The slumping Montreal Canadiens host the red-hot Toronto Maple Leafs for the second time this week, tonight on Hockey Night in Canada. The Habs have lost three of their past four games while the Leafs, who have the second-best points percentage in the NHL, have won four straight.
The Maple Leafs are the highest-scoring team in the league and nobody has scored more goals than Auston Matthews‘ 11. While it’s not realistic to expect Matthews to score every game, he’s been on such a tear lately that it feels like he could score on just about every shot he takes. So, will Matthews score tonight? It’s a prop bet that I’m sure some of you reading this are considering.
Well, the answer might depend on how much he sees of Phillip Danault.
Despite losing to the Maple Leafs on Wednesday, the Canadiens did manage to keep Matthews from finding the back of the net — something they’ve been able to do in both games against Toronto this season and four straight games dating back to last season. Matthews has scored in nine of the other 11 games he’s played this season.
In Wednesday’s game, Matthews faced Danault more than any other Canadiens centre, matching up against him for just over five minutes at five-on-five. In those minutes, Montreal spent a majority of the time in Toronto’s end — the best possible recipe for keeping Matthews off the scoresheet.
Danault had a chance to give the Canadiens a 2-0 lead less than three minutes into the game after gaining position on Matthews in front of the Maple Leafs net. Fortunately for the Maple Leafs, Frederik Andersen was able to make a couple of nice saves to keep it a one-goal game.
The only shot Matthews managed in his time against Danault on Wednesday came from above the face-off circles in the first period.
This is exactly where opposing teams want Matthews shooting from as keeping him to the outside of the slot is imperative in attempting to contain him. Matthews has scored 82 per cent of his career goals from the home plate, slot area. The best chance to limit the damage he can do against you is to limit his ability to shoot the puck from below the top of the face-off circles and inside the dots.
However, this is much, much easier said that done.
Matthews led the NHL in slot shots last season and trails only Connor McDavid so far this season. He’s one of the best in the world at creating these high-danger chances for himself.
On the flip side, Danault is one of the best defensive centres in the NHL and one of few who have managed to avoid being caved in by Matthews in his career when going head-to-head. In the 60-plus minutes Danault has spent against Matthews at five-on-five in their careers, the Canadiens have out shot and out chanced the Maple Leafs. However, Matthews scored twice in those minutes, the only goals scored by either team.
Limiting the amount of quality looks Matthews gets is the best you can hope for against such a talented goal scorer. It’s impossible to neutralize him completely, though Danault has shown to be more successful than most and is certainly the Canadiens’ best option at centre to do so. We’ll see how often Claude Julien goes with this match-up tonight.
Aside from keeping the most productive goal scorer in the NHL in check, the Canadiens will have to find a way to get back to their strengths offensively in order to beat the Leafs for the first time this season.
Montreal was the highest-scoring team in the league through 11 games, averaging over four goals per game. While unrealistic to expect that kind of offensive production over the course of a full season, the Canadiens have struggled to use their biggest weapon to their advantage recently — team speed.
In addition to leading the NHL in goals up until a week ago, Montreal also led the league in scoring chances off the rush and goals scored off the rush. In the Canadiens’ past three games, the amount of rush chances they’ve generated has been cut by well over half.
The Maple Leafs did an excellent job of preventing the Canadiens from attacking with speed through the neutral zone Wednesday night, limiting Montreal to five rush scoring chances.
Slow the Canadiens down and there’s a good chance you’ll win the game. Montreal has scored 14 of its 31 goals at five-on-five, off-the-rush. Only Nashville and New Jersey have relied on rush scoring more than the Canadiens this season.
If Danault’s line can, at the very least, draw even with the Matthews line and the Canadiens can get back to attacking up the ice as they did in their first 11 games, Montreal will have a good shot at closing the gap between itself and Toronto at the top of the Scotia North division.
Team LeBron beats Team Durant as Lillard hits game-winning three – Sportsnet.ca
ATLANTA — In the midst of a pandemic, this was assured of being an NBA All-Star Game like no other.
The stands were mostly empty. The crowd noise was largely piped in. There were no A-list celebrities sitting courtside. Two players had to sit out after getting haircuts.
But in the end, it had a familiar feel.
Team LeBron won again.
Knocking down shots from all over the court, LeBron James’ powerhouse squad closed the first half with a dominating run to set up a 170-150 romp over Team Durant in the league’s 70th midseason showcase Sunday night.
The top vote-getters in each conference have picked the teams the last four years, a duty that James has earned every season.
