TORONTO – You want run-and-gun? Let’s go.
You want to clog it up? That’s fine, too.
Need our much-maligned backup to stand on his head? Well, that can be arranged.
On the burner, Sheldon Keefe’s Toronto Maple Leafs have ripped through the heart of the holidays — now 9-0-1 in their past 10 games — adapting to consecutive opponents as diverse as the fire-packing Jets and the wet-blanket Islanders looks as easy as setting a new benchmark for the most victories within the first 20 games as head coach of a 102-year-old franchise.
In defeating Lou Lamoriello’s New York Islanders 3-0 Saturday night, Kyle Dubas’s Maple Leafs improved to 15-4-1 under Keefe, whose early-career record surpassed a benchmark set by coach Hap Day way back in 1940-41.
The Islanders, staunch in their identity since early October, kept highlights to a minimum and pucks to the outside, gumming up the neutral zone, outshooting the Leafs, and doing their damnedest to sponge up as much of Toronto’s skill as possible.
“It’s pretty clear what the Islanders are good at. They’re very good at it,” Keefe said. “We’re going to have to try to make it so that the things that we’re good at and our strengths are coming to the forefront.”
So, credit Toronto’s patience. And its knack for finish.
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The Leafs didn’t get anxious enough to force the issue and pounced on the tiny windows New York allowed.
John Tavares, who’s captained both squads, considered just stingy his former club has become since his departure and Barry Trotz’s arrival.
“When I was there, we weren’t very good defensively to now probably being the best defensive team—extremely organized,” Tavares said. “They have a lot of trust in their back end.”
After 33 minutes and 25 seconds of goal-free, lullaby hockey, speedster Kasperi Kapanen dangled 13-game rookie Noah Dobson on the rush and set up linemate Pierre Engvall for a beautiful goal in stride.
“He’s been an offensive producer most of his life. Coming into pro hockey caught him off-guard a little bit when we tried to put him in defensive situations and penalty kill and checking against other teams’ best players. He’s always felt he had more to give offensively, and we agreed with that,” Keefe explained.
“Because of the way he skates and his strength, he puts himself in good spots to get shots off — and he has the ability to beat goalies.”
Even with injured forwards Trevor Moore (concussion) and Andreas Johnsson (leg) both back skating, we can’t foresee the gangly-smooth Engvall returning to the Marlies anytime soon.
“He can fly, that’s for sure,” Mason Marchment added.
“He’s a gazelle.”
Isles defenceman Johnny Boychuk came with a rung post of immediately tying the game, but the when the puck went the other way, Auston Matthews tipped a hard Mitchell Marner pass high in tight to give the home side a 2-0 lead that felt like more on a night so scarce on scoring chances.
Matthews 28th gives him nine in his past nine and surely brought a smile to his new BFF, Justin Bieber, who was in the house.
As pretty as the Leafs goals were, however, more impressive was their own defensive game, as they too limited the Isles’ Grade-A opportunities and let Michael Hutchinson’s right-handed catching glove gobble up the rest.
Surely, Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey will both be cursing that odd-handed trapper as they try to fall asleep.
The win marked Hutchinson’s third in row and was sound-tracked by jubilant “Let’s! Go! Hutch!” chants from the third-period crowd.
More important, the win arrived on the No. 2’s first start all season that wasn’t half of a back-to-back, supplying all-star Frederik Andersen with some extra rest ahead of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s annual trip into town Tuesday.
“We’re well aware of the fact that we need to get some more games out of our backup,” Keefe said.
“If we didn’t get Freddie a rest this week, there probably wouldn’t be one until after the break.”
At the pace the Leafs are charging up the standings, who needs a break
NHL great Mike Bossy reveals lung cancer diagnosis – CTV News
Former New York Islanders winger and TVA hockey analyst Mike Bossy is battling lung cancer.
He announced the news in a letter to TVA Sports Tuesday.
“It is with a lot of sadness that I need to step away from your screens, for a necessary pause. During this break I’ll be receiving treatment for lung cancer. (The score is) 1-0 so far, but I haven’t said my last word,” Bossy wrote.
“I intend to fight with all the determination and fire you’ve seen me show on the ice.”
Referring to viewers, he added: “You’ll never be far away in my mind. To the contrary, you’ll have a choice seat and be a part of what motivates me to get better.
“Like all athletes who prepare for the biggest performance of their lives, I’ll need all of my strength and all my concentration.”
Bossy, 64, helped the Islanders win 4 straight Stanley Cup, starting in 1980.
The Montreal native tallied 573 goals and 1,126 points over 10 seasons.
Bossy won the Calder trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 1978 and the Conn Smythe as the league’s MVP in 1982. He was also awarded the Lady Byng trophy for sportsmanship in 1983, ’84 and ’86.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2021.
Astros erupt for seven runs in ninth, beat Red Sox to tie ALCS – Sportsnet.ca
BOSTON — Six outs from falling behind 3-1 in the AL Championship Series and facing elimination in Game 5 in Boston — where the Red Sox had yet to lose this postseason — the Houston Astros offence awakened.
After tying it in the eighth inning on Jose Altuve’s solo homer, the Astros bullied the Boston bullpen for seven runs in the ninth to win 9-2 on Tuesday night and even the best-of-seven playoff at two games apiece.
