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Maple Leafs’ Matthews impressed by Ovechkin as both chase Rocket Richard –



NEW YORK — As Alex Ovechkin has rocketed to the top of the NHL’s goal list by scoring 14 times in his last seven games, his peers can only shrug their shoulders and laugh.

That includes Toronto Maple Leafs sniper Auston Matthews, one of Ovechkin’s closest pursuers for the Rocket Richard Trophy.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody,” Matthews said before Wednesday’s game at Madison Square Garden. “He’s the greatest goal-scorer of this generation and could go down as one of the great goal-scorers of all-time. So I don’t think it’s to anybody’s surprise that he’s doing what he’s doing, but obviously it’s impressive.”

Not only is Ovechkin starting to spark discussion about whether he can chase down Wayne Gretzky for the NHL’s all-time goals title — he’s 196 behind — he’s also looking to claim the Rocket for a remarkable ninth time in his Hall of Fame career.

His recent scoring binge has left him sitting at 40 goals, two ahead of Boston’s David Pastrnak and three up on Matthews.

The 2019-20 goal title will almost certainly go to one of those three players.

As much as the Leafs focus is on finishing the season strong and earning a trip to the playoffs, they’re not afraid to admit that it would be nice to see Matthews claim some individual hardware. The last time a player from the organization finished a season with the most goals was 1945-46, when Gaye Stewart scored 37 in 50 games.

“I want to see all of our players do well in those different areas,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe. “Of course, team goals are important, but the team goals have to come from an individual’s goals — you win games by scoring more goals than the other team.

“Auston’s a guy that’s a difference-maker for us so the more that he’s feeling good and finishing and scoring, the more life and energy it brings to our team and the greater chance of success for us.”

He’s been one of the biggest beneficiaries since Keefe replaced Mike Babcock. Matthews has scored 23 goals in 29 games under Keefe while averaging 20:57 per game — more than two minutes above his previous high as an NHL player.

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The new coach has also given him an extended run alongside Mitch Marner, the team’s most gifted playmaker.

Since entering the league in 2016-17, Matthews has scored more goals than everyone but Ovechkin. And the Washington Capitals superstar doesn’t appear ready to cede the crown despite the 12-year age gap between the players.

(Fun fact: Ovechkin and Matthews were both born on Sept. 17).

When Leafs captain John Tavares looks at Ovechkin, he struggles to explain how a 34-year-old could still be scoring at the same crazy rate for more than a decade: “I would love to know. … I think the biggest thing is he loves to play, loves to score, he’s got the passion for it and that brings out his skillsets, which are very dominant. And he just continues to prove year after year his ability to sustain that type of level, which is very impressive.”

“It’s crazy,” said defenceman Tyson Barrie. “I mean it’s just nuts, he just keeps scoring and I don’t think it’s going to slow down. He’s a generational player and he’s been doing this a long time and it’s crazy that he’s still doing it at this rate now.”

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Matthews admires both the big- and small-picture samples. The fact that Ovechkin has three hat tricks in his last six games and leapfrogged three legends on the all-time goals list in a matter of weeks: Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman and Mark Messier.

Consider this: Ovechkin is concurrently the No. 1 goal-scorer this season and the No. 8 goal-scorer in the entire history of the league.

“It’s extremely impressive and just a testament to the player that he is,” said Matthews. “Every year he’s hungry, he’s motivated, obviously plays with a lot of passion and he’s fun to watch.

“I think it’s just everything kind of put together.”

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Jays (Finally) Win One – Bluebird Banter



Jays 6 Orioles 1

It is about time.

This is just a space holder for the recap, my tennis went long.

Ross Stripling was amazing. Just 1 hit allowed in 6.1. He threw 72 pitches and was in control.

And the offence finally broke through for 6 runs in the 8th (imagine the Hallaluah chorus playing here). And George Springer got his 1000th hit.

Life is good again.

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Here are the Raptors games you don’t want to miss in the 2022-23 season –



The Toronto Raptors will open their 2022-23 NBA season on Oct. 19 at Scotiabank Arena. Their regular season will conclude on April 9 at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Here are some things to highlight in the Raptors’ schedule this season.

Facing off against familiar foes

As has become customary, former beloved Raptors — especially those from the 2019 championship team — are likely to receive heroes’ welcomes upon their return to Toronto. If you’re looking to join in on the festivities, here’s a list of notable players and their arrivals back at Scotiabank Arena:

Demar DeRozan: In his second season with the Chicago Bulls, DeRozan is scheduled to pay two visits to Toronto: First on Nov. 6, and then on Feb. 28.

Serge Ibaka: Now with the Milwaukee Bucks, Ibaka is slated to return to Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 4 and the season finale on April 9.

Kawhi Leonard: The 2019 Finals MVP missed all of last season recovering from a partial tear in his right knee. He will, hopefully, be available when his Los Angeles Clippers come to town on Dec. 27.

Kyle Lowry: The return to Toronto for perhaps the most beloved Raptor of all time, and his Miami Heat, will be on Nov. 16 and March 28.

