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Hutchinson shines, Marner scores OT winner as Leafs beat Senators – Toronto Sun

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On a night that Michael Hutchinson continued to get his swagger back, Kasperi Kapanen’s took a hit.

While Hutchinson was doing his part to help the Maple Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators in overtime on Saturday night, Kapanen watched from the press box, a healthy scratch for what coach Sheldon Keefe called “internal accountability.”

Keefe refused to elaborate on Kapanen’s benching, saying the player would address the issue with media on Monday after the Leafs’ day off on Sunday.

“It’s a one-time thing,” Keefe said. “You guys will get a chance to talk to Kappy on Monday.

“We had chatted about it (Friday) a little bit and then made our decision. I wanted to sleep on it, we talked with Kappy (Saturday) morning and made a decision and went from there.”

Speculation was that Kapanen — whose name has popped up in trade rumours with the NHL’s deadline on Feb. 24 looming — was late for practice on Friday or missed a team meeting. It was the first game of the 2019-20 season that Kapanen did not play.

It was intriguing that the Leafs were willing to let the issue linger until Monday, rather than have Kapanen address it on Saturday night.

Still, good on Keefe for putting the team ahead of the player.

As it turned out, the Leafs managed okay without Kapanen, getting a power-play goal from Mitch Marner at 3:54 of the extra period to beat the Senators 2-1 before a crowd of 19,406.

In winning for the third time in three games since the bye week ended, the Leafs moved back into third place in the Atlantic Division with 63 points, two up on the Florida Panthers. The Panthers will be in Toronto for a rather large match against the Leafs on Monday night.

Hutchinson made 24 saves, winning his fourth start in a row and perhaps putting to rest the idea that GM Kyle Dubas needs to upgrade the position behind No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen.

“Sharp, confident, we had breakdowns and he was there when they had a couple looks,” Keefe said of Hutchinson. “He was at the top of his crease, he was confident, he was aggressive. He just looked like he was out there to win the game for us and that’s what you want to see.”

Hutchinson had a couple of rough outings in relief of Andersen in January, but has not lost a start since the end of November. He was awarded the Raptors basketball in the post-game celebration in the dressing room.

“I feel like I’ve been positive all year, even at the start when things weren’t going well,” Hutchinson said. “Just kept working hard. Now that bounces are going our way a little bit and the team is playing great, we have a lot of confidence and our whole team has that swagger back.”

With Kapanen out, Keefe moved Jason Spezza to the wing on the third line with centre Pierre Engvall and Andreas Johnsson, and inserted Dmytro Timashov into the lineup to play on the fourth line with Frederik Gauthier and Trevor Moore.

After defenceman Mark Borowiecki gave the Senators a 1-0 lead at 6:08 of the second period when his shot from the point got past a screened Hutchinson, the Leafs netminder made top-notch saves on Chris Tierney and Brady Tkachuk.

Spezza, in his first game on the Leafs side of the Battle of Ontario, used his patented shot to tie the game during a Toronto power play at 10:41. Spezza took a pass from Rasmus Sandin and ripped a shot over the left shoulder of Sens goalie Craig Anderson, who barely flinched.

The goal was Spezza’s eighth of the season in 40 games, equalling his output in each of the past two seasons with Dallas, when he played in 78 games and 76 games respectively.

Spezza acknowledged that playing in Toronto has lived up to his expectations (though we would add Spezza might have felt differently until Nov. 20, the day Mike Babcock was fired and Keefe took over).

“I really appreciate the Original Six, the history behind it, the nostalgia of Saturday night games,” Spezza said. “I enjoy that. Just the fact that we’re a team trying to establish ourselves and become a real contender has been exciting for me, it gives you a purpose and it gives you a role and it has been enjoyable so far.”

LOOSE LEAFS

Marner on his one-timer from the slot: “I don’t think anyone really thinks I’m going to shoot that. Luckily, it went in.” … William Nylander’s second five-game goal-scoring streak of the season came to an end … Leafs captain John Tavares had the fan base wringing its hands when he departed the game for a chunk of the first period. Later, Tavares said it was an ankle issue and that he was fine … Spezza has been hearing for years that he should use his lethal shot more often. “My whole life I’ve been told I’ve got to shoot the puck more,” Spezza said. “You take what’s there.” … Defenceman Travis Dermott missed the game with an illness and was replaced by Martin Marincin on a pair with Tyson Barrie … This was Auston Matthews’ take on Spezza’s shot: “I find it’s really deceptive. He can look you off, make a pass or fake like he’s passing and shoot it. He has that long stick and he just snaps it really well. It’s pretty impressive.” … Anderson had a fine evening for Ottawa, stopping 34 Leafs shots.

tkoshan@postmedia.com

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Penny Oleksiak back to lead Canada in Tokyo pool

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Penny Oleksiak, the first Canadian to win four medals at a Summer Olympics, will lead a Canadian swimming team eager to build on their efforts in Rio de Janeiro at next month’s Tokyo Games.

Swimming Canada unveiled a 26-member squad (16 women, 10 men) on Thursday that is a mix of experience and youth that officials hope is capable of improving on the six medals won in Rio, the country’s best haul in the pool since the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

“I think the mix of veteran leaders and new faces is awesome,” said Kylie Masse, a bronze medallist in the 100 metres backstroke in Rio and one of 10 returning Olympians. “That’s kind of how sport works, there are always older and younger athletes, and it’s a great dynamic to have.”

Leading the charge at the 2016 Rio Games was Oleksiak, who became Canada’s youngest Olympic champion winning gold in the 100m freestyle as a 16-year-old, while also grabbing silver in the 100m butterfly and two relay bronze.

The stage is set for a new star to emerge in Tokyo in 14-year-old Summer McIntosh, who edged Oleksiak in the 200m freestyle at the trials and breezed to victory in the 800m free.

At the other end of the experience and age spectrum is 37-year-old Brent Hayden, who came out of retirement to earn a spot on his fourth Olympic team, becoming the oldest Canadian Olympic swimmer in history.

Bronze medallist in the 100m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics, Hayden clinched his spot with a win in the 50m freestyle at the Canadian trials that wrapped up on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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Sinclair to lead Canadian women’s team in her fourth Olympics

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Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder, was named to her fourth Olympic squad on Wednesday and will headline a Canadian roster at the Tokyo Games that features a mix of veterans and youth.

Led by Sinclair, whose 186 goals for her country are the most by a female or male soccer player worldwide, Canada won medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to make the podium in both competitions.

“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help take this team back to the podium and make history again,” said Canadian captain Sinclair. “Our team is in a good spot, we are excited, we are hungry and we are ready to go.”

The 18-player roster features 12 members of the squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games while a quintet including Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, Adriana Leon, and Evelyne Viens will be making their Olympic debuts.

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan travelled to Rio in 2016 as an alternate.

Canada will kick off their Tokyo 2020 journey when they face Japan on July 21 and continue Group E play against Chile on July 24 and Britain on July 27.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?

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It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.

Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.

Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?

Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.

Jevon Holland

The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.

A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.

He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.

The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.

Benjamin St-Juste

When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.

Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.

The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.

Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.

Chuba Hubbard

The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.

It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.

With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.

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