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Sutter’s praise of Gaudreau an endorsement of Flames star’s two-way game

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Darryl Sutter doesn’t dish out superlatives the way Johnny Gaudreau dishes out assists.

So when the Flames coach was asked Monday about the recent play of his superstar winger, few expected his response to be as staggering as the numbers Gaudreau has been producing.

“Johnny is one of the best 200-foot players in the league right now and that says a lot about him and just the way he’s approached the season,” said Sutter, whose prized winger is coming off back-to-back three-point games.

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“Really consistent and really buying in in terms of the whole package in terms of how we want to play. Your top players have to emulate how you want to play.”

He didn’t stop there.

“If it’s all about goals and assists and not about winning, that’s kind of where this team was,” added Sutter.

“But when you become the consummate team player and are making plays away from the puck, or backchecking, and tracking back and being in the right position on the ice or managing the clock, and things like that. That’s where I think Johnny has really, really come to the front.”

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It’s an incredible endorsement for a player whose size and style had many wondering how he’d fit into Sutter’s system, which revolves around defensive responsibilities and being hard on the puck and opposition.

After all, things didn’t get off to a roaring start for Johnny Hockey when Sutter first arrived.

Suffice it to say, the five-foot-nine, 165-pound veteran has bought into the program and found a way to be a difference-maker at both ends of the ice.

Of all the gaudy stats the 28-year-old has piled up in his career, perhaps none are more telling of the season he’s having than the fact he wasn’t on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal against until the 20th game of the season.

It’s a testament to the proficiency of a line with Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk, that has been one of the league’s most dominant this season, at both ends.

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It also represents a monumental turnaround for a player who has had very few Calgary coaches who’d ever put faith in having Gaudreau on the ice to protect a late lead.

Yet, there he’s been all season long, playing key minutes late in games in which his 17-7-6 club is preserving a win.

Anyone who has seen him help spearhead the team’s rebirth this season has to agree he’s a better player than he was three years ago when his 99-point season put his team atop the Western Conference and landed him fourth in Hart Trophy voting.

“I think three years ago maybe I was cheating a little bit more to the offensive side,” said Gaudreau, who tied Nathan MacKinnon for seventh in league scoring that year.

“Obviously, I had a good year points-wise. But I think looking at my game personally, I’ve gotten a lot better in my 200-foot game. I think that was something that was important before the season started.

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“I think our line has done a great job not costing our team games in the defensive zone. We maybe had that a little three years ago, but I’ve gotten better in the d-zone.”

Few would have batted an eye had Sutter anointed Lindholm one of the league’s best 200-foot players, as he has been since arriving in Calgary.

Tkachuk deserves more praise there too, as he’s spent plenty of time in the past on the team’s top shutdown line alongside Mikael Backlund.

Told of Sutter’s praise, Gaudreau broke into a grin.

“I mean, it’s nice to hear obviously,” beamed the 13-goal, 36-point man, in an aw-shucks type of way.

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“You like when you hear good things about yourself, and the way you’re playing.

There’s a lot of good players in this league. I’m fortunate to play with one of the best 200-foot players in Lindy. It makes my job a lot easier playing in the d-zone when you’re playing with a player like that.”

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

All three members of the Flames top line are top-11 in plus-minus, with Lindholm leading the league at +25 and Gaudreau third at +21.

They are just part of the sparkling numbers Gaudreau has authored of late.

He’s scored three goals and added three helpers as part of his team’s two wins coming out of the Covid/Christmas break.

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His 18 primary assists have him tied for the league lead with Connor McDavid and Jakub Voracek.

His ten-game point-scoring streak on the road is the league’s second-longest behind Jake Guentzel’s 12-gamer.

Oh, and he’s eighth in the NHL scoring race despite playing fewer games than all but one of the lads ahead of him.

Yet, here we are talking about his defensive game.

“Obviously I know I can be better in my defensive zone throughout the years – it’s really important,” said Gaudreau, whose improved puck management no longer makes him prone to costly neutral zone turnovers.

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“Obviously with Darryl, he expects a lot out of the players, and you’ve got to be good in your d-zone, you’ve got to get pucks out.

“At the end of the day you’ve got to make those plays and if you don’t you’ll be on the bench.

I had to get better at it and, fortunately, I’m playing with Lindy who is really good in his own zone too.”

