Tag Archives: Hockey

Blackhawks legend, Summit Series star Pat Stapleton dies at 79

Longtime NHLer Pat Stapleton died Thursday at the age of 79, Hockey Canada announced.

Stapleton spent 10 seasons in the NHL and an additional five years in the WHA. He played eight seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks from 1965-73, wearing the captain's "C" during the 1969-70 campaign. He ranks eighth on the Blackhawks' all-time list for points by a defenseman with 327.

Stapleton helped Canada defeat the Soviet Union in the 1972 Summit Series, sporting a plus-6 rating in seven games. He reportedly scooped up the puck from Paul Henderson's famous series-winning goal and kept it.

The native of Sarnia, Ontario, went on to captain the Canadians in the 1974 Summit Series, which they lost to the Soviets.

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Matthews: Racing Ovechkin for scoring title a ‘humbling’ experience

The 2020 Maurice "Rocket" Richard race was gearing up for one of the best finishes in recent memory before the coronavirus pandemic forced the NHL to postpone its season.

Alex Ovechkin, David Pastrnak, and Auston Matthews were in an intense battle at the top. Even Leon Draisaitl and Mika Zibanejad weren't completely out of it.

Player Team GP G
Alex Ovechkin WSH 68 48
David Pastrnak BOS 70 48
Auston Matthews TOR 70 47
Leon Draisaitl EDM 71 43
Mika Zibanejad NYR 57 41

With five goals in as many games before play halted, Ovechkin was sparring with Pastrnak for the overall lead. Matthews, meanwhile, was hot on their tails with four tallies in six contests prior to the hiatus.

Matthews spoke about racing against a legendary goal-scorer like Ovechkin during a video conference call Thursday.

"It's pretty cool and humbling to be in the same conversation as a guy like (Ovechkin)," Matthews said, according to TSN's Kristen Shilton. "Being in a scoring race with a guy like him, he's been a generational player and he's made a big impact beyond the game and led the way for lots of players and lots of guys.

"It's humbling, and hopefully, we can get back to playing hockey and can compete again, that's what everyone wants to do."

The Great Eight sits eighth on the all-time goals list and has won eight "Rocket" Richard trophies, including six in the last seven years. Matthews is still seeking his first, but it'll be tough to capture as long as Ovi is blasting one-timers from his office at the left circle.

Though he knows it's unfortunate fans may not get to see this year's race play out, Matthews acknowledged there are more important things at stake.

"It's obviously frustrating and disappointing to see the season go on pause," he said. "But when you think about those kinds of achievements and accomplishments, being close to scoring 50 goals and stuff like that, it all kind of becomes irrelevant when you're talking about human lives and what's been going on around the world."

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WATCH: Classic πŸ’: Leafs, Habs meet in historic matchup

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens met in the 1967 Stanley Cup Final. Only twice since then has the Stanley Cup Final featured two Canadian clubs. Relive Game 6 of the series, which is not only the final contest in the Original Six era, but the last moment of pure glory for one of the league's most historic franchises.

Watch the stream below:

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Report: NHL prioritizing regular-season games, could condense playoffs

Find out the latest on COVID-19's impact on the sports world and when sports are returning by subscribing to Breaking News push notifications in the Sports and COVID-19 section.

The NHL's "preference and its priority" is to hold regular-season games before the postseason begins, sources on Monday's Board of Governors call told TSN's Pierre LeBrun.

"Whether that's 82 (games) - probably not - 78, 76, 74, all possibilities mentioned on that call," LeBrun said on Thursday's edition of "Insider Trading."

Teams around the league have already played as many as 71 games and as few as 68. Players on squads both inside the current playoff picture and outside of it have said they want some regular-season contests before the playoffs begin. Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, on the other hand, have both said they'd be open to going straight to the postseason.

Additionally, time potentially used on finishing the regular season could carve into the league's ability to hold a full postseason. The eventual - and hopeful - Stanley Cup champion may not have to win the usual 16 games to hoist the trophy.

