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Maple Leafs captain Tavares lines up behind coach with plenty of confidence – Toronto Sun

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John Tavares loves playing with Mitch Marner on his wing, but if Sheldon Keefe sees fit to keep Marner with Auston Matthews, the Maple Leafs captain is cool with that.

“He’s trying to do what’s best for the team and get us to play the best we can,” Tavares said of his coach. “We all have a lot of trust in him.”

Marner and Matthews, along with Zach Hyman, have been on the ice for six even-strength Leafs goals since Keefe united them against Detroit this past Saturday.

The play of that trio was crucial as the Leafs sloughed off a bad second period and rallied to beat the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday.

For Tavares, it’s not about what each line can accomplish, but what the 18 players employed each night are able to attain.

“We’re still not even halfway through (the season) yet,” Tavares said.

“We’ve had periods where we’ve seen good results, played with the lead well, and then there’s times where we haven’t.

“It’s finding that consistency and that has been starting to come as of late. Momentum and the belief is building and the trust in each other and the game is getting stronger.”

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Predicting The Toronto Maple Leafs Playoff Roster – Editor In Leaf

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What players will the Toronto Maple Leafs send to the ice for the playoffs?

As reported by Elliotte Friedman, the current plan is that teams will be permitted to carry up to 28 skaters and as many goalies as they want once play resumes. While it’s nice to have many spares in the case of injury, it opens the question as to who exactly will be on the ice for the Toronto Maple Leafs?

The Columbus Blue Jackets play a tight-checking style where everyone contributes by committee, rather than relying on the play of a superstar (of which they have none).

Both teams will be getting a boost in the form of several players returning from injury. With some exceptions (Andreas Johnsson for the Leafs, Josh Anderson for the Blue Jackets being chief among them), both teams should go into this series as healthy as they possibly could, and despite that, I will stand by my earlier prediction that the Toronto Maple Leafs will win this 5-game series in four games.

Toronto Maple Leafs Playoff Forwards

Ilya Mikheyev is expected to be cleared to play for the first time since late December.

The rookie winger scored 23 points in 39 games before his injury and was fantastic at supporting the defense. In my opinion, Pierre Engvall performed best alongside Kerfoot and Kapanen on the third line, so barring injury during the training camp portion of the Return-To-Play plan, I see the forwards lining up in game 1 against Columbus as follows:

Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner

Ilya Mikheyev – John Tavares – William Nylander

Pierre Engvall – Alex Kerfoot – Kasperi Kapanen

Kyle Clifford – Frederik Gauthier – Jason Spezza

It’s believed by many that Nick Robertson, Kenny Agostino, Denis Malgin, Egor Korshkov, Nic Petan, and Adam Brooks will be the extra forwards that the Leafs carry.

However, unless several injuries strike the team, I don’t believe any of these players will see the ice during the playoffs.

The lone exception to this is rookie sensation, Nick Robertson. Like many, I’m very excited to see what he can offer at the NHL level after a historic year in the OHL.

Should he prove himself ready to step into an NHL lineup, we could see him join Kerfoot and Kapanen on the third line, with Engvall getting bumped down to the fourth line and Gauthier becoming a healthy scratch.

Toronto Maple Leafs Playoff Defense

Jake Muzzin and Morgan Rielly will both presumably be 100% healthy for the first time in the 2019-20 season, giving the Leafs blue line a much-needed boost. This will be controversial, but I believe this defense corps is very underrated and in their return to play, I think they would be best suiting icing this as their lineup:

Rielly-Barrie

Muzzin-Holl

Sandin-Dermott

If the Toronto Maple Leafs are to have any success in the playoffs, Cody Ceci must not play. It is my firmly held belief that Ceci is not an NHL player, he is a complete void both offensively and defensively. His “little mistakes that end up in the back of the net” at this point outnumber Jake Gardiner’s worst game by a long shot.

At this point, there is no need to put Ceci out there, they’ve paid him everything he was owed, so we can stop pretending he’s the best option for the third pair and penalty kill. And if you still feel like defending him, I’ll direct you to go re-watch the brutal February 3rd game against the Florida Panthers.

“But Barrie sucks even more” you might say “why does he go on the top pairing?” To that, I simply reply Tyson Barrie is no defensive stalwart. He has certainly made his share of mistakes, but at the very least, Barrie contributes offensively (he led all Leafs defensemen with 39 points). He and Rielly as a unit worked well in their limited time as a pairing when limited to offensive zone starts, look for that to continue, while Muzzin and Holl do the defensive work of shutting down the Columbus offense.

