I said to her was ‘We won, we won!”‘ he wrote. “She looked at me like I was crazy and said ‘It’s a boy, Walter.’ I guess I have to admit that sometimes I took my devotion as a hockey dad a little too far!

“But of course, I welcomed my brand new son with open arms — another budding hockey player, after all.”

Walter drove one old blue Chevy station wagon after another — calling each the Blue Goose — until it clocked about 200,000 kilometres or fell apart. He called it a “reliable car for a family of seven.”

Wayne bought his father a blue Cadillac for his parents’ 25th wedding anniversary.

“My hero as a kid was a man with constant headaches, ulcers and ringing in his ears,” Wayne wrote. “He stays in the same house driving the same car — teaching kids the same way he always has, believing in the same things he always had.

“I’ve sometimes said that everything I have I owe to hockey, but I guess that’s not true. Everything I have I owe to them (his parents).”

“On Family, Hockey and Healing” was reproduced in paperback when the movie came out. In the introduction, Walter answered a question: What’s it like being Wayne Gretzky’s dad?

“I say that mostly it’s been fantastic beyond my wildest dreams,”‘ he wrote. “It’s given me the chance to travel widely, meet amazing people and do things that I never would have had the opportunity to do otherwise.

“I love to tell stories, and believe me, these experiences have given me some good ones! It’s all been a great adventure, and I’ve been happy to share it with my family and friends.”

But he said there was another side.

“It’s a privilege but also a responsibility that has to be handled carefully,” he wrote. “Living so close to the spotlight, you can be a magnet for some pretty strange things, and we’ve certainly seen it all: the good, the bad and the ugly,” he wrote.

That was demonstrated in 2020 after some of Wayne’s memorabilia was stolen from his father’s home, which was packed with souvenirs and other mementoes.

Police eventually recovered several items including game-used sticks, hockey gloves, pants, jerseys and the NHL’s Player of the Year award from the 1983-84 season. The estimated value of the recovered property was believed more than US$500,000.

Arrests were made in the case.

Walter travelled afar, including Europe, to watch his sons play hockey, and was a regular visitor to Phoenix after Wayne took over as head coach of the Coyotes in 2005.

He recalled being on a bullet train during the 1998 Nagano Olympics. In a good mood, he stated dancing around the car singing “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” When he took off his cap at the behest of a friend, a Japanese woman put some money in it.

And while being Wayne’s father opened doors, he stayed true to himself.

In Paris to see a horse owned by Wayne and Bruce McNall run, he and a longtime friend, Charlie Henry, were stunned by the huge rooms they were booked into at the Ritz-Carlton. The two opted to stay in one room, cancelling the other.

He was a much sought-after speaker by groups organizing sports awards dinners, and he worked tirelessly as national spokesman for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. He was named to the Order of Canada in 2007.

In 2010, Walter carried the Olympic torch on the last day of the Olympic relay in the leadup to the opening ceremonies in Vancouver, where Wayne lit the Olympic flame.

He was 53 when he suffered his stroke, just a few months into retirement after 34 years at Bell. He wasn’t expected to live through the night. But he did, and it changed his life.

He lost much of his memory and it took time to get snippets of it back.

“Those were dark times,” he wrote about the early days after the stroke, “and I wouldn’t want to go back there for anything in the world. It’s an awful thing not to know who or where you are, to feel confused and hopeless and not know whether you are ever going to be able to do all the things your used to to.”

Hockey helped his recovery as he started working with kids in the Brantford Minor Hockey Association. The four- and five-year-olds used to call him Wally.

In his remaining years, he was more outgoing and carefree. After one game when his minor hockey team was downcast, he invited everyone to his home to see Wayne’s memorabilia. There were 61 of them. He also became an avid golfer.

He’d been a hyper chain-smoker before the stroke. He gave that up, while devoting more of his time to worthwhile causes.

“I really don’t like to sit still for too long,” he said. “I’m most comfortable when I’m active.”

Walter is also survived by numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Phyllis died of lung cancer in 2005.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021.

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