Ben Spencer signs first-team contract with Toronto FC

under-20 team.Spencer left home at age 15 to pursue soccer, working his way through the U.S. A year later, Vanney was involved with Real Salt Lake’s fledgling residency program and invited Spencer to join.Vanney moved to Chivas USA in California and Spencer eventually followed, living for six months with the Vanney family.Spencer arrived in Toronto with shoulder-length hair but now sports a buzzcut, cutting it off for charity.His status as a homegrown player carries over to Toronto from Real Salt Lake. He subsequently underwent another round of arthroscopic surgery.After parting ways with Molde, Spencer found a home in Toronto where his problem right knee started swelling up again. Chicago orthopedic surgeon Brian Cole eventually diagnosed a rare condition where the meniscus is so worn that a hole develops, with the swelling coming from cartilage damage.Spencer needed cartilage replacement – and to have his femur re-aligned to alter the weight-bearing in his knee.He underwent surgery in September 2015. It was nine months before Spencer could run or jump and another three months before he could finally take the field for Toronto FC 2’s last two games of the 2016 USL season.“I always knew I’d get over it,” he said of the injuries. youth ranks and earning a contract with Molde FK in Norway as an 18-year-old under then-manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a Norwegian and Manchester United legend.His injury nightmare started in 2014 when he tore his meniscus playing on loan in the NASL. Ben Spencer has signed with Toronto FC, moving up from Toronto FC 2 to give the senior side a different kind of striker off the bench.At six foot five, the 22-year-old Spencer is a target man with good feet.“It’s a great feeling,” Spencer said of signing a first-team deal, “It’s what I’ve been working towards since I’ve came to the club in 2015. Able to hold the ball up and bring others into play, Spencer is cut from a different cloth from a speedster like Tosaint Ricketts when coach Greg Vanney needs to bring someone on for Jozy Altidore or Sebastian Giovinco.The signing caps a remarkable comeback from a rare knee injury that threatened to derail a promising career that saw Spencer star with the U.S. Soccer’s youth teams when he first spotted Spencer and recommended the Albuquerque native to the under-15 program. “It was just a matter of some hard work and some long days.”Vanney was scouting for U.S.

Globe editorial: Lament for Sidney Crosby, and for our game

The National Hockey League rule book has a lot to say – several hundred words’ worth – about slashing, high-sticking and slew-footing, i.e., “the act of a player using his leg or foot to knock or kick an opponent’s feet from under him.”The penalties are clear, and if the NHL’s referees and their employers were better at enforcing them, perhaps the face of the league would still be playing. Crosby’s face. He wasn’t penalized.Mr. The burly Russian knocked the Team Canada captain off balance – and into Mr. That’s not in the rule book, but it might as well be.The game in which Mr. He was penalized, but not suspended.More problematic: the reckless disregard, or worse, displayed by Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. But this is the NHL. But he has been suspended in the past for dangerous play, including a slew-foot.That he and others haven’t changed illustrates how the NHL cares less about protecting its marquee players than it does about lionizing the hard-man culture that encourages their abuse in the name of winning.An enlightened league would do something about it. The NHL has a rule book, but everyone who plays knows what the real rules are. Niskanen – with a hefty slash to the arm, a crack on the head and a slew-foot. Crosby was injured was peppered with egregious incidents. They know, and act accordingly. This is not a league that can plausibly argue it errs on the side of caution.In the first round, Columbus’ Matt Calvert chased down Pittsburgh’s Tom Kuhnhackl and broke his stick over his head; he sat for one game.Yes, Washington Capitals’ defenceman Matt Niskanen was hit with a game misconduct when his stick, held in the cross-checking position, forcefully crushed Mr. We should all lament his absence, and by extension, what it says about the game.Read more: Why Sidney Crosby’s concussion could push the NHL to get tough on stick foulsThe Stanley Cup playoffs once again exhibit the NHL’s central flaw: Thuggery silences genius. Instead, Pittsburgh Penguins centre Sidney Crosby is out with another concussion. You can knock out the greatest player in the game and get away with it. That’s not unusual; the standard of officiating has been poor this spring, the stickwork appalling. Ovechkin is one of the most talented goal scorers of all time; he’s no stereotypical goon.

