ST. PAUL, Minn. — Not a bad way for the Maple Leafs to hit the mid-point of the 2019-20 regular season.
And Happy New Year indeed.
The Leafs continue to grow under Sheldon Keefe, and continue to win hockey games while adjusting to a higher tempo, offensively-driven system, the latest victory a 4-1 triumph over the Minnesota Wild on New Year’s Eve.
Few teams can say afterward they enjoyed a never-in-doubt win, but the Leafs could claim as much on Tuesday at the Xcel Energy Center, building off a strong first period to improve to 13-4-1 since Keefe replaced Mike Babcock as coach.
“Efficient is a good term to describe it,” Keefe said. “I didn’t think we gave up a lot, especially in the third period when we expected them to push.
“I don’t think we made the best plays all the time through the neutral zone and that slowed us down a little bit.
“But we continued to get the puck back. We thought they would be forechecking us really hard and they would shoot the puck a lot and that didn’t seem to happen a whole lot. Just the way that we retained the puck took the wind out of their sails and we hope that that can continue.”
Overall, the Leafs are 22-14-5 and with 49 points will start 2020 in second place in the Atlantic Division.
The victory, the Leafs’ ninth in 11 games, was highlighted by another goal from Auston Matthews, giving him 27 and putting him on pace for 54. Certainly, if Matthews stays healthy, he should set a career-high, his highest output coming three seasons ago when he scored 40 goals.
As it is, Matthews finished the calendar year with 50 goals in 91 games, including playoffs.
William Nylander, for the first time in his NHL career, has scored a goal in four consecutive games. Nylander, who has had instant chemistry with captain John Tavares, also became the third Leafs player to score the winning goal in three consecutive road games, joining Mats Sundin (2001) and Alexander Steen (2007).
Tavares sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 25 seconds to play.
“Things are building, the confidence is getting better, I think we’re starting to have a really good feel about the way we want to play,” Tavares said of his level of optimism as the new year starts.
“We know we can still be better, but certainly I think the things (Keefe) has implemented have really translated well with the skill set of our team.
“We have responded to this point, there’s a lot of hockey left. We have to keep building from here.”
Matthews gave the the Leafs a 3-0 lead at 8:34 of the second on a power play, finishing a tic-tac-toe feed from Nylander.
The Wild got on the scoreboard at 11:46 on a power play when Ryan Suter, from the point, beat a screened Frederik Andersen.
The Leafs, who play in Winnipeg against the Jets on Thursday, couldn’t have played a much tidier first period.
Not only did Toronto take a 2-0 lead into the intermission on goals by Alex Kerfoot and Nylander, it killed off two penalties and held the Wild to just two shots on goal while the teams played five on five.
Kerfoot opened the scoring at 5:55 not long after Wild forward Zach Parise turned the puck over to Nylander. The Leafs kept control and Tavares eventually found Kerfoot, who snapped a shot over goaltender Devan Dubnyk’s catching glove.
Nylander scored with 31 seconds remaining in the period. Tyson Barrie, behind the goal line, got the puck to the front of the net where Matthews jammed away at it. Dubnyk got turned around, and before he could get set, Nylander put the puck in the open net.
“I think there’s still steps you want to take,” Nylander when asked if he thinks he is all the way back after missing a chunk of last season. “You’re never satisfied, so you want to keep going.”
The Leafs lost Travis Dermott and Pierre Engvall for brief periods, but both returned. Keefe indicated he didn’t think there were any health issues with either.
Toronto outshot Minnesota 29-27.
Matthews will represent the Leafs in the NHL all-star game for the fourth year in a row, and no, he’s not getting tired of the experience.
And at the age of 22, Matthews isn’t anywhere near trying to beg off from the weekend. Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin is skipping the all-star festivities for the second year in a row, while Detroit Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin told reporters on Tuesday that though he is Detroit’s candidate for Last Man In voting, he would rather have the rest than head to St. Louis for the all-star festivities.
Matthews’ family enjoys the weekend as much as he does, but he can see the advantage in having those days to go on a quick vacation and relax.
“I understand both sides of it,” Matthews said. “A guy like Ovie wanting that extra rest, winning means the most.
“For me, it’s still pretty cool to go. It’s a tremendous honour.”
That Andersen, heading to his first all-star game, will be going will make the event that much more memorable for Matthews.
“Absolutely,” Matthews said. “Very deserving. You could have made an argument for him last year as well. The fact that we’re going to be going, we’re pretty stoked about it.”
Andersen, the first NHL goalie to win 20 games this season, said he has not made it a personal goal to get to the all-star game. Well, sort of.
