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Game #40 Review: New York Rangers 5 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs 4 (OT) – Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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The Toronto Maple Leafs’ offense kept rolling but so did the goals against as the New York Rangers snapped Toronto’s six-game winning streak in overtime on Saturday night.


First Period

The Rangers dictated the pace right off the bat, generating some quality scoring chances. It didn’t take long before they capitalized — after opening the scoring in eight straight games under Keefe between December 7-23, the Leafs have now given up the first goal in two consecutive.

It’s not the first time the Leafs have had trouble protecting the middle of the ice lately, and it was evident again here. John Tavares and Cody Ceci did not react in time, although that’s a shot Frederik Andersen could’ve stopped.

Much like in New Jersey, the Leafs responded well, seemingly undeterred by the early hole as they pressed on the ensuing shift. As a result of some hard work by Dmytro Timashov, they earned themselves a man-advantage opportunity.

On the ensuing power-play, the Leafs top-unit stayed out on the ice for the full two minutes and were moving the puck well. The Leafs‘ power play, in general, looks lethal in-zone provided they’re able to gain the zone effectively. John Tavares’ excellent pass in tight down low set up Nylander for his 16th of the season:

Staying out on the ice for a total of one minute and 58 seconds, it was a good call by Sheldon Keefe to ride his big guns in search of an immediate response.

Initially, the pace of play appeared to have evened out with both teams trading blows at both ends of the ice. A few minutes later, however, the Rangers capitalized on another mistake by the Leafs.

Pierre Engvall has been playing well since being called up a few weeks ago, but this was a costly error in decision making to attempt a weak backhand pass across the width of the defensive zone.

Despite the setback, the Leafs pushed back and generated a number of good looks:

Another defensive breakdown resulted in a breakaway chance from Pavel Buchnevich, who was tangled up by Tyson Barrie and was awarded a penalty shot. Fortunately for Barrie, Andersen made the save to keep the deficit at one.

On a positive note, this was a good demonstration of the Matthews’ line effectiveness in their aggressive pursuit of the puck following a chip-and-chase dump-in play, led by Matthews initial forecheck:

Second Period

As was the case in the opening frame, both teams started the second with a flurry of chances. The Leafs were generating the majority of the shot attempts at goal, including this ripped one-timer from Matthews as he rotated up high:

The Matthews line also executed an interesting set play off an offensive-zone faceoff:

When the Rangers got chances of their own, they were taking full advantage throughout the game:

A turnover in the neutral zone was in the back of the Leafs net in a flash, although you’re looking for a save here from Andersen. Dermott and Andersen could be seen discussing this goal a little later on — it looked like Dermott’s stick was caught in that no-man’s land where he didn’t get stick on puck but did make the initial read off the stick difficult for Andersen.

With the deficit now at two, the Leafs continued to apply the pressure on Georgiev, including a strong power-play that came up short. A quick play off the faceoff by the Matthews line got the Leafs back in the game.

What else can be said about Auston Matthews’ shot that hasn’t already been said? He’s now scoring one-timers, too, with regularity. But this goal is created by the urgency off of the faceoff from the wingers in Marner and Hyman.

The Leafs offense of late has more or less been firing on all cylinders under Sheldon Keefe, but Morgan Rielly is one of few exceptions, currently in the midst of a 27-game goalless drought heading into the game. Here he jumps up into the play and nearly gets the monkey off his back:

In the late stages of the period, the Rangers were able to snag momentum when they were given a chance on the power-play. With a barrage of scoring chances, they would have extended their lead if not for this key block by Martin Marincin.

The Rangers were able to extend their lead not long after their man-advantage expired on this nice move off the rush by Mika Zibanejad that again was a stoppable puck.

Third Period

The Leafs showed the requisite urgency at the start of the third. As had been the case most of the night, they were aggressively pursuing the puck carrier and forced steals were turning into instant scoring chances.

All night long, Nylander was a workhorse on the puck and was setting up chances aplenty, with the Tavares-Nylander duo off to a good start and showing plenty of instant chemistry.

With the confidence of having overcome third-period deficits in spectacular fashion in the recent past, the Leafs continued to apply the pressure as the period progressed and looked hell-bent on evening the game up. After a strong shift on the cycle, the Leafs chipped away at the deficit.

