With no Auston Matthews, a game-time decision for Mitch Marner, and no Ilya Mikheyev, this 2021-22 season is kicking off with an early dose of adversity for the Maple Leafs starting tonight against Montreal (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).
That means expanded opportunities are in store for the likes of Michael Bunting, David Kampf, Alex Kerfoot, and Pierre Engvall, all of whom should see more ice time at the left wing and center positions.
Montreal is facing a little bit of adversity themselves early in the season with the indefinite absences of Carey Price and Shea Weber as well as the day-to-day injury status of their biggest offseason addition up front in Mike Hoffman. Paul Byron is also out long term after undergoing hip surgery in late July.
Unsurprisingly, Dominique Ducharme will be trotting out a balanced-looking forward group that is well-suited to rolling four lines:
La formation du CH à l’entraînement
— Alexandre Gascon (@GasconAlexandre) October 13, 2021
The Leafs, too, will need a good amount of depth involvement from the likes of Engvall – Kampf – Kase and Simmonds – Amadio – Spezza without their 20+ minute stud center in Matthews and potentially without their 20+ minute, all-situations winger in Marner, although the forecast seems positive on Marner’s likelihood of participating tonight. There might be some silver-lining value in terms of getting some of the important supporting cast members, particularly those that have been newly added over the offseason, more involved in the early going.
This year more than any other, the perennial exercise of turning the page on the past year’s failures and renewing hope for the new season has been a more difficult proposition for the fan base (to speak generally), but fans are back in the Scotiabank Arena, and the Maple Leafs are entering a critical — dare one say make-or-break? — year for the player core and management group.
We’ve heard a lot of talk about the team really learning its lesson this time about honing its killer instinct at playoff time, but the saying “put up or shut up” has never applied more fairly than it does this season for this Leafs team.
The new power play coach is breathing new life into the disappointing-when-it-matters power play? The Leafs may have found an actually credible checking line center? They’ve added some hungry (and younger) complementary pieces on the cheap to the forward group via free agency? It all matters a good deal in a sport with these kinds of margins between winning and losing, but the main storyline all year is unquestionably going to be whether the Leafs’ stars can deliver when it counts.
We won’t know the answer until eight months from now, but it has to start with a great 82-game regular season inside a tougher division, and that begins tonight exactly where it left off so disappointingly last May — Leafs vs. Habs, at Scotiabank Arena.
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on the return of fans in the building:
It’s really big. Our ability to play in front of the fans is a really big deal. Family connections are also very important. Just having them at a few preseason games, for me, having the family waiting after the game… Having them in the building is important for our players as well.
We have a fair number of local guys who have come in here and haven’t played a game in front of their family before. It is a big deal. The season is long, and to have that family connection — not just for the player but for the family themselves — is really important for everyone across the league.
Keefe on the Leafs vs. Habs rivalry:
I think it is a new season. Given we have played them three times in preseason as well, you get some of that stuff out of the system, but it is going to be going at a whole other level today. I think the Leafs and Montreal rivalry is there, whether we played them in the playoffs last season or not. It exists and it is a great thing.
Morgan Rielly on the return of fans in the stands:
I am pumped. It is going to be a lot of fun. Guys have their parents in town for the first time in a long time. Guys are happy to have the crowd back in the mix. We are anxiously waiting to see what it is going to look like. Once we get playing, I think it will be interesting — a fun and cool atmosphere we haven’t experienced for a long time.
Jake Muzzin on his past LA Kings teammate Mike Amadio making the team:
He is a really smart player. He has a great stick. He sees the ice well. I am excited for him.
Muzzin on the vote of confidence from Kyle Dubas in keeping the team together:
We talked about how it shows belief in us and the group. He could’ve made changes. He could’ve made a lot of people happy by trading someone, but he believes in this group. It is on us to go and show him we are who he thinks we are.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#20 Nick Ritchie – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner*
#58 Michael Bunting – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #88 William Nylander
#47 Pierre Engvall – #64 David Kampf – #25 Ondrej Kase
#24 Simmonds – #18 Michael Amadio – #19 Jason Spezza
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#8 Rasmus Sandin – #23 Travis Dermott
Starter: #36 Jack Campbell
#35 Petr Mrazek
Extras: Timothy Liljegren
Injured: Auston Matthews, Ilya Mikheyev
Montreal Canadiens Projected Lines
Toffoli – Suzuki – Caufield
Drouin – Dvorak – Anderson
Armia – Evans – Gallagher
Perreault – Paquette – Lehkonen
Kulak – Petry
Chiarot – Savard
Romanov – Wideman
Injured/Out: Paul Byron, Shea Weber, Carey Price, Mike Hoffman
Astros' Garcia to start Game 6 of ALCS against Red Sox – Sportsnet.ca
Garcia started Game 2 and gave up a grand slam in the first inning before leaving with no outs in the second because of discomfort in his right knee. Manager Dusty Baker announced Thursday that Garcia would get the ball for Game 6 and said the Astros are confident the problem is behind Garcia and he’ll be 100% healthy for Friday’s start.
