DENVER – Even a six-game win streak isnt enough to ease the nerves of a head coach. Green Bay Packers Shirts . “Coaches never breathe easy,” said Randy Carlyle with a chuckle after his team pulled out an unlikely 5-2 win in Colorado. Make it six straight for the Maple Leafs, who despite the challenges of the blistering Avalanche – one regulation loss in the previous 10, thin air of the Mile High City, and third game in four nights, managed to overcome with two points in the second tilt of a four-game road trip. The primary components of the win streak stood tall yet again. There was more terrific goaltending, this time from James Reimer, who stopped 35 of 37 Avalanche flurries. There was continued dominance from Phil Kessel, who extended his wild point streak to seven games with a pair of goals. There was another quick strike in the opening frame. And there was another fine special teams outing, the Leafs scoring again on the power-play while halting a scorching Colorado man advantage in all four opportunities. Sunny times roll on in the dead of winter for a once victory-challenged squad. “Theres a lot more life in the room,” said Dion Phaneuf after the latest victory. “Weve got a confidence in our dressing room right now that we feel good about ourselves. And thats a good feeling for a team.” Its been eight years since a Toronto club won six in a row, the last run coming during the 2005-06 season. This streak was especially unforeseen considering how dour the scene looked less than two weeks earlier and really for the better part of the season. The Leafs had just four wins in regulation during a stretch of two months and had dropped four consecutive games in the early days of 2014, including a pair of disastrous blowout losses to the Rangers and Hurricanes. But from those ashes has risen an unlikely string of victories – including four in regulation in this run alone – some good fortune aligning with good goaltending, strong special teams and elevated performance from some of the teams top guns, notably Kessel and the top line. “It was a tough stretch,” said Kessel, who has 26 goals on the year, “but we stayed positive and we fought our way out of it and were on a pretty good roll right now.” Five Points 1. En Fuego About the hottest hes ever been as an NHL player, Phil Kessel added two more points to a scorching seven-game point streak. Kessel, who scored twice against the Avalanche and now has goals in four straight games, has six goals and 14 points during the sizzling run. “Hes a mutant almost,” Morgan Rielly beamed to the Leaf Report during Tuesdays game. “Hes just scoring. Hes getting points. Hes happy. Hes flying around out there so its been great. Hes one of the top players in the world and hes proving it.” Kessel managed the two markers, but could have ended up with three or four considering the dozen or so opportunities he had on this night. He scored his first on a breakaway, beating Semyon Varlomov far-side, adding another on a rebound opportunity. “What did he have like 12 shots on goal tonight,” van Riemsdyk said of his linemate, who managed eight shots. “It was pretty incredible the display he put on.” “I couldve had a bunch tonight,” Kessel agreed. “I missed some good chances.” 2. Scoring First With the first of two goals from Kessel – a stretch pass from Dion Phaneuf feeding the winger – Toronto scored first for the fifth time during their rare six-game win streak, a point of emphasis for a team thats been outscored in first periods all season. “That was a big thing weve been keying on is having better starts,” said Tyler Bozak on Tuesday morning. “When you get that first goal the odds say that youve got a way better chance of winning so thats something that we want to do as much as we can.” Scoring first against the Avalanche was especially important. Colorado entered the night with 25-1-3 record when they landed the games first goal. And though the Leafs didnt exactly storm out of the gate – they were being outshot 11-2 at one point, no doubt stung by the altitude – they did manage to hang in, mostly due to the early efforts of James Reimer. “Reims stood tall for us,” said Carlyle of Reimer, who won his second straight start. “Thats what were asking of our goaltenders. When you get a chance to get in there give us what you can … Give us goaltending that you can hang your hat on.” 3. No Fly Zone James van Riemsdyk took hold of the team lead with his eighth power-play goal of the year against Colorado, redirecting yet another Cody Franson point shot beyond Varlamov for the Leafs second goal. “JVRs got a no-fly zone,” Franson chirped afterward. “Put