The third line came alive in the third period, and this was their best shift of the night. Just prior to this goal, Kasperi Kapanen came close after receiving a great pass from a falling Jason Spezza. Barrie took advantage of a tired group of Rangers with a nice delay move at the point to get the shot on net for Engvall to tip in.

With momentum on their side, the Leafs had another injury-related scare when Marner took a wild breakout pass from Trouba on the ear:

Despite losing such a key part of the roster temporarily, Toronto didn’t take their foot off the gas pedal and kept up the pressure with some quality looks.

With time winding down, the Leafs pulled their goalie and threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Rangers to tie the game, including Matthews coming close on a struck post.

On the very next play, Matthews tried again from a similar spot, making no mistake on his second attempt.

The Leafs were doing a great job getting pucks to the net and generating quality looks from the slot and high-percentage areas. Ho hum — yet another multi-goal game for Matthews, who is now closing in on 30 halfway through the season.

Overtime

After some solid puck movement down low early in overtime, Rielly nearly put this one away.

As is often the case at 3-on-3 OT, a big chance and save at one end led to a grade-A chance the other way. Tony DeAngelo buried the OT winner, snapping the Leafs winning streak in the process. Tyson Barrie didn’t cover himself in glory with his 2v1 defending ability here:


Post Game Notes

  • Much like their game against the New Jersey Devils on Friday, the Toronto Maple Leafs manufactured a ton of opportunity from an offensive standpoint by generating quality looks off the cycle and from the slot. However, untimely turnovers and defensive breakdowns resulted in quality chances and goals against and, unlike the previous night, they were unable to come away with the two points. There’s no doubt that the Leafs will gladly take the point based on their overall performance in this one, but it’s notable that they have now slipped to 24th in the NHL at 3.23 goals against per game after allowing 15 goals in their last three games.
  • Partly that’s to do with Frederik Andersen coming back to Earth in the last four starts — he’s posted a .869 save percentage in that span, and yet the team has gone 3-0-1. In this game, he stopped 29 of 34 shots against, recorded a .853 SV%, a 5.54 GAA, a .800 HDSV%, and 1.54 xGAA. No matter how good your starter is, goaltending is going to ebb and flow throughout an 82-game season and the larger concern is that the Leafs need to take strides in their defensive-zone structure and puck/risk management.
  • That’s made all the more difficult by the extended absence of Jake Muzzin, which poses questions the Leafs have no easy answer for. The Dermott and Ceci pairing was a dash-three in this game and hasn’t earned a ton of trust out of Keefe, who has a pretty firm cap on their even-strength minutes around the 14-15 minute range. Full marks to Martin Marincin for stepping in and doing a respectable job in his first NHL action in a long time, but Marincin – Holl gives nobody an easy feeling, while Rielly-Barrie has lived up to the billing as a high-event pairing that hopefully nets out positively in the aggregate but is difficult to trust in the marquee matchups. Just in terms of the type of defenseman Muzzin is — a prototypical shutdown defenseman who can be effective in the modern era — you could argue you’d take any injury but his on the Leafs’ blue line given its strengths/weaknesses. Major challenges lie ahead for this blue line.
  • Speaking of Morgan Rielly and Tyson Barrie, this was a classic Rielly – Barrie game. Both were dangerous in the offensive zone but were often a trainwreck without the puck. On a positive note, the pair registered a 60.47 CF%, a 60.00 FF%, a 57.69 SF%, a 62.59 xGF%, a 54.55 SCF%, and a 66.67 HDCF% at even strength. While the numbers do look impressive, they don’t tell the whole story as both were on the receiving end of some rough defensive sequences in transition and when protecting the slot (or failing to). They also combined to post 17 (!) shots on net and it was good to see Barrie show signs of getting his mojo back with a nice pump fake at the offensive blue line leading to the Engvall goal. Sheldon Keefe would’ve gone into this situation eyes wide open in terms of the risk-reward, and honestly, there seems to be no better option with the current construction on the blue line combined with the Muzzin injury.
  • The top-line of Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner were once again the driving force of the Leafs offense for a second straight night. The trio finished the game with a combined 61.11 CF%, a 61.54 FF%, a 56.25 SF%, a 58.40 xGF%, and a 66.67 HDCF% at even strength, along with a combined four points. With a lot of skepticism prior to Matthews and Marner partnering up once again about their ability to work together on a line, it’s safe to say they’ve proven the “no chemistry” myth was laughable. In the past four games, the two have been involved on the score sheet and at least one of them has posted a multi-point performance. It’s not like it’s one-and-done rush offense; they’re generating so much off of the cycle as a line. Matthews looks particularly invigorated by the opportunity next to Marner, and vice versa.
  • Not much to go on in Adam Brooks‘ debut with under five minutes of ice time as Keefe lost the fourth line in the shuffle of chasing the game. Kenny Agostino probably will receive a look, while Timothy Liljegren will also probably find his way into the Leafs lineup at some point as well. With Alex Kerfoot shifting to the left to fill on for the absences of Ilya Mikheyev, Andreas Johnsson and Trevor Moore down the left, forcing Spezza into a top-nine center role, this upcoming stretch will be a huge test for the Leafs’ overall depth both up front and on the backend.

