Avs’ Johnson rips refs for not blowing play dead with Calvert injured

The Colorado Avalanche held on to a win over the Vancouver Canucks in overtime, but defenseman Erik Johnson wasn't a fan of one particular decision the referees made late in the match.

Up by two with under three minutes to play, Avs blue-liner Matt Calvert blocked Elias Pettersson's shot with his head. The referees opted not to blow the play dead, and the Canucks scored with Calvert on the ice in pain and bleeding from his head.

"It's a f---ing joke. You want to protect a guy? Guy's got a family at home, he's laying there bleeding out of his head and you don't blow the whistle?" Johnson said, according to The Athletic's Ryan S. Clark. "It's a complete joke. An absolute joke. They should be ashamed of themselves."

"That rule is pretty crazy, a guy laying there bleeding out the side of his head," Nathan MacKinnon said postgame. "I know it's not the refs fault, it's the league rule ... I don't think he's faking it, trying to get a whistle."

The Canucks went on to score again, forcing overtime. MacKinnon, who was visibly frustrated with the referees after they allowed play to continue, ended things quickly by scoring 27 seconds into the extra frame.

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Matthews on Leafs’ 5th straight loss: ‘Tough to get worse from here’

Auston Matthews admits the Toronto Maple Leafs are a disheartened group after a 6-1 thumping against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday marked the club's fifth straight regulation loss.

"It's tough to get worse from here," Matthews said, according to TSN's Kristen Shilton. "It's frustrating. In the locker room, confidence isn't exactly high right now. We have nobody to blame but ourselves. It's really up to us."

The Leafs found themselves trailing early once again after the Penguins opened up a 2-0 first-period lead against backup netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo, who was making his NHL debut.

Toronto has now allowed the opening goal in seven straight contests and has only two regulation wins in its last 15 outings.

"We're 22 games into the season," Matthews said. "These points start to matter. We can't just say, 'It's just one game. We'll get it next time.' It's been repetitive, and for us, we want to make sure it stops now and we want to get back on track."

With a 9-9-4 record, the Leafs have suffered their worst start through 22 games with this core group and sit two points out of a wild-card spot.

Toronto continues its six-game road trip with a battle against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday.

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Report: Leafs have received calls on Tyson Barrie

One of the Toronto Maple Leafs' biggest offseason acquisitions, defenseman Tyson Barrie, has failed to make a splash so far with his new club.

With the team struggling to get in the win column and Barrie failing to produce, the Leafs have received calls regarding the blue-liner, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

"I'm hearing Toronto's received calls on him," Friedman said on Hockey Night In Canada's "Headlines" segment. "So far, they've rejected the idea, they don't want to trade him."

The Leafs sent Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen, and a 2020 third-round pick to the Colorado Avalanche for Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot, and a 2020 sixth-round pick. Colorado also retained half of Barrie's salary in the trade.

Barrie is set to hit free agency at the end of the season. He currently carries a cap hit of $2.75 million.

"He has not asked for a trade. However, I think that there's an understanding that it hasn't worked," Friedman added.

Barrie has yet to score a goal this season and has six assists in 22 games. He recorded 14 goals and 59 points in 2018-19.

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Ron MacLean opens up about Don Cherry, end of Coach’s Corner

Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean addressed former "Coach's Corner" partner Don Cherry and his divisive comments directed at Canadian immigrants on Saturday.

During the first intermission of the Toronto Maple Leafs-Pittsburgh Penguins contest, MacLean spoke about the ending of "Coach's Corner," his relationship with Cherry, and why he chose to speak out against his longtime partner.

"Coach's Corner is no more," MacLean said. "We are all hurting, I have collapsed a 100 times this week, if not more.

" ... I've sat all week long reflecting, and I've heard you (the viewer) I've reflected by listening to my own heart, and I've struggled mightily to find the words and I'm not sure I have them even now," MacLean said. "But they say it's a good thing because when you can find the words, it's dead in your heart, and it's not dead in my heart."

The 59-year-old publicly apologized for Cherry's comments Sunday on Rogers Hometown Hockey. Cherry said MacLean "buried" him with his response, but MacLean said he believed it was important to do what he felt was right despite their longtime friendship.

"I've decided to go one way and he another, and you say well OK how could you choose principle over friendship, but I had to," MacLean continued. "I thought a lot about falling on my sword, too, but if I do that, I infer what happened was right somehow or that I'm going along to get along, or that I'm going to sit silently by or be a bystander again in the situation ... Don taught me to stand right."

MacLean then explained what was going on in his mind during the broadcast and why he failed to react in the moment.

"I was kind of processing what he was saying and thinking I wasn't in an ideological bubble at all, I might have been in a friendship bubble because I was kind of praying that I don't think I'm hearing trouble but I might be hearing trouble, anyway, it was done, and then you called us on it and I thank you for that."

The pair had co-hosted "Coach's Corner," a Saturday night hockey staple, since 1986. MacLean concluded the first intermission by chatting with 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees Hayley Wickenheiser and Guy Carbonneau.

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Watch: Kuemper, Tkachuk face off in heated brawl

If there wasn't any bad blood between the Arizona Coyotes and Calgary Flames, there certainly is now.

Tempers flared between the two sides after Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau cross-checked Coyotes defenseman Jason Demers in the dying seconds of the second period Saturday.