it in a certain airspace its going down.” van Riemsdyk has proven adept at the tactic of tipping pucks, a skill-set he began practicing on the driveway of his home as a kid. That practice picked up when he reached the NHL in Philadelphia. Flyers assistant coach Joe Mullen helped the former University of New Hampshire star formulate a daily routine for working on it. And now at the end of just about every on-ice workout, the 24-year-old does exactly that. “I owe a lot of that to him because he would hammer away some slappers at me every single day,” said van Riemsdyk of Mullen. “And then Id have Chris Pronger breathing down my neck, getting me out there before practice sometimes doing it. Ive worked on it a lot over the years. It comes a little bit more naturally thanks to those guys.” 4. Offence from the D The Leafs stable of defenders barely made a blip on the offence in the opening two months of the season – just three goals in the first 28 games. Since that point, however, theyve offered a much greater contribution. The group had scored at least a goal in four consecutive games before Tuesday, totaling 17 on the year and a hearty 14 in the past 24 games. And though they didnt find the scoreboard against the Avalanche they did manage to aid in the attack. A pair of point shots – one from Franson on van Riemsdyks 20th of the season and one from Jake Gardiner on Nazem Kadris 13th this season – were redirected for goals. “Our job is to get the puck through or make plays with it up top,” said Phaneuf, who sits second on the team with 20 points this season. “Our forwards have done a really good job down-low of getting us the puck and giving us some time and moving it quickly up to us [at the point]. Weve been able to get some pucks through with some good screens and when you do that you generate chances and thats what weve had success with.” 5. Lead Protection Third period lead protection has been a recurring struggle for the Leafs this season – theyve been outscored 61-42 – and one thats been tested amid the win streak. Just a night earlier in Phoenix, the club had some difficulty protecting a big lead in the final frame – lackadaisical at times, according to Carlyle – before pulling out an eventual win. Again on Tuesday they were tested, but after a quick goal from Nathan MacKinnon, which closed the gap to 4-2, the club gradually found its bearings. “Hopefully this is a sign of growth for our group and we can continue to go forward,” said Carlyle. “Theyve got a lot of offence,” Phaneuf said of the high-powered Avalanche. “Theyre coming with four guys the whole time. We gave up some chances, but really we kept a lot of it to the outside. And when they were coming they obviously were pushing when theyre down by as many as they were. We did a good job holding them off.” Bonus Point – Man Advantage Now ranked third in the NHL, the Toronto power-play struck for the seventh time in the six-game win streak. The unit has sizzled with a 31 per cent success rate during the run (7-23). Stats-Pack 7 – Consecutive games with a point for Phil Kessel, who has six goals and 14 points in that span. 4 – Consecutive games with at least a goal for Kessel. .930 – Even-strength save percentage this season for James Reimer, tied for sixth-best among NHL netminders with at least 20 starts. 4 – Consecutive games with a point for Nazem Kadri, who has two goals and six points in that span. 8 – Shots on goal for Kessel on Tuesday, a season-high. 19 – Points in the past 16 games for Tyler Bozak, who had two assists against Colorado. Special Teams Capsule PP: 1-4Season: 22.9% (4th) PK: 4-4Season: 77.8% (27th) Quote of the Night “JVRs got a no-fly zone. Put it in a certain airspace its going down.” -Cody Franson, on James van Riemsdyks redirection abilities. Up Next The Leafs continue their four-game road swing in Dallas on Thursday night. Stitched Packers Jerseys .Y. -- Cory Schneider has to make the most of his opportunities to guard the New Jersey Devils net to earn more playing time. Packers Jerseys 2020 . Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the Houston Texans No. 1 pick in the draft, was on the field Tuesday for the first time with former NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.A day after general manager Mike Gillis expressed doubt over his own future and that of his bench boss, Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella wouldnt let himself be drawn into the speculation over his job status after the season. "Mike Gillis is my boss and I cant speak for Mike," said Tortorella of his bosss comments on Friday afternoon. "I dont know how to answer to him because I cant speak for him. I dont want to do that. Mike and I are always talking, but to answer that, I just cant. Its not fair to him or me." Sitting six points out of the final wild card in the Western Conference with only five games to play, the Canucks are set to miss the playoffs for just the third time in 13 seasons and the first time since 2008. Still, Tortorella expressed no interest in publicly discussing his teams and, by extension, his own future. "Youre digging at a spot Id rather talk internally about," he said. "Thats probably something we can talk about after the season is over. I have to worry about coaching a hockey team. We have five more games, a team that needs to better and thats my focus." Gillis spoke on Thursday of his teams inability to play up to the style and level of play that theyre accustomed to for much of the season and Tortorella acknowledged his concerns, but maintained that he and Gillis shared a similar vision. "The style of play that were teaching, were onn the same page, yes," he explained. Cheap Packers Jerseys. "And it was a style of play that we played at the beginning of the year and no one else is responsible for the falter of the team and not staying up with the style of play that needs to be played here than me. I let it go just through our whole situation with the injuries and didnt grab a hold of it quick enough. No one else is responsible." While placing the onus on himself for his teams decline in play, Tortorella shot down the suggestion that he was overworking his star players to the point of injury. The Canucks have lost 282 man games to injury with key contributors including Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa missing significant time. "Its easy to look at numbers and say you played them too much and that is not why theres been a struggle there," said Tortorella. "Youre not going to talk me into that. It just isnt, but I certainly have tried in the second part, as weve tried to get healthy in the second part of the year, tried to stretch it, but a lot of it is determined on depth within your line-up. I dont want to go much further than that because I think Ill be a little bit too critical and I dont want to do that here. Thats an organizational-type situation and an organizational conversation." The Canucks are next in action on Saturday night when they host the Los Angeles Kings. ' ' '
A Champions Cup final place is the prize on offer when Saracens face Wasps in Saturdays all-English semi-final, live on Sky Sports 1 HD. Pelicans Jerseys 2021 . So far this season its honours even between the two Premiership sides. Saracens beat Wasps 26-16 at the Ricoh Arena in December thanks to a 21-point haul from fly-half Owen Farrell, but Wasps claimed revenge when they went to Allianz Park and smashed their hosts 64-23 in an eight-try mauling that saw Jimmy Gopperth contribute 23 points.Gopperth is in superb form after converting Charles Piutaus 80th-minute try for a thrilling 25-24 win over Exeter Chiefs in the Champions Cup quarter-final earlier in the month, while Farrell slotted five penalties and two conversions to guide Saracens to a 29-20 win over Saints in their quarter-final. The two fly-halves face off for the third time this season and their battle will be key in deciding the outcome, but it wont be the only one. We take a look at five head-to-heads as the two Premiership giants clash live on Sky Sports...Owen Farrell v Jimmy Gopperth Owen Farrell has been in fine form for club and country High-level performances are now the expected watermark for Farrell. The Saracens fly-half has been string-puller and goal-kicker supreme for the Premiership leaders this season - and from the tee for England - playing with the kind of confidence that has made him a consistent match-winner.But Gopperth has reasons to be confident too, after hitting that late winning touchline conversion to defeat Exeter in the quarter-finals. He described that kick as one of the highlights of his career but if hes to add to that story then its vital the New Zealander comes out the right side of this battle with the sure-footed Farrell. Watch highlights of Wasps thrilling Champions Cup quarter-final win over Exeter Gopperth wont be fazed by the challenge; hell be focused only on how to release Wasps dangerous outside backs. But Farrells polished style could prove the difference.Maro Itoje v Joe Launchbury Maro Itoje beats England team-mate Joe Launchbury in the lineout Its only a few weeks ago that Itoje was being tipped as an emerging international star. Now, after less than a handful of performances