HOCKEY’S BACK BABY!
In these troubled, unsettled and unprecedented times, I’m looking forward to the Leafs disappointing me this season as a reminder of more pleasant, stable times.
New Leaf Zach Bogosian endearing himself to me early by breaking up a pretty hapless 2 on 1 by the Habs:
The Leafs get their first chance of the game on a 2 on 1 of their own, with Auston Matthews feeding Mitch Marner:
The Leafs get the bulk of what scoring chances were to be had in the first seven minutes, but Zach Bogosian puts them on the PK after tripping up Kotkaniemi in his own end.
We got to see our first Matthews’ FOGO PK strategy, which… happened is the most I can say about it. Frederik Andersen was only tested once off a rush, and stood tall on the shot and subsequent rebounds.
The Habs strategy for the rest of the PK seemed to be to pass around the perimeter then fire a slap shot from the point. Shockingly, it didn’t work and the Leafs killed it off with some ease.
After the Leafs killed the penalty, they came back with a line of Nylander-Tavares-Mikheyev and generated a good chance that Mikheyev couldn’t put home:
Leafs have some good shifts, but Hyman touches the puck as he’s changing and drew a too many men penalty… not the smartest decision Zachary. And the Leafs pay for it, a slap pass by Petry bounced off the post, and Nick Suzuki was in the right place to put home the rebound in the open net.
You know, when the Leafs are at even strength they’ve been pretty dominant. They’ve given Montreal NOTHING, and even if they haven’t generated any goals are great scoring chances they’re doing much better than Montreal, and controlling play.
I was mid-sentence writing that last thought when WILLIAM BILLIAM NYLANDER TIES THE GAME! Great point shot.
After the goal the Canadiens got their first good shift at evens. The Leafs got caught scrambling, especially Freddie, he got knocked out of his net and knocked his stick away. They got out of it unscathed.
They didn’t get out of the period unscathed, as Josh Anderson ripped a wrister past Freddie off the faceoff. 2-1 Habs. A characteristic Leafs lapse after a good period the rest of the way (at even strength), in the final minute of the period.
First Period Thoughts:
- Offense: the offense was… okay. They had some goodish chances that led to one goal, and they did control play at even strength until pretty much the last minute of the period. They had the Habs doubled up in scoring chances and expected goals until that point.
- Defense: the defense was actually very good, until the final minute of the last period. They finished up 20-15 in shot attempts and 0.31 to 0.18 xGF (via NST)… until that last minute when it swing to 0.45 to 0.31 for the Habs. Not a high octane period.
- Lines: The fourth line got murdered in shot attempts and scoring chances. The Matthews line with the Muzzin-Holl pair were under water as they were who was on the ice for that final minute and got scored on. But they also had the most offensive chances driven. The Tavares-Nylander line with the Rielly-Brodie pair did some good things. Keefe started with the lines as advertised, but when they were down a goal the line blender came out. We saw Simmonds up with Tavares, and Hyman up with Matthews.
- Special Teams: the first PK looked good, if only because the Habs powerplay looked awful. The second PK they got picked apart on the goal against, albeit with a bit of an unlucky bounce.
The second period is starting like the bulk of the first period went. The Leafs are controlling play, but not getting a lot of quality. Simmonds had the best chance so far after a Spezza pass from behind the net:
And just like the first period started, Bogosian put the Leafs onto the PK.
Unlike the first period, the Leafs don’t kill off the Bogosian penalty. They did a mostly good job right up until the last 10 seconds, when a bad change led to a breakaway — if not a 2 on 0 — and Tatar put the Habs up 3-1. Bit of a weak one for Andersen to give up, but it’s also a breakaway oh my god this is last season all over again.
The Leafs respond to the goal against by looking like they were still killing a penalty. By the time they start getting some offensive zone time, Simmonds gets into a fight with Chiarot and the fight was as exciting as the game has been. Oh, but the Leafs get a PP from it? I won’t complain! SIMMONDS THE MVP!
