Pre-Series Notes: The Blue Jays welcome Brandon Drury and the Reds to town

The Cincinnati Reds are coming to Toronto, which means a special homecoming for none other than Brandon Drury.

Much like the series the Blue Jays just won against the Seattle Mariners, this one against the Reds is a handful of games they really shouldn’t be losing. Cincinnati completely mailed it in this season and they have a record of 11-26.
Now, that being said, this roster features a dangerous amount of random former Blue Jays who have the opportunity to become Blue Jays Killers…
Brandon Drury, who I mentioned off the hop, has seven home runs and a slash line of .243/.328/.514.
Jeff Hoffman, one of the guys from the Troy Tulowitzki trade, is now a reliever with a 1.83 ERA.
Connor Overton, the guy who was DFA’d to make room for Jake Lamb last September, has a 1.82 ERA through four starts.
Worth mentioning…

#Reds Joey Votto is heading home to Toronto to begin a weekend series vs #BlueJays.
As a 17 yr. old, he was named to the 2001 Toronto Star Team. We’ll hear from the All-Star 1B on #BlueJays Central beginning Friday on #Sportsnet
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) May 19, 2022

Joey Votto, who is expected to rejoin the Reds in Toronto, was asked what sights he wanted to see in his hometown: “The center of the baseball. … Maybe the second deck, somewhere around there.”
— Bobby Nightengale (@nightengalejr) May 18, 2022

The star of the series, of course, isn’t actually Brandon Drury, it’s Joey Votto, who’s making what’ll very likely be his last trip to Toronto in his playing career.
Votto has one more year plus a year with a team option on the 12-year contract he signed back in 2012. He’s hinted at retirement, and nobody would blame him after what the Reds are making him endure this season, but even if he doesn’t, we won’t see the Reds make another trip to Toronto for a few years.
In nine games at the Rogers Centre, Votto has eight hits, three …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

How Yusei Kikuchi is emulating Robbie Ray and why it’s working

Yusei Kikuchi is coming off his best start as a Blue Jay. On Monday against the Seattle Mariners, his former team, he threw six shutout innings, allowed just one hit, and struck out six. He did walk three batters, but that was the only blemish in what was otherwise a great outing. After the game, Kikuchi talked about the adjustments he had made and how he was trying to emulate what Robbie Ray did last season.

Yusei Kikuchi says he was aware of how much #BlueJays pitching coach Pete Walker helped Robbie Ray last year.
They’ve tried to emulate Ray with Kikuchi’s “big cutter”:
“Just creating that similar shape as Robbie Ray was the goal,” Kikuchi says.
— Ethan Diamandas (@EthanDiamandas) May 17, 2022

With the Blue Jays Ray made three distinct changes. He altered his mechanics, increased his fastball usage, and threw more pitches in the strike zone. Kikuchi is not someone who likes to make mid-season adjustments, but we have seen him already make changes in his short time with the Blue Jays.

The first clip is from Kikuchi’s first start with Toronto and you can see he has the hesitation in his delivery, which he used throughout his time in Seattle. In the second clip that hesitation is gone. That’s not the only change that he has made, however.

These two screen shots are at the apex of Kikuchi’s leg kick. In the first shot, you can see his hands are separated early and it appears you can see his hand and perhaps the ball below his leg. In the second slip, he keeps his hands together at the top of his leg kick and it looks to me like he hides the ball behind his leg longer. We can’t say for certain if hitters were able to see the ball before or if they were able to pick something up, but dropping the hesitation is a notable change and makes his overall mechanics much more fluid.
With these changed mechanics we have also seen Kikuchi change his pitch mix throughout his first six starts.

Kikuchi threw his four-seamer 64.4% of the time in his last start, the highest rate of the season and well above his season average of 51%. Kikuchi has a very good fastball; he averages 94.9 on the pitch and can run it up to 97 mph on occasion, making him one of the hardest throwing lefty starters. Batters this season have hit just .109 off of Kikuchi’s fastball and slugged just .217. He doesn’t get much swing and miss on the pitch, only a 9.9% swinging strike rate the lowest of his four pitches. What the pitch does though is get hit weakly in the air. The pitch has a 45.5% fly ball rate and of those fly balls, 40% …

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Author: Paul Berthelot / Blue Jays Nation