Sidney Crosby’s concussion puts NHL rules in spotlight

Crosby is slashed by the Russian star Alex Ovechkin, and then cross-checked in the face by defenceman Matt Niskanen before he crashes to the ice and is forced from the game with a concussion. “You have your side of how it happened – and the other person will have his side. That’s the short-term issue the Penguins need to deal with. It just needs a trigger point. It makes no sense.Crosby was actually at the centre of a stick-wielding controversy earlier this season when Ottawa Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk wanted him banned indefinitely for a slash on defenceman Marc Methot that shattered Methot’s finger. That injury cost Crosby almost two full seasons. Commonly, if a player’s stick gets slashed and it breaks, it’s an automatic penalty. To effect long-term positive change, there generally needs to a turning-point moment; perhaps the Crosby injury Monday night will bring about that change: That stick work needs to be greatly reduced in the same way that hits to the head have been greatly reduced.It can be done. Intent doesn’t matter. This, of course, would greatly alter the sport – which in this particular case wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.There is no timetable for Crosby’s return, though Penguins’ coach Mike Sullivan described his mood on Tuesday as “very positive” and said: “We’re optimistic and hopeful that we will get him back in a timely fashion.”Crosby’s concussion history dates back to a game against Washington in the NHL’s 2011 Winter Classic in which he was hit in the head by forward David Steckel. Pittsburgh currently leads the series 2-1, but Crosby’s absence could tip it in Washington’s favour. The scene was repeated on television networks all day long: The NHL’s best player, Sidney Crosby, is mauled by a pair of Washington Capitals players as he attacks the goal. But if a player’s hand gets slashed and it breaks, often there is no penalty. The result hardly seems equitable, but given the haphazard way the NHL enforces its rules around stick infractions, it is not a surprise.“It’s like a car accident,” said Capitals’ coach Barry Trotz. As word came down Tuesday that the NHL would not issue any additional discipline to Ovechkin or Niskanen beyond the major penalty Niskanen was assessed on the ice, the Penguins announced Crosby would miss Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semi-final. Maybe this is it. This past September, he was concussed again in an innocent training-camp collision with a teammate and missed the first six games of the season.But he returned to lead the league in goal scoring (44) and on Monday was named a finalist for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player. That’s why we have a player safety department.”Globe editorial: Lament for Sidney Crosby, and for our gameThe NHL’s department of player safety walks a thin line when it comes to enforcing stick fouls, which became a hot-button issue this season because so many went unpenalized.Had Monday’s injury happened to someone other than Crosby, it wouldn’t necessarily attract so much attention.But Crosby is the NHL’s most recognizable talent, playing at the top of his game, and is the main reason the Penguins have a chance to defend the Stanley Cup they won last year, with Crosby the MVP of that series.So his absence will be critically felt – by his team and also by the league, where he is one of the most consistently dominant players and now has to watch from the sidelines, for at least one game.Under current player safety protocols, a player must be in control of his stick at all times and is responsible for any untoward outcomes. Slashes across the hand or sticks across the head have become so commonplace that, logically, the only way to genuinely wean players off that sort of behaviour would be to dramatically increase the consequences of any stick infraction.Instead of routine two-minute minors, if they were all five-minute majors or double minors, presumably players would adjust and stop using their sticks to check. In those cases, if the league determines it would have been impossible for a player to stop his own forward momentum, either with his body or stick, that player is often exonerated for his actions.For years, the NHL had a problem with predatory head hits, but eventually weaned the majority out of the game by strictly enforcing rules designed to make the game safer. The same strategy now needs to apply to how stick fouls are penalized, even if it will fundamentally force players to change how they defend. If you clip a player in the face, it’s a penalty.However, the league does allow for extenuating circumstances, in situations where a player’s body or head position shifts at the precise split-second of contact. It’s perspective.

