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Pittsburgh, Baltimore come into focus as vagabond Blue Jays leave Toronto – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – The clubhouse scene before the Toronto Blue Jays wrapped up their Rogers Centre training camp and departed for a pair of exhibition games versus the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park provided an apt metaphor for the club’s current dispossession.

“We have basically a road bag and a home bag, and I don’t know where the home bag is going,” veteran infielder Joe Panik said Monday as his teammates wrapped up a session of live batting practice at the dome they can’t call home. “Basically, we have two bags packed.”

Such were the discomfiting circumstances in which the Blue Jays threw themselves into the final days of preparation for this unprecedented season of pandemic uncertainty. As final roster decisions loom before Hyun-Jin Ryu takes the mound at Tropicana Field for Friday’s opener with the Tampa Bay Rays, the front office officials frantically worked through a host of issues to find themselves a temporary home for the 60-game campaign.

While GM Ross Atkins said the team had roughly five different contingencies in play, the likeliest scenarios had them turning into the unexpected houseguests of either the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, or the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.

The logistics of how to make it happen with both minimal disruption to their hosts and strict adherence to Major League Baseball’s COVID-19 protocols was a focal point throughout the day, with how to set up an alternate Blue Jays clubhouse at each facility among the priorities.

For that reason multi-stadium plans – the Blue Jays have looked into using both the New York parks, too, but they probably wouldn’t want to essentially give the Yankees more home games, also – were more problematic, as more temporary clubhouses means more costs incurred.

In Pittsburgh, a hotel mere steps from the ballpark offered one potential, relatively easy solution, while in Baltimore, the right-field concourse or the famed warehouse in the backdrop could both accommodate temporary set-ups with only minor intrusions.

There are minimal scheduling conflicts with both clubs, only five home dates in common with the Orioles and seven with the Pirates. All are relatively resolvable with minor tweaks, helping them emerge as the best options.

The Pirates certainly appear interested, as president Travis Williams issued a statement confirming “active” discussions with Major League Baseball and the Blue Jays, describing the endeavour as “a monumental challenge for our staff,” while adding, “leaning in to help others is what Pittsburghers do best.”

“If we are able to safely accommodate, not only will it bring additional international attention to our city,” Williams continued, “it will also bring with it jobs and revenue for local hotels, restaurants and other businesses that will support the Blue Jays organization as well as additional visiting teams.”

Still, Atkins kept things vague when it came to locations during a 32-minute Zoom call with media on Monday, eventually acknowledging the obvious that “we are focused on getting into a major-league facility.”

To that end, planning for some of the infrastructure additions needed in Buffalo – where Sahlen Field is home to the club’s triple-A team but relegated to in-case-of-emergency fail-safe – was dialled down, suggesting momentum toward their primary goal. The Blue Jays’ spring facility in Dunedin is a secondary fallback, although no one wants any part of COVID-surging Florida.

Lead Off with Ziggy and Scotty Mac

Mayor of Buffalo makes the pitch for his city to host the Blue Jays

July 20 2020

That it has come down to this, with barely a week remaining before the club’s July 29 “home” opener against the Washington Nationals, is a result of the Blue Jays needing the federal government’s rejection of their plan “to become a reality for all of the stakeholders to put it all systems go on these potential contingencies,” said Atkins.

“All we could do as an organization is paint them to the best of our ability, have discussions that were contingent with all of the stakeholders,” added Atkins. “Now it’s just a matter of finalizing those details and hitting go in a world that has changed in just two weeks, as it relates to the outbreak, as it relates to the changing information on a daily basis.”

Threading the needle now involves satisfying all the season’s health and safety protocols, and Atkins described getting teams to “open up their architectural drawings and work through them and talk about social distancing within those facilities without ever compromising theirs is the first hurdle.”

