Connect with us


Maple Leafs’ patience pays off against ‘wet blanket’ Islanders



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.

Home of the Maple Leafs

Stream 56 Maple Leafs games this season with Sportsnet NOW. Get over 500 NHL games, blackout-free, including Hockey Night in Canada, all outdoor games, the All-Star Game, 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and more.

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

Source link

Continue Reading


Kevin Durant Didn't Previously Express Wish For Nets To Fire Steve Nash, Sean Marks –



Kevin Durant met with Joe Tsai recently in London and it was revealed he expressed a lack of faith in the direction of the Brooklyn Nets. Durant reportedly issued an ultimatum that he is not interested in continuing with the Nets if Steve Nash remains as head coach and Sean Marks continues running the front office.

“The timing of it is also unusual,” said Brian Windhorst on Tuesday. “While star players have gotten coaches fired for decades and will get them fired for decades, he didn’t express this, as far as I’m aware to the Nets at the end of the season. And he didn’t express this to the Nets when he made his trade demand. So doing it now is a maneuver. A maneuver that I don’t think worked. 

“Because as I talk to teams out there, they don’t think his increased his trade value, they think this hurt his trade value.”

Windhorst also noted that Tsai statement of support for Nash and Marks also includes a sentence the league paid strong attention to stating “We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”

Adblock test (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Thousands of tickets still available for world junior hockey tournament in Edmonton – CBC Sports



Odd summer timing and an ongoing sexual assault scandal at Hockey Canada could be the reason thousands of tickets to the world junior championship are still available on the eve of the tournament, says an Edmonton professor.

Prof. Dan Mason, who teaches in the faculty of kinesiology, sport, and recreation at the University of Alberta, said when Canada hosts, there are usually so many fans who want to see the home team take the ice that they are willing to buy Hockey Canada’s packaged games that include teams that are not Canadian.

“So Latvia vs. Slovakia, for example, those games will be sold out as well because in order to get the tickets to watch Canada play, you have to buy a package that includes some of the other games,” he said on Friday.

“The fact that there are still Team Canada tickets available, that tells you the demand is much lower than it usually is for this kind of event.”

WATCH l World junior tournament to go ahead amidst Hockey Canada controversy:

World junior hockey tournament to go ahead amidst Hockey Canada controversy

7 hours ago

Duration 2:07

Ticket sales for the World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton are below expectations as the tournament kicks of this week in the shadow of an ongoing sexual assault scandal at Hockey Canada.

The tournament runs from Aug. 9-20 at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

The initial 2022 championship in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., was called off Dec. 29 after just four days because of rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials, which forced game forfeitures.

The 10-country tournament will be minus Russia, barred from participating by the International Ice Hockey Federation because of that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Holiday tradition

Around 1,500 tickets are still available for purchase on Ticketmaster to the first game between Czech Republic and Slovakia on Tuesday. About 1,300 tickets are available for the next day when Canada takes on Latvia. About 1,500 seats for the final game are also available with hundreds of other tickets to watch the 11-day tournament.

This time of year, you probably already had plans to go to the lake … or do something summer-related.— Edmonton professor Dan Mason on poor ticket sales for an August world juniors

Mason said the timing of the games could be why interest is so low. The tournament typically runs over the Christmas holidays.

“Over the past 30 years or so, TSN has built the world juniors into this holiday event that people partake in,” he said.

“I watch it with my family over the [Christmas] break though so it’s kind of become part of our holiday tradition.

“This time of year, you probably already had plans to go to the lake, go to the mountains or do something summer-related. I don’t think we’re willing to give up those plans to watch hockey.”

Many people could also be waiting for a former judge on the Supreme Court of Canada to begin independently reviewing Hockey Canada’s governance amid calls for a change of leadership.

The review comes after members of the 2018 world junior team were accused of a group sexual assault after a gala event, and after Hockey Canada reached a settlement.

“I think there’s people who weren’t sure if they would go or not, and maybe deciding not to go because of that,” Mason said.

The CEO of Explore Edmonton, which promotes tourism in the Alberta capital, said in an email the marketing organization paused its promotion of the games in response to the allegations.

“As the host city for the upcoming tournament, we continue to have discussions with Hockey Canada officials about their plans to address the need for change,” said Traci Bednard.

Mason said inflation and less disposable income could be other factors working against the tournament.

“Canada may be more focused on that player development piece than trying to sort of make money off of a tournament being held in the summer,” he said.

Adblock test (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Nets owner Tsai backs coach, GM amid reported Durant standoff – theScore



Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai has pledged his support of the coaching staff and front office after Kevin Durant reportedly demanded that the team trade him or fire head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks

Tsai took to Twitter on Monday, saying, “Our front office and coaching staff have my support. We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”

Durant’s ultimatum is apparently a result of his lack of faith in the team’s direction, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported earlier Monday. The 33-year-old is firm in his stance, Charania adds.

The former MVP requested a trade at the end of June following a disappointing season that ended in a first-round exit. Little was known at the time about his reasons for the decision.

The Nets have reportedly had discussions with nearly every team in the league in hopes of getting a historic package of players and draft picks in return for Durant. Brooklyn reportedly proposed a trade with the Toronto Raptors involving Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes and talked about a deal with the Boston Celtics that would include star Jaylen Brown.

The Raptors, Celtics, and Miami Heat are seen as the most likely trade destinations for Durant, sources told Charania.

The Nets aim to take “every last asset” from their trade partner in any deal for Durant, according to Charania.

Nash, a Hall of Fame point guard, has been at the helm of the Nets for two seasons. It is his first job in professional coaching. Meanwhile, Marks has held the position of general manager since 2016 after being an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs.

Adblock test (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading