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With key Maple Leafs injuries, Round 2 against Oilers is about depth – Sportsnet.ca

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The day after a defensive battle between the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs, Oilers head coach Dave Tippett had this to say about the game and the reaction to it from fans and media:

“It’s almost funny to me how everybody talked all summer about Toronto and Edmonton have to defend better and then Toronto and Edmonton actually defend well, and now they think it’s a bad hockey game. It just baffles me sometimes hearing what’s going on.”

A well played hockey game, sure. An exciting one for the fans watching at home — not so much.

Fans like goals and chances and at the NHL level, both are usually born from mistakes. There weren’t many in Wednesday’s 3-1 Oilers win. To Tippett’s point, mistake-free hockey hasn’t exactly been a hallmark of the Oilers’ or Maple Leafs’ game — two teams that rely on their offensive firepower to cover up any defensive deficiencies.

Well, both teams defended really well on Wednesday — the kind of game most coaches love and fans…less so.

The game had all the ingredients for an offensive slugfest with plenty of fire-power on both sides. In the end, it proved to be a defensive battle with few scoring chances and even fewer goals. A cautious start to the season series between two of the NHL’s most potent offences, but also the type of game both teams need to be able to win in order to take the next step in their quest to become Stanley Cup contenders.

All eyes were on Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews ahead of the highly anticipated match-up and Maple Leafs head coach, Sheldon Keefe, did his part by matching Matthews’ line against McDavid’s for most of the night. In the 12-plus minutes McDavid and Matthews went head-to-head at five-on-five, they played each other pretty even with Matthews providing the only goal while on the ice against each other.

Both players had a point in the game and led their respective teams in offensive zone puck possession and shots on goal from the slot. McDavid led the Oilers with 11 controlled zone entries and Matthews ranked second on his team to Ilya Mikheyev with six. The two superstars put up the type of underlying numbers we’d expect from them, but beyond that, there was little offence created in the game.

Matthews said his team “definitely has to do a better job of creating offence” and he’s right. The Maple Leafs were limited to a season low number of shots from the slot and the inner slot, where roughly 50 per cent of goals are scored year-over-year.

The Oilers finished the game with their second-lowest shot total from the slot this season (13). However, eight of those shots came from that high-danger inner slot area including both of their non-empty net goals. As with most games, the team that wins the shot battle from this location will likely be the team that wins the game.

So, should we expect more of the same in the rematch Friday night? Not necessarily. While both teams played well defensively on Wednesday, goaltending has not been a strength for either so far early in the season. The odds of both of these teams combining for less than 25 slot shots again, as they did on Wednesday, are slim considering each team averaged nearly 20 per-game entering their first meeting of the season.

James Neal will likely make his season debut tonight after skating on a line with Josh Archibald and Devin Shore at practice Friday. Neal also took reps on the Oilers’ top power play unit which has stumbled out of the game, going 3-for-21 to start the season. Neal has the ability to make an immediate impact as he scored seven goals in his first five games last season, with five coming on the power play.

Joe Thornton left Wednesday’s game with an injury and is going to miss at least four weeks. Matthews will also miss Friday’s game with a minor upper body injury. This means that John Tavares’ line becomes the de facto top line for Toronto — one perfectly capable of going punch-for-punch with any top line in the league, including Edmonton’s.

This makes the battle of the middle-six lines even more important — one the Oilers won handily Wednesday night.

Kailer Yamamoto scored the Oilers’ only five-on-five goal of the game and his line (Yamamoto-Leon Draisaitl-Dominik Kahun), along with the line of Devin Shore, Alex Chiasson and Josh Archibald didn’t allow a single shot on goal from the slot in their combined 17:55 of ice-time at five-on-five. That’s music to Tippett’s ears and nails on a chalkboard to Keefe.

If the top lines draw even, as they often do, the game will likely be decided by which team wins the depth battle. The Oilers may be getting a bump there if Neal does suit up and the Maple Leafs will be taking a hit as two-thirds of their top line will be missing, forcing line changes to their forward group.

For fans on both sides, here’s hoping Round 2 of this battle is a little less rope-a-dope and a bit more of a slugfest.

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New Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme looks calm, cool and confident – Montreal Gazette

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GM Marc Bergevin describes the 47-year-old Joliette native as a “new model of coach” who is a good communicator.

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Dominique Ducharme looked a bit nervous when he sat down for his first video conference Wednesday afternoon in Winnipeg as the Canadiens’ new head coach.

That’s totally understandable.

But it wasn’t very long into the 35-minute session that the 47-year-old Joliette native started to look calm, cool and confident answering questions from the media.

