The NHL's all-Canadian playoff matchups both look exciting

The NHL's all-Canadian playoff matchups both look exciting

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The NHL’s all-Canadian playoff matchups are set

With last night’s 5-0 win over Vancouver, the Winnipeg Jets clinched the No. 3 seed in the North and locked in the division’s first-round playoff matchups. They’re both quite exciting:

Edmonton vs. Winnipeg: Another excuse to give you some wild Connor McDavid facts! As you know, the Oilers superstar is putting the finishing touches on one of the greatest scoring seasons in NHL history. With 102 points through 54 games (!), he leads the Art Ross Trophy race by an absurd 21 points and is averaging 1.89 points per game. Only five players in history have bettered that rate of production over the course of a season in which they played at least 50 games: Wayne Gretzky (he did it 11 times!), Mario Lemieux (six!), Phil Esposito, Steve Yzerman and Bernie Nicholls (once each). McDavid is peaking at the right time too: he’s averaging three points per game in the month of May. He can not be stopped, and neither really can his teammate and reigning scoring champ Leon Draisaitl, who’s second in points and leads the third-place guy (Boston’s Brad Marchand) by 12. But if anyone can give it a go, maybe it’s Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck — the reigning Vezina Trophy winner who’s having another excellent season.

Toronto vs. Montreal: The wait is over! Forty-two years after their last playoff meeting, hockey’s two most storied franchises — and most bitter rivals — will finally square off again in the post-season. It didn’t go so well for the Leafs back in 1979, when the Guy Lafleur-led Habs swept them for the second straight year en route to their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup. This time, Toronto is the clear favourite after winning its first division title in 21 years with one of the game’s most impressive offences. Auston Matthews (40 goals in 50 games) is running away with his first Rocket Richard Trophy, and he and Mitch Marner (67 points in 54 games) currently rank sixth and fourth, respectively, in the points race. Montreal doesn’t have that kind of firepower — its top scorer, Tyler Toffoli, is outside the top 40. And the Canadiens’ usual ace in the hole, goalie Carey Price, has been out with a concussion since mid-April — though he’s expected back for the playoffs. Learn more about the century-plus-long history of the Montreal-Toronto NHL rivalry by watching the video by CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo below.

We still don’t know for sure when the Leafs-Habs and Oilers-Jets series will start. But NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has suggested at least one of them could open a week from today — the same day the North Division (fulfills its contractual obligations and) completes its regular-season schedule with a postponed Vancouver-Calgary game. At the moment, only one playoff game is scheduled: the Washington-Boston series opener on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. ET.

The winners of the two North series will meet to decide who represents the division in the Stanley Cup semifinals against the winners of the three U.S.-based divisions. By that time, the NHL hopes to have obtained a waiver from the Canadian government that would allow the North winner and its opponent to travel in and out of the country without quarantining. If the request is denied, Daly said, the North champ will likely be relocated to one of the NHL’s U.S. cities.

It’s official, the Leafs and Habs will meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 1979. Rob Pizzo goes back over 100 years into the archives to examine hockey’s oldest rivalry. 4:28

Quickly…

The Rangers continued their overhaul. New York, which failed to qualify for the playoffs and finished up its season on Saturday, fired head coach David Quinn and three of his assistants today. Their replacements haven’t been picked yet. These are the first big moves by new general manager Chris Drury, who took over last week after the team canned GM Jeff Gorton and president John Davidson. Those surprising firings came the day after the NHL fined the Rangers $250,000 US for releasing a statement in which they called for league executive George Parros to lose his job because he didn’t suspend Washington’s Tom Wilson for causing an injury to New York star Artemi Panarin. Read more about the Rangers’ tumultuous stretch here.

The 2021 NFL season opens with the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys. Because the NFL can make an event out of anything, the full schedule is being released on a primetime TV special tonight at 8 p.m. ET. But the league gave out some morsels today by revealing the Week 1 slate, which begins with a Thursday night Bucs-Cowboys matchup on Sept. 9. You can see the rest of the Week 1 dates here. This is the first year of the NFL’s expanded regular season, which will see teams play 17 games — one more than before.

Canada named its Olympic softball team. After getting bumped from the program for the last two Summer Olympics, the sport returns in Tokyo with a women’s event (there’s also a men’s baseball tournament). The Canadian team is a contender to win the country’s first-ever Olympic softball medal: it’s ranked third in the world, and took bronze at the last two world championships. Read more about the Olympic squad here.

And finally…

Caster Semenya is too fast for some people off the track too. The two-time Olympic and three-time world 800-metre champ was sentenced to 50 hours of community service for speeding in her native South Africa. Semenya has bigger concerns right now, though. She’s unlikely to defend her 800m title at the Tokyo Olympics after track and field’s world governing body made a rule requiring Semenya and other women with similarly high levels of natural testosterone to reduce them below a certain threshold (it’s possible via drugs or surgery) if they want to compete in women’s races ranging from 400 metres to a mile. Semenya has refused, and her last-ditch appeal to the European Court of Human Rights likely won’t be heard before the Tokyo Games. Semenya is now trying the 5,000m, which doesn’t have a testosterone restriction, but she’s yet to run the Olympic qualifying time.

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Published at Wed, 12 May 2021 20:48:52 +0000