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'Fight the panic': Leafs hope blown late leads just a 'funny week' – TSN



TSN Toronto reporter Mark Masters checks in daily with news and notes on the Maple Leafs, who practised at Ford Performance Centre in Toronto on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes.

Sheldon Keefe isn’t reading too much into Toronto’s blown leads in the third period last week. 

“It’s important that we don’t overreact and try to create much of a complex around here,” the coach said. “Just continue to go out and work and look at the greater sample and trust ourselves.”

Prior to last week, the Leafs had been 17-1 under Keefe when holding a lead in the final period. Then last Monday against the Florida Panthers they squandered a 3-1 lead in the third, losing in regulation after Andersen exited with the injury. On Friday, Toronto also blew a 3-1 advantage against the Anaheim Ducks before salvaging the win in overtime. On Saturday, Toronto grabbed a 1-0 edge in Montreal early in the third before surrendering a late equalizer and losing to the Canadiens in overtime. ​

“The trend, of course, is that they’re all third periods and all that, but when we look at the issues in each of the games there’s no real trend there for us,” Keefe said. “So, we’re hoping it’s just a funny week and the way things worked out.”

After Friday’s loss, Keefe said the Leafs played like a “fragile group.”

“We just got to get our swagger back,” said winger Kasperi Kapanen. “We’re a great hockey team and we’ve been working really hard on our D-zone and trying to be better there and I think we have, but the third period comes around and we get a bit nervous.”

In the last two third periods, Toronto has been outshot 31-5, including 16-1 on Saturday, but Keefe was actually happy with how his team defended against the Canadiens. 

“Defensively, we did a really good job and that’s been a big focus of ours,” Keefe said. “We scored early and then kind of got on our heels … but we felt all the shots, including the goal, were from the outside and that’s a positive for us relative to what we were giving up in the past.”

So, what happened? A team oozing with high-end skill suddenly started misfiring. 

“I just think we’re getting away from our game,” said Marner. “We’re not playing with the confidence we need … We’re not getting in the offensive zone enough. To go in and only get one shot is unacceptable. I felt like we gave the game to them in the third.”

One of the rallying cries for Keefe since taking over is “Fight the panic” and hold onto the puck more.  

“It’s just supporting each other,” explained defenceman Travis Dermott, “and then if they do get a little momentum swing it’s not breaking down, it’s coming back to the net, staying deep, supporting each other, not getting too stretched out, talking and then kind of working it through that way instead of panicking, shooting the puck out of the zone, giving it back to them and letting them come right back at us. It’s sometimes hard to fight that panic.”

Keefe’s possession-based system works best when the team takes care of the puck, but on Saturday night in the third period the Leafs seemed to slide back into some bad habits. 

“It feels like we’re forcing plays that we usually don’t and we’ve gotten away from,” noted Marner, “trying to just force stuff up the middle or to a stretch guy who’s by himself on an island. We know what we got to do to be better so tomorrow’s going to be a better showing for us, let’s hope.”

‘Fight the panic’: Leafs hope blown third period leads just a ‘funny week’

The Maple Leafs have given up third period leads as of late and they believe it could be an issue of confidence and some nerves. The team insists as long as they support each other, they will eventually figure it out. Mark Masters has more.

Frederik Andersen participated fully in practice for the first time since sustaining a neck injury last Monday. 

“It’s feeling good,” the goalie said after the session. “First practice back with the team today was pretty positive.”

Andersen had his own net during most of the workout while Jack Campbell and Michael Hutchinson rotated at the other end. If Andersen isn’t ready, then Campbell will start against Arizona. 

Andersen got bumped a couple times in the game against the Panthers, but wouldn’t list one hit that led to the injury. 

“I can’t tell you which one was the worst,” Andersen said. 

Some injuries you can play through, but the nature of this neck injury makes it tough, Andersen said. 

“I don’t want to go into specifics, but just making sure that I can play to the level I need to be at and making sure there are no symptoms … make sure we don’t rush anything.”

Andersen refused to answer when asked if he’s dealt with this type of injury previously. 

After going 1-2-1 last week and with four more games in the next six days, the Leafs are eagerly anticipating Andersen’s return. 

“Freddie’s been unbelievable so it’s big news if he is back,” said winger Mitch Marner, “and brings a little more confidence to our team.”