Leafs get some okay-ish chances, but no goals from it. The next several minutes are pretty uneventful. Leafs are getting more zone time, but Montreal is shutting the Leafs out of any dangerous areas. Finally the Leafs get a bit of a break with Vesey drawing a penalty. WILLIAM BILLIAM NYLANDER! Waits patiently, edges into the middle of the ice and flicks a wrist shot top shelf. Good work in front by Hyman. Leafs cut it to 3-2 Habs. Spezza got an assist for his 600th career apple.
Right after the goal the third line drew another penalty, putting the Leafs back on the PP for a chance to tie it. And right after THAT Weber put the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty, Leafs get a 5 on 3 PP for 1:57. Leafs put out their Unit of Death with Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Tavares and Rielly and Tavares gets a goal with a sweet little deflection off a Marner feed. We’re all tied up!
Leafs end the period with a regular 5 on 4 powerplay, and do get one chance they can’t capitalize on. The period ends tied at three.
Second Period Thoughts:
- Offense: Was more of the same from the first period, but the Leafs avoided having a big lapse like they did in the final minute. Shot attempts were 10 to 9 for the Habs, expected goals were basically tied 0.33 for the Leafs and 0.30 for the Habs.
- Defense: Basically what I said above. They had a better period over all in shutting down any Habs offense, mostly due to not having one disastrous stretch.
- Lines: Things largely seemed to go back to the pre-game plan for the top two lines. The Matthews line dominated, pulling way ahead in shot attempts and scoring chances. They’re also playing a LOT of minutes. The Tavares-Nylander line continued to be strong. The third and fourth lines continue to get killed, though they’re not playing a lot either. On defense, the Brodie-Rielly pair is doing very well, and Dermott is somehow well ahead of all the other three defensemen on his own.
- Special Teams: Funny how the Leafs looked bad when they were down 0-3 in penalties, and then that evened up suddenly they looked better and the game is now tied. The game is tied 1-1 at even strength, and now 2-2 on special teams.
- Heatmap: It’s been a very tight game overall. Leafs have a slight edge in shot attempts, Habs have a slight edge on expected goals. This is true both at even strength and on special teams.
Just over a minute into the game, and the Leafs turn an offensive zone faceoff into a Josh Anderson goal the other way, after he blew by Tavares. Andersen should have had that, and the Leafs are now down 4-3.
Freddie redeems himself a few minutes later when Suzuki undressed Rielly and got in alone on net. Brodie had a stretch pass in the air batted down by Suzuki, who I’m afraid to report looks really good. Anderson had a shot on the rebound that Freddie managed to stop as well.
We’re five minutes into the period and the Leafs have gotten nothing going. Montreal has slowly been taking over the game.
BUT WHO CARES WHEN WE HAVE JIMMY BIMMY VESEY! He’s making a better impression than other first time Leafs. The Leafs catch a break as the Habs defenseman tried to pass the puck behind the net and hit the ref. Willy picked it up, fed Vesey, and he made no mistake. Tie game 4-4.
The game has started opening up more. Both teams have almost matched the last two periods in expected goals through just over half the third period. Shots are tied, game is tied, expected goals might as well be tied. It’s as close a game as I can remember seeing. Habs are getting chances, but the Leafs are getting theirs too:
Mikheyev got a breakaway that Price stopped, and it was a bit end to end without great scoring chances for either side. A close game, of course, goes to overtime. Here’s hoping the Leafs’ skill heavy, top-heavy forwards and defense give them an edge.
We get some end to end action, with Rielly almost sneaking one through Price. Both teams look gassed. Except Kerfoot and Mikheyev who have barely played lol. AND TAVARES LEADS A 2 ON 1 AND FEEDS RIELLY FOR THE WINNER! LEAFS COME BACK AND WIN 5-4!!!
It was a very evenly played game. It was high scoring because of the powerplays, but there wasn’t a lot of chances — or good chances — until the third period. The top lines carried the team, as you would want and expect. The bottom two lines and pretty much every defenseman but the Rielly-Brodie pairing got tanked pretty hard.