He’s now 4-0, having defeated Stephen Curry’s squad in 2018 and teams selected by Milwaukee’s two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo the previous two years.
This time, James drafted his two former adversaries and blew away Kevin Durant’s team.
“I think he’s got a future as a GM,” said Damian Lillard, another of James’ inspired selections. “He always gets it right.”
Antetokounmpo was the game’s MVP after shooting 16 of 16 for 35 points, even making all three of his attempts beyond the 3-point stripe. It was the most baskets without a miss in All-Star Game history.
“I’m just having fun,” the Greek star said. “Sometimes when you’re having fun and not thinking about the outcome, you just let your instincts take over.”
Curry chipped in with 28 points, while Lillard had 32.
James spent most of the night admiring his drafting skill from the bench. He played less than 13 minutes, scored just four points, and didn’t return to the court in the second half.
Instead, he munched a snack on the bench.
“I know he was managing his minutes tonight,” Curry said. “We had a great time, representing him as captain. It was a memorable night for sure.”
It sure was for Curry, who won the 3-point competition beforehand, then went 8 of 16 from beyond the arc in the game.
Lillard matched him, also making 8 of 16 from 3-point range.
This All-Star Game sure was different than the previous 69.
Determined to pull off an exhibition that is huge for TV revenue and the league’s worldwide brand, the NBA staged the game in a mostly empty downtown arena, a made-for-TV extravaganza that was symbolic of the coronavirus era.
Despite extensive safety protocols in place, two players didn’t even make it to tipoff. Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were ruled out because they got haircuts from a barber who tested positive for COVID-19.
The only good thing for Durant: He didn’t have to participate in this shellacking, sitting out the game with an ailing hamstring.
Bradley Beal led Team Durant with 26 points.
On a night highlighting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Team LeBron swept the first three quarters and cruised to the final target score, earning a total of $750,000 for its charity, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
The game got out of hand late in the second quarter.
With scant defence being played, Team LeBron took turns dunking off alley-oop passes. Chris Paul delivered back-to-back lobs that Lillard and Curry slammed through. Then, it was Paul on the receiving end of a payback pass from Curry.
After showing it could handle shots up close, Team LeBron headed outside in the final seconds of the half.
Lillard pulled up for a 3-pointer from the half-court line. Not to be outdone, Curry knocked down one from virtually the same spot.
“It was a lot of fun,” Lillard said. “Me and Steph shoot a lot of 3s. We shoot deep 3s. It was 3, 3, 3, 3, 3.”
Amid the joyful moments, the atmosphere at State Farm Arena was downright eerie compared to a normal All-Star Game.
Instead of a packed house, with A-list celebrities crammed into prime courtside seats, this game was attended by a smattering of hand-picked guests. They had plenty of room to spread out in a 17,000-seat venue that was essentially transformed into a giant television studio, with socially distanced spectators kept far from the court.
Towering video screens were set up behind the benches. Vegas-style lights flashed around the arena. Recorded crowd noise blared over the sound system. The entertainment was provided by the host Atlanta Hawks, who didn’t have any players in the game but were represented by their cheerleaders, drum line and DJ.
To address fears that one of its biggest events would become a super-spreader for a virus that has killed more than a half-million Americans, the NBA pared down its usual weekend-long ritual of extravagant parties, gridlocked streets and people watching
This All-Star Game was a one-night-only event, with a pair of skill competitions held shortly before the game and the Dunk Contest squeezed into the halftime break. The players flew in Saturday afternoon and were largely confined to a nearby hotel except for their time on the court.
“This is when everyone in basketball all over the world comes to one city,” James said before the game. “We’re able to sit back and go, `Wow, this is the game we have built.’ It’s a beautiful weekend for all walks of life, on the floor and off the floor.
“But I’m sitting here in my hotel room, isolated. My family’s not here. I’m by myself. It’s just different, to say the least, compared to previous years.”
All-Star Weekend was crammed into a few hours.
During the pregame, Indiana forward Domantas Sabonis defeated Orlando centre Nikola Vucevic in the Skills Challenge, redeeming last year’s finals loss to Bam Adebayo. That was followed by Curry knocking off Utah’s Mike Conley to capture the 3-Point Contest for the second time. The Warriors star added to the long-range title he won in 2015.
At halftime, Portland’s Anfernee Simons defeated New York Knicks rookie Obi Toppin in the Slam Dunk Contest, nearly kissing the rim with his winning throw-down. Cassius Stanley of the Indiana Pacers was eliminated in the opening round.
Team Durant: Zion Williamson of New Orleans started the game in place of Embiid. The Pelicans forward had 10 points. … Durant’s team heaved up 72 3-pointers, but made only 27 (37.5%).
