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Raptors able to handle Suns despite missing injured Marc Gasol at centre –



TORONTO – You might think that this far into the season the Toronto Raptors‘ story could be told in a few essential statistical truths, other than that their wins far exceed their losses.

But no. Not that simple.

“I don’t live in the stats all that much, especially this year,” head coach Nick Nurse said before his club took the floor at Scotiabank Arena on Friday for the first time in 11 days after the NBA all-star break. “It’s like we’ve played six different rosters [due to injuries]. You look at all of them in totality and you don’t know what any of that means, depending on who is playing and all of that.”


The break was supposed to provide the opportunity for at least one of their injured players to return to the fold, with Marc Gasol widely expected to return from a hamstring problem that has cost him 20 games and counting over two stints on the sidelines.

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But the Raptors have opted to be extra cautious with the 35-year-old, who followed the team’s championship run with a full summer leading Spain to the world championships, with Nurse suggesting he could be out another month, returning only to get a 10 or 12-game tune up prior to the playoffs.

As has been the case with almost all their injured players – the Raptors were fifth in games lost to injury coming out of the break – Toronto managed just fine without them, as Norm Powell (finger) and Pat McCaw (flu) were also unavailable.

Against a talented but young Phoenix Suns team, the Raptors were able to manage while shorthanded once again as they survived seeing a 24-point halftime lead dwindle to seven with 5:29 left before halting the Suns’ rally to win, 118-101.

It helped that Pascal Siakam came back from his first all-star game appearance playing like a future MVP.

“I just liked the fact I was more engaged and kind of showed some passion,” he said. “I think it’s important and that’s something that I kind of try to make sure of – that I get engaged and not find a way to not just be out there. I think it’s easy to just relax and I think when you play with more energy and you’re more engaged, everything else kind of falls into place.”

Siakam led all scorers with 37 points and 12 rebounds. He chipped in eight points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of dunks and a crucial assist to OG Anunoby for another dunk that helped push the Raptors’ lead back to double figures. A Kyle Lowry three with 1:28 left capped a 16-6 run to put Phoenix away.

But the Suns visit and Gasol’s extended absence did raise a relevant question: how will a centre rotation that starts at Serge Ibaka and ends at six-foot-nine, 200-pound Chris Boucher manage?

The Raptors are 26th in defensive rebounding percentage, as an example.

On paper, you would expect that the Suns’ big-man duo of Deandre Ayton and Aron Baynes would be too much for the Raptors to handle. Boucher in particular, as he gives up a minimum of 50 pounds and several inches against either member of one of the more imposing big-man pairings in the NBA.

“He’s fighting in a different weight class, you know, or whatever,” Nurse said. “We’ll give him his chance and see how he goes.”

The game didn’t pivot on Boucher – although he was minus-five in his 14 minutes on the floor — but when Ibaka got into foul trouble and sat for nearly 14 minutes after picking up his fifth midway through the third quarter, the Raptors were challenged to contain Ayton in the paint as he scored 13 of his 17 in the second half, mainly when Ibaka was out.

Toronto did give up 10 offensive rebounds to the Suns, but they got seven of their own to mitigate the damage. Their main advantage came from holding the Suns to 6-of-34 from three while making 14 of their own on 37 attempts.

They used a team approach to make up for their lack of size. Toronto out-rebounded the Suns, 48-34, and it helped that Lowry and Fred VanVleet – the two shortest players on the floor – grabbed 12 rebounds between them.

“We have to help rebound a little bit more, the guards,” said Lowry, who added 13 points and 10 assists in the wake of his sixth all-star appearance. “When we’re small, everyone has to come back and rebound and OG [Anunoby] has to play a little bigger and P [Siakam] has to play a little bit bigger and everyone has to get in there and make things happen.”

The Raptors hinted at a blowout early on by building up a 67-43 lead at half, mainly by taking advantage of the inexperienced Ayton on defence. Both Ibaka (who was plus-13 in his 26 minutes while and finished with 16 points and six rebounds) and Boucher helped draw the second-year centre away from the paint and the Raptors were able to attack him off the dribble in space, force him to commit to the ball and burn the Suns on a seemingly endless stream of backdoor cuts that were finished at the rim virtually uncontested. On the occasions the Suns did collapse to the rim, the Raptors picked them apart from the perimeter with five different Raptors making threes. That Siakam made five himself on eight attempts on his way to 25 first-half points was also beneficial.

