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Sheldon Keefe Post Game, Leafs 8 vs. Avalanche 3: "I like a lot of things about our game today, but I don't leave the rink feeling like we dominated or anything like that" – Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs post game

Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe spoke to the media after the Maple Leafs’ electric 8-3 blowout win over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday evening — their NHL-leading 17th win of the year.


On the quality of the team’s start:

We thought we needed to start quickly in the game. Obviously, playing with a lead is important always but especially against this team. To build the lead that we did was great to see. I thought we moved the puck really well in that first period which gave us a chance to get after them and attack their net. It’s nice to get that lead and start quick.

On the blowout performance overall:

I don’t think it was an 8-3 game, to be honest. We were playing a team that faced some adversity before the game with their goaltending and I thought we capitalized on that. I think that makes the game feel a lot different than it was.

It’s a tough game, I can imagine, on their side — pucks are going in like that. I like a lot of things about our game here today, but I don’t leave the rink feeling like we dominated or anything like that.

They had the puck quite a bit — I thought we defended well as a group. The thing we really wanted to focus on was our defensive zone — we knew that they were going to spend a lot of time in our end as they usually do. That was important for us to be good there and I was happy with the job we did. For the most part, we limited them to point shots, tips, and things of that nature. Against a team of that quality, you’ll take that.

On what kept Joseph Woll from dressing as backup tonight:

He just came into the game stiff from practice yesterday to the point that he wasn’t comfortable, or [the medical staff] weren’t comfortable allowing him to skate. We’ll see how he is after a day off, both today and tomorrow now. It’s minor, so we hope he bounces back.

On Auston Matthews’ hat trick:

First of all, I thought that line really moved the puck — they were really good down below the hash marks. Those first two goals are just really good sequences by that line — just unbelievable passes by Mitch Marner in both cases and elite finishes as well. On the third one, he gets in alone and that’s a pretty good shot that kisses the post and goes in. It’s nice to see it go in — he hasn’t had many of those this season and those are ones that usually go in for him. To get it to be the one that finishes off the hat trick on home ice is pretty cool.

On Michael Bunting’s three-assist game alongside Matthews-Marner:

He did a lot of really good things off the puck today in terms of working on the forecheck. On the first goal, he’s on it and gets the first touch then goes to Mitch back to Auston.

Good example of the type of game we need from him. I looked at it as he comes away with three assists in the game. There’s maybe nothing that really stands out in terms of how he got those, but he’s a part of those sequences there leading to goals, so he’s contributing in his own way.

On whether there’s concern that the team will become complacent given their recent success:

I think with the fact that we’ve gotten to this point and things have rolled the way they have, the guys themselves have done a good job of that and assuring that we just stay on it. Am I concerned about it? No, because the players themselves have done a really good job here of late, but — at the same time — there are a number of things that we can do a whole lot better. We’re going to enjoy the day off tomorrow — the players very much need a day off and a day away. They’re still recovering from that road trip, so tomorrow’s an important day.

As a staff, we’ve already got a number of things that we want to work on tomorrow and work at in practice to help us prepare for Minnesota.

On Joey Anderson’s season debut performance:

I really liked [his] game. He was strong on the puck in terms of having it and fighting his way through traffic. He’s around the net and strong off the puck, too. He won some battles and got the puck back for us. From what I was looking to see from him, I think he delivered that and fit in well on that line.

On the termination of Kirill Semyonov’s contract:

It’s one of those situations with these guys that come over — they come over because they want to get a look in the NHL and get a chance to play in the league. It doesn’t always go as smoothly as they would hope. The organization has always been really good at working with guys on this if it’s not going to way that they’ve liked. In particular, for the Russian players coming from the KHL, they leave some pretty good situations there.

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Soccer-Premier League says minimum four COVID-19 cases needed for fixture postponement

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Premier League sides can apply for a fixture postponement only if they have a minimum of four positive COVID-19 cases in their squads, the league said on Wednesday following a meeting of representatives of all 20 clubs.

A total of 22 games have been called off this season due to COVID-19 outbreaks and the subsequent unavailability of players, with the league being criticised by some clubs for their handling of the crisis.

Earlier, a match could be postponed if one of the teams did not have 13 available outfield players — and one goalkeeper — “either from its squad list or its appropriately experienced Under-21 players”.

“Following a club meeting today, the Premier League’s COVID-19 match postponement guidance has been updated to include a COVID-19 impact threshold,” the league said in a statement.

“From now on, if a club applies to postpone a match on the grounds of insufficient players due to COVID-19, they must have a minimum of four positive cases within their squad.”

The new guidelines will kick in ahead of the game between Burnley and Watford on Feb. 5.

The previous rule came under heavy scrutiny, with some clubs being accused of “manipulating the system” in order to get games postponed during the busy festive period.

Tottenham Hotspsur were most vocal in their criticism following the postponement of the north London derby earlier this month, saying they were “extremely surprised” that the request from Arsenal, who had one COVID-19 case, was accepted.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel and his Arsenal counterpart Mikel Arteta had also called for more clarity around postponements related to COVID-19.

