He has a .244 batting average and a .727 OPS (on-base plus slugging).First baseman Justin Smoak moved into the cleanup position usually occupied by Morales and Jose Bautista filled in as designated hitter.The Blue Jays have struggled all season while dealing with injuries to several everyday players. Happ (elbow) and Aaron Sanchez (finger).Gibbons also provided an update on Tulowitzki, saying the tentative plan is to have him play rehab games in Florida on Saturday and early next week before joining the Blue Jays in Atlanta on Wednesday.The Blue Jays had a limited bench for Wednesday night’s game. Only Chris Coghlan and Mike Ohlman, both triple-A callups, were available.After the finale against the Indians, Toronto will continue its nine-game homestand with a four-game series against the Seattle Mariners and a two-game mini-series against the Braves.The Blue Jays will then complete the unusual home-and-home set with two games in Atlanta. Third baseman Josh Donaldson (calf), shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (hamstring) and catcher Russell Martin (shoulder) are on the disabled list along with starting pitchers J.A. “We’ll get a better idea tomorrow,” Gibbons said in his pre-game availability. So I guess that’s good news.”The Indians won the game 6-0 to leave Toronto with a 12-21 record. Morales walked with a noticeable limp after the game and had his upper leg taped.Morales will not be available for the rubber game of the three-game series Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.The 33-year-old slugger leads the Blue Jays with six home runs and 20 RBIs this season. He underwent an MRI exam Wednesday, with manager John Gibbons calling it a minor injury. Toronto Blue Jays slugger Kendrys Morales will be re-evaluated later this week after suffering a hamstring strain in Tuesday’s loss to the Cleveland Indians.Morales left the game after experiencing discomfort in his left leg when he grounded out in the fourth inning. “But hopefully we can dodge it where he doesn’t have to go on the 10-day (disabled list).
In the end, all Shattenkirk’s acquisition produced was one extra playoff game.Capitals’ general manager Brian MacLellan was feeling greater urgency this year because the Capitals’ window of opportunity to win with a core group that included Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Holtby is slowly shrinking. The Capitals’ developmental cupboard is getting increasingly bare because of their attempts to land short-term reinforcements over the years, but they believe their 2014 No. The Penguins finished 13 points ahead of Ottawa in the regular-season standings and thus earn the home-ice advantage for Round 3.As for Washington, the two-time President’s Trophy winners as the NHL’s best regular-season team, it was another early, disappointing playoff exit, thanks to their rival, the Penguins.Unlike last year, when the Capitals made only minor tweaks at the trading deadline, they went all in to win a championship this spring, by acquiring the most heavily sought-after rental in the market, defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk. The Capitals believed Shattenkirk could come in and quarterback their power play more effectively than their other options – primarily John Carlson, Niskanen or Dmitri Orlov.Shattenkirk cost them a first-round pick, but the Capitals theorized he would be worth the price if he helped them get to the final. In Game 6, Crosby appeared shaken up in a collision when he got tangled up with goaltender Braden Holtby, Capitals’ defenceman John Carlson and the end boards.Between games, there was much discussion about whether Crosby should have been removed from the game by the NHL’s concussion spotter. Andre Burakovsky, a 22-year-old Swede, has had two up-and-down seasons breaking into the NHL, but he finished the series playing on the top line and they believe he can play a top-six role. Game 7s define individual careers and organizational narratives and for most of their respective histories, the Pittsburgh Penguins have held a decisive edge over the Washington Capitals.It’s like a Road Runner cartoon, the same scene, repeated over and over. Individually, Sidney Crosby always gets the better of Alex Ovechkin – world junior championships, world championships, Olympics, World Cup and most important of all, in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Oshie and Justin Williams, are on expiring contracts and will become free agents on July 1.Largely for financial reasons, the Capitals may need to look internally for replacements. Crosby set up the play with a tap on the stick of Capitals’ defenceman Matt Niskanen, which created a turnover at the Washington blue line.Some would say that was a fitting turning point for a series in which Niskanen and Ovechkin knocked Crosby out of Game 3 of the series with a concussion.Crosby missed the fourth game of the series, but returned for the next two. As for the Sid-and-Ovie Show, all you needed to do is look at the calendar to realize it’s that time of year.Reruns already. It was no different on Wednesday night, the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry staying on script when the visiting Penguins earned a 2-0 victory over the Capitals in the seventh