Tag Archives: playoffs

Men’s curling worlds playoffs to resume after approval from Alberta Health

The men’s world curling championships will return to play on Sunday in the Calgary bubble, as Curling Canada announced organizers had been given the go-ahead by Alberta Health.

More to come.

WATCH | Dr. Isaac Bogoch discusses the situation in Calgary curling bubble:

The infectious disease expert explains how the curling action in Calgary could continue despite positive tests. 4:14

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CBC | Sports News

Positive COVID-19 tests in Calgary bubble halt playoffs at men’s curling worlds

Playoffs at the world men’s curling championship in Calgary have been suspended because of positive tests for the COVID-19 virus.

Those who tested positive are asymptomatic and don’t involve playoff teams, according to Curling Canada.

  • Watch and engage with CBC Sports’ That Curling Show live  Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET; Sunday 5 p.m. ET) featuring the men’s curling championship on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

But games are halted until athletes and staff on playoff teams are tested Saturday and receive their results.

“All teams that made the playoffs will undergo testing on Saturday morning, and until the results are clear and it’s known that the players and event staff are safe, no further games will be played,” Curling Canada said in a statement.

Those who have tested positive for the virus are in quarantine and contact tracing is underway, the organization added.

Canada’s Brendan Bottcher was eliminated from gold-medal contention Friday evening in a 5-3 loss to Scotland.

Saturday’s playoff game involving the United States and Switzerland, and semifinals involving Russia and Sweden are on hold. The medal games are scheduled for Sunday.

Fourteen teams, including 13 who travelled to Calgary from outside the country, competed in the men’s world championship.

The field was whittled down to six teams by Friday afternoon. The eliminated teams were preparing to travel home.

WATCH | Scotland upends Canada in qualification game:

Canada’s Brendan Bottcher loses to Scotland’s Bruce Mouat 5-3 in the qualification game at the men’s world curling championship. 1:04

The Canadian men’s, women’s and mixed doubles championships held at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre before the world championship were completed without any positive tests for the coronavirus.

Athletes and team personnel quarantine and are tested upon arrival in Calgary before competing. They’re confined to the arena and the their hotel across the highway.

A pair of Grand Slams with international men’s and women’s fields are scheduled to start next week in Calgary’s curling bubble.

Participants in those tournaments have begun arriving in Calgary to undergo their testing and quarantine before getting on the ice.

The women’s world championship, which was relocated from Switzerland to Calgary, is planned for April 30 to May 6.

WATCH | Where Canada fits in the current curling climate:

The two-time world champion explains how the rest of the world has caught up to Canadian curling. 3:20

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The NFL playoffs get a shot in the arm this weekend

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.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

The NFL’s best teams jump into the playoffs this weekend

For sheer gluttonous enjoyment, it’s tough to beat Super Wild Card Weekend. Watching back-to-back-to-back NFL playoff games on both Saturday and Sunday was a true delight. But many hardcore fans consider this upcoming weekend the best of the year.

That’s because the Divisional Round brings the league’s best teams back into the picture. In past years, the top two seeds in both conferences enjoyed a first-round bye. Starting this year, only the No. 1 seeds got the break. Those are Green Bay and defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City.

Besides going a combined 27-5 this season, K.C. and Green Bay have the top two candidates for MVP in quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. Getting them back in the mix should make for another exciting weekend.

Here’s a quick look at all four matchups:

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (Saturday 4:35 p.m. ET)

The Rams have the hottest defence in football after smothering Russell Wilson and the Seahawks last week. That gives them a puncher’s chance to pull off another upset — this time against the best team in the NFC. But the Packers have the NFL’s No. 1 offence and, in Rodgers, the likely MVP. They also get to play at Lambeau Field, in near-freezing temperature, against a team from Southern California.

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET)

Ravens QB (and reigning NFL MVP) Lamar Jackson says he’s never played in the snow. The forecast for Saturday night in Orchard Park, N.Y., calls for 1-3 cm. But that might actually help the Ravens, who run a ground-based attack built off Jackson’s rushing talents. Bills QB Josh Allen is a great runner too, but Buffalo shifted to more of an aerial attack this season as it led the AFC in points and then picked up its first playoff win in 25 years.

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City (Sunday 3:05 p.m. ET)

The Browns got their first playoff win in 26 years, upsetting Pittsburgh despite the absence of their head coach and a Pro Bowl offensive lineman due to positive coronavirus tests. Cleveland is back to full strength now but faces an even taller order against the defending Super Bowl champs. Kansas City coach Andy Reid is, famously, near-unbeatable with an extra week to prepare, and the Browns’ defence has plenty of weaknesses for him and Mahomes to attack.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (Sunday 6:40 p.m. ET)

Fox is broadcasting this game. But, as Tom Brady joked, it might be a better fit for the History Channel. Brady, 43, squares off with Drew Brees, who turned 42 today, in a battle of ancient quarterbacks who are both among the greatest of all time. Brady is not aging like a normal human, but Brees won both their matchups this season. He threw six touchdown passes and no interceptions in a pair of Saints blowouts while Brady tossed two TDs and five picks. That last stat is an indication of what might, despite the QB hype, actually decide this game: New Orleans and Tampa Bay have two of the best defences in football.

