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Iceland’s ‘COVID-19 passport’ offers preview of debate over post-vaccine travel

Iceland recently became the first country in Europe to issue and recognize COVID-19 vaccination certificates, which it hopes will allow vaccinated individuals to travel freely within its borders and abroad. 

Since early in the pandemic, the island nation has required a five-day quarantine for international arrivals. Now, those with documentation showing they have received a full course of COVID-19 vaccines will be able to skip quarantine.

The idea has some currency — already, Sweden and Denmark are reportedly developing their own digital certificates for post-vaccine travel.

Whether Iceland’s certificates are actually recognized will be up to other countries. But there are some parallels between Iceland’s experience and the future faced by some lucky Canadians.

Iceland expects to vaccinate a majority of adults by mid-2021, months ahead of its neighbours. Residents of Nunavut, Yukon and the N.W.T. are expecting the same.

A rain cloud hovers over Reykjavík. Icelandic authorities have been less cautious than their European neighbours, allowing quarantine-free travel to people who are vaccinated against or have recovered from COVID-19. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

That means a greatly reduced risk that the territories’ limited health systems will be overtaxed by COVID-19 cases — and a greater challenge justifying their quarantines, which are making it harder to attract skilled workers and gutting the vital tourism sector.

Could vaccine certificates be part of travel inside Canada? While the answer isn’t totally clear yet, there are reasons to think Iceland’s experiment would meet a chilly reception here.

Iceland less cautious

Iceland has generally been less cautious than the rest of the world when it comes to COVID-19. It opted for a shorter quarantine period than most, and it issued similar certificates for those who had recovered from COVID-19 on the assumption (which has been questioned) that people could not contract the disease twice.

The introduction of vaccination certificates has been no less controversial, partly because health authorities stress there is still little evidence available vaccines prevent a person from carrying the coronavirus and infecting others. 

For Iceland’s certificates to matter, they will need to get buy-in from their 25 neighbours in Europe’s free-travel zone. That’s not going to be easy.

EU leaders have as yet been unable to come to a common position on the certificates, despite interest from tourism-hungry nations like Italy, Spain and Greece

There are real equality concerns if we’re going to start doling out benefits and demerits based on who is vaccinated.– Cara Zwibel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Those countries have the support of industry, like the International Air Transport Association, the United Nations World Tourism Organization and the European Travel Commission.

“It’s a top priority that travel becomes hassle-free again,” said Pascal Prinz, the chair of the commission’s Canada chapter. “[Vaccination passports] would be a complimentary tool.”

Unresolved legal questions

But some of Iceland’s neighbours have been turned off by some unresolved legal questions.

While international health regulations allow states to request proof of vaccination against certain diseases, such as yellow fever, COVID-19 is not currently among them. Expanding that list would require a recommendation from the World Health Organization, experts say.

Some countries, like Germany and France, have also raised concerns that the certificates may be discriminatory. Even the U.K., which funded eight companies’ efforts to design a digital COVID-19 passport, now says it has no plan to use them for international travel.

Canadian groups raise similar objections. Cara Zwibel, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Fundamental Freedoms project, says certificates could discriminate against pregnant mothers and children, who are still discouraged from getting COVID-19 vaccines in some places, or against certain religious groups or other conscientious objectors.

We are not there yet as a country.– Mike Westwick, spokesperson for the N.W.T. chief public health officer

“There are real equality concerns if we’re going to start doling out benefits and demerits based on who is vaccinated,” she said.

The Public Health Agency of Canada didn’t respond to questions about Iceland’s passports in time for publication. But in the North, where residents can expect to be immunized months ahead of most other places, health authorities still caution that barrier-free travel, even within Canada, is unlikely anytime soon.

Mike Westwick, a spokesperson for the N.W.T.’s chief public health officer, says health authorities would need to be convinced that the vaccine prevents transmission of COVID-19 — and right now, they aren’t.

Tracking system lacking

The lack of any common database to track travellers and their vaccination status is another barrier, he wrote.

“There needs to be a lot of thinking on how to structure any tracking system,” he wrote in an email. “We are not there yet as a country.”

That means for now, officials in all three territories said proof of vaccination would not mean easier travel for anyone.

