Connect with us

Sports

Duhatschek: Carson Soucy's cross-check to Connor McDavid's face was reckless. What will the NHL do?

Published

on

Duhatschek: Carson Soucy's cross-check to Connor McDavid's face was reckless. What will the NHL do?

So, for most of Sunday night’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers, there were two parallel narratives — one on the ice, one on social media.

On the ice: How Vancouver was badly winning the goalie battle, rookie Arturs Silovs, playing exceptionally well (and much better than his Oilers counterpart Stuart Skinner). Silovs stopped 41 of 44 shots. He was the absolute difference maker in a 4-3 Vancouver win, which gave the Canucks a 2-1 series lead in the NHL’s Western Conference semifinal.

On social media: How referee bias was working against the Oilers, who were not getting their fair share of the calls, from the refereeing tandem of Chris Rooney and Graham Skilliter.

But in the end, the dirtiest play of the night came once the final whistle had blown; and Silovs had made one final stop to win the game in regulation.

Connor McDavid was behind the net, jousting with Carson Soucy. Soucy cross-checked McDavid, and McDavid slashed him back on the pants. It wasn’t much — or until Soucy’s defence partner, Nikita Zadorov joined the fray. As Zadorov cross-checked McDavid from behind, causing his knees to buckle, Soucy cross-checked him in the throat.

Advertisement

That hit definitely crossed the line.

Yes, playoff hockey is intense. Yes, teams generally can’t leave well enough alone once the final whistle blows because these are best-of-seven series, and once Game 3 is over, the posturing for Game 4 begins.

The Canucks will be lucky, however, if they get to Game 4, with Soucy in the lineup.

A cross-check to the face, like the one he delivered, took punishment to another level. In the end, Soucy did get a minor penalty assessed at the buzzer, which is completely inconsequential if the NHL doesn’t follow up with supplementary discipline.

Advertisement

NHL playoff hockey is of course a different animal than the regular season. Some players are just built for it — Zadorov is a case in point. Zadorov — acquired from the Calgary Flames in a trade earlier this season — was added because of his size and willingness to play a physical game. At times, his regular-season play was erratic. But in the playoffs, and especially in this series against the Oilers, he’s been a powerful, intimidating force.

At one point in Sunday’s game, he finished a check on Evander Kane, which knocked Kane into the Edmonton player bench. Not content with simply driving Kane right off the ice surface, Zadorov followed up with two more pushes to ensure he stayed there. That earned him a roughing penalty. Still, it didn’t end up costing the Canucks a thing because the Oilers were themselves dinged for a bench minor, for retaliating from the bench.

The Canucks acquired Zadorov just for these playoff moments — he understands that in playoff hockey, someone needs to play the role of the villain for Vancouver, because if no one does, then the McDavids and Leon Draisaitls will eventually make you pay.

Zadorov can also be crafty about it. Presumably, he understood his blindside postgame cross-check to McDavid was just borderline enough to escape further NHL justice. So thinking strategically.

Advertisement

Soucy, on the other hand, got carried away with the last response. You just can’t cross-check someone across the throat, at any moment in time. The NHL’s player safety department has been eerily quiet thus far in these playoffs, even as officiating controversies rage from game to game and series to series.

The fact that it was McDavid on the receiving end of that double-barreled cross-check adds further fuel to the fire. Remember, less than three years ago, a popular narrative was how McDavid couldn’t get a break from the NHL referees — that statistically, he drew very few penalties, considering his skill level, his ice time and his production.

The controversy came to a head in November of 2021, at a time when McDavid was second in the league in scoring but only 57th when it came to drawing penalties. And this after he’d gone an entire playoff the year before without drawing a penalty call — unimaginable really, considering the way he plays.

When McDavid commented on that finally, he was called out by none other than John Tortorella, who was then between coaching jobs, working as a broadcaster for ESPN. Tortorella advised him to “honestly, just shut up. Stop talking about it.”

It almost seemed as if McDavid, because he had an overdrive that mere mortals couldn’t match, took more punishment than warranted because he was so good.

