The Maple Leafs practised at Ford Performance Centre on Sunday.
The Leafs held the Oilers to just 20 shots on Saturday night, but a couple moments of brilliance from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl forced them to chase the game.
“Two really good players and then put them together and,” defenceman Jake Muzzin said before pausing and starting to laugh, “it’s a lot. They look for each other. They find each other. You can’t make a mistake. You can’t let up. You just got to be on every second they’re on the ice, because they can make you pay. So, it is what it is, man.”
On Edmonton’s second goal, McDavid jumped on a loose puck after Justin Holl failed to knock down a clearance at the offensive blue line. The Toronto defenceman did a good job of skating back hard and keeping McDavid to the outside, but the National Hockey League’s scoring leader still managed to find the reigning Hart Trophy winner for a one-timer goal. Muzzin was back in time, but couldn’t get his stick on the pass. McDavid took a peek back during the rush up ice, but didn’t look at Draisaitl when he fired the pass.
“I don’t know if there’s many players in the league that can make that pass and I don’t know if there’s many players in the league that can make that shot,” said Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe. “I’m not sure if people appreciate just how difficult that shot is. There’s maybe less than five players in the world that will make that shot. So, you got the combination of the pass and the shot together and it just goes to show you how dangerous it is and how good you got to be.”
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) March 28, 2021
Saturday was the first time this season that Edmonton deployed their two top weapons consistently together on the same line against the Leafs.
“We got to be better,” said Keefe. “When you make a mistake when they’re out there, they’re that much more dangerous. It’s not just one guy that you got to contend with.”
On the third Edmonton goal, Draisaitl knocked down a Muzzin pass behind the Leafs’ net and fed Tyson Barrie at the opposite point. The Oilers defenceman sent the puck back to Draisaitl, who made a no-look, backhand pass from behind the net back to the ex-Leaf, who had moved into the slot. Holl was at the side of the net looking to deny a pass to McDavid.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) March 28, 2021
The Leafs eventually pulled off a comeback win to improve to 6-1-1 this season against the high-octane Oilers, including four straight wins. Toronto’s only regulation loss to Edmonton this season was the first game between the two teams way back on Jan. 20. Three of the victories by the Leafs came without the league’s leading goal scorer, Auston Matthews, in the lineup.
“We know we’re going against another highly skilled, top end skill-set over there so maybe we’re a little more dialled in defensively,” Muzzin mused. “We’re a little tighter. Our back-checks are a little harder. We’re not giving free ice out there so maybe it’s something to do with that.”
The Oilers are averaging two goals per game against the Leafs this season and 4.4 goals per game against the rest of the North Division.
“How dangerous their best people are, it really challenges us to be really focused and very committed defensively and taking care of the puck,” Keefe noted, “and just having so much respect for the opponent.”
On Saturday night, Jack Campbell allowed more than two goals in a game for the first time this season.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat it, I just didn’t have it,” he admitted afterwards. “Didn’t like my game one bit. We won the hockey game so it makes it a little bit easier. I’ll have a good practice and we’ll go from there.”
But Campbell didn’t get a chance to take the ice at practice. He was held out for a maintenance day. The team is being cautious with Campbell’s workload since he returned from injury on March 20. He twice hurt his leg this season and now, with Frederik Andersen sidelined, is playing a string of games in a row.
“He’s a tough critic on himself but, if you guys know Soup, that’s just kind of the way he is,” said Muzzin, who also played with Campbell in Los Angeles. “He put it on himself, but it’s definitely a team thing and not just Soupy, obviously.”
Saturday was Campbell’s third straight start and the schedule is starting to get really busy. How big is the adjustment?
“Honestly, it’s normally pretty easy, because you get in a nice rhythm and you’re not thinking so much and you just go out and play,” Campbell said. “That’s typically when everybody’s at their best is when you’re just having fun and playing and, for whatever reason, I was thinking a little bit [on Saturday night] but I’m not too worried about it. I didn’t like my game, but I know what to do to fix it.”
Keefe suggested the goalie, who is a perfect 6-0-0 this season, was being a bit too hard on himself.
“You got to be even keel, especially the more you play,” the coach said. “You got to recognize there’s going to be ups and downs. Jack definitely feels like he wasn’t at his best last night.”
Keefe pointed out that Campbell made key stops late in the third period to keep the Leafs in the game.