The N.W.T.’s 14-day quarantine remains in place even for those who have received a full dose of vaccines. According to a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services, immunization cards can’t be used “as proof for travel or other purposes.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, left, speaks with Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, centre, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a round table meeting at a European Union summit in Brussels in July. EU leaders have been as yet unable to come to a common position on vaccination certificates. (John Thys/pool/The Associated Press)

Similarly, Nunavut’s health authorities said in a statement it’s “too early to make any decisions or changes” to travel or quarantine rules.

But whatever the objections, the debate over COVID-19 passports is not going away. Denmark, Sweden and Israel may soon join Iceland in rolling out their own vaccination passport systems.

Even the European Commission, which called discussion of travel certificates “premature” in a recent communique, says as vaccination campaigns accelerate, the “mutual recognition of vaccination [will] become of utmost importance.”

Here in Canada, polling shows widespread support for tough new restrictions, even as vaccination campaigns ramp up. But that hasn’t stopped vaccinated Canadians living abroad balking at rules preventing their quarantine-free return.

Ultimately, it’s still too soon to say whether it’s even safe for the vaccinated to be travelling across borders, and it will take more time still to figure out just how to manage it. So like so many other pandemic policies, it’s a case of hurry up and wait.

A passenger wearing a protective face mask walks at Fiumicino Airport in Rome. Civil liberties advocates say allowing travel for vaccinated individuals raises equality concerns. (Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters)

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CBC | World News

Cavalry weather Forge to draw 1st blood in icy title preview

Both Cavalry FC and Forge FC braved sub-zero temperatures in Calgary on Wednesday as the top two clubs in the CPL squared off at an icy ATCO Field. The two sides will meet three more times in the next few weeks (including the two-legged CPL Finals), but it was ultimately hosts Cavalry who emerged with a 2-1 victory on the day. 

The first half saw no goals, but the field seemed tilted toward Forge’s net as Cavalry attacked with over 60 per cent possession. With the wind at their backs, the Cavs had plenty of time in their opponents’ half, although they weren’t able to get on the board. Dominique Malonga did put one into the net for Cavalry in the 30th minute, but his effort was flagged after a controversial offside call.

It was Malonga again, however, who ultimately gave Cavalry a lead. Midway through the second half, he fought his way into the box as Jordan Brown tried his luck from well outside, and Malonga was there to put away the rebound for his 10th goal of the year.

After falling behind, Forge started to carve out some more possession as they pressed further up the pitch in search of a goal. The visitors equalized in the 78th minute, as Anthony Novak powered into the box all alone and lifted it over Cavs keeper Marco Carducci’s left arm.

The hero of the night, though, was destined to be Malonga. In the 84th minute, he did what he does best and pushed his way through a crowd in the box, finding Nathan Mavila’s low cross and re-directing it goalward with his right foot. Third in the Golden Boot race at the start of the night, he pulled nearer to Forge’s Tristan Borges, who tops the leaderboard with 12 goals, and he drew level with second-place Terran Campbell of Pacific FC.

Adding to the bad news for Forge, centre-back Bertrand Owundi collected a yellow card in this one, which means he’ll miss the first leg of Finals 2019 due to card accumulation.

HFX, Pacific share spoils

The HFX Wanderers FC and Pacific FC shared spoils after drawing 1-1 in a wild match that featured plenty of late thrills for the Halifax crowd to enjoy.

Pacific defender Lukas MacNaughton got things going in the 13th minute, scoring off a corner to give his team a narrow lead.

But, MacNaughton would quickly undo his good work, bringing Kodai Iida down in the box, in the 26th minute, to concede a penalty, which Luis Alberto Perea slotted into the top left corner for his third of the year.

The second half marked the return of Pacific’s Marcel De Jong. After a seven-month layoff with an Achilles injury, De Jong finally made his club debut in the 66th minute.

However he quickly made his presence felt, whipping a perfect cross to Terran Campbell from the left, which forced HFX keeper Christian Oxner to challenge well out of the box, drawing a yellow card.

De Jong would continue to cause problems for HFX, who themselves had a few good looks at goal as the minutes ticked on. Scott Firth had a shot on goal in the 86th for HFX, before De Jong found fellow substitute Issey Nakajima-Farran for another sight target three minutes later. Tomas Skublak, coming off the bench for HFX, had two late chances, too, but neither found the back of the net.

