Carroll vs. Moyes – Heavyweight Tilt At Rush Green

As reported by Football London and West Ham writer Sam Inkersole, West Ham manager David Moyes and Striker Andy Carroll had a bust up after a crushing defeat at the hands of Manchester City at Rush Green today.

Despite Carroll having a terrible injury record, showing up at clubs when not fit to play or train, and calling out fans for leaving the ground early when losing, Carroll is in the right here, and this is why:

Andy Carroll, he scored when he wants!
Not really the same as Diafra Sakho, but Carroll is a known goal scorer and has proven that for West Ham. He had an awful start to the season, and was predictably then knocked down with injury – but that’s what you get with him, we know that.

Carroll, who has no real allegiance to Moyes as his manager, rushed himself back from injury to join back in his teams hunt for Premier League survival. This is something West Ham fans were generally happy to see as he wanted to play for the team and help them survive. With limited playing time he has made an impact too. Carroll netted the late tying goal for West Ham against Stoke City, securing a necessary point, and proved his effectiveness is sparingly short time.

So why the bust up? Because the players and fans can both can see the negativity Moyes is bringing with his managing style. The team is desperate for points, and grinding out draws seems to be Moyes’ way of getting those points. For a squad as talented as West Ham’s, this shouldn’t be the case.

Carroll, not part of Moyes’ tactical triple switch after going down 4-1 to Manchester City, apparently walked off the bench when not brought on. Sure, a little selfish and hot-headed, but he has a point. Without Carroll, West Ham lose to Stoke, and what else is there to lose against City? The team needed goals and that is Carroll’s specialty; his physicality which he uses to score, is trouble for any centreback and was worth a punt against City.

Carroll hasn’t made himself a likable character this season, but he will likely have the support of the majority of West Ham fans. Moyes, time is running out, the fans know, and the players know – next and most importantly is the board to figure it out.

 

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Dear Leafs fans: Breathe

That’s all you need to do.

Before the final buzzer had gone, Jake Gardiner had been chastised, (I admittedly also wrote a few pointed words), and for all intents and purposes been banished from Leaf land.

Willy Nylander is bait for a top pair defenseman, Auston Matthews is an ineffective playoff performer, Freddy Andersen was no longer the tender receiving a chorus of ‘Freddy’s’ just one game earlier.

The sweat had not yet dried on their equipment, and Coach Babcock, also once praised, had ruined his relationship with the Leafs saviour and he was being shipped back to Arizona where he came from.

Does this sound familiar? Ah, yes of course. It’s the signal that Spring has arrived in Toronto, and befitting with the late round of winter we’ve had, has kept up the routine.

The Toronto media and fan-base has no off-season when it comes to hockey. Every move, every meal, is critiqued, and most wear it as a badge of honour. “The media here is so crazy, right? We’re so hard and tough on players I hope they’re ready for it!” Do any of these people realize that hey, it’s not a great thing to have that reputation? It’s one thing for outsiders to say ‘yikes it’s there’, but for the people asking the questions in the locker room to be doing it it’s a little too… what’s the word…uncouth? I’ll go with that.

This has been said too many times for me to feel good about repeating it, but pain is coming. I’d say it’s here and has been for over a year. But that’s what we were to expect, no? Speedbumps? Yes, plenty of them.

Leafs fans would like results similar to what the Blackhawks and Penguins had/have; sustained success and perennial playoff contenders. I think it’s fair to say every fan base would like to support a team that wins. But do we realize HOW bad the Penguins and Blackhawks were before actually reaching the pinnacle?

The Penguins were bad enough to get one 1st overall pick for M.A. Fleury, a 2nd overall for Malkin, (could have been Ovechkin), and we all know their captain. Yes, won through a lottery but it still counts. Pittsburgh barely had a building.

Chicago, they were an original six team who couldn’t draw a crowd and didn’t have their games on television. Need I say more?

What have Leaf fans had to endure? Leaving out the whole ‘since 67’ thing and focusing on our team we have right now, not much. Even in the past years, the Buds have made multiple playoff runs with a ton of excitement.

Nazem Kadri, drafted 2009, and is now just becoming the player he was drafted to be.

Morgan Rielly, drafted 2012, was actually in (borderline) Norris conversation for the first time.

Willy Nylander, drafted 2014, played first two full NHL seasons reaching 60+ points in each. 6th in Calder voting

Mitch Marner, drafted 2015, two NHL seasons reaching 60+ points in each. 5th in Calder Voting

Auston Matthews, drafted 2016, 74 goals in first two seasons, 60+ points in each. Won Calder trophy.

Looks pretty good to me. I’d take that over any other team in the NHL.

Do the Leafs have their issues? Absolutely. But what people fail to realize is that even the Champions at the end of the season have their issues. No team is perfect, and that’s why you hear, every year ‘they worked hard and things went their way’.

