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Marner and Matthews together make Maple Leafs magic, but Keefe will always consider options – Toronto Sun

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While Sheldon Keefe certainly can see the value in putting Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews on the same line, it’s not a duo that is etched in ice.

At least, not yet.

The pair, aided well by Zach Hyman, were electrifying in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, spiriting the Leafs to a shocking 8-6 win.

“I would say we’re still kind of in the experiment stage,” coach Keefe said of the Marner/Matthews pairing.

“How it works out long term is not necessarily just on how that goes, but how things underneath them go. We look at all of that.”

Keefe had some intriguing looks in the warmup, with Matthews between Marner and Hyman; John Tavares centring Ilya Mikheyev and Pierre Engvall; Alex Kerfoot between William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen; and Frederik Gauthier centring Dmytro Timashov and Jason Spezza.

Keefe tweaked to start the game, putting Spezza with Tavares and Mikheyev, saying he had a hunch Spezza would have some off-the-hop pop with his four daughters in the crowd, and it worked, as Spezza scored at 30 seconds. Note, of course, something similar didn’t occur to Mike Babcock on opening night, who refused to get out of his own way and made Spezza a healthy scratch.

Anyway, Keefe reverted to his warmup lines, and eventually Matthews and Marner took over. When there were mistakes made in the game that allowed Carolina to score five in a row, Keefe didn’t think it was because of what certain Leafs lines were doing, so he kept them intact.

“It makes sense to me (in keeping Matthews and Marner together) in terms of the way one sees the ice and passes and the way that one finishes,” Keefe said. “But we also know Mitch and (Hyman) were successful with (Tavares) there as well.

“We have to weigh that, and again, it’s a lot to do with just how things fall into place underneath them as well.

“I think if I’ve shown anything in the early going here, it’s that I’m not one want to maybe stick with anything for too long.”

Agreed. Innovation where Keefe’s predecessor was stubborn.

Fact is, the luxury that Keefe has with his forward depth makes him happy to use it to his advantage when he sees fit. People can be moved around without fear of a drop in play.

As one might imagine, both Matthews and Marner are fine if they’re not separated.

“We just want to make sure we’re defensively stable,” Marner said. “We know if we stay patient, we can get our opportunities and we’re going to score on them and if not, we’re at least going to get those opportunities for good looks and think that’s what we did tonight. We just stayed patient with it.”

Said Matthews: “We’ve always felt we’ve had fun playing with each other in the past, whether it was for a couple of shifts or for a period or one game. We never really had consistency, playing together. He’s a really great player and he’s fun to play with. We just try to feed off each other, like we did tonight.”

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Tiger Woods had a tough opening round at The 152nd Open Championship

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Tiger Woods encountered difficulties during the opening round of The 152nd Open Championship at Royal Troon, finishing with an 8-over-par 79. Despite a promising beginning, including a birdie on the third hole, Woods struggled to find consistency throughout the round. His iron play and putting were particularly problematic, contributing to a series of bogeys and double bogeys.

Woods’ performance saw him slightly above average off the tee and around the green. However, he lost over two strokes to the field in both approach play and putting, ranking near the bottom in these categories. This marks a significant challenge for the 15-time major champion, especially considering the competitive field and the demanding conditions at Royal Troon.

Reflecting on his round, Woods admitted, “I didn’t do a lot of things right today. I didn’t hit my irons very close, and I didn’t give myself a whole lot of looks today. I need to shoot something in the mid-60s tomorrow to get something going on the weekend.” He emphasized the need for a strong performance on Friday to make the cut and remain in contention.

Woods, 48, has shown determination and resilience, competing in all four majors this year for the first time since his serious car accident in 2021. Despite physical limitations, he believes he can still contend for major titles under the right conditions. His performance on Thursday puts him in a challenging position, requiring a significant turnaround in the second round to stay in the tournament.

As Woods prepares for Friday’s round, his focus remains on improving his game and making the cut. Fans and analysts alike will be watching to see if he can achieve the remarkable recovery needed to advance and compete over the weekend. Woods’ journey at The 152nd Open Championship continues to be a testament to his enduring skill and competitive spirit.

