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Trophy Tracker: Vezina –



To mark the end of the regular season, is running its fifth and final installment in the Trophy Tracker series. Today, we look at the race for the Vezina Trophy, the award given annually to the goalie adjudged to be the best at his position as selected by the NHL general managers.

Tuukka Rask turned 33 on March 10, but the Boston Bruins goalie isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

Rask once again was among the best at his position this season, going 26-8-6 in 41 games. He led the NHL with a 2.12 goals-against average, was second with a .929 save percentage (minimum 20 games played), and was tied for second with five shutouts.

He also was second in even-strength save percentage (.939) and allowed the fewest goals (85) among the 22 goalies to play at least 40 games this season, 10 fewer than second-place Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers.

A panel of 18 writers voted for the winner of the Vezina Trophy at the end of the regular season. The consensus was Rask was the League’s top goalie by a large margin; he received 80 points and 10 first-place votes. Connor Hellebuyck (68 points) of the Winnipeg Jets and Andrei Vasilevskiy (56 points) of the Tampa Bay Lightning each received four first-place votes.

From Jan. 2 until the season was paused because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus on March 12, Rask went 11-4-1 with a 1.84 GAA and a .938 save percentage in 17 games. His play helped Boston win the Atlantic Division and the Presidents’ Trophy as the team with the best record in the League; the Bruins finished 44-14-12 with 100 points. It was the third time they won the award (1989-90, 2013-14).

Rask said he’s hoping to put an exclamation point on this season with a Stanley Cup championship. Rask was the backup to Tim Thomas when the Bruins won the Cup in 2011. He was the starter when Boston lost in the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and the St. Louis Blues in 2019.

“I just try to do my job as good as I can every night, give us a chance to win, and then what comes with that, it comes,” Rask said. “But maybe in the future after I retire and look back, you kind of appreciate yourself more, see what you did.

“This city is known for winning championships and your success is measured by winning championships, and I’ve gotten to the Finals with the team twice as a playing goalie. Didn’t win, but I think it’s still a great accomplishment to reach that point, to go to the Finals. Obviously it would be nice to be known as a champion in those years, but it didn’t happen. We just have to live with that. I think I’ve played a good career so far, and hopefully there’s some more years left and even maybe a championship in the future.”

The Bruins also won the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals this season. Rask and Jaroslav Halak (18-6-6, 2.39 GAA, .919 save percentage in 31 games) combined for eight shutouts and helped Boston allow 167 goals, a League-low 2.39 per game. It’s the third time the Bruins have won the Jennings Trophy (1989-90, 2008-09) and the first time for Rask. Halak won it in 2011-12 with the St. Louis Blues.

“[Tuukka’s] proven that he’s one of the top goalies in the League,” Halak said. “He competes in every game, in every practice. He wants to win. That’s the ultimate goal. Obviously we are on the same team, he wants to play [and] if I said I didn’t want to play I would probably be lying. I also want to play, but at the same time we are a team and we want to win as a team.”

Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, 80 points (10 first-place votes); Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets, 68 points (four first-place votes); Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning, 56 points (four first-place votes); Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars, 26 points; Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues, 15 points; Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets, 8 points; Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 points; Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks, 5 points; Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs, 3 points; Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers, 1 point; Pavel Francouz, Colorado Avalanche, 1 point. staff writers Amalie Benjamin and Rob Reese contributed to this story

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Nashville SC withdrawn from MLS is Back Tournament: Here's how the groups and schedule change –



Major League Soccer announced an updated format and schedule for the MLS is Back Tournament on Thursday and that Nashville SC have been withdrawn from the competition.

Since arriving in Orlando, nine players on Nashville have had confirmed positive test results for COVID-19. The decision was made in the best interest of the health of all players and staff participating in the tournament, and in line with protocols created in conjunction with local and national health authorities and infectious disease experts, the league said.

