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Super Bowl LV: Expert picks and predictions – Sportsnet.ca

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It seemed in doubt so many times, but we made it — the big game has arrived.

With Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs set to face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV, Sportsnet’s expert panel is ready to weigh in on who will win the day, and who will walk away empty handed.

The panel includes editors Geoff Lowe and Craig Battle, fantasy analyst Andy McNamara, and staff writers Donnovan Bennett, Emily Sadler and Mike Johnston.

So who will hoist the Lombardi Trophy?

Donnovan Bennett
The Pick:
Kansas City Chiefs
The Score: 34–22
Super Bowl MVP: Patrick Mahomes

The Breakdown: Eighteen years, 45 days. That’s the age difference between the starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl, the largest discrepancy in NFL history.

Patrick Mahomes is looking for his second championship, and first since turning 26. Brady is looking for his seventh, and first since turning 40. Mahomes’ teams are averaging 34.1 points per game in his playoff starts, the highest ever with a minimum of five games played. Mahomes has won his last 12 starts going back to mid-October, and is 26-1 going back to Week 11 of last season.

Not only is the Baby Goat better than the GOAT at this point of their careers — his team is better also. The final passing of the torch to the Mahomes era will officially take place Sunday.

Mike Johnston
The Pick:
Kansas City Chiefs
The Score: 30–26
Super Bowl MVP: Patrick Mahomes

The Breakdown: My 2021 Superb Owl pick is the Northern Hawk Owl, known for using its short and pointed wings to fly/glide close to the ground at high speeds… sort of like how Tyreek Hill manoeuvres his five-foot-10 frame around a field unlike anyone else in the sport.

That’s partly why my 2021 Super Bowl pick is the Chiefs. Hill can burn you by himself or can be used as the most effective decoy in football — either way, it’s to KC’s benefit.

Andy McNamara
The Pick:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Score: 32–28
Super Bowl MVP: Tom Brady

The Breakdown: Like Hulk Hogan versus The Rock at WrestleMania 18, this Super Bowl showdown is also a battle between the GOAT (Tom Brady) and current top star (Patrick Mahomes). The game is essentially a pick’em with Kansas City as a 3.0-point favourite, but I think Tom Brady has that immeasurable drive — the “it” factor to prove the world wrong — that will push him over the top.

Brady is a rhythm quarterback, which means timing is vital to the offence operating successfully. The last four games of the regular season and into the playoffs we saw Tampa Bay really gel.

Think about what TB12 had to overcome to get back to the dance: He had next to no off-season with his new teammates; his star receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin battled injuries early on; Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski had to shake off rust. The Bucs worked through it all to the tune of a 19-4 TD-INT ratio for Brady in his last seven outings.

Of course, Mahomes and his plethora of weapons are lethal against any defence, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Bucs try to pressure the reigning Super Bowl MVP as they lead the league in post-season sacks.

I would be shocked if SBLV was decided by more than a single score. In the end, Brady slaps Father Time in the mouth one more time and holds off the Chiefs’ emerging dynasty run.

Emily Sadler
The Pick:
Kansas City Chiefs
The Score: 32–28
Super Bowl MVP: Patrick Mahomes

The Breakdown: A shootout in the first half between the GOAT and the heir to the NFL throne could put this matchup on pace to be the highest-scoring Super Bowl in history.

At least, that’s what we want to happen.

More likely, though, it might be a slow start for Mahomes & Co. — something we’ve seen from this club quite a bit this year and last. Up against a dangerous defence, the Chiefs’ offence could be forced to toil its way up the field and grind things out… until late in the game, when Mahomes exploits a tired Buccaneers front four and takes hold of this game like we all know he can.

The result will be a defensive battle that blossoms into an offensive affair late in the third quarter and a thrilling finish that sees the Chiefs defend their title against King Brady in his own castle.

Geoff Lowe
The Pick:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Score: 24–20
Super Bowl MVP: Tom Brady

The Breakdown: It’s hard to bet against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offence after the deadly display we all witnessed in the AFC title game against the Bills, but the Buccaneers have two things going for them that Buffalo did not: 1) Tom Brady under centre, and 2) a dominant defensive line that can take advantage of a Chiefs offensive line built mostly of backups.

Stopping Mahomes altogether is seemingly impossible, something Tampa knows all too well after losing to Kansas City earlier this season. Containing Mahomes, however, could build a path to victory for the Buccaneers if their defensive line is able to get the best of the banged-up Chiefs offensive line – something the Bucs were able to do against the Packers in the NFC title game that led to five sacks of Aaron Rodgers.

With that in mind, we set the scene for Sunday night:

Tampa’s defensive line does its job in limiting Kansas City to one of its lowest point totals of the entire season, and then it’s Brady’s time to shine.

Despite keeping Mahomes and the Chiefs offence largely in check, the Bucs face a three-point deficit as time winds down in the fourth quarter. Brady and Tampa’s offence get the ball down 20-17 with sights set on snatching victory from the hands of Mahomes. TB12 leads the Bucs down the field methodically, including a couple of tight third-down conversions, and with the game on the line and less than a minute on the clock, Brady finds – who else? – his old pal Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone to complete the game-winning drive, Brady’s seventh on the Super Bowl stage.