Norman Powell: Now a member of the Clippers, Powell will be accompanying Leonard when Los Angeles visits Toronto on Dec. 27.

Jonas Valanciunas: The well-liked New Orleans Pelicans centre and his team will be visiting on Feb. 23.

January could prove to be a pivotal month

Looking at each individual month of the schedule, January stands out since it features both the longest homestand the team will enjoy as well as the start of its longest road trip.

For six games and 11 days between Jan. 4 and Jan. 14, the Raptors will play in the friendly confines of Scotiabank Arena as they look to kick off the new year with some wind in their sails. The Raptors will face Milwaukee, New York, Portland, Charlotte twice (but not on a back-to-back) and then Atlanta during that period.

Beginning on Jan. 25 and then lasting seven games and 12 days until Feb. 5, the Raptors will be on their longest road swing of the season with stops in Sacramento, Golden State, Portland, Phoenix, Utah, Houston and Memphis.

The contests against Golden State and Portland will be back-to-backs and are one of 12 back-to-back sets the team will play this season (two fewer than last season).

Given the scheduling quirks in January, it could be important month as a means for the Raptors to rack up wins during the homestand and test themselves out on the road still with plenty of runway until the post-season.

Other games of note

Here’s a quick list of other notable games to keep an eye on:

Nov. 23/Dec. 16 — versus Brooklyn: It’s unclear if Kevin Durant will still be a member of the Brooklyn Nets when they make their trips up north, but if he is, that will surely be a scene at Scotiabank Arena.

Nov. 26 — versus Dallas: The NBA’s brightest young star, Luka Doncic, and his Dallas Mavericks are coming to town early in the season. As a bonus, Canadian national team stud Dwight Powell also plays for Dallas.

Dec. 5 — versus Boston: The eighth annual Giants of Africa Game celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela.

Dec. 7 — versus Los Angeles Lakers: LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers make their annual visit to Toronto.

Dec. 18 — versus Golden State: Canadian Andrew Wiggins and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors make their only trip to the Six.

Dec. 29 — versus Memphis: Raptors fans will be in for a treat as high-flying point guard Ja Morant will make his only trip to Toronto, but more importantly, Canadians Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke will be playing on home soil once again.

Jan. 6/Jan. 22 — versus New York: R.J. Barrett and the New York Knicks will be in Toronto in January.

Jan. 8 — versus Portland: Dame time is well and good, but the real attraction with this match is the opportunity to see London, Ont., native Shaedon Sharpe live. The most mysterious pick in the 2022 draft, no one really knows what kind of player he may be.

Feb. 10 — versus Utah: Canada’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker and the Utah Jazz will take on the Raptors in Toronto.

March 14 — versus Denver: Two-time defending MVP Nikola Jokic and Canadian star guard Jamal Murray will be in town with the Denver Nuggets to take on the Raptors.

March 16 — versus Oklahoma City: A game after hosting Murray, the Raptors will invite in another of Canada’s best in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort when they face off against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

March 22 — versus Indiana: With three Canadians on the Indiana Pacers roster (Oshae Brissett and rookies Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard), this Wednesday night in March should be a special one at Scotiabank Arena.

March 24 — versus Detroit: Canadian veterans Kelly Olynyk and Cory Joseph feature on this young, exciting Detroit Pistons team, but the storyline that will likely be on Raptors fans’ minds when the Pistons visit will be if Dwane Casey will, once again, get the best of his former team.

U.S. national television games

Lastly, for those who care about this kind of thing, the Raptors announced they will be on U.S. national television four times (twice on ESPN and twice on TNT). Additionally, Toronto will play on NBATV five times this season.

The Raptors will appear on two more U.S. national television games than last season.

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Czechia pulls off major upset over U.S., advances to WJC semifinal vs. Canada –



Czechia completed a 4-2 upset win over the previously unbeaten United States on Wednesday to punch its ticket to the semifinal of the 2022 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton.

After the United States’ Logan Cooley opened the scoring just over 12 minutes into the game, Czechia responded with three straight tallies to take control of the contest against the defending champs.

Jan Mysak, Petr Hauser, Matyas Sapovaliv and Jiri Kulich all scored for Czechia. Kulich also recorded two assists.

Matthew Berard of the U.S. was assessed a five-minute major and a match penalty for slew-footing early in the third period. Czechia was unable to capitalize on the man advantage.

Later in the third, Czechia’s Stanislav Svozil received a five-minute major and a match penalty of his own after initiating a knee-on-knee hit with Cooley. The third-overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft would remain in the game after the collision.

The U.S. capitalized on the man advantage courtesy of Carter Mazur to cut the deficit to 3-2. Kulich would later add an empty netter

Luke Hughes of the U.S. sustained an apparent lower-body injury early in the first period, he would exit the game and return for the start of the second frame.

Czechia is set to play Canada in Thursday’s semifinals. Sweden plays Finland in the other semi.

Czechia, which hasn’t won a medal at the event since 2005 when it captured bronze, went 1-0-1-2 in the round-robin stage.

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