Raptors hope to be on their game for second matchup against Cavaliers

You’ve got your film on. I feel I have to dedicate every moment to getting better and figuring out how to get a win.”Powell said Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan typically text teammates about a meal or a team gathering on the off-day. It’s the playoffs. There are few days that feel longer to an NBA team than the off-day between two playoff games on the road, especially when that team is coming off a loss.It was a cold and rainy day in Cleveland on Tuesday, after Monday night’s Game 1 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then the second-year guard planned to return to Quicken Loans Arena later for individual work.“That’s what I did during the off day in Milwaukee and it worked for me – going back to the stadium to work on my ball handling and shooting with [assistant coach] Jama [Mahlalela]. You watch games tonight and enjoy it and go back to work tomorrow.” I love basketball. Yeah, the off-day in the playoffs can be a very long day – intense, too – but it’s an important one.”With more days between games, some playoff teams choose to get away from the opponent’s city.Take, for instance, the Milwaukee Bucks returning home to Wisconsin between Games 1 and 2 in Toronto during the Raptors’ last series; or even the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, who escaped from Edmonton to Kelowna, B.C., this week between games against the Oilers in playoff-crazed Edmonton.The Raptors mixed up their media routine on Tuesday. Players wrap up individual shooting work and talk to the press while changing their shoes and heading to the bus. Sometimes there’s not even a lot of shooting going on – sometimes it’s more the talking they need,” Nurse said. My life revolves around basketball,” Lowry said. “You’ve got your iPad. “I actually always look forward to the next day after a playoff game, and going through film with coaches and seeing the things that they think I can get better at. Players gripped iPads and scrutinized game film. “The players watch film in the morning, then practise, and we load up each individual’s iPad with the film that player needs. On Tuesday, the team gave reporters a hard 15 minutes in the gym before practice, then shooed them out so they could get to work.They practised inside the Cavaliers’ Quicken Loans Arena. You watch more film and see what you can do. Before their film session with players, the coaches planned the day’s practice and repeatedly watched game tape, deliberated adjustments and discussed the order in which they would present video clips to the players. Head coach Dwane Casey and his assistants met for several hours after Monday’s 116-105 loss, then again very early in the Tuesday morning. Some found solace in solo trips to the gym, while others welcomed the distraction of tuning in to other NBA playoff series. They needed to strike just the right tone.“As the offensive guy, I want to show a stronger ratio of good to bad in the clips,” Raptors assistant coach Nick Nurse said. “You have to make the time pass somehow, and it does no one any good to sit around feeling nervous the whole time.”Lowry said he planned to share his time Tuesday between film study and being a basketball fan.“I’ll watch [NBA playoff] games tonight. He can recall times between playoff games last year when he would spend late nights with Kyle Lowry as the all-star point guard worked on shooting.“Sometimes they want basic fundamental work on their shooting or just to get some rhythm shooting. I’ll rest my body after practice, but I’m going to keep watching film on coverages. “It’s on every individual guy to figure out what he needs to get better today.”Nurse said players often take along an assistant coach for some extra gym time between playoff games. They were surrounded by empty seats and banners picturing different fierce-faced Cavaliers players with the team’s slogan, “Defend the land.”“Personally, I don’t want any time away from basketball today,” said Norman Powell, lacing up his shoes for practice. Typically, they practise, then allow reporters into the gym afterward. The Toronto Raptors coaching staff met at all hours.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s golden age seems to go on forever