The league added: “Club applications will continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The Premier League Board examines a number of factors, including the ability of a club to field a team; the status, severity and potential impact of COVID-19.”

On Monday, the league said it had reported 16 new infections of COVID-19 in the previous week, continuing a downward trend in the number of positive cases for a fourth week.

 

(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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Better late than never: Oilers elevate game in third to beat Canucks – Sportsnet.ca

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There it was, on a silver platter.

A chance for a losing team to build on its first win in eight games, Saturday’s heartening 5-3 victory over Calgary still coursing through the veins. An opportunity to build some momentum against a Vancouver team in the throes of a COVID-19 shortage, ripe for a home loss against what was supposed to be a confident Oilers club.

This should be easy, right?

What? The Canucks are starting Spencer Martin in goal?

Piece of cake, right?

Yeah, right.

Down 2-0 with less than 15 minutes to play on Tuesday, Ryan McLeod slipped a shot between Martin and the near post. It was Martin’s only mistake on a 50-shot night, but by the time they were done the Oilers had fought back for a 3-2 overtime victory.

In recent losing streaks of six and seven games, it was usually Edmonton’s netminder who would surrender that queasy goal at an important moment. But now, after winning two straight games, if ever you wanted evidence that perhaps Edmonton’s luck has turned, look no further than the smelly goal that opened the floodgates in Vancouver.

“It’s 16 games. It’s tough to blame it all on bounces,” Connor McDavid admitted of their woes of late. “We weren’t playing our best hockey, but bounces do go a long way, and ‘Clouder found a way to sneak one through.”

“(Martin) was playing unbelievable, shutting the door all game,” said McLeod, who has five goals in 27 games this season. “It’s just the little squeaker ones that go in first and open the door for the rest of the guys. Early in the shift, I had a chance to shoot and I made a pass. They’ve been telling me to shoot a little more. I decided to shoot.”

From there the Oilers dominated a Canucks team that has been gutted by COVID cases, showing up to play Tuesday with no Bo Horvat, no Tanner Pearson, no Conor Garland and neither of the goaltending tandem of Thatcher Demko nor Jaro Halak.

Cue Martin, the third-stringer who faced an even 50 shots and held Edmonton to two regulation goals. He had preceded McLeod with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, and played against Connor McDavid back in their minor hockey days around the GTA. So the Oilers knew of him, if not how to beat him through the opening 45 minutes.

But once McLeod broke the seal, you could see Edmonton gain life. The Oilers outshot Vancouver 15-9 in the third period and 9-1 in overtime. Leon Draisaitl’s 29th tied the game halfway through the third off a lovely pass by the returning Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and McDavid scored his first since Dec. 31 to capture the second point in overtime.

The Oilers captain has been slumping for a few weeks. The jump has been there, just not the usual production.

“I’ve been a bit snake bit,” he said. “I feel like I’m getting my chances, but haven’t been able to put one away. It was nice to be able to contribute and find a way to score a goal.”

Nice to win two straight, something the Oilers last did in the two games between six- and seven-game losing streaks. They are still right in thick of the Pacific Division race with half a season to go, but only if they can win a goodly share of their games in hand.

“It’s important — we want to get on a little roll here. That’s the main focus,” said McDavid, whose team faces Nashville on Thursday before hitting the road for Montreal, Ottawa and Washington. “It was a big win on Saturday, it’s a big win tonight. We’ve got to keep marching forward.”

It was the second straight game that Edmonton fell behind 2-0 and then battled back to win. “Not exactly a recipe for success,” said McDavid.

They still never score first — this was the 10th straight game and 25th of 28 games they’ve gone down 1-0 — but give the Oilers credit. They dominated this hockey game, outshooting Vancouver 50-27 while garnering 62.5 percent of scoring chances and 81.25 percent of the high danger scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Meanwhile, Mikko Koskinen was his usual self in goal. And by that we mean you wondered about one goal, an Elias Pettersson snapper from the outside edge of the circle, but he stopped Tyler Motte on a crucial short-handed breakaway that immediately preceded Draisaitl’s game-tying goal.

In the end Koskinen allowed two, and in a 3-2 league his team won by that exact score. Consider it a game well goaltended.

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Canada's Auger-Aliassime suffers agonizing 5-set loss to Medvedev at Australian Open – CBC Sports

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Felix Auger-Aliassime was one point away from a win over world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and a spot in the Australian Open semifinals.

But the young Canadian couldn’t finish the match off, and the Russian veteran made the most of his reprieve.

One hour and 14 minutes later, Medvedev had come back from a two-sets-to-none deficit at a Grand Slam tournament for only the second time in his career and stunned Auger-Aliassime 6-7 (4), 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5, 6-4.