I use stats only to show you who these players that we have are, and what they’re capable of. We’ve all watched them all season, and how happy they’ve made all the fans. Don’t turn on them when they’re at their lowest.

Relationships in life are special things. They’re supportive, exciting, loving, and they work together. Good ones have those feelings go both ways, unconditionally. How sweet would it be for the team and fans be together in looking out at the rest of the NHL and, together, saying ‘we told you so’ while parading down Bay? (Yes I’ve planned it).

Together.

What unreasonable fans, and mostly the media in Toronto, are at risk of, is becoming part of the enemy. More of a hindrance than help. Why would a collection of humans who feel the need to shield themselves from their own fan-base also want to take a puck to the face for them? Instead of pushing the team under the bus at every corner, be a help. Be a supportive partner. There’s a reason why Patrick Marleau is the first high-profile free agent to come to Toronto, and he did it at the end of his career.

Don’t become part of the enemy. Do not ruin a good thing.

Think about how Phil feels, and don’t be the person in Toronto he’s thinking about when he shoves his 2 rings in their face. We’re better than that.

Can the Raptors Close Out in 6?

By: Kimberly Daniels

After going up two games against the Wizards, Raptor fans felt unstoppable… then Capitol One Arena happened and all of a sudden, we were questioning who was to blame for back-to-back losses. Questions like “Can Ibaka play like he did in Game 1 again?”, “Does the second unit need VanVleet to really get going?” and “Are we seeing the same Raptors playoff fails from the past?” started dancing around in our heads.

But it was just two bad games, right?

The Raptors came back game five with a crucial (and heart-stopping) win. A double-double from Valanciunas and 18 points from Wright added to DeRozans 32 points in 39 minutes, sealing the deal in the fourth-quarter.

Being on home court with the best fans in the league and Drake on the sidelines talking trash to Wall is just so much more comfortable for the Raptors. A win at home almost seems inevitable at this point. So, the real question becomes – can the Raps close out the series on the road tonight?

According to Wizards Oubre he doesn’t think so, throwing some shade at Wright stating “Delon doesn’t play well anywhere else, you know, other than at home.” Wright has stated that he is saving his comments for Oubre after the Raptors win, but this game will come down to much more than just trash-talk for a W.

The Raptors will have to figure out how to get a handle on their turnovers leading to Wizard points and do a better job at protecting the boards. Watching the Wizards second-chance point opportunities this series has been frustrating, to say the least. Controlling Wall and Beal with determination on defense will also be a major key to finishing up this series.

Most of all the Raptors have to prove to everyone why they are the first seed team in the East. We will need the crew to buckle-down, stay focused on the game plan and play with the heart and strength the whole city of Toronto displayed this week #TorontoStrong

The Raptors may not have gotten the sweep Drake was telling Wall about, but it sure would be sweet to take the series in Washington and see what Wright has to say to Oubre.

Welp, That Sucked.

It’s game 7, and the Leafs are facing the Boston Bruins. The Leafs are up 4-3 heading into the third period. Surely these flashbacks I’m getting are just paranoia right? No, they aren’t, because Boston just scored 4 straight goals in the third period to win the series. Marchand cements it with the empty netter. Kill me.

There’s a lot of blame to throw around here, and I will get that out of the way now so I can attempt to end this on a positive note. Okay here is the obvious one – Jake Gardiner what the hell was that? That was the worst game he played the entire season. Bad decision after bad decision, no physicality, no desperation. That was garbage. I’ll give him credit for owning it after the game, but it doesn’t take away from that performance. I really expected better. As for the rest of the defense, they were all pretty MEH. The only pair that I thought actually looked good was the Dermott and Polak pair. They were fairly steady and it’s a real shame Dermott only got 11 minutes of ice time.

Matthews had a strong start with a couple scoring chances early, and I really thought this could be his breakout game, but he went MIA in the second and third period. For someone who went PPG in the regular season and paced for over 40 goals, he was a big disappointment. He wasn’t the worst by any stretch, but you need your big guns to step up and he got completely shut down.

I don’t understand how a line with Bozak and JVR, who should be in their prime, going against the softest competition, can be completely invisible. JVR 0 points, 0 shots, -3. Bozak 0 points, 1 shot, -2. It’s actually a little sad as it could be both their last games as a Leaf.

Who DID come to play? Mitch Marner, Patrick Marleau, William Nylander, and Kasperi Kapanen (what a goal!). All these guys played their heart out and it showed. I have become more and more impressed by Marner every game. This guy is a true franchise talent, and next to Matthews, should be the Leafs most important player in the coming years.

