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Toronto Maple Leafs Defence Better Than Advertised – LWOH – Last Word on Hockey

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DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 12: Jake Muzzin #8 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his third period goal with Tyson Barrie #94 while playing the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on October 12, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Toronto won the game 5-2. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)


The Toronto Maple Leafs defence has been called a lot of things. Mostly it’s been called bad or at least not good enough. It’s still a stigma the team holds today. Their Achilles’ Heel may actually be back-up goaltending this season, although Michael Hutchinson played superbly Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings. In reality, the Toronto Maple Leafs defence isn’t that bad. In fact, they’re kind of good.

Toronto Maple Leafs Defence Is Good And Getting Better

New Additions

While the Tyson Barrie trade is still debatable, Kyle Dubas undoubtedly traded from an area of strength to an area of weakness and that part still holds. Was it an equal value trade? Nazem Kadri is on pace for near 30 goals with the Colorado Avalanche and Barrie got off to a rough start this season but has seemed to improve since Sheldon Keefe took over behind the bench.

Barrie is on pace for only 33 points this season. That would be his worst since his first season in which he had zero points in ten games. Still, this team is better with Barrie than without, and Barrie will likely fully return to his old self in due time. He has eight points since Keefe took over, that’s a pace of 46 points in a full season.

Barrie regaining his offensive edge isn’t the only way he helps this team. His Corsi For is 56.1 percent this season and his relative Corsi For is 5.1. He may not be a world-class defender, but he’s not a liability, which is not something every player to don the uniform in recent years can say.

The Other New Addition

I suppose I can’t just exclude Cody Ceci from this article. He’s the other new addition to the team this season. He’s looked decent at times, but rarely does it seem he puts together a full 60 minutes. It may be ‘whipping boy syndrome’, but Ceci just isn’t worth the $4.5 he’s getting paid. Not when the team could really use that space in other areas.

Ceci has the worst Corsi rating of all defencemen in Toronto at 49.6. That’s better than five of his six years with the Ottawa Senators, but there’s no way to say he’s anything other than a third-pairing guy getting paid top-four money. That’s not a good fit for a cap-strapped team. Still, he’s got a better Corsi rating than both Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev did last year, and this year. If you want to feel better about Ceci, check Hainsey and Zaitsev‘s numbers this year.

Youth Getting Better Every Day

It’s hard to call Justin Holl young at 27 years old, but since he’s only played 48 career NHL games, it still fits. Holl has quietly turned into a valuable shutdown defender for the Maple Leafs. He’s paired with Jake Muzzin at the moment and the two have become a very reliable pair.

Holl is also a right-side defender. The Maple Leafs’ lack of a quality defender on the right side has been a sore point in Leafland for years now. Holl appears to be part of the answer. Between him and Barrie, the Maple Leafs are no longer desperate for a top-four right-handed defenceman. That’s a major improvement for Toronto from a couple of years ago.

The next wave of youth is still playing with the Toronto Marlies, but both Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren have looked good this season. Liljegren has 16 points in 25 games while Sandin, currently on loan to Team Sweden for the World Junior Championships, has 12 points in 19 games. Sandin has two assists in six games for the Maple Leafs this season too. Both will be favourites to make the team out of training camp next season. More on that later.

Travis Dermott

Travis Dermott has been steadily growing into his role in Toronto. He’s playing bottom-pairing minutes and doing well, but there’s more to see from Dermott. He could probably be a top-four player on another team. One that doesn’t have Morgan Rielly and Muzzin ahead of him on the depth chart. He’s not as flashy as Rielly but can be a steady player that excels at getting the puck out of his own zone and up to the forwards. If he had more minutes and more time in offensive situations, his offensive numbers would probably be much better. He missed the first month of the season as well, which can be tough to recover from.