“I feel prepared,” Ducharme said. “When you’re prepared, you sit down at school, you get your exam, you don’t care what the questions are going to be. You’re ready to answer. You’re pretty nervous when you’re not ready, when you didn’t study. So I feel comfortable. I feel ready. I’m confident in the group, I’m confident in the guys I’m working with and I’m ready to go.”

Ducharme takes over from Claude Julien, who was fired Wednesday morning after the Canadiens went 2-4-2 in their last eight games, dropping to fourth place in the North Division with a 9-5-4 record. Associate coach Kirk Muller was also fired.

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Ducharme has basically been the Canadiens’ head-coach-in-waiting since being hired as an assistant coach before the start of the 2018-19 season.

“If I had written a script, maybe it would have been different today,” he said. “But I’m losing two colleagues and two great people. Claude is a great man and I got to know Kirk. To see them leave, obviously, it’s a mixed feeling. Yes, I’m proud to be here. It was a long road for me. I didn’t take the highway … I went on the side roads. But I’m proud of that and I think it made me grow as a coach and today I feel ready for it.”

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin informed Ducharme he was the new head coach Wednesday morning in Ottawa, after the Canadiens lost 5-4 to the Senators in a shootout Tuesday night. The Canadiens flew to Winnipeg later in the day and will play the Jets Thursday night (8 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

Ducharme won’t even get a full practice before taking over behind the bench. The Canadiens will have a morning skate Thursday.

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“I want a team that plays the right way and plays fast, that’s for sure,” Ducharme said. “I like offence. For sure, I like offence. But to create offence you need to have the puck, so you need to retrieve it. We want to spend less time in our zone, we want to create more turnovers, we want to counter quick, we want to have solutions when we have the puck. For sure, we want to be going on offence, but we need the puck.

“One thing is creating an offence is not only with the puck carrier,” he added. “Right now we need a lot more support, we need a lot more cohesion on that side, working together and having options. We’ll work at giving the guy with the puck a lot more options.”

Bergevin described Ducharme as a “new model of coach” who is a good communicator. The GM wanted to make it clear that doesn’t mean Julien wasn’t a good communicator, adding sometimes it can be the same message just delivered in a different way with a different voice that is needed. Bergevin said the Canadiens were looking like a team that was lost and missing a sense of direction, adding that happens in pro sports when the same coach has been delivering the message for a long time and it stops getting through. Julien was in his fourth season as head coach.

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Bergevin is “100 per cent confident” Ducharme is the right man to get the players back on the same page, change the team’s vibe and turn things around. While Ducharme was named interim head coach, Bergevin said the job is his to lose now and a decision will be made on his future at the end of the season.

Ducharme is also confident he can get the job done.

“If you prepare for the game and you think tonight we’re going to win, maybe you forget something,” he said. “How are we going to win? Focus on the process. I think we need to go back to those little things and make sure we’re doing them right. For sure, there’s going to be some little adjustments. But I’m confident that we have a good team here. We’ll have success.”

Ducharme was asked what his specific responsibilities were as one of Julien’s assistant coaches up to this point.

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“A lot had to do with the pre-scout, watching the other team,” he said. “Obviously, I had a lot of things to watch for five-on-five. Claude has always been open to my comments. I learned a lot. Talking about the power play with Kirk, with Luke (Richardson) about the PK, so I touched a lot of things and gained experience that way. I think that was great for me.”

Ducharme was going to meet with the players for the first time as head coach Wednesday night.

What was his message going to be?

“I’ll keep that for them,” he said. “I think they deserve that. They care a lot. It was a big day for me, it was a big day for Kirk, for Claude. They’re human and they care. So I’ll talk to them tonight.”

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

  1. Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin watches his team's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs during second period in Montreal on Feb. 10, 2021.

    Stu Cowan: Players forced Canadiens GM’s hand in firing of Julien

  2. New Canadiens assistant coach Dominique Ducharme meets with the media at the team’s Brossard practice facility on April 27, 2018.

    Stu Cowan: Dominique Ducharme a head-coach-in-waiting with Canadiens

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'Dom was my guy,' Bergevin says as Ducharme takes Canadiens' reins – Montreal Gazette

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“I like offence but, to create offence, you need the puck, you need to retrieve it,” Dominique Ducharme says as he assumes control of Habs.

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Dominique Ducharme faces a difficult task as he takes over the head coaching job with the Canadiens, a team that is falling short of its high expectations.

General manager Marc Bergevin pulled the plug on Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller Wednesday, scant hours before the team left Ottawa for Winnipeg, where they will play the Jets on Thursday (8 p.m., TSN2, TSN3, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

Ducharme has been regarded as the Canadiens’ head coach in waiting since he was hired as an assistant coach in 2018, but his progression was hurried along when the Canadiens went into a 2-4-2 slide after a strong start to the COVID-shortened season.