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CBC | Soccer News

Microsoft Is Accepting Sign-Ups for xCloud Game Streaming Preview

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Numerous technology powerhouses are investing in game streaming services, not the least of which is Microsoft. The company has shown off its xCloud game streaming a few times, including one suspicious on-stage demo. Now, it’s gearing up for the first wave of beta players, and you can sign up for a chance to get one of those preview spots

As with other game streaming platforms, xCloud will render games on servers in the cloud. The video of that gameplay streams down to your phone, laptop, TV, or other devices. Your controller inputs go back up to the server, allowing you to play the game. Several companies have tried and failed to combat latency and bandwidth issues that plague game streaming, but the technology is finally getting there. 

Eventually, xCloud will support streaming a wide array of Xbox games to many different devices. However, Microsoft has opted to keep the preview extremely limited. In addition to only allowing a small number of gamers give xCloud a shot, Microsoft will only let them play a handful of titles. The preview will have Gears 5, Halo 5: Guardians, Killer Instinct, and Sea of Thieves. Microsoft wants to gather data on how people use the service and will expand the game selection over time. 

If you want to sign up for the beta, you can do so on Microsoft’s xCloud website. To participate, you’ll need an Android phone running 6.0 Marshmallow or higher. While the plan is to support iOS eventually, the preview app will only be in the Google Play Store. You’ll also need a wireless Xbox controller — the phone mounting arm is optional, but you’ll probably want one. xCloud requires at least 10Mbps of download bandwidth, and 5GHz Wi-Fi is recommended. Mobile data should work fine as long as you’ve got low latency. Microsoft is planning a 5G streaming test in South Korea, too. 

Microsoft has not announced a start date for the xCloud preview, but we do know it will be limited to the US, UK, and South Korea. The company previously promised a preview would start in October, and that may still be the case. Although, the registration page does say that invites might be delayed by several months. Microsoft hasn’t talked about its business model for the final service, but the preview will be free.

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ExtremeTechGaming – ExtremeTech

2019 Fall TV Preview: Watch Trailers for All the New Broadcast Shows

2019 Fall TV Preview: Watch Trailers for All the New Broadcast Shows | Entertainment Tonight

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Stanley Cup playoffs: Eastern Conference preview

Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals finally broke through in the Great Eight’s 13th NHL season last spring. What will they do as an encore?

It appears the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning is standing in the Capitals way in the East. The Lightning scored 325 goals, the most by a team in 23 years and clinched a playoff spot way back on Mar. 9.

Betonline.ag has listed the Lightning as a 2-1 favourite ahead of the Calgary Flames (8-1), Boston Bruins (9-1) with the Nashville Predators and Capitals at 14-1.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will once again be battling the Boston Bruins in the opening round. Can the Leafs finally break free of Boston’s grasp?

Here is a glance at the first-round matchups in the Eastern Conference:

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Regular-season records:

  • Tampa Bay 62-16-4 (128 points).
  • Columbus (47-31-4—98 points).

Season series: Lightning won 3-0-0 (Blue Jackets 0-3-0)

  • Oct. 13 @ Tampa — Lightning 8-2.
  • Jan. 8 @ Tampa — Lightning 4-0.
  • Feb. 18 @ Columbus — Lightning 5-1.

The skinny: All roads to the Stanley Cup championship lead to Tampa Bay this spring. The Lightning checked in with a record-tying 62 wins, first in goals, seventh in goals against, first in power play and first in penalty killing. Tampa Bay is out to win the rare Presidents’ Trophy-Stanley Cup double for the first time since the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and only the sixth team to accomplish the feat in the last two decades.

Tampa Bay right wing Nikita Kucherov won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer with 41 goals and 128 points. He set club records for most assists (87) and points, and beat by one Alex Mogilny’s 25-year-old record for most points in a season by a Russian.

The Blue Jackets went 7-1-0 in their final eight games and clinched a playoff spot with a shootout win against the New York Rangers last Friday. They added Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and defenceman Adam McQuaid at the trade deadline. Along with Artemi Panarin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, this group could all become unrestricted free agents in the summer.

Player to watch: Tampa Bay defenceman Victor Hedman. The reigning Norris Trophy winner missed the final four games with an upper-body injury, but has looked good in practice this week. He quarterbacks a power play that scored six times in three encounters against the Blue Jackets.

Prediction: Lightning in four. Tampa Bay’s firepower translates into a quick end for former Lightning coach John Tortorella and Columbus.

Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov is the favourite to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MPV. (Paul Sancya/Associated Press)

Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes

Regular-season records:

  • Washington 48-26-8 (104 points).
  • Carolina 46-29-7 (99 points).

