Analysis: Raptors/Spurs Trade

Tomas Karageorgos | Report

On July 18, the Toronto Raptors traded Jakob Poeltl and fan-favourite DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs along with a first round draft pick in exchange for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

Arguably one of the biggest trades in the NBA off-season so far happened in mid-July, involving two big names in DeRozan and Leonard.  This trade comes as a shock to Raptors fans, Spurs fans, and basketball fans in general seeing as Toronto Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri told DeRozan a week before that he was not going to be traded.

DeRozan, 28, who was drafted by Toronto in 2009, leaves the Raptors at the top of many individual accomplishments and records: 4x NBA All-Star, most minutes played in franchise history, most games played in franchise history, and most points scored in franchise history.

Once DeRozan found out about the trade, he took to Instagram to post a story which many could tell the disappointment he had with the Raptors front office.

Loyalty is tough to come by in the sports world, as DeRozan found out the hard way.  Sports has always been, and will continue to be a business.

Toronto also sent 22-year-old Power Forward/Centre Jakob Poeltl to San Antonio. Poeltl spent two seasons with the Raptors, and was a key role in their 2017-18 season, featuring in all 82 games. Poeltl is known for his toughness and his rebounding ability, which is something his new coach Gregg Popovich has experience coaching throughout his time at the Spurs. Poeltl has great potential at such a young age, Popovich will look to mold him into a Pau Gasol, who also plays on the Spurs and has similar features and skills.

The big name that the Raptors get in return for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl is Kawhi Leonard. Leonard was drafted by San Antonio in 2011, and like DeRozan, has won awards and individual accomplishments: 2014 NBA Champion, 2014 NBA Finals M.V.P., 2x NBA All-Star, and 2015 NBA steal leader.  Leonard is the more decorated player in terms of championships and awards, but his 2017-18 season was the least impressive out of his career thus far; he missed the first 27 games of the season because of a right quadriceps injury. In early 2018, Leonard suffered a partial tear in his left shoulder, then just two weeks later was ruled out of action indefinitely due to the initial injury he suffered. The 2017-18 season was not a kind one to Kawhi Leonard, which has Raptors fans wondering how he will preform for them in the upcoming season.

The other player sent to Toronto along with Kawhi Leonard was Danny Green, who joined the Spurs in 2011. Green is not the flashiest of players, but gets the job done with toughness, and is a distance shooter who can also finish in the paint. Green was not talked about as much as Leonard when the trade became official, but he can provide the Raptors with his veteran experience.

Most trades in sports have a clear winner and loser right from the get-go, but with quality players being sent in different directions, no one is sure whether the Raptors or the Spurs got the better deal.

Only time will tell to determine if this was a good trade or not.


Featured image by Soobum Im/USA Today Sports.

Game 6 Recap: Raptors close out Wizards; advance to round two

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

The Toronto Raptors closed out the Washington Wizards on the road on Friday 102-92, meaning the team will move on to the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Toronto was able to survive a tough eighth seeded matchup, and although bent at some points in the series, never broke as a team.

Even when the Raptors got away from what made them successful throughout the season, (activating their bench) Toronto made sure not to ISO Lowry and DeRozan too frequently throughout the series.

In this game, the decision really came down to a lopsided final quarter where the Raptors outscored Washington 29-14 on route to the first road team victory of the series.

The depth of the Wizards became exposed as the game progressed, as Washington failed to get any meaningful contributions from any player on their roster other than the familiar faces of John Wall (23 points, five rebounds, eight assists), Bradley Beal (32 points, three rebounds, one assist), and Markieff Morris (12 points, 15 rebounds, one assist).

Toronto on the other hand, got enough from the entirety of their bench, whether it be Pascal Siakam (11 points, eight rebounds), Fred VanVleet (five points, four rebounds, four assists), Jakob Poeltl (seven points, seven rebounds), or others apart of the Raptors core strength.

Kyle Lowry also came clutch when the team counted on him, as Lowry continues to try and rewrite the books on his performance when it comes to playoff basketball.

Lowry was able to produce 24 points, six rebounds, and six assists, perhaps showing why Masai Ujiri and Dwayne Casey continue to believe in him as much as they do.

The game was finished off by this Delon Wright block on enemy Kelly Oubre Jr, as the two traded jabs on Instagram prior to Game 6.

All in all, the Raptors are moving on, and this is just one step for a team destined to make a deep run in this postseason.

Next up the Raptors will play a new opponent in round two, which will be decided on Sunday following the Pacers/Cavaliers Game 7.

Toronto fans are hoping that Pacers guard Victor Oladipo can have a performance for the ages, and send LeBron James home in the first round.

James has made it to six straight NBA finals, and has been well documented as the Raptors kryptonite, as he always seems to thrive when up against the Dinos.


More coverage to follow. Image from The Globe and Mail. 

Game 7 Recap: Maple Leafs season comes to an end in heartbreak

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

The Toronto Maple Leafs fell short and failed to move on to the second round on Wednesday, after a painful defeat to the Boston Bruins 7-4. 

Game 7 started with so much promise for the Buds after a seesaw first period showed the Maple Leafs holding their own against a tough Bruins team on home ice.