Playoff Goaltenders for the Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs have five goalies on NHL contracts. One of them, rookie Ian Scott, is still recovering from an injury, but the other four will all be on the roster, though of course, Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell will be the only two suiting up to play (barring injury).

Next: 5 Free Agent Defense Targets

Whether they remain healthy or go through a rush of injuries, the Toronto Maple Leafs deep farm system will be an asset when play resumes.

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Masai Ujiri says the conversation about racism 'can no longer be avoided' – CBC.ca

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Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the protests around the United States that have followed.

Ujiri, in a column that was published Sunday by the Globe and Mail, wrote about his reaction to seeing the video of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, dying after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes, even after he stopped moving and pleading for air last Monday.

‘We have to stop that cycle’

Ujiri also referenced the recent death of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was shot while jogging in Georgia, and of Breonna Taylor, a young black woman who was fatally shot by police in her home in Kentucky.

“A death like this happens, and we rage about it, and the headlines recede, and the world moves on, and then a few weeks later something else happens and we’re outraged again and then we move on, again. We have to stop that cycle,” Ujiri said in the column.

“So many of you are asking: What can I do? There is a sense of helplessness, but that must not paralyze us,” he added. “Your voice matters, especially when you are a leader or influential figure, and especially if you are white. Leaders have to be bold enough to state the obvious and call out racism.”

“The conversation can no longer be avoided because it is hard. We have to have it. Now.”

This week thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States.

Officer Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Ujiri said “police have a tough job. But … they are supposed to protect all of us.

“I didn’t see any peace or protection when that officer had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck. I saw indifference,” Ujiri wrote. “The ‘order’ in ‘law and order’ should not mean the deadly suppression of people of colour; it should mean preserving a society so we can all feel free and safe, to live in peace with each other.”

Kyle Dubas, the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, tweeted Ujiri’s column.

Raptors call for change

“As an organization and a community, we come from all over the world. We are diverse. We speak different languages. But our shared humanity unites us,” the Toronto Raptors said in a released statement Saturday night.

“When we see racism and violence committed against someone because of the colour of their skin, we should, and do, feel outrage. We cannot accept this. While we grieve for those we have lost, we know grieving is not enough. We must honour their memory by acknowledging these ills exist, confronting them, and coming together to create a better society. It is far past time.”

Michael Jordan weighs in

Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, who is also the principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets, also released a statement on Sunday.

“I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry. I see and feel everyone’s pain, outrage and frustration. I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of colour in our country. We have had enough.

I don’t have the answers, but our collective voices show strength and the inability to be divided by others. We must listen to each other, show compassion and empathy and never turn our backs on senseless brutality. We need to continue peaceful expressions against injustice and demand accountability. Our unified voice needs to put pressure on our leaders to change our laws, or else we need to use our vote to create systemic change. Every one of us needs to be part of the solution, and we work together to ensure justice for all.

My heart goes out to the family of George Floyd and to the countless others whose lives have been brutally and senselessly taken through the acts of racism and injustice.”

Steve Nash: ‘This is a white problem’

Fellow Basketball Hall of Famer and recent Canadian Sports Hall of Fame inductee Steve Nash also weighed in on Sunday.

The Victoria B.C. native tweeted “This is a white problem. How are WE Caucasian people going to create equality? Listen. Read. Walk in others shoes. Organize. Sacrifice. Change. Support. VOTE! These are the MINIMUM of REPARATIONS.”

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Michael Jordan releases statement in wake of U.S. protests – Sportsnet.ca

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Michael Jordan released a statement on Sunday regarding the death of George Floyd and ensuing protests, saying “I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of colour” in the United States.

Jordan’s full statement reads as follows:

“I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry. I see and feel everyone’s pain, outrage and frustration. I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country. We have had enough.

I don’t have the answers, but our collective voices show strength, and the inability to be divided by others. We must listen to each other, show compassion and empathy and never turn our backs on senseless brutality. We need to continue peaceful expressions against injustice and demand accountability. Our unified voice needs to put pressure on our leaders to change our laws, or else we need to use our vote to create systemic change. Every one of us needs to be part of the solution, and we must work together to ensure justice for all.

My heart goes out to the family of George Floyd and to the countless others whose lives have been brutally and senselessly taken through acts of racism and injustice.”

There have been protests of all sizes across the U.S. in the wake of Floyd’s death on May 25 in Minneapolis. Since then, countless current and former athletes and teams have spoken out against racial injustice.

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