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Keenum, Johnson lead Browns past Broncos – TSN



CLEVELAND (AP) — Baker Mayfield had the best seat in the house to watch the Browns’ backups deliver.

Case Keenum stepped in for an injured Mayfield and made the most of his first start in two years, third-string back D’Ernest Johnson rushed for 146 yards and Cleveland overcame a short week and a long list of injuries to beat the Denver Broncos 17-14 on Thursday night.

Keenum didn’t put up impressive stats (21 of 33 for 199 yards), but threw a touchdown pass and did enough — as did Cleveland’s maligned defense — to get the Browns (4-3) a much-needed victory.

They survived without Mayfield, who sat out with a shoulder injury and could miss more time.

“Unfortunately, some people are going to get hurt,” Keenum said after his first win since 2019. “At the same time, you love other young guys getting chances.”

Johnson, playing because stars Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt were both out with calf injuries, had the best game of his young career. He scored on a 4-yard run in the first half and picked up 52 yards on seven carries as the Browns chewed up the final 5:17 after the Broncos pulled within three.

Once he reached the end zone, Johnson wasn’t sure how to react.

“It’s unexplainable,” he said. “I wanted to celebrate but I didn’t know what to do. It’s been a long journey.”

The Broncos couldn’t stop Johnson and now they can’t stop losing, either.

“The last drive was very frustrating,” Denver coach Vic Fangio said. “We loaded up against the run and we couldn’t stop them.”

Afterward, Johnson, who worked on a fishing boat when he wasn’t drafted, got doused with water by his teammates in a raucous locker room celebration.

Johnson couldn’t believe that NBA superstar LeBron James tweeted about him in the game’s final minutes.

“LeBron?” he said. “Man, that’s my favorite basketball player. LeBron? That’s amazing. That means a lot. Wow!”

Denver quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw a pair of TD passes and gutted it out while playing with foot and quadriceps injuries. He finished 23 of 33 for 187 yards with one interception.

The Broncos (3-4) dropped their fourth straight game, and maybe as importantly, lost star linebacker Von Miller to a sprained ankle. The eight-time Pro Bowler missed all of 2020 with a dislodged ankle tendon.

Miller got hurt late in the first half when he banged legs with teammate Dre’Mont Jones while rushing Keenum.

Mayfield, who has been playing with a torn labrum, also has a broken bone in his non-throwing shoulder but believes he can continue to play with it, a person familiar with the quarterback’s health told the Associated Press.

Mayfield hopes the injury improves enough in coming days days that he can play against Pittsburgh on Oct. 31, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

The fourth-year QB revealed the break in his humerus bone — which runs from his shoulder to elbow — to Fox during the network’s pregame show.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski did not get into any specifics about Mayfield’s injury, but said it was “too far away” to know if the QB will be back next week.

Until he’s ready, Keenum showed he can keep the Browns going forward.

So did Johnson, an unlikely hero.

“A guy like him, who the locker room loves and everybody loves — a great young family and just a good overall person,” Keenum said. “To come in here and having an incredible night like that and make some big time plays for us on a national stage, very pumped for him. It was exciting.”

After Bridgewater’s 8-yard TD pass to Melvin Gordon brought the Broncos within 10-7 in the third quarter, Keenum directed a 13-play, 75-yard drive he capped with a 1-yard scoring pass to fullback Johnny Stanton IV.

Keenum made the biggest play on the drive, converting a fourth-and-3 play with a 5-yard scramble to Denver’s 1.

The 33-year-old, who last started for Washington two years ago, was excited about the opportunity to play, saying Wednesday he was “built for this” and Keenum showed he’s more than capable of filling in.


Browns receiver Jarvis Landry had five catches for 37 yards in his first action since missing four games with a sprained knee. He was activated a few hours before the opening kick.


Odell Beckham Jr. had a forgettable night.

The Cleveland star receiver, who didn’t practice this week due to a shoulder injury, had a drop, got called for an illegal formation and was briefly out of the game after banging his shoulder — all in the first half.

Beckham bounced back with two receptions in the third quarter.


Broncos: ILB Micha Kiser (groin) left in the first quarter. Denver was already thin at linebacker after placing Alexander Johnson and Andre Mintze on injured reserve earlier this week.

Browns: WR Donovan People-Jones suffered a groin injury during pregame warmups and didn’t play. … CB Denzel Ward injured his left hamstring in the fourth quarter. … Cleveland was also missing starting RT Jack Conklin, who missed his second straight game with a knee injury.