So the season is over and we are all still sour about the loss. Good news is that there are good things to come for this team. One lost series can’t take away the fact that this roster just broke franchise records! The core of the team can’t even grow a playoff beard yet. Don’t overreact and call for drastic changes. A couple upgrades would be nice (looking at you Tavares..) but at the end of the day, this is still a very promising young team. The future looks good Leaf fans.

 

The Best Two Words In Sports: Game Seven

The time for chills and goosebumps is upon us as Toronto and Boston are headed for a game seven!

With many people doubting them (me included), the Toronto Maple Leafs have clawed back from 0-2 and 1-3 to tie up their opening round series with the Boston Bruins.

What was sold as the odds on favourite for most intense series was looking pretty grim, pretty early for the Leafs. Toronto looked laughable in the first two games; unable to keep up with Bergeron-Marchand-Pastrnak, and throughly unorganized on the ice in general. The Kadri suspension in Game 1 was another situation the Leafs would have to deal with, as their shut down centre made a selfish decision to board a defenceless player.

Now level at three games a piece Toronto has a chance to exorcise some demons, and route out the ghosts of a previous game seven in Boston. And I’m not going to say anything else about that unspeakable night.

Where has Toronto turned it around? And how can they compete with these once believed invincible Bruins? Well, I suppose they trust in Mike Babcock. Hand up, I called him Peter Horachek not long ago and thats on me. But, when adversity struck, Babcock seemed to figure out a new look line up that can handle the physicality of Boston.

Hyman – Matthews – Brown
Marleau – Plekanec – Marner
JVR – Bozak – Nylander
Johnsson – Kadri – Kapanen

…or something like this.

Toronto has spread it out and used their two most physical centres, Kadri and Plekanec and paired them with fast wingers to bring a massive forecheck to the Boston end. The use of both centres in a flowing manner also has limited the ability to line match too easily for Boston, as they want Bergeron’s line matching up with Matthews. To ease the pressure on Toronto’s big gun, Babcock gave him a clone of Hyman, Connor Brown, to match Nylanders speed with an added edge in physical board play on his right side.

Hats off to Babcock because it’s working. Something he hasn’t solved yet however, is the face off dominance by Bergeron, by that is a different story.

The player who has undoubtedly been Toronto’s rock, MVP, and saving grace is Frederik Andersen. I’ve never seen anything like it. Nearly 40+saves every night, Andersen looks completely calm and in control when he plays. After game six he has now made two massive paddle saves reaching behind him and seemingly has broken the Bruins will to win single handedly.

What goes along with his physical performance is the mental dominance he has shown over Boston. In the first period he made 17 saves, followed by 8 in the second. Boston was throwing everything at the net but couldn’t solve the Andersen enigma in net, and it showed. Sunken heads and puzzled faces populated the Boston bench, they looked defeated. Andersen is showing all of the Toronto sports media that he in fact, isn’t tired after seeing a league high 2029 shots in the regular season.

Toronto isn’t going to get the calls from the refs, they’re not going to win a lot of the physical battles, they aren’t going to dominate the face off dot, but for some reason I’m hopeful. It’s a full 360 on where I was after game 1 and game 2, but they’ve showed me a willingness to win at any cost that I can’t not believe in.

Go Leafs Go.

Jays Lose First Series Of The Season

The bubble has popped, the bandwagon is losing members, and the season is over – The Toronto Blue Jays have lost their first series of the season.

Wait. Its just April, and its still five full series that they hadn’t lost. Things are actually pretty damn good in Blue Jays land right now, and the problems they have should be reasonable enough to over come!

The Jays had two issue that rared their head in this second four game series against the Yankees, one a surprise and the other a condition of their random offence: starting pitching, and men left on base.

As far as pitching goes, Toronto is missing a big piece of the puzzle which is Marcus Stroman. Yet to win a game this season, Stroman is taking a lot of heat for being more focused on his personal brand over his pitching abilities. Sure, height doesn’t measure heart, but earned runs will kill a starting pitchers confidence – and Stroman is leading the team in earned runs and has posted a 8.55 ERA.

He looked better in his last start but ‘looked better’ isn’t providing results for the Jays. Stroman is the ultimate competitor and wants to be winning baseball games, but until he starts doing that he isn’t going to be playing on a playoff contending team.

Outside of Stroman, Estrada has been a concern. He has a 5.32 era and has the narrative of nagging back issues constantly being brought up. He has been saved in his win/loss record by late game pushes by his teams offence, but hasn’t given his team a chance to win on a regular basis. Biagini was solid in his spot start and provides the Jays an option if Estrada’s back issues flair up, but a good Marco is better than a good Biagini.

As far as offence goes, Toronto has nothing to complain about from their team. No one really thought they would be playing for much this season, but now it seems like the Jays want to make it to the post season. The biggest issue that should get rectified sooner rather than later is men left on base. The Jays rank 6th in men left on base with a per-game average of 6.76. In their last three games against the Yankees this bloated to 7.67.

