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Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada. (Jim Mone/AP)

Blue Jays nearing one-year extension with Marco Estrada

Sportsnet | posted Wednesday, Sep 20th, 2017

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays and Marco Estrada are nearing agreement on what’s expected to be a one-year contract extension that could be announced as soon as Wednesday, an industry source told Sportsnet.

The news, first reported by MLB.com’s Jon Morosi late Tuesday night, adds a bit more certainty to the Blue Jays rotation for 2018, with the right-hander slotting in behind Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ. Joe Biagini is also being looked at as a potential starter while veteran lefty Brett Anderson is with the team for an extended audition.

General manager Ross Atkins hinted at an extension when Estrada wasn’t dealt before the non-waiver trade deadline, saying, “we’ll start thinking about not only how he impacts us now, but how he can potentially impact us beyond 2017.”

Later that day, after Estrada threw seven innings of one-run ball against the Chicago White Sox, he said in an interview that, “I’m sure they want me back. I hope they do. I’ve expressed a lot that I’m really happy here and I’d like to stay, and I guess today is a sign of that if I wasn’t traded.”

 “Or maybe nobody really wanted me – I haven’t been pitching all that great and it’s hard to get what you want for me. I don’t know. That stuff, I really don’t want to worry about it. I’m here, I’m pitching for these guys, at the end of the season we’ll try and work something out, I hope. That’s all I can ask for.”

Estrada is finishing out a $26-million, two-year deal he signed after his breakout 2015 season, starring in the playoffs the past two years while growing into one of the team’s more popular players.

The new deal comes 11 games before he would have become a free agent, and in the midst of a strong rebound from a dismal 10-start stretch in June and July during which he posted an 8.87 ERA in 45.2 innings with a 1.019 OPS against.

Over his past 10 starts, he’s pitched to a 3.75 ERA in 62.1 innings with 48 strikeouts and a .678 OPS against.

Mayweather vs. McGregor isn’t your typical mega-fight

Stephen Brunt | posted Friday, Aug 25th, 2017

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LAS VEGAS — Come to enough of these and the rhythm gets in your bones, the ritualistic build to the big event, as predictable as a mass. No, there weren’t “grand entrances” back in the day, and Joe Louis never heckled an opponent at a press conference, but in the last half century at least, a fight of any magnitude has been preceded by open work-outs, by interviews and a weigh-in, by confident predictions and expert prognostication and the arrival of the fancy, all building to that ecstatic moment when the seconds clear the ring and the bell sounds.

But this, Floyd Mayweather Jr. versus Conor McGregor, despite all of the familiar signposts this week, feels very different.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. comes out of retirement to put his 49-0 unblemished record against UFC star Conor McGregor in a sanctioned boxing match. Watch it live on Sportsnet Pay-Per-View Aug. 26 at 9:00 p.m. ET.

It’s August for starters, the deadest month on the Las Vegas calendar, a time of year when only bargain hunters and degenerate gamblers make their way to the scorching Nevada dessert. Usually, these events happen in the spring or the fall, when the fight crowd compounds the bustling multitudes. Not so now. Having rushed to put this promotion together so the bout could take place before Canelo Alvarez meets Gennady Golovkin in the same T-Mobile Arena next month and before the Golden Knights start filling dates in their inaugural season, they’re starting from near zero, and it shows.

Only a few hundred fans and gawkers greeted the fighters at their public arrival on Tuesday, and only a handful hung around outside the casino showroom where they held the final pre-fight press conference on Wednesday.

Presumably that will change by the weekend, when, if nothing else, McGregor’s legions of Irish supporters will descend on the town, making merry and risking fatal sunburns. And even if the traditional boxing crowd turns up its nose at the prospect of the greatest fighter of his generation taking on a guy who has never entered the ring as a professional, there figures to be a surge of MMA fans who despite the long odds against their hero, will savour the opportunity to take the big stage and just maybe make the experts eat crow.

Madani joins T&S to break down last press conference from Mayweather-McGregor

There’s the unique historical dynamic. Normally, a significant championship fight is automatically slotted into the sport’s long and glorious legacy, with comparisons made back through the decades. This, by contrast, is a one-off, a novelty act, not quite as farcical as Muhammad Ali versus Antonio Inoki (though go back and look at that one – Inoki, in his own strange fashion, was certainly trying to win…), but insignificant when it comes to placing Mayweather’s career in a larger context. If he does indeed get the win to go 50-0, surpassing Rocky Marciano’s iconic record, most everyone will attach an asterisk.