Toronto held a one goal lead twice in the opening frame, but failed to hang onto it after 20 minutes of play.

Veteran forward Patrick Marleau was able to tip home a Jake Gardiner point shot just over two minutes into the game, giving the Leafs the icebreaker as well as the momentum.

The lead would be surrendered in a hurry however, as shortly two minutes after Marleau’s goal, Boston rookie Jake DeBrusk tailed his own power play marker.

The back and forth period would continue following another goal from Marleau, and a quick response from Game 6 scratched forward Danton Heinen.

Leaf killer Patrice Bergeron was also able to tuck one past Frederik Andersen with shortly under 40 seconds to play in the period, giving the Bruins a 3-2 lead heading to the locker room.

The middle frame belonged to the Buds, as Toronto played inspired hockey, mainly through contributions from a pair of rookies to take the lead.

First, young d-man Travis Dermott scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal on a beauty of a shot which eluded goaltender Tuukka Rask, tying the game at threes.

Speedy youngster Kasperi Kapanen also found the scoresheet in the second period, blowing by Brad Marchand shorthanded, and outweighing Tuukka Rask through a set of skilled dekes.

In coach Babcock’s words, “our team was set up perfectly heading into the third period” as the Leafs obtained a 4-3 lead and had the Bruins on the ropes.

Boston came through in the third period meaning business, and pushed back immediately, as Torey Krug struck a minute and ten seconds in to tie the game 4-4.

This brought the life and energy back into the TD Garden, as fans began to believe this was the Bruins game to win, and the ghost of 2013 would enter into the Maple Leafs’ minds.

The doubt was visible on the Maple Leafs faces as the period wore on, as Toronto stopped skating and seemed on their heals for the remainder of the game.

Boston followed up Krug’s goal with multiple high pressure shifts, and it eventually payed off courtesy a power move from Jake DeBrusk.

DeBrusk took the puck from nearly his own end, and skated with strength and speed through the neutral zone, outmuscling Jake Gardiner and squeaking a shot through Frederik Andersen’s legs.

With that the Bruins took the 5-4 lead, and never looked back.

Boston would add the insurance marker via David Pastrnak, and an empty netter from Brad Marchand to win the game 7-4.


Moving Forward

Toronto’s defense was simply not good enough to compete with one of the best teams in the NHL for the length of a seven game series, and will be a top priority to upgrade once the offseason begins.

There were a number of encouraging signs for the Leafs however, as Toronto pushed the Bruins to seven games after being down 3-1 in the series, received multiple standout performances from Mitch Marner, and got superb goaltending from Frederik Andersen in a number of games in the postseason.

Certainly having Nazem Kadri in the lineup for the three games he missed would have helped, some production from Auston Matthews wouldn’t have hurt, and the addition of some physicality to match and push back against the mean Bruins could have went a long way.

All together this was a successful season for the Maple Leafs, as they set career records in franchise wins, home wins, and points in a season, but there’s no doubt expectations will be raised come September.

The Maple Leafs are now expected to be a perennial playoff team, and will have to be ready to push past the first round of the playoffs next April.


Image from the CBC.

Game 5 Recap: Coaching adjustments push Wizards to brink of elimination

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

A few minutes into the fourth quarter Toronto Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey took a huge gamble in a pivotal playoff game and it payed off, resulting in a 108-98 win over the Washington Wizards. 

Casey went with a five man unit that has played minimal time together throughout the course of the season, but DeRozan, Lowry, Valanciunas, Wright, and Miles got the job done when it mattered most, tipping the series 3-2 in the Raptors favour.

DeMar (who scored 30 points in the first three quarters) took a backseat in the fourth quarter when it came to knocking down big shots, and instead played more of a decoy role so shooters such as Wright, Miles, and Lowry were able to do what they do best.

Jonas Valanciunas also had a huge role in the victory, tallying a double-double of his own with 14 points and 13 boards.

Home court continues to play a vital role in this series, with the home team winning each and every game thus far. Toronto has been dominate at home all year long, tied with the Houston Rockets for the best home court record in the NBA.

The Air Canada Centre crowd seemed nervous about this game however, as it went down to the wire.

The Raptors were able to grasp some breathing room when Delon Wright knocked down a tough three with under four minutes to play in the final frame.

Toronto contained John Wall and Bradley Beal enough in the final few minutes to take a 3-2 series lead to Washington.

The Raptors will look to end the series in Game 6, as with a victory they will move on to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

Tip off for Game 6 is set for 7:00pm on Friday from Capital One Arena and can be seen on Sportsnet One.


More coverage to follow. Image from The Globe and Mail. 

Game 6 Recap: Maple Leafs grasp emotional win to force Game 7

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

After an emotional day for the people of Toronto, the Maple Leafs were able to deliver some positivity to the city with a 3-1 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 6.

Following a tragic incident where a white van struck and killed several people in the city, the NHL playoff game scheduled to take place in Toronto for 7:00pm still went on.

Maple Leafs defensemen Ron Hainsey offered his thoughts on the incident and spoke from his heart to the people of Toronto during pre-game warmup.

The Maple Leafs also honoured the victims and their families through a moment of silence prior to puck drop.