“It was 3-2 and McDavid is basically in all alone on Campbell and he makes a huge save for us,” the coach noted. “At 3-3, two and a half minutes left, [Darnell] Nurse is in basically alone on a two-on-one, we get a huge save. Those are game-saving saves and he stood tall on those and gave us a chance. If one of those goes in, we’re leaving the game without any points and we’re disappointed here today … There’s something to be said about that, when it’s time to make a save, you make it no matter how you’re playing and he did that for us last night. He’s got no reason to be hard on himself today.”
Huge save by Jack Campbell on McDavid pic.twitter.com/nBrbkme0cl
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) March 28, 2021
Andersen, again, was not on the ice and hasn’t skated since March 19 as he deals with a nagging lower-body injury. There was no further update on his status.
Veini Vehviläinen skated with the team for the first time since being acquired in a trade from Columbus.
“We’ve been through a lot with our goaltenders this season and the more guys we have available to us the better,” Keefe said. “We’ll just take it a day at a time and let the organization get more familiar with him and allow him to get more familiar with his surroundings.”
While Campbell kept the Leafs in the game down the stretch, the second line stepped up in a big way at the other end.
Alex Galchenyuk, who started the game on the fourth line, was promoted to the left wing spot with John Tavares and William Nylander and picked up a pair of assists.
“They just looked really committed to making a difference,” Keefe said. “Galchenyuk, in a lot of ways, really drove the line with the speed and work ethic he had off the puck and [gave] those other guys a little more space with it.”
“He’s been flying around out there,” said Nylander. “I mean, heavy forecheck, getting pucks back and obviously making some great plays on the goals last night.”
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) March 28, 2021
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) March 28, 2021
Galchenyuk owns a deadly shot of his own, but has impressed his new teammates the most with a positive attitude and determined approach. The 27-year-old is eager to make things work in Toronto after bouncing around between teams the last few years.
“He’s the hardest-working guy on the team right now,” said Muzzin. “It’s contagious. When you see a guy working like that you want to continue working. He’s done a great job for us and we’re going to need him to continue.”
Galchenyuk played three straight games with Tavares and Nylander before Wayne Simmonds took that spot to start Saturday’s game.
Tavares, Nylander and Galchenyuk stayed out late after Sunday’s practice to fine tune their skills and have some fun. Tavares won a shootout game and the normally reserved captain raised his arm in celebration as he skated off the ice.
The line was all smiles throughout Sunday’s workout.
“I think the confidence for us scoring those goals is going to help our line a lot,” said Nylander.
Saturday’s goal was just the fourth in five-on-five play for Tavares this season.
“Nice to get one, obviously,” Tavares said. “It’s a big part of my game and this year it hasn’t seemed to be as consistent as I’d like. I’m doing some good things and just trying to stay with it.”
What’s been missing?
“I’m still trying to figure some things out,” Tavares said. “It’s not a perfect science. Some of them I just have to bear down on my opportunities. I’m good around the net, finding rebounds and plays in-tight, and I haven’t seemed to get as many of those as I’d like so I think that’s one area.”
Keefe has repeatedly pointed out that Tavares has made strides defensively. He finished last season at minus-seven and has improved to plus-12 so far this year.
“I know I can’t sacrifice that part of the game and only worry about producing,” the 30-year-old said. “I want to be, in all facets, relied upon so just continue to work at it and find my balance and hopefully you’re able to really connect those two parts of your game. That’s always the goal.”
Tavares has scored five of his 10 goals this season on the power play despite spending a lot of time on the second unit. But, at practice on Sunday, Tavares was promoted to the bumper spot on the top unit, which features Matthews and Mitch Marner on the flanks, Simmonds in front of the net and Morgan Rielly up top.
“A way to get John a little more involved and have that option available to us,” Keefe explained. “There’s a lot of positive signs there with our power play and I think we’re on the verge of getting it back into the net.”
The Leafs are 1/22 on the power play over the last 10 games.
“We need to get some more action around the net,” said Simmonds. “Teams have tried to take away Mitchy and Auston a little bit more. Not a little bit more, a lot more, and we need to find ways to counteract that and that’s what we’ve been working on. That’s why you see Johnny go in the slot there so we have another great shooting option in the middle.”
Joe Thornton moved to the second unit at practice.
