Regional Sports News
SportsNet Publication (Multi Sports)
Latest News & Results
The Winnipeg Jets offered up hockey fans a bevy of highlight-reel tallies from a certain European scoring phenom last season, continuing their steady ascent up the rankings on the back of their young sniper. But while it was Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele leading the charge last season, it’s been Nikolaj Ehlers carrying the mail through the early goings of 2017-18.
Fresh off a career-high 25-goal, 64-point effort, Ehlers has upped the ante thus far this season, posting a team-leading five goals and seven points through Winnipeg’s first six games this year.
“I feel I’ve taken a big step,” Ehlers told IIHF.com’s Lucas Aykroyd on Tuesday. “I’ve just got to be more consistent and put that into my game. I feel calmer with the puck, and I feel faster. I feel more experienced. And overall, defensively, I’ve taken a big step. It’s something that I’m still working on. It’s something I’ll work on till I retire.”
The 21-year-old Dane echoed a similar sentiment in regards to what his club needs to work on in order to take the next step as well.
“Consistency,” Ehlers said. “Keeping this group together. Playing as a team. Playing the game we want to play. Sticking to our systems. We’ve worked hard the last two years to get to where we are right now. Consistency is key for us. We know we can do it. We believe in ourselves. It’s just a matter of going out there and doing it.”
While Ehlers has his mind on the NHL at the moment, he’s keeping close tabs on the Danish national team as well, as his country is set to host the 2018 IIHF World Championship in May. With seven Danish skaters plying their trade in the NHL this season – Ehlers, Frederik Andersen, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Lars Eller, Frans Nielsen, Mikkel Boedker and Jannik Hansen – the Jets star said Denmark is on the rise among hockey nations.
“They’ve been working really hard overall in junior, producing new young players,” Ehlers said. “The coaches are getting smarter. We’re getting coaches from the U.S. and Canada coming over and coaching the elite pro teams. And we’ve got a lot of young guys playing in the best league in Denmark. So it’s amazing the big step we’ve taken and how many NHL players a small country like Denmark has produced.”
Ehlers has close ties to the national team, not only because he’s currently the top Danish skater in the big leagues, but also because his father Heinz was tabbed to serve as an assistant coach for the 2018 tournament.
“It’s awesome,” Ehlers told Aykroyd. “If we were going to end up being at the world championship together, I know the kind of coach he is. I know the kind of father he is. He’s great at both roles.
“He’s going to bring in some modern hockey, so I think it’ll be a good step for Danish hockey.”
This did not look good.
Gudbranson received five minutes for boarding and a game misconduct for his actions, as well as another five-minute major for fighting as Tim Schaller stepped up to defend Vatrano. The Bruins scored three goals on the ensuing power play.
The NHL’s department of player safety will likely take a look at the hit, which took Vatrano out of the game – though the 23-year-old would return to the Boston bench later in the period.
What do you think?
When Rafael dos Anjos made the decision to leave the 155-pound weight class and move up to the 170-pound division, it breathed new life into his career.
It also potentially saved his life.
Dos Anjos lost his UFC lightweight title when he was knocked out by Eddie Alvarez in July 2016. The day prior to losing his belt, however, the 32-year-old fainted while sitting in a hot tub as he was cutting weight. Dos Anjos explained on The MMA Hour earlier this year that when he fainted his coaches pulled him from the tub and moved him to the bed. Dos Anjos was unconscious for approximately three minutes and woke up when his coaches put ice on his chest.
Now competing in the welterweight division, dos Anjos doesn’t have to worry as much about shedding pounds and endangering his health before stepping into the Octagon.
“I feel way better. I can have a life,” dos Anjos told Sportsnet MMA contributor James Lynch. “I still have to cut some weight, some people don’t realize that. Some people think I’m lazy and don’t want to cut weight but I felt like I got close to death. I don’t want to die. I want to have pleasure in my job and what I’m doing and I want to have good health.
“I feel great, I feel fresh, I feel that I can [focus] 100 per cent on my work [instead of watching my weight] and just enjoy the process.”
After beating ranked contenders Tarec Saffiedine and Neil Magny in his first two welterweight contests, dos Anjos is set to face former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler in December and is one win away from earning a chance to join an elite club.
UFC president Dana White said during a recent press tour that the winner of Lawler versus dos Anjos, which headlines the UFC’s return to Winnipeg, will get the next shot at current welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
That means if dos Anjos gets by Lawler he could potentially become a two-weight champion. Randy Couture, B.J. Penn and Conor McGregor are the only fighters that have accomplished it thus far. Georges St-Pierre has the chance to become the fourth when he challenges Michael Bisping for the middleweight strap at UFC 217 in November and Frankie Edgar, another former lightweight champ, could do so when he meets featherweight champ Max Holloway at UFC 218.