There were no self-satisfied hugs during that match.Later, Barcelona coach Luis Enrique called Messi “the best player in the history of the game.” Messi was the focus of the comment, but he wasn’t its intended audience.Lest that wasn’t clear enough, Enrique made sure to really get the heel of his hand in there with the salt: “… and I have seen a lot of football and a lot of videos.”Enrique unfurled the red cape. As such, Ronaldo does not defend in games that don’t matter. They’ve been in the Champions League final twice, losing both times to Real.This is only one small slice of Atletico’s tortured history with its crosstown rival. He shows no signs of deterioration, neither of physicality nor ambition. They’ll get behind whatever sells.)Now, Atletico’s noisy outsiderism has begun to founder against its inability to take the final step. When Real found European success in the fifties, the fascists flipped allegiances. If love is close to hate, sympathy is adjacent to disgust. It’s another for a favourite to repeatedly fail to connect.For a little while, you can shrug and say, “Bad break,” and people will forgive you. Atletico’s starting XI on Tuesday makes about $60-million (U.S.) a year – just a few bucks more than Ronaldo’s annual pay packet.It’s likely that several of Atletico’s best players – forward Antoine Griezmann, midfielder Koke, goalkeeper Jan Oblak – will soon move to richer environs. They’ve been on the verge for too long. He sprinted back from a forward position to defend in midfield.Possibly the fittest team athlete alive, Ronaldo is nonetheless a subscriber to the Donald Trump theory of physical exertion – that humans are born with a finite amount of pep that should not be wasted unnecessarily. Atletico is done, which is doubly sad.Over the past four years, Madrid’s other team can lay reasonable claim to being the best soccer club on the planet. The first was a muscular header. Lots of facial moues and slight bows as he shook hands.He made sure to collect the game ball for himself, patting the 46-year-old referee on the cheek like a child as he took it.Ronaldo usually looks inordinately pleased with himself, but this was something more. After the third, Ronaldo shushed the ecstatic home crowd.It was a little like Ernest Hemingway telling a bartender he’ll have a sparkling water this round – bizarrely out of character.Long before the game ended, Ronaldo was lollygagging around the field, hugging his Real Madrid teammates during breaks in play. They are a significant club, but not in the financial elite. The only thing that’s still elite about Rooney is his salary.Ronaldo remains at the peak he first reached a decade ago. He’d extend an arm while standing still, then wait for them to walk over and tuck themselves into his body. And, at 32, he’s older than Rooney by nine months.Ronaldo’s got his team on track for its first double – league and Europe – since 1958. One popular chant directed at Real – el equipo del gobierno, la verguenza del pais (the team of the government, the shame of the country) – captures the essence.(Atletico is less keen to point out that, owing to the club’s military associations, it was initially the Franco regime’s favourite. The Real of that era – Alfredo Di Stefano’s Real, Ferenc Puskas’s Real – is often mentioned as the greatest side in history.No one will say that of Ronaldo’s Real.But as Enrique might aver today, perhaps it’s wiser to leave the “best everisms“ to future generations. The second – a let-it-go-over-the-shoulder-and-pick-it-out-of-the-air job – was a function of obscene skill. Relatively underfunded and globally obscure, they’ve still managed to beat the two biggest corporations of the Soccer Industrial Complex to a La Liga and Cup title. On Tuesday, it was possible to believe that Ronaldo will always be leading the parade.Lately, people have been reflecting on the fact that he and Wayne Rooney were once thought of in tandem while coming up at Manchester United – the yin and yang of the sport’s present, as well as its future. For once, the rest of the team seemed happy to play Ronaldo’s solipsistic game.When mercy finally took hold and the beating was allowed to stop, Ronaldo did that thing he does when he’s had one of those days – looking quite serious, verging on forlorn, in sympathy with his opponents. Unfortunately, this derby – which should by now be the most compelling rivalry in world sport – didn’t quite rise to Ronaldo’s aspiration.The Portuguese scored all three goals against Atletico Madrid in a 3-0 whipping on Tuesday. Expend enough of the former and the latter becomes inevitable.Atletico is in that territory now. I can’t even pretend this isn’t already over. Once that happens, this mini golden age ends.Apparently, Real’s goes on forever. They were a deeply dissimilar, yet oddly matched pair.These days, Rooney is a broken-down soccer hack. It’s beneath him. It’s one thing for a bottom feeder to go down swinging. His speed and power have deserted him, leaving him with the meagre resources of his cunning. Madrid Champions League semi-final, Cristiano Ronaldo did something remarkable. But that creates an expectation – that you’ll get it right eventually. He may be better now. Ronaldo waited until he was back on a proper stage before going through it.Since Barcelona was eliminated from this tournament two weeks ago, Atletico are the unfortunate stand-ins for the goring. In Spain, Real is the team of strivers and the upper-middle-class bandwagon jumpers. They are popularly caricatured as the favourite side of former dictator Francisco Franco.Atletico fans like to paint their team as the working-class resistance to Real’s establishmentarianism. During the first half of Tuesday’s Madrid vs. It’s once again proof that politicians of all stripes are grubby marketers first. This was a theatric rebuttal.Nine days ago, Ronaldo’s Real was shown up in the Clasico by his generational nemesis, Lionel Messi. Well, not hugging them exactly. It’s possible they may still claw their way back into this thing in the second game of the home-and-away if they … nope, nope, stop.

Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney to celebrate his 100th game in charge

Orlando (6-0-1) arrives with the best record in the MLS and will be a stiff test.Since taking over the team on Aug. Toronto (3-1-4) is coming off impressive wins over Chicago and Houston. They try to micromanage everything and I don’t think he’s about that.”Vanney, who is backed by a coaching staff with whom he has deep roots, is more comfortable talking about his team than himself.“There’s lots of ways that I feel like I’ve grown, but what’s most important through this stretch is that the team has continued to improve, even on an upward trend,” he said.Wednesday’s milestone – which covers MLS regular-season, playoff and Canadian Championship games – is all the more remarkable given the franchise’s revolving-door approach to head coaches in the pastToronto went through eight in the eight years before Vanney took charge.Hired in December, 2013, as Toronto’s assistant general manager and academy director, Vanney took over as coach with 10 games remaining in the 2014 season. 31, 2014, Vanney has made good use of the talent pipeline set up by general manager Tim Bezbatchenko. Toronto finished 2-6-2 under Vanney. The 42-year-old former U.S. If any are dissatisfied with their roles, they have kept it in house. Dropped in the coaching deep end toward the end of the 2014 season, Greg Vanney has managed to accomplish what the eight men before him failed to do – instill a winning culture at Toronto FC.Vanney, who took Toronto to within one kick of the MLS championship last season, marks his 100th game in charge on Wednesday night when Orlando City visits BMO Field. international defender has learned on the job, changing tactics to suit his staff.Blessed with a squad that has gotten deeper each year, Vanney has been effective at managing players. “I think he’s done a very, very good job over the course of his first game to his 100th game now at adapting, at learning, at listening to his players – doing everything he can to get the most out of his players and get the most out of his team.”Striker Jozy Altidore says Vanney’s instincts and timing as a coach are spot on.“He’s done a really good job in terms of kind of letting the guys sort themselves at times, which is something that sounds simple but I don’t think a lot of coaches do. Vanney has also handled his squad’s diverse egos. While the team is harmonious, there is no shortage of big personalities in the TFC dressing room.Toronto defender Eriq Zavaleta, who as Vanney’s nephew knows him better than most, says the TFC coach has a work ethic second to none.“He understands the league and understands what it takes to be successful,” Zavaleta said.