But there is a real sense that this is a battle between the establishment and the usurper (albeit on the establishment’s turf and terms), the manifestation of something that’s been simmering since the Fertitta brothers bought the UFC, cleaned it up, legitimized it, marketed it brilliantly, and stole an entire generation out from under the noses of boxing promoters.

You can like both and appreciate both, but for the most part combat sport has remained divided between those two solitudes. If McGregor could somehow beat a boxer who is regarded by purists as a master technician, as a defensive and tactical genius, you’d never hear the end of it.

That’s the dream of the MMA crowd, and that’s probably the dream of a whole lot of other people as well, given that Mayweather is without argument a great athlete but a terrible human being. But it’s a possibility that boxing fans have barely even considered, so confident are they in Mayweather’s abilities. If he could handle everyone put in front of him during a 21-year-professional career, if he could handle power punchers and skilled boxers, fighters naturally bigger than him, younger than him, how can someone as apparently crude as McGregor make him break a sweat? Even the most die-hard of MMA devotees would agree that their man is at a significant disadvantage, that he will be far outside of his comfort zone while facing a massive challenge on Saturday night.

Which brings us to the other off-kilter aspect of this promotion.

Boxing history is filled with cases where a logical underdog is built up in order to suggest they have a real chance. That’s especially the case when one of the combatants is a big name, now apparently over the hill, a shadow of their former self. The truth is, they’re usually fighting for one last pay day, but instead all of the talk is about how great they look in the gym, how the old skills are coming back, how their knowledge and experience might be too much for the young pup across the ring, how what looks on paper like a mismatch could really turn into something special.

Usually – see Ali vs. Larry Holmes, or any number of Mike Tyson revivals – logic and father time prevail in the end. But the opposite happens just often enough, as it did the night George Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer and reclaimed the heavyweight title, that you can always get away with spinning promotional fairy tales.

Here, that’s been turned upside down. Mayweather is the relative old man. But because nearly everyone sees him as the runaway favourite, the promoters, including the fighter himself, have gone out of their way to argue that despite their being no supporting evidence, he may be slipping, may have slowed down several steps, and may not be taking fight seriously in any event. They went so far as to have Mayweather suggest in an ad that he would be found every night this week at a strip club he owns in town.

The strong shift in the betting line towards McGregor suggests that they’ve succeeded in closing the credibility gap, that there are more people today than there were yesterday who believe that The Notorious has a chance to step into the ring on Saturday night and do all of those things he’s been promising.

Your brain tells you one thing, but that little bit of nagging doubt they’ve seeded should be enough to keep the turnstiles spinning, the pay-per-view buys mounting. It’s all about the mystery, the anticipation, the imagining, the fact that you don’t really know, you can’t really know, until it happens.

A different path to the destination, different trappings and a different setting, but that part hasn’t changed at all.

Bracco sparks Spitfires to wild Mastercard Memorial Cup win

Ryan Dixon | posted Monday, May 29th, 2017

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Host Windsor Spitfires hold off late-game Erie Otters’ surge to win their third ever Mastercard Memorial Cup 4-3.

WINDSOR, Ont. — If Warren Rychel thought he was getting an earful from Jeremy Bracco before, wait until the two are in the same room now.

A fantastic Mastercard Memorial Cup final was bookended by a touch of brilliance from Bracco, who registered a goal and two assists in the Windsor Spitfires’ 4-3 win over the Erie Otters on Sunday night at the WFCU Centre in Windsor. The victory made Windsor—which gained an automatic entry as the host team—the first squad in CHL history to win the national title after being bounced in the opening round of the playoffs. The Spitfires are also the third consecutive OHL-based winner and the first host champion since the Shawinigan Cataractes in 2012.

Aaron Luchuk netted the trophy-clincher 5:07 into the third period, blasting off the bench to convert a pass from Bracco, who’d attracted the attention of three Otters on the far wall. In the first period, Bracco glided through that same patch of ice towards the glass, pumping his arms to further gas up an already-firing crowd after he got his team rolling with the contest’s first goal.