“This is one of the great things about baseball,” said the Astros’ 72-year-old manager, Dusty Baker. “When you’re dead in the water and things aren’t going good, and then all of a sudden, boom, boom, boom, and you got seven runs.
“That’s what they’ve been doing to us this whole series,” he said. “And we’re capable of doing that as well.”
Jason Castro looked off a potential third strike from Nathan Eovaldi before driving in watch-tapping Carlos Correa with the go-ahead run in the ninth, then the AL West champions kept on scoring to guarantee themselves at least one more game back home.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Boston, with Games 6 and 7 back in Houston on Friday and, if necessary, Saturday.
The Red Sox are 5-0 after playoff losses under manager Alex Cora.
“We’re feeling pretty confident,” said Eovaldi, the Game 2 winner who made his first relief appearance since 2019. “That’s been one of our strengths is being able to turn the page and come in tomorrow.”
In a series that had been dominated by offence — especially Boston’s, which has hit 10 homers in the series, including a record-setting three grand slams to turn Games 2 and 3 into routs — the teams traded first-inning home runs.
Alex Bregman hit a solo shot into the Green Monster seats, then Xander Bogaerts topped it with a towering, two-run drive onto Lansdowne Street in the bottom half to give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.
Then, the pitchers took over.
It was still 2-1 when Altuve homered against Garrett Whitlock to tie it in the eighth. It was his 21st career postseason home run, breaking a tie with Derek Jeter for third-most in baseball history and trailing only Manny Ramirez (29) and Bernie Williams (22).
Eovaldi, making his first relief appearance since he was coming back from an injury two years ago, came on for the ninth and gave up Correa’s leadoff double.
The Red Sox thought they were out of the inning when Eovaldi’s 1-2 breaking ball appeared to catch the plate for strike three on Castro. Still alive, Castro singled in Correa to give Houston the lead.
“Yeah, a lot of people thought it was a strike,” Cora said. “It was a good game until the end, right? We were one pitch away from ending that inning, and it didn’t happen, and then they scored seven.”
Michael Brantley hit a three-run double off Martin Perez. Yordan Alvarez added an RBI single. Perez’s throwing error on Correa’s infield single allowed a run to score, and Kyle Tucker singled in another run.
Houston has scored 36 runs with two outs in the postseason, including 18 of its 22 in this series.
“We knew with this team that we’re playing we wanted to pad the lead,” Baker said. “And pad the lead we did, you know what I mean? That one run might not have stood up, especially in this ballpark.”
The Red Sox, who were the first team in major league history to have double-digit hits six straight times in a single postseason, had just five on Tuesday — two of them when already trailing by seven in the ninth.
Nick Pivetta allowed just one more hit after Bregman’s homer before leaving with a 2-1 lead through five innings. Eovaldi took the loss, allowing four runs while getting just two outs.
Kendall Graveman, the fifth Houston pitcher, threw two scoreless innings for the win. The Astros had special praise for Cristian Javier, who pitched three scoreless innings to get them through five as Houston’s bullpen delivered 7 2/3 shutout innings.
“What the relievers did today was amazing,” Altuve said.
It was the third straight game the Red Sox got five or more innings from a starter, and the third straight that the Houston starter didn’t make it out of the second inning; Zack Greinke got just four outs on Tuesday.
Astros: CF Jake Meyers, who injured his left shoulder crashing into the wall in the Division Series clincher, was originally listed in the starting lineup but “wasn’t quite ready yet,” Baker said. Chas McCormick started in centre instead.
Red Sox: Schwarber appeared to tweak his left hamstring on a swing in the fourth inning. He limped out a groundout and remained in the game.
Game 5 is Wednesday at 5:08 p.m. Chris Sale will start for the Red Sox after allowing one run over 2 2/3 innings in Game 1. Framber Valdez goes for Houston. He gave up two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings during the series opener.
Golf-Olympic gold medallist Schauffele pumped for Zozo Championship in Japan
AmericanXander Schauffele returns this week for the Zozo Championship in Japan nearly two and half months after winning the gold medal at the Tokyo Games and the 27-year-old said he is looking to grab a “special” victory at the PGA Tour event.
The tournament returns to Japan at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on Thursday after last year’s edition was moved to California due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The $9.95 million event will feature Asia’s first Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, two-time major winner Collin Morikawa and Schauffele, who won gold for the United States at the Tokyo Olympics in August with a one-stroke victory.
Schauffele, whose grandparents reside in Japan, said winning at the Zozo Championship would be a huge honour for his family.
“I’m very excited,” Schauffele, who also won the Ryder Cup with the United States last month, said on Wednesday.
“Winning here would be really cool. It would be really special to sort of win twice in Japan, especially since I don’t live here.
“I think it would be a huge honour for my family if I was able to do that and I’m going to do my best this week.”
American Morikawa, whose father is of Japanese descent, said he is looking forward to playing in front of an energetic crowd with 5,000 spectators allowed each day.
“These are some of the best fans,” Morikawa said. “I remember my first tee shot out here two years ago when there were fans on stools and lined up five, six people deep.
“They would cheer for you walking to tee boxes, hitting every tee shot whether it’s good or bad.
“They bring so much energy. I’ve said it since we returned from COVID, it’s just really good to see people out here again.”
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; editing by Kim Coghill)
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