and deciding game of the Metropolitan Division championship.Related: Oilers’ surprising playoff run comes to a close with Game 7 loss to DucksWith the victory, Pittsburgh advances to the Eastern Conference final, where it will play the Ottawa Senators.Pittsburgh is seeking to become the first team in two decades to win consecutive Stanley Cup championships and the Capitals pushed them right to, what was for them, another bitter end.It was a tense, nervous, low-risk game that was scoreless until midway through the second period, when the Penguins’ Bryan Rust contributed the all-important opening goal. It is hard to imagine any genuine circumstances under which the Capitals would move on from Ovechkin, who has a limited no-trade clause in his contract, which specifies 10 teams that he can’t be dealt to.All that is fodder for a down-the-road conversation.In the moment, the Capitals are on the outside again, pondering next year thoughts, while the Penguins move on to the third round for the second year in a row. This year, for example, two top-six forwards, T.J. 1 pick, Jakub Vrana, who played 21 games for them this year, is ready for prime-time NHL duty.Some believe the Capitals will need to assess Ovechkin’s role going forward, but he has four years remaining on his 13-year, $124-million (U.S.) contract and is a favourite of owner Ted Leonsis. Usually the most even-tempered of stars, Crosby bristled under questioning ahead of Game 7, insisting that all proper medical protocols were followed and that furthermore, he – more than anyone else – knew his body; and how it responded to the heavy hitting characteristic of any NHL game.Crosby may not have been as sharp in Game 6 as he’d been previously in the playoffs, but he seemed no worse for wear in the deciding match, one in which the Penguins survived an early Washington push, thanks to solid goaltending from the veteran Marc-André Fleury in the Pittsburgh goal.For last night’s game, the Penguins’ injured starter, Matt Murray, was healthy enough to dress as the back-up goalie, which suggests he’ll be available to play against Ottawa, if required.But based on how well Fleury is playing, it would appear risky to make a switch.Early in the third period, Penguins’ defenceman Justin Schultz won a puck battle from Ovechkin and chipped it to Patric Hornqvist, who flipped an innocent-looking backhander at the net, which fooled Holtby and gave Pittsburgh a valuable insurance goal.The Penguins and Senators have met four times previously in the playoffs, Ottawa winning once (in 2007, Crosby’s second professional season), with Pittsburgh triumphant in the next three.The Sens won two out of three from the Penguins in the regular season, but lost a wild one – 8-5 – to Pittsburgh in early December.
“We have a lot of great players in this room, that’s why I’m not an everyday player usually.“But when I get my opportunities I’m going to take advantage of them and things are working out.”With the win, Toronto took the three-game series 2-1. The homer was just the third for Bautista, who was filling for Morales as the DH.Given a new lease on life, Liriano started to suffocate again in the third inning where he was hammered him for five more runs to chase him from the game, with the Indians ahead 7-3.Liriano’s earned-run average is now an unhealthy 6.35 through seven starts.But the Blue Jays showed resilience, scoring two in their half of the frame before a two-run home run by Ezequiel Carrera in the fourth, his third of the year, levelled proceedings. You know when you start singing the praises of the likes of Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins that your season is not going as planned.The record of the Toronto Blue Jays is already nose-plug-worthy in the second month of the season, all the best-laid plans of club president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins torn asunder through a mind-bending series of injuries to key personnel. His two RBI’s give him nine through nine games in May.“It’s not my choice [being a backup],” Goins continued. Add designated hitter Kendrys Morales, Toronto’s big off-season free-agent acquisition, to the list of walking wounded. That gave Toronto a 3-2 lead. Petersburg, Fla., over the weekend the Blue Jays have now recorded back-to-back series wins for the first time this season.Morales was injured running to first base in Tuesday’s game and an MRI revealed some damage but not enough for the team to consider a trip to that ever popular seasonal destination frequented by the Blue Jays – the disabled list.At least not yet.It is already heavily populated by the likes of Josh Donaldson (calf), Troy Tulowitzki (hamstring), Russell Martin (shoulder), J.A. He was absent from the starting lineup for Wednesday’s series finale against the Cleveland Indians with left hamstring soreness.He missed a wacky time as the Blue Jays, after trailing by as many as four runs, mounted a spirited, not to mention unexpected, comeback to stun the American League defending champions with an 8-7 victory before just over 35,000 onlookers at Rogers Centre.With the score deadlocked at 7-7, the dagger was administered by Goins, who came to the plate with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded courtesy of Cleveland reliever Cody Allen.And Goins cashed his third hit of the game on the first pitch, a walk-off single down the right-field line that brought in the winning run and sent the Blue Jays dugout sprinting out onto the field after Goins in celebration.