“He lives at my house, he never shuts up, but I’ll tell you what, he can talk all he wants now,” said Rychel, the Spitfires GM who acquired Bracco—a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect—from the Kitchener Rangers in January. “This is why we made the trade, right here.”

“He was sick.”

And he wasn’t the only ill one.

Gabriel Vilardi, a highly-touted prospect for the coming NHL Draft, had a pair of assists, as did Ottawa Senators first-rounder Logan Brown. As for 17-year-old goalie Michael DiPietro, he displayed uncanny calm during the entire event. The hometown kid—who often sat in the stands cheering on Spits teams that won consecutive Memorial Cups in 2009 and 2010—defied the doubters and played like a seasoned vet. DiPietro, also eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft, finished the tournament with a .932 save percentage; the next-best mark in the tournament was .875.

“He was not fazed by age—everybody [says] you gotta be 19 years old—it doesn’t matter,” said Rychel. “I’ve known him since he was eight years old and he’s the guy.”

Credit the entire Windsor squad with keeping a steady hand throughout a thrilling final that teetered back and forth.

Just 49 seconds after Bracco got things going, Erie tied it on a perfect post-and-in shot from captain and tournament MVP Dylan Strome. A second-period Otters lead also proved ephemeral when, on the heels of a goal from Warren Foegele that required a second look from the refs, Windsor required just 52 seconds to find the answer from Logan Stanley.

T.J. Fergus put Erie ahead once again when his point shot glanced off Stanley, but Graham Knott slammed home a power-play goal after a nice feed from Vilardi to make sure it was all square at 3-3 heading to the final frame.

That set the stage for Bracco, who proved a seamless fit with the Spitfires.

“Bracs has been incredible for us ever since he got here,” said the 20-year-old Luchuk. “He just stepped it up another notch for the Memorial Cup.”

The big win was the second celebration for Bracco this season after he helped Team USA win the world junior championship five months ago in Montreal. Being in big moments—and thriving when there—is something he strives for.

“I think that’s what really defines a player,” Bracco said.

Timely contributions were a theme for this Spitfires outfit, which spent 44 days preparing for the Memorial Cup between a Game 7 loss to the London Knights and a 3-2 win over the Saint John Sea Dogs to open the event on May 19.

As is the major junior custom, sweeping changes now await Windsor. Bracco will join the pro ranks next year and, while he still has a year of junior eligibility left, Rychel said stud defenceman Mikhail Sergachev—who began this season with the Montreal Canadiens—has played his last game in Windsor, too.

But everybody, for the next little while, will relish all that went on during this unique week.

“The boys caught a bolt of lightning and they ran with it,” Rychel said.

Penguins lose Game 6, but Crosby’s health of more concern

Sportsnet | posted Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 08:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against Matt Niskanen #2 of the Washington Capitals in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Just about everyone has had to wait for the test results to come back from the medical lab.

Many among us filled the wait thinking about the worst possible outcomes: What’s life like if it’s really bad news?

So it was Monday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins hosted the Washington Capitals in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Don’t think that the really bad news home fans were dreading was a defeat.

Yeah, Game 6 was 60 one-sided minutes of hockey and the local heroes lost to the Capitals by the deceptively close score of 5-2, which sends the teams back to Washington for a seventh and deciding game. Disappointment? Sure. The Penguins had led this series 3-1 and also held a one-goal lead going into the third period of Game 5. Since then, it has been all Washington, perhaps not entirely unexpected given that the Capitals rolled to the Presidents’ Trophy during the season.

And as bad as all that was, Pittsburgh fans, players and management can take the not-altogether hollow consolation that it could have been worse. Hard to imagine when the home team generated but one (real) shot on net in the first period and really nary a legit scoring chance in the nine shots the Pens were credited with through 40 minutes.

The relatively good news is that the Penguins got out of the game with the franchise intact. The franchise of course being Sidney Crosby, the captain, the Hart Trophy finalist, and all the rest.

It looked bad five minutes into the first period when Crosby was chasing a puck behind the Capitals net and he got tangled up with Matt Niskanen. If you’ve been following this series then you already know that the blackhearted defenceman got in a cross-check upside the franchise’s head in Game 3 and left him in a pile on the ice.