During the same episode of "Insider Trading," TSN's Darren Dreger reported that in a "flash poll" with 24 general managers, 20 supported the idea of best-of-five series from the first round through the conference final, but they want a seven-game Stanley Cup Final.

"A couple" GMs were not in favor of this idea, arguing the playoffs have to be left the way it is with seven-game series all the way through. However, some executives were more open-minded.

"One GM said a best-of-three in Round 1, a best-of-five in Round 2, and then best-of-seven for the conference final and Stanley Cup Final," Dreger said. "And then one creative general manager suggested one-game series for the first three rounds, then a best-of-three in the Stanley Cup Final."

Of course, none of this can be decided upon until there's a clear resumption date. That will ultimately decide how the postseason needs to be condensed - if there's time for any hockey at all.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league will fit games in August if required, and that they want to avoid scenarios that prevent a full 2020-21 campaign.

The NHL also reportedly mentioned Grand Forks, North Dakota, as a possible neutral site venue for games.

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Hurricanes planning for home games with no fans, limited attendance

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The Carolina Hurricanes are making sure they're prepared to play games at PNC Arena either without any fans at all or in front of a limited crowd.

"We have multiple plans. We have a task force that we've put in place internally to talk about all of these options. One of them is that we come back with no fans, and how we're going to deal with that," general manager Don Waddell said on a video conference call Thursday, according to ESPN's Greg Wyshynski.

"The second option is we come back and can only have - pick the number - 5,000 or 8,000 people in the building. The third option is that we can be totally open. We've talked at length and have plans for all of those situations."

The Canes are one of the first teams to publicly acknowledge the possibility of hosting home games with a limited spectator capacity when - or if - the NHL returns to action after postponing its season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

If the league is able to resume play, it may be forced to use neutral sites. Grand Forks, North Dakota, has reportedly been mentioned as one possible location.

"If you look around what's going on in the country, there are probably some cities that you don't think you can play in. If you're going to play regular-season games, it makes sense to come up with some neutral-site places. Obviously, if you're bringing 31 teams back, you're going to have multiple sites to go to," said Waddell.

The Hurricanes were seeded as the Eastern Conference's first wild-card team when play came to a halt March 12.

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Senators sign Mark Kastelic to entry-level deal

The Ottawa Senators inked forward Mark Kastelic to a three-year, entry-level contract, the team announced Thursday.

Ottawa selected the 21-year-old in the fifth round of the 2019 NHL Draft.

"Since being drafted just last June, Mark has worked hard to earn this contract," general manager Pierre Dorion said. "We were pleased to see how he progressed in his overage season in Calgary, where he served as Hitmen captain for two consecutive seasons, and where he was on track to post his most productive major junior season. He's a solid two-way center who shows strong attention to detail in his play."

The 6-foot-3 pivot led the Western Hockey League's Calgary Hitmen in both goals (38) and points (68) through 58 games in 2019-20, his fifth season with the club. Kastelic finished his major junior career ranked third in franchise history with 126 goals.

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Oilers’ Cave remains in medically induced coma

Edmonton Oilers forward Colby Cave remains in a medically induced coma at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto after recently suffering a brain bleed, his family said in a statement Thursday.

"Colby is still in a medically induced coma. This is giving his brain time to heal and rest from all he's been through," the statement reads. "We would like to thank the Oilers organization, the entire hockey community, all of our friends, and family, and everyone who has shown us love and support.

"We would like to send a big thank you to Colby's critical care team, neurosurgeons, and nurses at Sunnybrook Hospital. We appreciate all that you are doing for our Colby."

Cave was admitted to hospital Monday after complaining about headaches and was later airlifted to Sunnybrook, where he entered intensive care.

His wife, Emily, took to Instagram on Wednesday night to also provide an update.