Broncos: Host Washington on Oct. 31.

Browns: A much-welcomed extra few days off to heal before facing rival Pittsburgh on Halloween.


More AP NFL coverage: and

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10 things: Raptors should look for a floor-spacing centre to help VanVleet and Siakam –



Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors‘ 98-91 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

One — The Raptors keep coming up short. As soon as they find a way to shore up their defence, they begin to struggle with their offence. That’s the sign of a team that just doesn’t have enough to compete at the moment. The Raptors really only have seven dependable players in the first place and three of them are out. It’s too much to ask of third-stringers to be even half-decent second unit reserves.

The results are frustrating, but it’s not unexpected in the slightest. This is now the youngest team in the league with Goran Dragic not on the scene, and they very much play like it. You can’t play as many inexperienced players as the Raptors do and expect consistent results. It’s going to take a lot of patience to follow this team while they battle injuries.

Two — Scoring looks impossible at times for the Raptors, especially against big frontcourts. The Grizzlies had the two beefiest players in the game with Steven Adams and Jaren Jackson Jr. and the Raptors couldn’t overcome their size in the paint. Again, the Raptors have no spacing threat in the frontcourt which is an open invitation for opposing teams to camp out in the middle to cut off driving lanes, and so long as the defence can bottle up Fred VanVleet, it’s a wrap for the rest of the offence.

If Drake were to rap about the Raptors offence, the track would be titled “5 p.m. on Highway 401.” This is not something that will improve until the Raptors upgrade the frontcourt, which they have resisted for two consecutive off-seasons.

Three — Precious Achiuwa continues to swing wildly in his performances. Achiuwa was one of the biggest positives in the last meeting against Memphis, pouring in 17 points in the third quarter to spark the comeback. But he was an entirely different player tonight, struggling in every aspect of the game in 29 empty minutes before fouling out. In all fairness to Achiuwa, the Grizzlies extended Adams’ minutes since he had 50 pounds on the smaller defender, but Achiuwa was getting rag-dolled on every loose ball or play at the rim.

Offensively, Achiuwa missed every shot except for a lob dunk courtesy of VanVleet, and his 1-for-8 stat line is especially damming considering that he isn’t guarded a majority of the time. Achiuwa is missing the basics like angling his screens to free the ball handlers, and his cutting and movement aren’t clever enough to make himself open for the pass. The Raptors clearly valued him highly, going as far as spending $19 million on three games of Dragic, so they will continue to give Achiuwa chances.

Four — This was a rare off night for VanVleet. It’s not so much what he did wrong, as much as he wasn’t brilliant and playing above his level. The Grizzlies had an extra defender back to cut off his drives, while basketball’s equivalent of Wario in Dillon Brooks was hounding VanVleet all game, and when you also factor in Achiuwa being a total dud as a pick-and-roll partner, it was hardly a surprise to see VanVleet quieted.

That being said, he’s faced the same uphill battles all season and he has produced, so this showing does stand out. You have to wonder when exhaustion catches up to him, because he’s the league leader in minutes and the Raptors need him to play out of his mind to compete. How sustainable is that over the course of a season? VanVleet can’t even have one pedestrian game without the offence completely collapsing.

Five — Pascal Siakam’s production came down to his matchup. When he was matched against Jaren Jackson Jr., Siakam couldn’t get his shot off as he neither had the quickness advantage nor the edge in length. Jackson Jr. blocked him and forced Siakam into a handful of hopeless misses. But in the moments where Siakam had Brandon Clarke or Kyle Anderson on him, he immediately went to work in the post and was able to twist and twirl his way to the basket. At one point he had three straight baskets on Anderson after Jackson Jr. picked up his fifth foul, but the scoring dried up immediately after he returned.

On the flip side, Siakam was limited by foul trouble of his own, picking up his fourth foul early in the fourth, and his fifth immediately after checking back into the game. This was hardly a bad game for Siakam, as it’s becoming routine to see him produce, but just not at a level where he can take over the game, which leaves him as a B-level star. If those were the expectations for him, then he’s right where you want him to be. But if you want more, then that’s where frustrations begin.

Six — The Raptors should look for a floor-spacing centre to help VanVleet and Siakam. They are willing passers, and in both cases, they are most adept at making the kickout to open shooters. Siakam in particular can be very effective when he’s free to attack one-on-one, but most of the time he will see the centre rotating over in the paint. Of the players on the roster, the one who comes closest to filling that bill is Scottie Barnes, who is absolutely not a centre, nor is he spacing the floor much, but he is big enough to handle most post players, and the shot is coming around. Barnes is 10-of-21 from three over his last five games since Nick Nurse publicly gave him the green light to fire, and the Raptors have been increasingly open to Barnes playing as the de facto centre, particularly with the second unit.