TSN’s Kristen Shilton has more on Andersen’s status here

‘It’s feeling good … pretty positive’: Andersen possible to return Tuesday

Frederik Andersen didn’t want to go into detail about his injury but did say he is feeling good and a return on Tuesday has not been ruled out. The Maple Leafs goaltender also said it is important that he isn’t rushed back and he believes the medical staff is ensuring that does not happen.

William Nylander returned to practice after missing the last two games due to an illness. 

“I feel way better today, that’s for sure,” the 23-year-old said while holding a cup of chicken broth. “I don’t know what exactly it was, just high fever and just felt terrible.”

Monday’s practice was the first time Nylander skated since Wednesday’s game. 

“Legs felt fine,” he insisted, “it was more so (about my) breathing after not doing anything.”

“I thought he looked fine,” said Keefe. “Willie’s a guy that loves to skate all the time and stay with that consistently so I’m sure he didn’t feel (like) himself, but we’re happy to see him back in the building.”

Nylander had been on a nine-game point streak with six goals in that span before getting sick. Is he worried some of the momentum will be lost? 

“No,” he said with a grin, “I’m not too worried about that.”

‘I’m not too worried’: Nylander doesn’t expect illness absence to slow momentum

William Nylander was enjoying a good stretch personally before falling ill but he doesn’t expect any momentum that he has gained on the ice to be impacted by his brief absence.

The flu bug seems to be making its way through the dressing room, with centre John Tavares and defenceman Justin Holl the latest to get sick. Both missed practice, but Keefe is optimistic they’ll play Tuesday night. 

“I am expecting them, yes,” Keefe said. “However, it’s an illness and you don’t know how that’s going to affect our guys so a lot of those people will be game-time decisions and, of course, we’re hoping it’s something that doesn’t spread.”

Precautions are being made. 

“Everyone’s just got to make sure they’re taking care,” Marner said, “and when they’re at the rink taking all the vitamins and stuff like that. It happens every year and it’s something that sucks.”

Dermott, who missed a recent game due to food poisoning, noted that players are leaning on Margaret Hughes, the team’s lead performance dietician, to help them get through the flu season. 

Leafs Ice Chips: Tavares, Holl miss practice as illness hits the room

There were plenty of missing bodies at Maple Leafs practice on Monday as an illness has made its way through the room. Mark Masters has more on the sick players and who else was missing from the morning skate.

Toronto’s offensive struggles on Saturday extended to the power play, which had a rare off night producing just two shots in two missed opportunities. 

“Some of our spacing and decision-making coming out of our zone was an issue,” Keefe said. “So, you don’t get that right coming out of your zone then you’re going to end up getting jammed up at the blueline as you’re trying to enter. That’s something we had to do better.”

There was a focus on zone entries during the video session.  

“Tyson (Barrie), a couple times coming out, was a little indecisive with what to do with the puck and then that stalled us,” Keefe added. 

There was a radar gun present at practice on Monday with shot speeds getting displayed on a monitor near the bench. 

“I just noticed it when Kappy was shooting,” Andersen said with a smile. “I think he got it up to 60. I don’t know if he was holding back a bit.”

“It doesn’t work well for me,” a deadpan Marner said. “I don’t like it.”

Marner won’t have to worry about it moving forward, it appears. It seems like the radar gun’s presence was simply a fluke. 

“I don’t know where it came from or whose idea it was, but it doesn’t interest me much,” said Keefe. 

The presence of the monitor, for one day at least, did lead to some questions about which Leaf owns the hardest shot. 

“Pierre (Engvall) actually has a very hard shot,” said Andersen, who would arguably know best. “Pierre’s is sneaky hard and comes at you heavy.”

“It depends what kind of shot,” said Nylander. “Wrist shot, probably Auston (Matthews).”

“It’s a tough question,” Kapanen said. “(Jake Muzzin) is probably up there or my centreman (Jason Spezza), he’s got a pretty heavy slap shot so I’d have to pick Spezz.”

Random radar gun at Leafs practice raises the question: Who has hardest shot?

A radar gun crept its way into Maple Leafs practice and although some players didn’t even notice, a few did, and it opened up some chirping possibilities. It also brought up the opportunity to wonder which player on the team has the hardest shot.

Dealing with some bumps and bruises, winger Zach Hyman stayed off the ice on Monday for maintenance. Newly-acquired winger Kyle Clifford missed the workout to attend his grandfather’s funeral. And, at one point, Barrie briefly left the ice. 

“It was a challenge,” a smiling Keefe said of running practice. “At one point we might [have] had as many goalies as we had defencemen. Coming from the American League you’re used to having different challenges such as this and guys adjusted just fine.”

