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TRAIKOS: What does it mean if the Montreal Canadiens get swept in the Stanley Cup final? – Toronto Sun

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If the Montreal Canadiens become the first team in more than two decades to get swept in the Stanley Cup final, does that change how we think about them?

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It’s a complicated question.

On one hand, the Habs did something no other Canadian team has done since 2011 by reaching the final in a year when few expected them to even make the playoffs. That’s something to be proud about.

On the other — and here is where the jokes come in — down 3-0 to the Lightning, it’s still been 28 years since they actually won a game in the final.

Ba-dum-TISH.

That’s the fear now — that if the Habs get swept in a series in which they have looked overwhelmed and overmatched, they will have something to be embarrassed about. That four games will essentially wipe out what they accomplished in the previous three rounds of the playoffs. That they have gone from being put on a pedestal to being the country’s punch line.

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Obviously, it shouldn’t be this way. In a normal situation, reaching the final is worth celebrating. Win or lose, it’s a sign of growth and an indication that the team is on the path to something special. Except, as Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme said on Saturday morning: “There’s nothing normal about this year.”

Because of the new divisional alignments in this post-pandemic season, a Canadian team had a 50% chance of making the final. That Montreal happened to be the team to do it was a bit lucky — if not fluky.

The Canadiens were the lowest-seeded playoff team in a North Division that was widely considered as the weakest in the NHL. Had they been in the Central, East or West, the Habs would not have qualified for the post-season. Even in the North, they finished with fewer wins than Calgary and probably would have been passed by Vancouver if not for an outbreak of COVID.

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That doesn’t take away from what the Habs accomplished. But if we’re going to be real, they mightily overachieved. They got hot at the right moment and got some help from the hockey gods.

They were an overtime goal away from losing in five games to the Maple Leafs in the first round and they might have lost in the semifinal to Vegas had Marc-Andre Fleury been better at playing the puck behind his own net. They benefitted from playing teams that were without a top centre, whether it was Toronto’s John Tavares, Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele or Vegas’ Chandler Stephenson.

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Yes, Carey Price has been fantastic. And their youngsters have taken a huge step forward in their development. But with Tampa Bay leading 3-0 in a series in which Montreal has been outscored 14-5, the Cinderella run is finally running its course.

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The question is what this means going forward.

Is this the start of something special in the way that it was for an Edmonton Oilers team that got swept by the Islanders in 1983, and then won five championships in the following seven years? Or, like the Canucks team that lost to the Bruins in 2011 and then went eight years without winning a playoff round. Is this another one-off?

It’s quite possible that it could be the latter. After all, Montreal will be back next year in an Atlantic Division that had four of the top10 teams. On paper, the Habs are not better than Tampa Bay, Toronto, Boston or Florida. There’s no guarantee that they will be able to build on this season’s success — much less even qualify for the playoffs.

And yet, it doesn’t mean that the team is turning back into a pumpkin.
Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, who have been the team’s best forwards in the playoffs, are both under the age of 22. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who has shown flashes of being a top-two centre, is only 20. Alexander Romanov, who got lost in the numbers game on defence, is 21. There’s a bright future there. But there is also a window that is closing.

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As good as Price has been in the playoffs, he will be 34 next month and has struggled for years to put together a solid regular season. Defenceman Shea Weber, who also turns 35 next month, is on borrowed time.

And with a large chunk of the roster heading to unrestricted free agency, including Phillip Danault, Joel Armia and Corey Perry, no one knows who will even be on the team next season.

“It’s a journey, right?” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, whose team before getting over the hump, lost in the Stanley Cup final, lost in the conference final and got swept in the first round. “I’m sure that there were a couple of teams out there that went right into winning, but I can’t think of any of them off the top of my head. You’ve got to remember: Only one team can win. So, there’s a lot of teams in there that get gut-punched.”

Right now, it’s the Canadiens who are doubled-over, gasping for breath. Once they recover, maybe they will punch their way back here.

Or maybe, we’re in for another 28-year wait.

mtraikos@postmedia.com

twitter.com/Michael_Traikos

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Canuck icons Henrik, Daniel Sedin, Sens star Alfredsson lead 2022 Hockey Hall of Fame class – CBC Sports

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Henrik and Daniel Sedin entered the NHL together.

The superstar twins then tormented a generation of opponents with the Vancouver Canucks throughout dominant careers that included mesmerizing displays of skill, individual accolades and unprecedented team success.

