The NHL and COVID-19 connected for another storyline this week. Evander Kane of the San José Sharks was suspended 21 games for violating COVID-19 protocol. This followed an earlier report that Kane was being investigated on allegations that he had submitted a fake vaccination card. Kane responded with an apology and a commitment to continue in counseling, but with the events surrounding this player of late it may not be enough to get him a welcome back when his suspension is over.
On Tuesday, Oct. 19 the Tampa Bay Lightning placed Nikita Kucherov on long-term injured reserve. He will miss a minimum of 10 games and 24 days. This is a plot fans recognize. Kucherov missed the entire 2020-21 season due to injury, the Lightning spent to the cap while he was on LTIR, and then added him back to the line up for the playoffs where cap rules seem to magically disappear like snow from your mitts on a wood stove.
The Toronto Maple Leafs began the season with two wins, a loss, and an overtime loss for the single point. On Thursday, Coach Sheldon Keefe said they need to generate more offence, and to make life a little harder for the opposing goalie. Offence might come a little easier with Auston Matthews healthy. In his first game of the season on Monday, Matthews had eight shots on goal and won 13 of 15 face-offs but was held off the score sheet.
No one is happier to see a healthy Matthews than Mitch Marner. Marner had just one assist in the first four games of the season, and has been the subject of criticism in Toronto following a mediocre playoff performance against the Habs.
Questions remain on who will complete the top line on the left wing. That guy was Zach Hyman, who had a goal and an assist in his first three games in Edmonton playing next to Connor McDavid.
The Montreal Canadiens are off to an ugly start. On Tuesday they lost their fourth consecutive game to open the season. Stats chasers tell us that in the past five years only the 2019-20 Minnesota Wild made the playoffs after opening their season with four pointless games. It’s setting up for another season of sunny optimism in Montreal.
On Thursday night Jesperi Kotkaniemi and the Carolina Hurricanes were in town. After a scoreless first, the Canes scored two quick goals to start the second period. The Habs caught a small wind in their sails when Toffoli scored their first power play goal of the season late in the second. Montreal looked to be making a game of it until mid-way through the third when Kotkaniemi scored to take a 3-1 lead. The Habs came on strong but were unable to come back and an empty net goal sealed the 4-1 loss.
Zero wins and five losses to start the season, and some are wondering about off-ice distractions. In a recent New York Post column, Larry Brooks hinted at the possibility of GM Marc Bergevin joining the Los Angeles Kings where Luc Robitaile is the President. Bergevin is in the last year of his contract with the Canadiens. Both the Habs and Bergevin have said they will honour the last year of the contract, but the future will be decided at the end of the season.
Montreal can whip up enough of its own drama, without help from folks in Manhattan.
Week 11 of 16 in the 2021 CFL season featured just three games.
On Friday night the Winnipeg Blue Bombers won their seventh in a row with a 26-16 win over the Edmonton Elks. Zach Collaros threw two touchdowns and the win clinched a playoff berth for Winnipeg, making them the first team to clinch for this season.
There were two games on Saturday. The Montreal Alouettes claimed a 27-16 win over the Ottawa Redblacks. QB Matthew Shiltz, replacing the injured Vernon Adams Jr., threw one touchdown and ran for another. David Cote kicked three field goals, and the defence recorded ten quarterback sacks. With the win Montreal moved into second place in the East behind the Toronto Argonauts.
Coming off a bye week, the BC Lions looked lifeless at home in a 39-10 loss to the Calgary Stampeders. The story was diversity as the offence, defence and special teams all scored touchdowns in the Stamps win and they moved ahead of the Lions for third place in the West.
With the reduced schedule, the Argos, Roughriders, and Tiger-Cats all enjoyed a bye week.
The Toronto Raptors opened their regular season on Wednesday night in a home game against the Washington Wizards. 2021 first round draft pick Scottie Barnes started in his first NBA game. Barnes led the Raptors out of the tunnel before the anthems, a pretty loud message that this team is being turned over to the kids. Barnes finished the game with 12 points, 9 rebounds and 1 assist, going 5 for 13 in field goals in 32 minutes of play.
Toronto local Dalano Banton also got the start over second-year point guard Malachi Flynn. He finished the game with 12 minutes, 7 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist, going 3 for 4 in field goals. The Raptors lost the game 98-83, and unfortunately that’s what growing pains look like.
Lori Bennett is a social worker, policy professional, recreational softball player and coach, and new ukulele-ist. Originally from NL and now based in Toronto, Lori loves a good hockey chat or debate, as long as it remains respectful. She posts game time thoughts on twitter as @lori10habs.