Is this time different? A confidence check on the Maple Leafs

Last night for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, I decided to rewatch Avengers: Infinity War. The opening scene where Loki is stating his case for returning to earth seemed particularly relevant to the Leafs in game seven:

Anyway, here we are. I feel like if you didn’t think we’d end up at Game Seven in this series you were lying to yourself, but the biggest question now is about how confident we feel in the Leafs ability to close it out. It’s been easy to say “this time is different” and to be honest it has been. The Leafs are healthier, their stars are producing more, and suspensions haven’t factored in. The Leafs are more ready for this game than they’ve been for any previous series, but there is another difference and that’s the Tampa Bay Lightning. They are a better team. They are healthier than they’ve been all season, and they’ve won the Stanley Cup the past two seasons.
With all that considered, the question I posed to the TLN crew was: “How confident are you that the Leafs WILL win game seven, and why?” Here are the responses:
Dylan Murphy:
They can and they will. That sentence has been meme’d to death, but this time, it’s right. I’m dreading the game and the pain it will bring should something go wrong with every fibre of my being, and I’m mad that it’s even happening because if not for truly incompetent officiating, the Leafs would’ve won it in 6, but here we are, on …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Raptors: Pascal Siakam calls out Joel Embiid’s “fake toughness”

Raptors: Pascal Siakam calls out Joel Embiid’s “fake toughness”

Pascal Siakam and the Toronto Raptors made sure that the brooms didn’t come out on Saturday afternoon, as Canada’s All-NBA star led his team to a victory over Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers behind a playoff-best 34 points. Siakam showed how lethal he can be when he gets hot early against elite competition. This […]
Raptors: Pascal Siakam calls out Joel Embiid’s “fake toughness” – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Meet Fardaws Aimaq, a Canadian big who fits the Raptors

Meet Fardaws Aimaq, a Canadian big who fits the Raptors

The Toronto Raptors need to make sure that they address the center position at some point in the offseason. Be it via their first-round pick or finding another undrafted gem, look for Masai Ujiri to prioritize size. If the Raptors want to add another Canadian twist to their roster, Utah Valley star and Vancouver native […]
Meet Fardaws Aimaq, a Canadian big who fits the Raptors – 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 reveals secret to sudden 3-point skill

Raptors’ Precious Achiuwa reveals secret to sudden 3-point skill

The Toronto Raptors have emphasized making sure that all of their young players start to take major developmental strides in the right direction. After some struggles with scoring earlier in the season, Precious Achiuwa has been one of Toronto’s best players in the second half. Achiuwa is averaging 13.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game […]
Raptors’ Precious Achiuwa reveals secret to sudden 3-point skill – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Free Agency Wrap Up: Day 2

Well, the flood gates sure opened up today. The Jays have added their fifth starter, while some notable names came off the board.

Transactions:
Unlike yesterday morning’s article, I won’t be covering every single transaction that took place on Saturday. Just the notable moves.
Yusei Kikuchi to the Blue Jays:
I wrote about this shortly after this broke. If Pete Walker can help fix Kikuchi’s game, the 3 year, $36 million contract may come off as a steal. Furthermore, the Jays look to have one of the best starting rotations, except for maybe the Mets.
Luke Maile to the Guardians:
Former Jays’ catcher Luke Maile has signed with the Guardians. I only bring this up because I bought a child sized Luke Maile jersey (accidentally back in 2018, as it was an inside joke between my editor and I. Nothing for the best for the Maile man, as he always delivered.
Chris Bassit to the Mets:

We’ve acquired RHP Chris Bassitt from Oakland for RHP Adam Oller and RHP J.T. Ginn. pic.twitter.com/yCdDk9oEPr
— New York Mets (@Mets) March 13, 2022

So, this wasn’t a signing, but it’s still notable. The Mets traded two right handers, Adam Oller and J.T. Ginn to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Chris Bassitt. The Mets now have a starting rotation of Jacob DeGrom, Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco and former Jay, Taijuan Walker. 
The last two didn’t have a great season, but the first three pitchers in that rotation are crazy.
Isaiah Kiner-Falefa to the Twins, Mitch Garver to the Rangers:

Catcher Mitch Garver is headed to the Rangers in the deal for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, sources tell ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 12, 2022

Kiner-Falefa is a good defensive shortstop who can occasionally hit for power as he had eight home runs in 2021. Garver, a catcher, is looking to find his 2019 form where he hit 31 homers for the Twins, more than every other season combined. Garver hit 13 in 2021.
Joe Kelly to the White Sox:
I doubt the Jays were ever in play to sign the right hander who has recently transitioned to the pen …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Ranking defensive trade targets for the Leafs