After Calgary's Matthew Tkachuk followed up with a nudge to the fallen Demers, Arizona netminder Darcy Kuemper took exception, throwing Tkachuk to the ice. Kuemper's response prompted Flames goaltender David Rittich to join the action as a full-on melee ensued.

No players were injured nor ejected following the brawl.

Gaudreau was assessed a two-minute minor for cross-checking, while Kuemper and Tkachuk were each handed a double minor for roughing. Demers also picked up a roughing minor, while Rittich was slapped with a two-minute penalty for leaving his crease.

Kuemper made 37 stops for his second shutout of the season as the Coyotes blanked the Flames 3-0.

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Crucial road trip could determine Babcock’s fate as Leafs head coach

Mike Babcock departed Scotiabank Arena on Friday night as the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he may be packing his belongings the next time he returns.

The floundering Leafs fell to 9-8-4 on the season after a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Friday. It was Toronto's fourth straight loss, and the team has recorded just two regulation wins over its last 14 games. For a squad that's arguably one of the most talented in the league, that stretch is unacceptable.

It won't get easier, either, as the Leafs embark on a six-game road trip Saturday:

Date Opponent
Nov. 16 @PIT
Nov. 19 @VGK
Nov. 21 @ARI
Nov. 23 @COL
Nov. 27 @DET
Nov. 29 @BUF

The first four games of the road trip are especially tough. The Penguins and Avalanche may be shorthanded, but the Leafs are also missing a few regulars, including Mitch Marner. Vegas has been as inconsistent as Toronto, but the Golden Knights are still a threat. The Coyotes, meanwhile, are one of the stingiest teams in the league, allowing the third-fewest goals per game (2.45).

A 1-3 record over those games seems very possible. That would lead to a 1-7 run during the team's last eight games, which may be the final straw for Babcock. Moreover, a three-day gap before facing the Red Wings on Nov. 30 at Scotiabank Arena would give a new head coach time to prepare.

Does Babcock deserve to go?

Norm Hall / National Hockey League / Getty

Fair or not, when a talented team in any sport is underperforming, fingers get pointed at the head coach. In Babcock's case, the blame is justified.

The Leafs haven't played well since jumping out to a 26-10-2 start to begin last season. Over the team's last 82 regular-season games, Toronto has logged more losses than wins, posting a 40-30-12 record.

The results have been strange because the Leafs' defense, which was considered to be the squad's biggest flaw, has improved greatly on paper since the start of the last campaign:

In Out Holdovers
Tyson Barrie Jake Gardiner Morgan Rielly
Jake Muzzin Ron Hainsey Travis Dermott
Cody Ceci Nikita Zaitsev Justin Holl*

*Holl played only 11 games in 2018-19

The Maple Leafs routinely lead in shot-attempt differential each night, but this season they aren't generating enough high-quality chances, and their defensive-zone lapses are enough to drive any coach up a wall.

Most of Toronto's chances so far in 2019-20 have come from the outside:

HockeyViz

However, a year ago the Leafs created far more opportunities from the slot:

HockeyViz

A young, talented team that's supposed to be improving each season is getting worse under Babcock. The Leafs are clearly declining, too, and not just experiencing a slump or bad luck.

General manager Kyle Dubas has constructed a roster rooted in all-out skill. His strategy is bold, interesting, and innovative, but Babcock - an old-school type - is clearly ill-suited to lead this team. It's like putting together a band full of rock stars, but asking Mozart to write the music.

Sheldon Keefe, the man waiting in the wings, could be the Dave Grohl who can solve this conundrum.

Keefe is the head coach of the AHL's Toronto Marlies - the team Dubas oversaw before his promotion to Leafs GM. Prior to joining the Marlies in 2015-16, Keefe was the head coach of the OHL's Soo Greyhounds, and Dubas - then the club's GM - hired him in 2012-13.

To prevent Keefe from seeking other NHL opportunities, the Leafs reportedly made him one of the highest-paid coaches in AHL history. It seems clear Dubas envisions Keefe eventually coaching the skill-heavy roster he's built, and it's becoming more obvious that promotion should happen now.

The Leafs' struggles aren't all Babcock's fault. The players need to take some accountability for the defensive lapses, sluggish starts, and overall inconsistency. Some smaller coaching details are inexcusable though, like Nick Shore being on the ice while trailing with three minutes to go on Friday, making Marner and other wingers take faceoffs on the penalty kill, and only playing Auston Matthews 18:48 in a do-or-die Game 7 last spring.

Babcock may have helped change the culture in Toronto after arriving in 2015-16, but it's clear his message is no longer getting across in the Leafs' dressing room. It's time for a fresh voice.

In the salary cap-era when it's so hard to win championships, the Leafs can't afford to sink or swim with Babcock steering the ship. He doesn't deserve another chance.

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Canadiens place Drouin on IR with upper-body injury

The Montreal Canadiens placed Jonathan Drouin on injured reserve Saturday after the forward suffered an upper-body injury during Friday's win over the Washington Capitals, the team announced.

Drouin was on the wrong end of a massive collision with Alex Ovechkin during the second period of Friday's game. He was visibly shaken up and temporarily left the contest, but he returned to play six shifts in the third period. The team said the injury occurred in the third frame.

Drouin is tied for third on the Habs with 15 points in 19 games.

Charles Hudon, who leads the AHL's Laval Rocket with nine goals in 17 games, was recalled by Montreal in a corresponding move.

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