Mark Scheifele left the game with an injury in the 1st period
The Calgary Flames rode superior special teams to a 4-1 win over demoralized Winnipeg Jets to start their qualifying-round series Saturday.
The Jets didn’t recover from losing centre Mark Scheifele to injury early in the first period. They were outshot 33-18 and dominated by the Flames in the second period.
Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan produced power-play goals and Tobias Rieder scored shorthanded in the second. Andrew Mangiapane added an empty-net goal.
Andrew Copp countered for the Jets in the first period.
Cam Talbot made 17 saves for the win in his first playoff start with the Flames.
Whether it was the 33-year-old or David Rittich who would get the nod for Game 1 of the best-of-five series was much-debated in Calgary, and not revealed until game time.
Talbot had less work than Vezina Trophy nominee and Jets counterpart Connor Hellebuyck, although the Flames goaltender weathered three straight Jets power-play chances in the third.
Hellebuyck stopped 29 shots in the loss.
The potential loss of season scoring co-leader Scheifele would be devastating for Winnipeg’s Stanley Cup prospects.
The Flames (36-27-7) ranked eighth in the conference and the Jets (37-28-6) ninth when the NHL suspended the season March 12.
The only all-Canadian matchup in the NHL’s qualifying round had little history from the 2019-20 season.
Their lone meeting was the Oct. 26 outdoor Heritage Classic in Regina, which Winnipeg won 2-1 in overtime.
But animosity brewed in the first period when Scheifele went awkwardly into the boards at 5:41.
He appeared to jam his left leg under him as Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk applied his arm to Scheifele’s back.
Scheifele injury leads to fight
As Scheifele writhed in pain, Winnipeg’s bench directed a stream of expletives at Calgary’s.
Tkachuk’s skate appeared to make contact with Scheifele’s. No penalty was called on the play.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler summoned Tkachuk for retributive justice on the Flames forward’s next shift. Tkachuk obliged and the two traded punches.
Just 31 seconds after that scrap, Adam Lowry dished a backhand from behind the net out front to Copp to whip over Talbot’s glove.
But Winnipeg otherwise mustered little offence with a power play held scoreless on seven chances.
Jets winger Patrik Laine headed to the dressing room early in the third after a collision with Flames captain Mark Giordano.
Calgary went 2 for 4 with a man advantage.
Backlund buried a high shot on Hellebuyck’s blocker side at 18:14. Calgary’s Rieder shelved a backhand on a short-handed breakaway at 12:51.
The puck bobbling on a pass from Sean Monahan, Gaudreau deftly corralled it to get a sharp-angled shot away and by Hellebuyck’s glove at 7:06 to pull Calgary even.
The Jets and Flames got their first taste of playoff hockey without fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cold, cavernous interior of Edmonton’s Rogers Place was tarted up with multiple large light screens throwing colour onto screens covering empty seats.
The clack of the puck on sticks and exhortations from the players’ benches were often the only sounds heard after faceoffs.
Calgary was the home team Saturday and will be again for Game 2 on Monday. Winnipeg is the home club in Tuesday’s Game 3.
Ex-Angels employee charged in overdose death of Tyler Skaggs
If convicted, Eric Prescott Kay faces up to 20 years in prison
A former Angels employee has been charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl in connection with last year’s overdose death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, prosecutors in Texas announced Friday.
Eric Prescott Kay was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, and made his first appearance Friday in federal court, according to Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. Kay was communications director for the Angels.
Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in the Dallas area July 1, 2019, before the start of what was supposed to be a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. The first game was postponed before the teams played the final three games.
Skaggs died after choking on his vomit with a toxic mix of alcohol and the powerful painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone in his system, a coroner’s report said. Prosecutors accused Kay of providing the fentanyl to Skaggs and others, who were not named.
“Tyler Skaggs’s overdose — coming, as it did, in the midst of an ascendant baseball career — should be a wake-up call: No one is immune from this deadly drug, whether sold as a powder or hidden inside an innocuous-looking tablet,” Nealy Cox said.
If convicted, Kay faces up to 20 years in prison. Federal court records do not list an attorney representing him, and an attorney who previously spoke on his behalf did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Beauvillier scores twice as Islanders eliminate Panthers
New York’s next opponent is still TBD
Anthony Beauvillier scored twice, and the New York Islanders beat the Florida Panthers 5-1 to clinch an NHL best-of-five preliminary round playoff series in four games on Friday.
Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal had a goal and assist each in a game the Islanders never trailed. Defenceman Ryan Pulock made a diving stick save to prevent Florida’s Aleksander Barkov from scoring into an open side to maintain New York’s 3-1 lead midway through the second period.
Semyon Varlamov stopped 24 shots, Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored an empty-netter, and the Eastern Conference’s seventh-seeded Islanders bounced back from a 3-2 loss in Game 3 on Wednesday.
New York will open the best-of-seven first-round series against a yet to be determined opponent next week.
Mike Hoffman scored his Florida-leading third goal and fifth point of the series, while Sergei Bobrovsky proved inconsistent in stopping 33 shots.
The 10th-seeded Panthers wound up one-and-done for their fifth consecutive post-season appearance, and eliminated for the second straight time by the Islanders. New York needed six games to eliminate the Panthers in a best-of-seven first-round series in 2016.
Penguins turn to goalie Tristan Jarry with season on line
Montreal leads the best-of-5 series 2-1
The Pittsburgh Penguins are turning to goaltender Tristan Jarry with their season on the line.
Coach Mike Sullivan said hours before Friday afternoon’s game that Jarry will make his first playoff start when Pittsburgh faces Montreal in Game 4 of their play-in series. The Canadiens lead the best-of-five 2-1 after rallying for a 4-3 victory in Game 3.
Jarry was an unlikely All-Star this season when he played superbly during the first half, helping keep the Penguins in contention despite missing captain Sidney Crosby for an extended period following surgery.
Jarry is replacing Matt Murray. Murray, who helped guide the Penguins to consecutive Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, has lost eight of his last nine post-season starts.
Women are going to carry Canada’s Olympic team (again)
Just like in Rio, the vast majority of our medals will likely come from female athletes
According to the latest medals forecast released by a data company called Gracenote, women are projected to win 19 of Canada’s expected 22 medals at the Tokyo Olympics — including four of the five gold.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. Women accounted for 16 of Canada’s 22 medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and three of the four gold. But the gender gap looks like it’ll get even wider in Tokyo. With that in mind, here are some of the top Canadian women you should know about — and follow — as the Games approach:
The swimmer from LaSalle, Ont., won back-to-back world titles in the 100-metre backstroke in 2017 and ’19. She’s favoured to add an Olympic gold to the bronze medal she won in this event in 2016. Masse is also a good bet to reach the podium in the 200 back after taking bronze at the world championships last year, and she might tack on a relay medal.
All of the swimmers, actually
Canada won a national-record eight medals in the pool at the last world championships, and they all came from women. A similar scenario is likely to play out in Tokyo, where Gracenote’s model has Canada winning seven swimming medals — again, all by women. Besides Masse, the most likely Canadian individual medallists are Maggie MacNeil (the reigning world champ in the 100 butterfly) and Sydney Pickrem (a bronze medallist in both the 200 breaststroke and 200 medley at the last worlds).
Penny Oleksiak seems unlikely to repeat her stunning performance from the 2016 Olympics. She hasn’t looked like quite the same swimmer since then. But she’s still a valuable member of several relay teams and could pick up multiple medals that way.
Laurence Vincent Lapointe
The world’s most dominant women’s canoe athlete was cleared to compete after officials ruled she didn’t knowingly take a banned drug she tested positive for last summer. That’s huge for Canada because Vincent Lapointe has a great chance of winning two gold medals. She won the 200m singles race at six of the last seven world championships she competed in, and she’s also taken four world titles in the 500m doubles race with various partners.
If you haven’t heard of Vincent Lapointe before, it’s probably because women’s canoe has never appeared in the Olympics. But that’s about to change in Tokyo, where the solo 200 and doubles 500 are the two races on the program.
Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes
They’re the reigning world champs in the glamour event of beach volleyball, and they’re currently ranked No. 1 in the world. Pavan made it to the quarter-finals at the 2016 Olympic with former partner Heather Bansley, but she and Humana-Paredes obviously have a much higher ceiling. Gracenote’s model has Pavan and Humana-Paredes winning the women’s event in Tokyo.
