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Canadiens spoil Toffoli’s return to Los Angeles with ‘bad effort’ vs. Kings

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LOS ANGELES — Tyler Toffoli stood in the middle of the Montreal Canadiens’ bench, taking in the video tribute to his greatest accomplishments — all of them with the Los Angeles Kings, whom he was playing against for the first time since being traded in February of 2020.

He had downplayed what this might mean to him in the lead up to Saturday’s game, but it had been something he had been looking forward to for a very long time. This was the organization that gave him the chance to become an NHL player with the 47th pick in the 2012 Draft, the team he spent his formative years with and the one he’ll forever be linked to after helping them win the Stanley Cup in 2014, and this was supposed to be a memorable occasion.

Toffoli was supposed to have this reunion as a member of the Vancouver Canucks on March 12, 2020, but that was the day the NHL first shut down due to the pandemic. He couldn’t have known he’d go through an unexpected playoff run with the Canucks in the Toronto bubble months later, sign a four-year, $17-million contract with the Canadiens thereafter, score 28 goals in 56 regular-season games and play a big role in getting Montreal back to the Final for the first time since 1993 before having a chance to be saluted for everything that happened prior to all of that.

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But there Toffoli finally was on Saturday, glancing up at the big screen, taking in the highlights of his life as a Los Angeles King and being celebrated with a boisterous ovation from the crowd, his wife Cat, and celebrity friends Justin Turner (of the Los Angeles Dodgers) and George Lopez (comedian), who were holding Canadiens jerseys with his name on the back of them.

It was 0-0 at that point of the game. Josh Anderson made it 1-0 Canadiens shortly after.

And then the Kings scored five unanswered goals and turned this into a day Toffoli won’t want to think about ever again.

“It was really nice,” Toffoli said of the tribute after the game. “It’s just unfortunate it was washed away by a bad effort.”

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On Saturday, these Canadiens bore no resemblance to the ones Toffoli thought he was joining when he signed in Montreal.

They haven’t looked like that team since the puck dropped on this season; like the team that willed its way past the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Winnipeg Jets and the Vegas Golden Knights last summer; like the team that was completely bought in to its system and its culture of sacrificing for one another.

With shutdown centre Phillip Danault joining the Kings as a free agent after the playoffs, with superstar goaltender Carey Price in the NHL/NHLPA’s player assistance program, with captain Shea Weber too injured to continue his career and Joel Edmundson nursing an undisclosed injury from the onset of training camp through the first nine games of the season, the DNA had unquestionably been altered.

But it was unimaginable it would be to this extent.

Saturday’s loss was Montreal’s seventh in its first nine games, a fourth by as many as three goals, and it was embarrassing to the point that the Canadiens held a players-only meeting for 15 minutes after it concluded.

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“I’ve gone through things like this throughout my career, and it’s definitely tough to get out of,” Toffoli said. “It’s a funk where so many negative things are happening and you’re not getting the bounces on the ice, and then the breakdowns are hurting you in the game and that’s where you start getting in trouble.”

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On three occasions thus far, the Canadiens could blame their lack of execution for losses.

But this was a fourth time in this early part of the season that something far more troubling happened.

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Ben Chiarot, who scored for Montreal in garbage time to make this a 5-2 loss, emerged from the meeting and said, “It takes a certain level of compete and a certain level of work to win in this league every night and right now we’re not willing to give that on a consistent basis.”

“Our results show that,” he added.

We’d imagine he and Toffoli were central figures in the discussion that took place in the visiting room at Staples Center. Two guys among those rotating as alternate captains this season, two proud players who generally don’t fall short in the effort department.

The hope is that everyone else had a say, too, because everyone else played their part in how this game dissolved for the Canadiens.

They started the second period up by a goal and finished it trailing by one. And then they started the third by taking a terrible penalty in the offensive zone.

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Rasmus Kupari scored on the ensuing power play, and the Canadiens completely folded right then and there.

“I didn’t like our effort when they pushed on the other side,” said coach Dominique Ducharme. “I didn’t like the way we reacted. We were on our heels and we had no execution…”

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It undid whatever progress the Canadiens had seemingly made in a 4-0 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

And this was against a Kings team that was 1-5-1 on the season and struggling just as much if not more than them. A Kings team missing its top two defencemen on the right side and two of its most skilled forwards.

It was inexcusable, and after the game was as good a time as any to air it out.

“We have to be accountable,” said Toffoli. “We have to find ways to man up with ourselves and with each other and be grownups in the locker room and understand that, if you’re not playing well, you need to figure it out. There has to be the accountability aspect (to one another).”

If it isn’t there by Sunday, against the Ducks in Anaheim, he and his teammates will go through another experience they hope to forget.

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Aaron Rodgers to the Jets? Giants' free agency options & Mike McCarthy's future with Cowboys | Ask Jay Glazer

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Jay Glazer discussed whether Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will head to the New York Jets, the New York Giants’ free agency options, and breaks down Mike McCarthy’s future with the Dallas Cowboys.



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Super Bowl LVII: Chiefs and Eagles will meet for title in Arizona

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Patrick Mahomes finally got the best of Joe Burrow. 

All he needed was a little shove.