Defensively, the Raptors defended as they always do – five men moving as one, with bodies darting in the paint to thwart attempts to hit Ayton rolling to the rim and scrambling out to the edges to limit the Suns to 2-of-19 shooting from deep in the first two quarters, and 35.3 per cent shooting overall for the half.

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On paper, the combination of Ayton and Devin Booker – one of the most gifted scoring guards in basketball – would seem a nearly unsolvable problem, but the Raptors excel at those.

“We always say a mid-screen-and-roll is a five-man defence,” Nurse said. “There have got to be five guys doing their job, tagging on the weak side and being able to fire back out and try to be as deceptive back to them as they’re trying to be to you on those plays.”

Things got a little testy midway through the third quarter when Ibaka picked up a questionable fifth foul in what looked like a 50-50 wrestling match with Ayton. Nurse picked up a technical, he was so incensed. He got even madder when the Suns set up to shoot the technical before Nurse could call a timeout to initiate the replay review process.

“They saw me jump up off the bench on the call [and get the technical foul] but then they couldn’t see me call the timeout for a while,” Nurse said. “Selective vision.”

At the time the Suns had cut what had peaked at a 26-point first-half lead to 13 and their best big men was headed to the bench.

But Toronto figured things out. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – all six-foot-seven of him — and Boucher played centre by committee and the Raptors went on an 18-6 run sparked by threes from Lowry, VanVleet and Terence Davis while limiting the Suns to a pair of field goals over a stretch of more than five minutes as Toronto took a 93-78 lead into the fourth quarter.

They were able to manage that lead the rest of the way and build on the most important statistic of all as they head into the home stretch – 41 wins against only 15 losses.

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Canadiens Prospect Owen Beck Clutch At Memorial Cup – Montreal Hockey Now



Montreal Canadiens prospect Owen Beck has enjoyed a rather wild ride since the OHL playoffs started.

Not only did the Peterborough Petes, who finished the regular season with just 74 points, eliminate the league-leading Ottawa 67’s and the powerhouse London Knights to capture the OHL Championship, but thanks to their never-say-die attitude, they managed to once again avoid elimination at the Memorial Cup.

Before we get into the game details, which include a fantastic drive to the net by Beck to set up the game-winning goal, I’d like to once again take to my soapbox to discuss the entertainment value provided by Junior hockey.

I’ll keep it short, this time, I promise.

However, in exchange for not rambling at length about the unmatched excitement you’ll witness during most games, I need you to make an honest effort to catch a Junior hockey game at your local rink.

It’s easily the best bang for your hard-earned buck available when it comes to hockey.

You won’t be disappointed.

Beck Plays The Hero

The tie-break game between the Petes and the Kamloops Blazers featured everything you look for in a hockey game.

There were dramatic goals, great saves, momentum swings, big hits, and for those who partake in the sweet science, a rather nasty knock-out punch by New Jersey Devils prospect Chase Stillman.

Despite allowing the Petes to score first, the Blazers quickly took control of the game by scoring four answered goals. As exciting as Peterborough’s Cinderella run had been, it seemed inevitable that their fun had come to an end.

They needed a little magic.

And they got it from New York Rangers prospect Brendan Othmann, who cut the lead to 4-2 thanks to a fantastic individual effort midway through the second period. Peterborough then quickly tied the game following goals from Samuel Mayer and Brian Zanetti.

Both teams played a very safe style of play in the third period, giving the Petes, who have now played a total of 96 games this season, an opportunity to play the underdog role to perfection once again.

And that’s where Beck, who had been quiet up to that point, took matters into his own hands.

The cerebral Canadiens prospect cut through the neutral zone, using his speed and positioning to open up a lane toward the net.

Everyone in the building expected Beck to shoot, which would have been a reasonable decision considering he was in a high-danger shooting area.

But Beck, who had drawn the attention of both Blazers defencemen, knew his teammate, JR Avon, had plenty of time and space to take a shot that had a better chance of fooling Dylan Ernst.

It was a play that combined offensive awareness, great skating, vision, and anticipation, which is exactly what we’ve come to expect from an intelligent prospect such as Beck.

On The Docket

Beck’s heroics have set up a Canadiens prospect vs. Canadiens prospect semifinal at the Memorial Cup.

The Petes, who seem to have been blessed by hockey gods, will face Jared Davidson and the Seattle Thunderbirds on Friday.

The puck drop for this must-see event is scheduled for 10 PM ET.

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Toronto Maple Leafs: Treliving Hiring Shows Shanahan's Incompetence – Editor in Leaf



The problem isn’t that Brad Treliving is the newest GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but instead, it’s Brendan Shanahan’s explanation of it.