While Ducharme, 47, carries an interim tag on his title, Bergevin said he was the first choice for the job and it is his to lose.

“Quarantine or no quarantine, Dom was my guy from the time I made my decision,” said Bergevin. “He’s a new model of coach, a young coach who came a long way, had success at the junior level, at the world junior level. I feel this team needed a new voice and he’s a good communicator and, from what I saw, that’s what the players are looking for.”

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Ducharme talked to his players as the head coach for the first time Wednesday night and he’ll have to communicate his ideas while navigating a schedule that basically sees the Canadiens playing every other night.

When asked about his coaching style, Ducharme said the best answers will be on the ice and he trotted out clichés about playing the right way and playing fast before saying: “I like offence but, to create offence, you need the puck, you need to retrieve it. We want to spend less time in our zone. We want to create more turnovers, we want to counter quick. For sure, we want to go on offence, but we need the puck.”

Ducharme must patch up the Habs’ special teams, which rank in the bottom third of the NHL. Alex Burrows moved over from the AHL’s Laval Rocket as an assistant coach and will guide the power play, while Luke Richardson will supervise the penalty kill, which has been wildly inconsistent after starting the season with a flood of short-handed goals.

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Ducharme enjoyed success in the junior ranks, winning a Memorial Cup in 2013 with a Halifax Mooseheads lineup that included Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin. He won gold and silver medals as head coach of Team Canada at the world juniors, but the Canadiens gave him his first professional experience.

“I didn’t take the highway,” said Ducharme. “I took the side road, but I’m proud of that. It made me grow as a coach.”‘

Bergevin said he couldn’t pinpoint when he decided to make a change, but he said the team kept repeating the same mistakes.

“Last season, we had two eight-game losing streaks and I know we had injuries. But this year, knock on wood, we’ve been healthy, and I saw a pattern that I didn’t want to wait much longer.”

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Bergevin said he detected a disconnect between the message Julien was sending to the players and their performance on the ice. The final straw came Tuesday night when the Canadiens lost 5-4 in a shootout to the Senators for their third straight loss.

Ducharme might have had time to implement some changes if Bergevin pulled the trigger last week, when the Canadiens had six days between games, but Montreal was coming off a 2-1 win over the Maple Leafs and the general manager said he was giving Julien and Muller a chance to right the ship. The Canadiens proceeded to lose three games after the break.

Ducharme appeared relaxed as he talked to the media during a video conference Wednesday afternoon and he hearkened back to his student days at the University of Vermont, where he was a key member of a powerhouse hockey team alongside future Stanley Cup winners Eric Perrin, Martin St. Louis and Tim Thomas.

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“When you prepare, you sit down at school, get your exam (and) you don’t care what the questions are going to be, you’re ready to answer” said Ducharme. “You’re pretty nervous when you’re not ready, when you didn’t study. I feel comfortable. I’m confident in the group I’m working with and I’m ready to go.”

phickey@postmedia.com

twitter.com/zababes1

  1. Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin watches his team's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs during second period in Montreal on Feb. 10, 2021.

    Stu Cowan: Players forced Canadiens GM’s hand in firing of Julien

  2. Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien looks toward the ice as his team takes on the Ottawa Senators during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.

    Jack Todd: Canadiens’ sweet start ends in bitter outcome for Julien

  3. Head coach Claude Julien blows a whistle over his mask during Montreal Canadiens practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Jan. 27, 2021.

    What the Puck: Canadiens goalie Price shares blame for Julien’s firing

  4. Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien, right, speaks with associate coach Kirk Muller practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Wednesday November 27, 2019.  (John Mahoney} / MONTREAL GAZETTE)  ORG XMIT: POS1911271253161652

    Montreal Canadiens fire Claude Julien and Kirk Muller

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Can Tiger Woods come back from this? – CBC.ca

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This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Tiger Woods’ injuries might be too much this time

Since yesterday’s newsletter, more details have surfaced about the damage done to the golfer’s right leg when he rolled the vehicle he was driving yesterday in Southern California. And it does not sound good.

Tiger’s camp released a statement around midnight ET saying he had “undergone a long surgical procedure on his lower right leg and ankle.” The statement also included descriptions of the injuries and the surgery from the head of the hospital where it was performed by orthopedic trauma specialists. He used a lot of medical jargon but, basically, the lower part of Woods’ right leg was crushed and the major bones shattered.

Woods’ tibia and fibula bones splintered into pieces in multiple places and punctured through his skin. A rod was inserted into the tibia (the larger of the two bones) to deal with that. “Additional injuries to the bones of the foot and ankle” (no details were provided) “were stabilized with a combination of screws and pins,” the hospital head added. He also said surgeons had to cut into tissue to reduce swelling and pressure from “trauma to the muscle and soft tissue of the leg.” Woods’ people added that he was “currently awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room.”