It’s only fitting the talented brothers will walk into the Hockey Hall of Fame side-by-side.

The Sedins headline the class of 2022 elected Monday, one with a decidedly West Coast and Swedish feel that includes former Canucks teammate Roberto Luongo, fellow countryman and former Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, Finnish women’s player Riikka Sallinen and builder Herb Carnegie.

“It’s not what you think about when you when you play the game,” said Henrik Sedin, who along with his brother and Luongo were in their first years of hall eligibility. “We’ve always just put our head down and tried to put in our work.

“What we were most proud of is that we got the most out of our talent.”

“Truly an amazing feeling,” Luongo added on a media conference call. “It feels surreal.”

WATCH | Daniel and Henrik Sedin have numbers retired in Vancouver:

Daniel and Henrik Sedin have numbers retired in Vancouver

2 years ago

Duration 1:42

The Swedish superstars were honoured on Wednesday in an hour-long pregame ceremony.

Alfredsson, who’s has been eligible since 2017, thought he might have to wait at least another year until the phone rang at his home in Sweden.

“It’s such a privilege to be able to play this sport for a living,” he said. “Something I would have played for fun for my whole life without a question.”

“I’m probably the second-best Daniel out of this group,” joked Daniel Sedin, who along with his brother will be 42 when the induction ceremony takes place in November.

“Couldn’t be more honoured.”

Henrik Sedin — selected No. 3 overall at the 1999 draft, one spot behind Daniel — is Vancouver’s all-time leader in assists (830), points (1,070), games played (1,330) and power-play points (369).

The centre won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP and the Art Ross Trophy as its leading scorer in 2009-10. He added 23 goals and 78 points in 105 playoff games, including the Canucks’ run to the 2011 Stanley Cup final.

If Henrik was the passer on what was one of hockey’s most dangerous lines, Daniel Sedin was the trigger man.

His 393 goals are first in team history, and the winger sits second in assists (648), points (1,041), games played (1,306) and power-play points (367).

Daniel Sedin won the Ted Lindsay Award as the league MVP as voted by NHL Players’ Association members in 2010-11 to go along with the Art Ross Trophy. He added 71 points in 102 playoff games.

“Just watching them work with each other on the ice and literally knowing where they are without even seeing each other was something that always blew my mind,” Luongo said of the Sedins. “They’re great teammates. Everybody loved them, great people.

“Not so great card players, but that’s for another day.”

The hall’s 2020 edition was finally inducted last November after a delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic after officials decided against naming a class of 2021.

The 18-member selection committee met in-person this year for the first time since 2019.

Luongo’s storied career began with Islanders

Luongo started his career with the New York Islanders and wrapped up with the Florida Panthers.

His best moments, however, were on the West Coast.

When he retired, Luongo ranked third in NHL history with 489 wins, a number that’s since been surpassed by Marc-Andre Fleury.

The 43-year-old sits second behind Martin Brodeur in three goaltending categories — games played (1,044), shots against (30,924) and saves (28,409).

Luongo twice won 40 games with the Canucks, including an eye-popping 47 victories in 2006-07, and made at least 70 appearances in four straight seasons.

“He was the difference for us to get the next level,” Henrik Sedin said. “If you’re talking about a winner, he’s the guy.

“Never took a day off.”

A finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top netminder on three occasions, Luongo sat behind only Sidney Crosby in Hart Trophy voting following his 47-win campaign.

The Montreal native won two Olympic gold medals, leading Canada to the top of the podium in Vancouver in 2010 before backing up Carey Price in Sochi four years later.

“It’s a really, truly humbling experience,” Luongo said before adding of the Sedins: “And the best part of the whole thing is that I get to go in with two of my favourite teammates of all time and two of the greatest people I know.”

Alfredsson scored 444 goals in 18 seasons

Alfredsson put up 444 goals, 713 assists and 1,157 points during his 18 NHL seasons.

The face of the Senators for a generation in the nation’s capital won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year in 1996, and added 100 points in 124 playoff contests.

“We looked up to the way he plays hockey and what kind of person he is,” Henrik Sedin said.

Alfredsson, who won Olympic gold with the Sedins in 2006 and led Ottawa to the 2007 Cup final, thanked Senators fans for helping him get over the hall hump, including a social media campaign this spring that included boosts from the organization and former teammates.