I saw two big red flags from the game. One, Freddie let in two softies. I hope that goes away fast, it looked an awful lot like last season. For what it’s worth, he made some good saves after the fourth goal. Second, I have some questions for the decisions that Keefe made in terms of who played with who, and who played how long. A mild red flag is how the bottom 6 performed (not great). I honestly don’t expect them to do great against a team as deep as Montreal’s — that’s THEIR strength — but they got murdered to an extent you don’t want to see.
Maple Leafs attempting to out-sprint competition with condensed schedule – Sportsnet.ca
Heavy hearts inside the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. Heavy legs in all four corners of the dressing room.
It was a sombre Sunday with news of George Armstrong’s death and a quirky 2 p.m. game to be played under conditions that screamed “schedule loss.” The Leafs landed in Calgary some 20 hours before puck drop and hadn’t had a chance to come up for air since training camp began three weeks ago. The Flames hadn’t played in six days.
“It was our seventh game in 12 days and travelling out here and then having to play a 2 o’clock game, it’s a tough ask. And then you’re playing against a rested team,” said Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe. “This one we felt would not be pretty.”
The only beauty to be found in a 3-2 victory was the two points it added to their total in the North Division standings and the strong play of backup goalie Jack Campbell, who continues to build a case for giving Frederik Andersen more nights of rest.
But what was even more telling than the game itself was the way Keefe, in particular, approached the circumstances of the day.
He broke from tradition in the typical pre-game meeting to honour Armstrong rather than focusing on finer points of the Flames attack or details of defensive emphasis. Keefe is 40 and never came close to seeing the man known as “Chief” play. Many of his players are a generation younger than that and may not have even realized that Armstrong spent 75 years with the organization, captaining the Leafs during their last Stanley Cup win in 1967 but also serving as a coach, assistant general manager, scout and community ambassador.
The message that came with a video about Armstrong’s life is telling about the mindset of the club in the here and now.
“What we talked about is just how efforts like [those from Armstrong] back in the 60’s in particular — the last time the Leafs won the Cup — that’s the reason why Leaf Nation is as strong as it is,” said Keefe. “That’s why generations of families grow up as Leaf fans, because of those efforts, and we have a role to play to continue to build upon that.”
There was nothing scripted about the way Auston Matthews paid tribute to Armstrong in his post-game availability with reporters. He actually interrupted a member of the team’s public relations staff running the Zoom call to make sure he could get in a few words before the questions started.
“First off, I just want to extend my condolences to the Armstrong family,” said Matthews. “Obviously George was an incredible ambassador for the city of Toronto and the Maple Leafs. He paved the way for guys like us that are obviously trying to accomplish something big here.”
This is not a group hiding from its aspirations.
When it was revealed recently that their season is being documented by behind-the-scenes cameras for an upcoming series on Amazon Prime, a couple players mentioned that they welcomed it because of where they expect to go.
Keefe is pushing hard, too.
The Leafs expect to have a great regular season and are putting the pedal down during this 5-2-0 start. Under different circumstances, Matthews may have been given another precautionary game off after sitting out Friday’s win over Edmonton because of a hand injury and not having skated with any purpose since Wednesday.
Instead he logged 21:42 against the Flames despite both he and the coach acknowledging that he was missing some explosiveness in his stride.
“I think that first period I just tried to get my legs going and then I kind of felt a little bit better towards the second half of the game,” said Matthews.
A trend is developing here. No NHL forward is averaging more minutes than Mitch Marner (24:03) so far and beyond that only Anze Kopitar (23:52) and Mark Scheifele (23:32) are getting more playing time than Matthews (23:07).
With a Cup on their minds and a compacted 56-game schedule inside their agendas, the Leafs are attempting to sprint ahead of the competition.
They needed some good bounces to beat Calgary on Sunday, seeing all three pucks that got behind Jacob Markstrom go in off a piece of equipment other than a stick. Campbell took care of the rest with 31 saves.
