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.”
Mixed Martial Arts-Door is open for YouTube’s Paul brothers in MMA
Logan and Jake Paul would make great Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters, Bellator president Scott Coker has said as he targets exhibition matches featuring the YouTube personalities such as the former’s boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather.
Logan Paul went the distance, surviving eight rounds against unbeaten (50-0) five-division world boxing champion Mayweather in an exhibition on Sunday at Miami’s Hard Rock stadium.
USA Today reported the fight brought in one million pay per view buys with $50 million generated from sales in the United States.
It was only the second fight of Paul’s career, while his brother Jake has fought in three professional boxing matches, beating former MMA fighter Ben Askren in April.
Critics have labelled the bouts a sideshow due to the lack of sporting credibility of the duo, who made their names as social media personalities and have millions of subscribers on YouTube.
However, Coker told Reuters the brothers have impressive physiques and the door is open for them to move into MMA.
“I met with Logan Paul about two years ago and I’ve spoken to Jake Paul’s manager and Jake on a zoom call recently… The one thing I said was hey, if you want to do MMA we would love to promote you guys,” the 58-year-old said in a Zoom interview.
“These guys are young, athletic, strong and you saw the fight on Sunday night these guys they came and did their work.
“Mayweather couldn’t finish him and I know he tried, I heard he wanted to knock this kid out so bad,” he added.
“When I heard both had high school wrestling backgrounds in Ohio, which is a prominent wrestling state in the U.S., it really made me interested in pursuing them in some super fights in Mixed Martial Arts – and that door is continually open.”
Bellator, owned by Viacom, is gearing up for a busy month of events, starting with Bellator 260 on Friday with the headline fight between reigning welterweight world champion Douglas Lima and the undefeated Yaroslav Amosov.
However, super fights and exhibitions are where Coker is targeting a younger audience.
“My 14-year-old niece, I told her I was going to the Logan Paul fight and she thought that was the greatest thing,” he said.
“She asked me who he was fighting and I said Floyd Mayweather and she said ‘who’s that?’ – I thought wow, she doesn’t know boxing, she doesn’t know MMA, she’s just a 14-year-old girl on the internet doing what they do.”
As the sporting world gears up for the delayed Tokyo Olympics starting in July, Coker believes MMA will feature in future Games.
“When you think about mixed martial arts, what you’re talking about is boxing, wrestling, judo, taekwondo, karate – those are all Olympic sports,” he said.
“Why wouldn’t mixed martial arts eventually get into the Olympics because six out of the seven disciplines MMA is known to use really is already there.
“There’d be a lot of details to work out but to me I think it will happen, it’s just a matter of time.”
(Reporting by Christian Radnedge,; Editing by Ed Osmond)
Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships
The championships will return to Montreal from March 18-24, marking the 11th time Canada has staged the event.
“Skate Canada has a proven track record of holding successful ISU events and we are looking forward to bringing the world’s best skaters to the fantastic Canadian city of Montreal,” said Debra Armstrong, CEO of Skate Canada, in a statement.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)
Andreescu splits with coach Bruneau after French Open exit
World number seven Bianca Andreescu on Tuesday announced she has split with longtime coach Sylvain Bruneau, a week after falling in the first round of the French Open.
The pair had worked together for four years as Andreescu made her breakthrough with three titles in 2019, including the U.S. Open.
“It is with a heavy heart that I would like to inform my fans that my long time coach, mentor and friend, Sylvain and I, have mutually decided to end our incredible coaching relationship,” Canadian Andreescu wrote on Twitter
“Our friendship will live forever … I am very grateful for everything we accomplished together and all of our great memories.
“Sylvain was more than a coach… he is family.”
Andreescu, 20, returned to action at this year’s Australian Open, having missed 15 months due to a knee injury.
A positive COVID-19 test subsequently ruled Andreescu out of both Madrid and Rome before an abdominal injury forced her to pull out of Strasbourg at the quarter-final stage.
Her most recent appearance at Roland Garros ended with a 6-7(1) 7-6(2) 9-7 defeat by Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)