Tom Brady threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Bucs past Washington in the NFC Wild Card round. (Julio Cortez/The Associated Press)

It’s a chaotic time for Canadian curling

When Curling Canada announced it would hold the Scotties and the Brier in a bubble in Calgary this winter, it put a lot of pressure on provincial and territorial governing bodies. They have to figure out which teams will represent them at a time when indoor curling isn’t allowed in much of the country — much less a large playdown tournament. Eight provinces have already cancelled those (B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Northern Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia) while others are still holding out hope for some kind of championship event instead of just naming their team.

It’s getting tougher to keep track of who’s doing what, but CBC Sports curling reporter Devin Heroux puts it all together for us in his latest story. He also looks at what’s ahead and explains why Curling Canada is so determined to go ahead with the Brier and Scotties (money, yes, but it’s more than that). Read the piece here.


The New York Jets made history with their coaching hire. Robert Saleh, whose parents are Lebanese, is believed to be the first Muslim head coach in NFL history. The former San Francisco 49ers defensive co-ordinator is also the first head coach to net his former team a pair of bonus third-round picks under the NFL’s new policy to reward teams that develop minority coaches and executives. Saleh, 41, has never been a head coach before. But he earned universal respect in guiding San Francisco’s fierce defence to the Super Bowl last year, and his upbeat, energetic style seems to resonate with players. Saleh will try to rebuild a rotten Jets team that went 2-14 this season and could land a new quarterback with the second overall pick in this year’s draft.

Kyrie Irving’s vacation has cost him almost a million bucks. The mercurial Brooklyn guard has missed the last five games while away from the team for “personal reasons.” During that time, a video showed him attending an indoor family birthday party without wearing a mask. The NBA fined Irving $ 50,000 US today for violating its health and safety protocols and said he’ll forfeit his salary for the two games he’s missed while serving a five-day quarantine, which will end Saturday as long as he doesn’t test positive for the coronavirus. That works out to more than $ 800K. Irving is the second player to be fined by the NBA this season for attending a large indoor social gathering. The first was his new teammate, James Harden, who the Nets acquired in a blockbuster trade this week.

Things to watch on CBC Sports

Anyone’s Game: The docuseries, premiering tonight on CBC TV and also available on CBC Gem, follows the basketball team at Orangeville Prep. That’s the elite Toronto-area high school that has propelled several Canadian players to the NBA, including Denver Nuggets star Jamal Murray. CBC Sports contributor Vivek Jacob spoke with Orangeville head coach Tony McIntyre and alumnus Shemar Rathan-Mayes about the program’s impact on Canadian basketball. Watch the video here.

Winter Olympic sports: Starting early Saturday morning and continuing Sunday, you can watch live World Cup events in luge, bobsleigh, alpine skiing, freestyle skiing and ski jumping on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app. See the full schedule here.

Road to the Olympic Games: Saturday’s show features World Cup races in luge, alpine skiing, bobsleigh and skeleton. Watch it from 1-6 p.m. ET on the CBC TV network, CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app. Sunday’s show features alpine, bobsleigh and skeleton. Watch it from noon-2 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app, or check local listings for TV times.

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Everything you need to know for the International Swimming League playoffs

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.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

The International Swimming League playoffs are here

Ten teams have been trimmed down to eight as the semifinals of the pro swimming tour kick off Saturday from Budapest, where the entire season has been played from a bubble.

Each semifinal takes place over two days and you can catch it all on CBCSports.ca. The first semi goes Saturday and Sunday at 6 a.m. ET, while the second starts at noon on Sunday and Monday. For highlights and additional coverage, tune in to CBC Sports’ Road To The Olympic Games on CBC-TV Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. Click here to watch all the semifinal races.

Here’s everything else you should know:

Four teams will advance to next week’s final. Each ISL match consists of four teams and the championship races are no different. The eight lanes in each race consist of two swimmers per team, with points allocated for each placement. There’s an equal split of men’s and women’s races with equal prize money, and each meet also has two mixed relays. The top two teams in each of this weekend’s semifinals will reach the final.

Energy Standard is the team to watch. The defending champions are also the top seed in these playoffs, edging out the Cali Condors by just four points per meet before a big dropoff to the No. 3 London Roar. The Standard are joined by the Roar, No. 5 Tokyo Frog Kings and No. 8 New York Breakers in the first semifinal. The second semi features the Condors along with the No. 4 Los Angeles Current, No. 6 Iron and No. 7 Toronto Titans. The DC Trident and Aqua Centurions missed the playoffs.

Almost all Canadian interest lies with the Titans. Not only are they the lone Canadian-based club, but they also boast by far the most Canadian swimmers with 11. The expansion Titans spent their inaugural season without Penny Oleksiak and Kayla Sanchez, who opted out due to pandemic and injury concerns, respectively.

Kylie Masse, the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist and current world champion in 100-metre backstroke, won each of her four races in the discipline and led the team with 143.5 regular season points. These races are a bit different than usual, though, with 25-metre lengths as opposed to 50. Fellow Canadian Kelsey Wog was the team’s other standout, taking victories in each of her four 200 breaststroke races. Americans Blake Pieroni and Shane Ryan led the way for the Titans on the men’s side.

The feel-good story of the Titans season was Brent Hayden, who ended a seven-year retirement last November and is swimming in his first ISL season while anchoring the Titans’ men’s 4×100 freestyle relay team. Read more about Hayden’s inspirational comeback here.

Sydney Pickrem, one of seven Canadians not playing for Toronto, recently set a national record in the 400 individual medley with a time of four minutes, 25.9 seconds.

Like any pro sports league, there’s award races to watch out for. But unlike other leagues, the MVP race is cut and dry: whoever ends the season (regular and playoffs included) with the most points wins the award. No arguments about the meaning of “value.” Cali’s Caeleb Dressel, last season’s runner-up, is the current leader with 277 points, and should hold on for the victory. Finals MVP is also awarded to the top swimmer of the championship meet. In 2019, Energy’s Sarah Sjostrom was regular season MVP while Dressel took Finals MVP honours. The Swedish freestyle and butterfly specialist is looking to flip the script in 2020.

Toronto Titans swimmer Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont., takes us on a tour of the International Swimming League’s “bubble” in Budapest. 1:14


Kim Ng became the first female general manager of an MLB team. The 51-year-old also became the first Asian-American to lead an MLB team when she was hired by the Miami Marlins today. It’s believed she’s the first woman to hold the position for an American pro sports franchise. In 1989, Jo-Anne Polak of St. John’s, N.L., broke the pro sports barrier when she served as GM of the CFL’s Ottawa Rough Riders.

Ng (pronounced Ang) has been around baseball since 1990, working for the White Sox, Yankees and Dodgers front offices before moving to the commissioner’s office in 2011. Ng was with the Yankees when Marlins CEO Derek Jeter played there between 1998-2001. Now, she’ll take over a Miami team that just made the playoffs for the first time since 2003. “When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely a woman would lead a major league team, but I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals. My goal is now to bring championship baseball to Miami,” Ng said. Read more about the groundbreaking hire here.

The Masters is setting up for an interesting weekend. Augusta has yielded plenty of birdies thus far, and it means co-leaders Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Abraham Ancer and Cameron Smith are in the clubhouse at 9-under for the tournament. The projected 1-under cut will be the lowest in Masters in history. As of our publish time, pre-tournament betting favourite Bryson DeChambeau was a stunning 2-over while Tiger Woods was off to a solid start in his second round. The Canadian contingent, meanwhile, is battling just to make the cut, with Nick Taylor in at even-par and the other three (Corey Conners, Adam Hadwin, Mike Weir) hovering around the cutline. Second-round play is expected to trickle into Saturday morning. Click here to view the current leaderboard.

Vasek Pospisil is on the verge of his first career ATP Tour title. The 30-year-old Canadian took advantage of a relatively weak field at the season-ending Sofia Open, and won the final 11 games against world No. 49 Richard Gasquet today to reach the final. Pospisil will face 19-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner, ranked 44th, in Saturday’s championship match. Watch highlights and read more about Pospisil’s win here.

Ryan Tepera — yes, that Ryan Tepera — received a down-ballot MVP vote. When voting was released last night, there were more than a few raised eyebrows when the former Blue Jays reliever was listed eighth on the ballot of Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Tepera, as you may remember from his Toronto days, was basically serviceable for the Cubs: he posted a 3.92 ERA in just over 20 innings, with 31 strikeouts and 12 walks. As it turns out, Hummel just made a mistake when attempting to select Nationals outfielder Trea Turner from the online dropdown list, and accidentally clicked Tepera’s name instead. But hey, the pitcher will always have that one MVP vote on his Baseball-Reference page. As for the actual winners, a pair of first basemen took the award: Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and Chicago’s Jose Abreu. Read more about the MVP vote here.

Kim Ng. (@MLB/Twitter)

And finally…

It’s Friday the 13th. The last time that happened was in March, and you don’t need to be reminded about that week. But let’s head into the weekend on a positive note: the NHL, NBA and MLB all managed to crown champions since then, there’ll be two Olympics in the next 16 months and The Masters in November is pretty nice, as it turns out. Silver linings, or something.

This weekend on CBC Sports

We mentioned the International Swimming League above, but there’s also a couple interesting curling tournaments to keep an eye on:

World Curling Tour: Stu Sells 1824 Halifax Classic. Brad Gushue highlights this tournament, where draws go at 8:30 a.m. ET, noon, 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday before the Sunday’s semifinals at 8:30 a.m. and final at noon. Watch all the action here.

Ashley Home Store Curling Classic. The field is deeper at this bonspiel, including Kevin Koe, Brad Jacobs and John Epping. Tonight, you can watch Jacobs take on Glenn Howard at 4:30 p.m. ET before Koe and Epping show down at 9 p.m. Coverage continues throughout the weekend, with playoffs beginning at 6 p.m Sunday. The semifinals and final take place Monday afternoon. Watch all the action here.

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Toronto FC receives permission to train back home ahead of MLS playoffs

Toronto FC players will be sleeping in their own beds in the lead-up to the MLS playoffs.

Rather than return to Hartford, Toronto remained home Wednesday thanks to a relaxation of the rules regarding training during the pandemic.

“”Major League Soccer has received approval for a modified work-quarantine that permits in-market training under strict testing and safety protocols,” the league said in a statement.

The players will continue to undergo COVID-19 testing every other day and are limited to what they can do.

“Basically it’s home, training, home,” said Toronto president Bill Manning. “That’s kind of our routine. But I can tell you it’s better than being away.”

I think this is going to be a great chance to kind of recharge the batteries, being at home again,” he added.

Toronto shifted its base to Hartford in late September, playing “home games” in Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

When time permitted, the travelling party has returned to Toronto to spend time with loved ones under quarantine. In past weeks, that has not involved training — and players and staff have returned to Hartford after two days at home.

The other Canadians teams were also forced to move south of the border.

Vancouver shifted operations to Portland’s Providence Park while Montreal played out of Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

Impact back in Montreal

The Impact are also back training in Montreal under the new guidelines. The Impact (8-13-2) play Nov. 20 at New England in an Eastern Conference play-in game.

Vancouver (9-14-0) missed the playoffs.

Toronto (13-5-5) played all but four games of its 23 regular-season games away from home. It has played 14 straight games away from BMO Field, posting an 8-4-2 record since its last game in Toronto on Sept. 1.

Toronto starts its playoff run Nov. 24 in East Hartford, where it will face one of the winners from the Eastern Conference play-in games.

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CBC | Soccer News

Hart backstops Flyers to win over Bruins in NHL expanded playoffs seeding round

Carter Hart and the Philadelphia Flyers sure didn’t look stale following a 4 1/2-month pause to the NHL season.

Hart stopped 34 shots, and the Flyers got a balanced and opportunistic attack in opening the expanded playoffs seeding round with a 4-1 win over the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins on Sunday.

Michael Raffl had a goal and assist, while Nate Thompson, Philippe Myers and Scott Laughton also scored for the Flyers. Hart, 11 days shy of his 22nd birthday, became the youngest goalie in Flyers history to win a playoff game.

“Once you get out there and start playing, the game really slows down,” said Hart, who picked up from where he left off after closing the season going 9-2 and allowing just 21 goals.

“He doesn’t look 21 to me,” Thompson said of Hart. “He’s pretty poised and off the ice he carries himself well beyond his years. A true pro. He’s our backbone back there.”

WATCH | Philippe Myers adds insurance goal:

It took just 8 seconds for Philippe Myers to strike back after a Bruin goal to help Philadelphia to a 4-1 win over Boston. 0:51

The Bruins, by comparison, looked old and sluggish in their playoff debut, and nothing like the team which led the NHL with 44 wins, 100 points, and allowed a league-low 167 goals.

“I’m thinking we need to make a better freaking play with the puck,” coach Bruce Cassidy said, bluntly, complaining about the number of turnovers and a costly line change. “We need to make better plays with the puck, be stronger on it, take care of it, more urgency. You can use any adjective you want. That to me was the difference in the game.”

If there were a bright side, the Bruins — like the Flyers — are among the top four Eastern Conference teams competing in a round-robin seeding tournament and already assured of advancing to the first round.

That doesn’t mean the Bruins are taking this performance for granted, especially a team that has a Stay Hungry” tagline, in reference to losing the Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to St. Louis last year.

“Right now, we have to change some things,” defenceman Torey Krug said. “We’ve got to start building our game the right way. If we don’t, we’re going to be showing up to Game 1 of our first series not feeling comfortable.”

Halak starts in place of Rask

Chris Wagner scored for the Bruins, who came out flat and were without starting goalie Tuukka Rask, who was deemed unfit to play.

Jaroslav Halak stopped 25 shots starting in place of the Vezina Trophy finalist, who broke a finger on his left hand before the start of training camp.

Rask was healthy enough to start in Boston’s 4-1 exhibition game loss to Columbus on Wednesday. He allowed three goals on 23 shots over 30 minutes, before giving way to Halak. Cassidy said Rask was feeling better, and hoped he could return for Boston’s game against Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

Hart surpassed Pete Peeters, who was nearly 23 in winning Game 1 of Philadelphia’s preliminary series over Edmonton in 1980.

Raffl opened the scoring 5:33 into the second period when he was set up alone driving to the net by Travis Sandheim, who kept the puck in at the blueline. Thompson scored 3:58 later with a snap shot from the left circle on a play that began with teammate Ivan Provorov pouncing on a Bruins’ turnover in the neutral zone.

And even when the Bruins scored on Wagner’s wrap-around goal with 1:09 left in the second period, they allowed the Flyers to regain the two-goal edge on Myers’ goal 8 seconds later.

Boston’s Anders Bjork appeared to misplay the puck in the neutral zone, allowing Myers to drive up the left wing and snap a 40-footer inside the far post.

Laughton then sealed the win 4:07 into the third period, when he drove in alone after teammate Kevin Hayes forced Brandon Carlo to turn over the puck at the right point of the Flyers’ zone.

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What you need to know for the NHL playoffs

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.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

Quick note before we get started: no newsletter Monday on account of the holiday. Back Tuesday.

Here’s your guide to the first stage of the NHL playoffs

On Saturday — 143 days after putting its season on pause — the NHL will finally play meaningful games again. It’s cutting right to the chase, too. Unlike the NBA, which is having its teams play eight more de facto regular-season games each, the NHL is going straight to an expanded version of the playoffs.

Refresher on how this will work: The first stage, branded the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, consists of two parts. The more interesting one matches up the 5th through 12th seeds in each conference for best-of-five series. While those are going on, the top four seeds in each conference play a round robin against each other. Everyone in the round-robin is guaranteed to advance, but their records in these games will determine seeding for the conventional 16-team, best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff bracket that follows. The No. 1 seed in each conference gets to play the lowest-seeded survivor from the best-of-five series, and the teams will be re-seeded after each round so that the top remaining seed always gets to play the weakest seed.

The four teams in the East round-robin are (in order of best to worst record) Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia. In the West it’s defending Cup champion St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas.

The Stanley Cup champ is more likely to come from that group of eight. Most bookmakers have Tampa Bay as the favourite to win the Cup, but the odds suggest it’s a wide-open race. Boston, Vegas and Colorado are all packed in closely behind the Lightning, with several other teams not far away.

Some teams will undoubtedly rise up the board if they survive their best-of-five series. Let’s take a quick look at those matchups:

Western Conference

#5 Edmonton Oilers vs. #12 Chicago: There’s plenty of star power in this battle between two of the leagues’ top-heaviest teams. The Oilers have the NHL’s No. 1 and No. 2 point scorers in Leon Draisaitl (an MVP finalist) and Connor McDavid (the best player in the world). Chicago’s Patrick Kane had 84 points in 70 games this season, and Jonathan Toews is one of the top two-way players of his generation.

#6 Nashville Predators vs. #11 Arizona Coyotes: Probably the least interesting matchup, but there’s some freshness to it. The Coyotes are making their first playoff appearance since 2012, and Arizona star Taylor Hall is making just the second of his career.

#7 Vancouver Canucks vs. #10 Minnesota Wild: Vancouver is back in the playoffs for the first time in five years and looking to win a series for the first time since falling one victory short of the Stanley Cup in 2011. The Wild are the deeper team, but the Canucks have more stars, including last year’s rookie of the year (forward Elias Pettersson) and also possibly this year’s (defenceman Quinn Hughes, who’s a finalist for the award).

#8 Calgary Flames vs. #9 Winnipeg Jets: The only all-Canadian matchup is one we haven’t seen in the playoffs since the 1987 Smythe Division semifinals. Top to bottom, Calgary’s skaters are stronger, but the Jets have one of the best goalies in the league in Connor Hellebuyck, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.

Eastern Conference

#5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #12 Montreal Canadiens: Everyone is calling the Habs impostors because they had basically no chance of making the playoffs the conventional way this year. But a best-of-five series introduces even more randomness into the already notoriously random NHL playoffs, and Carey Price can steal one of these if he gets hot. But he’ll be facing a healthy and rested Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

#6 Carolina Hurricanes vs. #11 New York Rangers: This one looks fun. The Rangers’ Artemi Panarin finished third in the league in scoring to earn an MVP-finalist nod, and he and Mika Zibanejad are a dynamite tandem. Carolina made a surprising run to the conference finals last year, but its goaltending is still a big question mark.

#7 New York Islanders vs. #10 Florida Panthers: The Panthers spent a ton in free agency, but they were probably on their way to missing the playoffs before they got rescued by the expanded playoff format Still, they have a pair of stars in Jonathan Huberdeau and Alexander Barkov, and a high-ceiling goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky. The Islanders are a classic Barry Trotz team: a collection of no-names who beat you with effort and dedication to their brilliant coach’s stifling system.

#8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. #9 Columbus Blue Jackets: A fourth consecutive opening-round exit would be devastating to the Leafs and their fragile fan base. So it’s a bit cruel that they drew the team who shocked juggernaut Tampa in round 1 last year. Columbus, though, won only three of its last 15 games before the NHL shut down the regular season.

A few more things to note: From now through the quarter-finals, all Eastern Conference games are being played in Toronto. Edmonton is hosting the Western games, and will host both conference finals and the Stanley Cup final.

As for the schedule, it’s a binge-watcher’s dream. Five games are on tap Saturday, with start times ranging from noon ET to 10:30 p.m. ET. They’re staggered in such a way that you’ll be able to watch about 13 consecutive hours of hockey with very little gaps in the action (please consult your doctor first). A similar slate is in line for at least the first six days, and probably a bit longer unless there are a bunch of sweeps. This handy graphic from the NHL lays out the full schedule for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers:

(NHL Public Relations)


Another baseball game was postponed — and more might be coming. Today’s matchup between St. Louis and Milwaukee got called off after two Cardinals players tested positive for COVID-19. That makes three games on today’s schedule postponed because of positive tests. Philadelphia-Toronto and Washington-Miami are the others, and their games through the weekend have already been nixed. At our publish time it was unclear what will happen with the Cardinals-Brewers games on Saturday and Sunday. It’ll also be interesting to see if the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland get pulled into this. The Cardinals said that their positive results came from tests conducted on Wednesday, prior to a game in Minnesota. The Twins are scheduled to play Cleveland tonight, Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile, the Miami Marlins’ outbreak resulted in a 20th positive test today. The count is up to 18 players and two coaches. Read about the latest in baseball’s growing list of problems here.