“I believe in myself,” Goins said afterward, when asked about a utility player coming through as he has so consistently of late. “But I keep trying to remind people, keep trying to stay positive.“For as ugly of a start as we got off to and everything we’ve been through, if we’re able to kind of ride out this storm we’re going to be much better moving forward because of the fact these guys are getting the opportunity to play every day.”On a night when Toronto could have surely used a decent outing from a starter, Francisco Liriano could not come through as Cleveland led 2-0 after just 12 pitches in the top of the first inning on the strength of a two-run double by Jason Kipnis.The Blue Jays came right back in their half of the inning with Jose Bautista, their labouring slugger, lashing a three-run home run down the left-field line off Cleveland starter Danny Salazar. Happ (elbow) and Aaron Sanchez (finger).The team is hoping to avoid having to book that junket by giving Morales a day or two off and play with a shortened bench in the hope he is a fast healer.“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Kevin Pillar, the team’s centre fielder, said of the team’s injuries.The only good news to come from all the carnage is that Barney and Goins, usually utility infielders, have been pressed into service full time and both have performed admirably under trying circumstances.Barney, a former Gold Glove winner as a second baseman, has been flirting with a .300 batting average as the primary replacement for Donaldson at third base.And the Blue Jays have not skipped a beat defensively with the sure-handed Goins filling in for Tulowitzki at shortstop, although his .191 batting average heading into Wednesday’s game does not exactly instill fear among opposing pitchers.Still, Goins contributed a run-scoring hit earlier in the third inning, one of three hits he had in the game, and his three home runs have already tied his total from all of last season.“They’ve been the saving grace for a season that clearly hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to go,” Pillar said of the duo. And after dispatching Tampa Bay in St.
He stopped 26 of 28 shots over the previous three hours — and 120 of 127 in the last three games — but it wasn’t enough.Nick Ritchie knuckled a shot beneath Talbot’s arm early in the third period, and the Ducks held on to beat the Oilers, 2-1, in the seventh game of their second-round postseason series. Anaheim advances to the Western Conference finals against the Nashville Predators. In the playoffs, the Oilers had a slight scoring advantage, 23-21.They made great strides this season, but losing still hurt.“Certainly, we wanted very badly to beat those guys,” Patrick Maroon, Edmonton’s big forward, said. Several thousand travelled to Anaheim and chanted in their seats 40 minutes before the puck dropped. We’ll be back.” There is a lot to look forward to.”It was an exciting series with great swings in emotion, great performances and no lack of controversy. Leon Draisaitl had the first hat trick and five-point-game of his career. Some stood in front of the building shouting through megaphones.Darryl Stein was among a group of six displaced Edmonton fans in attendance. Hundreds gathered on the patio of a restaurant across the street from the arena. It was his first goal of postseason.The Oilers were fortunate to get through 40 minutes with the game tied. Talbot kept them in it, scrambling to make one big save after another.The Ducks eventually took over on the goal by Ritchie. The Ducks called a timeout with 1:03 remaining, and then held on.“We battled hard up and down the line-up,” McDavid, the Oilers’ captain, said. It was the second goal of the series for the rookie forward, who was the most valuable player in the NCAA tournament last year while leading the University of North Dakota to the championship. They had lost in Game 7 of the playoffs in each of the last four years after taking a 3-2 lead.“I thought we learned from the past,” Ryan Getzlaf, the Anaheim captain said. He and his friends all live in Victoria now, and have been watching some of the Oilers’ postseason games at his condo.“I can go months without cursing, but in the context of a hockey game I drop F-bombs about every five minutes,” Stein said.The Oilers got the quick start they were hoping for, with Drake Caggiula jamming a puck past John Gibson only three-and-a-half minutes into the game. I don’t think anybody thought we would be here.