In Rio, the trampoline star became the first Canadian ever to win back-to-back gold medals in the same individual event at the Summer Olympics. MacLennan went on to win the world title in 2018 and took bronze at the world championships last year despite suffering a broken ankle only seven months earlier.
If she three-peats in Tokyo, MacLennan will join rowing teammates Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle as the only Canadians to win three gold medals in the Summer Olympics.
No Canadian woman has ever won an Olympic medal in traditional gymnastics, but Black should contend for one in Tokyo. She finished fourth in the marquee all-around event at last year’s world championships, and she won silver at the 2017 worlds in Montreal.
The Canadian women’s soccer team won bronze at the last two Olympics, and the rugby sevens squad also took bronze in Rio. They should both contend for the podium again, though Gracenote’s model has them both missing the podium (and in fact projects no team-sports medals for Canada in Tokyo).
The women’s basketball team might be on the verge of its first Olympic medal — it’s ranked fourth in the world and looking better than ever. Softball is returning to the Olympics in Tokyo, and the Canadian team is a podium threat in that event too — it’s ranked third in the world.
Raptors McCaw to leave NBA bubble for treatment of benign mass on knee
Toronto will not be able to replace the guard/forward
The Toronto Raptors will be without guard/forward Patrick McCaw for the foreseeable future as he seeks treatment for a reoccurrence of a benign mass on the back of his left knee.
The Raptors said in a statement Friday that McCaw will leave the NBA’s campus at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex near Orlando, Fla., and will be seen by Dr. Riley Williams at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York to determine a course of action.
McCaw saw Williams for the same condition in November.
The Raptors said there is no timetable yet for McCaw’s return, and added an update on his status will be provided when appropriate.
Toronto is not able to replace McCaw on the NBA’s campus with another player, so the team’s roster stands at 16.
McCaw appeared in 37 games for the Raptors this season, averaging 4.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 24.5 minutes. The 24-year-old had not appeared in any of the Raptors games since the team relocated to the NBA’s bubble, where the league is playing out the remainder of its season in isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Poll shows more than half of CFL fans dislike Edmonton changing name
57 per cent of Canadians say it was the right choice
More than half of CFL fans and Alberta residents say it was the wrong choice for Edmonton to change their name. After years of debate over the use of Indigenous names and imagery in sports, and amid threats from sponsors of withdrawn support, the Edmonton franchise will change its name.
Across the country, teams in varsity, minor, and professional leagues have been doing the same in recent years. The latest study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds a majority of Canadians supportive of the decision.
But while 57 per cent of Canadians say dropping the name was the right choice, the same cannot be said for CFL fans. More than half of those who follow the league (55%) say the name should have stayed.
The issue generates division across a number of demographics. Men under 35 largely are onside with the franchise’s decision, while men 55 and over lean the other way. University-educated Canadians are overwhelmingly supportive compared to those with high school accreditation, who are divided evenly.
Perhaps most notably, Albertans are least likely in the country to say the right call was made; six-in-ten (58%) say the team called the wrong play on this matter.
For the Winnipeg Jets, the strangest season ever ends with a Kubrick-worthy anticlimax
‘The feeling now is complete emptiness,’ Jets coach Paul Maurice says following Winnipeg’s elimination
There’s a pivotal scene in the film version of The Shining where Dick Hallorann — the psychic chef character played by Scatman Crothers — rolls up to the snowy Overlook Hotel.
Hallorann’s arrival is built up carefully as a hero’s entrance in third act of the 1980 movie. But as soon as he steps inside the hotel lobby, he’s ambushed and murdered by Jack Torrance, the crazed writer played by Jack Nicholson.
Thursday night in Edmonton, the Winnipeg Jets found out what it was like to watch a slow-moving horror movie that suddenly gets exciting before all hope is crushed in an instant.
The Jets waited four and a half months to play hockey during the NHL’s pandemic pause. They arrived in the Edmonton postseason bubble full of optimism and enthusiasm.
They were then bounced from playoff contention in the space of six short days.
“The feeling now is complete emptiness,” Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice said in a virtual scrum after the Calgary Flames ended the Jets’ hopes of qualifying for the main bracket of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On Thursday, Calgary shut out Winnipeg 4-0 in the fourth game of the best-of-five qualifying round series that was effectively over five minutes into Game 1.
