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Assessing Maple Leafs’ performance through Keefe’s first 30 games –



It’s probably too early for the Toronto Maple Leafs to push the panic button, but there are surely hands hovering and inching closer.

With the home stretch of the 2019-20 season nearly here, the Maple Leafs sit just outside the playoff picture — two points separate Toronto from the Flyers’ hold on the second wild-card spot. One point excludes them from third in the Atlantic.

After a sterling late-December stretch that saw the club win nine of 10, they’ve endured a more tumultuous past 10 games, winning just four in that stretch.

Peaks and valleys aside, the key question as crunch time approaches is where the Maple Leafs actually stand — what is it that the club actually has in their current group, and what potential do they have to make noise down the stretch and perhaps in the post-season?

With Monday’s loss to Florida serving as the 30th game under new head coach Sheldon Keefe, let’s take a step back and see what the numbers tell us about who these Leafs are under the new regime:

All statistics courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.

The Good

3.93: The Maple Leafs’ offence ranked 13th in the league on Nov. 20 when the coaching change took place. Over these past 30 games, it’s ranked as the NHL’s best, putting up a league-leading 3.93 goals per game. Toronto’s also been among the top squads in terms of getting shots on net, their 34.1 per game ranking as the third-most league-wide over this stretch.

4: Sitting with a 9-10-4 record when Keefe took the reins, the Maple Leafs have rolled to a 19-8-3 record in the 30 games under the former AHL bench boss, good for 41 points. In terms of point percentage, that puts Toronto as the fourth-best team in the league over that span.

6: Looking a bit deeper at how the club’s offence is performing, the new-look Leafs still rank among the best in the league at the moment. They rank sixth-best in terms of the percentage of scoring chances that are swinging their way over these 30 games, accounting for 53.19 per cent of them. It’s a similar story if we zoom in and look to high-danger chances, as the Leafs also rank sixth-best in terms of the percentage of high-danger chances that have gone their way over this stretch, accounting for 53.53 per cent of them.

8: Looking to how the club’s controlled the flow of play under Keefe, the Leafs rank among the top tier in terms of Corsi For percentage under their new coach, their mark of 52.05 per cent sitting at eighth-best league-wide.

11: Taking into account the impact of the club’s goaltending on the overall picture, the Maple Leafs rank 11th in terms of the percentage of total goals going their way in games over Keefe’s stretch, their goals-for percentage sitting at 53.38 per cent.

23: Auston Matthews has been the central reason for Toronto’s offensive dominance since Keefe came aboard. Posting 14 goals over the first 23 games of the season, prior to the coaching change, Matthews has amassed 23 through the past 30 games, that sum ranking as the second-most in the league. Only timeless goal-scoring monster Alex Ovechkin has scored more, posting 25 tallies through his past 30 games. Cut out the noise and focus on even-strength goals, and the duo remain the class of the league — Ovechkin leads with 20 even-strength goals in this timeline, Matthews sits second with 18. The Maple Leafs’ star sniper has also put up the sixth-most shots in the league over that stretch

32.4: Keefe’s Leafs have also run the most potent power play in the league since he came aboard, their success rate of 32.4 per cent ranking tops in the league over the past 30 games. That percentage is partly affected by the fact that Toronto’s been on the power play less than any other team in the league over this span — their 2.64 penalties drawn per 60 minutes since Nov. 21 is the lowest in the league. That said, they’re also only taking 2.64 penalties per 60 minutes, leaving them with an even zero when it comes to net penalties per 60.

35: Overall, Matthews and Mitch Marner have driven the team’s success with team-leading 35-point sums under Keefe. In terms of scoring pace, it’s been Marner leading, as the 22-year-old has posted his 35 points in just 24 games. Those 35 points apiece leave the two young guns tied for 13th in league scoring since the late-November change. Overall, Matthews ranks 12th in the league with 62 points (and third in the league with 37 goals), while Marner ranks tied for 19th in league scoring with 53 total points.

80: Take that together, and there’s no question that Toronto’s offence is rolling to a dominant degree this season, particularly under their new coach. And in terms of getting that offence in a consistent, repeatable manner, the club also ranks second-best in five-on-five goal-scoring — they have 80 five-on-five goals to their name since Keefe’s arrival, with all other teams playing either the same or more games over that stretch.