“Really special with the support I’ve had from Ottawa throughout my career from the beginning until this day,” said the 49-year-old, who owns the franchise record for goals, assists and points. “They’ve been a real big supporter of mine and trying to help me get into the Hall of Fame.

“They’re behind me all the way … it goes both ways.”

Sallinen played 16 seasons with the Finnish women’s national team, winning Olympic bronze in both 1998 and 2018.

She added a silver at the 2019 world championships to go along with six third-place finishes. In all, the 48-year-old scored 63 goals and added 59 assists in 81 games for her country.

Hall of Fame selection committee chair Mike Gartner, who was inducted in 2012, said on the media call that Sallinen had yet to be informed of the honour, but quipped she should pick up the phone and dial in if she was listening.

Carnegie, who died in March 2012 at age 92, has often been mentioned as the best Black hockey player to never play in the NHL.

Following a long career in senior hockey where he faced racism that kept him from achieving his ultimate dream, Carnegie founded Future Aces, one of Canada’s first hockey schools, in 1955.

He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2001, the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2014, and was also named to the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada.

“This is so important to so many people out there who believed in my father,” said Herb Carnegie’s daughter, Bernice. “Whether he was golfing or whether he was in business or whether he was working with thousands upon thousands of young people, it always came back to hockey and how his how he learned so much from the game.

“I am so proud.”

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Report: Nets’ Kyrie Irving opting into $37M player option for 2022-23 season – Sportsnet.ca

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NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving has decided to exercise his $36.9 million option for the coming season and will remain under contract with the Brooklyn Nets, two people with knowledge of his decision said Monday.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the Nets had not confirmed the decision publicly.

The Athletic first reported Irving’s decision. “Normal people keep the world going, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow. I’ve made my decision to opt in. See you in the fall,” the outlet quoted Irving as saying.

On Twitter, Irving posted a separate statement: “I know who I am,” was the message there.

For now, that still means a member of the Nets.

The seven-time All-Star averaged 27.4 points and 5.8 assists this past season for the Nets, with whom he has spent the last three seasons. He’s about to enter the final season in a four-year, $137 million deal with Brooklyn.

Irving had until Wednesday to inform the Nets of his opt-in decision. It closes one element of the ongoing saga regarding Irving’s future, which has been one of the biggest storylines as the league prepares for the start of free agency later this week.

He appeared in only 29 regular-season games this past season, largely because of his decision to not be vaccinated against COVID-19. That made him ineligible to play in most of Brooklyn’s home games, until getting an exemption to New York City’s mandate in the spring.

The Nets entered this past season thinking they would have a core of Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden. It didn’t work out anywhere near as planned; Irving wasn’t with the team for the majority of the season, Harden ended up getting traded to Philadelphia, the Nets needed to survive the play-in tournament just to make the playoffs and wound up getting swept in the first round by eventual Eastern Conference champion Boston.

Back in March, Irving was asked if he was planning to return to Brooklyn for next season. He gave no indication otherwise.

“I love it here,” Irving said at the time. “Once that summertime hits, I know that we’ll have some conversations. But there’s no way I can leave my man 7 anywhere.”

Summertime hit. The conversations apparently didn’t go as first planned.

And “my man 7” — that meant Durant, who wears jersey No. 7 for the Nets — may have been seeing his point guard departing, a move that certainly could have led to Durant pondering his own future in Brooklyn.

But with Irving presumably back, and with Ben Simmons — who didn’t play at all this season and was acquired by the Nets in the Harden trade — set to team up alongside Irving and Durant this coming season, Brooklyn could quickly return to contender status.

Irving could have made this all go away over the weekend, or at least turned the full boil down closer to simmer, when asked by Complex News at the BET Awards if he still wants to play for the Nets. He declined to answer. He wasn’t rude about it, did it with a smile, but didn’t provide so much as a hint.

A tiny one came Monday when the clip was posted to Instagram and Irving was among those to comment.

“When I smile like that, it means there’s more to the story,” Irving wrote Monday, several hours before his opt-in decision was revealed. “I’ll have my time to address things.”

NBA free agency opens Thursday at 6 p.m. ET.

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Defiant Serena Williams takes aim at Wimbledon title – The Globe and Mail

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Serena Williams practices on Centre Court ahead of the 2022 Wimbledon Championship at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, in London, England, on June 24.Adam Davy/The Associated Press

Since she hasn’t done this for a while, Serena Williams was not in top press-conference form this weekend.