“We worked on as much as we possibly could with the information that we had, and now we’re crossing the Ts and dotting the Is as more information is shared with us,” he continued. “The second (hurdle) would be (tweaking the schedule) … and there is some open-mindedness and there are discussions being had about just shifting the venues potentially, since we don’t have fans and we will be broadcast and televised. We’ll talk about all those alternatives, and work through a way that we can create as much consistency and safety for our players and the other teams, as well.”

The July 29 is in conflict with home dates for both the Pirates and Orioles, but since the Blue Jays are already in Washington, they could stay there as the home team for a pair with the Nationals. The July 31-Aug. 2 series against the Philadelphia Phillies is in conflict with Baltimore not Pittsburgh, and could be played at Citizens Bank Park if they ended up at Camden.

The trickle-down effect of the uncertainty is that as a 38-man group departed for Boston and, afterwards, Tampa Bay, with 22 players staying behind in Toronto, awaiting the location of the team’s alternate training site to settle. Buffalo remains a candidate for that, although the home site needs to be settled first.

Meanwhile, the season creeps closer and closer and closer.

“The reason it’s not just all of (the contingencies) on a tee, is because not only do all of them involve the support and guidance from other organizations, but they’re massive investments so investing in five to eight contingency plans wouldn’t be the best business,” said Atkins. “We’re confident, however, that we will be able to execute and we have prepared to be able to hit go and have a facility up to a standard that we feel our players will not be compromised.”

Professionally, perhaps.

Personally, though?

No chance.

Consider Panik’s preparation for Monday’s departure and multiply that by the entire roster, coaching staff and support staff.

“My personal stuff, I was basically able to condense everything down into a big suitcase and one of those smaller suitcases,” said Panik. “I’m almost … treating it as a two-month, on-the-road exploration somewhere. From years past, me and my wife always pack up a car and ship it out with all the home stuff. Now it’s clothes and telling my wife I’ll see you wherever I see you. …

“It’s not a joking matter, but we kind of laugh about it, the way 2020 has gone in so many different ways,” continued Panik. “When I played (in Toronto) last year on the road, I fell in love with the city, being able to walk around the city, go to the ballpark. It was a fun place to be. Now that we’re not going to be able to play here is disappointing. The guys in that clubhouse, that is what is going to help us get through the 60 games no matter what. We’re going to be spending most of the time with each other, we have a good group in there and that’s what is going to get us through the time.”

Living in a vagabond state leaves the Blue Jays with little other choice.

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Haggerty: Nick, you're out of time – NBC Sports Boston

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As feel-good as any Stanley Cup Playoff game undoubtedly is, there is also time for evaluation and improvement.

It will be a quick turnaround time for the Boston Bruins after they took a 4-3 overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday afternoon in the Toronto bubble at Scotiabank Arena, and that won’t give the Bruins coaching staff much time to break things down. The biggest decision will be who they should go with between the pipes — Tuukka Rask in a back-to-back situation or backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

There are good reasons to go with either one of them already up 1-0 over Carolina in the best-of-seven series.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

But there are other decisions to be made, and one that the Bruins should go with starting in Thursday’s Game 2 is the removal of Nick Ritchie from the lineup.

Ritchie came into this postseason as a real question mark after playing little more than a handful of games for the Bruins after arriving at the trade deadline from Anaheim in exchange for Danton Heinen.

In theory, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Ritchie would provide needed physical thump to the Boston lineup and play the power forward game on the wing along with big, strong third line center Charlie Coyle. But Ritchie simply played like a weak link in Boston’s overtime win against the Hurricanes in his first real playoff experience with the Black and Gold.

Krejci lines dominates & other takeaways from Game 1

The 24-year-old Ritchie finished without a shot on net in 12:50 of ice time with the Bruins on Wednesday and had four hits while sometimes taking the body against the Hurricanes. But he wasn’t nearly a big enough physical presence, and even worse played a key role in a pair of goals against for the Bruins while making both mental and physical mistakes at crucial moments.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t going to hammer anybody for it after a playoff win, but Ritchie’s subpar performance certainly didn’t go unnoticed either.

