TORONTO – Immediately after he was traded to Toronto Maple Leafs, Alex Galchenyuk’s phone illuminated with a welcoming text message from Auston Matthews.
The two top-three NHL draft picks with very divergent career trajectories had developed a relationship over the pandemic off-season, engaging in some exclusive, private skills and skating sessions in Phoenix with Galchenyuk’s father, Alexander Sr., and Matthews’ boyhood trainer Boris Dorozhenko.
On Saturday night, Galchenyuk (now with his seventh franchise) and Matthews (destined to become the face of his first) were integral to the construction of a come-from-behind, 4-3 overtime victory over the dynamic Edmonton Oilers.
Matthews snuffed out his five-game goal drought by scoring his league-best eighth game-winner in the extra frame.
But that opportunity would not have presented itself had Galchenyuk — bumped up to Line 2 mid-game by coach Sheldon Keefe — not played a helping hand in the set up of third-period strikes by linemates John Tavares and William Nylander.
“It’s funny how things work out,” said Galchenyuk, following his first multi-point effort since three teams ago. “Definitely happy to be on the same team.”
If you’ve played any left wing for the Maple Leafs this season, chances are you’ve had a tryout alongside Tavares-Nylander as Keefe searches for a third tenor to make his second line sing.
Jimmy Vesey, Wayne Simmonds, Zach Hyman, Joe Thornton, Alexander Kerfoot, Ilya Mikheyev….
At the risk of drawing conclusions from a four-game, three-point sample size, maybe Galchenyuk is not only the one that sticks, but the one who makes general manager Kyle Dubas wonder if he already traded for his top-nine winger.
That low-risk, high-reward flyer the Leafs GM plucked off the Carolina Hurricanes, in part, because, hey, Galchenyuk was already in Ontario, had already cleared waivers and wouldn’t require an extensive quarantine.
Saturday’s showdown between two-thirds of the North Division’s best was loaded with blinding assist highlights: Connor McDavid’s top-speed, no-look rush pass to Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl’s no-look, behind-the-back, behind-the-net, give-and-go with Tyson Barrie. And Galchenyuk’s no-look, between-the-legs, backhanded drop pass to Tavares in the slot — on a rush that began off a D-zone draw and which triggered the Leafs’ rally and further endeared castaway Galchenyuk to a Toronto team growing tighter by the win.
“He plays with a lot of energy,” Matthews beams. “He’s really passionate about hockey. He works extremely hard. He cares a lot. He’s been playing great over the games he’s been with us. He works hard every shift, he competes, and you can’t really ask for more. He’s got plenty of skill to go along with that. He made a couple of really nice plays tonight, and a couple of huge goals from that line.”
That line — Galchenyuk-Tavares-Nylander — has now generated 82 per cent of expected goals and 90 per cent of high-danger chances in the 30 minutes it’s been on the ice together.
Keefe had started Simmonds in that spot early, but once the Maple Leafs started getting caved in and lost their legs — and the lead — in the second period, the coach peeked at Galchenyuk’s minimal ice time and gave him a promotion.
“I thought Galchenyuk had played well to that point. I hadn’t used him very much, yet the shifts that he had I thought were good,” Keefe explained post-game.
“Galchenyuk hadn’t done anything to come off of that line. He had played quite well. It was more just about giving Simmonds that opportunity there. Just the way that it works out with how the game was going, needed to make some changes. And it was nice to see that line continue the way that it had been playing.”
Especially nice for Tavares, whose strong work in the D-zone and the face-off circle hasn’t kept critics from noticing his lack of even-strength production.
On a night where the Oilers rolled McDavid and Draisaitl on the same line, conjured up wow moments and still lost, it’s worth remembering that the success of the Maple Leafs rests on the Matthews and Tavares units smacking defenders with a one-two punch at even strength.
Particularly when Toronto’s vaunted power play, now 0 for its past 18, gets stuck in the mud.
“Nice to get one,” said Tavares, up to 10 goals in 34 games. “(Scoring) is a big part of my game, and this year it hasn’t seemed to be as consistent as I’d like.
