Nick Nurse shows Thad Young is mentoring young Raptors core

Nick Nurse shows Thad Young is mentoring young Raptors core

The Toronto Raptors needed to offload Goran Dragic and improve a bench that ranked as one of the worst in the entire league. Toronto killed two birds with one stone by flipping the Slovenian veteran to the San Antonio Spurs along with a first-round pick in exchange for Thad Young. While Young was brought to […]
Nick Nurse shows Thad Young is mentoring young Raptors core – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

1 stud and 1 dud from disheartening Raptors loss to Hawks

1 stud and 1 dud from disheartening Raptors loss to Hawks

The Toronto Raptors needed a complete team effort if they wanted to put their gnarly loss to the Hornets in the past and defeat Trae Young’s Atlanta Hawks. With Fred VanVleet hampered by injury, stars like Pascal Siakam and role players like Precious Achiuwa needed to step up. Just when it looked like the Raptors were […]
1 stud and 1 dud from disheartening Raptors loss to Hawks – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Toronto Raptors trade Goran Dragic to Spurs for Thad Young

Toronto Raptors trade Goran Dragic to Spurs for Thad Young

The Toronto Raptors needed to make a move at the trade deadline, as they had to fortify a bench that was among the worst in the league. By finding a way to deal away Goran Dragic, Masai Ujiri and Nick Nurse could finally get one more player that could help get the starters some extra […]
Toronto Raptors trade Goran Dragic to Spurs for Thad Young – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Know Your Enemy: How the Maple Leafs matchup against a slumping Oilers team missing McDavid

Not that the Leafs really needed any help to be better than the Oilers, they got even more help with Connor McDavid testing positive for COVID while Auston Matthews was confirmed a false positive and will be back in the lineup. We already saw what an injury depleted Leafs team did against a mostly healthy Oilers team in December, so a mostly healthy Leafs team against an injury depleted Oilers team favours quite heavily for the Leafs. Obviously this is the Leafs, so it seems like one of those games that is inevitably a loss, but I’m going to ignore the fact that the Leafs are cursed and dive into the statistical reasons why this bodes well for the Leafs.
Tale of the Tape (via Mark Norman)

Projected Lineups
Toronto Maple Leafs

LW
C
RW
MICHAEL BUNTING
AUSTON MATTHEWS
MITCH MARNER
ALEXANDER KERFOOT
JOHN TAVARES
WILLIAM NYLANDER
PIERRE ENGVALL
DAVID KAMPF
ILYA MIKHEYEV
NICK RITCHIE
JASON SPEZZA
WAYNE SIMMONDS

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
MORGAN RIELLY
T.J. BRODIE
JAKE MUZZIN
JUSTIN HOLL
RASMUS SANDIN
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Edmonton Oilers

LW
C
RW
WARREN FOEGELE
LEON DRAISAITL
KAILER YAMAMOTO
ZACH HYMAN
RYAN MCLEOD
JESSE PULJUJARVI
TYLER BENSON
DEVIN SHORE
ZACK KASSIAN
BRENDAN PERLINI
COLTON SCEVIOUR
KYLE TURRIS

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
DARNELL NURSE
EVAN BOUCHARD
DUNCAN KEITH
CODY CECI
WILLIAM LAGESSON
SLATER KOEKKOEK

