No Matthews, no problem.
After two periods of stellar play from their goaltender, the Leafs went into the final frame with a 3-0 lead — and played the best defensive period we’ve seen from them this season.
We’re obviously going to break down some of the offensive plays that helped them get that lead, not to mention Jack Campbell’s 30-save shutout. The real story here to me, though, is Toronto locking things down defensively against Connor McDavid & company en route to a 4-0 victory, a win that included:
- A goal in each period
- Going one-for-one on the power play, with zero penalties taken
- Three 5v5 goals from three different lines
- A shutout from their backup goaltender
This is a game the Leafs‘ coaches, front office, and fans can all appreciate for a multitude of reasons. Let’s dive into some of those by breaking down each player individually.
It’s time for some report cards!
Game Puck: Jack Campbell (G, #36) — It’s not easy keeping McDavid off the scoreboard, especially when he opens the game like this.
To make matters worse, the Leafs were turning the puck over in some brutal spots early on. Jimmy Vesey and Alex Barabanov each made a tape-to-tape pass to an Edmonton Oiler wide open in the slot — in their own end.
Campbell was forced to stop a lot of Grade-A chances from the slot. He stopped every one of them. The team in front of him helped make life easier in the back half of the game, but we still have to give the man credit for saving all 30 shots thrown his way.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) February 28, 2021
It looks like his teammates agree.
Mitch Marner (RW, #16) — With Auston Matthews out of the lineup tonight nursing a wrist injury, Mitch Marner carried the load offensively. At 5-on-5, he was finding open teammates off the rush.
On the power play, he baited Mike Smith into going down early before skating around the net and finding William Nylander for the game’s first goal.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) February 28, 2021
Soon after that, Marner found himself in a good shooting position off the rush.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) February 28, 2021
You can tell he’s feeling more and more confident in his wrist shot with each passing game. He’s never going to shoot the puck like Auston Matthews, but if Marner can keep working on improvements to his shooting ability, it’s going to open up more options for him as a passer.
That’s a scary thought for a player who already has 10 goals and 22 assists in 22 games this season.
William Nylander (LW, #88) — Part of me always wondered why the Leafs play Nylander at left wing so often. “He’s a right shot, aren’t almost all wingers better on their strong side?”
Then you watch him make plays as a passer from that side of the ice and it starts to make more sense.
That’s a great read by Zach Bogosian to pass it backdoor, but it’s Nylander reversing play to the weak side that opens up all that ice.
Not many players can gain the zone like Nylander and complete an east-west pass afterward, especially when they’re carrying the puck on their off-wing. Full disclosure: Nylander actually played right wing tonight, but with the way he attacks in transition, he’s equally likely to enter the zone from either side.
He also scored that goal on the power play, by the way.
TJ Brodie (RD, #78) — It’s a tall task to defend McDavid 1-on-1 off the rush multiple times a game. Brodie did an excellent job for my money, not letting #97 get around him and getting his stick on the puck most of the time. His most impactful play was a diving poke to create a 2-on-1 goal for Jason Spezza.
Morgan Rielly (LD, #44) — Few players make me think more about the position as a whole than Morgan Rielly. He activates into the play any time he sees an opportunity, often acting as the team’s fourth forward in offensive situations.
This is the OZ movement that makes Toronto so difficult to defend. Rielly has a knack for finding open ice, skating into it, and finding that next pass across the grain for a Grade-A scoring chance.
Rielly accomplished that a few times in this game, not to mention a stretch pass up the ice to Mikheyev, where he shockingly didn’t convert.
Marner’s Linemates — I say this jokingly. John Tavares and Joe Thornton had great games themselves, although it certainly helps to play alongside an all-world playmaker. Tavares was able to generate two assists, eight shot attempts, and five chances from the slot, both ranking first on the team tonight. After some of the flack he has received, that’s a statement game against touch matchups and without Matthews in the lineup.
Thornton had a couple of great moments himself, most notably his one-touch pass in the neutral zone to get Marner and Tavares in open space for the game’s second goal. I did get a bit worried watching Thornton try to keep up with McDavid on the backcheck, but his playmaking and work down low helped make up for it.
Zach Hyman (RW, #11) — We all expect him to win puck battles and provide big-time value defensively, so no surprises there tonight. What impressed me the most was the fact that Hyman was driving the offense. It wasn’t pretty, but with Mikheyev-Engvall as his linemates, it was never going to be.
Okay, maybe that one was pretty.
