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SIMMONS: Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews a red-light delight, Mike Bossy says – Toronto Sun

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Mike Bossy, probably the greatest natural goal scorer in hockey history, give or take a Wayne Gretzky or a Mario Lemieux, picked Auston Matthews to win the Rocket Richard Trophy this season.

He did that before Matthews scored 14 goals in the first 16 games of this shrunken National Hockey League season.

He made that prediction before being able to calculate that Matthews has scored 56 goals in his last 82 regular-season games. That’s eight more goals than the perennial Rocket Richard winner Alexander Ovechkin.

This season, heading into Thursday night, the scorecard reads: Matthews 14, Ovechkin five in just 10 games. Make it 16 for the Leafs star after he notched a pair in a blowout against the Senators. This may be the season in which to pass the baton.

Former New York Islanders star Mike Bossy waves to the crowd prior to the game during Mike Bossy tribute night at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 29, 2015, in Uniondale, N.Y. AL BELLO/GETTY IMAGES

“I hesitate to call it a changing of the guard, because Ovie has been such a great goal scorer, but I would say that Auston is taking a step on that ladder,” Bossy said on the phone Thursday afternoon. “But I do like what I’m seeing from him. Watch him, he loves to score goals, he has that natural goal-scorer’s instinct, he has the shot, or shall I say, shots. You can’t always explain scoring. It just happens.

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“When you watch Ovie, after so many years, he’s still celebrating all the goals. He still loves scoring, I mean he really loves it. What I like about Matthews now is he’s celebrating his goals more, he seems to be more emotionally involved than in the past.

“The other night, he stole a puck behind the net and fed Mitch Marner. You should have seen his face when Marner scored. It just lit up. You can tell they have this special chemistry and I believe success comes from chemistry.

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“I lived through it for 10 years with Bryan (Trottier). There’s nothing like it. We wouldn’t speak, we didn’t have to, we had eye movement between each other. We knew how to find each other. It was an incredible time.”

Bossy played 10 years for the New York Islanders, won four Stanley Cups, lost once in the Final, won an incredible 19 straight playoff series before a bad back got the best of him and ended his career prematurely. He scored at a 60-goal pace for an entire career. He scored 85 playoff goals in 129 games. His quick release has rarely been matched.

Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews celebrates a goal against the Oilers in Edmonton on Jan. 28, 2021. IAN KUCERAK/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Matthews has some Bossy in him, in that quick release. But he has different qualities as well.

“He has a snap shot, a slap shot, a wrist shot, a shot off both feet so you don’t know where it’s coming from and quick release,” said New York Rangers president John Davidson, who lists Bossy, Gretzky, Lemieux, Guy Lafleur and Phil Esposito as the greatest goal scorers he played against in his 10 NHL seasons.

“All of them were different,” said Davidson. “And then you look at Matthews and he’s accurate and he’s got velocity and quickness in his delivery. A lot of times with him, you notice a goalie get a bit of the puck and it goes through him. That’s how hard he shoots it. The biggest secret for him is the velocity he gets on it. There’s almost anger in his shot. It’s a rocket. And he’s not a one-shot guy, he’s an every-shot guy. You’re talking about a player in his fifth year taking it to another level.”

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Matthews scored a goal against Ottawa Wednesday night that you had to stop, look at, stop it again on your television, to see what really happened. It went that fast. Now you see it, now you don’t. Bossy watched the goal Thursday morning and realized he was seeing something few could ever accomplish. In a way, it looked like him.

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“It’s hard to put into context what he is doing,” said Bossy. “But he’s doing it. And it’s great for the game, great to see.”

The shortened season robs both Matthews and hockey fans of what could be some kind of record-breaking season, either in Toronto or around the league. He won’t play 82 games. The equivalent of a 50-goal season is scoring 34 in 56 games. The equivalent of a 60-goal season is 41 goals in 56 games. Bossy once scored 50 goals in 50 games. Gretzky was so impressed he came back the same year, next season, to score 50 in 39 games.

No one will ever do that again. Gretzky’s record came when teams were scoring four goals a game. Today, they’re scoring fewer than three. Scoring is down 25% from the early ’80s. But as you’re watching this season, and you’re counting goals, you’re seeing something in Toronto you’ve never seen before.

Leafs president Brendan Shanahan scored 50 goals twice for the St. Louis Blues. The last time he did it, there were 14 different 50-goal scorers in the league. There have been 14 50-goal scorers in total over the last 11 seasons, Ovechkin being five of them.

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“I hate comparing eras because every era is great in its own way,” said Bossy.

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But the way Bossy scored, so quick and with such ease, may never be matched.

“He had this shot, 18 inches off the ice, that you couldn’t stop,” said Davidson. “You just couldn’t.”

The same now, without the 18 inches, is being said about Matthews.

“It’s his hands,” said Bossy, now 64 years old. “It’s his feet. It’s his quickness. It’s his size. It’s his angles. A lot of has to do with hand-eye coordination. He has that at the highest level.

“I like watching him. He finds his place. He has that quick release. And just like that, it’s in the net.”