Season series: Capitals won 4-0-0 (Hurricanes 0-3-1)

  • Dec. 14 @ Carolina — Capitals 6-5 (SO).
  • Dec. 27 @ Washington — Capitals 3-1.
  • March 26 @ Washington — Capitals 4-1.
  • March 28 @ Carolina — Capitals 3-2.

The skinny: The Capitals will need their depth to hold off the upset-minded Hurricanes. Washington had seven players score more than 20 goals in Ovechkin (51), T.J. Oshie (25), Jakub Vrana (24), Nicklas Backstrom (22), Brett Connolly (22), Tom Wilson (22) and Evgeni Kuznetsov (21).

Carolina was 10 points out of a playoff spot on Dec. 29. First-year coach Rod Brind’Amour, who captained the Hurricanes to their only Stanley Cup in 2005-06, did a masterful job in steering his hard-working team to a 31-12-2 finish to clinch the club’s first playoff appearance since 2009.

A change of teams from Calgary to Carolina did defenceman Dougie Hamilton a world of good. He finished second among defencemen in league goal scoring with 18.

Player to watch: Carolina captain Justin Williams. The 37-year-old forward is a three-time Stanley Cup champion and played for the Capitals in 2015-16 and 2016-17 before moving back to Carolina last season.

Prediction: Capitals in seven. Carolina will be a handful for the defending champs, but last season’s experience will help pull out a close series.

WATCH | Why Alex Ovechkin is NHL’s best-ever goal scorer:

Rob Pizzo finally admits (reluctantly) that The Great 8 is the greatest goal scorer of all-time, and gives 9 reasons why. 2:03

New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Regular-season record:

  • N.Y. Islanders 48-27-7 (103 points).
  • Pittsburgh 44-26-12 (100 points).

Season series: Series tied at 2-1-1

  • Oct. 30 @ Pittsburgh — Islanders 6-3.
  • Nov. 1 @ New York — Islanders 3-2 (SO).
  • Dec. 6 @ Pittsburgh — Penguins 6-2.
  • Dec. 10 @ New York — Penguins 2-1 (SO).

The skinny: The Islanders are a wonderful story under new head coach Barry Trotz. They went from the worst goals-against average a year ago to first this season, the first team to turn the tables in 100 years. They also clinched home-ice advantage for the first time since 1987-88.

With veteran forward Andrew Ladd out for the season with a knee injury, the Islanders will need a massive series from second-year centre Mathew Barzal in his first foray into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Trotz transformed Barzal to a two-way player, and his production decreased this season as a result, but he only scored one goal in his final 24 games.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby led his team into the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season. Pittsburgh will be in tough going into the hostile confines of the Nassau Coliseum, but the Penguins have plenty of motivation since Trotz steered the Capitals past Pittsburgh in the second round a year ago.

Player to watch: Islanders centre Valtteri Filppula. He was supposed to be out a month with a hyperextended elbow. But he returned for the regular-season finale. With the Penguins fifth in power-play success, Filppula’s penalty-killing excellence will be needed.

Prediction: Penguins in six. Crosby and the Penguins will have too much offence for their opponents.

All eyes will be on Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, left, as Pittsburgh shoots for another Stanley Cup. (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Regular-season records:

  • Boston 49-24-9 (107 points).
  • Toronto 46-28-8 (100 points).

Season series: Bruins won 3–1-0 (Maple Leafs 1-3–0)

  • Nov. 10 @ Boston — Bruins 5-1.
  • Nov. 26 @ Toronto — Maple Leafs 4-2.
  • Dec. 8 @ Boston — Bruins 6-3.
  • Jan. 12 @ Toronto — Bruins 3-2.

The skinny: The only two Original-Six teams to make the playoffs will meet for the third time in six years. They concluded the regular season going in opposite directions. The Bruins finished strong with a 22-7-4 run, while Toronto stumbled home with a 4-7-3 slump in its final 14 outings.

The Maple Leafs have not won a playoff series since 2004 when they defeated the Ottawa Senators in seven games in the first round. Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen has to be on his game, play more as he did earlier in the year and overcome his late-season swoon.

A key in how this series evolves will be the effectiveness of the Bruins’ top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. This trio combined for nine goals and 30 points in last year’s seven-game series. Do the Maple Leafs have an answer for this threesome?