The Dermott-Bogosian Pair — It was cool to see Travis Dermott using his skating ability to open up passing lanes from the top of the OZ. He usually isn’t much of a threat from there, but he managed to pull off a few crafty passes from that spot.
Defensively, Toronto’s third pair got stuck out against the McDavid line a few times, which is where Zach Bogosian really stood out. Defense is one of those things that’s so difficult to measure, but if you go back and watch those shifts, that’s defense. Bogosian kept McDavid out of the dangerous areas, getting a body on him when he could.
Jason Spezza (RW, #19) — 2-on-1 with Jimmy Vesey, you’re thinking shoot all the way, right? Jason Spezza went with the move everyone saw coming — and it still worked. He’s been doing the fake slapshot for 20 years and goaltenders are still biting on it.
Maybe it’s because he’s one of the few guys in the league actually willing to let one go from distance. After all, it’s part of the reason Toronto’s second PP unit has been so effective these past two seasons.
Spezza has been quarterbacking that thing from the right wall, and as you saw on that goal, he’s still dangerous in open ice from that right circle.
Wingspan — Ilya Mikheyev and Pierre Engvall deserve each other.
Mikheyev and Engvall are both very tall and very fast.
It feels like their wingspans combine to cover the full width of the ice. There’s no space for opposing forwards to operate when they are out there.
— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) February 28, 2021
Defensively, they cover so much ground. Whether it’s an OZ forecheck or NZ trap, it’s super annoying for opposing forwards to skate through a wall of limbs poking at the puck.
Offensively, you probably shouldn’t expect too much. Mikheyev is still launching the puck from distance when he has wide-open ice in front of him.
Engvall has more confidence skating north-south with the puck, but his inability to make that next play after gaining the zone is why he only had five points in his last 42 games.
The Muzzin-Holl Pair — They got out-possessed at even strength to the tune of a lopsided 23-6 in shot attempts, but they broke even and didn’t give up a goal in their 8-9 minutes against Connor McDavid. It is worth noting Jake Muzzin was playing his first game since suffering a broken bone in his face. He made a few great underneath passes in the defensive zone. The pairing spent a little too much time in the defensive zone, although score effects likely play a role here.
As for Justin Holl, we need to give him some credit for coming to the defense of his goaltender on the Tyler Ennis collision.
A common frustration I’ve heard with this Leafs team is that they don’t stand up for each other enough in these instances. Holl answered the bell here, albeit on a 5’9 161lb winger.
Alex Kerfoot (C, #15) — Despite the odd burst of speed here and there, this was a pretty quiet game for Kerfoot. It was also a quiet night for Travis Boyd.
Alex Barabanov (LW, #94) — It’s good that Barabanov is getting more chances from in tight, but he needs to be more ready in those situations. We already mentioned his awful DZ turnover earlier, which resulted in a high-quality chance for Edmonton.
One last thing I wanted to mention was his board-play; he’s getting killed in those parts of the ice. If Barabanov wants to prove he can hang in an NHL top nine (or top 12), he’ll need to stop turning pucks over while getting pasted into the boards.
Jimmy Vesey (LW, #26) — It’s almost a running joke at this point. I genuinely feel bad doing this section now. Aside from his “Big Mistake”, Vesey failed to receive basic passes in transition and get play going in the right direction.
Aside from a bit of PK value, you’ve got to ask yourself what exactly does Vesey do for this Leafs team?
Here’s a quick look at where each team’s shots were coming from at even strength, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.
Final Grade: A
Cleveland changes MLB team nickname to Guardians after months of discussion – CBC.ca
Known as the Indians since 1915, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will be called Guardians.
The ball club announced the name change Friday with a video on Twitter narrated by actor Tom Hanks, ending months of internal discussions triggered by a national reckoning by institutions and teams to permanently drop logos and names that are considered racist.
Together, we are all… <a href=”https://t.co/R5FnT4kv1I”>pic.twitter.com/R5FnT4kv1I</a>
The choice of Guardians will undoubtedly be criticized by many of the club’s die-hard fans.
The organization spent most of the past year whittling down a list of potential names that was at nearly 1,200 just over a month ago. But the process quickly accelerated and the club landed on Guardians.
Social unrest spurred name change
Team owner Paul Dolan said last summer’s social unrest, touched off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, spurred his intention to change the name.
Dolan is expected to provide more details on the choice and background on the change at a news conference at Progressive Field before Cleveland hosts the Tampa Bay Rays.
Dolan said the new name mirrors the city and its people.
“Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity,” he said in a statement. “Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders. ‘Guardians’ reflects those attributes that define us.”