That’s when contact between Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk and Jets centre Mark Scheifele led the Winnipeg playoff workhorse to jam his left leg into the boards and suffer what Maurice has now revealed to be a crushing injury.
The series effectively ended before Scheifele had a chance to play the hero during another playoff run.
It was a fitting end to a season where the Jets couldn’t catch any break that didn’t involve a physical injury.
“I’ve never had a team go through what this team’s been through,” said Maurice, referring to a 2019-2020 season that started with the loss of five players who were integral to Winnipeg’s deep 2018 playoff run and also helped the club be competitive in 2019.
Defenceman Jacob Trouba got traded to the New York Rangers. Defencemen Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot and forward Brandon Tanev signed with other teams as free agents. Fan-favourite defenceman Dustin Byfuglien didn’t report to training camp and eventually left the club.
Add in a pile of regular-season injuries — most notably to centre Bryan Little — and the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic just as Winnipeg was starting to play well and, well, you have a season to dismember.
“It’s extraordinary, to say the least, the circumstances we’re all in now — but par for the course, for the Winnipeg Jets, [given] the year that we had,” Maurice said.
On paper, Calgary was supposed to be the superior hockey team, given the Flames’ commitment to team defence during the abbreviated regular season as well as its ability to out-chance the competition, especially compared to Winnipeg.
The Jets’ hopes of winning the series rested on goalie Connor Hellebuyck and the offensive talents of its five most skilled forwards.
Scheifele’s crushing injury all but crushed those hopes immediately. A sprained hand took sniper Patrik Laine out of competition two periods later.
Captain Blake Wheeler and leading regular-season scorer Kyle Connor failed to finish in front of the net.
Only speedy Nikolaj Ehlers proved to be a real threat to Calgary, at least among the Jets’ Frightening Five.
The Flames’ aggressive forechecking and careful defensive play offered Winnipeg few high-danger scoring chances.
Hellebuyck, meanwhile, was outshone by Calgary goalie Cam Talbot, who wasn’t even a lock to start for the Flames prior to the series.
After the the series ended, the Vezina-nominated Winnipeg netminder attributed some of Calgary’s success to luck.
“It just popped at the most opportune times, right on their sticks,” he said.
Although the Jets lost four-to-nothing on Thursday, they were not blown out of the water. Two Calgary goals went into an empty net during the final minutes before elimination. Winnipeg was still trying to claw its way back into the short series up until the 57th minute of Game 4.
“There was nothing left in the tank,” Wheeler said after the loss. “It just wasn’t meant to be.”
He wasn’t just referring to Thursday, but the entire, eventful season.
“It was a year that was a test, kind of from Day 1,” the captain said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team. Realistically, there were plenty of opportunities for us to fold it in and chalk it up to a lost year.”
Nonetheless, there was one moment on Thursday that seemed to exemplify the season. Late in the first period, with the Jets down a goal but controlling much of the play, Calgary’s Sam Bennett jammed a rebound past Hellebuyck.
There were 0.3 seconds left on the play clock.
The Jets can now look forward to an unusual offseason. On Monday, Winnipeg has a 12.5 per cent of winning the NHL draft lottery and picking up top prospect Alexis Lafrenière.
Injuries to Laine and forward Mason Appleton are expected to heal in three weeks, Maurice said. Scheifele’s leg may take longer to heal but does not involve a cut to the Achilles tendon, the coach added.
The Jets also have decisions to make when it comes to re-signing unrestricted free agents like Dylan DeMelo, Dmitry Kulikov and Cody Eakin. Winnipeg may have more money to play with, now that Byfuglien’s salary is off the books.
On the other hand, the pandemic could change the league’s salary structure, which is based on revenue. The pandemic may also mean no fans in the stands if the NHL starts a regular season this winter.
It remains to be seen whether any Canadian government will permit teams to travel outside of a bubble only four months down the road, let alone allow fans back in the stands. It’s unlikely any vaccine or even drug treatment for COVID-19 will be developed by the time Winnipeg gets as frigid as Jack Torrance was at the end of The Shining.
The NHL as a whole faces the prospect of vastly different regulatory regimes in Canada and the U.S. this coming winter.