Player to watch: Toronto centre Auston Matthews. He was a non-factor in last year’s meeting between these two clubs, scoring just once in seven games. He needs to play more like the Matthews in his rookie season when the star centre scored four times in the Maple Leafs’ six-game loss to the Capitals.

Prediction: Bruins in six. Boston will continue to be too physical, too intense and score too many timely goals against its division rivals.

WATCH | Bruins win season series against Leafs:

Sean Kuraly figured in on all three Boston goals, as the Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2. 2:06

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CBC | Sports News

This Dead Exoplanet Core Could Be a Preview of Earth’s Future

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Earth is currently enjoying the best eons of the sun’s life, but that friendly yellow globe in the sky won’t last forever. No matter what we do, the sun will one day destroy the world, leaving a fractured planetary corpse orbiting a dead star. Astronomers have spotted a distant star system that could offer a preview of Earth’s future. It’s a white dwarf star with a destroyed planetary core spinning around it.

Stars like our sun have life spans measured in the billions of years. At 4.6 billion years old, the sun is a middle-aged star. It hasn’t changed dramatically in about 4 billion years and will remain in its current state for another 4-5 billion years. However, energy output will increase over time, and in a billion years could make Earth inhospitable to humans. The real show starts in about five billion years when the sun exhausts its hydrogen fuel and expands into a red giant. This will destroy Earth, but maybe not in the way we expected.

This happened to the star known as SDSS J122859.93+104032.9 in the distant past. This system sits 410 light years away. This object is a white dwarf, an ultra-dense stellar core of “electron-degenerate matter” that remains after the outer layers of the star are blasted into space. Without normal electron orbital around atoms, gravity can squeeze the material in a white dwarf like J122859 down until it’s the size of Earth with 70 percent of the sun’s mass.

Earth, as seen propr to its eventual destruction.

Astronomers studied this star system using the 34.1-foot (10.4 meters) Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) in the Canary Islands. The team determined that the planetary core is about 370 miles (600 km) wide with a density of at least 7.7 grams per cubic centimeter. Any lower and it would have been torn apart by the star’s gravity as it orbits very close — just 123 minutes per revolution. Its properties are similar to the Earth’s iron core, which is why the team believes it’s the husk of an ancient shattered planet. It suggests dying stars might not completely annihilate their planets but break them into pieces leaving only the dense cores.

The team used a spectroscopic technique to detect the planetary core around J122859, which isn’t as accurate as the transit method employed by Kepler. It works on more objects, though. There are six other known white dwarf systems that might have detectable planetary cores.

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Stanley Cup Playoffs: Western Conference semifinals preview

What we have left in the West are four franchises seeking their first Stanley Cup championship in the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, San Jose Sharks and the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

This is only the third time that the final four teams in a conference were chasing their first NHL championship. 

The other times were in 1984 (Minnesota, St. Louis, Edmonton and Calgary) when the Oilers won the Stanley Cup and in 2012 (St. Louis, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Nashville) when the Kings won the league crown.

The Predators, Jets, Sharks and Golden Knights were rather impressive in their first-round victories, receiving balanced scoring, strong defence and outstanding goaltending. The Predators and Sharks lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup final in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Here is a glance at the second-round matchups in the Western Conference:

Winnipeg Jets vs Nashville Predators

Regular-season records:

Season series: Predators won 3-1-1 (Jets 2-3-0) 

  • Nov. 20 @ Nashville — Predators 5-3
  • Dec. 19 @ Nashville — Jets 6-4
  • Feb. 27 @ Winnipeg — Predators 6-5
  • Mar. 13 @ Nashville — Predators 3-1
  • Mar. 25 @ Winnipeg — Jets 5-4 (OT)

The skinny: This second-round matchup pits the top two teams overall against each other and two of the three Vezina Trophy candidates in Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck and Pekka Rinne of the Predators square off.

Hellebuyck finished his first-round series with back-to-back shutouts, while Rinne blanked the Colorado Avalanche in his series finale.

Winnipeg beats Minnesota 5-0, wins series 4-1.1:47
Nashville will face the Winnipeg Jets in round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, after a 5-0 win over Colorado in game 6.1:26

The Jets enjoyed the best home record in the regular season at 32-7-2 and went a perfect 3-0 in front of their loud and proud capacity crowds at the Bell MTS Centre. But the Predators took three of four points in their two regular-season trips to the Manitoba capital.