“I am really proud to be part of this team.”The Oilers finished 29th among 30 teams in the league last year and came within one victory – one goal, really – of beating the Pacific Division champions for five straight years.The season series was as close as can be: 6-6 including seven playoff games. The Ducks looked to have tied the game at 1 when Cam Fowler slammed in a one-timer from the blue line with 5:49 remaining in the second but the play was immediately ruled offside.Andrew Cogliano, who played for the Oilers from 2007-11, finally got Anaheim on the scoreboard with 11:05 left in the second. It was fitting to end the way it did.”The Oilers called a time out with 2:03 remaining, and when play resumed they pulled Talbot and fired a flurry of shots at Gibson. Edmonton’s season is over after making a surprising playoff run.Related: Playoff deja vu: Penguins drop Capitals to reach Eastern final“What can you say about this group?” Talbot said quietly, struggling for words. They were outworked, outhustled, outhit and outshot in the second, 16-3. “That is a great team over there. We have a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup and we proved that. “Obviously this one is going to sting for a while.“But you have to give credit to our team. He was accosted by fans several times as he walked through the airport on Tuesday on his way to the team’s flight to Southern California.One couple stopped him for a picture and cozied up a bit too close.“I don’t know how you are supposed to feel comfortable,” McDavid said. “The guy had me in a death grip. The victory fell on his 32nd birthday. The Oilers jumped in front by winning twice in Anaheim, then lost the next three, including back-to-back games in overtime.In both, they had challenges for goaltender interference denied. He was held scoreless for the second straight night. The future is exciting for this team. I think we have come a long way. I don’t think many people gave us much of a chance against them.“If you look at any team that has won the Stanley Cup, they start out with a disappointment. I wanted to run for the plane as fast as I could.”On Tuesday, the Oilers sold 18,000 tickets in two minutes to fans who wanted to watch the game on the giant scoreboard at Rogers Place. He had 21 points in 12 games against the Ducks this season.Thrilled to have escaped elimination, they were very loose after their morning skate Wednesday. We’ve taken huge steps forward and done that. The second time, it appeared that Ryan Kesler grabbed Talbot during a scramble in the crease to prevent him from stopping the tying goal with 15 seconds left.Then, with their season on the line, the Oilers routed Anaheim 7-1 in Game 6 at Rogers Place. His first goal had tied Game 4 with 1:42 remaining and sent it to overtime.Talbot came far out of the net a few minutes later to swat away a puck and break up a 2-on-0 opportunity. Head down and shoulders slumped, Cam Talbot sat in front of his stall in the quiet of the Oilers dressing room at the Honda Center late Wednesday night. “It was a great series between two good teams that battled hard the entire way. “We finished near the bottom of the league last year, and took a big step this year. If the pressure of playing their first Game 7 in 11 years was getting to them, it wasn’t apparent.Connor McDavid joked about the excitement the playoff run was causing in Edmonton.
Infantino issued a plea to officials still hoping to profit through bribery, embezzlement, and fraud.“If there’s anyone in this room or outside of this room who still thinks he can enrich himself, that he can abuse football, I have one clear and strong message to tell him: Leave football and leave football now. It’s the facts saying it.“We will not accept any good governance lesson from any of these individuals who have miserably failed in protecting football, protecting FIFA, and in protecting football from FIFA.”Expanding on the reform supervisors, Infantino said: “What did they do? They simply rubber-stamped a sick and wrong system. Former FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali believes FIFA has “already lost the battle of public opinion.”The Jordanian federation head also accused Infantino of acting undemocratically when he blocked delegates from having a say on the dispute between the Palestinian and Israeli federations. Gianni Infantino waged a strident defence of his FIFA leadership by lashing out at “fake news” and “alternative facts” circulated about a governing body he insists has recovered its reputation and can be trusted.Addressing his second congress of soccer nations as FIFA president, Infantino on Thursday invoked the rhetoric favoured by U.S. “They all miserably failed. It’s not me saying it. President Donald Trump to take on his critics by also lambasting experts who “miserably failed” and promoting his “football first” agenda. It is the criminal courts saying it all over the world.”FIFA has spent tens of millions of dollars on experts to protect its victim status in criminal investigations and reclaim cash from corrupt officials. FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai, an American citizen from Guam, recently pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking around $1 million in bribes including at least $850,000 from Kuwaiti officials. Only pressure from criminal authorities forced FIFA to overhaul its structures to dilute the power of the presidency and show it can be trusted.But Reinhard Grindel, a member of Infantino’s ruling council, criticized the way FIFA’s ethics and reform leadership was abruptly replaced this week, and said the process should have been “more transparent.”