The schedule for the Maple Leafs playoff redemption tour

It’s been a long time coming, but we are finally at the point where the Maple Leafs can begin righting the wrongs of last season. Sheldon Keefe let it slip in his media availability following the Leafs clinching second place in the Atlantic that Toronto would indeed be playing on Monday night to kick start the 2022 playoffs, but we now have the full first round calendar against the Lightning, including that all important Game seven at home.
Monday, May 2: Lightning at Maple Leafs, 7:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Wednesday, May 4: Lightning at Maple Leafs, 7:30 p.m. ET (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Friday, May 6: Maple Leafs at Lightning, 7:30 p.m. ET (TBS, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Sunday, May 8: Maple Leafs at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (TBS, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Tuesday, May 10: Lightning at Maple Leafs, TBD
*Thursday, May 12: Maple Leafs at Lightning, TBD
*Saturday, May 14: Lightning at Maple Leafs, TBD
Here’s a look at what the Leafs are getting themselves into with the Lightning:
Lightning has struck twice. That’s more than enough

Interestingly enough the Leafs manage to go the entire round without either a back to back or a two day off section in the schedule. There wasn’t any attempt to force a Saturday night game for the Leafs in the first four games, and the NHL left the possibility of a Saturday night game until game seven.
You’ll probably notice the slightly later start time for some of those games, that appears to be an attempt to stagger start times in the first round between other series going on. Boston and Carolina are the 7pm start time games. The downside is the later start for the Leafs, the upside is there will probably be hockey you can watch instead of intermission panels in the first round.
So now we play the waiting game and enjoy one last weekend with our families before the all consuming NHL pl …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs 3 stars of the week: Jack Campbell grabs two wins in three solid starts, Mark Giordano continues to be a staple on the blue line

After coming off a three-game week where we saw the Maple Leafs lose yet another stinker to the Buffalo Sabres, flat out dominate the Washington Capitals on home ice, and then win a back and forth game in overtime against the Ottawa Senators, Toronto had themselves another busy week on the schedule with four games waiting for them, including two against two divisional rivals again.
The Maple Leafs opened up their busy week on Sunday at home against the New York Islanders, and boy was that a boring first period but good thing things started to pick up and the game got a little more entertaining as it rolled along. After what was a pretty even yet boring first period, Toronto controlled the rest of the game through the last two periods with a combined shot total of 28-20 and ultimately came away with a big win for the standings 4-2, and a big thanks to Jack Campbell for his performance because he made the stops when the team needed them.
Currently, on a three-game winning streak, Toronto stayed home and welcomed the struggling Philadelphia Flyers in …

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Author: Joseph Zita / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs prospect Pontus Holmberg assigned to Marlies

Pontus Holmberg is coming to North America just ten months after signing his entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs.

#LeafsForever prospect Pontus Holmberg has been reassigned to the Toronto Marlies
— Kyle Cushman (@Kyle_Cush) April 19, 2022

Holmberg joins a number of new players on the Marlies, including new Leafs signee Max Ellis and a few other college players. The 23-year-old is coming off a great year in Sweden with Växjö Lakers where he had 41 points in 46 games this season. TLN’s own, Kyle Cushman, has some great visuals below of what he’ll be bringing to the Marlies.

Holmberg is already signed to an ELC. The 23-year-old centre had a career year coming off of his 2021 SHL Playoffs MVP run, scoring 11 goals and 41 points in 46 games in Sweden.
Very interested to see how he adapts to the AHL. Could factor in sooner than later for the #Leafs
— Kyle Cushman (@Kyle_Cush) April 19, 2022

With Toronto in a tight playoff race in the AHL, it’s not known whether or not Holmberg plays in the remaining six games of the regular season. It’ll be interesting to see if the 23-year-old will or not.
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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Leafs Prospect Roundup: Knies contract watch, Robertson running hot, Leafs sign Ellis & Rindell

With the Frozen Four coming to a conclusion, everyone in Toronto is awaiting a decision on whether Matthew Knies will turn pro or return for another year of college hockey but the Leafs didn’t sit around twiddling their thumbs last week, signing a couple of other prospects to entry level deals.
In addition to bringing in a couple of new recruits, the Leafs’ system saw a pair of players earn NCAA All-American honors, and a handful of other prospects had their seasons come to an end.
Let’s get to it.
Matthew Knies | W | Minnesota (NCAA)
Matthew Knies contract watch is officially underway after his Gophers were defeated by Minnesota State in the national semifinal. The Leafs’ 2021 second-rounder got his club out to an early lead but that was all the scoring Minnesota would be able to muster in their final game of the season.