Seven — Yuta Watanabe is the only bench player who is reliable at the moment. Watanabe’s defence is always sharp, and while he didn’t collect a steal or block, his impact was most evident in the 5-for-18 shooting performance of Brooks. Watanabe was the primary defender on Brooks despite coming off the bench, and he was effective in limiting him all night with how he pressured the ball and stayed in the play.

Offensively, the only expectation for Watanabe is that he knocks down open shots and that he mixes in a cutting layup or a putback, and the shot looked sharp Tuesday. He looked overextended when the Raptors were having him run around for his shot like Klay Thompson, but on standstill catch-and-shoot or even trailing jumpers, Watanabe is accurate. The fact that he was able to play 29 minutes is encouraging since he was previously capped at 14 minutes in his last showing in his return from a calf injury.

Eight — Nurse benched Svi Mykhailiuk in favour of Malachi Flynn. It’s a strange move in the sense that the two guards serve entirely different functions on offence, but Nurse presumably wanted the dual point guard look in hopes of freeing VanVleet as an off-ball option since he wasn’t able to create much against Brooks in pick-and-roll settings.

Flynn does provide more ball-handling, but where he came up short was on his shotmaking. Flynn had so many open chances that were semi-contested at best, but he couldn’t knock them down until his seventh attempt. What’s really confounding about Flynn is that he looks the part as a decent shooter in terms of his form and the consistency is there in warmups, but it doesn’t translate over to the games. It’s almost as if he’s paranoid, either that he’s afraid to be yanked if he misses, or that he’s going to get his shot blocked since he’s short. Either way, confidence is lacking.

Nine — Chris Boucher got one shift in the second half after being skipped in the rotation for a second game. Boucher played seven minutes starting at the end of the third quarter, checking in to replace Siakam who battled foul trouble, and he did look noticeably more active which is what Nurse wanted. Boucher got free for a dunk on an inbound play to beat the clock, and popped free for a lob.

There’s no doubt that he can score if he’s going full speed, even if his throw-in-style jumper isn’t dropping, and it mostly comes down to his determination in attacking the basket. Even though he hasn’t performed up to standards, and even though Nurse has benched him a handful of times, there will still be chances for Boucher to regain his spot in the rotation because of the Raptors’ injuries.

Ten — Isaac Bonga isn’t ready offensively but he holds his own on defence. His ability to read the game allows him to use his length and quickness to good effect as a help defender, and he’s not shabby in guarding the ball just because he’s so long. The Raptors used a zone defence for extended stretches in the second quarter and Bonga didn’t look out of place in his assignments. Offensively, however, Bonga needs to be more prepared.

On one play, he didn’t have his feet set when the kickout pass reached his hands, so he fired up a missed jumper with both feet straddling the three-point line. The next trip down, Bonga did catch it behind the arc at the exact same spot on the left wing, but didn’t opt to take the shot and drove instead into traffic. The path for Bonga to find minutes would be to copy what Watanabe does.

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Hockey Canada's selection camp roster – TSN



December has arrived and that means the start of the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship is just weeks away.

On Wednesday, Hockey Canada released its list of invitees for next week’s World Juniors selection camp as Canada attempts to construct a roster that will strike gold after settling for silver last year, losing 2-0 to the United States in the gold-medal final.

The selection camp takes place in Calgary from Dec. 9-13.

The list is highlighted by returning players in forward Cole Perfetti and defenceman Kaiden Guhle as well as the most recent first overall pick and two other potential stars that could go No. 1 in upcoming NHL drafts.

Perfetti, selected 10th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 2020, scored two goals and added four assists over seven games at last year’s tournament inside the bubble in Edmonton. The 19-year-old native of Whitby, Ont., is pointless over two games with the Jets this season, but has six goals and eight assists over 15 games in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose.

Guhle, 19, netted two goals and added an assist over seven games for Canada last season. The Edmonton native, selected 16th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2020, has two goals and 12 assists over 17 games with the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL this season.

The Buffalo Sabres selected Mississauga’s Owen Power first overall this summer and the 19-year-old highly touted defenceman will be in Calgary for the selection camp. Power has three goals and 20 assists over 16 games with the University of Michigan in 2021-22.