The Astros fell behind 2-1 in the series after two big wins by the Red Sox. But they rode their powerful offence to consecutive victories in the last two games to take the series lead and move within a win of advancing to the World Series for the second time in three seasons.
The Astros won the championship in 2017, a crown tainted by the team’s sign-stealing scandal, before losing to the Washington Nationals in seven games in the 2019 World Series.
The Red Sox previously announced that Nathan Eovaldi would start Game 6. Eovaldi got the win in a solid Game 2 start but was charged with the loss in Game 4 after giving up the go-ahead runs after coming in with the game tied in the ninth.
The Astros got eight terrific innings from Framber Valdez in a 9-1 win in Game 5. The performance gave Houston’s taxed bullpen a much-needed break after relievers pitched 29 1/3 innings combined through the first four games.
Baker said Jake Odorizzi would be available for long relief Friday if needed. Odorizzi threw 82 pitches in four innings in Game 2 after taking over following the injury to Garcia.
Baker also said rookie center fielder Jake Meyers, who hasn’t played this series after injuring his shoulder in the final game of the ALDS, probably wouldn’t return to the lineup in this series. He said Meyers could pinch-run or pinch-hit but isn’t ready to return to the field. Fellow rookies Chas McCormick and rookie Jose Siri have filled in at center against the Red Sox.
Houston is without ace Lance McCullers Jr. for this series because of a flexor pronator muscle strain in his right arm. Baker said Thursday that McCullers still hasn’t resumed throwing, so it’s unclear if he would be available to return if the Astros were to advance.
If necessary, Game 7 would be Saturday night in Houston.
NFL Prop Picks For Browns vs. Broncos: Bet This Donovan Peoples-Jones Over/Under On Thursday Night Football – The Action Network
Jason Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Donovan Peoples-Jones #11 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates after a touchdown
Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, is highlighting his favorite player prop for every primetime game throughout the 2021 season. He has a 428-326-6 (56%) all-time record on NFL bets he’s tracked in the Action app.
Broncos-Browns Prop Bet
Donovan Peoples-Jones Under 2.5 Receptions
Editor’s Note: Now that Odell Beckham Jr. is officially active, Browns player props are off the board at most books.
Peoples-Jones has been on fire over the past two weeks, posting lines of 5/70/0 & 4/101/2 against the Chargers and Cardinals, respectively. However, I believe it’s time to “sell high” on him as he’s due for some regression.
He’s caught a ridiculous 86.7% of his targets this season despite seeing an aDot of 15.7. Players with an aDot that high typically average a catch rate in the 57-60% range.
There are a few other reasons why my projections are lower for him compared to the market:
- Case Keenum is starting in place of Baker Mayfield tonight. Peoples-Jones has shown great chemistry with Mayfield over the past couple of games. The QB change seems like a setback for him.
- Weather could be a factor tonight. Steady winds of approximately 20 mph are expected with the possibility of some occasional rain. That would (in theory) negatively impact a high-aDot player like Peoples-Jones.
- Jarvis Landry is making his return from IR. He should be Keenum’s main target tonight, while the TE group should also see an increase in target share after a season-low five targets as a group last week. I also expect RB/WR Demetric Felton to have an expanded role tonight and he has been heavily targeted (37.5% of routes run) when on the field this season.
I’m projecting DPJ for 2.3 receptions tonight with a median projection of 31.5 receiving yards (market is currently at 38.5) — I’d give this under about a 60% chance of hitting. He’s the type of player who could clear his yardage prop on a couple of deep catches, so the safer play here is to take the under for his receptions, especially since we are getting + money. I would bet this down to -105.
Pick: Donovan Peoples-Jones Under 2.5 Receptions (+115) at BetMGM
Canadiens fans welcome Kotkaniemi back to Montreal with boos, vulgar chant – Yahoo Canada Sports
The Carolina Hurricanes were in Montreal on Thursday night to face the Canadiens at the Bell Centre, marking the return of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who was at the centre of petty off-season drama after signing an offer sheet with the Canes.
In true hockey fashion, the Bell Centre crowd greeted the 21-year-old with boos and taunting chants.
The Canadiens acknowledged the former third-overall pick by displaying him on the jumbotron, which in turn sparked another wave of disapproval from the near-sellout crowd.
It was Kotkaniemi who got the last laugh, though, tipping in a goal in the third period for his first point with the Hurricanes — much to the delight of Hockey Twitter. Carolina ended up walking away with the 4-1 victory, keeping Montreal winless on the season.
The native of Pori, Finland appeared in 171 games for the Habs over three seasons, scoring 22 goals and notching 40 assists. He also registered 12 points in 29 playoff games, including five goals in Montreal’s run to the Stanley Cup Final last season.
Carolina tendered an offer sheet to Kotkaniemi in late August, offering a one-year contract at $6.1 million. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin chose not to match, and Montreal received a first- and third-round pick as compensation.
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