Forwards

The first line of Warren Foegele, Leon Draisaitl, and Kailer Yamamoto hasn’t had much time together (just under 13 minutes), but so far they’ve been a line that gets shot attempts, but not scoring chances, with a 64.47% CF% but a 44.44% xGF%. Draisaitl has always been a bit of an impostor superstar, as he tends to get by just on his skills (which admittedly are there), but pretty much every other facet of his game is definitely not at the level of someone like Auston Matthews. Take him away from McDavid and off the power play, and he’s even more exposed. Translation: he puts up points, and doesn’t bring much else to the table. The fact that Yamamoto is having a rough season, and Foegele is a little bit out of his element in a top six role with Nugent-Hopkins out makes this a line ripe to be exposed if the Leafs wanted to.
Being without McDavid tonight is a huge hit for the Oilers against a stronger Leafs team, especially when their depth was struggling already. If there is one slight upside to the shakeup of what is usually the top line, it’s that Jesse Puljujarvi will get a little bit of support defensively on this line with Ryan McLeod. It might surprise some that Puljujarvi is the defensive player on a line with McDavid and Zach Hyman, but McDavid has more or less sacrificed defense for the sake of offense, and Hyman usually hasn’t had strong defensive results aside from last season, so Puljujarvi has taken the mantle. Meanwhile, McLeod has put up the best defensive results out of Oilers forwards this season, with a 2.1 5v5 goals above replacement, and is one of only three forwards on the team with a positive GAR, so he should at least keep the line afloat defensively. This combo hasn’t even had a minute of ice time together so there’s not much to comment on how much success it’s had, but on paper, it could at least not cause problems defensively for the team.
Tyler Benson, Devin Shore, and Zack Kassian also haven’t played much time together, so once again we’re just going to have to look at how the players look on paper, and how those skills could potentially work together, or clash. And it doesn’t look super promising. Kassian has at least been competent this year, producing at a solid pace and at least being able to drive play to some extent, but Benson and Shore are both drags offensively and defensively, so Kassian isn’t the kind of guy you expect to excel in spite of that.
McDavid being out of an already depleted Oilers lineup gives the Leafs a really strong opportunity to exploit all three lineups. While Keefe might be inclined to put the Kampf line out against Draisaitl, I’d actually take this opportunity to go “best on best” considering what we know about Draisaitl’s play beyond his finishing ability. The fact that the Matthews line is also one of the best in the league at controlling play and creating chances just means that they can really hammer it down with that line. After that, I’d probably go the route of putting Kampf up against the McLeod line, since they’d probably be the best chance defensively of stopping either the Matthews or Tavares line, and the lack of scoring touch from that Oilers line means you’re not as worried about getting burned. That leaves the Tavares line to feast on that third line that hasn’t had any playing time together, and doesn’t have a lot of promise anyways.
Much like the rest of tonight’s forward group for the Oilers, the combo of Colton Sceviour, Kyle Turris, and Brendan Perlini has had no time together. If there’s any hope out of this group, it’s that Sceviour is one of those other two forwards on the Oilers with strong defensive results with a 1.4 5v5 GAR, but with Turris and Perlini not being able to do much of anything, it doesn’t inspire much for Oilers fans tonight. It also helps that Nick Ritchie being on the fourth line with Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds turns it from one of the best fourth lines in the league to an average line, so they won’t be totally outclassed tonight by the Leafs in the battle of fourth lines.
Defense
The Oilers have gotten a (deservedly) bad rap for their defensive game, but if they have one thing going for them, it’s the current top pair of Darnell Nurse and Evan Bouchard. The duo have been one of the better pairs in the league this season, with a 58.13% CF% that ranks 33rd and a 57.61% xGF% that ranks 54th (out of 341 pairings, mind you). This may come as a bit of a surprise considering that Nurse has notoriously been poor defensively and Bouchard’s lack of experience, but Nurse has turned around his overall game this season and improved defensively overall. In fact, the only part of the game he’s struggled in is driving actual goals, but that’s mostly just regression from last season. Bouchard’s defensive game isn’t quite there, but his offensive game makes up for it, and with Nurse there to keep him propped up, it’s made for a good pair to start the season.
Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci also hasn’t been surprisingly terrible this season considering the two players involved, but even then it’s been pretty average results with a 51.02% CF% and 50.41% xGF% at 5v5. A lot of that comes from the fact that Ceci is actually quite competent defensively, at least results wise (visually, it’s not always pretty). He doesn’t generate a thing offensively, but he can at least prevent shot attempts and scoring chances well enough to keep you afloat. Keith hasn’t been great this season, but he also hasn’t been as abysmal as he usually is, just painfully average, which has led to the pairing being able to have okay numbers.
I’d probably try and keep Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl away from that top pair for the Oilers based on their play so far this season, but considering Muzzin hasn’t played in over three weeks, maybe he’s a bit more rested and back to his old self, which then means Holl can actually play against tough competition again. Still, they’d probably be better suited against the more average Keith-Ceci pair while Morgan Rielly and TJ Brodie take on the stronger Nurse-Bouchard pair for the Oilers.
While losing McDavid tonight will definitely hurt their chances, Tyson Barrie being one of the players out is probably a blessing in disguise for the club, as he’s usually been a drag on any pairing he’s played with, and the fact that he’s being subbed in for William Lagesson is an even better sign for Oilers fans. Lagesson has had solid results all around this year, but hasn’t had much playing time so far this season at the expense of a player like Barrie, so that will help the Oilers chances. Koekkoek hasn’t really been all that good this year, so that could hurt the pairing a little bit, but still, at Lagesson will be there to help stop the bleeding, as opposed to Barrie, who would’ve just cut the wound open more. Lagesson and Koekkoek also have barely played a minute together, so we don’t really know what they’d be like together, but it’s still better than anything with Barrie. That said, they’ll be up against Rasmus Sandin and Travis Dermott, who crush weak competition even better than Lagesson does, so it’ll probably be a good matchup for the Leafs.
Goaltending
Mike Smith will get the start tonight, and while he hasn’t played much this season, when he has, he has been pretty bad. Among goalies who have faced at minimum the same volume of work as Smith this season, Smith has the 11th worst 5v5 save percentage with 90.49%, the 7th worst delta Fenwick save percentage with -1.86%, and the 21st worst goals saved above expected with -3.01. The fact that the latter two stats are as low as they are despite just five games from Smith is pretty telling how bad he’s been in that short span, something also evidenced by his -2.6 goals above replacement, 13th worst in the league. Even if Jack Campbell’s numbers were average instead of how elite they’ve actually been, this still wouldn’t be a close goalie matchup.
Overall
While the Oilers haven’t looked great on their current slump, they aren’t quite as comically bad as they may seem sometimes this season, this matchup is just a situation where everything they can do well, the Leafs can do just as good or better. The Oilers have a high scoring top six with a power play that’s been good at times? The Leafs have that, except their players don’t do it at the expense of offense. The Oilers have a bottom six that can at the very least not bleed chances defensively? The Leafs have that, except their bottom six can chip in from time to time as well. The Oilers defense core has surprisingly worked well? So has the Leafs. The Oilers have bad goaltending? Leafs don’t. With a healthy lineup, this would at least be interesting, but without McDavid this really isn’t close. Draisaitl might burn the Leafs for a goal or two tonight, but he’ll probably get burned for three or four as well, and everything else in the lineup probably won’t be able to help much offensively to compensate.