Kingston Frontenacs superstar centre Shane Wright is expected to go first overall in the 2022 Draft and will look to showcase his talents at this year’s World Junior Hockey Championship. The 17-year-old native of Burlington, Ont., is in his second season of OHL play and has netted nine goals with 13 assists over 19 games in 2021-22. Wright tallied 39 goals and 27 assists during the 2019-20 season before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Too much competition for Bedard to crack Canada’s roster?

While Connor Bedard is having a great season with Regina, Bob McKenzie explains why even though he’ll be at camp, there might be too much competition this year for some of the youngsters to crack Canada’s roster.

A lot can change ahead of the 2023 NHL Draft, but many believe forward Connor Bedard has a very good chance of going first overall. The 16-year-old made history last year when he became the first player in WHL history to be given exceptional status. Bedard, out of North Vancouver, scored 12 goals and 16 assists over just 15 games in his first season with the Regina Pats in 2020-21 and has 11 goals with six assists over 21 games in the current campaign.

Wright and Bedard could join Power as No. 1 picks over the next two years and all three could be on Team Canada this holiday season.

Other notable players invited to selection camp include 2021 top-10 picks in Mason McTavish (third overall to the Anaheim Ducks), Kent Johnson (fifth overall to the Columbus Blue Jackets) and Dylan Guenther (ninth overall to the Arizona Coyotes).

The 18-year-old McTavish scored two goals and added an assist earlier this season with the Ducks before he was sent back down to the Peterborough Petes of the OHL. Johnson and Guenther have yet to play in the NHL.

Canada will play two selection camp games on Dec. 11 and Dec. 12.

The World Juniors run from Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Edmonton and Red Deer.

Brett Brochu 5’11” 175 London (OHL) 2022 Draft
Sebastian Cossa 6’7” 203 Edmonton (WHL) DET 2021 (1/15)
Dylan Garand 6’1” 179 Kamloops (WHL) NYR 2020 (4/103)
Lukas Cormier 5’10” 176 Charlottetown (LHJMQ) VGK 2020 (3/68)
Kaiden Guhle 6’3” 203 Prince Albert (WHL) MTL 2020 (1/16)
Daemon Hunt 6’1” 198 Moose Jaw (WHL) MIN 2020 (3/65)
Vincent Iorio 6’3” 204 Brandon (WHL) WSH 2021 (2/55)
Carson Lambos 6’1” 195 Winnipeg (WHL) MIN 2021 (1/26)
Ryan O’Rourke 6’1” 172 Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) MIN 2020 (2/39)
Owen Power 6’5” 214 Michigan (NCAA) BUF 2021 (1/1)
Donovan Sebrango 6’1” 200 Grand Rapids (AHL) DET 2020 (3/63)
Ronan Seeley 6’1” 192 Everett (WHL) CAR 2020 (7/208)
Jack Thompson 6’0” 181 Sudbury (OHL) TBL 2020 (3/93)
Olen Zellweger 5’10” 175 Everett (WHL) ANA 2021 (2/34)
Connor Bedard 5’9” 180 Regina (WHL) 2023 Draft
Xavier Bourgault 6’0” 172 Shawinigan (LHJMQ) EDM 2021 (1/22)
Mavrik Bourque 5’11” 185 Shawinigan (LHJMQ) DAL 2020 (1/30)
Will Cuylle 6’3” 210 Windsor (OHL) NYR 2020 (2/60)
Zach Dean 6’0” 178 Gatineau (LHJMQ) VGK 2021 (1/30)
Elliot Desnoyers 5’11” 172 Halifax (LHJMQ) PHI 2020 (5/135)
William Dufour 6’3” 205 Saint John (LHJMQ) NYI 2020 (5/152)
Luke Evangelista 6’0” 175 London (OHL) NSH 2020 (2/42)
Jack Finley 6’6” 223 Spokane (WHL) TBL 2020 (2/57)
Ridly Greig 5’11” 164 Brandon (WHL) OTT 2020 (1/28)
Dylan Guenther 6’2” 181 Edmonton (WHL) ARI 2021 (1/9)
Kent Johnson 6’1” 165 Michigan (NCAA) CBJ 2021 (1/5)
Hendrix Lapierre 6’0” 181 Acadie-Bathurst (LHJMQ) WSH 2020 (1/22)
Mason McTavish 6’2” 207 Peterborough (OHL) ANA 2021 (1/3)
Jake Neighbours 6’0” 197 Edmonton (WHL) STL 2020 (1/26)
Cole Perfetti 5’11” 177 Manitoba (AHL) WPG 2020 (1/10)
Joshua Roy 5’11” 186 Sherbrooke (LHJMQ) MTL 2021 (5/150)
Justin Sourdif 5’11” 182 Vancouver (WHL) FLA 2020 (3/87)
Logan Stankoven 5’8” 170 Kamloops (WHL) DAL 2021 (2/47)
Ryan Tverberg 5’11” 175 Connecticut (NCAA) TOR 2020 (7/213)
Shane Wright 6’1” 187 Kingston (OHL) 2022 Draft

