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3 Bold NHL Predictions for 2022: The Lightning win it all. Again.

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The wonderful thing about writing sports predictions is that the predictor can’t lose.

If even one of your guesstimates hits, you can claim superior insight and act as if you knew it all along — like Biff Tannen flexing his Grays Sports Almanac from the future.

And if you miss the mark? Well, hey, predictions are silly, the 2020s taught us that no one can really forecast anything with accuracy, and you just typed them out because your editor needed some holiday content.

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So, here goes our best guesses for hockey in 2022.

If we’re correct, expect us to remind you. If not, let’s both pretend you never clicked, shall we?

Sportsnet’s Bold Predictions for 2022
With the new year on the horizon, we’re putting our boldest predictions for 2022 on the record. Find the latest as they’re published right here.

Patrik Laine gets traded, again

Hard to believe Laine will still be only 23 years old when the Columbus Blue Jackets season likely comes to its conclusion.

The electric (if inconsistent) winger has been the source of a captivating 44-goal campaign, a blockbuster trade, and more bursts of on-ice highlights and off-ice drama than we can count.

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Despite the Finnish sniper’s hot start this fall (10 points in 10 games) — a fine rebound from his dismal 2020-21 — injury and the tragic death of his father, Harri, at age 54 have halted both his and the Jackets’ bid for playoff contention.

Laine accepted a hefty qualifying offer last summer (one year at $7.5 million), but he’ll again be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights in the summer of 2022.

GM Jarmo Kekäläinen cannot run the risk of inking Laine to another one-year deal and effectively walking an elite talent to unrestricted free agency shortly after he turns 25.

So, does Laine want to commit long-term to an organization that has been shedding assets for futures and clearly needs several more pieces to contend?

We doubt it.

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Montreal wins the draft lottery

No doubt, Jeff Gorton is a smart hockey executive. But he’s also a lucky hockey executive.

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In his final two seasons at the helm of the resetting New York Rangers, the GM jumped to No. 2 in the 2019 draft (Kaapo Kakko) and all the way to No. 1 in 2020 (Alexis Lafreniere). After the Blueshirts canned Gorton for not fighting Tom Wilson fast enough or something, their lottery luck expired.

Well, Gorton now finds himself steering another Original Six rebuild. And with exciting young scorers scarce in Montreal (the team’s offence ranks 31st), the franchise could use a little of that Gorton good fortune to get things back on track.

We’re betting the hockey deities are frowning on the Arizona Coyotes’ blatant tank job.

So even though the Yotes will finish with highest odds of securing the No. 1 overall pick, Montreal — the draft’s host city — will secure the pick and use it on future No. 1 centre Shane Wright. (In a few years, Nick Suzuki will eventually slide to a more appropriate No. 2 pivot role.)

Some history: The Habs have moved up in the lottery just once in their history. In 2005, with just a 2.1 per cent chance of jumping the ladder, they jumped to the fifth-overall selection.

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That pick was a smart one: Carey Price.

The best Big Reads of 2021
As 2021 reaches its end, we’re reflecting on the stories that shaped our year. Here are some of our favourite Big Reads from the last 12 months.

Lightning threepeat

Maybe this is a boring bet, but it’s bold in the respect that the NHL hasn’t seen a threepeat champion since the New York Islanders opened the 1980s with a four-crown dynasty.

The Tampa Bay Lightning will accomplish this feat because (a) it dresses the world’s best goalie, (b) owns the best big-game two-way defenceman, (c) can roll out multiple scoring threats, (d) excels at special teams, (e) employs a GM who is deft at snatching veteran role players (Corey Perry, Zach Bogosian, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare) and, most important, (f) knows it can go all the way.

To think, Tampa has already dealt with significant regular-season injuries to all-stars Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov (again) and has hardly skipped a beat.

Captain Steven Stamkos (sixth in league scoring) is keg-standing from the fountain of youth.

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Alex Killorn is grinding like a guy who’s still over the moon that he wasn’t part of Tampa’s off-season salary dump.

And Ryan McDonagh is probably the best D-man we stopped talking about.

If Jon Cooper’s bunch pulls this sucker off, the Bolts will indisputably rise above the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins as the greatest team of the league’s salary cap era.

In Memoriam
As 2021 reaches its end, Sportsnet is remembering not only the moments that stayed with us, but the people who’ve left us.

Bonus predictions:

• Connor McDavid wins the Art Ross and Hart trophies.

• The Colorado Avalanche defeat the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference final.

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• Cale Makar swipes the Norris.

• The incomparable Patrice Bergeron calls it a career after the Bruins make a first-round exit.

• Minnesota’s Dean Evason claims the Jack Adams.

• Auston Matthews rallies to pass Leon Draisaitl and Alex Ovechkin for the Rocket.