“I think [the young guys] were looking after their own game. I think just one line was on the ice for a couple goals and this is Bjork’s first playoffs with us, Ritchie,” said Cassidy, referencing the third line being on the ice for a pair of goals against as well as Charlie Coyle’s second period goal for Boston. “[The veteran guys] were like ‘hey, listen stuff happens.’ Let’s make sure we tighten up the next time. Keep playing your game. They got a big goal for us, too, so there is a little bit of that communication to the new guys.

“We talked to Lauzy [Jeremy Lauzon]. Charlie [McAvoy] had to go to the dressing room for a second so Lauzy got a few extra shifts. You just battle and play. I think you have to get the first couple [of playoff games] under your belt. No one is tearing anybody down here. It’s not the time of the year to do that. We’re trying to motivate and encourage guys for sure, but the players are good that way. That’s why they’re winners. [Ondrej] Kase is another guy, first game. I thought he was fantastic. He’s on pucks all night, played his game. Had some good looks. A nice play on [David] Krejci’s goal. That line arguably was – you always look at the tape, whatever the tape after and they’re probably our most dangerous line tonight. So that is something that we talked about. Secondary scoring. Get a goal out of Charlie Coyle, third line.”

In the first period, Ritchie gave up on a play along the boards and drifted away from Warren Foegele as the entire unit of Bruins defenders puck-watched rather than working to get the puck out of the zone. Eventually it turned into a Joel Edmundson scoring point shot from the high point that Ritchie wasn’t able to put a body in front of on its way to the net. But the bigger issue was Ritchie simply giving up on a play when he was the closest to be able to give defensive support on a play that ended up going bad.

It was Ritchie again in the third period losing a battle along the boards to the much smaller Martin Necas that extended Carolina possession, and eventually ended with Haydn Fleury scoring on a point blast with a screened Tuukka Rask in front.

In both instances board battles were lost that ended up with pucks in the back of the Boston net. And if Ritchie isn’t even going to win the board battles, what is the point of his size and strength that’s bringing to the table?

Wednesday’s game was physical to be sure as a playoff opener, but it wasn’t overly nasty to the point where you need Ritchie for intimidation purposes. The Bruins would be much better off going with the speedy, two-way play of Karson Kuhlman in Game 2 on the third line while also sliding Anders Bjork to his natural left wing spot on the third line. That would give the Bruins a much faster third line that could better combat the speed and pressure that the Hurricanes are bringing to the table against the Black and Gold.

Perhaps a healthy scratch would also send a message that there’s no room for him in the lineup if he isn’t decisively winning his physical battles and playing up to the size/strength combo he was blessed with as a hockey player. Either way, the Bruins should learn from some of the mistakes that didn’t end up costing them permanently in Game 1, and Ritchie made way too many of them to stick around in the Boston lineup.

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Canadiens @ Flyers G1: Game thread, rosters, lines, and how to watch – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Game 1

Montreal Canadiens @ Philadelphia Flyers

How to watch

Start time: 8:00 PM EDT / 5:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the US: NBC
Streaming: Sportsnet Now

Since the Canadiens sent the Pittsburgh Penguins packing, much of the entertainment for Habs fans has been derived from watching the Toronto Maple Leafs. First it was a three-goal comeback that had everyone in the national media wondering if that was the moment the Leafs overcame their demons to become a proper Stanley Cup contender, then two days later those same Leafs did the familiar thing of stumbling their way out of the post-season without winning a single playoff series.

Now that media switches its attention to a Habs team it completely wrote off ahead of the post-season beginning, and is finding out there is a surprising amount of quality on the Montreal roster despite its regular-season performance and a few sales at the trade deadline.

The Flyers aren’t going to be nearly as surprised as the Penguins were. Rather than relying on a few offensive stars, Philadelphia has a good complement of forwards and a forechecking system that works hard regardless of the quality of their opponent. It’s not a team that is going to get outworked very often, and that’s something Montreal will need to match to have a chance.

