TSN Toronto Reporter Mark Masters reports on the Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers (optional), who held skates at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday.
A lot has changed since the Leafs outscored the Oilers 13-1 while sweeping three games in late February and early March. Toronto has just one regulation win in nine games since then (3-6-0). The Oilers, meanwhile, have won seven of nine to creep to within two points of the division leaders.
And yet that three-game set in Edmonton remains fresh in the mind of figures on both sides of this rivalry.
“We played as good as we have and I don’t think we got the best that Edmonton has,” said coach Sheldon Keefe. “I expect here now, with the week off and how things went the last time, that Edmonton is going to be at their very best and we have to find our way back to what we looked like out there. It’s a good opportunity for us to do that. It’s a great challenge. They’re back playing extremely well and back confident once again and motivation won’t be lacking for them.”
Connor McDavid was held without a point in the three previous games against his hometown team. Since then, he’s been on the scoresheet nine straight times with 20 total points.
“We have to show not only to them, but to ourselves that we can play with these guys and we can beat these guys,” McDavid said. “We’ve done it before.”
The Leafs and Oilers had split the first four games of the season series before the domination in Edmonton.
“Any time you get whacked around for three games at home, you know, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth,” said Mike Smith, who gets the start for the Oilers. “I feel like tonight we have no excuse but to come out with our best game and hopefully that’s good enough to get a win.”
Mitch Marner says that Toronto is looking to replicate “as much as possible” from that last series against Edmonton. The recipe for success against the high-octane Oilers is clear.
“Make sure we’re staying above [them] and not giving up too many odd-man rushes,” Marner outlined. “We know they’re a deadly team off the rush so just got to make sure everyone is doing their part, being smart out there, and not diving in too much.”
“We’re prepared for them to make a push and play hard and be a motivated bunch,” said defenceman Morgan Rielly. “We didn’t allow too many odd-man rushes and we played to our structure. We made it tough for them coming through the neutral zone, clogged it up pretty good, and we’re going to have to replicate that.”
The first three games of the Oilers road trip were postponed due to the Canadiens’ COVID situation.
“A strange week,” said McDavid. “It’s been boring, honestly. That’s the first word that comes to mind. It’s almost been a little bit of a bye week, I guess. We should be rested. Guys should have legs. Guys should have energy. Sometimes when you’re coming off a delay like this the attention to detail or the little things can be missed so it’s important to dial that in right away.”
During his six seasons in the National Hockey League, McDavid’s played six games in Toronto. He has played here on a Monday, Tuesday, twice on a Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. So, is there any extra meaning to playing in Toronto on a Saturday?
“Absolutely,” McDavid said. “The league likes to try to sneak us through here on a Monday, Wednesday night so for us to get a Saturday night game is exciting. As a kid, obviously, you watch Saturday night hockey and growing up in the Toronto area that was always the Leafs so it’s exciting to be able to play here on a Saturday.”
McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have looked great while playing on the same line of late, which is something the Leafs didn’t see consistently during the three-game sweep.
“He passes the puck so well,” McDavid said of the reigning Hart Trophy winner. “We think a lot alike. We’ve been playing together for a long time now and kind of understand what each other is thinking and what we’ll be doing. Obviously, a special player and always fun to get the chance to line up beside him.”
“They’re pretty deadly together,” noted Marner. “They know where each other is going to be. You got to be ready. When you think a pass can’t be made, they’re pretty good at finding a way to get it there.”
McDavid and Draisaitl skated on the same line at Friday’s practice, but Dave Tippett was noncommittal when asked about playing them together in Toronto.
“It’s just a tool that we use,” the coach said on Saturday. “They play a lot together during the game whether it’s power play or certain shifts here and there and then there are times when we want to play them together all the time. It just gives a different dimension to our team. They’re both top, top players and the individual skill-set they bring is immense so you put them together and you’re just doubling that.”
Keefe shuffled his lines this morning, moving Joe Thornton back to the top line with Auston Matthews and Marner. Wayne Simmonds moved to the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander.
“I’ve wanted to get Simmonds back with Tavares and Nylander,” Keefe explained. “That line, to me, when Wayne left our lineup, was just starting to get going. I thought it’s the best trio we’ve had there. Those guys were really going and had a lot of opportunities and Wayne was bringing a lot to the line so I’ve been wanting to go back with that.”