Advertisement

In time, the moment passed, and the controversy faded.

There is sometimes a perception that the NHL goes out of its way not to protect elite players, because it might show favoritism. This of course is nonsense. Players only ever want one thing from the referees — consistency, as much as possible, from shift to shift and period to period and game to game.

In other words, the same treatment for journeyman players as for the stars of the game. But consistency has to cut both ways too. You can’t ignore what happened here, just because this was McDavid, getting manhandled. What Soucy did was reckless and dangerous. A suspension almost certainly has to be coming. If not, what is already a rowdy Oilers-Canucks series has a real chance of descending into real mayhem.

(Photo: Paul Swanson / NHLI via Getty Images)

Advertisement

Sports

Dodgers' star-studded offense fails to capitalize on chances in loss to Reds

Published

on

Dodgers' star-studded offense fails to capitalize on chances in loss to Reds

They had the bases loaded with no outs in the second inning. A leadoff double in the fourth. A one-out triple in the sixth.

All night Saturday, the Dodgers threatened to break the game open at Great American Ball Park. All night, they had chances to bury the Cincinnati Reds with their star-studded offense.

But at each crucial point, the team’s offense failed to deliver, continuing its recent trend of poor situational hitting to drop a fourth-straight game 3-1 in front of a sellout crowd of 41,880.

So far this season, one stat has defined the Dodgers’ success — or failures — more than anything else.

Advertisement

During their 12-11 start to the season, they batted just .244 with runners in scoring position, the 19th-best mark in the majors during that span.

During a 14-2 tear from April 21 to May 9, they batted an MLB-best .328 with runners in scoring position, seemingly addressing their situational hitting woes by cutting down on strikeouts and coming through in opportune moments.

In the two weeks since, however, the team’s batting average with runners in scoring position has cratered again. Since May 10, they are batting just .194 in such spots, better than two teams (the Angels and Texas Rangers) during that span.

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler delivers during the second inning Saturday.

(Jeff Dean / Associated Press)

Advertisement

Unsurprisingly, the team’s record has tapered off, with the Dodgers now 7-8 in their last 15 games — a stretch that has seen their high-powered lineup manage just 3.7 runs per game.

Situational hitting wasn’t the issue for the Dodgers (33-21) on Saturday.

Starting pitcher Walker Buehler couldn’t replicate the dominance he flashed in six scoreless innings against the Reds (22-30) in Los Angeles last week, instead getting tagged for three runs in 5 ⅔ innings in a rematch series the Reds have clinched and can sweep Sunday.

The lineup also remained far from top gear.

Advertisement

Shohei Ohtani had the triple in the sixth, but struck out three times, leaving his batting over the last nine games at .206.

Will Smith hit a leadoff single in the second (and scored the inning’s lone run on a Jason Heyward double-play ball) and Freddie Freeman doubled in the fourth, but they managed nothing else, continuing slow May performances for each (they are both batting below .250 this month).

Even Mookie Betts couldn’t provide a spark, getting picked off at first base in the first inning after his only hit of the night.

Advertisement
An Ohtani fan with a Dodgers cap and jersey holds a sign reading "Shohei Do It for the Shoebaes" at Great American Ballpark.

A Shohei Ohtani fan holds up a sign during Saturday’s game between the Dodgers and Reds at Great American Ballpark.

(Jeff Dean / Associated Press)

Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani picks up his helmet during an at-bat in the first inning against the Reds on Saturday.

Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani picks up his helmet during an at-bat in the first inning against the Reds on Saturday.

(Jeff Dean / Associated Press)

Despite that, the Dodgers still had chances. Turning them into runs, however, proved yet again to be an unsolvable challenge.

Advertisement

Situational hitting can be a fickle stat in baseball. And Octobers aside, it has typically been a strength for the Dodgers. They have ranked top 10 in the category each of the past five seasons. They entered Saturday in the top half of the majors at 14th, too, with a .258 mark that was actually better than their .255 average overall.