And you already know that Niskanen managed to escape suspension and Crosby missed the balance of Game 3 and all of Game 4 with what was billed as a concussion.

So when Crosby’s head snapped back after being hit with an errant stick it looked bad as bad can be. Crosby was clearly stunned and made his way up to his feet and off the ice very slowly. On the bench he was in obvious distress and the PPG Paints Arena turned into the world’s largest waiting room, 18,000-plus waiting to see if Crosby would take that long walk down to the dressing room for examination by the medical staff. He did not. A collective sigh of relief.

It looked far worse, though a few minutes later when Crosby skated straight up the middle of the ice to chase a puck that went behind the Washington net. This time his left skate appeared to clip the post as he cut through the crease and Washington defenceman John Carlson appeared to lean lightly on the 8 and the 7. Crosby’s linemate Patric Hornqvist appeared to brush Carlson just enough that all three crashed into the boards, landing in a pile. This time Crosby was even slower to get back up and to the bench.

Crosby stayed in the game but his frustration was plain. At different points he seemed to boil over. He jousted with Jay Beagle for what seemed like an entire shift. He even gave defenceman Dmitry Orlov a forceful facewash, a jab Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. could have found useful Saturday night, but I digress. These were the highlights of Crosby’s game until he picked up an assist on Jake Guentzel’s goal with less than four minutes left to snap Braden Holtby’s shutout. And if you were looking for anything else positive from Crosby’s game, then perhaps it would be his ice time: He rolled out there three ticks short of 20 minutes, not missing a shift, even when Washington ran out to a 5-0 lead in the third period.

Crosby was OK if you interpret that as good enough to play. OKish, maybe. Certainly not playing at the level he did during the regular season, not remotely like he did in Pittsburgh’s wins in Games 1 and 2 in Washington. The prognosis for a full recovery: well, if it’s not by 7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday night, he’ll have until the fall.

The Penguins as a team are looking far worse than he is though. For the last four periods in this series, the Capitals have owned all of the play. In fact, even in Game 4, the Pens’ 3-2 win sans Sid, Washington just came at the defending Stanley Cup champions in waves. Caps coach Barry Trotz pushed all the right buttons in this series after the Game 4 loss. He shuffled Alex Ovechkin off the first line and threw out young Andre Burakovsky to skate beside Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie — the Penguins had no answer for the line Monday night, Burakovsky getting a pair of goals, Backstrom getting a goal and an assist and Oshie getting a power-play goal to open the scoring. Oshie’s goal came with Crosby watching from the penalty box, off for hooking the ever-irritating Tom Wilson.

After the game, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was asked if he was concerned about the health of his star.

“No,” he said and nothing more.

If Sullivan’s on the square with that, he would have been alone in that opinion in waiting room.

Home opener festivities can’t awaken Blue Jays’ offence

Shi Davidi | posted Wednesday, Apr 12th, 2017

TORONTO – The typical home opener pomp and circumstance abounded Tuesday night, with extended pre-game introductions, a massive flag stretched across the outfield for O Canada, and a nifty little ceremonial first pitch from Tim Raines to Roberto Alomar, incoming Hall of Famer to current Cooperstowner.

A new banner celebrating the 2016 victories in the wild card and American League Division Series was hanging in the rafters. The Rogers Centre was jumping. Welcome back, baseball.

Still missing, however, is the Toronto Blue Jays offence, an increasingly worrying issue for which neither an off-day, nor a return home, nor a date with the gut-the-joint rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers could serve as a panacea. A 4-3 setback represented a fourth straight loss – not to mention a sixth straight home opener defeat – and a 1-6 mess now ranks as the worst opening to a season in franchise history.

Once again a lineup with the pedigree to be a difference-maker – even with Josh Donaldson sitting out as a precaution due to the tightness that developed in his right calf Sunday – was the prime culprit.

Yes, J.A. Happ wasn’t sharp in allowing four runs – including solo home runs to Keon Broxton in a two-run first and Domingo Santana in the fifth – but Kendrys Morales accounted for three of the Blue Jays’ five hits, with Troy Tulowitzki responsible for the other two, along with all three RBI.