On a night after a terrible tragedy like this, sport and in this case hockey united the city as one big family.

Once the game was underway, the crowd and both teams settled in and were focused on the task at hand, for the Bruins; moving onto the second round, and for the Maple Leafs; forcing a Game 7 back in Boston.

Toronto came out of the gates dictating the pace of the game, and putting pressure on Boston’s defense and Tuukka Rask to make big stops.

The first period ended scoreless, but with the exception of the final few minutes, the Maple Leafs seemed to have the edge.

At the start of the second the two team’s split goals 35 seconds apart and were once again tied.

Jake DeBrusk opened the scoring for Boston, while William Nylander finally showed up in a big moment, responding for Toronto.

The ice began to tilt in the Bruin’s favour for the majority of the second frame, that is until Mitch Marner continued his red hot play with a backhand spin style goal.

If Frederik Andersen isn’t the Leafs MVP this playoff series it surely must be Marner, as he now has eight points in the six games.

The third period felt like an eternity for Maple Leaf fans, but they played within their structure, got key saves from Frederik Andersen, and were able to the ice the game with an empty net goal courtesy Tomas Plekanec.

Toronto’s radio commentator Joe Bowan made a historic and enthusiastic call like he is known for as soon as the game was 3-1 and all but wrapped up.

The Maple Leafs will pack their bags and head to Boston for Game 7 on Wednesday night. It is surely set to be a huge sports day for the city of Toronto, as the Raptors are also playing Game 5 of their series, as well as Toronto FC in CONCACAF Champions League action.

Puck drop for Game 7 between the Bruins and Maple Leafs is set for 7:30pm from the TD Garden and can be seen on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.


More coverage to follow. Image from CityNews.

Game 4 Recap: Raptors flounder in the final frame; Wizards tie series

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

It was a playoff game in complete Toronto control until a final push from the Wizards saw the Raptors lead in Game 4 slip away, as well as their series lead disappear. 

The positive narrative of finishing atop the Eastern Conference, and what looked like could be a sweep of the eighth seeded Wizards is all but gone, and down to a best of three series.

DeMar DeRozan was able to put up 35 points, but faltered in the fourth quarter when it mattered most shooting just 2-for-8.

This was John Wall’s opportunity to lead his Wizards to victory on home court and he did just that, tallying 27 points, 6 rebounds and 14 assists, on route to the 106-98 win.

Even without sidekick Bradley Beal in the final minutes of the game due to him being fouled out, Wall showed his superstar status in the league, knocking down the dagger shot with 57 seconds to play making it 102-96.

Wall seemed like a man on a mission throughout the contest, showing emotion and anger from the get go as seen on this dunk over Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas.

It appears John Wall had a little extra incentive to win this game, as he was provoked by Toronto artist Drake after the Raps global ambassador told him that the Wizards would be swept and he “had the brooms” for them.

Wall also told reporters that right now he can’t even listen to Drake because of the comments.

What’s a Raptors playoff series without Drake getting into it with the star of the opposing team?

Now that the Wizards have tied the series up, Game 5 will shift back to Toronto with the home team having emerged victorious every game in this series thus far.

The Raptors will look to shift the momentum in their favour in front of their home crowd with a combined season and playoff record of 36-7 at home this year.

Tip off for Game 5 is set for 7:00pm on Wednesday from the Air Canada Centre and can be seen on TSN 1, 4 and 5.


More coverage to follow. Image from USA Today.

Game 5 Recap: Maple Leafs ensure history doesn’t repeat itself, survive elimination

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

Much like five years ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs found themselves up 4-1 in TD Garden during an elimination playoff game, however this time they were able to secure the victory 4-3 over the Bruins.

It was far from a comfortable win, but Frederik Andersen was called upon to make multiple huge saves for his team and he did just that on Saturday night.

All together Andersen stopped 42 of a total 45 shots, while his counterpart Tuukka Rask was chased from the game after giving up four goals on 13 shots.

The Maple Leafs dictated how the nights events would take place after seizing a quick 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Connor Brown and Andreas Johnsson.

Auston Matthews had some jump to his step in this game, as seen in his wraparound set up of Brown’s goal. Leaf fans have been waiting to see Matthews really take charge in a game this series, as with the exception of his huge goal in Game 3, Matthews has taken a backseat to other stars.

Nazem Kadri also returned to the lineup following his three game suspension, and he made an impact early, sending a beautiful through pass between Bruins d-men Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy to set up the Johnsson tally.

From there the Maple Leafs carried the momentum throughout the game and rode themselves to a familiar 4-1 lead after a Bruins goal from David Backes and two goals from Toronto coming off the sticks of Tyler Bozak and James Van Riemsdyk.

After that, things began to unravel in a hurry, as the Maple Leafs could not stay out of the penalty box for their lives.

Boston was awarded six power plays in the game, to Toronto’s one, and put a tremendous amount of pressure in the Maple Leafs end for the conclusion of the second period, and the entire third.

Without Frederik Andersen standing on his head for a number of saves including this one on David Pastrnak in the third period, it’s safe to say history would have repeated itself five years later.

The Maple Leafs now are set up reasonably well to force a Game 7 back in Boston, as they head back home to the friendly confines of their own building.