Simmonds played a couple games with Tavares and Nylander before breaking his wrist on Feb. 6 and missing six weeks. He has played the last two games with Matthews and Marner.
Matthews and Marner, meanwhile, are likely to see a lot of Edmonton’s top line tonight and Keefe likes how his No. 97 has handled things when on the ice against the Oilers No. 97.
“Joe has played really good hockey against the Edmonton Oilers this season,” Keefe said. “Defensively, especially, with what he’s brought to those guys and how he’s played against Edmonton’s best players. He’s done a really good job. Very conscious of when they’re out there and how he needs to play so wanted to get that back.”
Newcomer Alex Galchenyuk, who had been with Tavares and Nylander, moved to the fourth line with Alex Kerfoot and Jason Spezza.
“Galchenyuk, getting him a good opportunity early was important,” Keefe said. “We got him in a good place here now and I like a lot about what he’s done. It’s nothing against what he brought to that line, but I have wanted to get Wayne in that place.”
Keefe also stressed it was important to keep the third line together. The trio of Pierre Engvall between Ilya Mikheyev and Zach Hyman had a coming-out party of sorts against the Oilers producing a goal in each game of the sweep. And Hyman really seemed to get under the skin of Smith in the final game of the series.
Kailer Yamamoto returns to the Oilers lineup for the first time since March 17.
“He’s just got to get back to playing how he was,” said Tippett. “He’s great on the forecheck. He keeps pucks alive. He’s got good skill to make plays. Smart defensive player. So, he just has to get his game back up and going again. It was an injury that kept him out a little longer than expected and now with the break that we had he’s back and 100 per cent healthy.”
Yamamoto skated on the second line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Dominik Kahun at Friday’s practice.
“He brings a lot of work,” McDavid said. “He works his tail off and works [to get] pucks back. He’s a good little player when he’s got the puck. Sometimes he defers a little bit too much, but that can happen with a young guy. When he’s confident, there’s not many wingers better to play with than that guy. He works as hard as I’ve seen anyone. He’s a guy that brings a lot of energy.”
Jack Campbell, who posted a shutout against the Oilers on Feb. 27, makes a third straight start for the Leafs. He’s vowing to be better with his puck touches after a pair of botched handles ended up in the net on Thursday in Ottawa.
“Those types of goals just can’t go in,” Campbell said. “Those are 100 percent on me, of course.”
Keefe said that Campbell made the right decision to play the puck both times, but could’ve been more assertive. The fact he’s only played five games this season makes it hard to get in a rhythm when it comes to moments like that, the coach noted.
Frederik Andersen still isn’t back on the ice. Toronto’s No. 1 goalie hasn’t skated since losing to the Flames on March 19.
“No real update yet,” said Keefe. “He’s had some different examinations and different things he’s had looked at … his return is not imminent. I expect we’ll have an update in the coming days.”
Lines at Leafs morning skate:
Thornton – Matthews – Marner
Nylander – Tavares – Simmonds
Mikheyev – Engvall – Hyman
Galchenyuk – Kerfoot – Spezza
Rielly – Brodie
Muzzin – Holl
Dermott – Bogosian
Power play units at Leafs morning skate:
1/20 in the last nine games
Matthews – Thornton – Marner
Nylander – Tavares – Spezza
Valdez, Astros grab ALCS lead after dominant Game 5 win over Red Sox – Sportsnet.ca
BOSTON — Framber Valdez lost his perfect game and then bounced the following pitch off the next batter’s leg.
Astros manager Dusty Baker decided it was time for a chat.
“That’s the time when you’ve really got to settle him down,” Baker said. “I said `Hey, you’re the best. Just be natural and do your thing.’ I didn’t say a whole bunch to him.”
It was enough to get Valdez through the inning — and more.
Perfect through four, the Houston left-hander took a two-hit shutout into the seventh and became the first pitcher this postseason to complete eight innings, leading the Astros over Boston 9-1 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.
Yordan Alvarez had three hits and three RBIs for Houston, which needs could clinch a second straight trip to the World Series with a victory at home on Friday night.
The Red Sox need a win to force a deciding seventh game on Saturday.
“We came back to Boston exactly where we wanted to be: We were 1-1,” Red Sox starter Chris Sale said. “Not in a good spot going back to Houston. There’s no denying that, but this team has won two games in the playoffs back-to-back before, and we think we can do it again.”