The star shortstop has driven in nine of his team’s 23 runs, a stunning 39 per cent, with Morales behind him at six RBI, good for 26 per cent.

To dabble in understatement, that’s not a formula for winning.

“We’ve run into some good pitching, maybe haven’t had our best swings,” said Tulowitzki. “It’s still early. I’ve talked to guys not only on our team but my friends around the league and you want to find that comfort level when you step into the box. And you want to find the comfort level of your cage work and I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

“Hopefully that will come quicker but sometimes it takes some time.”

Blue Jays plan to activate Roberto Osuna before home opener

Ben Nicholson-Smith | posted Tuesday, Apr 11th, 2017

Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Roberto Osuna (54) and catcher Russell Martin (55) celebrate their victory over the Cleveland Indians in game four American League Championship Series baseball action in Toronto on Tuesday, October 18, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Osuna threw a 24-pitch simulated game at Tropicana Field Saturday, an important step on his path back to the active roster. Barring an unexpected development, the 22-year-old closer will be available to make his season debut out of the bullpen against the visiting Milwaukee Brewers Tuesday.

“Unless something changes overnight he’ll be activated,” Gibbons said.

Before Tuesday’s game the Blue Jays will have to make a corresponding move, likely optioning a relief pitcher to triple-A. On paper, Casey Lawrence looks like the leading candidate to return to Buffalo after pitching for the Blue Jays both Saturday and Sunday.

Osuna dealt with back and neck stiffness late in spring, but had been expected to break camp with the team regardless. Instead, the club placed him on the disabled list with a cervical spasm, back-dating the DL stint to ensure he’d miss just six games.

Osuna saved 36 games in 2016, posting a 2.68 ERA with 82 strikeouts in 74 innings as Toronto’s closer.

The Blue Jays’ bullpen will see its share of turnover this year, especially considering that the group includes an assortment of relievers with options. Dominic Leone, Ryan Tepera and Aaron Loup could all theoretically be sent to triple-A without clearing waivers, though Tepera has pitched four scoreless innings and Loup, the lone lefty in the bullpen with J.P. Howell sidelined, will also be needed on the 25-man roster.

Toronto Blue Jays on Sportsnet NOW
Want to stream every Blue Jays games this season? Sportsnet NOW has you covered. Catch every Blue Jays game, marquee MLB matchups, the 2017 Home Run Derby and All-Star Game, the playoffs and entire World Series.

TREATMENT FOR DONALDSON

Josh Donaldson continues getting treatment on the right calf that tightened up in Sunday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays, but the Blue Jays won’t know until Tuesday whether they can pencil the third baseman into their starting lineup right away.

“He’s feeling all right,” Gibbons said. “We won’t know until tomorrow (but) he’s feeling better.”

Donaldson left Sunday’s game after his calf tightened up running out a ground ball, but afterwards he expressed optimism that he’d be ready to play by Tuesday. Donaldson initially strained his calf early in spring training, prompting the Blue Jays to ease him into Grapefruit League action gradually in the hopes that he’d make a complete recovery.

BACK HOME

After a 1-5 road trip, the Blue Jays are absolutely glad to be back in Toronto for their first homestand of the season.

“I think that’s an understatement,” Gibbons said. “It wasn’t a good trip by any means.”

“I think we were all looking forward to getting back here at the home field,” he added. “The crowds we get are really into it. It’s really different than a lot of places, so I think that’ll do wonders.”

Sportsnet’s Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Broadcast Schedule

Sportsnet | posted Monday, Apr 10th, 2017

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All Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage will be available on TV on Sportsnet, CBC, Sportsnet ONE or Sportsnet 360, and via live stream on Sportsnet NOW and Rogers NHL GameCentre LIVE. All Calgary Flames and select Toronto Maple Leafs games will be available on the Sportsnet Radio Network. (See full broadcast schedule below).

“There is no better time to be a Canadian hockey fan,” said Scott Moore, president of Sportsnet & NHL Properties, Rogers Media. “Canadians have a strong desire for in-depth, world-class playoff hockey coverage in real-time and across multiple platforms. That is exactly what Sportsnet will be providing throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.”

Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sportsnet NOW
Ready for playoff hockey? Stream every single game of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs with Sportsnet NOW

As home of hockey’s brightest stars, Sportsnet’s coverage of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs begins Wednesday, April 12 with five can’t miss games:
• New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m. ET (CBC)
• Boston Bruins vs. Ottawa Senators, 7 p.m. ET (Sportsnet)
• Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, 7:30 p.m. ET(Sportsnet 360)
• St. Louis Blues vs. Minnesota Wild, 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT (Sportsnet 360)
• San Jose vs. Edmonton Oilers, 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT (Sportsnet)

Sportsnet’s multiplatform coverage of the 2017 NHL post-season includes:

Television
Hockey Central Playoff Preview Show
• Helping fans get into the post-season mindset, Hockey Central Playoff Preview Show kicks off on Monday, April 10 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. ET on Sportsnet and Sportsnet NOW.
• Hosted by Hockey Night in Canada’s David Amber alongside Elliotte Friedman and Doug MacLean, the one-hour preview will feature:
• An essay by Scott Morrison celebrating the NHL’s Centennial and 125 years of the Stanley Cup
• In-depth previews of all first round Stanley Cup Playoff series, highlighting series featuring the five Canadian NHL teams

From The Studio…
• From opening puck-drop to the hoisting of Lord Stanley’s Cup, Sportsnet’s world-class roster of hosts, reporters and analysts will bring Canadian hockey fans closer to the action at ice-level:
• Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean will be joined by analysts Friedman, Kelly Hrudey and Nick Kypreos to deliver in-depth analysis throughout the playoffs
• Amber and analyst Doug MacLean will also provide up-to-the-minute analysis during Sportsnet’s coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs
• Don Cherry joins Ron MacLean for regular installments of Coach’s Corner
• Harnarayan Singh, Randip Janda, Bhupinder Hundal, and Harpreet Pandher deliver Hockey Night in Canada: Punjabi Edition to hockey fans coast-to-coast on OMNI
• Nightly editions of Sportsnet Central will have full highlights, analysis and reaction from every series
• Tim & Sid will set the tone weekdays, beginning at 5 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and Sportsnet NOW

Radio
• Sportsnet 590 The FAN will air select Toronto Maple Leafs playoff games, with veteran announcer Joe Bowen calling the play-by-play alongside analyst Jim Ralph. Gord Stellick and Todd Hlushko host Leafs Nation post-game coverage following every Leafs game.
• All Calgary Flames post-season games will be available on Sportsnet 960 The FAN, with play-by-play announcer Derek Wills and analyst Peter Loubardias in the broadcast booth

Digital
• All Stanley Cup Playoff broadcasts will be available to hockey fans on-the-go via Sportsnet NOW
• Sportsnet’s NHL Insiders provide daily analysis and commentary on the NHL postseason, exclusively on Sportsnet.ca and the Sportsnet app
• Readers can stay up-to-date with the biggest story lines with 30 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman’s popular weekly column
• Analysis-meets-humour in weekly installments of Down Goes Brown
• Canadians can challenge their friends and family by joining Sportsnet Fantasy Playoffs Pool
• Stay engaged with behind-the-scenes Facebook Live broadcasts and nightly Instagram stories

Play the Sportsnet Fantasy Playoffs Pool for your chance to win $5,000 cash if you are crowned the champ! It’s FREE and easy to play.

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Montreal Canadiens (A1) vs. New York Rangers (WC1)
• Play-by-play: Paul Romanuk; Game Analyst: Garry Galley; TV Reporter: Kyle Bukauskas; sportsnet.ca: Eric Engels

G1 Wed., April 12 New York Rangers @ Montreal, 7 p.m. ET CBC
G2 Fri., April 14 New York Rangers @ Montreal, 7 p.m. ET CBC
G3 Sun., April 16 Montreal @ New York Rangers, 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT SN
G4 Tues., April 18 Montreal @ New York Rangers, 7 p.m. ET CBC
G5* Thurs., April 20 New York Rangers @ Montreal, TBD
G6* Sat., April 22 Montreal @ New York Rangers, TBD
G7* Mon., April 24 New York Rangers @ Montreal, TBD

Ottawa Senators (A2) vs. Boston Bruins (A3)
• Play-by-play: Bob Cole; Game Analyst: Greg Millen; TV Reporter: Christine Simpson; Sportsnet.ca: Kristina Rutherford