“I’m still trying to figure some things out. Not a perfect science. Just got to bear down on some opportunities. I’m good around the net at finding rebounds and plays in tight, and I haven’t seemed to get as many of those.”
Tavares credits Galchenyuk’s blend of talent, work ethic and playmaking sense as a complement to him and Nylander.
“He was drafted really high for a reason,” Tavares said.
“He’s had really good success in this league. He makes plays quickly, and great two plays on the two goals that help tie it up. Just the energy that he brings. He won a lot of loose pucks, getting first to pucks and just keeping possession and doing a lot of things like that that just help you just make positive plays and over time wear the opponent down and create the openings that you’re looking for.”
Hockey, as always, is a game of breaks. Of opportunity seized.
Galchenyuk, it seems, needed a club willing to be patient, to pump up his confidence and comfort in the minors, then give him shifts him alongside high-end talent to jolt a revival.
And Matthews, after drilling posts and pounding Mike Smith’s pads all night, needed an OT puck to clink off Draisaitl’s stick and Darnell Nurse’s foot before finally finding twine and quenching his drought.
Next one’s going in, next one’s going in, the Rocket leader kept thinking to himself as his attempts got denied.
“Sometimes those ugly ones help you get out of a big slump,” Matthews smiled.
“Not really how I drew it up, but I’ll definitely take it.”
We could say the exact same for the Maple Leafs’ incorporation of Galchenyuk into their top six.
Funny how things work out.
More people watched Seattle NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 than Cubs-Cards on ESPN – Awful Announcing
In the grand scheme of things, 637,000 viewers nationally is not a huge number for a cable channel with any level of significant distribution. Most things on broadcast TV not only beat that, but beat it by quite a bit, and that kind of number isn’t usually even amongst the top cable broadcasts. However, the news that ESPN2 pulled that number in for its (NHL-produced, but featuring ESPN figures) coverage of the NHL expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken Wednesday night was certainly interesting, especially as so much of the actual news around that draft was reported in advance, and also given that their main-network coverage of the MLB game between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals drew fewer viewers. Here’s a comparison of Wednesday night sporting events from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal:
Sports TV of note from Weds:
AEW Dynamite on TNT: 1.148 million viewers
Primetime Oly programming on NBCSN: 773,000
PTI on ESPN: 648,000 viewers
NHL Expansion Draft on ESPN2: 637,000 viewers
Cubs-Cardinals on ESPN: 509,000 viewers
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) July 22, 2021
On the negative side, that draft didn’t even draw the numbers of studio show Pardon The Interruption (however, that airs on ESPN rather than ESPN2; they’re similar in distribution, but many people turn on main ESPN first). It also didn’t draw the numbers of early Olympic programming from NBCSN. On the positive side, it outdrew a national MLB game. And it drew more than the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft five years ago (595,000 on NBCSN for a combined broadcast of that draft and the NHL Awards). And it’s a good sign for ESPN, as this is their first big NHL event they aired under their new deal.
And yes, as Ourand noted in a follow-up tweet, that Cubs-Cards game didn’t have regional sports network blackouts, so Cubs and Cardinals fans could still watch it on their local RSNs. And most probably did, so it likely primarily pulled the national audience that didn’t have those RSNs. But it’s still interesting to see an ESPN2 event outdraw an ESPN event, especially when the ESPN event is a live game and the ESPN2 event is a one-team expansion draft (and one where most of the information was previously available to the public).
If ESPN versus ESPN2 programming decisions were made strictly from a standpoint of what they thought would draw more viewers, this result would go against that. That’s not entirely the case here, as the MLB on ESPN package comes with some restrictions on where games can air. But it’s still interesting to see the NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 outdraw a live MLB game between two prominent teams.
That is also perhaps further evidence that draft “spoilers” don’t always damage the ratings that much. That’s long been a debate, from the NFL’s heavy pushes against pick-tipping to the NBA’s more moderate approach (which sees pick-tipping still happen with some different language, and which hasn’t really led to obvious ratings losses).