Gaudreau and his team will be put to the test this week with three road games in four nights against the Panthers, Lightning and Hurricanes.

“They are three really good teams – two of them are top of the league and the other has won the Cup the past two years,” said Gaudreau, whose club is well-rested and brimming with confidence following an Omicron outbreak that hit him and 20 teammates.

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“I think it’s a good test for us. We’ve obviously had a lot of success on the road, so hopefully, we can bring that with us in these next three games.”





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Ravens’ J.K. Dobbins ‘continues to improve’; John Harbaugh not ready to commit to RB’s Week 1 status yet

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J.K. Dobbins continues to progress in his rehab from last season’s ACL injury that took away his entire sophomore season in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens are still being cautious with Dobbins, giving him two off days to rest up the knee before ramping things back up Monday. 

Dobbins looked good when he participated in team drills, yet didn’t take any snaps against a live defense. John Harbaugh still liked what he’s seen from his starting running back. 

“He looked good. He’s kind of back on track, and I thought he looked a little better than he did before – last week,” Harbaugh said Monday. “So, he continues to improve, and we’ll see where it goes.”

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Are the Ravens going to ramp things up every practice to get Dobbins ready for the season? Harbaugh still doesn’t have a timetable if Dobbins will be ready for Week 1, staying noncommittal amid the rehab process. 

“I think it depends on the injury and just the improvement with it – the progress he makes from one day to the next,” Harbaugh said. “That remains to be seen.”

Dobbins returned to practice a week ago, and insisted he’ll be ready for the season opener against the New York Jets on Sept. 11. He’ll be a vital part of the offense when he returns. 

Dobbins was dominant in his rookie season, leading all NFL running backs in yards per carry (6.01) while setting a Ravens’ rookie record with nine rushing touchdowns (third amongst all NFL rookies). His 805 rushing yards were also third among rookie running backs as Dobbins finished with a franchise-record seven consecutive games with a rushing touchdown. 

Dobbins closed out the regular season with six consecutive games of 50-plus rushing yards and a rushing touchdown, tying Eric Dickerson (1983) and Franco Harris (1972) for the longest rookie streak of its kind since the AFL-NFL merger. Dobbins is one of just six running backs to have 800 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns, and 6.0 yards per carry in a season — and the first rookie to accomplish the feat. 

The Ravens are deep in running back depth with Gus Edwards, Mike Davis, Justice Hill, and Tyler Badie — yet having Dobbins at 100% would be a game changer for a team that’s expected to compete for the AFC North title. Baltimore is taking a cautious approach with Dobbins with the depth of its running back room — and can afford to be patient in order to get Dobbins ready for Week 1. 

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The NBA Has A Special Day Off Planned In November

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(Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

 

The 2022 NBA schedule is slowly but surely coming to light.

We still don’t know a lot of the lineups scheduled but more and more of them are being leaked and we are starting to get a clearer picture of the season ahead.

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While nothing is 100% confirmed yet, it seems that the league is making a major move to get American citizens involved in their civic duty.

Apparently, the NBA will not have a single game scheduled on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

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That is Election Day in the United States and the NBA is planning to highlight the need for residents to vote.

Instead of playing on that Tuesday, all 30 teams will play the Monday before on a themed “civic engagement night” created to encourage fans, players, and staff to vote in the midterm elections.

This is a gigantic gesture from the NBA but really isn’t surprising.

 

Election Day Energy

Typically, Election Day is just another day for the league and while there is attention dedicated to reminding folks to vote, things go on like normal for the most part.

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That won’t be the case this season.

Over the last few years, the NBA and the players within it have become more involved and vocal about issues they care about, from voting rights to racial equality and so much more.

Additionally, the NBA worked with cities across the country in 2020 to convert 23 arenas and team facilities into voting centers.

Therefore, it’s not a shock to see the NBA make this decision.

While all of this will culminate in a quiet night on Election Day, you can bet there will be a lot of talk around the NBA about voting in the weeks preceding the midterms.

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The post The NBA Has A Special Day Off Planned In November appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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49ers QB1 Trey Lance predicted to be NFL's top breakout player in 2022 | UNDISPUTED

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Heading into Year 2, Trey Lance was listed as the top 2022 breakout candidate. The former 3rd overall pick was compared to Kanas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes who became a star in his second season and won the MVP. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe react to the Lance being predicted to be the NFL’s top breakout star.



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