Game 6 is set for 7:00pm from the Air Canada Centre and can be watched on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.


More coverage to follow. Image from the CBC.

Game 3 Recap: Raptors falter in chippy road game

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

In a heated and emotional playoff game, the Toronto Raptors fell to the Washington Wizards 122-103. 

Unlike the first two games of the series, the Washington Wizards came out with vengeance and desperation in Game 3.

This showed straight from tip off, as OG Anunoby and Markieff Morris got into a shoving match under three minutes in.

It seems like a real rivalry is brewing between these two teams, as the chippy play carried out throughout the evening.

Superstars John Wall and Bradley Beal lead the charge for the Wizards, combining for 56 points and proving to Toronto that they aren’t going down without a fight.

The entire Raptors squad on the other hand, failed to match the energy and physicality that the Wizards came to play with.

Toronto was deferring back to old habits that did not make them successful in the post-season in previous years.

DeRozan and Lowry were being required to create offense individually (something fans have seen in the past), combining for 36 shots as a duo, while no other Raptor had more than eight shots taken.

As typical in Raptor losses, turnovers played a key part in the outcome, as the Raptors registered 18 total on the evening compared to Washington’s 11.

The Wizards were able to capitalize off of the turnovers and convert often times on the fast break through the skill lead by Wall and Beal.

Toronto will remain in Washington for Game 4 looking to grasp a 3-1 series lead before heading back to the Air Canada Centre.

Game 4 starts at 6:00pm Sunday night from Capital One Arena, and can be viewed on Sportsnet One.


More coverage to follow. Image from The Star. 

 

Game 4 Recap: Maple Leafs on brink of elimination

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

The Toronto Maple Leafs are one loss away from the end of their season after a 3-1 defeat to the Boston Bruins on Thursday. 

Following a bounce back Game 3 victory, the Buds couldn’t find a way to beat Tuuka Rask more than once in Game 4.

This was a game that surly was all for the taking for the Maple Leafs, especially with Bruins superstar Patrice Bergeron sitting out due to an upper body injury.

With Boston centre Riley Nash slotting into the top line, this game seemed to be all but handed to for Toronto, but familiar defensive mistakes would cost them again.

The Bruins were able to grab the ice breaker 28 seconds into the hockey game, off a floater of a shot from defensemen Torey Krug that Frederik Andersen failed to track.

Although it seemed doom and gloom after this goal, latest Leaf acquisition Tomas Plekanec was able to bury his first goal as a Maple Leaf, with just under eight minutes to play in the opening frame.

This sparked Toronto to outplay Boston for the remainder of the first period, as well as the majority of the second frame.

Tuuka Rask stood on his head in the second period, making some ten bell saves on Patrick Marleau, Dominic Moore, and Andreas Johnsson.

Then, ill-witted decisions by two Maple Leafs blue-liners would cost them the game.

The first being with just over three minutes to play in the second period off a lost face-off by Auston Matthews. On the play Jake Gardiner pinched down the left wall and was unable to get the puck or the man, leading Pasternak to find Marchand for an easy two on one finish.

These ill-advised decisions can’t be made in the playoffs, especially when the opposing team has two of their most skilled forwards on the ice at the time.

Then, with under 16 minutes to play in regulation, rookie defensemen Travis Dermott made a similar pinch to Gardiner’s but attempted to fire the puck on net. Unfortunately for Dermott, the shot deflected off of Boston forward David Krejci’s shin-pad leading to a two on one, and another easy goal scored by Jake DeBrusk.

Frederik Andersen was unable to come up with a huge save of his own for his team, but he was practically held out to dry on both two on one finishes.

Toronto now faces elimination and the potential for their season to be over after Saturday.

If there is some good news heading into the next game for the Maple Leafs, it’s that second line centreman Nazem Kadri will be back from serving his three game suspension.

Game time for Game 5 is set for 8:00pm from the TD Garden and can be viewed on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.


More coverage to follow. Image from the NHL

Game 2 Recap: Dino’s double down at home

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

The Toronto Raptors will travel to Washington with home court successfully defended after a 130-119 win over the Wizards on Tuesday night.

The Dino’s were lead by superstar DeMar DeRozan who continues to prove he’s a man on a mission who can produce big time in the playoffs.

DeRozan ended the night with 37 points on 14/23 shooting, including 3/6 from deep, further showing how far his game has progressed as a shooter. DeMar also added 5 boards and 4 dimes in the monster performance.

The 11 point spread doesn’t tell the whole story, as the Raptors controlled the game for the majority of it, backed behind a 44 point opening quarter.

Toronto continues to place strong faith in their bench unit that was a huge part of locking up first in the conference to begin with, as Delon Wright and CJ Miles hit clutch shots when the Raps needed it most.

Fred VanVleet also returned from injury in Game 2, but in a more limited role, as coach Casey looks to smoothly integrate him back into the lineup.

The Raps have been known for multiple highlight real plays this season, but this Alley-Oop play with under four minutes to go surely is one of their best.

Next up the Raptors head on the road for games 3 and 4, looking to return the favour of a sweep, which they received from Washington back in 2015.

Game time for Game 3 on Friday night is set for 8:00pm from Capital One Arena and can be seen on TSN.


