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Kyle Lowry's triple-double helps short-handed Raptors zoom past Pistons –



The Toronto Raptors beat Detroit but lost two more players in the process.

“A win with a heavy price,” coach Nick Nurse said.

Kyle Lowry had 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for a triple-double and the Raptors had an 11-0 run in the third quarter on their way to a 112-99 victory over the Pistons on Wednesday night. By the time the game ended, however, Toronto was short a few key players after Marc Gasol and Norman Powell left with injuries.

The Raptors were without guard Fred VanVleet because of right knee injury. Then Gasol left in the first quarter with a left hamstring strain. With 3:17 left in the fourth, Powell departed holding onto his left shoulder.

“Don’t know much,” Nurse said. “We’ve got to check them both tomorrow.”

WATCH | Raptors pick up win despite injury losses:

Toronto beats Detroit 112-99 but Marc Gasol and Norman Powell sustain injuries. 1:47

Toronto still had enough firepower to handle the Pistons. Detroit allowed 133 points in a loss to Washington on Monday night. The Pistons got frontcourt standouts Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond back from injuries for this game, but they still allowed 70 points in the first half and 40 in the second quarter.

“You never want to give up that many points, but I liked our start, I liked our effort and I like the competitive edge,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “If we can keep that up, we can build on that, but that’s still one of the best teams in our league.”

Lowry fed Serge Ibaka for a dunk with 37.4 seconds left for the assist he needed for a triple-double. That was a nice accomplishment, but now the defending champions will have to find out the extent of their latest injuries.

“We avoided the injury bug last year, and that really helped us throughout the whole year,” Lowry said. “It’s pretty tough for our team, but we’ve got a bunch of guys that have to step up now, and hopefully it’s nothing serious with those two guys.”

Lowry already missed time this season with a thumb injury, and Ibaka was sidelined with a sprained ankle.

Toronto led 81-76 before its 11-point run in the third. Pascal Siakam and Ibaka had back-to-back dunks that made it 90-76, and a layup by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson pushed the lead to 16.

Drummond had 22 points and 18 rebounds for Detroit.

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Canadiens will keep paying Claude Julien $5 million for another season – Montreal Gazette



“I did tell Geoff (Molson) what I was doing and he supported my decision,” GM Marc Bergevin says after firing head coach.

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With no fans in the arenas because of COVID-19 and very little revenue coming in, these are not good financial times for any NHL team.

So Canadiens owner/president Geoff Molson can’t be thrilled about having to pay Claude Julien his $5-million annual salary for the rest of this season and all of the next one. Julien, who was fired by GM Marc Bergevin on Wednesday and replaced by Dominique Ducharme, was in the fourth year of his five-year, US$25-million contract. Associate coach Kirk Muller, who was also fired Wednesday, was in the final season of his contract.

“I’m well aware of what you just mentioned,” Bergevin said during a video conference from Winnipeg Wednesday afternoon when Julien’s contract was brought up. “I did tell Geoff what I was doing and he supported my decision. That’s all I could say.”

This is the second time Molson has had to continue paying a fired coach with Bergevin as GM. Bergevin hired Julien on Feb. 14, 2017 to replace Michel Therrien, who still had another two full seasons remaining on his contract.


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The fact Ducharme was already on the payroll as an assistant coach will lessen the financial hit on Molson.

After playing about $8 million under the NHL salary cap for the last three seasons, Bergevin spent right up to the $81.5-million cap with his off-seasons additions and expectations were high coming into this season. The Canadiens got off to a 7-1-2 start, but are 2-4-2 in the last eight games.

“I know what type of team we have,” Bergevin said. “I know what we’re capable of doing.

“The hard thing to watch is the swing from being a really good hockey team that was playing with pace, was engaged, were playing to our identity, which is speed,” he added. “And then going to the other side where the team was looking for anything. The expression we were chasing our tail … we were chasing the puck. We were not in sync and that was frustrating for me. Sometimes you can blame injuries, but we had none. Zero. If the message is the same and they’re acting differently, then the change needs to be made.”


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Bergevin had a sleepless night in Ottawa Tuesday after the Canadiens lost 5-4 to the Senators in a shootout and finally decided it was time for a coaching change. He informed Julien and Muller of his decision Wednesday morning before the Canadiens flew to Winnipeg, where they will play the Jets Thursday night (8 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

“Yeah, it’s emotional because they’re good people,” Bergevin said. “It’s not fun. It’s a tough part of my job. To walk in these two men’s rooms this morning was not easy.

“I said at training camp we mean business,” the GM added. “We raised the bar. It’s not an easy day for anyone, for me personally to make this decision. … Expectations are high. I expect to tack the boat first and for the players to respond.”


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If they don’t, it could be Bergevin looking for a job at the end of the season. He has one more year remaining on his contract.

“Listen, the day that I took the job here it came with a lot of things, including pressure from the media and our fans,” he said. “I have no problem with that. I make decisions, I live with them and the consequences. But I’m very confident in our team and I’m very confident in Dominique Ducharme.”

  1. Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin watches his team's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs during second period in Montreal on Feb. 10, 2021.

    Stu Cowan: Players forced Canadiens GM’s hand in firing of Julien

  2. Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien looks toward the ice as his team takes on the Ottawa Senators during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.

    Jack Todd: Canadiens’ sweet start ends in bitter outcome for Julien


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Sheldon Keefe Post Game, Leafs 2 vs. Flames 1: "Part of it is perhaps Willy being misunderstood… Part of it is that he still has to grow as a player" – Maple Leafs Hot Stove



Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 2-1 overtime win over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night, improving the Leafs’ record to 15-4-2 on the season.

On why William Nylander seems to be misunderstood within the market:

In the last couple of games, he has had real good legs. He has been skating well with the puck. I said the other night that it feels like he was ready to break out. That’s good.

Why is he misunderstood? Willy has to own some of that. He has got find more consistency in his game. He and I have talked a lot about those kinds of things. He has got to be engaged and good without the puck.

Part of it is perhaps being misunderstood. Part of it is that he still has to grow as a player.

On Michael Hutchinson’s performance:

I thought we did a good job once again here of not giving up [a lot] with the exception of the goal we gave up. That is the one big chance. That was really the way the game was going: Who is going to give up the big chance? We had a breakdown there. It felt like we stopped playing for a little bit and exposed ourselves there. That is an area where you never want to give that up. Aside from that, I thought we did a good job.

Certainly, I thought Hutch was really solid. He gave us lots of confidence to just keep playing today. He gave us a chance to win. He keeps it at 0 for most of the game, and he keeps it at 1. You’ve got a hope and a chance. We found a way through a nice group effort there at the crease to get one in. It gives us a chance for Will to do his thing and win the game on a spectacular goal.

On whether Auston Matthews’ wrist was bugging him as the game went along:

Yes, it was. Yeah.

On why he started Tavares-Marner and then Matthews-Nylander in OT:

It was really just as simple as Auston wasn’t comfortable taking the faceoff. It was just the way his wrist was feeling. The faceoff, to me, is really important at three-on-three. We sent John for that. We intended to send Auston on the fly. It just so happened we had a d-zone faceoff, but it was on the right side, and Will took it and won it. We won both of those faceoffs, and it gave us the puck for the bulk of the time we spent there.

If you have the puck, you give yourself a good chance at three-on-three to make something happen.

On whether Matthews’ wrist situation is a real concern and if it can be easily treated:

I think it is something that can be treated. He has been dealing with it for a long time now throughout the season. It hasn’t slowed him down. Today, it was a factor.

We do have a couple of days here before we play again — a full day off tomorrow, a practice and travel day, and then we get out West. We will see how he is. We will continue to take care of him and monitor it. We don’t think it is anything more at this point than what he has been dealing with.

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Report Cards: William Nylander solves Rittich, Toronto Maple Leafs triumph in overtime over Flames – Maple Leafs Hot Stove



We nearly had to start this article with, “Will the Leafs ever score again? My column:”

After getting stonewalled by Dave Rittich for 58.5 minutes, the Leafs were finally able to break through with a greasy William Nylander goal after pulling their netminder. Nylander also scored the game-winner in overtime, which feels oddly poetic after a week of extremely rational discourse on the Swedish winger.