Another chapter is added to the legend of Tom Brady, as the GOAT wins his seventh Super Bowl title and first without Bill Belichick by his side.

Craig Battle
The Pick:
Kansas City Chiefs
The Score: 34–23
Super Bowl MVP: Patrick Mahomes

The Breakdown: Tom Brady is an ageless wonder, and Tampa is a good team on a nice roll. But they caught every possible break in the NFC Championship Game — including a once-in-a-lifetime screwup by the Packers secondary at the end of the first half and a series of gaffes from the Green Bay coaching staff — and it still went down to the wire.

Meanwhile, Kansas City is a dynasty in the making. They’ve barely lost in the past two years, and just thoroughly outclassed a very strong Bills team two weeks back.

It’s one game, anything can happen, I wouldn’t be shocked if the ball bounced Tampa’s way, and I don’t like betting against Brady. But one of these teams is the best in football, and the other isn’t.

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Defending champion Kerri Einarson secures Scotties playoff berth – Sportsnet.ca

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CALGARY — Kerri Einarson took a significant step toward defending her Canadian women’s curling championship by skipping her team to a playoff berth Saturday.

Einarson’s foursome out of Manitoba’s Gimli Curling Club beat Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges 7-4 to get to a record of 10-1 with a draw remaining Saturday night.

“We’re definitely just focusing on ourselves and what we need to do,” Einarson said. “We’re in control of our own destiny.”

Ontario’s Rachel Homan (9-2), Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones (8-3) and Alberta’s Laura Walker (8-3) were in contention for the two remaining playoff spots heading into the final draw of the championship round.

The top seed emerging from the championship round earns a bye to Sunday evening’s final, while second and third square off in the afternoon semifinal.

A tie for third would be solved by a tiebreaker game in the morning.

The 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts is one of four Curling Canada events to be held in a spectator-free, controlled environment at the WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary.

The COVID-19 pandemic thwarting many provincial and territorial playdowns prompted Curling Canada to add two wild-card teams to the Hearts field for a total of 18, which in turn shrunk the playoff window.

Instead of the traditional four teams in a Page playoff, only three advance.

Einarson is attempting the first back-to-back Hearts titles since Rachel Homan in 2013 and 2014.

Sunday’s victor earns $100,000 in prize money and a return trip to the 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont., as Team Canada.

The winner doesn’t have a world championship, however, in which to wear the Maple Leaf.

The March 19-28 tournament in Schaffhausen, Switzerland was cancelled by the World Curling Federation because of the pandemic.

The 2020 world championship in Prince George, B.C., was called off for the same reason, so Einarson wasn’t able to represent Canada there.

Six-time champion Jennifer Jones of Manitoba thumped Ontario’s Homan 9-1 on Saturday afternoon before facing Einarson at night.

Jones had struggled the previous evening in a loss to Alberta, but the skip and her teammates were on their game against three-time champion Homan.

“We definitely regrouped and decided we needed to step it up a little bit,” Jones said. “Last night’s loss doesn’t impact our confidence at all. I think that just comes with experience.”

It wasn’t the first time that Jones’ lead Lisa Weagle faced former skip Homan, but it was the first time at a Tournament of Hearts.

Homan, third Emma Miskew and Weagle won three Canadian titles and a world title together. They also represented Canada in the 2018 Winter Olympics with Joanne Courtney.

Homan dropped Weagle from her lineup last year and replaced her with Sarah Wilkes.

Weagle met her former teammates Nov. 12 in an Okotoks, Alta., event. Homan won the game 7-1.

There was a time when Weagle might have felt extra satisfaction in beating Homan for the first time, but the all-star lead says that time has passed.

“If you’d asked me that a few months ago, or over the summer, probably,” Weagle said.

“Today, I was really just out there playing for me and I was playing for my team. I just wanted to find a new level of excellence and play really well and I feel like that’s what we’ve been doing here.

“It wasn’t really my focus today that we were playing them. I was definitely excited for the game, but I was focused more on myself.”

Quebec, Saskatchewan’s Sherry Anderson, and wild-card teams skipped by Beth Peterson and Chelsea Carey are out of contention with their fifth losses.

Alberta’s Walker stayed in the hunt with a 9-4 win over Saskatchewan.

The host province was to take on Carey’s Wild Card One and Homan faced Saskatchewan on Saturday evening.

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Surging Oilers lay an egg against Maple Leafs on big stage – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — They had a game like this one coming, the Edmonton Oilers. But man…

Couldn’t they have saved this effort for a Monday night? Or a Wednesday?

In the first of a three-game set at Rogers Place against the first-place Toronto Maple Leafs, the Oilers just didn’t have enough going to beat a good team on Hockey Night in Canada. There were chances, but very few of the dangerous or close-in variety as Leafs backup Jack Campbell was steady, but never needed to be spectacular in posting a 4-0 shutout.