"Please wake up. Please wake up. It's all I can keep asking, 'He's going to wake up right?' We need a miracle. Colby's parents and myself, got to see him through a window and talk to him with a walkie-talkie last night. We are no longer allowed to be in the hospital because COVID-19 rules. We have no idea when we will be allowed to see him again," she wrote. "The nurse has tied his wedding band to his ankle. I am dreaming of being able to touch you, hear your voice, squeeze your hand (three times), and kiss you again. I love you so much, and my heart is shattered into a million pieces without my best friend."

Cave primarily spent his 2019-20 campaign with the Oilers' AHL affiliate in Bakersfield. The 25-year-old was with the Boston Bruins' organization before joining Edmonton last season.

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Smith: Senators who had COVID-19 have fully recovered

Find out the latest on COVID-19's impact on the sports world and when sports are returning by subscribing to Breaking News push notifications in the Sports and COVID-19 section.

Ottawa Senators head coach D.J. Smith confirmed Wednesday that the six members of the club - five players and one staff member - who fell ill to the coronavirus have fully recovered.

"I'm really glad that everybody in our organization and on that plane is now doing well, but it's certainly a scary time," Smith said, according to the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch.

Smith said seeing the virus firsthand allowed the organization to appreciate its severity and act accordingly.

"Yeah, it hit us, but at the same time, it probably saved a lot of us because unless you see it up close that quickly, we probably got a little bit of a jump on this," he explained.

Smith also admitted that when his team was in San Jose ahead of its March 7 contest against the Sharks, the city felt different after Santa Clara health authorities recommended the game be played without spectators. The Sharks did not follow that warning and went along with the game as planned.

"In San Jose, it was kind of weird, we got onto Santana Row and there wasn't really a lot of people out," Smith said. "Guys usually like to try and go for a walk and dinner - at that point, no one knew what we know now. Guys were aware, but I don't think there's any way of telling that it would have gotten to this level, certainly for us, anyway."

The NHL season was officially suspended March 12. Since then, eight players in total - five Senators and three from the Colorado Avalanche - have tested positive for COVID-19.

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2019-20 NHL season betting review: Least profitable road teams

Find line reports, best bets, and subscribe to push notifications in the Betting News section.

Last week, we learned the Colorado Avalanche and New York Rangers built a reputation this season as road warriors.

Now, let's scan all the way to the bottom of that list to expose the teams that bled bettors dry.

Note: Profits listed for $100 bettor

1. Detroit Red Wings, -$1,958

This is the first list that accurately reflects which teams actually were the worst, or best, in a given category. Generally, long or short average lines have a large bearing on which teams are included, but the five teams with the worst records away from home this season are the five on this list.

And no team has been worse on the road than the Red Wings, who've posted an abysmal 5-29 (14.7%) straight-up record away from home. They picked up their fourth road win Dec. 14 and were 1-16 from that point before the season was paused. Detroit hasn't been favored on the road since March 15, 2017.

2. Ottawa Senators, -$1,640

The Senators really haven't fared much better than the Red Wings, as they're 7-27 (20.6%) on the road. Notably, five of those seven wins came during a one-month stretch starting Nov. 4. They were 5-7 SU over that period, actually earning bettors $50 thanks to an average line of +166. Outside of that, Ottawa is 2-20, costing backers a hefty $1,690.

3. Buffalo Sabres, -$1,000

The season started off so well for the Sabres before taking a sharp turn for the worst - stop me if you've heard that before. Buffalo fans must feel as though they're watching the same bad movie on repeat. The Sabres were 4-3 on the road (+$215) to start the campaign and then proceeded to go 6-21 (-$1,215).

4. Los Angeles Kings, -$820

The Kings have been slightly worse than the Sabres, with a record of 10-26 compared to Buffalo's 10-24. However, thanks to a longer average line on the road (Los Angeles' +162 to Buffalo's +151), they sit fourth on this list. The Kings' struggles have been more pronounced as they travel further to visit their opponents. L.A. is a brutal 2-14 away to Eastern Conference teams this season, losing bettors a cool $1,095.