This should be an extremely physical series. The Predators took 27 minor penalties against Colorado. Only the Philadelphia Flyers had more in the first round at 29. This series also features possibly the best group of forwards in the league with the Jets against Nashville’s defensive corps, considered tops in the league.

Jets defenceman Toby Enstrom appears healthy and ready to return after missing the last eight regular-season games and the entire series against the Minnesota Wild with a lower-body ailment.

The original Jets franchise reached the second round twice and they were swept on both occasions by the Edmonton Oilers, in 1985 and 1987.

Player to watch: Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien. Big Buff is eight years removed from his championship run with the 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks. He played extremely well in the first round — some of his best hockey in a long time —and he needs to continue to be a force for the Jets to have a chance against Nashville.

Prediction: Predators in seven. This likely will be a homer series and edge goes to the Predators because they have home-ice advantage as well as a knack for less-heralded players like Austin Watson and Colton Sissons to step up with key goals.

San Jose Sharks vs. Vegas Golden Knights

Regular-season records:

Season series: Golden Knights won 3-0-1 (Sharks 1-2-1)

  • Nov. 24 @ Vegas — Golden Knights 5-4 (OT)
  • Feb. 8 @ San Jose — Golden Knights 5-3
  • Mar. 22 @ San Jose — Sharks 2-1 (OT)
  • Mar. 31 @ Vegas — Golden Knights 3-2

The skinny: Both teams are coming off sweeps and lengthy layoffs. The Golden Knights clinched their 4-0 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Apr. 17, one day before the Sharks finished off the Anaheim Ducks in four games.

Both teams had success in the first round because of strong team defence and solid goaltending in Marc-Andre Fleury (Vegas) and Martin Jones (San Jose).

The Golden Knights needed four one-goal wins in the first-round, but allowed the fewest goals against with three. The Sharks outscored the Ducks 16-4 in their series.

Vegas blanks Los Angeles 1-0, becomes 1st expansion team to sweep its 1st playoff series.0:25
San Jose defeats Anaheim 2-1, will face Vegas Golden Knights in 2nd round of playoffs.1:41

Keep an eye on Golden Knights forward Ryan Carpenter. He was waived by San Jose and picked up by Vegas on Dec. 13.

Sharks could get back veteran centre Joe Thornton, out since right knee surgery on Jan. 25. He has, however, been ruled out for the series opener.

Player to watch: San Jose defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Sharks shutdown blue-liner led his team in ice time at 24 minutes, 36 seconds. He and his defence partner Justin Braun will have to be at their best to hold the Golden Knights top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith.

Prediction: Golden Knights in seven. It took many of us too long to figure this out in 2017-18: You don’t bet against Vegas and its band of castoffs.

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CBC | Sports News

NHL Playoff Preview: Live Q & A with Tim Wharnsby and Rob Pizzo

The NHL playoffs begin Wednesday and to get you ready for the action we’ve brought in CBC hockey experts Rob Pizzo and Tim Wharnsby

They’ll break down each series, who to watch, and of course will provide their own predictions. And you can be part of it as they will take your questions live. 

Tune in Wednesday, April 11th at 12 p.m. ET: 

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CBC | Sports News

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference preview

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins begin their quest for a third Stanley Cup title in a row on Wednesday, an achievement that hasn’t been accomplished since the New York Islanders won four consecutive between 1979-80 and 1982-83.

Bodog.ca has the Penguins listed as the sixth favourite at 10-1 behind Nashville (15-4), Boston (11-2), Tampa Bay (6-1), Vegas (15-2) and Winnipeg (8-1).

Here is a glance at the first-round matchups in the Eastern Conference:

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Regular-season records:

Season series: Maple Leafs won 3-1-0 (Bruins 1-2-1)

  • Nov. 10 @ Toronto — Maple Leafs 3-2 (OT)
  • Nov. 11 @ Boston — Maple Leafs 4-1
  • Feb. 3 @ Boston — Bruins 4-1
  • Feb. 24 @ Toronto — Maple Leafs 4-3

The skinny: Boston and Toronto were the only two Original Six teams to make the playoffs this season. The Maple Leafs enter the post-season with a solid 12-6-2 record in the final quarter of the season, while the Bruins limped home with a 1-3-1 finish last week.

Special teams could be a deciding factor. Toronto had the second-best power-play, while Boston were fourth overall in man-advantage situations. The Bruins had the third-best penalty-killing efficiency, while the Maple Leafs finished 11th in PK.