Still, the issue has plagued them in the past couple of postseasons — and makes any skid like their current one that much more frustrating, looming as a potential playoff weakness for a team navigating championship-or-bust expectations.

The good news for the Dodgers: They still have a sizable lead in the National League West, up 5 ½ games on the San Francisco Giants. They’ll eventually get injured third baseman Max Muncy back, though his return (once hoped to come as soon as this week) has been delayed by continued discomfort in his strained oblique. Most of all, their recent malaise feels like a temporary blip, more of a frustrating speed bump in their season than some larger cause for alarm.

However, that doesn’t lessen the frustration of Saturday’s loss — the latest in what has become another mediocre stretch for a team capable of much more.

Advertisement

Continue Reading

Sports

PGA Tour player Grayson Murray, 30, dies after withdrawing from tournament

Published

on

PGA Tour player Grayson Murray, 30, dies after withdrawing from tournament

PGA golfer Grayson Murray died on Saturday at the age of 30, shortly after withdrawing in the middle of this weekend’s tournament.

Murray played 16 holes in the second round Charles Schwab Challenge before withdrawing due to an “illness,” according to the Tour — he shot a two-under 68 on Thursday.

“We were devastated to learn — and are heartbroken to share — that PGA TOUR player Grayson Murray passed away this morning. I am at a loss for words,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan wrote in a statement.

Grayson Murray hits a tee shot on the 11th hole during the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club on Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

Advertisement

“The PGA TOUR is a family, and when you lose a member of your family, you are never the same. We mourn Grayson and pray for comfort for his loved ones.”

Monahan added that he reached out to Murray’s parents to offer condolences, and the tour has provided grievance counselors.

“They asked that we continue with tournament play,” Monahan said of Murray’s parents. “They were adamant that Grayson would want us to do so. As difficult as it will be, we want to respect their wishes.”

Grayson Murray driving

Grayson Murray competes during the first round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club, May 16, in Louisville, Ky.  (David Cannon/Getty Images)

POLICE OFFICER WHO ARRESTED SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER HAS BEEN SUSPENDED, REPRIMANDED MULTIPLE TIMES: REPORT

Murray bogeyed his final three holes before withdrawing — he was the 58th-ranked player in the world.

Advertisement

He had two wins in his career on tour, including this year’s Sony Open in Hawaii in a playoff against Keegan Bradley and An Byeong-hun. His first came at the 2017 Barbasol Championship.

Murray had battled depression and anxiety earlier in his life, and also sought treatment for alcohol abuse — in January, he said he had been sober for several months, according to NBC Sports. 

No cause of death has been released.

Grayson Murray with putter

Grayson Murray reads the second green during the final round of Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club, May 12, in Charlotte, N.C.  (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

He made the cut in both major championships this year, finishing last week’s PGA Championship T43. 

Advertisement

He also finished T10 at the Wells Fargo Championship earlier this month.

Follow Fox News Digital’s sports coverage on X, and subscribe to the Fox News Sports Huddle newsletter.

Continue Reading

Sports

Sondheimer: Let's offer ideas to help make high school sports better

Published

on

Sondheimer: Let's offer ideas to help make high school sports better

The end of the school year makes it appropriate to review, evaluate and offer observations on the state of high school sports in California. Whether leaders in charge like it or not, they need to hear suggestions and feedback, good and bad, from people without fear of retribution, so let me take a shot.

There have been absurd rumors of some private schools wanting to form their own media networks outside the CIF similar to what the University of Notre Dame does in college. Others want to keep challenging the line between education-based sports and those who want to be part of national championships driven by people seeking to make a buck with fewer rules in place. Good luck and goodbye if that’s what you want.

It’s a tricky time. Club sports remain integral in the college recruiting game, if not more important than ever. Private coaches and “scholarship hustlers” keep seeking greater influence, because that’s how they make money. They’re in competition with teachers and school-based coaches. Lessons learned can be the exact opposite of what is taught at schools, and parents don’t care as long as it leads to a free college education. There’s some exceptional private coaches who should be embraced and others who should carry a sign, “Beware.”