5. San Jose Sharks, -$734

When it comes to the teams on this list, the Sharks have been the most respected by oddsmakers, with an average line on the road of +140. That's largely due to the fact that San Jose entered the season with lofty expectations. Its average line on the road through the first two months of the campaign was +124, compared to +158 from January until the pause.

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

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Almost Famous: The ’70s were cruel to Chicago, Buffalo, and the Rangers

Sports history is littered with great teams that dominated their regular seasons only to fall short of ultimate glory in the playoffs. Our writers are paying tribute to those teams who were Almost Famous. After tackling MLB, NHL, and NFL, up next is another NHL edition.

Rarely in sports does a decade, a familiar yet stilted unit of measurement, sum up an era so tidily. Three teams dominated the NHL in the 1970s: Bobby Orr’s Boston Bruins, the Broad Street Bully Philadelphia Flyers, and the dynastic Montreal Canadiens, who bridged Jean Beliveau's last hurrah with the incredible reign of Guy Lafleur, Ken Dryden, and company.

Other franchises could have won a title; three came within games of doing so. But they never broke through, and some of history's longest Stanley Cup droughts persisted instead.

Those poor recurrent runners-up were the Chicago Black Hawks - the name's two words weren't merged until 1986 - the New York Rangers, and the Buffalo Sabres, who each iced at least a few excellent teams at varying points of the '70s that invariably fell short in the playoffs. Sometimes they lost to each other. Sometimes they were favored in the Cup final against, say, Montreal, only to squander a two-goal lead at home in Game 7.

Different strengths turned Chicago, New York, and Buffalo into contenders. The Rangers had starpower and were built to defend; the Sabres' famed French Connection line powered offenses that scored nearly 4.5 goals per game. All three aligned behind a common sob story: In a league that expanded in phases from 12 to 18 teams, they were on the right side of the competitive imbalance that ensued, but couldn't top the whole gauntlet in any one year.

Season Champion Runner-up
1969-70 Boston St. Louis
1970-71 Montreal CHICAGO
1971-72 Boston N.Y. RANGERS
1972-73 Montreal CHICAGO
1973-74 Philadelphia Boston
1974-75 Philadelphia BUFFALO
1975-76 Montreal Philadelphia
1976-77 Montreal Boston
1977-78 Montreal Boston
1978-79 Montreal N.Y. RANGERS

Chicago was first to suffer from this period's particular cruelty.

Three Hall of Famers - forwards Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita and goaltender Tony Esposito - played for the Black Hawks in the early '70s, an assemblage of top-tier talent on par with that of Boston (Orr, Phil Esposito) and Montreal as Beliveau handed the torch to Lafleur. Like several fellow contenders in a polarized league, coach Billy Reay's clubs frequently surpassed the 1.00 mark in Hockey Reference's Simple Rating System (SRS), which gauges a team's strength based on its schedule and goal differential. (By comparison, no 2019-20 team was above 0.75 when the season paused.)

Chicago's regular-season promise was rendered hollow when Tony Esposito, who won the Vezina and Calder Trophies in 1970, flopped in a semifinal sweep that season against the soon-to-be-champion Bruins. The Black Hawks came similarly close in 1972, when a superior Rangers team edged them in the semis; 1973 was the year of a surprising run to the final following Hull's jump to the World Hockey Association; and 1974 ended, along with another Vezina season from Esposito, against Boston in six games.

In all, Chicago's best five-year span produced losses in three semifinal series and two Cup finals. No playoff defeat hurt more than 1971, when Montreal's quarterfinal upset of all-time juggernaut Boston (SRS: 2.29) established Chicago as the remaining favorite. Up three games to two against the Canadiens in the final, the Black Hawks fell 4-3 in Game 6 in Montreal and then blew a 2-0 lead at home in the decisive matchup. Such is the risk of letting Jacques Lemaire aim, fire, and score from the neutral zone.