“This is certainly not how we should make such sensitive decisions in the future,” said Grindel, the German federation president.The credentials of the people who replaced Eckert and Borbely have not been questioned, but the murky process left a sour taste with some delegates. We don’t want you.”There was applause, and no sign of anyone leaving the room.FIFA officials remain under criminal investigation in Switzerland and the United States. There are a lot of people spreading a lot of wrong and false information.”For Infantino, there is no doubt “crisis is over,” despite a Kuwaiti member of his council recently abandoning plans to seek re-election after being accused of bribery by American authorities.“We are rebuilding the credibility of FIFA. It is a deeply honest organization.”FIFA first embarked on a reform mission in 2011 after election bribery allegations, but a deeper financial scandal exploded four years later with raids in Zurich and the arrest of soccer officials.“Where were all these self-proclaimed good governance and compliance gurus who were supposed to control FIFA when all this was happening?” asked Infantino, whose former bosses at UEFA were often cited by reform advisers as a barrier to progress. “New FIFA, it is a transparent organization, not an organization that is fiddling around with facts and figures. The case implicated Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, the executive forced to scrap his council re-election bid. It will be dealt with in secret by the FIFA Council headed by Infantino.“You cannot prevent a congress from making a decision that is in their rights,” Prince Ali said, bemoaning the fact FIFA remains “in crisis.”“You can have a FIFA president who says everything is fine, as we have heard before,” the prince said, “but obviously it is not.”Infantino, though, blamed troublemakers for distorting coverage of his progress in repairing the scandal-battered organization.“Sadly, the truth is not what is necessarily true but what people believe is true,” Infantino told the congress.“There is a lot of fake news and alternative facts about FIFA circulating. It is not me saying it. FIFA bashing has become a national sport in some countries.”Asked later by reporters to provide examples of “fake news,” Infantino said: “Generally, it’s my feeling.“It’s not the media I was meaning. Infantino lashes out at ‘FIFA bashing’ (Reuters)
Infantino later acknowledged he could not support his “fake news” outburst with supporting facts.He was under pressure at his second congress since replacing Sepp Blatter as world soccer’s leader in February 2016, with questions about the power he is exerting overshadowing the gathering.FIFA’s top ethics officials — judge Hans-Joachim Eckert and prosecutor Cornel Borbely — were ousted by Infantino this week, and the disgruntled pair accused the president of jeopardizing the reform of the organization. The new FIFA is a democracy it is not a dictatorship,” Infantino said.
With a 33-37-12 record, Buffalo finished last in the Atlantic Division , 26th overall, and with two fewer wins than last season.It’s also a bit of a homecoming for the 40-year-old who grew up in Winnipeg. Buffalo interviewed at least seven candidates, including Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin and Nashville’s Paul Fenton.Botterill was a candidate for the Sabres’ job in 2014, when former team president Pat LaFontaine hired Murray.He now takes over a team that stagnated under Murray, missing the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season. And his sister, Jennifer, won three golds and one silver medal playing for Canada’s national women’s hockey team.Both Pegula-owned Buffalo sports franchises are in flux with the NFL Bills also undergoing an off-season overhaul. Bylsma was Buffalo’s third coach since Lindy Ruff was fired in February 2013. Botterill closed his playing career in the Sabres organization. He is the only Canadian to win three World Junior tournament titles (1994-96).Selected by Dallas in the first round of the 1994 draft, he spent eight seasons in the pros, mostly in the minor leagues. He played 38 games with the Sabres from 2002-04 and retired after sustaining a concussion eight games into the 2004-05 season with Rochester, Buffalo’s American Hockey League affiliate.Pegula took a hands-on approach in the search, saying he regretted not being more involved in hiring Murray and Bylsma.The Sabres have lacked front-office and coaching stability since Pegula purchased the team in February 2011. You could see right there that he’s either going to be a coach or a manager at some point.”Botterill’s father, Cal, is a sports psychologist, who previously worked in the NHL. Over the past three years, Botterill has closely helped GM Jim Rutherford with scouting, contract and player development matters.The Penguins have referred to Botterill as the “key architect” of their 2009 and 2016 Stanley Cup-winning teams.Botterill was particularly credited for hiring Mike Sullivan to coach the AHL team before the start of the 2015-16 season. On Tuesday, the Bills hired Carolina Panthers assistant GM Brandon Beane to take over after GM Doug Whaley and their entire scouting staff was fired a day after the NFL draft. “Jason has built a solid reputation as a leader that connects strongly with players and staff around him.”The Sabres ended their search process a week ago, delayed only by waiting for the Penguins to complete their playoff series. And LaFontaine’s tenure as president of hockey operations lasted less than four months before he abruptly resigned in March 2014.Botterill attended Michigan, where he helped the Red Berenson-coached Wolverines win a national championship in 1996. Murray took over a year later, after Darcy Regier was fired. Sullivan coached them to a championship.