Simmonds has one assist and five shots on net in four games since returning to the lineup. He missed six weeks with a broken wrist and hasn’t shaken off all the rust yet.
“It’s coming along,” he said. “Obviously, I don’t think I’ve been playing the greatest at the moment, but every day my wrist is getting better and I’m able to do different things. I need to be a lot better. I’m going to be a lot better. I need to start contributing now that I’m back in the lineup.”
Simmonds had been heating up before the injury with five goals in six games.
“It’s not about points to me,” he stressed. “It’s being able to shoot as hard as I can, go into the boards and be able to dig and have one hand on my stick and just be strong and confident with the wrist. Every day that is going to another level [as] it’s healing more. My first two games I probably wasn’t able to shoot the puck, but I was able to do other things to contribute to the team and the last couple games were a lot better. But I got to find my timing here and be better.”
Lines at Sunday’s practice:
Hyman – Matthews – Marner
Galchenyuk – Tavares – Nylander
Thornton – Kerfoot – Spezza
Mikheyev – Engvall – Simmonds
Barabanov, Robertson, Sabourin
Rielly – Brodie
Muzzin – Holl
Dermott – Bogosian
Power play units at Sunday’s practice:
Matthews – Tavares – Marner
Nylander – Thornton – Spezza
More people watched Seattle NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 than Cubs-Cards on ESPN – Awful Announcing
In the grand scheme of things, 637,000 viewers nationally is not a huge number for a cable channel with any level of significant distribution. Most things on broadcast TV not only beat that, but beat it by quite a bit, and that kind of number isn’t usually even amongst the top cable broadcasts. However, the news that ESPN2 pulled that number in for its (NHL-produced, but featuring ESPN figures) coverage of the NHL expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken Wednesday night was certainly interesting, especially as so much of the actual news around that draft was reported in advance, and also given that their main-network coverage of the MLB game between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals drew fewer viewers. Here’s a comparison of Wednesday night sporting events from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal:
Sports TV of note from Weds:
AEW Dynamite on TNT: 1.148 million viewers
Primetime Oly programming on NBCSN: 773,000
PTI on ESPN: 648,000 viewers
NHL Expansion Draft on ESPN2: 637,000 viewers
Cubs-Cardinals on ESPN: 509,000 viewers
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) July 22, 2021
On the negative side, that draft didn’t even draw the numbers of studio show Pardon The Interruption (however, that airs on ESPN rather than ESPN2; they’re similar in distribution, but many people turn on main ESPN first). It also didn’t draw the numbers of early Olympic programming from NBCSN. On the positive side, it outdrew a national MLB game. And it drew more than the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft five years ago (595,000 on NBCSN for a combined broadcast of that draft and the NHL Awards). And it’s a good sign for ESPN, as this is their first big NHL event they aired under their new deal.
And yes, as Ourand noted in a follow-up tweet, that Cubs-Cards game didn’t have regional sports network blackouts, so Cubs and Cardinals fans could still watch it on their local RSNs. And most probably did, so it likely primarily pulled the national audience that didn’t have those RSNs. But it’s still interesting to see an ESPN2 event outdraw an ESPN event, especially when the ESPN event is a live game and the ESPN2 event is a one-team expansion draft (and one where most of the information was previously available to the public).
If ESPN versus ESPN2 programming decisions were made strictly from a standpoint of what they thought would draw more viewers, this result would go against that. That’s not entirely the case here, as the MLB on ESPN package comes with some restrictions on where games can air. But it’s still interesting to see the NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 outdraw a live MLB game between two prominent teams.
That is also perhaps further evidence that draft “spoilers” don’t always damage the ratings that much. That’s long been a debate, from the NFL’s heavy pushes against pick-tipping to the NBA’s more moderate approach (which sees pick-tipping still happen with some different language, and which hasn’t really led to obvious ratings losses).
In the case of this draft, figures who don’t work for expansion draft rightsholders Sportsnet (Canada) and ESPN (U.S.) reported many of the picks early, with Frank Seravalli (formerly of TSN, now of Daily Faceoff) and Pierre LeBrun (TSN/The Athletic) getting many of those, other national figures getting some more, and local reporters getting some others. So a mostly-full picture was available before the broadcast for those who wanted to find it. But that didn’t stop a significant amount of people from watching this, and that maybe shows that the league pushes against pick-tipping aren’t always that impactful.
[John Ourand on Twitter]
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.
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