One day after the Astros scored seven runs to break a ninth-inning tie, they hung another crooked number on the Fenway Park scoreboard, chasing Sale while scoring five runs in the sixth. Alvarez, who homered in the second and singled in the fourth, had a two-run double to break things open.
That was plenty for Valdez, who extended the staff’s shutout streak to 14 straight innings before Rafael Devers homered with one out in the seventh — one of just three hits for Boston. The left-hander departed after retiring the Red Sox in order in the eighth.
“If a guy’s dealing, you just let him keep dealing,” Baker said. “Today, it was in the hands of Framber. Everybody talks about momentum, but momentum is controlled by the pitcher. If the pitcher’s dealing, all that momentum’s gone.”
In all, Valdez gave up one run on three hits, one walk and a hit batter, striking out five. He was also the first opposing pitcher to last eight innings in a postseason start at Fenway since Cleveland’s Charles Nagy went eight in the 1998 Division Series.
Ryne Stanek pitched a perfect ninth while the rest of Houston’s relievers rested. Astros starters had not lasted three innings all series, pitching to a 18.90 ERA in the first four games and giving up 10 homers — including a record three grand slams.
Valdez was not much better, allowing two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings in Game 1.
“I didn’t get frustrated at all. I wasn’t down on myself,” Valdez said. “What I did was I decided I’m going to work really hard so that when I come out here for the next outing, I’m going to be as 100% ready as I can be, to demonstrate to my team what I’m capable of, to demonstrate to my team that I can come out here and compete with any team in the league.
“So I just worked the entire time and I had my mindset set that I was just going to come out and have a way better outing,” he said. “And that’s what I was able to do tonight.”
Valdez retired the first 12 batters on Wednesday — eight on grounders, four on strikeouts. Devers singled to lead off the fifth, then Valdez bounced the next pitch off J.D. Martinez’s leg. The Astros escaped when Hunter Renfroe grounded into a double play and Alex Verdugo bounced out to first.
Sale started almost as well, allowing just two hits — both to Alvarez — in his first five innings. But he walked Jose Altuve to start the sixth, then Michael Brantley nubbed one toward third. Devers fielded it and made the throw in time but Schwarber dropped it at first; after sliding into second, Altuve popped up and took off for third, which was uncovered.
Brantley moved up to second on a groundout to the pitcher, then Alvarez doubled to left, scoring two to make it 3-0 and chasing Sale. Ryan Brasier struck out Carlos Correa before giving up an RBI double to Yuli Gurriel and a two-run single to Jose Siri that made it 6-0.
Brantley added an RBI single in the seventh, and Gurriel singled in two more in the ninth.
Sale was charged with four runs — two earned — on three hits and two walks, striking out seven in 5 1/3 innings.
“I was good for five, and then I sucked for one,” he said. “I told myself coming into this game I had a job to do; obviously didn’t get it done. But I left (it all) out there on that mound tonight, that’s for damn sure.”
The Red Sox had won seven straight postseason games at home — dating to the 2018 ALCS — before blowing an eighth-inning lead on Tuesday night. They had never lost back-to-back postseason games under manager Alex Cora.
Nathan Eovaldi, who won Game 2 but came on in relief and lost in Game 4, will start Friday for Boston. Baker said he had not decided on a starter.
Nine thoughts from the Toronto Raptors season opening loss to the Washington Wizards – NBA CA
With plenty of new faces on the roster, the young Raptors trailed for most of the game and despite a late rally in the fourth quarter where they got it to within 10 points, their poor shooting caught up with them.
For more on this game, we have you covered with some thoughts below.
1. Scottie Barnes is as advertised
The No.4 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft was inserted into the starting lineup and made his presence felt from the jump.
The 20-year-old was aggressive looking for his shot as he attacked the rim, not settling for jumpers and while he only finished with one assist, his passing really stood out as he facilitated the offence for stretches at the elbow.
…Not to mention this skyhook!
Scottie got that ol’ school in the bag pic.twitter.com/jjq5n9p2N9
– Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 21, 2021
He finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, one assist and one steal, and was tied with Fred VanVleet for the most field goals on the night, hitting 5-of-13.