Matt Knies and Bryce Brodzinski head in on a 2-on-0 rush and Knies finishes it to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead.#LeafsForever
— Nick Richard (@_NickRichard) April 8, 2022

Though it didn’t end the way he had hoped, Knies had a monster freshman season on one of the NCAA’s best teams. He finished the campaign with 15 goals and 18 assists for 33 points in 33 games – good enough for fifth-best among all NCAA players drafted in 2021, just behind first-round picks Kent Johnson and Matthew Coronato. With that kind of production and the way he was able to impose his physical will as a first-year college player, Leafs fans are understandably excited about the idea of Knies turning pro thi …

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation

Jack Campbell feels like himself again and the Maple Leafs need him that way going forward

PHILADELPHIA — You could see it coming from a mile away.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have developed a bad habit of playing poorly against teams that are further down in the NHL standings lately and the Philadelphia Flyers looked like they were going to be the next non-playoff team to hand them a loss.
The difference this time was Jack Campbell, who made 11 of his 29 saves in the first period to help his Maple Leafs defeat the Flyers 6-3 on Saturday in the goaltender’s first game in nearly a month.
“I definitely felt like myself, just having fun and competing and playing my game,” Campbell said. “There’s obviously some details [I’m] just going to keep cleaning up. But I really liked the game from the boys in front of me and I like my game and just going to keep building from it.”
Campbell last played a game on Mar. 8 but had played through four games with a rib injury. Bur even before the ailment, Campbell’s numbers were not only bad since December but he was making mental errors on the ice. Whether it was a low-difficulty goal from a long distance or giving up big rebounds in front of the net, Campbell didn’t resemble anythi …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Free agent departures: Zach Hyman sets career-high, Zach Bogosian returns from injury

The NHL regular season is almost coming to an end as the month of March just finished last night and we hockey fans get set to look forward to the month of April as some teams get set to play some important games down the stretch for their playoff positions, and even playoff hopes. With that said, it’s been another month on the schedule for some former Maple Leafs to play with their new teams, so let’s take a look at how they did.

1. Zach Hyman – EDM – 29 years old – LW/RW
March 2022 stats: 15 GP – 3 G – 7 A – 10 PTS – 20:11 TOI
2021-22 stats: 62 GP – 22 G – 23 A – 45 PTS – 19:33 TOI
Contract: 7 years x $5.5M 
When Zach Hyman left the Toronto Maple Leafs in the off-season, Leaf fans were sad, it’s no secret. However, the addition of Michael Bunting and the type of season he is currently having for Toronto, it’s something to cherish as fans, but let’s not take away the accomplishment from Hyman this season as he set a new career-high in both goals (22) and points (45) while being just two assists shy from tying his career-high in that department with 25.
It’s been an incredible y …

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Author: Joseph Zita / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs 3 stars of the week: Mitch Marner extends point streak amid poor week, John Tavares breaks goal drought

After coming off a four-game week where we witnessed some great games and some stressful games, the Toronto Maple Leafs had three games on the schedule last week including a meeting with the Washington Capitals for the first time since October of 2019. Along with their meeting with the 2018 Stanley Cup champions, the Maple Leafs were also set to host both the Buffalo Sabres and the Vancouver Canucks at home.
They began their week on Monday night in Washington for a clash with the Capitals and it was a pretty good game if I’m being honest right now. The Maple Leafs did blow a 3-1 lead but they managed to stick around and get the lead back to ultimately win the game on the road. There were some questions in this game because Washington is such a heavy team to play against and at times when Toronto had puck possession, it felt like the Capitals were bullying Toronto nonstop, especially when Tom Wilson threw down John Tavares, but I guess it was alright given he set up the eventual ga …

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Author: Joseph Zita / The Leafs Nation

Previewing key Raptors matchups in the second half of the season

Previewing key Raptors matchups in the second half of the season

With the second half of the season coming up, the Toronto Raptors are currently sitting in the 7th seed six games back from contenders like the Bulls and Heat. In a general sense, Nick Nurse has done a fine job of coaching this season. Before the NBA All-Star break, where Fred VanVleet made his first all-star […]
Previewing key Raptors matchups in the second half of the season – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Sai Pirapakaran / Raptors HQ