More coverage to follow. Image from Inquirer. 

Game 3 Recap: Home Sweet Home for the Maple Leafs

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

The Air Canada Centre crowd has turned this playoff series into an intriguing one after the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Boston Bruins 4-2 on Monday. 

In many hockey fans eyes this series appeared to be a lopsided one, and one that would end in a four game sweep.

After two dominant home victories by the Boston Bruins in games 1 & 2 (outscoring the Leafs 12-4 combined), Toronto came out hungry and ready to fight for their season.

This was the first game of the series where the Maple Leafs had sustained pressure in the Bruins zone, and were able to get the Boston defense looking uncomfortable at times.

But the game’s opening goal did come with some controversy, following a call against the Bruins.

With just over three minutes to play in the opening period, Bruins forward Riley Nash was called for a delay of game penalty despite flipping the puck against the glass before it went out into the crowd.

Just a mere seven seconds later, the Maple Leafs got the ice breaker on the man advantage courtesy a goal from James Van Riemsdyk.

That’s playoff hockey though, some calls go for a team, and some go against, and it’s about which team can persevere through the ebbs and flows of a game and a series.

Boston was able to fight back twice from being down by a goal, getting goals from McQuaid and Chara, but ultimately the Maple Leafs counter attack and speed were too lethal in the game.

The ACC crowd was electric from start to finish, but really got going once Auston Matthews was able to put the Leafs ahead 3-2 with a bullet, beating goaltender Tuuka Rask upstairs late in the second period.

Chants of “AUSTON MATTHEWS” and “TUUUUUUKAAAA” echoed throughout the ACC, and gave the Bruins a taste of their own medicine.

Veteran forward Patrick Marleau also added a couple in the game.

Marleau was brought into the fold in the off-season to provide leadership and playoff experience to the young Buds, and it certainly paid off in this game.

The smooth skater buried a pair of two on ones, one coming off a beauty of a feed from Mitch Marner, and the other being the dagger that provided the Maple Leafs with a two goal cushion with 3:35 to play in regulation.

When the game was all said and done, Toronto was able to overcome the loss of key forwards Nazem Kadri (suspension) and Leo Komarov (injury) due to other players stepping up.

Forward Tomas Plekanec played a key role in shutting down the best trio in hockey (Bergeron, Pastrnak and Marchand) as he played hands down his best game as a Maple Leaf.

Dominic Moore fit in nicely on the fourth line between speeding wingers Kapanen and Johnsson.

Toronto also got the goaltending they needed from Fredrik Andersen, as if the Leafs plan on fending off the Bruins three more times this series, they’re certainly going to need him at his absolute best.

Next up is Game 4 from Toronto on Thursday night, as the Leafs go for the split before Game 5.

Puck drop is set for 7:00pm from the Air Canada Centre and can be seen on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.


More coverage to follow. Image from SB Nation.

 

 

 

Game 2 Recap: House of Horrors continues for Maple Leafs

The dreaded building of TD Garden continued to haunt the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday evening, dropping Game 2, 7-3 to the Boston Bruins. 

Led by a spectacular performance from Bruins forward David Pastrnak, the Maple Leafs lacked any sort of answer for Boston’s top line yet again.

The youthful Pastrnak set an NHL record, eclipsing Gretzky’s record for youngest player to tally six points in a single playoff game.

Boston’s power play continued to be too much to handle for the Leafs struggling penalty kill, going 2/4 on the night, and now is 5/10 in the series.

Toronto once again was behind the eight ball early on, going down 4-0 in the first period, resulting in Fredrik Andersen being chased from the game after the third goal.

Freddy allowed three goals on five shots, but was a victim to poor defensive coverage and execution.

Pastrnak, DeBrusk, Miller, and Rick Nash all tallied in the first frame, leaving the game all but settled after 20 minutes.

Leafs defensemen Nikita Zaitsev was on the ice for all four goals, and admitted after the game that he has to be better.

Toronto seemed to have some push back at the beginning of the second period, and were rewarded just over a minute in, on a goal from Mitch Marner (1).

The Leafs also received goals from Tyler Bozak (1) and James Van Riemsdyk (1) later in the game, but Boston kept pace with a goal from Krejci and another pair from Pastrnak to complete the hat-trick.

Coach Mike Babcock seemed at a loss for words following the defeat, as he believed his team got off to a great start, but just couldn’t get that allusive first goal before the Bruins.

It was evident the Maple Leafs were missing a key cog in their lineup in Nazem Kadri, who is usually tasked of shutting down opposing team’s top lines.

Click the link below to view the leagues explanation for serving him a three game suspension.

Toronto may be down another key forward for their next game, as agitator Leo Komarov suffered a lower-body injury after colliding with defensemen Kevan Miller.

The Maple Leafs will have to come up with an answer for Boston in a hurry, as the series shifts to Toronto for Game 3 on Monday, in a pretty much do or die game for the Buds.

Puck drop is set for 7:00pm from the Air Canada Centre and can be seen on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.


More coverage to follow. Image from Sports Illustrated.

 

 

Game 1 Recap: Raptors exercise Game 1 demons, end the dreaded curse

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

The Game 1 curse was finally broken on Saturday, as the Toronto Raptors defeated the Washington Wizards 114-106 to open the first round. 

