Maple Leafs’ Marner on media criticism: ‘We don’t care what you guys say’
SUNRISE, Fla. — Mitch Marner has repeatedly pointed out how little attention he pays to anything that doesn’t emanate from inside the Maple Leafs’ orbit.
The winger insists he stays off social media and doesn’t read or watch what’s being written or said.
With the pressure mounting, the fan base in a hockey-mad city panicking, and his team facing elimination down 3-0 in their second-round playoff series with the Florida Panthers, that tune hasn’t changed.
“We don’t care what you (reporters) say,” Toronto’s under-fire and underperforming star said sharply Tuesday following the team’s practice at FLA Live Arena. “We don’t listen to you guys outside of this locker room.
“We’re just focused on ourselves and this group in here.”
That group has a near-impossible challenge ahead.
After overcoming a painful post-season past that included a number of crushing disappointments, including six straight series defeats, the Leafs got a gorilla off their collective back when they downed the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opening round to advance for the first time since 2004.
A lot has happened — and not happened — in the 10 days since.
The Panthers hold a surprising and commanding 3-0 lead against Toronto in the teams’ best-of-seven matchup, and can send the Leafs packing with a Game 4 victory Wednesday.
Florida has done a lot of good things and won some tight contests, but Toronto has done itself no favours.
There have been crucial mistakes at key times, ones the Leafs simply didn’t make against Tampa.
The biggest issue, however, is how the offence has dried up.
Marner, Auston Matthews, John Tavares and William Nylander — the team’s so-called “Core Four” of high-paid talent — has failed to find the mark against the Panthers after carrying a heavy load last round.
Matthews hasn’t scored in this series, while Marner and Nylander haven’t found the back of the net in seven straight games. Tavares has one goal — his Game 6 overtime clincher versus the Lightning — over the same span.
“We’re the leaders,” Marner said. “We want to be the ones to step our foot forward.
“We all know that we’ve got to be a lot better.”
Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said the focus on the top end of his lineup’s lack of production against Florida is one thing, but there’s a lot more that’s gone into Toronto’s predicament.
“Those guys carried us offensively through the Tampa series and came through at clutch times, scored us big goals (in) big moments,” he said. “We’re here playing largely on the backs of how they came through for us.
“They’ll come through for us again, but our team needs to take care of this situation right now.”
Florida won Game 1 by a 4-2 margin before picking up consecutive 3-2 victories, including Sunday’s OT decision, to put a stranglehold on an Original Six franchise that will turn to rookie goaltender Joseph Woll with its season on the line after Ilya Samsonov suffered an upper-body injury in Game 3.
“Playoffs are hard,” Nylander said. “It’s the small little plays that can make a huge difference in the series … that’s been a little bit of (the) case this series.
“As I think it was last series, as well.”
Things need to change for the Leafs — and fast — for a team that saw at least one of Matthews, Marner, Tavares and Nylander score in 75 of Toronto’s 82 regular-season games.
“We want to step up,” Matthews said. “Lead by example.”
Going back to the end of the Tampa showdown, Toronto has scored just 10 times over the last five games — a dry spell not seen since 2016-17 when Mike Babcock was in his second year behind the bench, and Matthews, Marner and Nylander were rookies.
Tavares played another season with the New York Islanders before signing on July 2018 with the Leafs, who would host a potential Game 5 on Friday.
“Just go out there and play hockey,” Matthews said when asked how he handles pressure. “That’s what we’ve been doing our whole life. Can’t really focus too much on the outside noise — what you guys are saying, what everybody’s saying. It doesn’t really matter.”
“It’ll be fun,” Nylander added of Wednesday’s must-win. “That’s when you gotta play your best.”
The Panthers, meanwhile, are playing free as they look to extend a franchise-record playoff winning streak to seven games after coming back from 3-1 down in the first round to stun the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins.
“There’s no pressure on us,” Florida winger Matthew Tkachuk said. “Why play if you can’t enjoy it?”
There isn’t a lot of enjoyment down the hall as Toronto desperately attempts to take the first step in becoming just the fifth team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 deficit.
“Starts with one game,” Matthews said. “Starts with our attitude, our mindset. It’s not about trying to go and win the series right now.”
Keefe said with just a single date currently remaining on Toronto’s schedule — and the team’s hopes on life support — the message to the entire group is clear.
Not just the big guns currently shooting blanks.
“Everybody has to play their role and give us everything,” he said. “Win one game, bring this thing back to Toronto, and give us more time for all these other things to come together.
“You gotta win one game.”
Watch Game 4 of the Leafs-Panthers series on Sportsnet or SN NOW on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT.
Jubilant Latvians given national holiday after shock ice hockey win over USA
Latvians woke up to go to work Monday morning, only to find they didn’t have to. Their parliament had met at midnight to declare a holiday after the national ice hockey team chalked up its best result at the world championship.
Latvia, where hockey is hugely popular, co-hosted the men’s championship with Finland, and the country’s 4-3 overtime victory over the United States for the bronze medal on Sunday was greeted with jubilation.
A plane bringing the team home from Finland flew at low altitude over central Riga on Monday to greet thousands of fans who had gathered to welcome the squad.
At quarter to midnight on Sunday, members of parliament, sporting red-and-white national team jerseys, convened for a 10-minute session to unanimously declare the holiday.