Just like that.

ssimmons@postmedia.com

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Team LeBron beats Team Durant as Lillard hits game-winning three – Sportsnet.ca

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ATLANTA — In the midst of a pandemic, this was assured of being an NBA All-Star Game like no other.

The stands were mostly empty. The crowd noise was largely piped in. There were no A-list celebrities sitting courtside. Two players had to sit out after getting haircuts.

But in the end, it had a familiar feel.

Team LeBron won again.

Knocking down shots from all over the court, LeBron James’ powerhouse squad closed the first half with a dominating run to set up a 170-150 romp over Team Durant in the league’s 70th midseason showcase Sunday night.

The top vote-getters in each conference have picked the teams the last four years, a duty that James has earned every season.

He’s now 4-0, having defeated Stephen Curry’s squad in 2018 and teams selected by Milwaukee’s two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo the previous two years.

This time, James drafted his two former adversaries and blew away Kevin Durant’s team.

“I think he’s got a future as a GM,” said Damian Lillard, another of James’ inspired selections. “He always gets it right.”

Antetokounmpo was the game’s MVP after shooting 16 of 16 for 35 points, even making all three of his attempts beyond the 3-point stripe. It was the most baskets without a miss in All-Star Game history.

“I’m just having fun,” the Greek star said. “Sometimes when you’re having fun and not thinking about the outcome, you just let your instincts take over.”

Curry chipped in with 28 points, while Lillard had 32.

James spent most of the night admiring his drafting skill from the bench. He played less than 13 minutes, scored just four points, and didn’t return to the court in the second half.

Instead, he munched a snack on the bench.

“I know he was managing his minutes tonight,” Curry said. “We had a great time, representing him as captain. It was a memorable night for sure.”

It sure was for Curry, who won the 3-point competition beforehand, then went 8 of 16 from beyond the arc in the game.

Lillard matched him, also making 8 of 16 from 3-point range.

This All-Star Game sure was different than the previous 69.

Determined to pull off an exhibition that is huge for TV revenue and the league’s worldwide brand, the NBA staged the game in a mostly empty downtown arena, a made-for-TV extravaganza that was symbolic of the coronavirus era.

Despite extensive safety protocols in place, two players didn’t even make it to tipoff. Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were ruled out because they got haircuts from a barber who tested positive for COVID-19.

The only good thing for Durant: He didn’t have to participate in this shellacking, sitting out the game with an ailing hamstring.

Bradley Beal led Team Durant with 26 points.

On a night highlighting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Team LeBron swept the first three quarters and cruised to the final target score, earning a total of $750,000 for its charity, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

The game got out of hand late in the second quarter.

With scant defence being played, Team LeBron took turns dunking off alley-oop passes. Chris Paul delivered back-to-back lobs that Lillard and Curry slammed through. Then, it was Paul on the receiving end of a payback pass from Curry.

After showing it could handle shots up close, Team LeBron headed outside in the final seconds of the half.

Lillard pulled up for a 3-pointer from the half-court line. Not to be outdone, Curry knocked down one from virtually the same spot.

“It was a lot of fun,” Lillard said. “Me and Steph shoot a lot of 3s. We shoot deep 3s. It was 3, 3, 3, 3, 3.”

Amid the joyful moments, the atmosphere at State Farm Arena was downright eerie compared to a normal All-Star Game.

Instead of a packed house, with A-list celebrities crammed into prime courtside seats, this game was attended by a smattering of hand-picked guests. They had plenty of room to spread out in a 17,000-seat venue that was essentially transformed into a giant television studio, with socially distanced spectators kept far from the court.

Towering video screens were set up behind the benches. Vegas-style lights flashed around the arena. Recorded crowd noise blared over the sound system. The entertainment was provided by the host Atlanta Hawks, who didn’t have any players in the game but were represented by their cheerleaders, drum line and DJ.

To address fears that one of its biggest events would become a super-spreader for a virus that has killed more than a half-million Americans, the NBA pared down its usual weekend-long ritual of extravagant parties, gridlocked streets and people watching

This All-Star Game was a one-night-only event, with a pair of skill competitions held shortly before the game and the Dunk Contest squeezed into the halftime break. The players flew in Saturday afternoon and were largely confined to a nearby hotel except for their time on the court.

“This is when everyone in basketball all over the world comes to one city,” James said before the game. “We’re able to sit back and go, `Wow, this is the game we have built.’ It’s a beautiful weekend for all walks of life, on the floor and off the floor.

“But I’m sitting here in my hotel room, isolated. My family’s not here. I’m by myself. It’s just different, to say the least, compared to previous years.”

OTHER WINNERS

All-Star Weekend was crammed into a few hours.

During the pregame, Indiana forward Domantas Sabonis defeated Orlando centre Nikola Vucevic in the Skills Challenge, redeeming last year’s finals loss to Bam Adebayo. That was followed by Curry knocking off Utah’s Mike Conley to capture the 3-Point Contest for the second time. The Warriors star added to the long-range title he won in 2015.

