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Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors: Mrazek, Nylander, Keefe & the Oilers

Jacob Scott

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There were a couple of good things about the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 victory last night over the Chicago Blackhawks. First, it was a victory and it moved the team to a tie for first place in the NHL in points with 40 (tied with the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals). Second, the team was able to offer beleaguered starting goalie Jack Campbell a bit of rest from the heavy lifting he’s been doing over the past while. He, like the rest of his team, has looked tired.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Jack Campbell Is a Teammate You Want on the Roster

In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the game action and team news and comment upon the team as it goes forward into the second one-third of the 2020-21 regular season.

Item One: Shedon Keefe’s Surprising Three Takes on the Game

After the game, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe had a different take on the game than probably many fans who watched the game from home might have guessed – well, at least on one of the three points he made to the media. 

When talking about the team’s performance, Keefe noted that “It was the same story that it has been here: Too many chances against, too many freebies, and too many guys in behind us. Same issues that were hurting us when we weren’t winning games early in the season.”

Sheldon Keefe, Head Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

Then he noted that, “The fact that we won tonight is a good thing; we obviously got a fortunate bounce there, but we won the game on special teams and goaltending and got outplayed pretty badly at 5v5.”

To wrap up Keefe’s points, he noted that:

(1) The team was guilty of making too many “freebies,” which has also been true for three games in a row now. There’s been too many odd-man rushes; too many defensive giveaways; and, too many chances against.  Check – that’s what everyone else would say, too.

Related: All-Decade NHL Draft – 2010 to 2019

(2) The Maple Leafs didn’t play well five-on-five, but the special teams helped win the game. Check – the power-play units have played with confidence and success. They just seem to believe they’re going to score every time they have a man advantage. The penalty kill has been playing well, too. 

(3) The team’s goaltending – last night Petr Mrazek – helped win the game. That’s the surprise. As I suggested earlier, I’m sure many fans would suggest Mrazek let in a soft first goal – which he did; but, he played well for a stretch in the middle of the game, which he did. But, Keefe’s perspective might differ from many fans, who probably believe Mrazek’s play went south and that allowed the Blackhawks back into the game.

Not so much. Interesting insight on Keefe’s part. He’s saying it was the team in front of the goalie.

Item Two: Petr Mrazek’s Plays Well in Return to Action

Petr Mrazek won his first game back with the team after going 19 games between starts. Mrazek, who’s only played three games with his new team this season, was tested both by the Blackhawks and by the fact that he had to make saves that might have re-injured his groin. He survived both and finished the game healthy. 

Welcome to Toronto, Petr!
🖊️ We’ve signed goaltender Petr Mrázek to a three-year contract. #LeafsForever

In total, Mrazek stopped 31 of 35 shots. There’s no doubt he looked a bit shaky from a lack of work and perhaps needs a few more games to get his groove back. Four goals aside, for a long period of time during the middle of the game, Mrazek shut the door and helped stake the team to a 4-1 lead.

During the Blackhawks’ comeback, the Maple Leafs had only three shots in the middle frame. In addition, although Mrazek let in two long-range goals, he was acrobatic enough to make some good saves on several breakaways and 2-on-1 chances. Perhaps his best save was his stop on Patrick Kane’s breakaway. Kane’s a scorer, so good on Mrazek.

Related: 2021-22 Norris Trophy Tracker

Should the team play better in front of him, Mrazek could find continued success. That would allow Campbell to find the rest he needs to stay fresh on the season. 

Item Three: William Nylander Puts Up Three Points 

William Nylander tends to start games quickly, and that’s good for his team. Last night he scored an early goal and had three points in the first period. His first assist came on John Tavares’ power-play goal that tied the game 1-1. He then scored the team’s second goal of the game and finally had an assist on Auston Matthews’ 18th goal of the season just before the end of the first period.

William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Nylander’s two best seasons were both 61-point campaigns. He’s more than likely to push far past those career highs this season. Already the 25-year-old winger has scored 13 goals and added 17 assists (for 30 points) in 29 games played. Last night was his second multiple-point game in his last three.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs head into Edmonton to play Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, and the rest of the Oilers’ players. The Oilers are on a five-game losing streak and, even more surprisingly, they’ve only scored eight goals in those five games. That’s not the Oilers we’ve come to expect.

Zach Hyman, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Then, the Maple Leafs haven’t been playing like they did a couple of weeks ago either. As coach Keefe noted, his team was “outplayed pretty badly” five-on-five.

That poor play began as soon as the Maple Leafs went on the road for games against the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets. Even more to the point perhaps, it’s the same exact time the team lost Mitch Marner to his shoulder injury. 

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Mitch Marner’s Salary vs. Production & More

The Maple Leafs don’t look like the same team without Marner in the lineup; and, unless that changes they won’t likely win 15 of 17 games any time soon. 

Both the Oilers and the Maple Leafs need some redemption. Likely the Oilers need it more. Tuesday could be fun.

The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).

If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.

Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.

He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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