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NBA Returns to Montreal with Raptors vs. Wizards Pre-Season Game

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Montreal, QC – The NBA is set to make an exciting return to Montreal. The league announced on Thursday that the Toronto Raptors will face off against the Washington Wizards at the Bell Centre on October 6, marking the 10th edition of the NBA Canada Series.

This annual series has featured 15 teams playing 18 pre-season games across six Canadian cities. Notably, this will be the eighth NBA Canada Series game in Montreal, the highest for any city outside the Raptors’ usual home in Toronto.

Last year, Montreal fans witnessed the Detroit Pistons take on the Oklahoma City Thunder, featuring Canadians Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort. The Raptors’ previous game in Montreal was in 2022.

This year’s game will be particularly special as it will showcase several Canadian players. Montreal natives Chris Boucher and Quincy Guerrier are both on the Raptors’ training camp roster. Additionally, Kelly Olynyk and RJ Barrett, who are set to represent Canada at the upcoming Summer Olympics, are also expected to play for the Raptors.

The Wizards bring their own Canadian connection with Kyshawn George, selected in this year’s NBA Draft. George, born in Switzerland, is the son of Montreal’s Deon George, a former member of Canada’s men’s basketball team.

The October 6 game will cap off the Raptors’ Montreal-based training camp, promising an exciting end to their preparations.

For more updates and coverage on the NBA Canada Series, visit Canada News Media

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Fafa Picault Leads Vancouver Whitecaps to Victory Over Sporting Kansas City

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Vancouver, BCFafa Picault emerged as the hero off the bench, scoring in the second half to secure a 2-1 victory for the Vancouver Whitecaps against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.

The Whitecaps (11-7-5) dominated the first half, with two goals being disallowed due to offside calls. Vancouver’s breakthrough came in the 34th minute when Kansas City defender Robert Valoder accidentally scored an own goal, giving the ‘Caps a 1-0 lead.

Sporting Kansas City (6-14-5) showed more vigor in the second half, equalizing in the 69th minute with a goal from Willy Agada. However, Picault’s decisive goal in the 76th minute ensured the Whitecaps extended their unbeaten streak in Major League Soccer (MLS) to five games (4-0-1).

Yohei Takaoka delivered an outstanding performance with 16 saves for Vancouver, while Tim Melia made 12 stops for Kansas City, whose three-game winning streak came to an end.

First Half Dominance

The Whitecaps were aggressive from the start, creating several early scoring opportunities. Brian White nearly scored with a header in the seventh minute, but Valoder cleared it off the goal line.

Ali Ahmed had a notable moment in the 27th minute, maneuvering past defenders to set up White for a goal that was disallowed due to offside. The Whitecaps’ pressure paid off in the 34th minute when Valoder deflected the ball into his own net, attempting to intercept a pass from Ryan Gauld to White.

Ahmed seemed poised to increase Vancouver’s lead eight minutes later, but his goal was also ruled offside. Despite these setbacks, Vancouver outshot Kansas City 9-2 in the first half.

Kansas City’s Resurgence

Sporting Kansas City made three substitutions at halftime, revitalizing their performance. Stefan Afrifa, substituting for Alenis Vargas, struck the crossbar in the 63rd minute, and Daniel Salloi’s follow-up shot was expertly saved by Takaoka.

Kansas City equalized six minutes later when Agada capitalized on a rebound after Takaoka’s save, slotting the ball into an open net.

Picault’s Winning Goal

The Whitecaps regained the lead in the 76th minute through Picault’s sixth goal of the season. Sebastian Berhalter, who replaced Ryan Raposo in the 67th minute, delivered a perfect cross to Picault, who headed it past Melia to make it 2-1.

Kansas City had a chance to level the score in injury time, but Erik Thommy’s free kick went over the bar following a foul by Mathias Laborda.

The victory solidifies the Whitecaps’ position as a formidable team in the MLS, with Picault’s performance highlighting their depth and resilience.

Stay tuned for more updates and coverage on the Vancouver Whitecaps at Canada News Media.

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