“You step on the court, you want to have no regrets,” Auger-Aliassime said after the four hour, 42-minute quarter-final marathon that ended early Thursday morning in Melbourne. “I can go back and think I wish I’d made different choices or wish Daniil didn’t play as well in certain moments. But, yeah, it was a good effort.

“At the end of the day, I can’t regret the effort that I put in, and the chances I gave myself.”

WATCH | Auger-Aliassime drops heartbreaker to Medvedev:

Medvedev rallies to oust Auger-Aliassime in epic Australian Open quarter-final match

3 hours ago

Duration 4:56

Russia’s Daniil Medvedev rallied from two sets down to eliminate Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-7 (4), 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5, 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. 4:56

With the lion’s share of support from a good crowd held down somewhat by government-imposed limits due to COVID-19, the 21-year-old from Montreal was in control for much of the early going.

“Of course I would have loved to win. I love to win every time. It sucks to lose in the end, but that’s life. I just need to accept it,” he said.

Rain delay flips momentum

A surprisingly erratic Medvedev looked subpar physically. An effortful grunt accompanied his every move, and he was sweating heavily. The 25-year-old had issues with everything from the crowd, to the editorial choices on the giant screens, to the moving roof atop Rod Laver Arena.

He was searching for solutions, and not finding any holes in Auger-Aliassime’s game.

“I was not playing my best, and Felix was playing unbelievable,” Medvedev said during his on-court interview after the win. “He was serving unbelievable. He was all over me. I didn’t really know what to do.”

And then, a little rain changed everything — at least for Medvedev.

Medvedev reaches to hit a forehand. (Getty Images)

With the Russian serving at 2-1 in the third-set tiebreak, there was a seven-minute delay as a brief shower led the retractable roof to be closed and the court dried off with towels by the ball kids.

Medvedev went off court briefly as Auger-Aliassime sat in his chair, muttering to himself.

The Russian returned and won five of the next points, and the third set.

“In the first set and in the tiebreak I was sweating like hell and made a few double faults, because my hand was really slippery,” said Medvedev, who tried swapping out his wristbands for dry ones but still couldn’t get a good grip.

“When they closed the roof, I felt the momentum changed, and I felt like I could go through the ball better.”

Once the air conditioning kicked in, the temperature inside Rod Laver Arena dropped a good 10 degrees. And that helped.

There was no rain for the rest of the match. But the roof remained closed.

Small missed opportunities

Auger-Aliassime conceded that there were small moments of opportunity even before that tiebreak — little openings that, if exploited, might have given him a straight-sets win.

The experienced champions recognize those moments, and put pedal to metal to finish things off. At 21, Auger-Aliassime is still learning.

Still, in the fourth set, serving to stay in the match at 4-5, Medvedev double-faulted and gifted the Canadian a match point.

And then he wrenched it away with a massive 213 km/hour serve — his fastest of the night.

Auger-Aliassime had plenty of Canadian supporters in the crowd. (AFP via Getty Images)

Medvedev was trying everything. Even then, Auger-Aliassime had opportunities to break early in the fifth set. But every time the door was slightly ajar Medvedev found a solution, or Auger-Aliassime couldn’t quite make the play.

“I told myself: what would Novak [Djokovic] do?” said Medvedev, to a chorus of boos of the Melbourne crowd at the mere mention of the absent nine-time champion’s name.

“That’s what came to my mind, because he’s one of the greatest champions — and Rafa [Nadal] and Roger [Federer], to be honest,” he added. “I’m going to make him work.

“If he wants to win it, he needs to fight for the last point.”

Medvedev changed his return position from well beyond the Melbourne banner behind the baseline, moving up several metres into the court.

He wasted as little time as humanly possible between points on his serve — a couple of times, he was ready to serve before chair umpire Damien Dumusois had even started the 25-second serve clock.

He gave no time for his opponent to get set for the return, and Auger-Aliassime’s return effectiveness dropped.

Medvedev came into the net a lot more in the tiebreaks, and when he was behind.

Suddenly, none of the external distractions bothered him. He no longer looked as though he was struggling physically.

Silver lining

For Auger-Aliassime, who had a medical timeout at 2-3 in the fifth set to have some tape added to an already tightly wrapped right ankle, the plan in 2022 is to find the silver lining — no matter what.

“It’s no surprise [Medvedev] is where he is now. He fights, tries to find solutions. He plays well when he needs to,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I think he was just a little bit more clutch than me — a little bit more solid at times.

“It comes with experience as well, I think. But I’m looking forward to the next time I can put myself in that situation. I believe I can cross the line.”

Auger-Aliassime was looking to reach his second straight Grand Slam semifinal. He made it to the final four of last year’s U.S. Open, where he also lost to eventual champion Medvedev.

Still, the Montrealer has made it to at least the quarter-finals in his last three Grand Slams.

Medvedev is looking to become the first man in the Open era to win his first two Grand Slam titles in consecutive tournaments. He faces French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday.

Nadal, seeking a men’s record 21st major title to break a tie with Djokovic and Federer, will play Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini in the other semifinal match.

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