Jets forward Adam Lowry, however, expressed some optimism after the prolonged pandemic pause this spring was followed by what he described as “a whirlwind” this summer.
“I think it will be a little easier, knowing there will be a little downtime,” he said.
After this season’s suspense, the Jets deserve an anticlimax.
CEBL’s Mike Morreale proud of what league has accomplished heading into championship weekend
Amid pandemic, Canadian pro basketball league was determined to play 2nd season
Canadian Elite Basketball League commissioner Mike Morreale will never forget seeing a professional sporting event live for the first time.
Growing up in Hamilton, Ont., he watched his first Tiger-Cats game at Ivor Wynne Stadium when he was five years old. He looked on in awe as his sporting heroes like Rocky Dipietro and Grover Covington roamed the field for the ‘Cats. Morreale was hooked. That’s what he wanted to do in the future because he saw it play out right in front of him.
Decades later, Morreale won the 1999 Grey Cup as a part of the champion Tiger-Cats.
This is Morreale’s story and it’s why he’s wildly passionate about the CEBL.
“It gave me hope. I was able to see it. They grew up in the same neighborhood. And those football players made me believe I could do it too,” Morreale told CBC Sports.
“It’s the story I want to create for thousands of Canadians playing basketball.”
And he’s delivering.
This Sunday, against nearly impossible odds created by the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down sports around the globe, the CEBL will hand out its championship trophy after two weeks of games. The CBC is the league’s broadcast partner and the semifinals and championship on Sunday will be broadcast across across the network’s platforms.
But how it got to this point is something Morreale is still wrapping his head around.
“One day when it’s all done and we’re through this, I’ll give you the story behind us getting on the court that first day because it’s a tremendously remarkable story. It came down to the last second. No one else knew it. There were sleepless nights and a lot of stress,” he said.
The finish line is nearing. Morreale is still holding his breath as they head toward the final game without the pandemic wreaking havoc. The CEBL was the first professional league in Canada to get up and running after everything seemed to stop back in March.
“It has been a roller-coaster. It’s an incredible process to go through and when you’re the first ones to do it, you’re really paving the way,” he said.
In its second season, the CEBL is still trying to find its place in a crowded sporting landscape. The inaugural season was deemed a success by many in and around the league but not without it being laced with learning lessons.
The league has a small team of committed people who believe in Canadian basketball and providing opportunities for homegrown talent.
“We’re not a big organization. We’re a handful of people doing hundreds of people’s jobs,” Morreale said. “Pound-for-pound, I’d take my team all day long.”
Hopes were high heading into the sophomore season of the CEBL after the league announced during the off-season the addition of the Ottawa BlackJacks.
The seven-team league — with Hamilton, Edmonton, Saskatchewan, Guelph, Ont., Fraser Valley (Abbotsford, B.C.) and St. Catharines, Ont. (Niagara River Lions) — competes with 70 per cent of the 10-player rosters made up of Canadians.
The second season was set to start in May. Then the world and sports stopped and Morreale needed to come up with a plan.
“It took a week or two to just get our bearings. We still had six to eight weeks until we were meant to tip off,” Morreale said. “We thought, hey, maybe there’s still a chance we can tip off in May. That went out the window quickly.”
But instead of dwelling on what might have been, the former CFL Most Outstanding Canadian stepped up and rallied his team. They immediately started coming up with ways to salvage a season, finally landing on a tournament format in St. Catharines. There were countless phone calls with team officials, health officials and politicians.
“Fear of failure is not something in my vocabulary,” Morreale said. “It’s gone as smoothly as I could have ever imagined. Two more days to go.”
On its opening weekend in July, the league had its first two games televised nationally CBC. The Toronto Raptors and the NBA were also restarting their season at the same time.
“There’s never been three nationally televised basketball games [on one day] in the history of Canada. That is a massive day for the sport,” Morreale said.
And that’s what this has always been about for him — providing Canadians the chance to be great on the court at home in the same way he was able to reach his football dream at home in Hamilton.
On Sunday, one team will hoist this year’s trophy. It will be a culmination of much more than the ball swishing through the basket.
“It represents success. It’s not limited to the team that wins. All seven teams, their staffs, officials, everyone pulled together to make this happen,” Morreale said.
“The extent to which we have risen to a level of professionalism, that’s what that trophy means.”
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