The Canadian Elite Basketball League’s tournament has been quite competitive. After the 0-2 Ottawa Blackjacks beat the 2-0 Fraser Valley Bandits last night, all seven teams were either 2-1 or 1-2 at the halfway mark of the round robin. This stage runs through Wednesday. At that point, the top two teams will get a bye to the semifinals while the teams ranked 3-6 will square off in a pair of quarter-final matchups on Thursday night. Every game in the tournament is being streamed live on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem. Today’s matchups are Edmonton vs. Niagara at 3 p.m. ET and Saskatchewan vs. Guelph at 5:30 p.m. ET. Both of Saturday’s games — Hamilton vs. Fraser Valley at 1:30 p.m. ET and Edmonton vs. Saskatchewan at 3:30 p.m. ET — will also be broadcast live on the CBC TV network. Stream everything live and see the full schedule here.

The LPGA Tour is back. The first tournament since mid-February teed off today in Ohio. Canada’s best player, Brooke Henderson, isn’t there. The world No. 7 decided to skip the first three events and return for the next major, the British Women’s Open on Aug. 20. The only Canadian in the field this week is 107th-ranked Alena Sharp. If not for the pandemic, she and Henderson would be in Tokyo right now competing in the Olympics. Read more about Sharp here.

And one more thing…

The NBA is back, which is great. But so is load management, which is not.

It was genuinely uplifting to watch the return of meaningful NBA games last night. They looked and sounded as close to normal as you could hope under these circumstances. And the moment before the opener in which every single player, coach and referee involved in the Utah-New Orleans game took a knee for the national anthem was quite powerful.

But it was not so great to be reminded that load management is still very much a thing. Star rookie Zion Williamson, like the rest of the league, had been off for four and a half months. He’s now nine months removed from the arthroscopic knee surgery that was initially supposed to keep him out for 6-8 weeks, and he already came back and got 20 games under his belt before the pandemic hit. So you’d think he’d be good to go.

And yet, in the final few minutes of a tight, nationally televised game last night, New Orleans refused to budge from the minutes restriction it has placed on him. Zion came out of the game with 7:19 left and never returned — even when the Pelicans got the ball with 6.9 seconds left and trailing by two. They missed a potential game-winning three and lost. After the game, coach Alvin Gentry said “We wish we could have played Zion down the stretch. But he had used the minutes that had been given to us.”

It’s understandable that New Orleans would want to be protective of Zion. He has a history of knee injuries and the Pelicans’ chances of winning a championship this year are extremely slim. So in some ways it makes sense to play the long game — for both the team and for Zion. But New Orleans still has a chance to make the playoffs, and one of the selling points of this final stretch of regular-season games (or “seeding games” as the NBA has branded them) was supposed to be watching Zion lead his team on that push. Now we know that isn’t the top priority for the Pelicans.

This kind of indifference is something the league might have to reckon with before long. It’s become pretty plain that many teams and players don’t really care about the regular season. Pretty soon, fans might stop caring too.

You’re up to speed. Have a good long weekend.

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Baseball debates ‘NHL-ization’ of playoffs if 6 teams are added

Maybe this might get Mike Trout back into the playoffs.

Major League Baseball is tossing around plenty of ideas these days to start up a shortened season delayed by the coronavirus pandemic — a DH in the National League, neutral-site games, personal rosin bags for pitchers.

Now comes a proposal that would truly upend the sport: up to 16 playoff teams.

More than half the 30 clubs advance. No need to finish over .500, probably. In this skewed season, heck, perhaps 35 wins in 76 games or so could be enough to play into October.

What’s next, the Winnipeg Jets in the World Series?

OK, we’ve heard this before, that an extra wild-card team or two represents the NHL-ization of baseball. But to some, an expansion from 10 playoff clubs to 16 would mean the end of civilization as we know it.

Longtime manager Jim Riggleman chuckled at that notion.

“I think that whatever they come up with this year to play, anything goes. That’s fine,” he said. “But moving forward into next year, I wouldn’t be in favour of that many teams making the playoffs. I don’t think many players would be, either.”

“To say that 16 of 30 teams are playoff teams,” he said, “you’ve got to raise the bar higher than that.”

WATCH | Commissioner Rob Manfred confident deal will be reached:

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred tells CNN on Thursday he is confident Major League Baseball will reach an agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association to return to action this season. 1:09

Other sports are accustomed to a plethora of post-season hopefuls.

The NBA has been putting 16 of 30 teams in the playoffs. The NHL welcomes 16 of 31. The NFL will bump up from 12 squads to 14 of 32 this season.

For Aaron Judge, Clayton Kershaw, Juan Soto and others on elite teams, an expanded playoff field and extra games might make it tougher to bring home the trophy. In its offer to players Monday, MLB didn’t specify how a playoff format would work with as many as eight teams in each league for this year and 2021.

For Josh Bell, Joey Votto, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and more whose clubs often are way behind, this could be an opportunity. Get off to a surprising 15-6 start in a dramatically shortened season, and there’s a chance.