As previously mentioned, Brad Treliving is a good executive with a long hockey career, but he never should have been hired as the Toronto Maple Leafs GM.

Reports already indicate that the core-four will  remain the same next year, which is fine, but why hire someone new if they’re going to do the same thing and not at least scare the roster that they could be moved?


A new GM is supposed to ignite change and bring a new approach to the game. It’s not someone who’s just going to re-do the job that Kyle Dubas just did.

When Shanahan fired Dubas, he wanted someone who had experience, which is what Treliving brings, but it’s not like he has a ton of winning experience. He’s never been to a Stanley Cup Finals before and only advanced to the second round twice in nine years in Calgary, so what’s really the difference between him and Dubas?

Nothing, at least not in terms of experience or success.

The only difference is that Shanahan is a bitter old-man who was scared that the young buck in Dubas was getting too much attention and that he might take his job one day.

Toronto Maple Leafs: New GM Brings Nothing Different From Dubas

If you look across the league, it’s crazy how much esteem Dubas has. By the way Shanahan described Dubas during his firing, it’s like he was only in the league for 10 minutes and didn’t have the respect of his peers.

Shanahan’s statement was actually hilarious when you compare his words to what other people have said about Dubas. Here’s what Shanahan said during his press conference:

“Treliving earned tremendous respect during his time in the NHL and built excellent relationships … We are confident that Brad’s leadership and strategic vision will elevate the Maple Leafs in our continued pursuit of a championship.”

As for Dubas, if you read Pierre LeBruns’ article in The Athletic last week, the same words were essentially said about him, here are some quotes from that article:

For example:

  • Jarmo Kekalainen (Columbus Blue Jackets): “I have the utmost respect for Kyle, both as a professional and as a person. He’s always a straight shooter to deal with. No bulls—. Just an all-around really good person and a professional. All our discussions were straightforward and analytical. I think he has a very thorough approach to everything; you have to be prepared when you talk to him because he’s going to look at things from every angle. I have a lot of respect for him.”
  • Bill Zito (Florida Panthers) : “Obviously, a very bright man. And a guy that I have a lot of faith in his character. He’s a guy you could do a deal with. And if it wasn’t papered, you could tell the (player) go ahead get on the plane. As an agent, we used to say if you did a deal with a GM and you didn’t have a contract back yet, would you send your player on the plane? That’s a level of respect I have for Kyle’s integrity. Obviously, I’m very fond of him. I think he did a hell of a job there.”
  • The GMs of Nashville, Tampa and Edmonton were all quoted as saying really nice things about him as well.

All of these old-school and experienced GM’s said nothing but great things about Dubas, yet the Leafs didn’t want him. They explained all of the attributes that Shanahan wanted in a GM, yet they decided to move on and hire Treliving instead.

Shanahan took a bitter approach and gassed one of the most thoughtful and intelligent hockey minds of this generation and instead hired a guy who hasn’t doesn’t seem to be an improvement in any way.

No disrespect to Treliving because I think he’s going to do a fine job, but the explanation of Dubas’ firing gets dumber with every second and continues to show the incompetence of Shanahan as the President of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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How much are Stanley Cup Final tickets? – ESPN – ESPN



The Stanley Cup Final will return to Las Vegas and South Florida for the Florida Panthers vs. the Vegas Golden Knights. For fans of the Knights, who reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2018, tickets to the first two games at T-Mobile Arena are a bit cheaper this time around.

The average price for a ticket to Game 1 is $763, according to Vivid Seats data. In 2018, during the franchise’s first trip to the Final, the average was $1,062. That was the highest in recent years for a team making its Final debut or returning after a long drought. Last year’s Game 1 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche had an average price of $1,052. The Avalanche, who hosted Game 1, were playing their first Final game since 2001. When the St. Louis Blues hosted their first Final game in decades in 2019, the average was $869.


For Saturday’s opening game, the lowest-priced available ticket is going for $405 on the Knights’ website, while TickPick lists a no-view, standing room only ticket for $311. The most expensive ticket is $9,750. These prices don’t reflect taxes or fees.

For Game 3, the Panthers’ first Stanley Cup Final home game since 1996, the average price for a ticket at FLA Live Arena is $628, according to Vivid Seats. At Ticketmaster, the Panthers’ ticket-seller, the lowest-priced ticket is $538. The most expensive ticket is reselling for $9,000 before taxes and fees. The average price for Game 4 is a bit higher at $689.

If the series goes to seven games, fans might need some extra casino winnings to get into the arena. Prices via the Knights’ website range from about $900 to $25,000.

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