MONTREAL – It’s never surprising when Matthew Tkachuk manages to steal the spotlight, as the polarizing pest has the rare ability to turn games on a dime any number of ways.
His targeting of Zack Kassian Saturday ultimately decided the outcome of a game won 4-3 by the Flames, who cashed in on a power play that came courtesy of Kassian’s series of Hulk smashes on Tkachuk, who was unwilling to dance once again.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety said Sunday it saw nothing wrong with Tkachuk’s helmet-removing hits on Kassian, but would have a hearing with Kassian for the attack.
The debate rages on over Tkachuk’s responsibility as the game continues to struggle to interpret its ever-evolving hockey code.
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On Sunday the questions continued, as those north of Red Deer were stunned that Tkachuk’s three targeted blasts on Kassian were deemed by league officials to be above board.
Those in the southern half of Alberta were thrilled it’s Kassian who will be answering to league disciplinarian George Parros Monday for showering the cowering Tkachuk with more than a half dozen furious lefts to the cranium as he covered up with gloves firmly attached.
No one is wondering if it was a coincidence the second linesman took his time intervening in what used to be considered a matter to be solved by the two players.
No one is debating the merits of having a lad like Tkachuk awaken the Battle of Alberta with his black hat.
It’s clear which fan base will be buying the “Get off the tracks” T-shirts and which will buck up for the “He’s a (expletive)” paraphernalia.
All of it is good for business.
This was, without question, one of the NHL’s finest of three-hour sessions this season. The game had everything, including several lead changes, another gem from Connor McDavid, a whopping 49 hits and some ever-welcome vitriol and controversy.
Better yet, the war of words continued in the respective dressing rooms, setting up even juicier rematches Jan. 29 and Feb. 1.
Not lost in Calgary’s dressing room was just how complete a game the Pacific-leading Flames played, raising hope that perhaps when the chips are down moving forward, there is a large cast of characters capable of rising to the challenge.
That was the knock on the Flames last spring when they collapsed en masse.
On this night, several notable performances were worthy of praise, making it almost as hard to pick the three stars as it was to convince fans on either side the merits of what Tkachuk did or didn’t do when asked to dance.
The Flames power play was the difference, the penalty kill preserved the win and the Flames have won five in a row to set up an all-Canadian road trip through Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa this week with plenty of heroes on board, including:
• Elias Lindholm: For the second time in three games the Flames best player scored twice – quite a statement in a game in which his chief responsibility was to try shutting down McDavid. The man who does it all for the Flames hit the 20-goal mark with his game-winner on the power play, and was key in shutting down the Oilers only man advantage late in the evening. He has given the Flames a versatility it didn’t have before by centering the top line with Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane, allowing Sean Monahan’s second unit to go up against Leon Draisaitl’s line.
• Johnny Gaudreau: It was poetic that ten minutes after McDavid put the visitors up 2-1, the Flames resident top gun responded with a top-shelf beauty, made possible by one of his patented east-west ventures inside the blue line that opened up his shooting lane. A game-high six shots on goal in a contest in which he rebounded from a nightmarish shift that saw his turnover ultimately bounce into his own goal off his leg.
• Tkachuk: Put all the drama aside, the Flames highest-paid player was money all night, leading the game with six hits, helping to limit McDavid’s effectiveness, providing the perfect screen on Lindholm’s game-winner and then topping it all off with a quote to be enshrined in the Battle’s hall of fame.
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• Dillon Dube: The kid from nearby Cochrane said before the game his wildest dreams of playing in the NHL never included playing in the BOA he watched as a kid. Yet, there he was snapping in a game-tying goal midway through the second period. Off a relentless forecheck that saw Derek Ryan pick off an Ethan Bear clearing attempt and fire it at Mikko Koskinen, Dube converted the rebound with a sweet finish. Justice-served for Dube, who was robbed by Koskinen three minutes into the night.
• Cam Talbot: One of the brightest spotlights heading into the game was on the former Oiler, who earned his third-straight start and walked away with his fourth-straight win. Several of his 29 saves were pivotal, including a sprawling pad save on James Neal who was unable to convert on an open net, as he did so often as a Flame last season.
• Monahan: Continuing his focus on being more physical, he was fully engaged at both ends of the ice, finishing with an assist and a screen on Koskinen that allowed Gaudreau’s goal to find the net.
None of this is forgetting to mention the tenacity of Sam Bennett, the shot-blocking grittiness of Travis Hamonic or the forechecking of Mangiapane who almost opened the scoring in the first minute, as he did in the Flames first win in Edmonton Dec. 27.
Very few passengers.
“I agree with you – we had a solid night up and down our lineup,” said Talbot, who only had three teammates who failed to register a shot on goal.
“Gio and Brodes did a heck of a job on their top line, and Hani and Hammer did a great job as well. Our back end was extremely solid and we had a lot of support from our forwards coming back. We just got so many contributions from everyone in this room.”
For a Flames fan base that relished a memorable evening at the Dome, there were so many encouraging signs, so many delicious storylines and palpable excitement for the imminent return engagement.