It was “to strengthen the fact of significant success of Latvian athletes in the social memory of the society,” according to the bill’s sponsors.
The bill was introduced by a smiling member of parliament with her face painted in the colors of the national flag. Another giggled while trying to read out the names of absent parliamentarians, to laughter from many in the hall. There was an ovation from everyone present after the final vote.
But as dawn broke, there was confusion about who was working and who was not. Court hearings were canceled and schools and universities were closed, but national exams for high school students went ahead, with staff paid at holiday rates. Several hospitals chose to stay open to honor doctor appointments.
Businesses found themselves in some disarray, with Aigars Rostovskis, the president of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, telling public broadcaster LSM: “It will be chaos for many.”
Canada won the gold medal, the team’s record 28th world title, by defeating Germany 5-2 on Sunday.
Kamloops Blazers rout Peterborough Petes 10-2 in Memorial Cup – ESPN – ESPN India
KAMLOOPS, British Columbia — Logan Stankoven had a goal and four assists, Connor Levis had a goal and two assists and the Kamloops Blazers routed the Ontario Hockey League champion Peterborough Petes 10-2 in the Memorial Cup on Sunday.
The win came after Kamloops defenseman Kyle Masters was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he was hit and fell backward into the corner boards with less than seven minutes remaining. There was no immediate word on Masters’ condition.
Ryan Michael, Fraser Minten, Ashton Ferster, Matthew Seminoff, Dylan Sydor, Jakub Demek, Matthew Seminoff and Ryan Hofer each scored goals for the Blazers, who bounced back from an 8-3 loss to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Quebec Remparts on Friday night.
Caedan Bankier and Olen Zellweger also added two assists each for the Blazers, who scored four power-play goals and improved to 1-1 in the four-team, 10-day tournament.
Peterborough dropped to 0-2 and must beat Quebec on Tuesday to advance.
IIHF Hockey: Canada downs Germany 5-2
TAMPERE, Finland –
Sammy Blais scored twice as Canada beat Germany 5-2 to capture gold at the men’s world hockey championship today.
Lawson Crouse, captain Tyler Toffoli and Scott Laughton also scored, and Peyton Krebs pitched in two assists for Canada.
“It feels really good,” Blais said. “We’ve been in Europe for a month and we’ve all waited for that moment to play for the gold-medal game. And we’re lucky enough to have won it.”
JJ Peterka and Daniel Fischbuch scored for Germany, which was in the gold-medal game for the first time since 1992 when the playoff format was introduced at the world championship. Moritz Seider added two assists.
Goaltender Samuel Montembeault made 21 saves for Canada, while German netminder Mathias Niederberger turned away 23 shots.
Canada won gold for the second time in three years after losing to Finland in overtime in last year’s world championship gold-medal game. It’s Canada’s 28th title at the event, the most of any country. Canada also has 16 silver and eight bronze medals from the tourney since 1931.
“I could not be more proud of this group. We battled through a lot of adversity and doubt to get to this point, and this win is so special,” Toffoli said. “We have such a close-knit team that came together quickly, and we always believed in each other.
“Everyone bought in and we played a great game today, and I am incredibly happy to be going back to Canada with a gold medal.”
Peterka opened the scoring for Germany at 7:44 of the first period with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle off a breakout that beat Montembeault.
Blais responded three minutes later, scoring in his third consecutive game after finishing off a pass from centre Peyton Krebs on a two-on-one to tie the game at 1-1.
Fischbuch gave Germany the lead again on a one-timer from the slot that trickled into the net 13:47 into the second period.
Canada replied with Crouse deflecting a pass from Krebs on the power play with 2:32 remaining in the second frame.
Blais then buried his second of the game 4:51 into the third period with a backhand off a rebound to put Canada ahead.
Toffoli added an insurance marker with eight minutes left, scoring with a wrist shot on a two-on-one to make it 4-2 in favour of Canada.
Laughton scored into an empty net with two minutes left to put the game out of reach.
“The commitment of everyone on our team was unbelievable. We knew we had to come here and play for each other and commit to a team game. We came here to represent Canada and make our country proud, and I am so blessed to be a part of this group,” said head coach Andre Tourigny.
“Our players wanted to win so bad. They wanted to bring a gold medal back to Canada, and when you have that mindset you can accomplish great things, and we did that tonight.”
Following the gold-medal game, MacKenzie Weegar was named best defenceman of the tournament and was selected to the media all-star team. Crouse, Montembeault and Weegar were also named Team Canada’s three best players of the tournament following the semifinals.
LATVIA 4 UNITED STATES 3 (OT)
Defenceman Kristian Rubins scored his second goal 1:22 into overtime to lead Latvia to victory over the United States and earn a bronze medal earlier Sunday.
It’s the first top-three finish for Latvia at the tournament. Its previous best was a seventh place it managed three times.
The U.S. lost in the bronze-medal game for the second straight year. The U.S. team was cruising through the tournament with eight straight wins until it was defeated by Germany in the semifinal, 4-3 in overtime.
Rubins rallied Latvia with his first with 5:39 to go in the final period to tie the game at -33 to force overtime.
Roberts Bukarts and Janis Jaks also scored for Latvia.
Rocco Grimaldi scored twice for the U.S. in the opening period to negate Latvia’s 1-0 and 2-1 leads.
Matt Coronato had put the U.S. 3-2 ahead 6:19 into the final period.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2023.
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