“Both yes and no,” Andersen said. “If I play the way I can, I should have a good chance to be in there. We do have a lot of good players on this team and very few spots on the (all-star) roster. More guys have been deserving to go over the last few years and that’s just how it is.”
Keefe didn’t have to be told that Adam Brooks played just four minutes 50 seconds in his NHL debut on Saturday. “I thought he was good and I talked to him about the fact that I lost his line there for good chunks of the game,” Keefe said. “It’s on me, not on him. The nice thing I saw him doing was skating and playing with confidence. He’s skating at a higher level now than he has been that I’ve seen him in this time in pro.” Brooks played eight minutes 52 seconds against Minnesota … The Toronto Marlies ended the calendar year on a sour note, losing 4-1 to Cleveland on Tuesday at the Coca-Cola Coliseum. Kenny Agostino scored the Marlies goal, while Kasimir Kaskisuo made 32 saves. Toronto, which dropped to 19-10-2-1, next plays on Friday in Syracuse.
Winnipeg Jets vs. Washington Capitals – 2/27/20 NHL Pick, Odds, and Prediction – Sports Chat Place
Washington Capitals (39-18-6) at Winnipeg Jets (32-27-6)
NHL Hockey: Thursday, February 27, 2020 at 8:00 pm (Bell MTS Place)
The Line: Winnipeg Jets +130 / Washington Capitals -145 — Over/Under: 6.5
TV: TSN3, NBCS-Washington
The Washington Capitals and the Winnipeg Jets meet in the second half of a home-and-home set in NHL action from Bell MTS Place on Thursday night.
The Washington Capitals come into this one looking to build on back-to-back wins while Winnipeg will be looking to snap a three-game losing skid after Washington took the first leg of this matchup by a final score of 4-3 in a shootout in Washington last time out.
Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring for the Caps just under two minutes into the game before Jakub Vrana doubled Washington’s lead just after the midway point of the opening period. Garnet Hathaway pushed Washington’s lead to 3-0 with just under seven minutes to go in the 2nd, but Nikolaj Ehlers would get Winnipeg on the board with just under two minutes to go in the 2nd period. Kyle Connor would cut the deficit to 3-2 just before the nine-minute mark of the 3rd and Mark Scheifele tied the game at three with just over three minutes to go, eventually forcing overtime. The extra period solved nothing, so it was off to the shootout where each side had one goal through the first three shooters and both sides had a goal in round 4 sudden death. In round 5, Ehlers missed for Winnipeg while Alex Ovechkin buried for Washington, giving the Caps the win and the extra point that goes along with it.
Braden Holtby ended up with the win for Washington, improving his record to 23-13-5 on the year after stopping 30 of 33 shots faced in the winning effort while Laurent Brossoit took the loss for the Jets, falling to 6-7-1 on the year after giving up his 3 goals on 37 shots.
Washington is 19-9 in their last 28 road games and 39-19 in their last 58 games against a team with a losing record while the under is 4-1 in their last 5 games against the Western Conference. Winnipeg is 1-8 in their last 9 games as a home underdog and 2-9 in their last 11 games against the under is 5-2-1 in their last 8 games overall. Washington is 13-4 in the last 17 meetings between these two teams.
The plus money with a home dog is usually worth a look, but Winnipeg is slumping right now, losing 3 straight coming into this one, and that’s not what you want playing against a Washington team that’s still the best in the league on the road and leads the NHL in money won on the road this season. I just think that Washington is in the driver’s seat to pick up another win and to sweep the home-and-home, so I’ll lay the juice with the Capitals on the road here.
Terence Davis was drawn to Raptors’ ‘winning’ culture as an undrafted rookie – Sportsnet.ca
No matter the stature of a player trying to make the leap from college basketball to the NBA, the transition can be challenging.
Expectations, both internal and external, skyrocket. Margins for error shrink. Obligations and temptations alike multiply.
It’s the transition from high school to university, except there are millions of people watching and life-changing sums of money hanging in the balance.
Belief in who one is and what one can accomplish are essential. Terence Davis, who rejected the idea of signing a two-way deal after being passed over at the NBA draft — opting instead to become a 22-year-old unrestricted free agent — had enough of both to spare.
“On draft night, I tweeted that I couldn’t take a two-way deal — that I was better than that,” Davis said during a phone interview on Tim and Sid Thursday. “Probably some people took it as arrogant, but it wasn’t. It was just, you know, something I really believed in.”