Coming into Saturday’s action Toronto had lost seven straight Game 1’s, dating all the way back to 2001 when Vince Carter’s Raptors beat the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

In this Game 1, the Raptors moved the ball exceptionally well, and got everyone involved throughout the course of the game.

It wasn’t an easy win by any stretch, but secondary scoring played a key role in grasping the victory.

Serge Ibaka led the way with 23 points and 12 rebounds, as well as an exceptional fourth quarter put forth by Delon Wright, scoring 11 points in the frame alone.

Multiple Raptors commented on the curse following the game with DeRozan saying, “It’s out of the way now, time to worry about Game 2.”

And Delon Wright chiming in saying, “I think the fans are more relived than we are.”

Toronto’s culture change coming into the season was on full display throughout the game, relying less on Lowry and DeRozan, and more on ball movement and spreading the floor.

This was shown through three-point scoring coming from a variety of different sources, even with Fred VanVleet being out of the lineup with an injury.

Whether it be Anunoby, Wright, Miles, Lowry, or others, the Raptors versatile depth showed off big time in the win.

In other news, global ambassador Drake was in attendance, sporting a Humboldt Broncos jersey in honour of those affected by the terrible tragedy.

drake

At the time of this article over 11 million dollars have been raised for the team, and more donations continue to poor in.

In lighter news, fellow Toronto rapper Jazz Cartier released a brand new single titled “Right Now” which is serving as the Raptors playoff song for the spring.

The song pays homage to the team, and their under-dog status in the NBA, so check it out below.

As far as what’s next for the Raptors….they’ll reunite with John Wall and the Wizards for Game 2 on Tuesday looking for a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.

Tip off is set for 7:00pm from the Air Canada Centre and can be viewed on TSN.


More coverage to follow. Image from SB Nation.

 

 

Game 1 Recap: Beantown Beatdown

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

Thursday evening was far from the way the Toronto Maple Leafs drew it up, as the Boston Bruins smothered them 5-1. 

Boston was propelled by five different goal scorers in the victory, with 21-year-old David Pastrnak leading the way, tallying a goal and two assists.

Brad Marchand, David Backes, Sean Kuraly, and David Krejci also scored for the Bruins in the onslaught.

The game opened up with a relentless surge in the first 10 minutes from the Bruins, something the Maple Leafs failed to match and contain.

The crowd energy in TD Garden was intensily hostile and fierce, which many of these young Leafs have yet to experience before.

Boston got on the scoresheet within the first six minutes of play, after a light hooking penalty from James Van Riemsdyk.

It appeared the play may have been offside, but coach Babcock chose to not challenge the  call on the ice.

Toronto was able to respond before the conclusion of the frame on a beauty of a goal from winger Zach Hyman (1), giving the Leafs plenty of hope, and a productive road period.

The goal proved to be a momentum boost for the team, as the Leafs controlled the play for the majority of the second period, but failed to capitalize on numerous chances.

This would come back to haunt them, as the tides would turn after another hooking call, this time seeing veteran Leaf winger Patrick Marleau penalized.

With their first push of sustained pressure in the period Boston was able to capitalize on the power play, and from that moment on controlled the entirety of the game.

Stars such as Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner failed to have a great impact, as Boston’s veterans were able to shut them down through their physical play.

The game was far from competitive in the final period, with some controversial plays taking form in the final 15 minutes of regulation from both teams.

The most contentious came with 11:46 to play in the game after Bruins forward Tommy Wingels appeared to catch Leafs forward Mitch Marner with a high elbow in the face.

Toronto centre Nazem Kadri took matters into his own hands and stapled Wingels into the boards.

The Maple Leafs are expecting Kadri to be suspended for the immediate future (at least one game) as he did not take part in practice Friday morning.

A conclusion from the NHL player safety department should be reached sometime on Friday.

Toronto will have to reset quickly, as Game 2 is less than 48 hours away.

Puck drop is scheduled for 8:00pm from TD Garden and can be viewed on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.


More coverage to follow. Image from CBC.

Cavs prove to be too much for Raptors once again

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

Tuesday served as another reminder for the Toronto Raptors that the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to have their number.

In a game where the Cavs starting point guard wasn’t even in the starting lineup, a former Raptor, Jose Calderon utterly outplayed Kyle Lowry.

Calderon finished with 19 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists, as opposed to Lowry’s stat line of 5 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Lowry attended the NCAA final in San Antonio on Monday, leaving many fans wondering if the point guard is truly focused on the task at hand for the Raptors, clinching the number one seed in the East Conference.

Kyle was open and honest with his performance on Tuesday saying, “I played terrible, that’s probably part of it, just a bad game overall for me.”

As always when these two teams meet, LeBron James delivered big time, posting 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists, including this beauty of a drive against OG Anunoby.

It wasn’t quite as impressive of his stat line the last time these two teams met on March 21, but it propelled Cleveland to the victory nonetheless.

Toronto remains one win shy of matching their franchise record of 56 wins (2015-2016 season) and will have to regroup quickly as they are set to play Wednesday against the Boston Celtics.

Game time is scheduled for 8:00pm from the Air Canada Centre and can be viewed on TSN 4 and 5.

 

More news from the court

  • Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas was benched for the whole entirety of the fourth quarter
  • LeBron James surpassed Kobe Bryant for third place in 20-point games, now with 942
  • James has never played a full 82 game season, but currently has suited up for every game this season with four to play, could this be the year?
  • The Milwaukee Bucks beat the Celtics on Tuesday night, keeping the Raptors lead atop the Eastern Conference at two games

More coverage to follow. Image from SB Nation.

Dynamic duo propels Maple Leafs past Sabres

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

The Toronto Maple Leafs double headed monster of Auston Matthews and William Nylander proved to be too much for the Buffalo Sabres to handle, as the Leafs took the victory 5-2. 

Matthews scored his 32nd and 33rd goals of the season, extending his point streak to seven consecutive games.

William Nylander put up his 18th and 19th goals of the campaign, while fellow Swede, Andreas Johnsson also scored (2) in the victory.

It was a game where coach Babcock elected to rest a few of his starters, in hopes for it benefitting the team in the near future.

Regulars Leo Komarov, Kasperi Kapanen, and goaltender Fredrik Andersen all took the night to rest for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in nine days time.

But that would have no side effect in the way the Leafs played, as the team seemed dialled in and all business from the moment the puck dropped.

Leafs goaltender, Curtis McElhinney turned aside 32 of a possible 34 shots in the winning effort, while Sabres net-minder Chad Johnson suffered a rare loss to the Maple Leafs, as he has owned them throughout his career.

The Maple Leafs have two games left on their schedule, starting with a matchup against the red hot Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

Game time is set for 7:00pm from the Prudential Center and can be viewed on TSN4.

More news from the ice

  • With the win, the Maple Leafs Leafs tied their franchise record for most points in a season (103)
  • Fredrik Andersen has a chance to eclipse the franchise record for most wins by a Leafs goaltender in a single season if he is able to win the final two games (currently 37 co-held by Ed Belfour Andrew Raycroft)
  • Toronto is one of two teams in the NHL who have two defensemen with over 50 points (Rielly and Gardiner – Nashville: Josi and Subban)
  • After blocking a shot on Saturday, X-rays came back negative for d-man Travis Dermott, meaning he is day-to-day with a bruised foot
  • If the Stanley Cup Playoffs began today the Leafs and Lightning would meet in round one with Game 1 starting in Tampa

More coverage to follow. Image from the Toronto Sun.

SERIES ROUNDUP: Blue Jays battle back to split series with Yanks

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

Game 1: Yankees 6 Blue Jays 1

Game 2: Yankees 4 Blue Jays 2

Game 3: Yankees 3 Blue Jays 5 

Game 4: Yankees 4 Blue Jays 7 


In their first test of the 2018 season, the Toronto Blue Jays were able to salvage a series split with the World Series contender New York Yankees.

Blue Jays fans seemed discouraged and hopeless after the opening two games at Rogers Centre, but the long ball was able to propel Toronto to success in the final two matches of the series.

Heading into the season the new look Jays lineup seems to be constructed quite similar to last years ball club, a team who is going to have trouble getting on base consistently.

With that being said, the teams true strength looks as if it will be in the starting pitching staff, with five very capable individuals taking the mound each day.

Throughout this series the staff did an exceptional job of holding the Yankees fire power to a minimum, as New York poses one of the deepest lineups in all of baseball.

New Yankees superstar Giancarlo Stanton is a substantial threat every time he steps into the batters box, and more often than not the Blue Jays pitchers were able to work effective at bats against him.

Aaron Judge was also neutralized for the majority of the series.

The biggest bright spot for the Blue Jays came from last year’s All Star Justin Smoak, especially in the final two games of the series.

Smoak put together a 6 for 8 showing in the final two games, slashing a pair of homers (including a grand slam), and eight RBI’s in the process.

One time MVP, Josh Donaldson seemed to get better as the series progressed, as he started the season with what he refers to as a ‘dead arm’, unable to throw anywhere near to his full potential.

Donaldson will have to get back to starting everyday at 3rd base for the Blue Jays, while putting up impressive offensive numbers if the Blue Birds hope to get back into a playoff spot this upcoming fall.

Toronto’s second test of the new campaign has them scheduled to play the Chicago White Sox for a three game set.

First pitch for all three games is set for 7:07 p.m. from Rogers Centre and can be seen on Sportsnet.

More news from the diamond

  • In game 3, Kevin Pillar became the first player in Blue Jays history to steal three bases in the same inning
  • Game 3 marked a special promotion for the Blue Jays, giving away Justin Smoak bobbleheads to the first 20,000 fans inside Rogers Centre
  • Excluding the opening game of the series, Toronto’s bullpen didn’t give up a single run through 9.1 innings
  • Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will start the season on the 60 day DL, having to undergo surgery on both feet

More coverage to follow. Image from Sporting News. 

Celtics hand top seeded Raptors a crucial loss

The race is on for the top seed in the Eastern Conference after the Toronto Raptors fell to the Boston Celtics on Saturday night, 110-99.

The defeat trimmed the Raptors Eastern Conference lead to a slim two games.