Where the Canadiens may have the advantage once more is on defence. Claude Julien trusted two pairings with major minutes in the opening round, while Alain Vigneault only has one he feels confident handing the defensive matchups to. If Montreal can get the play flowing more to the Flyers’ end with their own forechecking abilities, they will get a shot to surprise a few more pundits tonight.

Montreal Canadiens projected lineup

Forwards

Left WingCentreRight Wing
Left WingCentreRight Wing
Artturi LehkonenPhillip DanaultPaul Byron
Tomas TatarNick SuzukiBrendan Gallagher
Jonathan DrouinJesperi KotkaniemiJoel Armia
Dale WeiseMax DomiAlex Belzile

Defencemen

Left DefenceRight Defence
Left DefenceRight Defence
Ben ChiarotShea Weber
Brett KulakJeff Petry
Xavier OuelletVictor Mete

Goaltenders

StarterBackup
StarterBackup
Carey PriceCharlie Lindgren

Scratches: Jake Evans, Cale Fleury, Christian Folin, Charles Hudon, Noah Juulsen, Michael McNiven, Gustav Olofsson, Ryan Poehling, Cayden Primeau

Philadelphia Flyers projected lineup

Forwards

Left WingCentreRight Wing
Left WingCentreRight Wing
Claude GirouxSean CouturierJoel Farabee
Scott LaughtonKevin HayesTravis Konecny
Nicolas Aubé-KubelDerek GrantJakub Voracek
James van RiemsdykNate ThompsonTyler Pitlick

Defencemen

Left DefenceRight Defence
Left DefenceRight Defence
Ivan ProvorovMatt Niskanen
Philippe MyersTravis Sanheim
Shayne GostisbehereJustin Braun

Goaltenders

StarterBackup
StarterBackup
Carter HartBrian Elliott

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Hurricanes' Rod Brind'Amour fined $25K for criticizing officials after Game 1 loss – ESPN

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Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour was fined $25,000 by the NHL after he criticized the officiating in Wednesday’s 4-3 double-overtime loss to the Boston Bruins in Toronto.

In a statement, the league also assessed a conditional fine of $25,000 to Brind’Amour “which will be collected, in addition to any subsequent discipline, in the event of similar inappropriate behavior through Aug. 12, 2021.”

Brind’Amour took umbrage to Charlie Coyle‘s goal in the second period, arguing there was an illegal hand pass preceding it. The officials ruled Canes goalie Petr Mrazek controlled the puck, which negated the hand pass. The referees, however, did not blow a whistle when Mrazek appeared to freeze the puck.

Mrazek then lost control of the puck, and Coyle had a wide open net in which to shoot.

Brind’Amour was not asked about the incident in his postgame Zoom conference, so he called local beat writers afterward to vent.

“This is why the league’s a joke, in my opinion, on these things,” Brind’Amour told The News & Observer. “That one is a crime scene.”

Brind’Amour said referees Chris Lee and Francis Charron did not give him any information about the call on the ice, which left him a choice: challenge the hand pass or challenge the missed stoppage.

Brind’Amour chose wrong, and it cost the Canes a goal.

“They came to me, and I said, ‘If he has possession of it, then it’s goalie interference. If he doesn’t have possession, then it’s a hand pass. It’s one of the two. I don’t know what you’re calling on the ice,'” Brind’Amour told The News & Observer of what he said to the officials. “All he has to do is tell me, ‘We’re calling it non-possession [by Mrazek],’ then we’re challenging a glove-hand pass. If it’s possession, then goaltender interference. I said, ‘Tell me the call on the ice.’ They wouldn’t do it when I said, ‘What is the call?’ So I had to flip a coin.”

Brind’Amour said he asked the referees what they called on the ice, and he said the referees responded only that he had to “call one or the other.”

“It should be so easy,” Brind’Amour said. “If they said the goalie had it, then it’s an easy call. They wouldn’t tell you. It makes no sense. I know we weren’t the better team, but if that goal doesn’t go in, do we win that game? I don’t know.”

Patrice Bergeron scored in the second overtime to give Boston a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is Thursday.

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