Astros' Garcia to start Game 6 of ALCS against Red Sox – Sportsnet.ca
Garcia started Game 2 and gave up a grand slam in the first inning before leaving with no outs in the second because of discomfort in his right knee. Manager Dusty Baker announced Thursday that Garcia would get the ball for Game 6 and said the Astros are confident the problem is behind Garcia and he’ll be 100% healthy for Friday’s start.
The Astros fell behind 2-1 in the series after two big wins by the Red Sox. But they rode their powerful offence to consecutive victories in the last two games to take the series lead and move within a win of advancing to the World Series for the second time in three seasons.
The Astros won the championship in 2017, a crown tainted by the team’s sign-stealing scandal, before losing to the Washington Nationals in seven games in the 2019 World Series.
The Red Sox previously announced that Nathan Eovaldi would start Game 6. Eovaldi got the win in a solid Game 2 start but was charged with the loss in Game 4 after giving up the go-ahead runs after coming in with the game tied in the ninth.
The Astros got eight terrific innings from Framber Valdez in a 9-1 win in Game 5. The performance gave Houston’s taxed bullpen a much-needed break after relievers pitched 29 1/3 innings combined through the first four games.
Baker said Jake Odorizzi would be available for long relief Friday if needed. Odorizzi threw 82 pitches in four innings in Game 2 after taking over following the injury to Garcia.
Baker also said rookie center fielder Jake Meyers, who hasn’t played this series after injuring his shoulder in the final game of the ALDS, probably wouldn’t return to the lineup in this series. He said Meyers could pinch-run or pinch-hit but isn’t ready to return to the field. Fellow rookies Chas McCormick and rookie Jose Siri have filled in at center against the Red Sox.
Houston is without ace Lance McCullers Jr. for this series because of a flexor pronator muscle strain in his right arm. Baker said Thursday that McCullers still hasn’t resumed throwing, so it’s unclear if he would be available to return if the Astros were to advance.
If necessary, Game 7 would be Saturday night in Houston.
NFL Prop Picks For Browns vs. Broncos: Bet This Donovan Peoples-Jones Over/Under On Thursday Night Football – The Action Network
Jason Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Donovan Peoples-Jones #11 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates after a touchdown
Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, is highlighting his favorite player prop for every primetime game throughout the 2021 season. He has a 428-326-6 (56%) all-time record on NFL bets he’s tracked in the Action app.
Broncos-Browns Prop Bet
Donovan Peoples-Jones Under 2.5 Receptions
Editor’s Note: Now that Odell Beckham Jr. is officially active, Browns player props are off the board at most books.
Peoples-Jones has been on fire over the past two weeks, posting lines of 5/70/0 & 4/101/2 against the Chargers and Cardinals, respectively. However, I believe it’s time to “sell high” on him as he’s due for some regression.
He’s caught a ridiculous 86.7% of his targets this season despite seeing an aDot of 15.7. Players with an aDot that high typically average a catch rate in the 57-60% range.
There are a few other reasons why my projections are lower for him compared to the market:
- Case Keenum is starting in place of Baker Mayfield tonight. Peoples-Jones has shown great chemistry with Mayfield over the past couple of games. The QB change seems like a setback for him.
- Weather could be a factor tonight. Steady winds of approximately 20 mph are expected with the possibility of some occasional rain. That would (in theory) negatively impact a high-aDot player like Peoples-Jones.
- Jarvis Landry is making his return from IR. He should be Keenum’s main target tonight, while the TE group should also see an increase in target share after a season-low five targets as a group last week. I also expect RB/WR Demetric Felton to have an expanded role tonight and he has been heavily targeted (37.5% of routes run) when on the field this season.
I’m projecting DPJ for 2.3 receptions tonight with a median projection of 31.5 receiving yards (market is currently at 38.5) — I’d give this under about a 60% chance of hitting. He’s the type of player who could clear his yardage prop on a couple of deep catches, so the safer play here is to take the under for his receptions, especially since we are getting + money. I would bet this down to -105.
Pick: Donovan Peoples-Jones Under 2.5 Receptions (+115) at BetMGM
Canadiens fans welcome Kotkaniemi back to Montreal with boos, vulgar chant – Yahoo Canada Sports
The Carolina Hurricanes were in Montreal on Thursday night to face the Canadiens at the Bell Centre, marking the return of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who was at the centre of petty off-season drama after signing an offer sheet with the Canes.
In true hockey fashion, the Bell Centre crowd greeted the 21-year-old with boos and taunting chants.
The Canadiens acknowledged the former third-overall pick by displaying him on the jumbotron, which in turn sparked another wave of disapproval from the near-sellout crowd.
It was Kotkaniemi who got the last laugh, though, tipping in a goal in the third period for his first point with the Hurricanes — much to the delight of Hockey Twitter. Carolina ended up walking away with the 4-1 victory, keeping Montreal winless on the season.
The native of Pori, Finland appeared in 171 games for the Habs over three seasons, scoring 22 goals and notching 40 assists. He also registered 12 points in 29 playoff games, including five goals in Montreal’s run to the Stanley Cup Final last season.
Carolina tendered an offer sheet to Kotkaniemi in late August, offering a one-year contract at $6.1 million. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin chose not to match, and Montreal received a first- and third-round pick as compensation.
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