It’s an issue that has seemed to follow the Jay’s around in recent years. It was a symptom of the home run dependent offence they had relied on for so long. That is why I am not too too concerned about it at this point. The home runs will still come, but the success Toronto has had this season was around getting on base, and getting clutch hits. Not to mention taking walks, stealing bases, and moving runners forward. To remedy the men left on base stick to what you know – hard hit balls and not trying to push everything out of the stadium. Capitalize on the damn shift, too!

Two big ole’ bright spots are Teoscar Hernandez (yes, still), and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

Teoscar has improved his HR count to three in just eight games this season, and has 10 RBIs. He is really really potent right now for the Blue Jays and adds pop to the #2 spot in the order with Donaldson out. No chance he gets sent down when Donaldson gets back off the DL – looking at you Randal Grichuk.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr., a name few are too familiar with is the brother of the Gurriel in Houston who just won the World Series. The 24-year old infielder from Cuba was nestled right behind Vlad jr. and Bo Bichette on Toronto’s farm system rankings and got the call up in game two of this series. Hitting in the nine spot, Gurriel nabbed two hits and three RBIs in his first game. He is hitting .273 avg in eleven appearances. Yet another bright spot in the youth department for Toronto.

Almost a month into the season Toronto sits second in the AL East with a 13-6 record, 1.5 games up on the Yankees. With some stable performances Toronto can absolutely continue on this track of possible post season success!

 

West Ham 1-4 Arsenal: A Well Timed Wanger

Despite a lopsided score line West Ham pushed hard and deserved better in this match. Well, Joe Hart and Arnautovic deserved better.

In a match that ended a handful to nil in Arsenal’s favor the score doesn’t tell the true story of this match. Nil-nil at half, and level after conceding first int he second half, West Ham showed resilience and hard work for 80 minutes of this game. But as well all know, a match is 90 minutes so that simply wont do, and predictably so, it didn’t do.

So what went wrong for the Hammers?
Defense making mistakes. Every goal can be credited to defenders missing balls, men, or getting caught out of position from over playing.

Arthur Masuaku contributed to Arsenal taking the lead in this match. Tasked with holding the near post on a corner, Masuaku inexplicably stepped away from a nice (but blockable) volley from Nacho Monreal. I would love to see what was going on in his head when the shot came in, because there is no real conceivable reason to not block a goal bound shot on the goal line. Unfortunately, this is the deal with Masuaku – you get speed and trickery going forward and have to deal with some boneheadery on the back end.

Declan Rice, unfortunately broke the back of his team – and judging by his face, he knew it. If he didn’t Joe Hart let him know it shouting at the back of his sunken head as he lined up for kick off. After missing a simple clearance the ball simply bounced into the net, and giving the Gunners the lead and taking the Hammers out of the match.

The goal was really an anomaly. Rice has been one of the few players who has actually grown and been an attribute to the team in this frustrating season. Hart wasn’t counting on his young, but good defender to miff a clearance, but it happens. You can bet he won’t make that mistake again ever in his career.

For West Ham, Joe Hart had a great game. He made a few saves notably on Granit Xhaka and Danny Welbeck that were top notch. He wanted to win, and he is playing for not only his international life at this time, but his top tier life, too. I don’t mind the appointment of Hart at this point in the season. Adrian hasn’t done enough to take his spot and seems like he’d rather be back in Spain, and Hart has something on the line. Disappointed for him after this one.

A possible bright point from this match is the probable use of  Arnautovic, Chicharito, and Lanzini moving forward. After Joao Mario and Edmilison Fernandes made way for Chicharito and Lanzini West Ham scored four minutes later. They pressured the ball when Arsenal had it, swarmed on free balls, and kept moving toward Ospina’s net.

Chicharito needs to be on the pitch simply for his presence, if not near automatic scoring ability. He has a reputation – fox in the box, but opposing defenders know that they cannot ignore him or he’ll net a goal.

Lanzini, who assisted Arnautovic’s rifled goal, is really the key to West Ham’s success this season. With a 5-4-1 formation there needs to be that link between attack and defense in the middle of the park. Mario did this well against Southampton but hasn’t consistently performed whereas Lanzini can do it at will against the lower half clubs and also impacts against the big boys. The issue is his work rate – will he show up or disappear with adversity?

This is a game West Ham were not supposed to win. When it comes down to it, West Ham suffered a ten minute meltdown against a team that is very good at attacking. West Ham made mistakes, they took those opportunities and didn’t miss. A point would have been massive, but it isn’t the end of the road for West Ham. Take it as motivation, train hard, get back to work, make sure it doesn’t happen again.