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The Bad

11: A deeper look likely isn’t needed to understand this aspect of the Maple Leafs’ game at the moment — while their offence has rolled over the competition during the past 30 games, they’ve also been among the bottom tier of teams in terms of keeping pucks out of their own net. Their 3.10 goals-against per game under Keefe rank as the 11th-most allowed league-wide.

18: Much of the conversation is focused on the backup netminder position, and an injury to Frederik Andersen puts that issue under a brighter spotlight, but the team’s left more to be desired defensively as well — under Keefe, they rank 18th in the league in terms of limiting shots-against, allowing a decently hefty 31.5 against per game.

24: They slide even lower if we look to the overall percentage of scoring chances-against in games over this stretch that have been kept out, ranking 24th with a mark of 85.61 per cent.

26: Keefe’s Leafs slide lower still if we zoom in to assess high-danger chances, ranking 26th in the league in terms of the percentage of high-danger shots-against in these games that are saved, with a mark of 85.24 per cent.

39: Though Michael Hutchinson’s drawn the ire of the Maple Leafs faithful for earning just four wins through his 10 starts, Andersen surely hasn’t been at his best, either. The 30-year-old ranks 39th in the league since Keefe came aboard with a save percentage of .909. The explosive offence in front of him has allowed the team to still post 15 wins with him in net during this span at least, which is tied for second-most among all netminders over that span.

With 29 games remaining on their season, the Maple Leafs get their next chance to push back into the playoff picture at 7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday via a tilt with the New York Rangers. Catch the action on Sportsnet or Sportsnet NOW.

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Rafael Nadal announces he will not be playing at the Canadian Open



Montreal, Canada- 22 Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal, has announced that he will not be playing at the Canadian Open which kicks off this weekend.

Nadal cited that the reason to abandon the Canadian Open was a result of an abundance of caution regarding injury concerns.

“From the vacation days and my subsequent return to training, everything has gone well these weeks. Four days ago, I also started training my serve and yesterday, after training, I had a little discomfort that was still there today.

We have decided not to travel to Montreal and continue with the training sessions without forcing ourselves. I sincerely thank the tournament director, Eugene, and his entire team for the understanding and support they have always shown me, and today was no exception.

I hope to play again in Montreal, a tournament that I love and that I have won five times in front of an audience that has always welcomed me with great affection. I have no choice but to be prudent at this point and think about health,” said the Spaniard.

Last month, Nadal was forced to withdraw from his Wimbledon semifinal against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has also withdrawn from the Canadian Open as his status as unvaccinated against COVID-19 means he cannot enter the country.

Djokovic is also unlikely to play at the US Open after organizers said they would respect the American government rules over travel for unvaccinated players as the United States (US) requires non-citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter.

“Per the Grand Slam Rule Book, all eligible players are automatically entered into the men’s and women’s singles main draw fields based on ranking 42 days prior to the first Monday of the event.

The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the US government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-US citizens,” read a statement from the US Open which is set to take place in New York from the 29th of August to the 11th of September, 2022.

Nevertheless, Novak Djokovic will be joining Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to play for Team Europe in the Laver Cup.

The event, which pits six European players against six from Team World over three days, will take place in London between 23 and 25 September 2022.

“It’s the only (event) where you play in a team with guys you are normally competing against. To be joining Rafa, Roger and Andy, three of my biggest all-time rivals, it’s going to be a truly unique moment in the history of our sport,” said Djokovic.

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Canada beats Sweden to claim gold in Hlinka Gretzky Cup –



RED DEER, Alta. — Canada scored early and often and also stayed out of the penalty box en route to a 4-1 victory over Sweden in the gold-medal final of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Tanner Howe, Ethan Gauthier, Calum Ritchie and Brayden Yager scored for the Canadians, who held period leads of 2-1 and 3-1 at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Saturday. Riley Heidt also chipped in with two assists for the champions.

Hugo Pettersson scored for Sweden, who were outshot 36-26. Each team received eight minutes in penalties.

Canada had beaten Sweden 3-0 on Aug. 3.