Boston and Toronto were the only teams to have three 30-plus goal scorers; David Pastrnak (35), Brad Marchand (34) and Patrice Bergeron (30) led the Bruins, while James van Riemsdyk (36), Auston Matthews (34) and Nazem Kadri (32) were the Leafs’ top goal-scorers.

Bruins veteran Rick Nash missed the final 12 regular-season games with a concussion but is expected to be ready for the series opener on Thursday.

Player to watch: Toronto centre Nazem Kadri. He checked in with two goals and five points in his four games against Boston, but had a plus-minus rating of minus-three. Kadri likely will go up against Marchand, and the latter relishes the big stage of the playoffs.

Prediction: Bruins in seven — like back in 2013. The rivals are even up front and in goal, but the Bruins have the better blue line.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New Jersey Devils

Regular-season records:

Season series: Devils won 3-0-0 (Lightning 0-2-1)

  • Oct. 17 @ New Jersey — Devils 5-4 (SO)
  • Feb. 17 @ Tampa Bay — Devils 4-3
  • March 24 @ New Jersey — Devils 2-1

The skinny: The Lightning set a franchise record for wins (54) and points (113), despite a 3-4-1 closing stretch. Both teams had a 12-7-1 fourth-quarter record, but the Devils finished strongly at 8-1-1.

New Jersey netminder Keith Kinkaid became the No. 1 goalie in late January, going 13-3-1. The Devils are making their first playoff appearance since they lost in the 2011-12 Stanley Cup final to the Los Angeles Kings.

Also, welcome back to the playoffs, Steven Stamkos, who because of injury has played in only one playoff game in last two springs.

Player to watch: New Jersey left wing Taylor Hall. The Hart Trophy candidate has finally made the playoffs after 529 NHL regular season games and 26 more in the AHL with the Oklahoma City Barons during the 2012-13 lockout.

Hall’s last postseason outing was on May 23, 2010, when his junior team, the Windsor Spitfires, won back-to-back Memorial Cups.

Prediction: Lightning in five. Tampa Bay has too much firepower up front and the better goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Regular-season record:

Season series: Capitals won 3-1-0 (Blue Jackets 1-3-0)

  • Dec. 2 @ Washington — Capitals 4-3
  • Feb. 6 @ Columbus — Capitals 3-2
  • Feb. 9 @ Washington — Capitals 4-2
  • Feb. 26 @ Columbus — Blue Jackets 5-1

The skinny: Washington head coach Barry Trotz declined to reveal his starting goaltender, but Braden Holtby struggled in the second half and Philipp Grubauer has a .937 save percentage in his last 37 outings. The Capitals had a strong fourth quarter at 14-6-0, but the Blue Jackets were even better at 14-4-2.

Washington captain Alex Ovechkin led the league in scoring with 49 goals for his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy in his 13-season career. Columbus is in the playoffs for only the fourth time in 17 seasons and have yet to win a series.

Player to watch: Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin. This is his 10th visit to the Stanley Cup playoffs. In his previous nine playoff runs, the Capitals have advanced to the second round six times, but never to the East final.

Prediction: Capitals in six. Ovechkin will push Washington into the second round.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Regular-season records:

Season series: Penguins won 4–0-0 (Flyers 0-2-2)

  • Nov. 27 @ Pittsburgh — Penguins 5-4 (OT)
  • Jan. 2 @ Philadelphia — Penguins 5-1
  • March 7 @ Philadelphia — Penguins 5-2
  • March 25 @ Pittsburgh — Penguins 5-4 (OT)

The skinny: Claude Giroux became the first Flyer to reach 100 points since Eric Lindros in 1995-96. Philadelphia goalie Brian Elliott performed well in his two games back since abdominal surgery.

Philadelphia made the playoffs even though they suffered through a 10-game losing streak in November; four of the losses were in overtime and another in a shootout.

Both the Penguins and Flyers struggled in the fourth quarter of the season with 11-7-2 and 9-7-4 finishes, respectively. Philadelphia, however, won four of its final five games.

Player to watch: Pittsburgh defenceman Kris Letang. He missed last year’s Stanley Cup championship after undergoing neck surgery in late February. Letang needed the entire season to bounce back and find his form.

Prediction: Penguins in six. Pittsburgh has more depth up front and a big advantage in goal with two-time Stanley Cup-champion Matt Murray over Elliott.

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CBC | Sports News