At her best, Williams may be the most electric speaker in sport. She bops between playfulness and simmering rage, often in the space of a single question. The way she stares through questioners puts most of them on the stammering defensive before they’ve said anything.

But now back at Wimbledon after what was essentially a sabbatical year, she lacked that mojo. Short answers. Less cheek. Zero flashes of annoyance.

Then a German reporter tossed her a softball: “What would be a good outcome for you?”

Williams is 40. She hasn’t played a meaningful singles match since blowing her hamstring at this tournament last year. She’s only here because Wimbledon gave her a free pass.

“Oh yes,” Williams said, like she’d been waiting for this one. She closed her eyes and lowered her voice to a purr. “You know the answer to that. Come on now.”

Laughter in the room. An amused eyeroll from the star.

Then someone else followed with the same question asked a slightly different way and Williams iced him with the same answer: “You guys know the answer to that.”

The tone made it very clear no one should try for a third.

Other questioners tried to draw her on Roe v. Wade and the Russia ban. Williams passed both times. It was a lesson to her colleagues throughout sport – there’s no law that says you must have a public opinion on everything.

Finally, here was the imperious Williams that we have missed. Now let’s see if that dominance can be transferred a few hundred feet onto the court.

Many sports stars dominate their little patch of the field, but few have controlled their whole environments the way Williams has. In the latter half of her career, it often seemed that she could beat opponents by Vulcan mind-melding them from distance. The match would be going their way. Williams would fix them with her thousand-yard stare. And then – whoop! – it’d be going Williams’s way.

Then the injuries started up. And the disappointments in major tournament finals. And the rock in her shoe that is Margaret Court’s 24 grand slam titles (Williams is stuck on 23).

Williams is the most dominating women’s player ever. You don’t need to understand tennis to understand that. All you need are eyes. But until the numbers fall her way, some dingdong is always going to say, “Yeah, sure, but …”

She has steadily denied it, but that appeared to get in Williams’s head. Her mien was still total control, but opponents no longer feared her. Broadcasters stopped mooning about her the whole way through matches. When they did tell Williams stories, they started having a “back in my day” feel. It must feel bizarre to have your professional obit written in real time while you’re still working. Here, she felt compelled to start off her presser with, “I didn’t retire.”

A year away won’t have helped any of that. Nor will the new job title. Everyone else she plays in her two weeks here – come on now – will be a tennis professional. Grinding it out on the tour 10 months a year, racking up the AmEx points.

Williams had been a tennis part-timer for a while, but now she’s more of an occasional worker. A dabbler, even. Her steady gig is as a venture capitalist.

“I’m currently out of the office for the next few weeks,” Williams said.

Her company raised more than US$100-million in seed money in the spring. It’s a good fit. I mean, are you going to say no to Serena Williams? And if you do, how do you plan on getting out of the room? She is a lot faster than you.

So now Williams is not only fighting younger, presumably fitter players, her age and a lack of practice. She’s taking on the whole idea of doing sports for a living. Though she will make money here, Williams has become an amateur. Because one way of defining that word is “someone who does something for fun.”

Williams is currently ranked 411th in the world. She’s not about to start climbing that ladder again. She’s doing this because she can and why not?

If she makes it through a couple of rounds, nobody’s going to feel weird about that. She’s Serena Williams. She can still win matches with The Look.

But if she puts a real dent in this tournament, the modern game is going to look slightly ridiculous. Everyone in it never shuts up about their up-when-it’s-still-dark workout routine and their strength coach and the sports psychologist who sleeps in a cot beside their bed. If the louche star of yesteryear who practises when he feels like it and enjoys a boozy night out were to time warp into the present day, he’d be shunned.

(Not that such players don’t still exist. Just that they’ve figured out they shouldn’t talk about it.)

So what would it say if Williams – her life full of other responsibilities, coming off a bad injury and only having swung a racket in anger as a doubles player about a week ago – were to excel here? It would put the lie to sport’s productivity cult.

When someone tried to put her on the spot about being spared a first-round match against world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, Williams’s expression flattened: “Every match is hard … and anyone could have been drawn to me.”

There have always been a bunch of reasons to be fascinated by Williams. She divides opinion, but two things cannot be argued – her quality and her charisma. She’s an all-timer in both instances. Her place at the top of the pyramid is already assured.

But floating into London in June on a working holiday, seemingly expecting to win Wimbledon? How great would that be? You guys know the answer to that.

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