Between now and the trade deadline I’m sure we have more than enough time to throw as many names against the wall to see if they stick when it comes to who can be the best defensive pickup. Rather than doing that individually for each player over the course of the next month, I thought I’d speed date the non-playoff team defensemen and see who could be the best fit. The hope is that I’d learn a little something about myself along the way.
The approach is a simple one. A twenty-point scorecard with 10 points allocated by contract/player attributes, and 10 points allocated by performance. The end result is a list that will likely upset everyone. I mean I made it and I’m angry at it.
The criteria for the scorecard is as follows:
Performance: Take the score of each player from Evolving Hockey‘s player cards and divide it by 10 for a score based on the maximum of 10 points.
Usage: This was a three-point scale. The top pairing guys are 3 points, the top 4 guys get 2 points, sheltered defensemen get 1 point, and barely in the lineup scores zero.
Cap Hit: Again this was out of three. If the contract is under $1M it scores 3 points. Under $2M it scores 2 points. Under $4M it scores 1 point. Everything else is a zero.


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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Franchise Hockey Manager 7 predicts the rest of John Tavares’ career

I’m not sure if you are aware, but a brand new NHL season is right around the corner and that means the Leafs will be returning to the ice soon.
Isn’t that exciting? No? Moving on.
The ever longing dread of getting hopes up for a franchise that is currently associated with a four-digit number and an embarrassing ending to their previous campaign is starting to creep up again. The blindly optimistic are eager to emerge from their caves and shout to the mountain tops that “This is the year.” Others are looking ahead to when the playoffs start and will only judge on how the postseason fares. All of this is in anticipation of a home opener that will host fans for the first time since 2019, which just so happened to be the day John Tavares was revealed as the team captain.
Speaking of Tavares (who seems to be recovering nicely from his scary concussion), he is a player that I have yet to do a career simulation on and today seems like the perfect opportunity to do just that. And as you can tell by the title of this piece, we are changing up how we …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

John Tavares looks good to go

Not sure if you missed the 635 replays that Sportsnet showed of John Tavares getting almost decapitated in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens, but it was a shocking thing to watch. The incident, which resulted in Tavares being knocked unconscious and stretchered off the ice, left many fans questioning in the immediate aftermath if the injury could be career-altering.
Tavares miraculously escaped serious injury to his head, neck and spine, coming away with a concussion and a knee injury. He astoundingly returned to the ice before the series against Montreal ended, and could have possibly returned to the playoffs had the Leafs progressed.
The great news, as shared by Kyle Dubas on TSN’s Overdrive radio show, is that Tavares seems to be fully out of the woods and should be 100% in time for the start of next season, which is a huge relief to hear:

Kyle Dubas said on @OverDrive1050 that John Tavares has been cleared for all on-ice activities and all signs point to him being good to go next season. But given nature of the injury, #Leafs will be cautious as he gets back up to his former speed.
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) …

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Author: Mark Norman / The Leafs Nation

BJN Radio Ep. 24 – The winning streak reaches four!

Boy, playing terrible teams sure is fun!

Fresh off of winning back-to-back games against the Orioles on Saturday and Sunday, the Blue Jays rolled into Miami for a two-game set with the Marlins and picked up a sweep, ultimately pushing their winning streak to a season-high four games.
We talked on the post-series podcast about George Springer’s ho-hum return and where he should be in the lineup, the excellent pitching of Robbie Ray and Ross Stripling, and the bullpen bouncing back with six effective innings. We also talked about Mark Shapiro’s radio hit on Thursday morning in which he said he was confident the team would add pieces to help them be competitive.
You can listen to the episode here…

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Foreign Substance Crackdown is coming. Do the Blue Jays have anything to worry about?

By now I am sure you have heard of baseball’s dirty little secret. Sports Illustrated has called foreign substances the new steroids. Eno Sarris and Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic have written (among other stories on this issue) about Spider Tack and how it can increase spin rate up to 500 revolutions per minute (rpms).

The league starting to take action. Baseballs from a Trevor Bauer start in early April were sent to MLB for investigation. We saw Joe West ask Cardinals pitcher Giovanny Gallegos to change his hat as West saw a substance on it. The League is taking measures to stop this and it seems players are making changes so they don’t get caught. It’s becoming a regular occurrence to see a tweet like this.

The much more damning evidence here… pic.twitter.com/1M7Yqh10Gx
— Lee Trocinski (@LeeTrocinski) June 3, 2021

This isn’t a new problem; the tipping point probably should have come four years ago when a ball got stuck on Yadier Molina’s chest protector.

#OTD in 2017, Matt Szczur reached on a dropped third strike when…the ball got stuck to Yadier Molina’s chest protector…
2 batters later, Kyle Schwarber mashed a 3-run homer …

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Author: Paul Berthelot / Blue Jays Nation