Rangers get on the board with dominant Game 3 win over Senators

“He doesn’t need to practise,” said Boucher. “I don’t think I’ve ever said that before.”The Rangers took it to 4-0 when J.T. Derek Stepan and Rick Nash came down on a two-on-one rush, Stepan passed to Nash and Nash fired a hard shot behind Anderson for a 3-0 lead.Karlsson had revealed last week that he had been recovering from two hairline fractures in his left foot and it seemed the Rangers were deliberately trying to wear down the Norris Trophy nominee, who often plays in excess of 30 minutes a game.This game, he was a rare minus-three for the night.Boucher has even stopped having Karlsson work out with the team, choosing rest instead. “It’s not about yesterday,” Boucher said heading into Tuesday’s Game 3 at Madison Square Garden. With the best-of-seven playoff series now at two games to one, still in favour of the Senators, Game 4 will be held Thursday in New York, with Game 5 scheduled for Saturday afternoon back in Ottawa.It might have been only the third game in the series, but New York forward Mika Zibanejad, a former Senator, accurately predicted that his teammates would play it “like a Game 7.” They could not risk being down 3-0 to a team the Rangers were heavily favoured to defeat in the Eastern Conference semi-final.As they said they would, the Rangers came out ferociously, charging up the ice and through Ottawa’s vaunted neutral-zone trap as if they were popping soap bubbles. Not the way Lundqvist was playing.The Senators pushed hard in the final period, with Brassard, Karlsson, Mike Hoffman and Clarke MacArthur all having excellent chances, but Lundqvist was up to every challenge.It was more than half a century ago that Jack Adams of the Detroit Red Wings pointed out: “What pitching is in a short series in baseball, goaltending is in the Stanley Cup playoffs.”Perhaps even more so, considering the way the game of hockey has changed.Solving Lundqvist now becomes the top priority for Boucher and his Senators.That’s for tomorrow.As for yesterday, best not to look back. With slightly more than a minute to go in the second period, however, slick Ottawa forward Bobby Ryan skated back of the New York net and put a behind-the-back pass out to Pageau, who easily scored on a badly fooled Henrik Lundqvist.Ryan, unfortunately, left the game early in the third period after blocking a hard shot, and did not return.The Senators might have come back three different times from a two-goal deficit in Saturday’s wacko match, but they were not going to come back from being three down. The Norwegian forward beat Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson to the blocker side at the 5:31 mark for New York’s first goal.Anderson, a fine goaltender who lately has developed a reputation for being in more trouble when pucks are behind the net than when they are in front, later misplayed a puck behind his net, allowing New York’s Michael Grabner to reach around and slip the puck into the open net for the Rangers’ second goal.Anderson got some measure of revenge on Grabner in the following period when he made an improbable left-pad save on what looked like a perfect redirect by Grabner.The newly physical Rangers had clearly targeted Senators captain Erik Karlsson, hitting him at every opportunity. But it was Karlsson’s own teammate, Mark Stone, who took him out most effectively when the two accidentally collided during a New York rush. Glass quickly made his presence known, hitting Ottawa forward Zack Smith hard enough to put Smith out of the game with an “upper body injury.”“There’s no surprise to his game,” Vigneault said of Glass.It was Zibanejad, traded last year by Ottawa for then-Ranger Derick Brassard, who began the scoring onslaught, flying up the ice and around the Ottawa net before slipping the puck to Mats Zuccarello. Miller slipped a perfect cross-crease pass to Oscar Lindbergh, who had simply to clip the puck into the open side of the Ottawa net.It seemed as if the rout was on. “It’s about today.”And now, unfortunately for the Ottawa Senators, it is all about tomorrow, following New York’s dominating 4-1 victory Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. There was even a 10-minute stretch in the opening period in which Ottawa could not muster a single shot on the New York net.Boucher had said earlier in the day that this would be “the toughest game we will have all year long.” That was a given.New York coach Alain Vigneault, criticized in New York for not dressing his more physical players, accommodated the complainers by inserting hard-nosed Tanner Glass back into the lineup. Never look back, says Ottawa Senators head coach Guy Boucher.Don’t think about last year – when the team missed the playoffs – and don’t think there’s any luck to carry over from Saturday’s 6-5 double-overtime win by the Senators over the New York Rangers, courtesy of “checker” Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s stunning four-goal performance.

Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner power Yankees past Blue Jays

He came in averaging 413 feet on his long balls this year, according to Major League Baseball’s Statcast system.It was the second time in the past five games that Judge connected twice. Latos (0-1) was ineffective in his third start for Toronto, allowing four homers and 10 hits in four innings.Judge, the 6-foot-7 mountain of a rookie, took over the major league lead with his 12th home run, a three-run shot to left field on the 10th pitch of his at-bat in the seventh.He went the other way for a solo shot in the third, clearing the 314-foot sign in the right-field corner by a few rows with a pop fly that left a smiling Latos shaking his head and almost laughing behind the mound.Estimated at 337 feet, the home run was the shortest of Judge’s big league career. He has four home runs this season – a pair of two-homer performances in the past four games. Aaron Judge hit two more home runs after destroying a flat-screen television with a long drive during batting practice, and Brett Gardner also went deep twice to power the New York Yankees past the Toronto Blue Jays 11-5 on Tuesday night.Injury substitute Aaron Hicks added a two-run shot, and Masahiro Tanaka (4-1) pitched into the seventh inning to win his fourth straight start. MVP!”Before the game, Judge showed off his prodigious power with a shot to centre field that smashed a TV in one of the ballpark’s new social gathering areas beyond the bullpens and Monument Park in centre field.Gardner led off the bottom of the first with a double and scored three times. He has five homers in his last five games.And when the slugger made a fine catch in right field, fans at Yankee Stadium chanted “MVP! Matt Holliday had three hits, including an early RBI double, as the Yankees jumped to a 7-0 lead against Mat Latos and won for the 15th time in 20 games.Steve Pearce went 4 for 4 with his first two homers for the Blue Jays, who had won a season-best three in a row.