The final score was 2-1 Toronto, although 95% of this game was played with the scoreboard showing zeroes. Calgary didn’t bury the game’s first goal until there was 3:27 remaining in the third period. It was a true battle of the backups.

Enough preamble. We all know why you’re here. It’s time to hand out some report cards!

5 Stars

Game Puck: William Nylander (RW, #88) — I’ve spent the last week reading and listening to a lot of William Nylander takes. Some are more nuanced than others, but the consistent trend you’ll notice among his critics is their disdain for low-effort plays like these.

That’s a bad look, especially considering the scoreboard.

Kudos to Sheldon Keefe for not making the typical 200 Hockey Men move and benching his star player immediately afterward.

By putting faith in one of his best offensive players with the game on the line, Keefe was rewarded with one of the greasiest goals I’ve ever seen Nylander score.

He somehow gets four separate whacks at it here and somehow finds a way to tuck it home.

His next goal required much more skill.

This is turning into a mini Nylander article — as it should. We’ve been talking a lot about him lately. Tonight’s game gave us a little bit of everything:

  • Battling hard along the boards with Mikael Backlund
  • Swinging low on the breakout and transporting the puck up the ice
  • A frustrating moment defensively
  • High-end skill to generate a few goals offensively

By now, I doubt anything I type is going to change your mind on how you feel about Nylander. Frankly, I just think he’s a good hockey player.

Michael Hutchinson (G, #30) — Other than that Alex Mangiapane goal from in tight he had little chance on, Hutchinson was perfect on Wednesday night. His biggest saves of the night came on a Josh Leivo wrister and 3v3 rush by Elias Lindholm.

We’re always dealing with small samples anytime we try to assess backup goaltenders, but that’s a couple of starts in a row where Hutchinson has looked solid.

Alex Barabanov (LW, #94) — I feel bad for essentially writing him off after playing poorly on the fourth line to start the year; he’s looked great in these past two games and is showing some encouraging signs he could be acclimating to the league. Right from Barabanov’s first shift tonight, you could tell he was playing with confidence. He tried that NHL 21 deke where you put the puck between your legs to dance around the defender.

Later in the third, he had a chance to pot the game-winner with a chance in tight off a Hyman pass, not to mention a breakaway shortly afterward where Barabanov almost tucked it five-hole.

Sign me up for more of this Barabanov moving forward.

Travis Dermott (LD, #23) — This was Travis Dermott’s best game of the season and I’m not sure it’s close. The coaching staff rewarded him by playing him over 22 minutes, by far the most they’ve trusted him with this season.

As always, he was making life difficult on opposing forwards by cutting them off early in the neutral zone. What impressed me more was how stable he looked defensively. He was getting his stick in the passing lanes and did a great job taking away the slot.

With Jake Muzzin out, Dermott was able to get some PK2 time with Bogosian. Both defenders did well to prevent Calgary from gaining the zone easily. This aspect of play is huge for Dermott; if he wants to earn more ice time in Toronto, he’ll need to find a way onto that second PK unit.

4 Stars

Auston Matthews (C, #34) — He picked up an assist on that mad scramble to tie the game and another apple in overtime with his drop-pass to Nylander. Earlier in the second period, Matthews showed off some of his new-found speed on what Chris Cuthbert called a “dangerous dash.”

He was flying the rest of the period, up until the point where his hand got jammed awkwardly into the boards. That appeared to make high-skill plays a bit more difficult for Matthews the rest of the way; he missed an easy pass to Nylander the shift right after the collision.

That’s definitely something to keep an eye on. Those hands were made for goal-scoring.

Jason Spezza (RW, #19) — Mitch Marner & Co could learn a lot from watching Jason Spezza’s direct approach on PP entries. He doesn’t overthink things. He just skates north as fast as he can to gain the zone.

He shot it on this play, but usually, he finds an open man right after stepping over the blueline. Spezza had the highest success rate on 5v4 zone entries last season among Leafs players. If I’m Matthews or Marner, I want to learn his secrets.

3 Stars

Team Length™ — Basketball scouts are obsessed with wingspan. Players who have a combination of length and athleticism are super annoying to play against.