At halftime, Portland’s Anfernee Simons defeated New York Knicks rookie Obi Toppin in the Slam Dunk Contest, nearly kissing the rim with his winning throw-down. Cassius Stanley of the Indiana Pacers was eliminated in the opening round.

TIP-INS

Team Durant: Zion Williamson of New Orleans started the game in place of Embiid. The Pelicans forward had 10 points. … Durant’s team heaved up 72 3-pointers, but made only 27 (37.5%).

Team LeBron: Paul had 16 assists, passing Magic Johnson’s record for most career All-Star assists with 128. … Lillard ended the game with another long 3-pointer. Curry was waiving to the spectators before it even went in. … James’ team shot 63.6% from the field, including 31 of 61 from 3-point range.

UP NEXT

The 71st All-Star Game will be held Feb. 20, 2022, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. The 2023 game is set for Salt Lake City, followed by Indianapolis in 2024.

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Bryson DeChambeau tames beastly Bay Hill to win Arnold Palmer Invitational – Golf Channel

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Bryson DeChambeau captured his eighth career PGA Tour victory Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s everything you need to know from the very difficult final round at Bay Hill Club and Lodge:

Leaderboard: DeChambeau (-11), Lee Westwood (-10), Corey Conners (-8), Jordan Spieth (-6), Andrew Putnam (-6), Richy Werenski (-6)

What it means: In addition to his U.S. Open triumph, DeChambeau has now won Jack Nicklaus’ tournament (2018 Memorial) and Arnold Palmer’s. He’s also proven to be one of game’s best – if not the best – tough-course players in the world. Bay Hill was a beast on Sunday, with a field scoring average more than 4.6 shots higher than in Round 3. Add this to his dominant performance at Winged Foot and Bryson’s brawn seems best suited for the most strenuous tests.


Arnold Palmer Invitational: Full-field scores | Full coverage


How it happened: A four-man tournament was reduced to two front-runners when Westwood birdied the par-5 12th to tie DeChambeau. At 11 under, the final twosome was two shots clear of the field. They remained deadlocked until Westwood three-putted from 38 feet at the 14th. Conners did eagle the par-5 16th to briefly get back within one, but promptly bogeyed the 17th. Meanwhile, DeChambeau parred No. 16 and stayed one up on Westwood, who missed a 7-footer for birdie. The two parred No. 17 and when Westwood rolled in a 7-footer for par on 18, it meant DeChambeau had to make his from 5 feet for the win. After backing off once, he emphatically drilled it. 

Round of the day: DeChambeau’s 1-under 71. The field averaged more than 75.5 shots in the final round and 71 was the lowest score of the day (shot by three players). After a bogey at the first hole, DeChambeau didn’t drop a shot the rest of the day, parring his final 12 holes.

Shot of the day: There was DeChambeau’s 377-yard tee shot on the par-5 sixth.

There was also DeChambeau’s 50-foot par save at the par-4 11th.

But the Shot of the Day was the winner, the 5-footer for par at the last.

Biggest disappointment, Part I: Spieth. With birdies at Nos. 4 and 6, Spieth was a co-leader. But there were no more red numbers. He bogeyed the eighth hole, made a string of pars, and then bogeyed Nos. 15, 17 and 18. It added up to a 3-over 75 and a T-4.

Biggest disappointment, Part II: Rory McIlroy. The past champion was four back to start the day and never gave himself a chance. He bogeyed the second hole and put two balls in the water off the tee at No. 6. McIlroy finished with 76 but still managed a top-10 when Keegan Bradley, who went 64-78 over the weekend, bogeyed the final hole.

Quote of the day: “I don’t even know what to say to win at Mr. Palmer’s event. It’s going to make me cry.” – DeChambeau

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Tiger Woods texts Bryson DeChambeau ahead of API final round – Golf Channel

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Before he teed off in Sunday’s final round at Bay Hill, Bryson DeChambeau received a text from a certain eight-time Arnold Palmer Invitational champion.

Yes, Tiger Woods, who is still recovering from serious injuries sustained in a car accident less than two weeks ago in Los Angeles, messaged DeChambeau some words of encouragement.

“Out of the blue and I wasn’t expecting anything,” DeChambeau said. “When I got that text, I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty amazing that he is thinking of me when he’s in his tough times that he’s going through right now.’”


Arnold Palmer Invitational: Full-field scores | Full coverage


During the text exchange, Woods apparently told DeChambeau to “keep fighting” and “play boldly like Mr. Palmer.”

“One of the things that we talked about was, it’s not about how many times you get kicked to the curb or knocked down, it’s about how many times you can get back up and keep moving forward,” said DeChambeau, who made just one bogey on a brutally tough Sunday, shot 71 and beat Lee Westwood by a shot. “And I think this red cardigan is not only for Mr. Palmer, but I would say it’s a little bit for Tiger as well, knowing what place he’s in right now.”

DeChambeau also reciprocated the well wishes: “I said, ‘Keep moving forward, keep going forward. You’re going to get through it. You’re the hardest working person I’ve ever met, and you’ll persevere through this.”

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