Once this statement made it clear that Tiger’s life was not in danger, and that his injuries — at least the most serious ones — seem to be concentrated in his right leg, the next question became: could this end his golf career?

No one seems to have that answer right now — partly because there are (thankfully) few instances of an athlete’s body being damaged quite like this. Football is the only major sport capable of regularly producing car-crash-level injuries, so the closest recent comparison to what Woods could be facing might be NFL quarterback Alex Smith.

While playing for Washington in November 2018, Smith’s right leg got caught at an awkward angle as he was sacked by two Houston defenders. He broke his tibia and fibula, and bone punctured the skin. An infection after Smith’s initial surgery caused doctors to fear he’d lose the leg and maybe even his life. He ultimately needed 17 operations on the leg.

It took Smith almost two full years to get back into an NFL game, which he did last season. It was a great story and he was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year, but he wasn’t the same. He only got in because of injury and/or gross incompetence by Washington’s other two QBs, and he threw more interceptions than touchdowns as the leg hampered him. For their playoff game, Washington chose to start a journeyman with one NFL start over Smith.

Obviously, every injury is different and golf is easier to return to than football. But Tiger is 45 — nine years older than Smith — and his body had already been through a lot. At the time of his crash, he was working to return from a December back surgery — his fifth — that was threatening his career. And, according to this lengthy list of Woods injuries compiled by The Associated Press in March 2019, he’d already undergone four surgeries on his left knee. Now he’s recovering from these massive injuries to his right leg, ankle and foot, and additional surgeries seem like a possibility. If someone showed you this medical history and told you to guess what sport the person plays, you’d probably say pro football. By golf standards, the damage Woods has endured to his body over the last couple of decades is staggering.

It’s too early to tell if the greatest golfer of all time will be able to play the game at a high level again. He’s surprised us before, winning the 2019 Masters after his fourth back surgery left him openly questioning whether he’d be able to compete anymore. But, for his 15th major title to not be his last, Tiger might need to pull off his most astonishing feat yet. Read more about what he’s facing here.

Golf superstar Tiger Woods needed surgery after a car crash in Los Angeles on Tuesday that left him with multiple leg injuries. Officials say he was conscious when pulled from the wrecked SUV and the injuries are not life threatening. 2:02

Quickly…

The Montreal Canadiens fired head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller. The Habs looked like a possible Cup contender when they started the season 8-2-2. But they have only one win in the six games since then, and they’ve lost all three coming out of their one-week break. Worse, they just dropped back-to-back games to lowly Ottawa. Julien was in his second stint as the Canadiens’ head coach. He never made it past the second round of the playoffs with them, though with Boston he won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and reached the final in 2013. Montreal promoted assistant Dominique Ducharme to interim head coach. He coached Canada to gold at the world juniors in 2018 and silver the previous year. Read more about him and the other changes to Montreal’s coaching staff here.

The IOC wants Australia to host the 2032 Summer Olympics. A Brisbane-based bid was selected today by the IOC’s executive board for exclusive talks. The sides will now enter into “targeted dialogue” (the IOC’s phrase) and, if all goes well, they’ll make it official. This leaves only one of the next seven Olympics without at least a tentative host — the 2030 Winter Games. Read more about why Brisbane was picked so early here.

There’s only one perfect rink left at the Scotties. Defending champion Team Canada, skipped by Kerri Einarson, improved to 6-0 by beating Yukon in the morning draw while Pool A rival Ontario (Rachel Homan) fell to 5-1 with a loss to the Northwest Territories. Pool B was considerably messier heading into Draw 14. Quebec (Laurie St-Georges) and the wild-card team skipped by Chelsea Carey were tied for first at 4-2, with four rinks right behind them at 3-2, including six-time champ Jennifer Jones’ Manitoba. The top four in each pool advance to the next round. Read more about today’s results here and catch tonight’s episode of That Curling Show with host Devin Heroux and six-time Scotties champ Colleen Jones at 7:30 p.m. ET on the CBC Olympics Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages.

And finally…

A guy in the Czech Republic swam for 81 metres under ice. David Vencl held his breath for 95 seconds as he covered the equivalent of more than 1½ lengths of an Olympic-size pool in a frozen-over lake. There was at least 30cm of ice above him at all times and he did it without using any fins, diving suit, cap or weights. The distance broke an eight-year-old world record, according to Guinness. Read more about it here.

Coming up on CBC Sports

Cross-country skiing world championships: Watch the women’s and men’s sprint finals in Germany live Thursday from 5:30-7 a.m. ET here.

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