On the Maple Leafs, that sounds a lot to me like Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev. Neither player is a game-breaker offensively, but they’re able to use their speed and length to apply pressure and force turnovers. It can be frustrating to watch Mikheyev fail to convert Grade-A chances on the penalty kill, but at some point, one of those is going to go in…right?

Alex Kerfoot (LW, #15) — It was Kerfoot who completed the 2-on-1 pass across to Mikheyev. Those two have created quite a few odd-man rushes on the penalty kill this season.

At even strength, Kerfoot has looked a lot more explosive in transition, using his speed to carry the puck up the ice. My theory is that John Tavares taking more of the defensive responsibilities at centre has helped open up ice for Kerfoot off the rush.

The 1st Pair — This was a good but not great game from Morgan Rielly and TJ Brodie. The former helped create two of Toronto’s most dangerous chances offensively, while the latter covered lots of ice when he was defending the neutral zone.

Brodie also does a great job of settling things down on the breakout, which I wanted to show by pulling up the following clip.

Again, you can make any player look good or bad by cherrypicking the right clips. It’s worth noting Brodie has a long history of advancing the puck up the ice with possession, which is why I don’t feel too bad sharing this clip.

The 3rd Pair — Early on, I loved Mikko Lehtonen‘s play. He was closing the gap well in transition and starting the breakout out of his own end. Lehtonen also uncorked a big shot on the power play that made it through traffic and appeared to give Rittich some trouble.

Zach Bogosian was excellent on the penalty kill. As we mentioned, that combination of him and Dermott works well when defending the blue line, which has also been the case at 5v5 this season. There were a few plays Bogosian completely botched in the offensive zone, but for the most part, I thought he was doing his job as the Leafs‘ stay at home 3rd pair defender.

2 Stars

John Tavares (C, #91) — One of these days, Tavares is going to score on Rittich. This is not that day. He got robbed in tight again by Calgary’s goaltender on his best chance of the game.

I’m not too worried about a goalie making a big save. What does concern me is the fact that it was Tavares’ only Grade-A scoring chance of the night. He hasn’t looked very dangerous off the rush this season, which was the case again tonight.

We all know Tavares is an elite offensive talent, but he certainly hasn’t been putting up those kinds of results lately.

Mitch Marner (RW, #16) — That tidbit on PP entries in the Spezza section was directed mainly towards Marner. He’s the one Toronto typically trusts to gain the zone for them at 5v4. In his last two games, he’s really struggled in that department.

Marner was excellent on the PK again, although you’d like to see a bit more from him at 5v5.

Zach Hyman (LW, #11) — Aside from a wrist shot that Rittich had to fight off, this was a fairly quiet game from Hyman. As Toronto’s “energy” forward, I’d like to see him bring a bit more in the 6:48 he played against Matthew Tkachuk.

Travis Boyd (C, #72) — He did have a couple of decent passes in this game, along with a strong net drive that resulted in a tripping penalty. Otherwise, I didn’t notice too much from Boyd tonight.

Justin Holl (RD, #3) — Although his pairing put up great results at even strength, I thought that had more to do with his partner. Holl flubbed a few passes on the breakout, which isn’t common for him. He also lost body position on Joakim Nordstrom, leading to a tripping penalty.

As a final piece of criticism, if you watch the Mangiapane goal again, you’ll notice Holl had a chance to block the passing lane out front. Multiple things have to go wrong for a puck to end up in the back of the net (i.e. Nylander on that play), but Holl deserves some share of the responsibility, too.

1 Star

Jimmy Vesey (LW, #26) — I’m starting to feel bad for Jimmy Vesey. For some reason, the Leafs tried him on PP1 tonight. It went about as well you’d expect. With his lack of passing ability, a lot of plays tend to die on his stick.

I don’t hold any personal vendetta against the guy. I just don’t think he’s been a very effective NHL player this season.

Heat Map

Here’s a quick look at where each team’s shots were coming from at even strength, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.

The Leafs controlled 58 percent of the shots and 54 percent of the scoring chances at 5-on-5. They almost got goalie’d — then Calgary got Nylander-ed.

Game Score

Game score is a metric developed by The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn to measure single-game performance. You can read more about it here.

Final Grade: B+

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