G1 Wed., April 12 Boston @ Ottawa, 7 p.m. ET SN
G2 Sat., April 15 Boston @ Ottawa, 3 p.m. ET SN
G3 Mon., April 17 Ottawa @ Boston, 7 p.m. ET SN
G4 Wed., April 19 Ottawa @ Boston, 7:30 p.m. ET SN
G5* Fri., April 21 Boston @ Ottawa, TBD TBD
G6* Sun., April 23 Ottawa @ Boston, TBD TBD
G7* Wed., April 26 Boston @ Ottawa, TBD TBD

Washington Capitals (M1) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (WC2)
• Play-by-play: Jim Hughson; Game Analyst: Craig Simpson; TV Reporter: Scott Oake; sportsnet.ca: Chris Johnston
• All games all available on Hockey Night in Canada: Punjabi Edition on OMNI
• Select games will air live on Sportsnet 590 The FAN

G1 Thurs., April 13 Toronto @ Washington, 7 p.m. ET CBC
G2 Sat., April 15 Toronto @ Washington, 7 p.m. ET CBC
G3 Mon., April 17 Washington @ Toronto, 7 p.m. ET CBC
G4 Wed., April 19 Washington @ Toronto, 7 p.m. ET CBC
G5* Fri., April 21 Toronto @ Washington, TBD
G6* Sun., April 23 Washington @ Toronto, TBD
G7* Tues., April 25 Toronto @ Washington, TBD

Pittsburgh Penguins (M2) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (M3)
G1 Wed., April 12 Columbus @ Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m. ET SN 360
G2 Fri., April 14 Columbus @ Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. ET SN
G3 Sun., April 16 Pittsburgh @ Columbus, 6 p.m. ET SN 360
G4 Tues., April 18 Pittsburgh @ Columbus, 7:30 p.m. ET SN 360
G5* Thurs., April 20 Columbus @ Pittsburgh, TBD
G6* Sun., April 23 Pittsburgh @ Columbus, TBD
G7* Tues., April 25 Columbus @ Pittsburgh, TBD

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

Edmonton Oilers (P2) vs. San Jose Sharks (P3)
• Play-by-play: Dave Randorf; Game Analyst: Louie DeBrusk; TV Reporter: Cassie Campbell-Pascall; Sportsnet.ca: Mark Spector

G1 Wed., April 12 San Jose @ Edmonton, 7 p.m. PT SN
G2 Fri., April 14 San Jose @ Edmonton, 7:30 p.m. PT SN
G3 Sun., April 16 Edmonton @ San Jose, 6 p.m. PT SN
G4 Tues., April 18 Edmonton @ San Jose, 7 p.m. PT SN
G5* Thurs., April 20 San Jose @ Edmonton, TBD
G6* Sat., April 22 Edmonton @ San Jose, TBD
G7* Mon., April 24 San Jose @ Edmonton, TBD

Minnesota Wild (C2) vs. St. Louis Blues (C3)
G1 Wed., April 12 St. Louis @ Minnesota, 9:30 p.m. ET SN360
G2 Fri., April 14 St. Louis @ Minnesota, 8 p.m. ET SN360
G3 Sun., April 16 Minnesota @ St. Louis, 3 p.m. ET SN
G4 Wed., April 19 Minnesota @ St. Louis, 9:30 p.m. ET SN360
G5* Sat., April 22 St. Louis @ Minnesota, TBD
G6* Mon., April 24 Minnesota @ St. Louis, TBD
G7* Wed., April 26 St. Louis @ Minnesota, TBD

Calgary Flames (WC1) vs. Anaheim Ducks (P1)
• Play-by-play: Rick Ball; Game Analyst: John Garrett; Reporter: Roger Millions; Sportsnet.ca: Ryan Dxon

G1 Thurs., April 13 Calgary @ Anaheim, 7:30 p.m. PT CBC
G2 Sat. April 15 Calgary @ Anaheim, 7:30 p.m. PT CBC
G3 Mon., April 17 Anaheim @ Calgary, 7 p.m. PT CBC
G4 Wed., April 19 Anaheim @ Calgary, 7 p.m. PT CBC
G5* Fri., April 21 Calgary @ Anaheim, TBD
G6* Sun., April 23 Anaheim @ Calgary, TBD
G7* Tues., April 25 Calgary @ Anaheim, TBD