Team LeBron: Paul had 16 assists, passing Magic Johnson’s record for most career All-Star assists with 128. … Lillard ended the game with another long 3-pointer. Curry was waiving to the spectators before it even went in. … James’ team shot 63.6% from the field, including 31 of 61 from 3-point range.
The 71st All-Star Game will be held Feb. 20, 2022, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. The 2023 game is set for Salt Lake City, followed by Indianapolis in 2024.
Bryson DeChambeau tames beastly Bay Hill to win Arnold Palmer Invitational – Golf Channel
Bryson DeChambeau captured his eighth career PGA Tour victory Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s everything you need to know from the very difficult final round at Bay Hill Club and Lodge:
Leaderboard: DeChambeau (-11), Lee Westwood (-10), Corey Conners (-8), Jordan Spieth (-6), Andrew Putnam (-6), Richy Werenski (-6)
What it means: In addition to his U.S. Open triumph, DeChambeau has now won Jack Nicklaus’ tournament (2018 Memorial) and Arnold Palmer’s. He’s also proven to be one of game’s best – if not the best – tough-course players in the world. Bay Hill was a beast on Sunday, with a field scoring average more than 4.6 shots higher than in Round 3. Add this to his dominant performance at Winged Foot and Bryson’s brawn seems best suited for the most strenuous tests.
How it happened: A four-man tournament was reduced to two front-runners when Westwood birdied the par-5 12th to tie DeChambeau. At 11 under, the final twosome was two shots clear of the field. They remained deadlocked until Westwood three-putted from 38 feet at the 14th. Conners did eagle the par-5 16th to briefly get back within one, but promptly bogeyed the 17th. Meanwhile, DeChambeau parred No. 16 and stayed one up on Westwood, who missed a 7-footer for birdie. The two parred No. 17 and when Westwood rolled in a 7-footer for par on 18, it meant DeChambeau had to make his from 5 feet for the win. After backing off once, he emphatically drilled it.
Round of the day: DeChambeau’s 1-under 71. The field averaged more than 75.5 shots in the final round and 71 was the lowest score of the day (shot by three players). After a bogey at the first hole, DeChambeau didn’t drop a shot the rest of the day, parring his final 12 holes.
Shot of the day: There was DeChambeau’s 377-yard tee shot on the par-5 sixth.
There was also DeChambeau’s 50-foot par save at the par-4 11th.
But the Shot of the Day was the winner, the 5-footer for par at the last.
Biggest disappointment, Part I: Spieth. With birdies at Nos. 4 and 6, Spieth was a co-leader. But there were no more red numbers. He bogeyed the eighth hole, made a string of pars, and then bogeyed Nos. 15, 17 and 18. It added up to a 3-over 75 and a T-4.
Biggest disappointment, Part II: Rory McIlroy. The past champion was four back to start the day and never gave himself a chance. He bogeyed the second hole and put two balls in the water off the tee at No. 6. McIlroy finished with 76 but still managed a top-10 when Keegan Bradley, who went 64-78 over the weekend, bogeyed the final hole.
Quote of the day: “I don’t even know what to say to win at Mr. Palmer’s event. It’s going to make me cry.” – DeChambeau
Tiger Woods texts Bryson DeChambeau ahead of API final round – Golf Channel
ORLANDO, Fla. – Before he teed off in Sunday’s final round at Bay Hill, Bryson DeChambeau received a text from a certain eight-time Arnold Palmer Invitational champion.
Yes, Tiger Woods, who is still recovering from serious injuries sustained in a car accident less than two weeks ago in Los Angeles, messaged DeChambeau some words of encouragement.
“Out of the blue and I wasn’t expecting anything,” DeChambeau said. “When I got that text, I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty amazing that he is thinking of me when he’s in his tough times that he’s going through right now.’”
During the text exchange, Woods apparently told DeChambeau to “keep fighting” and “play boldly like Mr. Palmer.”
“One of the things that we talked about was, it’s not about how many times you get kicked to the curb or knocked down, it’s about how many times you can get back up and keep moving forward,” said DeChambeau, who made just one bogey on a brutally tough Sunday, shot 71 and beat Lee Westwood by a shot. “And I think this red cardigan is not only for Mr. Palmer, but I would say it’s a little bit for Tiger as well, knowing what place he’s in right now.”
DeChambeau also reciprocated the well wishes: “I said, ‘Keep moving forward, keep going forward. You’re going to get through it. You’re the hardest working person I’ve ever met, and you’ll persevere through this.”
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