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The Optimist/Pessimist take on the Maple Leafs’ great November – Pension Plan Puppets



Every now and then, I like to split my Leafs’ fan brain in two and hash out how I’m feeling. This is one of those times. Let’s start with the forwards.

The Forwards

Optimist: Well, after an early slump, it looks like the Leafs have begun to settle in nicely. That low shooting percentage was never going to persist long, and a team this talented—

Pessimist: Shut the fuck up!

Optimist: What?

Pessimist: Stop it! Stop it! Shut the fuck up.

Optimist: Look, we have to do the bit here. Come on man.

Pessimist: I can’t do this anymore. I can’t take this again. I’m seriously going to go out of my mind.

Optimist: They had a really good November!

Pessimist: THAT’S THE PROBLEM. Of course they did! They were really good almost the entire month! All the best players scored. The supporting cast all outperformed their salaries, except Nick Ritchie, but he tripped Brad Marchand so honestly give him a raise. Jack Campbell—

Optimist: Hey, we’re just trying to do the forwards here, there’s a format.

Pessimist: I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE FORMAT. Jack Campbell absolutely stood on his generous, beneficent head and played like the best goalie on the planet. The Leafs didn’t even make his job that hard most nights. They actually shut down teams! I didn’t even know that was allowed! If there was a dark spot it was that Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl—

The Defence

Pessimist: —as I was saying, it was that Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl look somewhat off their previous heights, but they haven’t really been awful. Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie have played just fine and Rasmus Sandin is having a coming out party as a fancy stat king. Timothy Liljegren has at least revived his expectations to the point of looking like a third-pair NHL defender, and he’s still only 22. He still has time to improve!

Optimist: You’re really throwing me off here. You’re supposed to say things that make me feel bad, and that I disagree with. That’s the whole premise.

Pessimist: Don’t you realize when you’re being set up?

Optimist: Oh.

Pessimist: The whole reason for Leaf pessimism is because every time something has seemed to go well for the team, the universe has pulled the rug out from under us to reveal a snake pit, and we drop down to be eaten by vipers. All the least funny people in the world shout “1967” for another summer, and then we start again, and the universe shows us another very fine rug and invites us to stand on it.

Optimist: More or less.

Pessimist: So when you see a month that’s been as good as this one, as indisputably positive, that means the universe has really decided to ruin us this time.

Optimist: Nothing’s going to be worse than losing to Montreal.

Pessimist: Won’t it? What if the Leafs lose in the playoffs to a bottom-feeder on a goalie run?

Optimist: I mean they basically did.

Pessimist: What if they lose to an AHL team? Or even worse, the Vancouver Canucks? What if they lose in so utterly demoralizing a fashion that Kyle Dubas gets sent to prison? What if all of the shittiest guys I went to law school with form a hockey team in between their jobs at Fraud & Tax Evasion LLC and beat the Leafs in Round 1? What if I wake up and it’s the first day of school again and I can’t find my pants?

Optimist: I feel like this may be more of a recurring dream issue for you.

Pessimist: The point is that yes, the Leafs have actually looked good, but they’ve looked good before, and look how that turned out. And further to that: the biggest driver in them looking so good has actually been Jack Campbell, who is a goalie.

[ominous music]


Optimist: [turning off ominous music] So? All good teams have good goaltending, except when the Red Wings won Cups with Chris Osgood just to give themselves a challenge.

Pessimist: Right, but imagine it now. Jack Campbell, universally agreed to be a sweetheart, who has heroically led this team up the standings, has never played 35 games in an NHL season before. Does that not sound like the perfect setup for heartbreak once this cursed and self-destructive franchise finally pushes him past his limits?

Optimist: So essentially, your reason for pessimism now is that everything is going too well.

Pessimist: It’s certainly a concern.

Optimist: You are insane.