The Hart of the Oilers: McDavid shows why he’s MVP worthy

It gives them confidence night after night.“From Game 1 to 82, I have thought he was the Hart Trophy front-runner, said Mark Letestu, a fellow centre for the Oilers. He gets motivated by it.”The lone player in the NHL to score 100 points this year, McDavid was nominated on Monday for the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player, along with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. When you look at the effect he has had on our group and our results night after night, for him to be nominated for the Hart Trophy was a no-brainer.”Postseason included, McDavid has played 136 professional games, and has never gone more than two without a point. He has been guarded closely, but still has three goals and three assists during the playoffs.The San Jose series was tied at two games when McDavid delivered a crushing check against Marcus Sorensen. “He doesn’t get bogged down by pressure. It won’t be easy; they are coming off a 6-3 loss. Becoming captain was a pivotal moment for Connor McDavid: Coach (The Canadian Press)

The whole sequence took five seconds, and tied the game. McDavid was also nominated for the Ted Lindsay Award on Tuesday – along with San Jose defenceman Brent Burns and Crosby – given to the player deemed the most outstanding in the league in voting by fellow players.For weeks, fans in Edmonton have chanted “MVP” whenever McDavid takes to the ice. “What he provides for this team makes him the most valuable player.” Next, McDavid eluded a pursuing Vatanen by reversing course at high speed. With the Oilers rallying from three goals down in the second period, Connor McDavid made a play on Sunday night against the Anaheim Ducks that showed why he is the leading candidate to win the Hart Trophy.First, he stole a puck from Sami Vatanen, a highly regarded Anaheim defenceman. Besides winning the scoring title, he led the Oilers to the postseason for the first time since 2006.“It would be hard for me say that I expected this, but I have always believed in myself and recognized I was a good player,” McDavid said. They started again Sunday, seconds after he scored.He is 20 and became the youngest captain in league history this year. McDavid was 15 when he entered the Ontario Hockey League and scored 66 points. There is not a player in the game that could have defended it.”The Oilers went on to lose to the Ducks, but maintain a 2-1 lead in the second-round Stanley Cup series heading into Wednesday night’s playoff contest at Rogers Place. After that hit in Game 5, the Sharks failed to win another.“What he has done for this team, you can’t put into words,” Oilers goalie Cam Talbot said. On Wednesday night, they will try to keep from giving it back. The following year with the Erie Otters, he had 99 and would have easily topped 100 if not for taking time off to play with Canada’s junior team. “I think it happened the day he was told he was going to lead this group and a C was sewn on his jersey.“When he accepted the role, he knew he was going to be at the forefront, and would have to produce more on a nightly basis and carry the spirit of the team. Then he ripped a wrist shot over goalie John Gibson’s shoulder into the far corner of the net. “I believed from a very young age that I would have success in this league.“When I look back over my first two seasons, a lot of great things have happened.”It shouldn’t be a surprise. The fact that the Oilers didn’t win does not invalidate the timing or execution of McDavid’s play.“It was a beautiful goal,” Jackson said. His final year, he had 120 points in only 47 games in a season shortened by a broken bone in his left pinky finger and more time with the Canadian team.By the time the Oilers selected him with the first overall pick in the 2015 draft, he was already being likened to Crosby, his childhood hero growing up in Southern Ontario.“This might sound strange, but I don’t think Connor’s defining moment this season happened while he was on the ice,” said Todd McLellan, Edmonton’s coach. It was one of McDavid’s best goals of the season, and came with the stakes at their highest.“The great players always seem to rise to that occasion,” said Jeff Jackson, McDavid’s agent with the Orr Hockey Group. Game 5 is in Anaheim on Friday night.The Oilers are blessed to have the best player on the ice in McDavid, who seems to thrive in the most important moments. If anything, instead of struggling under the weight of the responsibility, he exceeded expectations. “It’s virtually impossible to make that cut at the speed with which he did [to get away from Vatanen]. “As he goes, we go.“Sid Crosby turned around an organization, and now Connor is doing the same thing.”The Oilers stole home-ice advantage from the Ducks by winning the first two games at Honda Center.