It wsn’t all smooth sailing for the rookie, who had three turnovers and three fouls in the first half alone, but as the game wore on, he showed flashes of his elite potential
Until Pascal Siakam returns from injury, it will be interesting to see if Nick Nurse sticks with Barnes in the starting lineup.
2. Dalano Banton’s dazzling debut
The first-ever Canadian drafted by the Raptors entered the game with 25 seconds left in the third quarter to a big applause from the home crowd and he nearly blew the lid off the arena just seconds later.
With his first shot of the game, he connected on a half-court shot at the buzzer, that cut the deficit to 81-59 heading into the fourth.
– Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 21, 2021
In his 12 minutes on court, he recorded seven points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal on 3-of-4 from the field.
His one assist found a cutting Chris Boucher for an emphatic dunk.
– Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 21, 2021
“He was a big factor for the improved pace and the improved offence,” Nurse said of Banton post-game.
3. A cold shooting night
Through the first three quarters, the Raptors couldn’t buy a bucket as the Wizards led by as many as 29 points.
They eventually found a spark early in the fourth quarter with a big lineup of Banton, Barnes, Gary Trent Jr. Chris Boucher, and Khem Birch, but by then it was too late. On the night they connected on just 30-of-97 (30.9 percent) from the field and 7-of-34 (20.6 percent) from the 3-point line.
While their ball movement at times looked crisp, they simply couldn’t finish off plays.
4. Siakam’s absence felt
With Anunoby and VanVleet their two primary offensive weapons combining to shoot 8-of-37 (21.6 percent) tonight, the absence of All-Star forward Pascal Siakam was evident as the Raptors struggled to get easy looks, especially in the half-court.
Siakam is on his way back after undergoing shoulder surgery in the off-season and is expected to return to the court in mid-November.
5. The defence has some work to do
As is the case with any young team, the defensive side of the floor is always going to be a concern and the Raptors have some work to do.
Too often in the first half, the Wizards guards were able to stroll into the paint and get good looks at the rim, with Bradley Beal, Spencer Dinwiddie and Raul Neto taking advantage.
The Wizards feasted at the rim tonight, outscoring the Raptors 56-40 in the paint.
6. Achiuwa shows flashes
After an impressive pre-season, precious Achiuwa got the start at center on opening night, showing flashes of his potential as a small-ball five.
His energy and activity was evident from the outset as he deflected passes, hustled for rebounds and tried to finish at the rim, but his enthusiasm caught up with him as he picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter.
– Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 20, 2021
7. Harrell back to his Sixth Man form
It’s just one game, but Washington Wizards big man Montrezl Harrell looked back to his Sixth Man of the Year winning form with an impressive performance off the bench tonight.
He poured in 22 points and nine rebounds on an efficient 9-of-11 from the field.
– Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) October 21, 2021
8. Drake in the house
Raptors Global Ambassador and No. 1 fan Drake was in the building, doing his best to help out the home team and get under Montrezl Harrell’s skin.
In the third quarter, he got into it with Harrell, who was called for a technical afterwards.
Drake got Montrezl Harrell T’d up after they exchanged words 💀 pic.twitter.com/T7Xq40Ryxp
– Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 21, 2021
9. What’s next for the Raptors?
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Braves blast four HRs, beat Dodgers for 3-1 lead in NLCS – TSN
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Behind the red-hot bat of Eddie Rosario, the Atlanta Braves are one win away from their first World Series appearance since 1999.
All they need to do is put away the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
Easier said than done.
After all, the Braves were in exactly the same position last year and failed to finish the job.
Rosario homered twice in his second four-hit game of the NL Championship Series and six Atlanta pitchers combined on a four-hitter, giving the Braves a 9-2 victory Wednesday for a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven playoff.
Game 5 is Thursday in Los Angeles. Last year, the Dodgers also trailed 0-2 and 1-3 against Atlanta in the NLCS before roaring back to win three straight games at a neutral site in Arlington, Texas.
“As we saw last year, winning a game is hard, especially a veteran team like this that we’re playing,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “But I feel good about our club just from what we experienced last year and where these guys are.”
Adam Duvall and Freddie Freeman also homered for the Braves, who bounced right back from blowing a late lead in an agonizing loss Tuesday to end their 10-game skid at Dodger Stadium.
“I feel like everyone has really hunkered down and dug their heels in and everyone is really focused,” Rosario said through a translator. “That’s something that I’m really proud to be a part of.”