“Soup was an absolute rockstar for us,” said Matthews.
The Leafs have now beaten every team in the division except Vancouver and won’t see the struggling Canucks for the first time until Feb. 4. Given the binary nature of results in a season featuring only intra-division play, that’s a fantastic start.
There are process-related objectives they’ll need to improve upon, including finding ways to more consistently generate quality chances from their time in the offensive zone and ideally creating a mix on the fourth line that can be trusted to play.
But you won’t find them chopping apart their victories right now, particularly with the challenging pace of the schedule.
Results are what matter when your goal is to hang another banner beside the one Armstrong and Co. put up 54 years ago. The standard needs to be set high. That’s why Keefe made sure not to allow Armstrong’s death to pass without special mention on Sunday afternoon.
“When you’re in this every single day, you’re in the moment, you’re taking care of what you can control,” he said. “I do think it’s important to stop and pause every now and again just to look at the bigger picture and recognize that what we’re doing here every day is for a greater purpose beyond ourselves.
“And we have a role to play within how we prepare and how we play and people like George showed the way.”
Justin Poirier and Conor McGregor show mutual admiration during backstage meeting following UFC 257
Despite his first knockout loss in the UFC, Conor McGregor was all class in defeat.
McGregor returned to action for the first time in a year when he faced Dustin Poirier in a rematch in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 257 event in Abu Dhabi. After a competitive first round, Poirier started to take over in the second, landing a series of hard low leg kicks to McGregor that put him in a compromised position.
“The Diamond” would take advantage of his brilliant strategy, dropping and finishing McGregor at just over the halfway point of the round to complete the biggest victory of his career.
While it was all class in the octagon and at the post-fight press conference, Poirier and McGregor shared a moment backstage following their second battle.
Poirier evened up the series at a win apiece on Saturday. McGregor knocked out Poirier in the opening round of their first meeting at UFC 178 in September 2014.
A trilogy fight is of interest to both competitors, but it seems that Poirier will move ahead to compete for the lightweight title, which is currently held by the retired Khabib Nurmagomedov. UFC President Dana White hasn’t lost hope that “The Eagle” will return for at least one more fight. It appears as if those chances are fading away by the hour, though an official decision on the title has yet to be announced.
Source:- MMA Fighting
Floyd Mayweather Issues Scathing Conor McGregor Critique – HotNewHipHop
Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor have had a rivalry for a very long time now. Ever since the two fought back in 2017, it’s clear that they don’t like each other very much and that fact isn’t going to change anytime soon. McGregor has been practically begging for rematches, all while Mayweather has sought opportunities elsewhere.
Last night, McGregor lost in stunning fashion to Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 and Mayweather was clearly waiting for a reason to comment on the match. Upon seeing a social media post that pondered why McGregor is praised for his confidence while Mayweather is criticized for it, Mayweather decided to let his feelings be known. Taking to Instagram, Mayweather offered a large paragraph explaining that he thinks there is a lot of racism at play here and that guys like McGregor need to be taught a lesson.
“I seen this post and my take on it is that the world knows Con Artist McLoser can steal everything from me and be loved but I’m hated. That just lets you all know that racism still exist. Just know, that bum will never be me or be on my level. I’m just built different, my mindset is on another planet, my skills are second to none, I’m a natural born winner and yes I talk a lot of trash, but every time I back it up! This is what they hate. It’s sad that you can be a poor black kid from the ghetto that has dealt with racism your whole life and work extremely hard to put yourself and your family in a better position, and most of the hate come from my own people. Connor cannot even win in his own sport, but talking about coming back to boxing to fight Pacquiao. Nobody wants to see that, it’s like my leftovers eating leftovers.”
These biases have existed for quite a long time and it’s clear that Floyd is fed up with seeing them play out time and time again. Not to mention, Mayweather’s post hints at the fact that a McGregor rematch is no longer in the cards, which is unfortunate but not surprising.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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