Lines at Monday’s practice: 

Nylander – Matthews – Marner
Johnsson – Spezza – Kapanen
Kerfoot – Gauthier – Timashov
Timashov – Engvall – Aberg

Muzzin – Marincin
Dermott – Barrie
Sandin – Liljegren


Injured: Rielly (foot), Ceci (ankle), Mikheyev (wrist)
Sick: Tavares, Holl
Maintenance: Hyman
Personal: Clifford ​

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Jones scores four TDs as Packers bounce back to beat Lions – TSN



GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Jones caught three of Aaron Rodgers’ four touchdown passes and rushed for a fourth score, and the Green Bay Packers had a welcome return to normal after an embarrassing opening-week loss, beating the Detroit Lions 35-17 on Monday night.

Green Bay (1-1) won its ninth straight home opener. The Packers, who got thumped 38-3 by the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, looked more like the team that went 13-3 in each of coach Matt LaFleur’s first two seasons.

Rodgers went 22 of 27 for 255 yards and surpassed John Elway for 10th all-time in passing yards with 51,633. Rodgers has followed up each of the Packers’ last five regular-season losses by throwing four touchdown passes and no interceptions in his next game.

Jones became the first Packers running back to catch three touchdown passes in a game since Andy Uram against the Chicago Cardinals in 1942. He had 17 carries for 67 yards and six catches for 48 yards.

Detroit’s Jared Goff completed 13 of his first 14 passes but struggled the rest of the way as the Lions (0-2) blew a 17-14 halftime lead. Goff finished 26 of 36 for 246 yards. He connected on touchdown passes to Quintez Cephus and T.J. Hockenson but also threw an interception and lost a fumble.

Green Bay scored touchdowns on its first three second-half possessions to seize control.

The Packers faced third-and-12 on their opening series of the second half when Rodgers threw a 50-yard completion to Davante Adams, who ended the night with eight catches for 121 yards.

Lions rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu injured his thigh on the play, further weakening a secondary that already lost cornerback Jeff Okudah to a ruptured Achilles tendon in Detroit’s season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Green Bay dominated the rest of the way.

Rodgers capped that drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan. Detroit’s next series ended when Goff threw an incompletion on fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 25.

Rodgers threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jones to extend the Packers’ lead to 28-17.

Green Bay’s Krys Barnes recovered Goff’s fumble at the Detroit 23 on the Lions’ next snap. Jones scored on a 1-yard run and that was that.


Lions: WR Tyrell Williams missed the game with a concussion. … Melifonwu did not return after the thigh injury.

Packers: TE Josiah Deguara was out with a concussion.


The Packers activated wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown from the practice squad, giving him the chance to play against his younger brother. The Lions selected receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown out of Southern California in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Amon-Ra had the better stat line with three receptions for 18 yards, while Equanimeous had one catch for no gain.


Green Bay’s Lucas Patrick, who started at left guard against New Orleans, was active after getting out of concussion protocol. But he wasn’t on the field for the opening series.

Jon Runyan Jr. was at left guard instead in the 2020 sixth-round pick’s first career start. Runyan’s father was an All-Pro tackle who went on to represent New Jersey in Congress from 2011-15.


The Packers wore a helmet decal to honor Ted Thompson, who worked as the team’s general manager from 2005-17 and died Jan. 20 at the age of 68. The Packers also honored Thompson during a halftime ceremony.


Lions: Host Baltimore (1-1) on Sunday. The Ravens are coming off a Sunday night victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Packers: At San Francisco (2-0) on Sunday night. This will be the fourth time in the last three seasons the Packers have played at San Francisco. They won 34-17 last season. Two years ago, the Packers lost 37-8 to the 49ers in the regular season and 37-20 in the NFC championship game.


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Josh Donaldson swapping jerseys with Vlad Guerrero a Blue Jays moment that won’t be forgotten – Toronto Star



It was a moment Blue Jays fans won’t soon forget, and one they will hope eventually represents a passing of the torch from one American League most valuable player to another.

Josh Donaldson, Toronto’s 2015 MVP now with the Minnesota Twins, signing and exchanging jerseys with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is vying for his first MVP nod this season, following a three-game series between the two teams.

The pair set up the jersey exchange on Saturday and it caused quite a stir of emotion a day later, the end of an already emotional weekend with Donaldson’s return and the Jays back in a wild-card spot.

There they were — the man who last led the Jays’ World Series hopes and the man fans hope can take Toronto one step further by clinching the top prize.

“He just told me after, ‘Stay focused and keep working hard until the end,’” Guerrero Jr. said post-game of his interaction with Donaldson.

Donaldson, 35, is no stranger to hearing fans at Rogers Centre shout “MVP, MVP” during an at-bat. This time around he received a standing ovation during his first plate appearance of the series but the kinds of cheers he once received were now directed at the 22-year-old Guerrero.

The veteran was all for it. When asked on Saturday if he thought Guerrero deserved to join him and 1987 winner George Bell as Blue Jays MVPs, Donaldson’s answer was clear.

“It should happen,” Donaldson said. “He’s put up (an) astronomical season from the offensive side and he’s contributing on the defensive side. The guy’s got a 1.000 OPS at 22 years old, being a huge contributor.”

Guerrero’s stiffest competition in the race for AL MVP is Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani, who many believe is a lock for the award as his team’s staff ace and most productive hitter — he is doing something that has never before been seen in Major League Baseball. But Guerrero, who is vying for the Triple Crown as the league leader in home runs, batting average and runs batted in, is mounting a late season challenge for the award as Ohtani navigates some late season troubles.

The Angels star’s numbers at the plate have dipped in the second half of the season and there has been talk of him being shut down from pitching in the final portion of the season because of arm soreness. And then there’s the age-old question: can a player be the most valuable if his team is not headed to the playoffs? Guerrero and the Jays could very well be; Ohtani and the Angels are not in post-season contention.

To Donaldson, there are holes in the argument for Ohtani: he didn’t start every fifth day, the recent injury could cause him to miss most of September on the mound and, as a designated hitter, he doesn’t impact both sides of the game. Guerrero, on the other hand, strikes fear in opposing lineups unlike any other player this season, Donaldson said.

And if the Jays make the playoffs, Donaldson said, that should tip the scales in Guerrero’s favour.

“If you take Vlad out of that lineup, this isn’t the same team,” Donaldson said. “Not that this isn’t a good lineup, because it is. But what Vlad’s doing is … he’s that security blanket for the rest of that lineup (with) what he’s producing. He takes pressure off of everybody else.”

Hearing that kind of praise from Donaldson, who spent the weekend at the ballpark happily reuniting with familiar faces he knew from his four years in Toronto and touting Guerrero’s MVP worthiness to anyone who would listen, left Guerrero nearly speechless but maybe not surprised. Guerrero, who was signed by the Jays the same year Donaldson won the MVP in 2015, said Donaldson has long been supportive of his career.

“Coming from Josh, it’s unbelievable what he said. Especially coming from someone that already won the MVP,” Guerrero said. “Since I was in the minors when he was here, he was always giving me advice, especially in spring training. When I was playing third, helping me out, taking ground balls with him. He’s always been great to me and I really appreciate his comments.”


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft shocked a gay flag football team by showing up to support it – Yahoo Canada Sports



Imagine coming off the field from your neighborhood flag football game, dripping in weekend-warrior sweat, and there stands the owner of the New England Patriots. 

Naturally, you might be curious why Robert Kraft — a man said to have a net worth north of $8 billion — is, you know, there. Just hanging out.

Was Kraft watching a relative or close friend play? Did he happen to be nearby and just wander over? Did his driver get lost?

No, it turns out that Kraft was simply there to support a Massachusetts gay flag football team.

There was no press release. No attention drawing needed. Just your average billionaire NFL franchise owner supporting a gay flag football team and a great local charity. 

As one of the flag football team members, Alex Reimer of, noted in his blog about the event, Kraft just swung by to watch the action — one day before the Patriots took on the New York Jets on the road.

What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, it’s a sign that Kraft doesn’t just support the group — FLAG Flag Football Boston — with financial backing. He also comes to watch them play. That’s a personal touch money can’t buy.

There also was a charitable component to the weekend. The flag football team helped raise donations of 25,000 items for Hope & Comfort, a local charity that helps with hygiene insecurity for needy youths and families in the area. The Patriots helped support the cause, and the owner was on hand for it.

Kudos to Kraft, who has been a big supporter of the LGBTQ community for years (even before it was popular to do so) and who appears to go above and beyond mere check writing and ribbon cutting.

This is the kind of outreach we’d love to see more of in the NFL community, and Kraft’s above-and-beyond effort shows that even the world’s wealthiest people can donate something that carries even more value than donations.

Their time.

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