Though Montreal delivered this smarting blow, Bruins-related misfortune bookended and shaped Chicago's lost half-decade. Black Hawks general manager Tommy Ivan kneecapped his team with an infamous 1967 trade that sent Phil Esposito to Beantown alongside Fred Stanfield and Ken Hodge. Chicago got one back on Boston by signing Orr in 1976 - after the mangling of the wondrous defenseman's left knee ensured his best days were behind him.

Rather than end sometime in the '70s, the Black Hawks' spell without a Cup totaled 49 years (1961-2010). They were upstaged in that category by the Rangers, whose record 54-year drought (1940-1994) endured because the GAG Line wasn't able to buck it.

Three Rangers teams were stellar in this era: 1971, 1972, and 1973. In the first of those years, they lost in the semis to a better Chicago squad; in the third, Chicago's semifinal win without Hull constituted a big upset. The intervening '72 season marked the peak of Jean Ratelle, Vic Hadfield, and Rod Gilbert's cumulative powers: these members of the GAG (goal-a-game) Line became the NHL's first trio to score 40 goals apiece. Bolstered by the Hall of Famers Brad Park on defense and Ed Giacomin in net, New York recorded a .699 points percentage despite losing Art Ross Trophy candidate Ratelle to a broken ankle in early March.

The GAG Line (L-R): Hadfield, Ratelle, and Gilbert. Melchior DiGiacomo / Getty Images

When the playoffs opened a month later, New York ousted the reigning champion Habs in six games and then swept Chicago, setting up a gem of a meeting for the Cup. Boston was the opponent, and though the Rangers held Phil Esposito without a goal all series, Ratelle managed just one assist after hastening his return from injury. The Bruins won Games 1, 2, and 4 by one goal. In Game 6 they clinched the title at Madison Square Garden with a 3-0 shutout, the product of a team effort that Orr, who scored the winner, described as a "perfect game."

Like Chicago, the Rangers' best shot to win had faded by the time Buffalo, an expansion entrant in 1971, arrived on the scene in earnest. The franchise has never won a Cup, a deficiency that was consummated in the '70s despite four straight seasons of standout play. Led by Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin, and Rene Robert - the French Connection line - the Sabres could skate with anyone and score in bunches. But after the comparably great Flyers beat them in the 1975 final, they went on to bow out in three consecutive second rounds.

In that '75 season, Buffalo posted a .706 points percentage and then authored a signature six-game victory over the powerhouse Habs (SRS: 1.72) in the conference finals, delaying the dawn of Montreal's next dynasty by a year. Two memories resonate from the subsequent Cup final. One is the Fog Game, when humid weather and the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium's lack of air conditioning conspired to cloud the action at ice level. (How severe was the fog? We don't call Game 3 the Bat Game, even though Sabres center Jim Lorentz straight up killed one with his stick that same night.)

The second memory: Bernie Parent shutting the door. Buffalo won the Fog Game 5-4 in overtime, but the Flyers' netminder still allowed only 11 goals in the series, stymying the Sabres' vaunted offense with a .937 save percentage. Parent cemented his Conn Smythe Trophy performance when the series returned to The Aud for Game 6: his 32 stops powered Philly's 2-0 Cup-clinching win.

So went a decade that was uniquely unforgiving to all but a select few teams. Final confirmation of this trend came in 1979, when Lafleur, Lemaire, and Dryden's impossibly stacked Canadiens rolled to the title, their fourth in four years, with a five-game win in the Cup final.

Montreal's vanquished opponent: the Rangers, who were nowhere near as loaded as in the GAG Line's heyday, but who resurged unexpectedly that season to pull off a seismic upset in the conference finals. With Phil Esposito - acquired from Boston for Park and Ratelle a few years earlier - in tow, the Rangers eliminated the heavily favored New York Islanders in six games, postponing the coronation of a new dynasty until 1980.

Nick Faris is a features writer at theScore.

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