For what it’s worth, dos Anjos has been training with Bisping and believes the Brit will defend his title against the Canadian superstar at Madison Square Garden.
“I’m a big fan of Georges St-Pierre but I think he’s been out for so long and I think Bisping has been around and been more active,” dos Anjos said. “That’s going to make the difference.”
While dos Anjos believes he has what it takes to become a two-weight champion, he isn’t getting ahead of himself. Lawler is the only things on his mind.
“Two former champions fighting each other for the chance at a title. It doesn’t get better than that,” dos Anjos added. “Even when I was the lightweight champion Robbie was a guy that I was looking [at]. We were champs at the same time and I was already thinking about moving up [a division] and he was a guy I was thinking about doing a superfight with, but unfortunately I lost my belt, he lost the belt but now we’re going to meet Dec. 16.”
UFC Winnipeg takes place at Bell MTS Place. Here is a look at the fight card to date:
— Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos
— Jose Aldo vs. Ricardo Lamas
— Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Mike Perry
— Glover Teixeira vs. Misha Cirkunov
— Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Jared Cannonier
— Vitor Miranda vs. Julian Marquez
— Chad Laprise vs. Galore Bafondo
— Tim Elliott vs. Justin Scoggins
— Alessio Di Chirico vs. Oluwale Bamgbose
— Jordan Mein vs. Erick Silva
— Nordine Taleb vs. Sultan Aliev
— John Makdessi vs. Abel Trujillo
You can follow James Lynch on Twitter @LynchOnSports and subscribe to his YouTube page.
On the heels of a dominant rookie campaign that saw him pot 40 goals, emerging as the top-line pivot the Toronto Maple Leafs have long craved, Auston Matthews is back to his old tricks in Year 2. The 20-year-old has six goals and 10 points to his name through seven tilts, his Leafs sitting atop the league standings.
To the untrained eye, Matthews’ skill routinely astounds, his roster of toe-drags, no-look feeds and off-angle shots dropping jaws on the regular. But it seems even for fellow NHL veterans, the 2016 No. 1 pick is something special.
“He has a really strong sense of his skill level,” fellow Leaf Connor Carrick told Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt in a piece published Thursday. “I think he’s just able to work at a little bit higher pace in those tighter situations. Some guys see traffic as something to avoid, something to slow down for. You almost see him look at numbers at the line and hit the gas, attack the line and bull-rush it.”
Carrick – who had the chance to observe a few other elite talents like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom during a brief stint in Washington a few years ago – elaborated on what makes Matthews’ shooting ability so unique.
“The blend in his shot is really special, his ability to change angles and be deceptive and land in one piece and let that puck go is really high-end. Then I think the fact that when he’s stick-handling in-zone, all 360 degrees around him are in play. He’ll use whatever he’s got. He’ll use the back of the wall, he’ll use his feet, he’ll put it in areas and block a guy’s stick. He’s very talented that way, and he’s able to use his range all around him. And then when you have his size, it’s hard to reach around and try to poke that puck free.”
Veteran Leaf Matt Martin had his own front-row seat to watch top-tier talent in the past, having spent nearly a decade with New York Islanders pivot John Tavares. The big-bodied bruiser offered up plenty of praise for Matthews as well.
“You see him do that drag-and-pull a lot that changes the angle of his shot,” Martin told Prewitt. “He can be stickhandling, looking like he’s going to pass, fire it on net. You never get the same shot out of him twice, I guess. He can really shoot from any angle in any position. I think it’s deceptive. It’s hard for goalies to know what he’s going to do with the puck, because he’s such a good playmaker too that you can’t just play his shot.
“He never really commits to just shooting. He leaves himself options, and when he does shoot it, it’s pretty accurate.”
According to Matthews’ father Brian, much of that unpredictable style can be credited to skills coach Darryl Belfry, who’s worked with the younger Matthews for the past two years.
“It was mostly changing the angle, shooting off any foot, shooting in stride, adding elements of deception,” the elder Matthews said of his son’s focus during his sessions with Belfry. “It was hidden and disguised. Auston wanted no one to know when it was coming.”
A year and a month into his NHL career, it’s fair to hang a “mission accomplished” banner on that one. While there’s plenty of growth on tap for the young Leaf’s skill set, there’s no question Matthews has already established himself as one of the game’s premier snipers, his 46 career goals ranking as the third-most scored by anyone since he first stepped on NHL ice.