In the case of this draft, figures who don’t work for expansion draft rightsholders Sportsnet (Canada) and ESPN (U.S.) reported many of the picks early, with Frank Seravalli (formerly of TSN, now of Daily Faceoff) and Pierre LeBrun (TSN/The Athletic) getting many of those, other national figures getting some more, and local reporters getting some others. So a mostly-full picture was available before the broadcast for those who wanted to find it. But that didn’t stop a significant amount of people from watching this, and that maybe shows that the league pushes against pick-tipping aren’t always that impactful.
[John Ourand on Twitter]
Cleveland changes MLB team nickname to Guardians after months of discussion – CBC.ca
Known as the Indians since 1915, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will be called Guardians.
The ball club announced the name change Friday with a video on Twitter narrated by actor Tom Hanks, ending months of internal discussions triggered by a national reckoning by institutions and teams to permanently drop logos and names that are considered racist.
Together, we are all… <a href=”https://t.co/R5FnT4kv1I”>pic.twitter.com/R5FnT4kv1I</a>
The choice of Guardians will undoubtedly be criticized by many of the club’s die-hard fans.
The organization spent most of the past year whittling down a list of potential names that was at nearly 1,200 just over a month ago. But the process quickly accelerated and the club landed on Guardians.
Social unrest spurred name change
Team owner Paul Dolan said last summer’s social unrest, touched off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, spurred his intention to change the name.
Dolan is expected to provide more details on the choice and background on the change at a news conference at Progressive Field before Cleveland hosts the Tampa Bay Rays.
Dolan said the new name mirrors the city and its people.
“Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity,” he said in a statement. “Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders. ‘Guardians’ reflects those attributes that define us.”
In 2018, the team stopped wearing the contentious Chief Wahoo logo on their jerseys and caps. However, the team continues to sell merchandise bearing the smiling, red-faced caricature that was protested for decades by Native American groups.
The name change has sparked lively debate among the city’s passionate sports fans. Other names, including the Spiders, which is what the team was once called, were pushed by supporters on social media platforms.
But Guardians does seem to fit the team’s objective to find a name that embodies Cleveland’s ethos while preserving the team’s history and uniting the community.
Not far from the downtown ballpark, there are two large landmark stone edifices — referred to as guardians — on the Hope Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River.
The team’s colours will remain the same, and the new Guardians’ new logos will incorporate some of the architectural features of the bridge.
The change comes as the Washington Football Team continues to work toward a similar makeover. The franchise dropped its name before the 2020 season and said it will reveal a new name and logo in 2022.
LIVE BLOG: Opening ceremony kicks off 2020 Olympics in Tokyo – Global News
The Olympic Games opening ceremony is typically a chance for competing countries and athletes to show off their pride and culture, but this year will be a little different.
Normally held in a stadium full of ecstatic fans, this year’s ceremony will have international athletes parade around a near-empty venue after it was announced fans would not be allowed to attend because of rising COVID-19 cases in Japan.
Athletes from around the world, including Canada, are taking part in the ceremony for the Summer Games, which will run until Aug. 8.
Canada has sent 370 athletes to the Olympics, the nation’s largest delegation since 1984.
Team Canada names flag-bearers for Tokyo Olympic Games
But only 30 to 40 athletes are marching into the Olympic Stadium, the Canadian Olympic Committee has previously said, saying athletes aren’t allowed into the Olympic Village until five days before they compete.
Many of them will be too close to the start of their competition to join flagbearers Miranda Ayim of the women’s basketball team and men’s rugby sevens co-captain Nathan Hirayama.
The ceremony’s theme is “United by Emotion,” as officials are aspiring to reaffirm the role of sport and the value of the Olympic Games, express gratitude and admiration for the efforts made over the past year, and also bring a sense of hope for the future, the Olympics website says.
Despite all the difficulties the International Olympic Committee has faced to stage the Games amid a global pandemic, president Thomas Bach previously said he believes the ceremonies will be a moment of “joy and relief.”
The event runs from 7 a.m. ET to 11 a.m. ET
You can follow along here.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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