Rosario became the first player to have two four-hit games in a League Championship Series. He drove in four runs and scored three while continuing his torrid postseason hitting, finishing a double short of the cycle. He homered in the second inning, tripled in the third, singled in the fifth and clocked a three-run homer in the ninth.
“As soon as I hit that first home run I just thought to myself, ‘Wow, I feel amazing right now,’” Rosario said, “so I kind of just carried that confidence into my other at-bats going forward.”
Rosario hit for the cycle last month against San Francisco, achieving the feat on just five total pitches.
“I’ve been using that bat that I hit for the cycle with and it has not disappointed. I had that double remaining and I’m like, ‘Man, this bat has not let me down yet,'” he said. “As soon as I hit that second one out, I go, `Oh well, there goes the double.'”
The Dodgers will need to jump-start their offense to have a shot at another NLCS comeback. Their first five hitters — Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, NL batting champion Trea Turner, Will Smith and Gavin Lux — were a combined 0 for 17 in Game 4.
Los Angeles, which had won 18 of 19 at home going back to the regular season, has won six consecutive postseason elimination games dating to last year.
“I feel good about it,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We have a very resilient team, a very tough team, and it’s not going to get much tougher than facing Max Fried in an elimination game, but we’ve done it before.”
Rosario was acquired from Cleveland on July 30 as the Braves remade their depleted outfield before the trade deadline.
What a find he’s been.
The left fielder has hit safely in every game of this postseason, piling up 14 hits so far — including a walk-off single in Game 2 against the Dodgers. He has struck out only once.
Rosario is 10 for 17 (.588) with two homers and six RBIs in the NLCS.
“He’s been looking so good at the plate, hitting balls hard,” Freeman said.
Atlanta’s four homers tied a postseason franchise record.
Each of the series’ first three games was decided by one run in the last two innings. But when it got late this time, the wild-card Dodgers couldn’t generate any comeback magic.
Atlanta opener Jesse Chavez combined with Drew Smyly, Chris Martin, A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek and Will Smith to hold down the Dodgers’ offense. Los Angeles didn’t get a hit until the fifth and was limited to one the rest of the way. Smyly went 3 1/3 innings for the win.
The Braves wasted no time jumping all over 20-game winner Julio Urías, who gave up three homers in 2 2/3 innings. It was the second time he allowed that many in his career; the first time was in his second major league game in 2016.
Rosario drove an 0-2 pitch into the left-field pavilion leading off the second and Duvall followed with a shot to center, the first time the Braves homered back-to-back in the postseason since Oct. 3, 2002, against San Francisco in Game 2 of a Division Series.
Freeman went deep leading off the third. Two outs later, Rosario tripled to deep right on a two-strike pitch, sliding headfirst into the bag.
“He kind of smiled at me after he hit it in there just because it was one of those things where it just, a hot hitter and he kind of knows where he’s going,” Urías said through a translator.
Duvall was intentionally walked and Joc Pederson singled, scoring Rosario for a 4-0 lead against Urías.
The Dodgers, who won 106 games during the regular season, closed to 5-2 in the fifth on pinch-hitter AJ Pollock’s two-out, two-run single. Justin Turner singled for their first hit of the game and Cody Bellinger followed with a single and stolen base.
Freeman’s RBI double in the ninth made it 6-2 before Rosario went deep.
Urías didn’t record a strikeout until the fourth, when Dansby Swanson and Freeman went down swinging back-to-back to end the left-hander’s first clean inning. Urías gave up five runs and eight hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked three.
The only other player with a pair of four-hit games in a postseason series was Milwaukee Brewers Hall of Famer Robin Yount in the 1982 World Series against St. Louis.
Braves: RHP Huascar Ynoa was scratched from his scheduled start with shoulder inflammation. He was replaced on the roster by left-hander Dylan Lee. Ynoa is not eligible to return for the World Series, if the Braves advance.
Dodgers: Justin Turner is done for the season after injuring his hamstring in the seventh, Roberts said. Turner screamed as he was retired on a double-play ball. He limped off the field and was replaced in the eighth.
Fried starts Game 5 for the Braves in his Los Angeles hometown. The Dodgers planned a bullpen game, a strategy they’ve used twice this postseason, going 1-1 in those games.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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