Clip of the Night


Notable Stats


Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts


Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Locations


Condensed Game

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Buehler’s remarkable start in Dodgers’ Game 3 win puts pressure on Rays – Sportsnet.ca

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Walker Buehler shoved, Charlie Morton suffered a rare post-season misstep and the Los Angeles Dodgers had their bats going as they motored to a 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.

With the win, the Dodgers take a 2-1 lead in the World Series and shift the pressure squarely on the Rays’ shoulders heading into Game 4. But before we get there, let’s look back at some takeaways from a commanding Dodgers victory.

Dominant

Buehler’s had a bit of a spotty post-season, battling his command at times and blisters at others. His results have been perfectly fine, with only four runs allowed over four outings. But anyone who’s been watching closely knows he hasn’t pitched as efficiently as he could’ve, walking 11 over those four starts and completing just four innings in two of them.

But you know Buehler’s on when he’s beating guys with high-90s fastballs:

Locating his curveball back door for strikes:

And getting awkward, off-balance swings like this:

And this:

We could really just display nothing but Buehler GIFs here, because the Dodgers right-hander was featuring truly devastating stuff Friday. He was flawless through his first two innings, going six up, six down on only 22 pitches while striking out four. He walked Kevin Kiermaier in the third, but quickly erased him with a double play, ensuring he’d face the minimum entering the fourth.

It was right back to automatic outs from there, as Buehler retired his next four consecutively to carry him through one out in the fifth. That’s when he faced trouble for the first time, as Manuel Margot shot a well-located, full-count fastball into left for a double, the first hit Buehler allowed on the night.

Buehler rallied to strike out Joey Wendle with a nasty curveball at the end of a long battle, but then he made one of his few mistakes on the night, leaving an 0-2 slider a little too far up to Willy Adames, who put the Rays on the board:

But that was all they’d get off him as Buehler completed six innings, allowing only that run on three hits and walk, striking out 10. He threw 67 of his 93 pitches for strikes, a ridiculous 18 of them swinging. His pitch chart demonstrates how effective Buehler’s stuff can allow him to be with a relatively simple game plan featuring fastballs up, curveballs to either side of the plate and sliders either down-and-away from righties or at the back feet of lefties:

That’s about as good as it gets and when you have a bullpen like the Dodgers do, six innings on 93 pitches is all you need. Buehler’s now lined up to start a potential Game 7 of this series on Wednesday, and the Dodgers have to feel pretty good about that should the situation materialize.

An unlikely outcome

Friday, the Rays turned to Charlie Morton, a veteran stater who’s defied the traditional athlete’s trajectory and gotten better with age. Since 2017 — his age-33 season — Morton has a 3.94 ERA over 97 starts with strong peripherals of 10.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9.

But the 37-year-old has done his best work in the post-season, pitching to a 2.81 ERA over 11 playoff outings in that span. He’s shoved in must-win games, he’s closed out a World Series clincher and he’s excelled in Game 7s, like last week in the ALCS against the Houston Astros.

Which is just one of the things that made his struggles Friday so curious. The other is how the trouble came out of nowhere. After two swift outs in the first, Morton quickly got ahead of Justin Turner, 1-2. But then he left a fastball up, right over the heart of the plate. And bad things tend to happen when you do that:

In the third, Morton again got two quick outs, both via strikeout on only nine pitches. But then he clipped Corey Seager’s foot with a splitter and got burned by Turner with two strikes again, as the Dodgers third baseman lifted a Morton curveball on the plate into left for a double, putting two runners in scoring position.