Unfortunately for Raptors fans, DeMar DeRozan’s 32 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists weren’t enough to carry his squad past the second seeded Celtics.

Unlikely Celtics hero Marcus Morris continued his hot play of late, posting 25 points of his own, making it the fourth straight game he has scored a minimum of 20 points.

However, Morris found himself ejected in the final moments of the game, after being fouled by agitated Raptor CJ Miles.

The game provided a snapshot of what would be a chippy, entertaining playoff series if both teams found themselves in the Conference Finals in the near future.

The Raptors next test comes against King James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the final time this season on Tuesday.

Tip off is set for 7:00 p.m. from Quicken Loans Arena and can be seen on TSN.

More news from the court

  • The game featured 15 ties and 20 lead changes between the two teams
  • DeMar DeRozan put up another 30+ point performance, further extending his franchise record to 92 games
  • These teams will play one final time on Wednesday from the Air Canada Centre
  • Boston put up their 53rd victory of the season, matching their total from last season
  • Celtics superstar Kyrie Irving continues his recovery from a knee injury, but is doubtful for the start of the playoffs

More coverage to follow. Image from SB Nation.

Leafs fail to dethrone Jets as Canada’s team

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

Saturday evening was a battle between Canada’s two marquee clubs, with the Toronto Maple Leafs falling to the Winnipeg Jets 3-1.

It wasn’t quite the head to head match up fans expected between dynamic sophomore’s Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, who were smothered by the opposition for the better part of the game.

Overall, there were not a lot of chances traded, strong defensive structure, and a physical edge to the game that could be the start of a great rivalry for years to come.

It took over 22 minutes for the first goal to be scored, as the Leafs were able to strike on their lethal power play courtesy a beautiful feed from Auston Matthews, which set up Patrick Marleau (26) on the door step.

The fun would end their for Toronto, as the Jets would strike three times in the middle frame following Marleau’s tally.

Jets defensemen Josh Morrissey was able to get a seeing-eye point shot past Leafs goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who was in goal on the second night of a back-to-back for the Buds.

Under a minute later, Winnipeg centre Mark Scheifele was cross checked from behind by Leafs d-man Jake Gardiner, sending him to the penalty box. This came a mere seconds after Scheifele ran over McElhinney, causing a brief scare for the Leafs back-up.

As a result, Dustin Byfuglien beat a screened McElhinney during the Gardiner infraction, handing the Jets their first lead of the hockey game.

Toronto was never able to gain back substantial momentum, as the Jets iced the game with their third goal of the frame, on a short side goal by Andrew Copp.

The third period provided its ebbs and flows for both teams, but neither were able to find the scoresheet, ending the match 3-1.

The Maple Leafs will hit the ice next for their final meeting of the season against QEW rival Buffalo.

Game time is scheduled for 7:00pm from the Air Canada Centre and can be watched on TSN 4.

More news from the ice

  • The Maple Leafs now have the third seed in the Atlantic division locked up, not being able to  move up or down in the standings (will either play Tampa or Boston in the first round)
  • The Leafs remain four points shy of setting a new team record for points in a season (with three games to play)
  • Forward Leo Komarov returned to the lineup after missing seven games, replacing speedy Andreas Johnson
  • Defensemen Travis Dermott left the game and did not return after blocking a shot in the first period
  • Mitch Marner’s point streak came to an end at 11 games, scoring five goals, and 11 assists over that span
  • Toronto and Winnipeg will be the only Canadian teams who qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season
  • With the win, the Winnipeg Jets secure home ice advantage in the playoffs for the first time since 1985
  • If the Stanley Cup Playoffs began today the Leafs and Lightning would meet in round one with Game 1 starting in Tampa

More coverage to follow. Image from the Toronto Star.

Reds ride their way to first victory of the season

Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post

The goals finally came through for Toronto FC Friday evening, as they rolled past Real Salt Lake 3-1.

Star forward Sebastian Giovinco had the opportunity to score Toronto’s first goal of the season in the 16th minute, but squandered a penalty kick being stopped by goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

Jozy Altidore led the Reds up front by scoring a pair (23′ and 45′), and Canadian Tosaint Ricketts added one in stoppage time (90′ + 2′) to further certify the victory.

After being shut out and dropping the first two games of the season, the defending champs finally looked like the team fans had high hopes for.

Head coach Greg Vanney has been stressing that their was no panic in his team, as Toronto opened up last season with only seven points in their first six games, and that later lead to a championship.

The Reds came into this game without four key starters, three lost to injury (Chris Mavinga, Justin Morrow, Victor Vazquez) as well as starting goalkeeper Alex Bono getting the night off being replaced by backup Clint Irwin.

But that didn’t get in the way of a quality performance from the team as whole, smashing Real Salt Lake in shots and shots on goal (19-8, 8-4), and carrying the play for the majority of the match.

It was an impressive performance for Toronto, but they will have to further improve if they hop to climb up the standings in the MLS.

The Reds focus now switches to getting prepared for CONCACAF Champions League action, as they will play host to Mexican squad Club América on Tuesday.

Kick off is set for 8:00 p.m. from BMO Field and can be seen on TSN.

More coverage to follow.  Image from SB Nation.

 

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