In 2018, the team stopped wearing the contentious Chief Wahoo logo on their jerseys and caps. However, the team continues to sell merchandise bearing the smiling, red-faced caricature that was protested for decades by Native American groups.
The name change has sparked lively debate among the city’s passionate sports fans. Other names, including the Spiders, which is what the team was once called, were pushed by supporters on social media platforms.
But Guardians does seem to fit the team’s objective to find a name that embodies Cleveland’s ethos while preserving the team’s history and uniting the community.
Not far from the downtown ballpark, there are two large landmark stone edifices — referred to as guardians — on the Hope Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River.
The team’s colours will remain the same, and the new Guardians’ new logos will incorporate some of the architectural features of the bridge.
The change comes as the Washington Football Team continues to work toward a similar makeover. The franchise dropped its name before the 2020 season and said it will reveal a new name and logo in 2022.
LIVE BLOG: Opening ceremony kicks off 2020 Olympics in Tokyo – Global News
The Olympic Games opening ceremony is typically a chance for competing countries and athletes to show off their pride and culture, but this year will be a little different.
Normally held in a stadium full of ecstatic fans, this year’s ceremony will have international athletes parade around a near-empty venue after it was announced fans would not be allowed to attend because of rising COVID-19 cases in Japan.
Athletes from around the world, including Canada, are taking part in the ceremony for the Summer Games, which will run until Aug. 8.
Canada has sent 370 athletes to the Olympics, the nation’s largest delegation since 1984.
Team Canada names flag-bearers for Tokyo Olympic Games
But only 30 to 40 athletes are marching into the Olympic Stadium, the Canadian Olympic Committee has previously said, saying athletes aren’t allowed into the Olympic Village until five days before they compete.
Many of them will be too close to the start of their competition to join flagbearers Miranda Ayim of the women’s basketball team and men’s rugby sevens co-captain Nathan Hirayama.
The ceremony’s theme is “United by Emotion,” as officials are aspiring to reaffirm the role of sport and the value of the Olympic Games, express gratitude and admiration for the efforts made over the past year, and also bring a sense of hope for the future, the Olympics website says.
Despite all the difficulties the International Olympic Committee has faced to stage the Games amid a global pandemic, president Thomas Bach previously said he believes the ceremonies will be a moment of “joy and relief.”
The event runs from 7 a.m. ET to 11 a.m. ET
You can follow along here.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canadiens’ salary cap situation heading into the draft & free agency – Habs Eyes on the Prize
Some of the biggest stories of the off-season so far have revolved around the Montreal Canadiens. First, Shea Weber’s hockey future was thrown into doubt by reports of a serious injury, and the belief now is that his career is “probably” over, according to general manager Marc Bergevin.
The key bit of news when the Seattle Kraken expansion draft was approaching was that Carey Price was dealing with a less serious injury, but would nevertheless potentially miss the start of the new season. As a result he waived his no-movement clause and was available to be selected by the new team.
Seattle shied away from the $10.5-million cap hit, however, leaving Price unclaimed and free to re-enable his NMC to stay in Montreal.
That cap hit remains the largest on the team. Technically Weber’s is the second-highest on the books at almost $8 million, but he will likely be put on long-term injured reserve. For the intents and purposes of this graphic, removing his slice from the chart serves the same purpose; that cap space is free to be spent on other players.
There are six defencemen under contract for next season who played on the team in 2020-21, but Bergevin will want someone more of Weber’s calibre to take top-four minutes. Expect that to be one of his top priorities, and the first-round pick in tonight’s draft could be in play to acquire such a blue-liner.
He also needs to get a centreman to take big minutes against top players, because it’s sounding like Phillip Danault won’t be back with the team. Nick Suzuki has established himself as the top offensive option down the middle, but the team will be trying to add a number-two to back him up.
We also heard on Thursday that Jonathan Drouin is expected to play next year, so there are now eight forwards signed for next season, with five to six more to go. Restricted free agents Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Artturi Lehkonen can probably be re-signed relatively inexpesively, the former getting a birdge deal hoping to cash in a few seasons from now, and the latter a reliable bottom-six player. Corey Perry may also be offered a deal, but his interest in sticking around may depend on how Bergevin is able to restore the team’s contender status via his other moves.
There is a bit more than $21 million available to make this all happen. A small portion of the available space is eaten up by a bonus overage penalty the Canadiens were handed, but having your young players perform too well in the post-season is far from the worst problem an NHL team is facing. There are more young prospects who could step into lesser roles without needing big financial commitments, so there could be a major splash — or two — made in the coming days.
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