“We have withdrawn Nashville SC from the MLS is Back Tournament. Due to the number of positive tests, the club has been unable to train since arriving in Orlando and would not be able to play matches,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “For every decision we make in our return to play, the wellbeing of our players, staff, officials and all participants is our top priority.”

As a result of the withdrawal of Dallas and Nashville, MLS has reconfigured the groups into six groups, each consisting of four teams, as well as an update to the qualification for the Knockout Stage presented by Audi.

Group Alignment

Chicago Fire FC have moved from Group A to Group B in the MLS is Back Tournament to join San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Chicago and Nashville will remain in the Eastern Conference for the rest of the 2020 regular season.

The new match schedule for Chicago Fire FC in Group B is as follows

  • July 14: Chicago Fire FC vs. Seattle Sounders, 9 am (ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN in Canada)
  • July 19: Chicago Fire FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 8 pm (FS1, TUDN in US; TSN in Canada)
  • July 23: Chicago Fire FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 9 am (ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN in Canada)

Additionally, the schedule for one other Group B match has been updated:

  • July 19: Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 10:30 p.m. (FS1, TUDN in US; TSN in Canada)

The revised Group A schedule has been created to replace those Group A matches which previously included Nashville SC and Chicago Fire FC:

  • July 14: Philadelphia Union vs. Inter Miami CF, 10:30 pm (TUDN in US; TSN in Canada)
  • July 14: New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC, 8 pm (TUDN in US; TSN in Canada)
  • July 20: Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City SC, 8 pm (TUDN in US; TSN in Canada)
  • July 20 Inter Miami CF vs. New York City FC, 9 am (ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN in Canada)

Qualification for the Knockout Stage presented by Audi

After 16 consecutive days of group stage matches, the top two teams from each group along with the four best third-place finishers will move on to the knockout stage, which begins July 25.

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Dec. 1 tentative start date for next NHL season – TSN



December 1 is the tentative start date for the 2020-21 NHL season, according to TSN Senior Hockey Reporter Frank Seravalli.

Seravalli and TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie tweeted out a string of details and updates regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement Memorandum of Understanding on Wednesday night.

Some of the new information included tentative dates for the off-season and next season.

The last possible date for this year’s Stanley Cup Final is Oct. 2 with free agency starting seven days after the championship is handed out.

Seravalli notes that the free agency interview period has been eliminated with the new CBA.

The tentative date for the 2020 NHL Draft is Oct. 6, but it must follow the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs and precede the free agency period.

Training camps are slated to open Nov. 17 for the 2020-21 season with opening night happening Dec. 1.

Here are some other tentative dates for the Return-to-Play tournament.

July 24: Travel to hubs
July 25: Exhibition games
July 30: Qualification round begins
Aug. 9: First round of playoffs begins
Aug. 23: Second round begins
Sept. 6: Conference Finals begin
Sept. 20: SCF begins
Oct. 2: Last poss. game of SCF

All dates are subject to change.

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Montoyo urges Blue Jays to be among teams pulled together by pandemic



TORONTO – Before the Toronto Blue Jays gathered for their training camp reboot, the team connected via Zoom and manager Charlie Montoyo ran through a list of things his players should expect once they were all together.

Under the circumstances, he told them, their preparations would obviously be far different than usual, with workouts tailored more to individual needs in order to get everyone into the best baseball shape possible. Communication with the coaching staff would be essential in ensuring they get extra groundballs, more throws in the outfield, a few more rips in the cage – whatever they felt was necessary.

Montoyo also dropped some knowledge on them, too.

“There are going to be two types of teams,” he recalled telling the group. “There are going to be the teams that work together. They’re going to follow the guidelines. They’re going to work as a group. They’re going to stay healthy. And that’s going to help them win more games. And then there are going to be the teams that are going to complain about everything, lose focus, get sick, not be healthy, and they’re not going to do very well. It’s going to be a long 60 games.”

The Blue Jays, the only team of the 30 in the majors completing a mandatory quarantine in a hotel attached to their home field, are intent on becoming the former, rather than the latter, which is crucial given their situation.

Separated from family and friends, sequestered within the Rogers Centre and Toronto Marriott City Centre footprint, mandated to not leave their rooms – even for a coffee – unless they’re headed to work, the mind can easily veer into the negative.

Total commitment, a prerequisite to success in the best of times, must be a foundational pillar to thrive in this pandemic-altered reality, when the extraordinary challenges of trying to avoid COVID-19 will, at times, make even the looming 60-game sprint feel like a marathon.

The Blue Jays have already experienced some of the risks inherent to the times, after a handful of players and staff contracted the coronavirus in Dunedin, Fla., late last month, and with 12 of the 58 players in their player pool still at the facility there after another positive test at intake.

Those hits helped reinforce the need for strict adherence to the health and safety protocols in place, ones all the more critical given how the Canadian government provided an exemption allowing the Blue Jays to train in Toronto now, while it considers whether to allow 30 regular-season home games in the city, as well.

“I remember it, for sure, it’s exactly right,” catcher Danny Jansen said of Montoyo’s message. “This season, with everything that’s going on, you’ve got to stay healthy. I mean, it’s a shame if you do test positive, then you’ve got to sit out for two weeks, or more. So really, the teams that are taking the precautions extra seriously, which you hope is everybody, is at the advantage.”

Another advantage, in Jansen’s eyes, is being away from the rampant spread of COVID-19 happening in so many spots across the United States. With far less virus circulating in the community, the chances of an infection are drastically reduced, and with everyone in their travel party testing negative twice, they can feel secure in their bubble as they get to work.

“We all pretty much agree that we have an advantage being in Canada,” said Jansen.

Their work at Rogers Centre is due to pick up Thursday night, when the club plays its first intrasquad game, a regular occurrence from then on in preparation for the July 24 opener at the Tampa Bay Rays.

Through the Blue Jays’ first three days in Toronto, they had side sessions, live batting practice and lots of the usual drill-work. As they transition to some game-action, not having to play an actual opponent will allow them to control flow and ensure everyone gets what they need out of the day.

“They can play every day and if they’re having a long inning, we can stop it and we can switch the inning,” said Montoyo. “That’s the good thing about having control of what you do. I see my guys playing every day and building up to play nine innings and really be in baseball shape.”

For Jansen, who has 2½ weeks to get ready for 2½ months of squatting for nine innings, that means getting as many reps as he can. On Wednesday, he caught five or six innings during live batting practice, took several at-bats and caught some bullpens “when I can.”

“You don’t want to go zero to 100 right away and you want to ease into it,” he explained, “but you kind of have to do it quick.”

That’s a fine line to walk, especially for pitchers, but really for anyone suddenly thrown into the daily grind from differing degrees of lockdown. Pulled hamstrings, strained obliques and sore elbows are among the types of soft-tissue ailments everyone must guard against.

“We’re all professionals. We all know what we need to do,” said Jansen. “We all have our own routines on, if this was the regular season now, what we’d be doing after and before games. Obviously, you’ve got to be aware of it, you’ve got to to take care of it early and it’s not a lot of time right now. But we’re pros, we know what we need to do to get our body right and keep it healthy. Got to do the best you can.”

Doing the best you can certainly sounds like mantra for the times.

Montoyo said the group of Blue Jays back in Florida are with coaches who are helping them run through workouts, keeping them at pace with the majority of the group based in Toronto. Asked if the team was at risk of being without some starters come opening day, he replied, “No, no, no.”

Their absence underlines the fragility of this entire venture for the Blue Jays, and for baseball as a whole. A single lapse in judgment can have far-reaching consequences, which is why on top of talent, and desire, and all the usual stuff teams need to win, a respect for the protocol is essential, too.

“That’s the message that I gave them,” said Montoyo, “and to tell you the truth, I love how our guys are happy to be here, and hungry to play this game.”


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