With that level of self-belief comes decisions, though. When draft night ended, Davis had to begin the process of finding an NBA home. As he did, the Toronto Raptors‘ history of turning players in his position into NBA-calibre talent wasn’t lost on him.
“I actually came by the tweet where Fred [VanVleet talked about having] to do the same thing,” Davis said. “I did the same thing he did, stand in front of my family and tell them that I wasn’t getting drafted. …I definitely knew that guys would come through Toronto and have pretty big careers.”
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VanVleet and Davis went on to have a dinner in Los Angeles, which would act as a building block in their friendship before he came to Toronto. But more than just that connection, it was the type of organizational structure the Raptors have created over the last decade.
“The organization is one of a kind,” he said. “I’m so fortunate and blessed to have my first years in the NBA at this organization. …You got Masai [Ujiri, team president] and Nick Nurse [team head coach] and they’re all about winning. There’s a winning culture here, and the skill development is off the charts.”
Reaching a decision to join the Raptors was one step, but far from the last one. Davis signed a two-year deal with Toronto after an impressive showing at NBA Summer League. Then he turned heads with a series of strong pre-season performances and earned immediate regular season playing time in Nurse’s rotation.
By any measure, as the schedule reaches the home stretch before the playoffs, he’s exceeded expectations during his rookie season.
In 58 games so far, he’s averaging 8.2 points on 47.4 per cent shooting from the floor — including 41.5 per cent from long range on a little under four attempts per game — and has consistently risen to the occasion when core rotation players have missed time with injury.
No one — much less someone just taking their first NBA steps — makes it by going it alone, though. And as Davis has worked through the growing pains of adjusting to NBA life, there’s one player in particular who’s been a guiding hand.
“Serge, Serge Ibaka,” Davis said. “I really leaned on him because he’s been in the league a very long time …man, he just helped me out through so many things in the season, [whether it was] eating right, or taking care of your body, putting the extra work in, the extra time in — even at home games, me and him, we go in and we get a lift in after home games.
“…not many rookies have a guy like that, a vet like that [who] they can lean on and is mentoring them. I really thank Serge for that and I hope the relationship can continue for years to come.”
Bobby Ryan receives standing ovation after hat trick leads Senators to win – CBC.ca
Bobby Ryan had a hat trick in his first home game in more than three months to lead the Ottawa Senators to a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.
Ryan entered the joint NHL/NHLPA assistance program on Nov. 20 after admitting to having a problem with alcohol.
He had last played on Nov. 16 in Buffalo but had been skating on his own since late December.
Fans were quick to cheer Ryan on Thursday, giving him a standing ovation and chanting his name.
Bobby Ryan fighting back tears on the bench after recording a hat trick in his return to Ottawa and receiving a massive ovation from the fans <a href=”https://t.co/lpVpDSh7J1″>pic.twitter.com/lpVpDSh7J1</a>
Connor Brown and Rudolfs Balcers also scored as Ottawa (22-31-12) snapped a four-game winless streak. Marcus Hogberg was solid making 32 saves.
J.T. Miller and Tyler Toffoli scored for the Canucks (34-23-6), while Thatcher Demko stopped 21 shots.
Vancouver missed out on an opportunity to gain ground in the Pacific Division as they played game two of a four-game road trip (1-1-0).
Leading 2-1 to open the third, the Senators regained their two-goal lead just 14 seconds in as Ottawa won the opening faceoff to take control offensively.
Balcers scored when he picked up a Chris Tierney rebound. Brown hit the 40-point mark (14 goals and 26 assists) for the first time in his career with an assist on the play.
The Canucks made it a one-goal game again as Toffoli tipped Miller’s point shot midway through the period, but Ryan scored his second of the night with just over two minutes remaining and then added an empty-net goal to complete the hat trick.
There are no words for moments like these.<br><br>It’s great to have you back, Bobby! <a href=”https://t.co/JYdcMIpCuj”>pic.twitter.com/JYdcMIpCuj</a>
Hogberg was solid through the second period, but the Canucks finally found a way to beat him with 15 seconds remaining in the period to make it 2-1.
The Senators netminder had robbed Vancouver numerous times through the period, including a point blank save on Jay Beagle, but was unable to stop Miller’s point shot.
For the second straight game the Canucks gave up the first two goals as the Senators scored twice in a span of 31 seconds.
Brown opened the scoring as he took the puck at centre and came down and beat Demko with a wrist shot. Seconds later Ryan made it 2-0 with his first since the opening game of the season.
Notes: Ottawa’s Colin White and Anthony Duclair missed their second straight game due to injury. Vancouver’s Jordie Benn and Zack MacEwen were a healthy scratch.
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