No doubt, a lot of Trout fans wouldn’t mind that. The three-time AL MVP and eight-time All-Star has never won a playoff game in his career — he made it only once, when his Angels were swept by Kansas City in the 2014 Division Series.

Would this definitely lead to subpar clubs in the playoffs?

Put it this way: If eight teams had qualified for the playoffs in each league from 1995 (when wild cards started) through 2019, a total of 46 MLB clubs at or below .500 would have made it, the Elias Sports Bureau said. That’d average out to just under two per season.

Only once has a big league team reached the playoffs with a losing record. George Brett, Willie Wilson and the 1981 Royals went 50-53 overall but qualified for an expanded post-season because of a 30-23 mark in the second half of a strike-split season.

Veteran skipper Bobby Valentine is OK with extra playoff teams — with a caveat.

“More the better this year,” he wrote in an email to The Associated Press, “but they should have copied the Japanese league.”

Valentine, who managed in Japan, pointed out the early playoff rounds there are hugely tilted. As in, those matchups automatically start at 1-0.

“The winner of the division gets a win in each round in advance. So there is real incentive to play every game hard,” he said. “If it is best-of-three, winner has to win one game. Wild card and other teams need to win two.”

For much of major league history, only the AL and NL pennant winners after the regular season got to advance — straight to the World Series. The post-season field became four in 1969 when division play began, then doubled to eight with wild cards in 1995. In 2012, extra wild cards boosted the playoff field to 10.

To Riggleman, who managed San Diego, the Cubs, Seattle and Washington, it’s already gone far enough.

“When wild cards first started, I wasn’t sure that I would like it, but I did,” he said. “But I didn’t like having more than one wild card in each league. It was like you played all year, you won (a) wild card, and now we lose one game and we’re out?”

“Beyond this season, talking about 16, I wouldn’t have that many teams in the playoffs,” he said. “You can water it down.”

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Playoffs? Canadiens coach Julien preparing for every scenario in case NHL returns

The Montreal Canadiens’ playoff hopes were all but dashed even before the National Hockey League announced it was pausing its season because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The team was 10 points out of the post-season picture and with only 11 games remaining in the regular season there wasn’t much left to play for other than pride. 

The scheduled finale against the Maple Leafs on April 4 would have marked a merciful end to a year which was filled with frustration for both the organization and its fans.  

Yet with everything on pause, head coach Claude Julien hasn’t been able to turn the page on the season. Quite the opposite, in fact. With all the uncertainty, he’s been preparing for an eventual return to the ice with this year’s group of players.

“I need to be ready for whatever scenario they come up with,” Julien said in a conference call with reporters from his family’s summer home in Ontario where he has been isolating since the shutdown.

“I am prepared for the NHL to say, ‘Ok we’re going to get back.'”

Julien emphasized that safety is paramount and he wouldn’t want to go back to work if there were any health concerns, but acknowledged that if the NHL was able to get back at it, it would represent an opportunity for his team. 

“We’ve actually had a tough year, and I keep saying it, due to major injuries I think we’ve slipped,” Julien said  “If we could come back, be healthy and everybody is starting at the same time, I think it’s important for us as a coaching staff and as a group to be ready for that to give us the best chance possible.”

WATCH | What could playoffs look like if NHL returns?

While the NHL is on pause because of Covid-19, Rob Pizzo looks at what could happen if the league starts back up again this season.  3:20

In recent weeks multiple scenarios for a return have been kicked around among players and analysts online. 

One proposal is an expanded 24-team playoff format which would include the Habs.

Another suggested going to an open playoff for the Stanley Cup that included all 31 teams. 

“The (NHL has) a tough job ahead of them trying to figure this out because it changes everyday,” Julien said “I’m excited about the opportunity to (be) part of whatever they come up with next.”  

Leaning on the NHL coaching fraternity in tough times

Julien said he participates in frequent group calls with other NHL coaches such as the Islanders’ Barry Trotz, the Lightning’s Jon Cooper and even former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock. 

“The chit chat is not so much about systems and that because we all know how each other and how each team plays,” he said. “We watch enough video to know that. So there’s no secrets there. It’s more about unique things,”

Julien kept the exact details of the conversations private but said they are mostly about sharing experiences that are unique to hockey coaches. He added that normally they do this kind of thing in person around the NHL entry draft and these calls have served as a replacement for that. 

Team activities, meanwhile, have taken a bit of a back seat for the moment. 

WATCH | Habs’ Shea Weber partakes in call with Atlantic reps:

Today we shift over to the Atlantic Division to find out who you don’t want to be sitting behind on the bus after he ate chicken wings.  3:07

The uncertainty is making it difficult, but Julien said that he’s trying to focus on the bright side and use this extra time he has now to be with his family. 

He said he’s reached out to most of his players to have individual conversations but they haven’t done anything as a group.

“The biggest thing right now was for players and individuals to go to their homes and stay home — I think there is an adjustment period right there. A lot of new stuff for everybody to digest right now,” Julien said.

Julien is confident his players will remain in shape and will be physically ready to return to action if the NHL gives the go-ahead. 