“Three weeks ago, we put this roster together and I felt right away this was a tight group,” said head coach Stephane Julien. “It’s not easy when you have this much talent, but everyone accepted their role and I’m so happy for them.”

The win is Canada’s first gold medal since 2018, the last time this tournament was held in Canada.

“I’m so happy for this group,” added Julien. “They haven’t had it easy in their careers the last two years with the pandemic, but now they have this, a gold medal and something they are going to remember for the rest of their career.”

Canada advanced to the final with a 4-1 win over Finland, while Sweden defeated Czechia 6-2. Finland beat Czechia 3-1 in Saturday’s bronze-medal final.

The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will shift to Europe in 2023, returning to Breclav and Piestany, Czechia for the first time since 2021. 

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Hockey Canada’s board chair Michael Brind’Amour steps down



CALGARY — The chair of Hockey Canada’s board of directors has resigned.

Michael Brind’Amour has stepped down effective immediately, Hockey Canada said Saturday in a statement.

The organization is under intense scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault allegations against members of previous men’s junior teams.

“I have listened carefully and intently to the comments of Canadians about the culture of our sport and our organization, and about our actions and leadership,” Brind’Amour said in the statement. “I understand that the actions we have taken in recent weeks are part of the solution.

“My final term ends in November 2022, and I know that there is no need to wait for a new era. Immediate action is essential to address the important challenges facing our organization and our sport, which our Action Plan works to accomplish.

“I would not be able to see this renewal through.”

Brind’Amour was elected board chair in 2018.

The federal government froze Hockey Canada’s funding after it was revealed the organization had quietly settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by members of the 2018 men’s junior team at Hockey Canada gala in London, Ont., that year.

Since then, Hockey Canada has said members of the 2003 junior team are under investigation for alleged sexual assault in Nova Scotia.

Canada’s sports minister Pascale St-Onge is withholding funds until she’s satisfied Hockey Canada meets her conditions, which were a financial audit of the organization, producing the recommendations of a third-party law firm review and an action plan for change, as well as signing onto the office of the new sports integrity commissioner.

Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player and victim rights advocate, was among those calling for Hockey Canada leadership to step down.

Brind’Amour is the first to do so.

“We’re starting to see cracks in the fortress, and that’s how the light gets in,” St-Onge said Saturday in Niagara Falls, Ont., where she met with provincial and territorial sports leaders on the eve of the Canada Games.

“Canadians have sent a clear message to Hockey Canada that real leadership change is needed and this is at all levels within the organization.

“I agree also with Michael Brind’Amour’s statement today . . . that there is no need to wait for a new era and immediate action is essential.

“I still believe, as many do, that more diversity is needed to address the culture of silence and toxic masculinity within the organization and the sport.”

Brind’Amour’s resignation also follows Hockey Canada’s appointment Thursday of former Canadian Supreme Court judge Thomas Cromwell to review the governance of the country’s governing body of hockey.

The review is expected to provide interim recommendations before Hockey Canada’s annual general meeting in November.

Brind’Amour said he leaves confident that Cromwell taking on that work “will help us make the changes that are needed. I am confident the recommendations will guide the organization into a future of desired change.”

Also, Canada’s 13 provincial hockey federations requested earlier this week an “extraordinary meeting” with the embattled national body.

Led by Hockey Quebec, the 10 provincial and three territorial associations want more information on the handling of the sexual assault allegations.

Hockey Canada had maintained a fund drawing on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.

The organization has stated it will no longer use its “national equity fund” to settle sexual assault claims.

The provincial and territorial hockey associations have threatened to withhold payment without answers.

“It’s not my job to speak on behalf of the Ontario Hockey Federation,” Ontario minister of tourism, culture and sport Neil Lumsden said at Saturday’s news conference.

“But it is as (St-Onge) said, it is our jobs to eliminate unacceptable behaviour of any kind in sport. Our job, and as we’ve spent a lot of time talking about, is to find ways to do that and to do it in the right way.”

Hockey Canada’s board of directors will meet in the coming days to determine next steps following Brind’Amour’s resignation, and appoint an interim chair, the organization said in its statement.

The next board election is scheduled for November’s annual general meeting.

“The board needs to reassess whether the people that are on the directors board are the right people to implement that change,” St-Onge said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2022.


The Canadian Press

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