Max Muncy was next. Morton got to two strikes again. And another pitch was left over the plate:

This is extremely unusual. In two-strike counts this season, Morton held hitters to a .170/.207/.284 line. He gave up only six extra-base hits in 92 plate appearances that went to two strikes. Of the 53 batters he faced with two out in an inning, only three came away with extra-base hits. Friday night he was tagged for two through three innings.

But credit Dodgers hitters for a typically elite approach. Morton’s as good as he is because he doesn’t leave many pitches in hittable locations — especially when he’s ahead in the count. When he makes his rare mistakes, it’s imperative that you capitalize on them. And the Dodgers did just that.

Adding on

While the early damage was done with two-strikes, the Dodgers weren’t waiting around against Morton in the fourth. Cody Bellinger led off with a line-drive single to right that beat the four-man outfield the Rays deployed against him. And after Chris Taylor struck out on three pitches, Joc Pederson sent a first-pitch curveball up the line, pushing Bellinger to third and putting the Dodgers back in business.

No. 9 hitter Austin Barnes was next, in the lineup not because his OPS is off the charts but due to his rapport with Buehler. You won’t see the Dodgers sacrifice bunt often. But with Barnes at the plate, it made plenty of sense:

After all, the Dodgers had baseball’s second-best player coming up next in Mookie Betts. And he became the latest hitter to get to Morton with two strikes, rifling a full-count sinker back up the middle to cash another.

Morton’s five runs allowed were one more than he’d given up in his last five playoff starts combined. The seven hits he surrendered were tied for his most in a game since August 10, 2019 — a span of 22 outings. This isn’t how it’s usually gone. And if this series goes seven, the Rays will have to hope Friday was merely a glitch in Morton’s matrix.

Managing for tomorrow

Despite Morton’s struggles, Rays manager Kevin Cash needed as much length from his starter as possible with a bullpen day on tap Saturday. So he sent him back out for the fifth with five runs already in. But after Morton issued Muncy a one-out walk, Cash had seen enough.

From there, it was crucial that Cash got efficient, effective relief. You never know how many arms you’ll need on a bullpen day and it’s possible Sunday’s Game 5 could be an elimination game. The Rays needed to preserve as many bullets as possible.

John Curtiss was first out of the bullpen and did a serous solid for his manager, getting the Rays out of the fifth with only eight pitches. And he started the sixth similarly, retiring the first two batters on seven. But then he hung an 0-2 slider to Barnes, who doesn’t hit many homers but wasn’t missing that cookie:

As an aside: it really is unfair that a lineup as deep as the Dodgers gets a bomb like that from Barnes out of the nine-hole. He has three home runs in 348 MLB games. He entered the night a .194/.262/.247 career playoff hitter with exactly one home run in 103 post-season plate appearances. He’s in the game for his defence. But the Dodgers continue to be a cheat code.

Anyway, Curtiss then turned things over to Ryan Sherriff, who had yet to pitch in the post-season. And Sherriff gave way to Ryan Thompson, who hadn’t pitched since Game 3 of the ALCS. Thompson then passed the baton to Shane McClanahan, who made his MLB debut two-and-a-half weeks ago and has pitched only three times in these playoffs.

That usage tells you all you need to know about how Cash was managing the end of this one. It had more to do with tomorrow than today. The gambit he ran was that it’d be better to have a full stable of high leverage arms in Games 4 and 5 rather than marginally increasing his team’s dwindling odds of a comeback in Game 3.

Cash got what he was after. And now the pressure’s on him and his pitching staff in Saturday’s Game 4, as the Rays try to navigate their way through 27 outs in a series of short stints, while producing enough offence to avoid a 3-1 deficit.

Odds and ends

Randy Arozarena made history in the ninth with a solo shot off Kenley Jansen, tying an MLB record for the most homers — eight — in a single post-season:

Justin Turner made a ridiculous snag on a Mike Zunino grounder in the third, starting an inning-ending double play. It was impressive enough at full speed, but the super slow-motion replay demonstrates just how tricky the ball was to track:

Ji-Man Choi’s six-foot-one, 260-pounds and can do the splits. What’s your excuse?

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Khabib vs. Georges St-Pierre Was Late Father's Dream, Trainer Says – TMZ

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Video: UFC 254 preview show – MMA Fighting

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With UFC 254 just hours away, MMA Fighting’s Mike Heck, Jose Youngs, Alexander K. Lee and E. Casey Leydon break down the top storylines from Saturday’s event on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, including the main event for the undisputed UFC lightweight title between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje.

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