Harrison Butker made a 45-yard field goal with 3 seconds left — after Cincinnati’s Joseph Ossai was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for shoving Mahomes after he was out of bounds — and the Chiefs beat the Bengals 23-20 in the AFC championship game to make it back to the Super Bowl.

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Kansas City will face the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona. 

The Eagles opened as a 1 1/2-point favourite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

There are no shortage of storylines: Kansas City coach Andy Reid goes against his old team — which he led to Super Bowl 39 — in a game that’s also the first matchup of Black starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl with Mahomes and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts. 

On top of that, there’s a brother-against-brother showdown between Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Philadelphia center Jason Kelce.

“Officially done being a Chiefs fan this season!! ” Jason Kelce tweeted immediately after the Chiefs won.

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The Chiefs have been making deep postseason runs on a regular basis ever since Mahomes came to town as the franchise quarterback. 

This was their fifth straight trip to the AFC title game and will be their third Super Bowl appearance in that span. They beat the 49ers for the NFL title in the 2019 season, but lost to the Bucs the following season.

The Eagles clobbered the Niners 31-7 in the NFC title game earlier Sunday. They’ve looked dominant in the playoffs so far, also beating the New York Giants 38-7 in the divisional round.

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Philadelphia is back in the Super Bowl five years after beating the New England Patriots 41-33 on Feb. 4, 2018. 

Now a mostly new generation of Eagles — led by coach Nick Sirianni and Hurts — will come to Arizona to try and win another title.

The Chiefs-Bengals game looked as if it was going to overtime before Ossai’s ill-advised play. Mahomes — who was playing on a badly sprained ankle — was running to get a first down in the final seconds as Ossai desperately tried to track him down. 

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Mahomes was out of bounds when Ossai gave him a shove, sending both players tumbling to the turf. The ensuing 15-yard penalty was enough to push Butker into field-goal range and the kick split the uprights.

A distraught Ossai sat on the bench with his head in his hands, well after the game was over.

The Bengals and Chiefs were playing for the fourth time in less than 400 days and Cincinnati had won the previous three meetings — all by three points. This one was decided by a field goal, too, and all Burrow could do was watch.

The Bengals lost to the Rams in last year’s Super Bowl and they just missed another chance at returning to the title game.

NO DRAMA IN NFC

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Oddsmakers thought fans were in for some close conference championship games. 

They’ll have to settle for a 50% success rate.

The NFC title game was a blowout. Niners rookie quarterback Brock Purdy was injured in the first quarter when Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick drilled his right arm on a play that was ruled a fumble. The Eagles recovered that fumble and the injury proved to be a game-changer.

With Purdy hurt, San Francisco turned to 36-year-old journeyman Josh Johnson, who couldn’t do much before eventually leaving with a concussion. Purdy came back into the game, but could barely throw, and the Eagles cruised to the win.

The 49ers dealt with quarterback injuries all season, losing Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo before turning to Purdy, a seventh-round draft pick out of Iowa State. Purdy stepped into a starter’s role in December and won his first seven games before Sunday’s injury. 

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Here’s a few things to know about the upcoming Super Bowl:

WHAT’S THE UPCOMING SCHEDULE?

FEB. 5

Pro Bowl flag-football game, 3 p.m. EST, ABC/ESPN

FEB. 12

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Super Bowl LVII, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 6:30 p.m. EST, Fox

RIHANNA AT HALFTIME

Rihanna will take center stage as the headline act for this year’s Super Bowl halftime show.

With sales of more than 250 million records worldwide, Rihanna ranks as one of the best-selling female artists ever. Her most recent album was 2016′s “Anti.” Rihanna last performed publicly at the Grammy Awards in 2018.

The singer said she turned down a similar opportunity for the 2019 Super Bowl that was ultimately headlined by Maroon 5. At the time, many artists voiced support for Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who protested police brutality against Black people and minorities by kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

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Country music star Chris Stapleton will sing the national anthem, while R&B legend Babyface will perform “America the Beautiful.” 

PRO BOWL MAKEOVER

The Pro Bowl is getting a major makeover this year after the NFL eliminated its full-contact all-star game and replaced it with weeklong skills competitions and a flag football game.

The flag football contest is Feb. 5 in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium, one week before the Super Bowl.

The Pro Bowl debuted in January 1951 in Los Angeles and stayed there for 21 seasons before the game moved to different cities from 1972-80. Hawaii hosted from 1980-2009, and the game has had several homes in the years since, including Miami, Phoenix, Orlando and Las Vegas.

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“The game was kind of silly, I guess,” Saints two-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk said back in September when the news was announced. “Guys weren’t out there playing true football. Hopefully, there’ll be a lot of interactions with the fans and guys will get their opportunity to go out there and show some skills. I could see that being a good change.”

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Ohio State hires James Laurinaitis & Tennessee extends Huepel's contract | Joel Klatt Show

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Joel Klatt discussed Ohio State Buckeyes hiring former linebacker James Laurinaitis as a defensive GA. Joel believes that Laurinaitis can help transform the defense into a powerhouse like the offense is for wide receivers. He then discussed the Tennessee Volunteers giving Josh Huepel a contract extension after their 11-win season.



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