for England he already feels firmly established.Its an intriguing duel that pits his athleticism, growing form and enthusiasm against the experienced Launchbury.Saracens look to have the edge come lineout time, especially with their set piece anchored against another England lock, George Kruis. But its the damage Itoje is capable of doing on the opposition throw that will be of most concern to Wasps. Maro Itoje v Joe Launchbury 21 Age 25 48 Tackles 60 2 Missed tackles 11 51 Carries 51 25 Lineouts won 18 Alex Goode v Charles Piutau Charles Piutau has had a debut season to remember with Wasps Goode has been sensational this season and for many hes the form full-back in England. But if thats the case then Piutau is only a whisker behind.As Wasps showed against Exeter, they will attack from everywhere and Piutau has the strength and fleet-of-foot to beat the last defender, and the first defender too, for that matter.Goodes attacking style has been slightly more graceful but its been no less devastating. Alex Goode v Charles Piutau 59 Carries 77 484 Metres gained 714 7 Clean breaks 15 12 Defenders beaten 31 3 Tries 4 Billy Vunipola v Nathan Hughes Billy Vunipola will get Saracens over the gainline The two wrecking-ball No 8s will be in direct competition for a starting spot with England come the autumn internationals, with Fiji-born Hughes qualifying on residency grounds in June.George Smith insists the pair could forge a devastating combination at international level despite their similar strengths. Sky Live: Saracens v Wasps Mark McCall vows his players will attack the game Both players have been key performers in their respective clubs quests for a domestic and European double. They have scored two tries apiece in the Champions Cup and are the primary gain-line carriers for their sides, Hughes making 303 metres from 83 carries and Vunipola gaining 207m from 73 carriers. Nathan Hughes has beaten 20 defenders in this seasons Champions Cup Hughes has beaten 20 defenders in his six European appearances, two more than Vunipola, and the 24-year-olds offload ability will keep opposition defences on their toes.The battle of the breakdown could well decide which of these players have the greater influence. Deliver quick ruck ball in the right areas of the pitch, and this duo will thrive. Billy Vunipola v Nathan Hughes 23 Age 24 73 Carries 83 207 Metres gained 303 18 Defenders beaten 20 2 Tries 2 Chris Ashton v Christian Wade Chris Ashton has scored four tries in six European appearances this season One has registered six tries in a single outing. The other, five tries since returning from suspension.This is a fascintaing battle pitting two in-form finishers against each other, and theres an added dimension too with both keen to catch the interest of Eddie Jones ahead of Englands summer internationals. Ahead of Wasps European semi-final we found out the secret to the clubs return to the European top table Ashton relishes the big occasion and has become accustomed to delivering on those occasions too. Wade has his eye in after that six-try performance however, and both look certain to be involved heavily.In a straight head-to-head, Ashtons experience could well prove a determining factor.Watch Saracens v Wasps live on Sky Sports 1 HD on Saturday from 2.55pm. Catch the match for £6.99 with a NOW TV day pass Also See: Sky Live: Saracens v Wasps Will Greenwoods verdict Wasps return to European elite McCall: Saracens in confident mood New Orleans Pelicans Pro Shop .com) - Joe Pavelski scored twice to lead the San Jose Sharks in a 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers to split a home-and-home set. P. J. Brown Jersey . -- Albert Pujols is thrilled to have a reason to forget about his first two disappointing seasons with the Los Angeles Angels.LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Serbian tennis player Victor Troicki says he will appear at sports highest court next week to challenge his 18-month ban for skipping a doping test. Troicki says in a statement he is "confident" ahead of his Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing on Oct. 9. The 2010 Davis Cup winner says "I will attend in person for sure. I am fighting for the truth and I will do it as hard as I can. Zylan Cheatham Jersey . " The International Tennis Federation banned Troicki until January, 2015 because he refused to provide a blood sample, after also giving a urine sample, at the Monte Carlo Masters in April. A tribunal dismissed Troickis claim that an anti-doping officer at the tournament advised him to write to the ITF citing illness for not giving the sample. ' ' '