Predators squeak past Blues, take 3-1 series lead

Blues coach Mike Yeo pulled Allen late, but they couldn’t beat Rinne again. Louis avoided the shutout. 28 and March 3.Game 5 is Friday night in St. Louis Blues 2-1 Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference semifinal.Pekka Rinne outdueled St. Louis’ Jake Allen with 32 saves, and the Predators are a victory away from reaching the Western Conference final for the first time in franchise history. Neal then scored with 6:57 left to crank up the Nashville celebration.Joel Edmundson scored with 3:49 left as St. Ryan Ellis scored at 5:09 of the third to break up a scoreless game. Louis. James Neal scored the game-winning goal with 6:57 left, and the Nashville Predators beat the St. Allen finished with 23 saves as the Blues lost consecutive road games for the first time since Feb.

Orlando City’s Canadian striker Cyle Larin comes to Toronto in top form

The two played against each other growing up, with Edwards at Mississauga’s Erin Mills Soccer Club and Larin at Sigma FC.The question now is how long Larin remains in MLS. With six goals in seven games, Canadian Cyle Larin arrives in Toronto in scintillating form.He stands tied for second behind Houston’s Erick Torres in league scoring, having accounted for 60 per cent of Orlando City’s goals this season. Twelve of Larin’s 19 shots have been on goal.The numbers don’t really tell the story, however. Orlando has conceded just five goals and ranks second in the league in giving up 0.71 goals a game.One player looking forward to seeing Larin is Toronto wingback Raheem Edwards. Compare that to Toronto star Sebastian Giovinco who has 42 goals in 68 regular-season matches.Larin scores a goal every 134.5 minutes, compared to one every 137.4 minutes for the 30-year-old Giovinco.Equally impressive is Larin’s accuracy. Larin has not slowed down since winning rookie of the year honours in 2015.The 22-year-old from Brampton, Ont., has 37 goals in 66 MLS games. He has said he wants to play in Europe when the time is right and his play has already drawn attention from that side of the Atlantic.“He’s done really well,” said Toronto forward Jozy Altidore who has played in Europe and North America. And knowing where he is at all times because he has a very good nose for the goal and a nose for where the service is going to go.”Orlando is riding a four-game win streak that has seen Jason Kreis’s team outscore its opposition 7-2. So to see him do well now two, three years in a row makes me happy, makes me proud and I hope he continues to do that.“And I think it’s good for Canada that they have a young talented striker who has shown he can score goals.” The more aware we are of him, the more we can prevent service to him, I think the higher chances that we have some success with him,” he said.For Toronto coach Greg Vanney, positioning and limiting his space will be key.“If he has a weakness, it’s creating his own shot,” said Vanney. His six goals this season have come on just 19 shots for a 31.6 per cent accuracy rate.Giovinco, who leads the league in shots, has three goals on 40 shots for a 7.5 per cent conversion rate. The lone blemish on its record came April 1 in a 2-0 defeat in Columbus.Orlando is coming off a 2-0 win Saturday over visiting Colorado that saw Kaka, returning from a five-game absence due to a hamstring injury, play for 30 minutes.A fine front-runner, Orlando is 6-0-0 when it scores first (Toronto is 3-1-0).With both teams at the start of busy stretches, the coaches could dig into their squad.The Colorado win was the first of six in 22 days for Orlando while last Friday’s 2-0 win over Houston was the second of eight in 28 days for Toronto.While Larin has been Orlando’s main man up front, former TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik has also been in fine form. Giovinco has paid for lack of accuracy with only 16 shots finding the target. “A lot of his opportunities come off of service, his good runs off of the ball, him getting to spots first, him outmuscling guys, outsizing guys. The two are very different players with the five-foot-four Giovinco spraying shots from all over the field.The six-foot-two Larin’s strength is finding an opening in the penalty box and finishing. Five of his six goals have come from inside the six-yard box, often after outmuscling a defender for a header or finding a crease in the defence for a tap-in.Toronto defender Eriq Zavaleta says cutting off Larin’s supply is Job 1.“But at the same time we have to be incredibly diligent and aware of his movement in the box … … A league-leading four have been game-winners for the Florida side, which at 6-0-1 sports the best record in MLS as it takes on Toronto FC (3-1-4) on Wednesday night. “It’s never easy for a young player coming into a league where people put a lot of expectations on you.