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Postby officialsbaseball » Mon Nov 19, 2018 6:56 am
DENVER (AP) The captain of the Colorado Avalanche has a pingpong paddle sitting in his locker that features a picture of him taped to one side.Merely a ploy www.officialcanadiensprostore.com , explained Gabriel Landeskog, the self-proclaimed table tennis champion of the dressing room.”Seeing my face, yeah, it’s distracting for them,” he said , grinning.It’s certainly been a lot of fun and games this season for the Avalanche – a stark contrast to a year ago when they were the worst team in the NHL. Behind a Hart Trophy candidate in Nathan Mackinnon , an even-keeled coach in Jared Bednar and a youthful, high-octane roster, the Avs have turned things around to the tune of a 45-point improvement so far. They are the first NHL team to post a 40-point gain over an 82-game season since the Pittsburgh Penguins jumped 47 from 2005-06 (58) to 2006-07 (105).There’s also this: Take care of business with a win at San Jose on Thursday and another in regulation against St. Louis in the season finale Saturday and they will earn their first postseason berth since 2013-14.”What our guys have done this year as a group, first year of a rebuild, a lot of new faces, I don’t know there are too many people that would’ve put us in the situation we’re in right now,” said Bednar , whose team managed only 48 points during his first season in charge. ”Our guys have done an excellent job this year of being committed to what we’re doing and trying to turn this thing around and get to where we want to go.”Bednar and general manager Joe Sakic calmed some pretty turbulent waters after a forgettable 2016-17 season that began with Patrick Roy surprisingly announcing he would step down before camp.A year later, Bednar had a chance to implement more of his philosophies in camp. He got to know his players’ strengths better, too.Still Montreal Canadiens T-Shirts Authentic , there were some early season obstacles to navigate, including moving on from Matt Duchene when the talented forward wanted out of town. He was traded to Ottawa in early November.Through it all, Bednar’s message was succinct: Just concentrate on hockey. The Avs won 10 straight earlier this season; they had 22 wins all of last year.”If you believe in each other and believe in the system, you can accomplish things that other people probably don’t think we could,” said defenseman Erik Johnson, who’s currently sidelined with a fractured kneecap. ”We took it upon ourselves to be the underdog.”Even through the lows of a 48-point season, Bednar didn’t lose the room. His players call him ”Bedsy,” a sign of respect for a coach who will hold them accountable but mostly helps them figure things out.”Looking back, it’s easier to realize that he could’ve been a lot harder on us, could’ve been a lot worse. He didn’t do that,” defenseman Tyson Barrie said. ”I have a lot of respect for him with what he’s done this year and how he’s handled the team and everything.”Any other season, Bednar might even be a runaway coach of the year winner. But there’s Gerard Gallant, who has expansion Vegas headed to the postseason as Pacific Division champions.”I tried to be as fair as I possibly can be with still doing my job to the best of my ability,” Bednar said. ”I have a lot of belief in our team.”Colorado features the youngest active roster in the league with an average age of 25.7. With Alexander Kerfoot leading the way, 11 different rookies have combined for more than 410 games and 121 points.Then again, Bednar has plenty of experience dealing with youth from his days in the American Hockey League. Bednar joined the Avalanche from the Columbus Blue Jackets‘ affiliate Lake Erie after leading the Monsters to the 2016 Calder Cup trophy.”He definitely gets it Montreal Canadiens Hoodies Authentic ,” said MacKinnon, who is among the league leaders with 94 points (38 goals, 56 assists). ”He communicates really well with the younger generation.”Colorado has had its share of bumps and bruises along the way, with MacKinnon sitting out eight games due to a shoulder injury. And now the team is missing top goaltender Semyon Varlamov (lower body injury) for the rest of the regular season. But they have veteran Jonathan Bernier to step in.”We got some of those injuries (last season), and didn’t have the depth that we needed,” Bednar said. ”When things took a turn, it was hard to stay motivated as a team when you fall out of the playoff race.”It’s not the best turnaround in franchise history: The then-Quebec Nordiques went from 52 points in 1991-92 to 104 the following season. But that was a different time.”It’s a turnaround, but we also thought we shouldn’t have been as bad as we were last year,” Landeskog said. ”We’ve still got a lot of work left. It doesn’t really count if we don’t go to the playoffs.”— LAS VEGAS (AP) Aaron and Rhonda Hawley never truly embraced how much the Vegas Golden Knights meant to them until late in the season.On March 29, their 17-year-old daughter Brooke and two classmates were killed in a traffic accident in Huntington Beach, California. Since then, the Golden Knights have helped the Hawleys during their grieving process.And even with the team trailing the Washington Capitals 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Final, they and thousands of others haven’t lost hope and are sticking by their first-year team until the last horn sounds. Aaron Hawley said that’s how his little girl would want it.”Her being a soccer player, she would kick a girl in the shin with one second left in the championship game if that’s what it took,” Hawley said Wednesday. ”Brooke was a fighter, and that’s what this team is about Montreal Canadiens Hats Authentic , it never gives up to the very last second.”On Wednesday, for the team’s first practice in Las Vegas since being pushed to the brink of elimination, fans decked out in team jerseys and hats and knights helmets and kids with hockey sticks or pucks in their hands packed the Knights’ practice facility before they even took the ice. And 45 minutes before the scheduled practice, with nothing in front of them but a fresh sheet of ice, the fans broke into a chant of ”Go Knights Go!” Game 5 is Thursday night.”We have a chance to play in front of our fans like we have all year long, use that energy to show them that we are also proud to be here and do something great for the city,” said Knights center Pierre Edouard-Bellemare. ”The city has our backs. I’m not worried about that situation whatsoever. It’s us to the city, we want to win for them. Once again, it’s one game. That’s all we have to think right now.”Fan Jerrald Larkin, whose own daughter, Allyssa, played soccer with Brooke Hawley, said he started watching hockey in 1989 and was originally a Los Angeles Kings fan. ”But when VGK became a reality it was all in for them,” he said. ”VGK has been such a great team and this year has been nothing short of amazing. Right from the beginning this year has been filled with many emotions and some ups and downs. There is no way we can count our team out and we are VGK proud with any outcome.”Larkin said he and his wife, Theresa, and their four daughters have been able to grow closer to many other fans because of hockey. While Theresa’s family is from Chicago and has been following sports their whole lives Custom Montreal Canadiens Jerseys , Jerrald is from Vegas and never had a home team to cheer for other than the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels basketball team.Hawley’s dedication to the team led him and his wife to follow the Golden Knights to Washington, where they watched Game 3 at a restaurant and attended Game 4 at Capital One Arena.”As a native Las Vegan, I’m thrilled to see Golden Knights hockey get as much attention as the 1990 UNLV basketball team got,” Hawley said. ”I consider that a huge accomplishment. I’m worried next year what’s going to happen, because what fans don’t realize is what this eight-month team has accomplished, is something the Capitals have been waiting on for 44 years.”But it’s the handful of games he attended with Brooke by his side that will forever be imprinted in his mind.”With soccer practice, and a young girl’s social calendar, she made as many games as she could,” Hawley said, fighting back tears. ”How wonderful it was to sit with her, cheering on our hometown team. She really enjoyed it. We actually got her extra tickets for one game to bring her friend A.J., who also died in the accident. Those are times I will cherish and thank the team for an unbelievable inaugural season. The memories.”—More Stanley Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/StanleyCupFinals
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