He’s not an overly physical player, but he’s been noticeable in recent games on the ‘heart’ front. He is currently responsible for half of the Maple Leafs fights this season, that’s one out of two for those keeping score. He also took a ten-minute misconduct penalty for banging his stick against the boards after the Red Wings scored on a questionable power-play opportunity last night. The refs took exception to him calling them out. That kind of spirit is something the Maple Leafs have lacked at times. They could use it now with no Kadri on the team. Dermott doesn’t seem the sort to be suspended halfway through a playoff series so he’s got that going for him too.

More To Come

It’s hard not to believe Dubas is looking to trade Ceci. There are cheaper players that can play as well as him on the third pair. There are better players out there making less money that can play as well as Ceci. It’s possible Dubas just can’t get rid of that contract easily. If he does, it frees him up to use that money to acquire another, better defenseman. Perhaps again trading from an area of strength, the forwards. There’s a lot of interest in Kasperi Kapanen apparently.

Briefly looking ahead to next season, the Maple Leafs will be in tough to re-sign everyone. Rielly is the only player signed for next season from the current Maple Leafs defence corps. Holl and Dermott will return, but the Maple Leafs will probably lose one or both of Muzzin and Barrie. They’ll definitely move on from Ceci and that will free up a lot of cap space for replacements. It also opens the door for Sandin and Liljegren, but that’s a lot of inexperience on the blue line. It all points to Dubas adding another, experienced player to the group. The only question is if he’ll be able to do it this season or will he have to wait till the off-season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs blueline is looking pretty good these days.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 12: Jake Muzzin #8 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his third period goal with Tyson Barrie #94 while playing the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on October 12, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Toronto won the game 5-2. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets Game 1: Score, updates, news, stats and highlights – NBA CA

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9h ago


Playoffs 2020

The Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets squared off in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

After the Nuggets completed their second consecutive 3-1 comeback, taking down the Utah Jazz and LA Clippers, they were riding a ton of momentum heading into this first contest. The Lakers, who have gentlemen’s swept each of their first two opponents, were yet to win a Game 1.

The Lakers made certain this one was in the books early, registering a dominant win.

Anthony Davis finished with 37 points and 10 rebounds, while Lebron James added 15 points and 12 assists.

If you missed the live action we have you covered with live updates, highlights, stats and more from this contest.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets – Score, updates, news, stats and highlights

Final – Nuggets 114, Lakers 126

-That’s it, the clock runs out and the Lakers complete a dominant win over the Nuggets in game 1 to take a 1-0 series lead for the first time in the 2020 playoffs!

-With the Lakers leading by 20+ points the benches have cleared with three minutes to play. This one is in the books for the Lakers.

-Anthony Davis is up to 37 points as the Lakers look to close out game 1. Los Angeles lead Denver 115-93 with 6:41 to play.

-Rajon Rondo has moved into the top-10 for all-time playoff assists!

-Michael Porter Jr. finishes in transition and the Nuggets are on an 8-0 run to cut the score to 109-92. Lakers immediately call time to slow down the momentum. Porter Jr. has 11 points and five rebounds.

End of the third – Nuggets 79, Lakers 103

-It’s all Lakers to finish the thrid with Davis dominating the final minutes. He leads the Lakers with 33 points and 10 rebounds.

-Back-to-back dunks for Dwight Howard and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the Lakers lead is extended to a game-high 19 points!

-Murray is starting to cook for the Nuggets. He has 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting but Denver still can’t stop the Lakers inside and they lead 78-67 with 6:41 left in the third.

-Jokic now picks up his fourth foul off the ball fewer than 60 seconds into the quarter. Disasterous start for the Nuggets.

-We are underway in the third quarter!

-The Lakers have attempted 32 free-throws in the first half. They are physcially overwhelming the Nuggets inside and Denver will have to find a way to defend without fouling if they are to edge back into this game in the second half.

Halftime – Nuggets 59, Lakers 70

-Murray, Jokic and Millsap all have three fouls and sat out critical minutes during the second period.

-Lakers outscore the Nuggets 34-21 in the second quarter to take a double-digit lead into the half. It’s the fifth straight game Denver have trailed at halftime.

-Monte Morris with the finish at the rim but it’s the Lakers with a 65-53 lead with 1:57 until the half. LeBron and AD have combined to pour in 28 points for the Lakers.