Pessimist: Okay, here’s my sane reason, then:

Forwards (Again)

Pessimist: The real thing that frightens me about this team is that it’s reliant very heavily on four players to score, and we’re coming off two post-seasons where those four players have, for different reasons, not totaled enough goals to win a series. Yes, David Kämpf and Ondřej Kaše have been both a lot of fun and remarkably effective, but that’s a combination of a centre who generates near-zero offence on his own and a winger whose history and playstyle make him feel like Mr. Glass from Unbreakable. (If you haven’t seen the movie, Mr. Glass is not the character described in the title.) On that note, the candidates for 3LW are respectively:

  • going to rush but never score on those rushes (Ilya Mikheyev)
  • going to rush and then float a wrister into the goalie’s crest from the other side of the city (Pierre Engvall)
  • Nick Ritchie (Nick Ritchie)

And so we’re left with the same question that’s been inherent in this team’s roster construction since they decided to give four undeniably excellent players more money than God. Can you win with a forward lineup this top-heavy? You can win in the regular season, and of course they could have won in any of the last four playoff series. Any team that gets to a Game 7 (or a Qualifying Round Game 5) has a real chance if for no other reason than hockey is 50% pinball. But the real reason that no one’s as excited about this team as their record and their xG suggest they ought to be is that nagging fear that they’re a Goliath heading for a slingshot tournament.

Optimist: Is there anything the Leafs could do to convince you they’re going to win in the playoffs short of them winning in the playoffs?

Pessimist: There’s not much. But I’m going to remind you of something. Back before the Leafs went on this November heater, they played a game against a Pittsburgh Penguins team that had approximately zero of the star players you associate with the Pittsburgh Penguins. And they got their asses beat. 7-1, in case you’ve forgotten. The heat map for that game looked like this.

This map shows where each team’s shots were coming from on offence: the Toronto Maple Leafs on the left, and the understudies playing the role of the Pittsburgh Penguins on the right. Normally, when the Leafs are going, their heat map looks a lot like the Pens did: they have a big, terrifying splotch of red from the slot. That’s what you want: that’s where the goals are, and when the Leafs are firing on all cylinders, that’s where they get them. When the Leafs are getting shut down, it looks a lot more like the Leafs’ map did that night: as if they can’t or won’t go where the goals are. That, by the way, is how they fell to the Montreal Canadiens.

Optimist: Okay, so is the goal to have a team that never has a bad game? The standard is to win or at least look good every single night in a sport as random as hockey? That adds up for an eternal pessimist, because no team ever, including the dynasties, has met that bar over a season.

Yes, that Leafs-Pens game was awful. The fact you had to reach back five weeks for your example is a sign of just how well things have gone since, because the Leafs have been getting to the slot, including against some teams much more formidable than half the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Calgary Flames, who are probably the best defensive team in the NHL, who are coached by Checking Cowboy Darryl Sutter, couldn’t keep them away from there. Not coincidentally, the Leafs won the game.

The Leafs are the best team in the NHL by scoring chances now, as per NST. Their stars have started putting up points again, and they’ve gotten enough out of their complementary players, as you said. I’ll indulge the eye-test here, since as a split personality you and I have the same eyes: the Leafs cleanly outplayed several good teams in this stretch, to the point where they made victories over teams like Nashville seem downright boring. The Leafs have been good before. Have they ever been so good they could actually make it seem like victory was a foregone conclusion? Because this past month they’ve done it more than once.

What you’re asking for, essentially, is proof that the Leafs aren’t going to fall apart in the playoffs again. There really is no way for them to win May games in November, not even if they push the Deserve To Win O Meter to 100. The losses to Columbus and Montreal sucked, but they happened, and now they’re over. If you want to find bad games or worrying patterns, you’ll always be able to, because the game is too random. The Leafs are going to have bad games and bad stretches. At some point this year they’ll have a losing streak; hopefully a short one.

But what are they in the aggregate? They’re a good fucking hockey team. The wins, the points, the underlying stats, the star production, the goaltending, they’re all there and they all really did happen. Imagine this team were the Seattle Kraken, coming in with no history.

Pessimist: How did the Seattle Kraken get Auston Matthews?

Optimist: Just go with me on this. If this team had no history, they would be at the top of the power rankings, they’d be admired as a complete threat. Potential playoff opponents would be hoping to avoid them. They would see them rationally based on how well they’ve been playing. To be optimistic about the Leafs, that’s all you really have to do.

Pessimist: They’re more flawed than that. But more to the point: you can’t throw out the playoff history because that’s where teams are measured. Until this team actually proves something in the playoffs, I’m always going to have an argument you can’t really answer. And it’ll always hang over any number of nice regular season wins.

Optimist: Then I’ll say it: I think this is the year that argument gets put to bed.


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