“Jason’s knowledge, experience and developing players, and his approach to management stood out to us during our interview process,” Pegula said. His mother, Doreen, was a two-time Olympic speed skater. Jason Botterill is leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins’ bid to defend their Stanley Cup title for an opportunity to build the Buffalo Sabres into contenders as general manager.The Sabres hired the Penguins associate GM on Thursday to lead a franchise that owner Terry Pegula criticized for lacking structure and discipline. “He was very in-sync with the whole program and not just his role on the team. Botterill finished with five goals and 14 points in 88 career NHL games split over four teams, including Calgary and Atlanta.Upon retiring, Botterill returned to Michigan to earn an MBA.“Jason is a big-picture person,” Berenson told The Associated Press this week. Botterill takes over three weeks after Tim Murray was fired, and one day after Pittsburgh advanced to the Eastern Conference finals by defeating the Washington Capitals 2-0 in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series.Botterill’s first priority will be hiring a coach to replace Dan Bylsma, who was also fired in the Sabres’ second front-office house-cleaning in 3 1/2 years.The former NHL player has spent the past 10 years working up the Penguins’ executive ranks.
At a point in the middle of his career, people worked hard to anoint someone else for the sake of variety. Looking back on it from a few years’ distance, we’ll see them as the king and the pretender.Their rivalry (if that’s really what it was) peaked during a contrived event – HBO’s reality series narrating the lead-up to a Penguins-Capitals game at the 2011 Winter Classic. The gentleman has him around the back. He’s Wayne Gretzky without the need of a Dave Semenko. Over the course of the year, McDavid proved convincingly that, night in and night out, he is now the best hockey player in the world.This is about mantles being passed and who to. But for Crosby personally, it hasn’t been a glorious march toward history. Then he gets pounced on in an airport by an excited couple, and the resultant photo strips away the adult trappings. In order to perform its proper mythological function, the crown must be regularly transferred in an orderly process.For a while there, Crosby and Ovechkin shared it. McDavid isn’t.He’s got his boarding pass in one hand, while the other is half-attempting a handshake. He’s still the big winner.At this point, he has only two players in his sights: Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.This isn’t really about who is better. McDavid looks as if he’s being dragged up the steps to the world’s friendliest gallows.“That picture was a little weird,” McDavid said later. They’re smiling. He might’ve asserted himself by captaining Canada in Pyeongchang – with McDavid pushed back into the role of courtier – but that’s off the table.Crosby’s still only 29, but you can sense the beginning of what one hopes will be a long, healthy ending.By comparison, McDavid is the player no one can touch. It’s just as much about his erratic personality and vivid foreignness as his level of play – and the fact no one else could manage to seem half as interesting.Another playoff disappointment this year has finished off whatever remained of the Ovechkin aura. McDavid is standing there in the security line looking rumpled, bug-eyed and deeply, deeply uncomfortable. He isn’t even the finest player on his own team any more, but still retains the glamour of a generational best. His body is being crushed between two much smaller people. It’s a bad combo.The usual cycle of Crosby’s long history of head injuries has been to express concern, rage at the league, then marvel at how well he can absorb punishment and keep going. In the end, he was one of those players who are charismatic enough to catch the eye but never good enough to hold it when it matters. He’s done that. He was concussed in one game, returned quickly, then launched headfirst into the end boards like a cruise missile in a subsequent contest.Owing to a bizarre peculiarity in the league’s brain-trauma guidebook (boards are apparently down pillows compared with the unyielding concrete of the ice), Crosby was not put through the concussion protocol after that second impact – though he said he had been.Crosby’s bull-rushing, high-speed style invites this sort of contact. But, like a small child being passed between relatives at a wedding reception, McDavid allowed himself to be gently manhandled. He’s been great – as opposed to merely very good.He’s done it so consistently that it has become difficult to remember a time when he wasn’t the best of all. That’s a long time ago.From that point on, the Russian declined, recovered