Nashville Predators (WC2) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (C1)

G1 Thurs., April 13 Nashville @ Chicago, 8 p.m. ET SN
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Matthews breaks franchise record as Leafs earn big win over Panthers

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Mar 29th, 2017

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TORONTO — Wendel Clark knew his record might be in jeopardy 21 and a half minutes into Auston Matthews‘s first game with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Matthews became the first player in NHL history to score four goals in a debut that October night against Ottawa and on Tuesday finally broke Clark’s 31-year-old franchise rookie record with his 35th goal this season — the opening goal in a crucial 3-2 Leafs win.

“It’s good,” Clark said of Matthews shattering a record set during the 1985-86 season. “If we’re going to be any good we need these young guys breaking all (these records) and doing well.”

Matthews and Toronto’s high-flying crop of rookies have been shredding the record books more and more often in recent weeks as they march toward a hopeful playoff berth. Tuesday’s victory over the Florida Panthers kept the club one point up (87 points) on Boston (86) for third in the Atlantic division and now four up on the surging Tampa Bay Lightning (83).

A night that looked to be all about the Leafs uncertain crease ultimately belonged to the 19-year-old Matthews, who joined Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby as the only rookies since the 1995-96 season to score 35 goals.

Zach Hyman instigated the marker 12 minutes into the first frame, controlling the puck from behind the Florida goal before finding Matthews in front, his shot slipping between the pads of James Reimer to best Clark for the franchise mark.

“Just to be in the same sentence as a guy like Wendel Clark is obviously a big honour,” said Matthews, who became the first Leaf since Clark to be picked first overall last June.

Now a community representative of the Leafs, Clark compared the big American centre to former Toronto captain and franchise leading scorer, Mats Sundin. Just like Sundin, Clark said, Matthews could be dangerous all by himself, but also gifted in finding teammates for open looks.

He said Matthews had a “goal-scorer’s touch” and the “hands of a little guy” and aimed to score in areas of the highest percentages, such as low, between the legs or blocker-side.

Clark added of Matthews: “He’s already big and strong at 19 and two, three years from now he’s going to be bigger and stronger once he fills out.”

Matthews increased his NHL lead for game-opening goals, matching Dave Andreychuk’s team record (1993-94), according to the Elias Sports Bureau, with his 14th of the year. He pulled within four points of Peter Ihnacak’s franchise rookie mark for points (66), set during the 1982-83 season.

Rookies have been adding their names to the Leafs record book in increasing fashion.

Mitch Marner recently equalled Gus Bodnar’s franchise rookie mark for assists (40), William Nylander matching team rookie records for power-play goals (9) and power-play points (25) while also establishing a new rookie mark for the team with a point streak that was extended to 12 games on Tuesday night.

Goaltending was primary in the pre-game build-up with Curtis McElhinney starting in place of injured No. 1 Frederik Andersen, who was nursing an undisclosed injury after getting bumped in the head last weekend.

Oddly enough, it was Reimer, the former Leaf, who was forced to exit Tuesday’s game when he was bumped in similar fashion by Brian Boyle midway through the second, replaced by Reto Berra.

McElhinney held his own in Andersen’s place at the other end, yielding two goals on 26 shots while shining early in the third period as the Leafs protected a 2-1 lead. Hyman eventually increased Toronto’s lead to two shorthanded — Leo Komarov scoring the Leafs second goal — Jaromir Jagr stuffing one in late in regulation.

Hyman became the fifth Leaf rookie to score at least 10 goals this season.

An interesting night also saw Roman Polak called for high-sticking Jonathan Huberdeau and then pulled out of the box when replays showed it was a puck — and not the stick — that struck Huberdeau.

Polak said he’d never seen such a thing and thanked the referee for admitting his mistake.

The night was all about Matthews though. He took over top spot among all NHL rookies in goals and points, a favourite to become the first Leaf since Brit Selby in 1966 to win the Calder Trophy.

“It’s obviously good and nice for him, but he needs to remember he’s got many years in front of him so he just needs to keep going,” Komarov said.

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