-LeBron is now up to ten points in the second quarter and the Lakers lead is up to 15 with six minutes to go in the half!

-Huge moment in the game with Jokic picking up his third foul with 7:22 left in the half. The Lakers are on a 16-1 run to start the period and it’s danger time for the Nuggets.

-Dwight Howard checks in to the game for the Lakers as they continue to go big to try and slow down Jokic. Lakers hold a 45-39 edge with 9:24 left in the half.

-LeBron James steps on the foot of Jerami Grant driving to the basket and takes some time to get up. He is carrying a slight limp but heads to the free-throw line to take two.

End of the first – Nuggets 38, Lakers 36

-Jamal Murray gives the Nuggets the lead at the BUZZER! Huge shot from Murray ends a scoring frenzy in the first quarter…the repective defences haven’t had much of an answer thus far.

-In four games against the Lakers during the regular season Nikola Jokic averaged just 11 shot attempts per game. He’s got up nine in his first ten minute stretch of game one and has 11 points.

-Anthony Davis leads the Lakers with eight points while Jokic has six for Denver.

-Four quick points for the Lakers and Michael Malone calls time with his team trailing 21-17 with 4:23 left in the first quarter.

-It’s been all inside early for both teams, with all eight of the Nuggets points coming in the paint while the Lakers have scored 10 of their 13 in that zone.

-The Lakers take an early 13-8 edge as Jamal Murray will have two free-throws out of the timeout.

Pregame

-The Lakers move JaVale McGee back into the starting lineup for game 1.

-The Nuggets starting five is in!

-Nikola Jokic and Anthony Davis are set to duel in a pivotal matchup throughout they series. The All-Star duo are out on the floor getting loose before tip!

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Denver Nuggets' Jamal Murray remembers his Kitchener roots before semi-final game – CBC.ca

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Denver Nuggets star point guard Jamal Murray reminisced about his hometown of Kitchener during a media scrum Thursday night.

He goes up against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA’s western conference final Friday at 9 p.m., but Murray says he still remembers time spent playing in and around the Stanley Park Community Centre. 

“I was out playing at the court every day, not knowing that I would be in the western conference finals at 23 years old,” he said. 

Murray noted that being from Canada has often lead people to doubt his ability and it feels good to do well on the court and prove those people wrong. 

He also had a message for any kids in Kitchener who had dreams of making it the the NBA like he did.

“I was a kid just like you guys,” he said. “Orangeville helped a lot.”

Murray initially went to high school at Grand River Collegiate Institute before transferring to Orangeville Prep, a basketball program that now attracts top tier talent from Canada and around the world.

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray gestures after hitting a 3-point basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Denver. The Cavaliers won 111-103. (David Zalubowski/The Associated Press)

Larry Blunt served as the head coach of Orangeville Prep when Murray attended. He is now assistant coach at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. 

“Guys like Jamal are the reason why I’m where I am,” he said. “Jamal was going to be special wherever he went.”

He said Murray had a drive and love for the game that made him stand out.

“If you wanted him to stop working on his game you would have to cut the lights off at the gym, and then he would still shoot in the dark … and then if you took the balls away he would be in a pitch black gym, with the rims raised, and he would be in running sprints and working on his conditioning,” Blunt said.

“He is just relentless.”

When asked about life inside the NBA bubble at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., Murray explained life was fairly simple.

“I’ll have practice and I’ll get some food. Then I’ll go back to my room, I’ll sleep, and then I’ll have a game, then I’ll sleep, then I’ll eat,” he said. 

Watch some of Murray’s press conference:

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

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Reed takes lead in difficult conditions at U.S. Open

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MAMARONECK, N.Y. — This was the Winged Foot everyone has heard about. This is the U.S. Open everyone expected.

Patrick Reed answered the first big test Friday when the wind arrived out of the north, bringing a little chill and a lot of trouble. He never got flustered by bogeys and made enough birdie putts and key saves for an even-par 70.