So who is going to fight for the CIF to remain relevant and worthy, and what changes or protections must be maintained? That’s where administrators, coaches, players, parents and even sportswriters need to be to be encouraged to offer ideas, solutions and heart-felt criticism to improve an environment that must not be allowed to look anything like the chaos and wild-west atmosphere of the college sports experience.

Advertisement

Let’s begin with some observations and perceptions that need to be addressed:

Is illegal recruiting is rampant?

We don’t know for sure because the CIF waved the white flag of surrender years ago with rule changes and legal settlements so it would stop getting sued. Section offices don’t accept anonymous allegations and proving recruiting requires a high bar, so everyone assumes it’s happening. What can be done? It goes back to what was mentioned here earlier on how the City Section is cracking down. Multiple transfer students to the same school involving the same sport should trigger a visit from the section office to review paperwork. It’s an easy fix to restore credibility around the state. It’s pure laziness when a section office can’t devote attention to a matter everyone wants addressed

when recruiting is illegal in its bylaws.

Leveling the playing field on exposure

Just like football coaches travel to colleges and other high schools looking for new ideas, schools need to seize the opportunity to empower their own students as broadcasters, leading to greater exposure. Multiple schools are streaming games. Anyone who wants to learn how to do it can make a call to Harvard-Westlake, which has a network for a variety of sports with students announcing, producing, interviewing. Nothing can excite a community more than showcasing students acting like adults, and the initial cost isn’t as prohibitive as some believe.

Advertisement

Relying on the NFHS Network to broadcast games is hit and miss, particularly for playoffs. Coverage of the state track finals on Friday was supposed to start at 5 p.m. The only information shown was, “This event has been delayed.” A technical issue with the Internet wasn’t resolved for 59 minutes of missed events. It’s embarrassing and something the CIF shouldn’t tolerate for one of its premier events. Spectrum no longer wants to broadcast certain state events as part of an $8-million, 15-year deal that ends in 2026. The CIF needs to find a reliable partner, even if it means turning to students.

Saving small schools

The competitive equity revolution, in which teams play each other regardless of enrollment or geography, is here to stay, but how do you keep small schools involved before they decide they have no chance and give up? The CIF might need to create a separate small-schools division for state competitions.

Live scoring results

The CIF signed a contract with SB Live right before the pandemic in 2019 with the understanding it would provide live scoring access throughout the state. It never happened. The contract was re-negotiated to bring back MaxPreps as a co-digital provider. Then SB Live changed its focus away from providing scores to college recruiting, videos and story writing. MaxPreps, even with years of familiarity in California, hasn’t been able to pull it off either because schools have to provide the personnel and information on their own.

GameChanger is the closest to giving fans the chance to monitor events live as teams in baseball and softball use iPads to keep score and let fans watch with streaming video. Now the Southern Section is trying to develop an app to make it simple for schools to nput scores since the Southern Section is switching to using current results instead of past data to place teams in playoff divisions. Accurate, fast information will be key to moving forward. If the new app works, the state hopes to follow. “We’re looking where all the information can be found in one place,” CIF executive director Ron Nocetti said.

Competitive equity in playoffs

The Southern Section and City Section are headed to having most ports playoff brackets created by using computer algorithms based on the current season instead of placing teams in divisions based on previous performance. It’s the way to go with a caveat. The Southern.Section is allowing each of its sports to develop its own criteria, so there must be transparency and education so everyone understands what specific data is being used. Schools that don’t post their scores could be denied playoff participation.

Advertisement

Rising ticket prices

The Southern Section is expected to increase ticket prices. The Southern Section Council has given its approval. Did anyone consult with parents? Families are hurting and many parents are working multiple jobs. If it prevents them from watching their kids play, it will be a big mistake. At championship venues, parking was $15 for one basketball championship with general admission $24. The Southern Section receives no revenue from venues charging for parking, but it needs to be in the mix when deciding on a venue. There comes a point when too much is too much.

Continue Reading

Trending