“As coaches we’re watching videos, looking at different things that we need to look at. We’re continuing to try to improve our team and at the same time trying to keep ourselves sharp mentally with what’s going on,” Julien said. 

He said the major concern he’s hearing right now is about what the delay of this season could mean for the 2020-21 season. 

“The biggest concern for everybody, do they finish in August and start in September? And I don’t have that answer either,” Julien said. “At some point somebody is going to come up to us and say training camp is starting this date (and) I don’t want to be scrambling. I want to be ready.”

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Optimism in Edmonton, angst in Calgary as final push for playoffs begins

A measly three points separate the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames in the wild NHL Pacific Division playoff race.

But massive is the difference in the collective mood among the respective fan bases, especially after Monday’s trade deadline.

In Edmonton, the long-suffering supporters are excited — bordering on elated — about the playoff prospects of the overachieving Oilers.

In Calgary, the fans are an angst-ridden bunch, not quite willing to give up just yet on their underachieving Flames.

Both reactions are a direct result of pre-season expectations failing to match reality.

“We’ve got a great nucleus,” Oilers general manager Ken Holland told reporters Monday in Anaheim after a busy day of shopping. “They’ve played hard to put ourselves in a position where we can compete for a playoff spot.”

Have they ever. The Oilers (33-22-7) sit in second place in the Pacific, three points back of first-place Las Vegas with two games in hand.

So Holland pulled the trigger and acquired the following:

  • Forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Ryan Kuffner from Detroit for two second-round picks and forward Sam Gagner.
  • Veteran defenceman Mike Green from Detroit for a conditional third or fourth-round draft pick and injured forward Kyle Brodziak.
  • Left wing Tyler Ennis from Ottawa for a fifth-round draft pick.

“No risk, no gain,” Holland said .”I can sit around and do nothing. I can puddle around, but I felt like I had a chance to help.”

The Oilers shocked everyone — likely themselves included — by storming to a 9-4-1 record in October. The pundits waited for the Oilers to eventually plummet in the standings once their lack of depth caught up to them.

WATCH | Rob Pizzo recaps trade deadline day:

Rob Pizzo tells you everything you need to know about who went where 2:43

It never happened — not even when the Oilers lost captain Connor McDavid to a quad injury on Feb. 8 in Nashville. In fact, they went 3-2-1 in his absence.

“I like that our team comes to work every day,” Holland said. “They compete. We’re playing good defence. We’re finding different ways to win, and we have different people stepping up.

“I felt like I had an obligation to try to pitch in and help out. We’re trying to build a program and certainly we’re in a real race.”

The Flames (32-25-6) are in the same race. Calgary GM Brad Treliving did his part Monday to help lift his team into the post-season.

Defenceman Mark Giordano (hamstring) has missed the past nine games going into Tuesday’s game in Boston. He is expected to return any day, but fellow rearguard Travis Hamonic is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.

Originally, the Flames wanted to add a top-six forward before the deadline. But the emergence of Andrew Mangiapane — named the NHL’s third star of the week with five goals and assist in three games — has lessened the need.

So Treliving dealt a third-round pick to Chicago for puck-moving defenceman Erik Gustafsson,  and he shipped a conditional fourth-round pick to Los Angeles for bruising blue-liner Derek Forbort.

“You know when you go to the grocery store and you have no milk, but then you get some milk before you go to the grocery store and now you run out of soup, and you only have 10 bucks to spend,” Treliving told reporters in Boston.

You buy the soup because you have the milk. We were missing players on the back end, so we had to buy some soup.– Brad Treliving

“Well, you buy the soup because you have the milk. We were missing players on the back end, so we had to buy some soup. And hopefully, the milk up front will carry us through. That’s sort of how I look at it.”

A confusing analogy? Absolutely. But Calgary’s playoff chances indeed rest on their top players — paging Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund — playing up to the numbers on the back of their hockey cards.

The Flames are maddingly inconsistent, but they’re deep up front and show flashes of the form that saw them finish first last season in the Western Conference.

“You can always look outside or you can say, ‘OK, let’s shore up, let’s give ourselves some depth, let’s put some confidence in the people you do have,'” Treliving said. “Our big bullets, in terms of draft picks, we saved in our holster.

“I’m excited. I’m excited we addressed some areas of need.”

That excitement is no match for the nervous delight in Edmonton. At age 34, Green’s best years are likely behind him but he’s still an elite power-play quarterback — vital considering minute-muncher Oscar Klefbom is out with a shoulder injury.

Clearly struggling, Athanasiou has 10 goals and 24 points in 46 games this season. But the Woodbridge, Ont., product collected 30 goals and 54 points last year.

Given his speed, Athanasiou is expected to play on the first line with McDavid.

Ennis, 30, is expected to contribute on the third line. He comes to Edmonton after scoring 14 goals and 33 points this season in Ottawa.

Holland is in no mood to waste a prime year of McDavid and Leon Draisaitl — arguably the greatest fear among Oiler fans.

“We felt that we’d like to do something to put a little buzz into our team,” Holland said. “They’ve played hard all year. They’ve battled and scratched and clawed. We’ve got ourselves in a position where we’re fighting for a playoff spot.”

And now they’re in a better position to win that fight.

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