• Trevor Zegras steals the Calder from frontrunner Lucas Raymond.

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Canada's first-ever World Cup goal, even in blowout loss, sparks hope

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There is hope that Canada’s young group can continue to grow and emerge as a genuine force alongside the United States and Mexico in the CONCACAF region.



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Canada Player Ratings: Davies gets redemption, but World Cup hopes end

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AL RAYYAN, Qatar – The Canadian men’s national team’s first World Cup campaign in 36 years will end this Thursday.

Andrej Kramaric and Marko Livaja wiped out Alphonso Davies’ early opener 67 seconds in, the first Canadian goal at a men’s World Cup, to lift Croatia to a 4-1 win.

With the defeat, Canada will be eliminated at the group stage, regardless of Thursday’s result versus Morocco, to close out Group F action.

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Here are your on-the-whistle player ratings for every Canadian starter.

Ratings are based off a 10-point scale. Anything above a six, the usual average for soccer ratings, is considered solid or better.

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Milan Borjan (goalkeeper): 8/10

Before the second half, Milan Borjan was going to receive a lower rating.

His hesitancy to come off his line and collect passes that ran through was peculiar. It nearly allowed Livaja and Kramaric to latch onto what seemed to be lost causes.

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Then Borjan produced four solid saves, including on Kramaric in the 55th minute, to keep Canada within touching distance until the third goal, reminding us of his heroics during World Cup Qualifying.

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Alistair Johnston (right-back): 7/10

Considering he was isolated most of the night, Alistair Johnston coped well. It’s a tough assignment having to face either Ivan Perisic or Borna Sosa on your own.

Johnston went on to win four of his seven defensive duels. Not bad at all.

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Steven Vitoria (centre-back): 6/10

Vitoria’s decision to push up, which vacated a wide-open lane for Livaja right before halftime, was one of his glaring mistakes on the night.

As usual, Vitoria’s distribution was decent, albeit with a couple of misplaced passes under pressure, but he remained strong in the air.

Kamal Miller (centre-back): 4/10

Four days after his man-of-the-match performance, Kamal Miller did struggle more often against a rapid Croatian attack and midfield.

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Miller’s weaknesses defending on the turn and in the air were exposed on the first and third goals. The mishit clearance for the fourth didn’t help, either.

It’s a shame, too, after what was a tremendous display in transitional moments against Belgium.

Richie Laryea (left-back): 6/10

Sunday wasn’t as eventful for Richie Laryea but he was solid at the back when Canada needed him.

The only wish Canadians would’ve wanted from Laryea was to be more influential in the final third, but Croatia’s defence rendered that task moot.

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Tajon Buchanan (right winger): 7/10

A lively start for Tajon Buchanan was negated by lackadaisical defensive duties. It was clear that Croatia was exploiting the right side with Johnston the only player covering the entire flank.

But there’s no doubt that Buchanan was a live wire when asked to be, as he posed a constant threat in transition and assisted Davies’ opener.

Atiba Hutchinson (midfielder): 5/10

It was apparent that Atiba Hutchinson, on three days’ rest at age 39, was struggling to keep up with the pace of play.

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Croatia’s midfield might have 37-year-old Luka Modric, but they still play incredibly slick and fluid football. Unfortunately, Hutchinson learned that the hard way.

The fact he stayed on the pitch for 73 minutes is quite surprising considering those struggles.

Stephen Eustaquio (midfielder): 9/10

Before he withdrew with a suspected injury, Stephen Eustaquio was terrific yet again.

He didn’t misplace a single pass on 27 attempts, and completed five clearances, a tackle and an interception before he checked out of the game at halftime.

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Depending on the severity of his injury, this could be a major blow for Canada ahead of the Morocco match on Thursday.

Alphonso Davies (left-winger): 8/10

Credit Alphonso Davies. The Bayern Munich superstar scored the first-ever Canadian men’s national team goal at the World Cup after one of the most heartbreaking moments in the squad’s history. That takes incredible mental strength.

He also tried to will his team back into the match after going 2-1 down by taking on Croatia’s defence, often on his own. The final ball didn’t always come off – he completed two of six dribbles and one key pass – but credit Davies for trying.

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Jonathan David (forward): 6/10

David looked timid and hesitant compared to the Belgium match. He was so eager to score in the opener that perhaps he was more selective with his shooting on Sunday.

Cyle Larin (forward): 5/10

After a strong performance against Belgium, Larin was relatively anonymous. He didn’t have a single shot and finished with just 14 touches.

Larin is a forward who needs to be actively involved, so the fact he was so invisible didn’t help unlock his best qualities.

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Croatia's Andrej Kramaric scores goal vs. Canada in 70' | 2022 FIFA World Cup

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Watch Croatia’s Andrej Kramaric scoring a goal against Canada in the 70′ in the 2022 Men’s FIFA World Cup.



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