slightly and then plateaued. But hockey has never quite acclimated itself to the idea that a first-rate entertainment isn’t actually that much fun if its headlining star is beaten off the stage by the supporting cast on a regular basis. Then he was just as gently mocked on the Internet.It was the first time this postseason that he looked out of his depth. The crown hasn’t passed yet, but for the first time in a decade, it’s no longer firmly planted on any one head. Every once in a while, though very rarely, we are reminded that Connor McDavid is still a kid.Between the video-game moves on the ice and the eerie poise off it, McDavid, 20, already seems like he’s been around forever. He is hockey’s Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robot.Eventually, that will have to end – for the league’s sake almost as much as Crosby’s. Every time Crosby goes down now, you think, “Is this it?” It’s hard to be king when you are so vulnerable. On his sixth or seventh try, Ovechkin has finally wasted his second chance.Crosby is a different story. He’s where the league (if it has any sense, which I’m willing to concede it may not) wants to be headed.What he needed to do in order to solidify that impression was win. It never took.It’s starting to now.Crosby’s Pittsburgh team is favoured to win again this year – his third Stanley Cup. It was pretty much a death grip.”A more experienced fan interactor would have taken control of the situation – wrapped the couple up in his own arms when it was clear they were coming in for a tag-team takedown. And his game-altering skill encourages opponents to take their cheapest shots whenever possible. The lady’s hanging off his elbow. It may also be the last time that happens in a long while.After losing a Game 7 on Wednesday, McDavid is out of the playoffs. There are only so many times the face of the NHL can be carted off the ice in a daze before it begins to get unseemly.In any other sport, we’d have passed that point. Instead, the NHL has allowed Crosby to become a figure of concern. “I don’t know how you’re supposed to feel comfortable when they hold you like that. You’re only the top man once you’ve achieved a general consensus that that’s the case. Perhaps not the whole way, but second to last in the standings to one goal short of a conference final is a hell of a 12-month leap.Crosby may win another Cup in a few weeks’ time, but he’s already in the process of losing the belt.
Coach Barry Trotz is expected to address all team injuries at his post-season news conference Friday.It was not immediately clear when Ovechkin was injured or how severely. Russian hockey officials announced Thursday that Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin played through injury before Washington was eliminated from the NHL playoffs in the second round by the Pittsburgh Penguins.Ovechkin finished the playoffs dealing with a lower-body injury that required pain-numbing injections, the Russian Hockey Federation said in noting that Ovechkin would not be able to play for Russia at the world championships in Europe because of it. Ovechkin never let on that he was playing hurt. He had five goals and three assists in 13 playoff games as the Capitals flamed out again, eliminated in seven games by the defending Stanley Cup-champion Penguins. Emotionally, I don’t think I want to answer that question at all.”Ovechkin has played at the world championships 12 previous times, including in 2013 when he finished the playoffs with a hairline fracture in his foot.Russia also said Capitals centre Evgeny Kuznetsov and defenceman Dmitry Orlov would play at the world championships, which are going on in Paris and Cologne, Germany. Trotz moved Ovechkin to the third line before Game 5, slightly reducing his ice time and calling it a chance to spread out his offence and not a demotion. “We win and lose as a team. A person with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed the injury and treatment to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team hadn’t announced it. That’s probably my best answer right now. Kuznetsov and Orlov are restricted free agents who need NHL contracts for next season, something that often leads players to decline an invitation to play for their national team. He did not miss a game but briefly left late in the first period Game 5 of the first round after clutching his knee following a hit from Toronto’s Nazem Kadri, returning for the start of the second.Ovechkin said after that game April 21 he was not worried about his knee and “just needed a little break.” NHL teams are not required to disclose injury details, typically referring to them only as upper- or lower-body problems, which made Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson’s admission of playing with two hairline fractures in one of his feet so stunning as it came while the Senators were still playing.An odd lineup midway through the second round against Pittsburgh could make more sense now. After the Capitals were eliminated on Wednesday night and Ovechkin played the seventh-most of any forward at even strength, Trotz demurred on a question about his 31-year-old captain’s play.“Emotionally right now, I don’t want to answer that question,” Trotz said after the 2-0 loss.