This weekend is jammed pack with world championships—women’s hockey, men’s curling and figure skating. We also have the NHL, NBA, golf, tennis, March Madness, and oh yes, the start of the baseball season. Here is what I will be watching this weekend.
Saturday—World Figure Skating Championships—men’s long program–www.cbcsports.ca—4 a.m. PT—Patrick Chan of Ottawa, Ontario is going for gold at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, Finland. He is currently in third place after the short program, behind Spain’s Javier Fernandez and Japan’s Shoma Uno. All skaters still need to be aware of reigning Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu who is fifth place. Hanyu is always dangerous in the free skate.
Saturday—World Figure Skating Championships—ice dance long program—www.cbcsports.ca—8:25 a.m. PT—This could be an exciting time for Canadian figure skating. That is because Canadian Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of London, Ontario are currently in first place after the short program. It is remarkable that Virtue and Moir are returning to a high level after taking two full years off from high performance competitive figure skating. They have not missed a beat and are the favourites to win their third career world title.
Saturday—NHL—Florida Panthers @ Boston Bruins—Sportsnet One—10 a.m. PT–In an intriguing NHL Eastern Conference battle, the Bruins are among four teams battling for two spots. Currently Boston is in fourth place in the Atlantic Division, and lead the Tampa Bay Lightning by three points and the Carolina Panthers by four points. The Bruins are also one point back of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Saturday—World Men’s Curling Championship—Canada vs. Switzerland—TSN—1 p.m. PT—Team Canada opens the 2017 World Men’s Curling Championship in Edmonton with their first game against Switzerland’s Peter de Cruz. Even though de Cruz is the skip, he throws second stones. Canada is being represented by Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue for the first time. The last time Gushue represented Canada at a major international curling competition was the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin. The Canadian team that year was similar to the Swiss team this year. That is because Russ Howard threw second stones and called the game.
Saturday & Sunday—LPGA—ANA Inspiration—Golf Channel—2 p.m. PT—The first major of the 2017 LPGA season takes place this weekend in Rancho Mirage, California. They are currently a little bit behind schedule because high winds suspended play on Thursday. Karine Icher of France is the current leader at -5. She is one stroke up on South Koreans Eun Jeong Seong, Sung-Hyun Park and So-Yeon Ryu, along with American star Michelle Wie. The most impressive shot on Thursday came from the amateur Seong, who had a hole in one on the par-three fifth hole.
Saturday—March Madness Final Four—semi-finals— (7) South Carolina vs. (1) Gonzaga—CBS—3 p.m. PT—In the first of two semi-final matchups, the South Carolina Gamecocks and Gonzaga Bulldogs are each making school history as they are playing their very first NCAA Basketball final four game. The Gamecocks have Canadian content. Senior shooting guard Duane Notice is from Woodbridge, Ontario and averaged 10.2 points per game this past season. It was the third straight year Notice averaged double digits in points for South Carolina.
Saturday—NHL—Montreal Canadiens @ Tampa Bay Lightning—CITY TV—4 p.m. PT—The Montreal Canadiens clinched a playoff spot this past week when they beat the Florida Panthers 6-2 on Thursday. The Lightning have a lot to play for as they are three points back of the Bruins for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay is the hottest team in the Atlantic Division as they have won four straight games. The Lightning are led by Russian Nikita Kucherov, who is tied for second in the NHL with 38 goals. He is four goals back of league leader Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Saturday—Women’s World Hockey Championship—Canada vs. Finland—TSN–4:30 p.m. PT—Team Canada will be playing their second game on Saturday from the Women’s World Hockey Championship in Plymouth, Michigan, after playing the host Americans on Friday night. The biggest news leading up to the tournament centered around the American squad. The United States women threatened to boycott the tournament because of wage concerns and the fact they were not being treated at the same level as the American national men’s team when it came to travelling to international events.
Saturday—March Madness Final Four—semi-finals—(1) North Carolina vs. (3) Oregon—CBS—5:50 p.m. PT–In the second of the two semi-finals, Canadian basketball fans will be rooting hard for the University of Oregon Ducks. Oregon has two Canadians on their starting roster (three if you include the injured center Chris Boucher of Montreal, Quebec). Guard Dylan Ennis of Brampton, Ontario and forward Dillon Brooks of Mississauga, Ontario will be counted on heavily if the Ducks hope to win their first NCAA Basketball Championship title since 1939.