It felt just as rewarding as the 66 he shot in the opening round, and it gave him a one-shot lead over Bryson DeChambeau, who powered and putted his way to a 68.

The opening round featured soft greens, a few accessible pins and 21 rounds under par. Friday was the epitome of a major long known as the toughest test in golf.

Three players broke par. Nine others shot even par. Everyone else was hanging on for dear life. As the final groups tried to beat darkness in this September U.S. Open, only six players remained in red numbers.

“It’s almost like they set it up to ease our way into it, and then showed us what it’s supposed to really be like,” Reed said.

Television showed his five birdies. What took him to the 36-hole lead at 4-under 136 was a collection of pars from bunkers and from thick grass just over the greens. He managed them all with grit, a common trait among U.S. Open champions.

DeChambeau showed plenty of resiliency, too, bouncing back with birdies after all five of his bogeys and finishing the best round of the day with a pitching wedge on the downwind, 557-yard, par-5 ninth to 6 feet for eagle.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello of Spain and Harris English each had a 70 and were at 2-under 138.

They were joined by Justin Thomas, who opened with a 65 — the lowest ever at Winged Foot for a U.S. Open — and lost all those shots to par after 10 holes. Thomas then delivered a 5-wood from 228 yards into the wind on the par-3 third hole and made a slick, 15-foot, double-breaking birdie putt to steady himself. He scratched out a 73 and is right in it.

Jason Kokrak (71) was the only other player under par at 1-under 139.

“This isn’t exactly a place where you go out and try to shoot 6 or 7 under to catch up,” Thomas said. “I’m not going to worry about what everyone else is doing because you could shoot 80 just as easily as you could shoot 68. I just need to stay focused, and most importantly, go home and get some rest. Because I’m pretty tired.”

There’s still 36 holes to go, and no indication that Winged Foot is going to get any easier.

“The rough is still really thick. I don’t think they’re planning on cutting it,” Matthew Wolff said after salvaging a 74 that left him four shots behind. “The greens are only going to get firmer, and the scores are only going to get higher.”

Tiger Woods is among those who won’t be around to experience it. He had a pair of double bogeys at the end of the back nine, and two birdies over his last three holes gave him a 77. He missed the cut by four shots, the eighth time in his last 15 majors he won’t be around for the weekend.

“It feels like the way the golf course is changing, is turning, that anybody who makes the cut has the opportunity to win this championship,” Woods said. “I didn’t get myself that opportunity.”

Neither did Phil Mickelson, who had his highest 36-hole score in 29 appearances in the one major he hasn’t won. Ditto for Jordan Spieth, whose 81 was his highest score in a major. PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole that cost him a chance to keep playing.

Reed turned in a workman-like performance, making birdies when he had the chance, saving par when needed. This is the kind of golf he loves. It’s a grind. And it’s about feel. He was most pleased with his birdie on No. 1 after he made the turn, going with a chip 8-iron from 147 yards into the wind and riding the slope at the back of the green to tap-in range.

“I love when it’s hard, when you have to be creative on all different golf shots,” he said.

There were plenty of great rounds on such a demanding course, many of which fell apart at the end. Louis Oosthuizen was 3 under in the morning when he finished bogey-bogey-double bogey for a 74. Xander Schauffele was 3 under until he bogeyed three of his last five holes.

“The wind can make a par-3 course difficult, so put that on a U.S. Open setup, it’s going to be even more so,” Schauffele said. “It’ll be a fun afternoon to watch on TV.”

Rory McIlroy’s problems started early. He was 5 over through seven holes, including a birdie at the start, and shot 76 to fall seven shots behind. Dustin Johnson was bogey-free through 16 holes until a pair of bad tee shots led to bogey. He had a 76 and was in the group at 3-over 143.

All of them still feel as though the U.S. Open is in sight.

“I’m confident now, after seeing what was out there this afternoon, over par will win this tournament,” Adam Scott said a 74 left him nine shots back. “The greens finally dried out. If there’s any breeze, over par is winning.”

It usually does at Winged Foot.

Source: – pgatour.com

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