“We just didn’t deserve to win this game and that’s that,” said centre Leon Draisaitl, who like all of his teammates was somewhat less than awesome in this game. “It’s pretty obvious that they just out-battled us.”

Truly, this was just a lacklustre effort on Edmonton’s part, not nearly enough to beat the best team in the North. The challengers did not even put a scare into Toronto, which pulls six points ahead of Edmonton.

“We got beat,” said a dead-honest head coach Dave Tippett. “We weren’t sharp enough, and they played a strong game. We weren’t sharp enough to win. So we got beat.”

Coming into this showdown, the Oilers had been on a wicked heater, winning 11 of 13, eight of their past nine, and five in a row. They’ve been celebrating a new hero every night for some time now, getting superior goaltending, goals from their third and fourth lines, and plenty of points from league leaders Connor McDavid and Draisaitl.

On this night, Tippett played every card in his hand, rolled four lines for most of the evening, and still kept coming up empty. It was simply an off night for Draisaitl, McDavid couldn’t break free after a first-period look didn’t go in, and the depth players just could not find a way to deliver.

“We couldn’t really get to their net front. We got shots on net but they weren’t very dangerous, or any second attempts,” said Draisaitl, who didn’t agree that the Oilers were due for a stinker. “No, but I guess every team has an off night every once in a while. I guess tonight was ours.”

How bad was it?

• Darnell Nurse, who entered the game with the second-best plus-minus among NHL defencemen at plus-15, went minus-3

• McDavid played 20:15, but had only one shot on net, zero points and was also minus-3

• Draisaitl’s wingers, Dominik Kahun and Kailer Yamamoto, combined for one shot on goal on a rare quiet night for the distributing centre.

• Goalie Mike Smith, who was 6-0 with a 1.73 goals-against average and .944 save percentage, looked merely mortal, giving up four goals on 29 Leafs shots. No doubt Mikko Koskinen will get the start on Monday in Round 2 against Toronto.

Perhaps the most telltale sign that the Oilers weren’t taking the play to Toronto on nearly enough occasions? The Leafs never took a penalty, the first time all season the Oilers power play did not hop over the boards in a game.

“We didn’t earn any power-play time tonight, it’s pretty simple,” Draisaitl said. “We didn’t work as hard. Need to regroup — back at it in two days.”

There was one power play in the entire game — a Kris Russell holding call — and William Nylander buried his eighth of the season. It turned out to be the game-winner, scored late in the first period.

Who would have predicted that?

“You have to use it as a lesson, just like some of those games we were winning in different ways,” Tippett said. “We didn’t capitalize on anything, couldn’t get a kill on a penalty, and we chased the game the rest of the night.”

You can’t say much when the hottest team in the NHL since Jan. 30 loses one. Even if it is a disappointing one to lose, against Toronto on Hockey Night.

“It’s a tight league. Every night is going to be difficult,” observed defenceman Caleb Jones. “But the one thing we can do consistently is win battles, win one-on-ones. We were losing some of those tonight, myself included.”

The same teams play here on Monday, and then again on Wednesday.

Said Jones: “We’re already looking forward to the rematch.”

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

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Montreal Canadiens @ Winnipeg Jets

How to watch

Start time: 10:00 PM EST / 7:00 PM PST
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live, Sportsnet Now

The Canadiens could get discouraged by getting handed another loss on Thursday night, surrendering the final five goals of the game to see a 3-1 lead become a 6-3 loss. Or they could latch on to the fact that they played a solid opening 20 minutes, when everything Dominique Ducharme had instructed them to do before the game had a positive effect as they headed back to the locker room with a 2-0 lead.

It was surely an easy video session for the coaches to prepare the team to face the Jets again tonight. Replicate the first period, avoid what you did in the final 40 at all costs.

In terms of on-ice work, the Canadiens spent all of today’s practice working on the power play. Given that it has slipped from being in first place early in the season to now 18th, some work was necessary. We’ll see tonight if the effort will pay off so the man advantage can be a difference in the game.

By the sounds of things, they’ll be trying to get things turned about without Josh Anderson, who could miss his first start of the year. Expect Jake Evans to draw back in for a formation that looks more like what the team had ben running before the last game.

Montreal Canadiens projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Jonathan Drouin Nick Suzuki Tyler Toffoli
Tomas Tatar Phillip Danault Brendan Gallagher
Artturi Lehkonen Jesperi Kotkaniemi Joel Armia
Paul Byron Jake Evans Corey Perry

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Ben Chiarot Shea Weber
Joel Edmundson Jeff Petry
Brett Kulak Alexander Romanov

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
Jake Allen Carey Price

Injured: Josh Anderson
Scratched: Victor Mete

Winnipeg Jets projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Pierre-Luc Dubois Mark Scheifele Blake Wheeler
Kyle Connor Paul Stastny Nikolaj Ehlers
Andrew Copp Adam Lowry Mason Appleton
Mathieu Perreault Nate Thompson Trevor Lewis

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Derek Forbort Neal Pionk
Josh Morrissey Nathan Beaulieu
Sami Niku Dylan DeMelo

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
Connor Hellebuyck Laurent Brossoit

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