Saturday—NHL—Anaheim Ducks @ Edmonton Oilers—CBC—7 p.m. PT—The Edmonton Oilers can now play relaxed hockey. They clinched their first playoff spot on Tuesday since they reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006. On Thursday night at Rogers Place, the Oilers beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 for their fourth win in a row. The Oilers are now only one point back of first place for first in the Pacific. Their opponent on Saturday—the Pacific Division leading Anaheim Ducks.
Sunday—World Men’s Curling Championship—Canada vs. Russia–TSN—8 a.m. PT—The Canada-Russia rivalry is strong in women’s curling, but not as strong in men’s curling. Russia will be represented in Edmonton this year by 2015 Winter Universiade silver medalist Alexey Stukalskiy. This is Stukalskiy’s fourth World Championship, but first as skip. In the past he has thrown fourth stones, but not been in the skip position. He has also been the third and alternate. Russia has never won a medal at the World Men’s Curling Championship before.
Sunday—NHL—Boston Bruins @ Chicago Blackhawks—NBC—9:30 a.m. PT—In a very intriguing interconference battle, the Bruins will play their second game of a back-to-back against the best team in the West. The Bruins are led by Brad Marchand, who is having a breakout season with 83 points. In Chicago, Patrick Kane has 84 points, and will have some work to do if he hopes to win his second straight Art Ross Trophy. He is currently seven points back of scoring leader Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers.
Sunday—ATP—2017 Miami Open—men’s final–TSN5—10 a.m. PT—Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Spain’s Rafael Nadal could once again reach the final of an international tennis tournament as they are each in the semi-finals. At the Australian Open in January, Federer beat Nadal in five outstanding sets. Federer plays Australia’s Nick Kyrgios in one semi-final, while Nadal plays Italy’s Fabio Fognini in the other semi-final. Don’t forget that Fognini beat Nadal in the third round of the 2015 U.S. Open.
Sunday—MLB—San Francisco Giants @ Arizona Diamondbacks—TSN2—1 p.m. PT—It is the opening day of the 2017 Major League Baseball season. The Giants and Diamondbacks are the second game of a tripleheader on TSN2. The Giants will be strong contenders to return back to the postseason in 2017. They drastically improved their one major weakness in 2016 in the offseason. The Giants signed closer Mark Melancon to a four year contract worth $62 million.
Sunday—NBA—Philadelphia 76ers @ Toronto Raptors—Sportsnet One—3 p.m. PT—The Toronto Raptors will have to put a tough game behind them, as they lost 110-106 to the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. The Raptors are closing out a four game home stand against the 76ers, who have made improvements from a year ago. Last season, the 76ers only won 10 of 82 games. So far this season, they have 28 wins—all without their first overall pick, Australian forward Ben Simmons, who has been out all year with a foot injury.
Sunday—NHL—San Jose Sharks @ Vancouver Canucks—Sportsnet—4 p.m. PT—The Vancouver Canucks are closing out their season, but may have got the Sharks at the right time. San Jose is ice cold at the moment as they have only won once in their last eight games. During this nasty slide, the Sharks lost 6-1 to the Dallas Stars and 7-2 to the Nashville Predators. San Jose is playoff bound, but are not heading into the postseason playing their best.
Sunday—World Men’s Curling Championship—Canada vs. Sweden—TSN—6 p.m. PT—Team Canada will have its biggest test to date at the 2017 World Men’s Curling Championship in Edmonton. Canada’s opponent is Sweden’s Niklas Edin. The 31 year old Swede has won the last two World Men’s Curling Championships on Canadian ice. In 2013, he beat Sault Ste. Marie’s Brad Jacobs 8-6 in the final in Victoria and in 2015, he beat Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud 9-5 in the final in Halifax.
Sunday—NHL—Anaheim Ducks @ Calgary Flames—Sportsnet 360—6:30 p.m. PT—The Calgary Flames are close to making the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second time in three years and could have already qualified if they either beat San Jose on Friday or if Vancouver beats Los Angeles this evening. Johnny Gaudreau leads the Flames with 59 points. He has a chance of winning the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy this year because he only has four penalty minutes in 67 games.