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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

Toronto Raptors lose G League standout Reggie Perry after call-up

Toronto Raptors lose G League standout Reggie Perry after call-up

While the Toronto Raptors needed anyone with a pulse to fill roster spots on a 10-day contract due to the effects of COVID-19, they did not choose to bring Reggie Perry up from the G League. Perry has been performing well with Raptors 905 in the G League so far this season. While Perry was […]
Toronto Raptors lose G League standout Reggie Perry after call-up – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Raptors: Precious Achiuwa’s improved stats off the bench are startling

Raptors: Precious Achiuwa’s improved stats off the bench are startling

The Toronto Raptors needed to make some lineup alterations when Pascal Siakam came back into the lineup, and putting Precious Achiuwa on the bench seemed like the most logical move. Not only was Siakam likely to bump a frontcourt player down to the bench, but Achiuwa had been playing some very inconsistent basketball lately. Achiuwa […]
Raptors: Precious Achiuwa’s improved stats off the bench are startling – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Raptors: Winners and Losers from tight victory against Pacers

Raptors: Winners and Losers from tight victory against Pacers

The Toronto Raptors needed everyone from starters like Precious Achiuwa and OG Anunoby as well as bench players like Svi Mykhailiuk to step up on Saturday night. They were playing a desperate Indiana Pacers team that was coming back home after some brutal road losses, and that desperation helped them play a very physical game. […]
Raptors: Winners and Losers from tight victory against Pacers – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Raptors: Winners and Losers from exhilarating win over Pacers

Raptors: Winners and Losers from exhilarating win over Pacers

The Toronto Raptors needed to wake up after two tough home losses, as the prospect of falling to 1-4 on the season was unacceptable for Nick Nurse and this team. Luckily, Toronto was able to get back on the right track thanks to veterans like Fred VanVleet and rookies like Scottie Barnes and Dalano Banton. […]
Raptors: Winners and Losers from exhilarating win over Pacers – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Raptors: 2019 champ Marc Gasol may have played his last NBA game

Raptors: 2019 champ Marc Gasol may have played his last NBA game

The Toronto Raptors saw that they needed to add a rim-protecting center to the squad in 2019 to really put them over the top, and they found their man in Marc Gasol, acquiring him from the Grizzlies in a deal that sent Jonas Valanciunas and Delon Wright to Memphis. While Gasol didn’t put up the […]
Raptors: 2019 champ Marc Gasol may have played his last NBA game – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

The Blue Jays have acquired pitcher Brad Hand from the Nationals in exchange for Riley Adams

The Blue Jays’ bullpen certainly needed a Hand. HEYYYYOOOOO!

According to Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post, the Blue Jays have acquired left-handed reliever Brad Hand from the Washington Nationals. Apparently, it’ll be catcher Riley Adams going back to Washington in exchange…

Source: The Nationals have traction on a deal that will send Brad Hand to the Blue Jays.
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) July 29, 2021

The Blue Jays are acquiring LHP Brad Hand from the Nationals for Triple-A C Riley Adams, per source. @dougherty_jesse was first with the news.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) July 29, 2021

Hand originally came up with the Florida/Miami Marlins as a starting pitcher but converted into a bullpen role after being selected by the San Diego Padres off of waivers.
In 2016, Hand broke out as a very effective bullpen arm, leading baseball in appearances and posting a 2.92 ERA. He then made back-to-back All-Star appearances in 2017 and 2018 and was traded to Cleveland along with Adam Cimber in exchange for Francisco Mejia.
In 2020, Hand had an excellent season with Cleveland, posting a 2.05 ERA over 23 appearances and led baseball with 16 saves. He struck out 11.9 batters per nine and walked just 1.6 per nine. Despite that, Cleveland didn’t pick up …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation