Can John Tavares be Toronto’s first 50-goal scorer since Andreychuk?

John Tavares notched four more goals against Florida moving him into second-place in the NHL and putting the question in Leafs Nation’s minds: Can Tavares be a 50 goal scorer?

Good Company

Should Tavares find the back of the net five more times this season, he’ll join a small, elite list of Maple Leafs players.

First up is the three-time 50+goal scorer, Rick Vaive. The 20th best Maple Leaf, as ranked by the team last season, is the only three-time 50+ goal scorer in the team’s history. He did so from 1981-1984 with 54, 51, and 52 goals in that time period.

Next is Gary Leeman, the junior defenseman turned pro right-winger. He only reached the 50-goal mark once, 51 in ’89-’90, but etched himself in the annals of Maple Leafs history as the first since the great Rick Vaive.

Lastly, you have the great Dave Andreychuk, who is the most recent Maple Leafs to nab 50 goals. Andreychuk did so on two occasions, 54 in the ’92-’93 season, and 53 in ’93-’94. Pivotal in the early 90s’ playoff runs, Andreychuk is a shining example for Tavares to follow.

The Outlook

With just 6 games remaining in the season, Tavares will have a tough task getting those five goals that he’s gunning for. That being said, his opposition does show some weak points.

The two games to circle are the next two up: Philadelphia and Ottawa. Phili has a solid D-core, but they are very young and prone to valuing offense over defense. That leaves Tavares to contend with a revolving door of “just okay” (thank you Randy Carlisle) to contend with.

Ottawa is up and down. They showed in their shellacking of the Maple Leafs earlier this month that they can plan, but if Tavares is clicking like he was last night, there’s no reason he can’t pot against them, too.

Outside of those two games, the Leafs play the Islanders, Hurricanes, Lightning, and Habs. All of these teams are vying for playoff positioning (outside of the Lightning), and all will challenge the Leafs in their perspective playoff tune-ups.

Final Thoughts

Good thing Tavares has a propensity to score against any opponent, anyway! For me the perfect way this plays out is two against Phili, two against Ottawa, and his fiftieth against the Islanders.

It’ll be tough, but I have all the faith in the world that John Tavares will continue to raise his level of play and accomplish this feat.


Garret Sparks’ deal is a short-term solution to the Marleau contract problem

Kyle Dubas and Brandon Pridham are at it again with the extension of Garret Sparks. The Leafs so-so backup goalie has been inked for another year on a cap friendly deal to levy the hit of Patrick Marleau

Boiled down to as simple of a reason as I could find, the Maple Leafs are leveraging a low-risk position, the backup goalie, to accommodate Patrick Marleau’s $6 million contract for it’s final year in 2019/2020.

Rather than dip into free agency for a low-value position like a maximum 20-game backup goalie, Dubas is riding out Sparks. Sparks is a completely adequate backup for Frederick Andersen and at $750k is a bargain.

The gamble is that Andersen won’t get injured. If that should happen, Toronto will be forced into a Sparks/Kaskisuo tandem that just about no one would be confident in.

The benefit of Sparks over a free agent is that he is homegrown. He knows the coaches, he knows the systems, he knows the building, he knows the team. He’s another stable player who helps solidify a team that will likely see quite a bit of turnover before the start of next season.

As well, Sparks signing this extension now allows for yet another piece of the puzzle to fall into place for Dubas before he tries to resign Mitch Marner, Andreas Johnsson, and Kasperi Kapanen.

The upside of a one year deal is that band-aid style resolution it gives the team; a low risk, apply as you need it smart bit of business. Should Joseph Woll and Ian Scott make the jump to the AHL or ECHL for next season then the contingency plan is essentially in effect, and Sparks’ one-year deals stop.

It’s shrewd business from Dubas and Pridham who are trying to shoehorn the top end talent into this deep, young team. Even Sparks’ harshest critics surely wouldn’t have a problem with this deal if it helped sign one of Marner, Johnsson, or Kapanen, right?

Leafs play poorly, still dominate with studs

Alternative title 1: Likely worst game Leafs play all season ends in three points and a show by the best center tandem in the league.

Alternative title 2: Best Habs can muster not good enough against piss-poor Leafs.

Alternative title 3: Leafs play like shit, get two points anyways.

Alternative title 4: Matthews shows Tavares Leafs are his team; Rift between two superstars?

…Sorry, ignore that last one this isn’t the Toronto Sun.

Regardless of how you spin it, that opening performance was less than impressive for Toronto but it ended with three points. I suppose it’s an early lesson learned for the Cup favourite Leafs – the league has a lot more parity than they may have assumed, and every team is dangerous. Just not that tire fire Ottawa.

Montreal were never going to be as bad as everyone assumed they were going to be in the offseason. They won’t make the playoffs and will finish right around Detroit in the division, safely out of the bottom but nowhere close to the points total needed for the playoffs.

They have two solid kids who showed up in this match and looked solid. Call it beginners luck for Jesper Kotkaniemi, and a career game for Lehkonen.

The highly-touted Kotkaniemi looked good in the game:

  • 1 assist (PP)
  • 15:05 ice time
  • +/- 0
  • 2 shots on goal

Lehkonen, too:

  • 1 G
  • 16:38 ice time
  • +/- 0
  • 3 shots on goal
  • 2 penalty mins.

Montreal looked good playing a fast-paced game, changing players in their lines (Lehkonen/Domi/Drouin to center or a wing) all game to keep things fresh and unpredictable.

Despite their teams’ solid play, without the best goalie in the world, Montreal loses this game in regulation 5-2 (minimum). Price only faces 26 shots in the match, but Toronto has a lethal power play and incredible skill 5on5 so the shots he faced were quality scoring chances rather than ‘pucks on net’ attempts.

Forget Montreal though, Toronto looked slow but let’s keep some perspective on a few things:

  1. It was one game.
  2. They won.
  3. Matthews and Tavares scored.
  4. The PP clicked.
  5. Anderson was awesome.
  6. and this doesn’t mean the Leafs need to overpay Nylander to get him in here.

The most important part of this game was that both Matthews and Tavares got goals and the top two lines looked solid all night. The time-on-ice was similar, too with Matthews at 17:39 and Tavares at 18:05 scraping up a few extra seconds on that second penalty kill unit.

Was it a bad game for the Leafs? Yes – they looked sluggish and slow, but it was just one game and Babcock is probably taking a strip off them as we speak. What we as Leaf fans can take away from this is that despite playing poorly all game the Leafs took three points, oh and also, if a game goes to OT the league should just give the Leafs the points. Sheesh!



The Rival Sports Podcast Episode 22: The Bakery is Open!

The Rival Sports Podcast is back for Episode 22 and we’re talking more NFL football. The good teams are losing, the bad teams are winning, and nothing seems to make sense anymore in this wildly unpredictable league.

In Episode 22 Adam and Al are in shambles after their teams, the Vikings and Packers, can’t seem to figure it out, ceding the early divisional lead to the Chicago Bears. New England and Jacksonville follow the NFC North’s suit and let a long-shot team take the divisional lead after two shocking losses, and Greg gives a rundown of the Week 4 edition of #3InOut – who to bring IN and who to kick OUT of your Fantasy Football lineup.

Listen to “Episode 22: The Bakery is open” #Bakeryisopen on Spreaker here!
Want to hear more? Subscribe on iTunes, listen on Google Play, and be sure to check our archives.
This episode includes:

  • Baker Mayfield impressions and expectations moving forward as the starter and savior in Cleveland
  • Green Bay and Minnesota forgetting that they’re good teams
  • Pats losing to the Lions, inviting more questions about the team’s quality, while the Jags go toothless in field goal loss to the Titans
  • Saquan Barkley is good
  • Fitzmagic keeps his job
  • and finally, the AFC North is an unpredictable mess… and we love it!

The Rival Sports Podcast will be posting new NFL episodes on a weekly basis. Please subscribe on iTunes and Google Play to keep up to date on all of our podcasts!

Be sure to follow us on Twitter:

#3InOut – Week 4 Edition

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@The_Rival_Sports on Instagram

3 IN

+ CLE WRs Rashard Higgins/Antonio Callaway
Now I won’t normally be naming 2 players from the same team, (and assuming never, ever again from the Browns), but what Baker Mayfield showed us last week fired me up enough to try something crazy. Not only is Mayfield a better option to open things up here for Browns WR’s, being thrust into a situation like that and equipped with an opportunity like he had, it makes it all the more impressive and comforts me to the point I think getting EITHER ONE of these guys is a good idea. They’ve shown the ability to stretch the field and make the catches (when the throw is on target), and being as Cleveland has a semblance of a running game with Carlos Hyde, this offense has a chance to move now that they’ve got the ‘L’ monkey off their back. If anything, I might even say I’m excited to watch the Browns now.

+ ARI WR Christian Kirk
Coming off a pre-season in which he showed the coaching staff what he was capable of, (8 catches, 59 yards, 1 TD), the speedy slot receiver has since fallen victim to Sam Bradford’s inability to throw a football. Part of the hesitance around picking Kirk up earlier was the question on his usage, as Larry Fitz usually occupies the slot. It now appears it’s solely the QB situation, and now that Josh Rosen has been named the starter, it’s safe to roster up Christian Kirk. I’m not promising booming results right away, but it won’t take long.

+ CIN WR Tyler Boyd
In the ADD I feel may get the most push-back I say – YES to Tyler Boyd. The entire fantasy world remained unconvinced after his Week 2 performance of 6 rec on 9 targets for 91 yards & 1 TD, but he came back and surprised absolutely everyone with 6 rec on 7 for 132 yards and another TD. As receivers generally go hand in hand with their QB’s performance, it’s important to note that Dalton did throw 4 INT’s Week 3, but he still went for 352 & 2 TD’s. Dalton looks like he’s taken a step forward this season. Another thing to watch out for that could help increase Boyd’s target share is if AJ Green were to miss any time with the injury he left the last game with. Either way – he’s a pickup this week and available in 83% of Yahoo leagues.


Every 49er.
The arrival of Marquise Goodwin on the Week 3 scene (3 rec, 30 yards, TD), is not tantalizing enough to overcome the loss of Jimmy G, it’s as simple as that. The only offensive players worth rostering at this point are RB Matt Breida and maybe even TE George Kittle. C.J. Beathard under center is not ideal to replace Jimmy in a generally underwhelming offence. Just stay away from them, and if you can find someone who doesn’t read our stuff, (good luck), try and sell high-ish on Goodwin.

NYJ WR Robby Anderson
3rd time unlucky for Anderson. A guy who last year flashed pretty consistent brilliance, (with Fitzpatrick coincidentally), has come smashing back to earth with only 6 catches in the first 3 weeks, putting up 90 yards and a TD. The one TD looks okay, but knowing it came on his only catch of Week 1, its put into perspective. Anderson may be worth keeping an eye on as Darnold gets more comfortable throwing to someone outside of Enunwa, but right now there’s just too many better options available.

SEA RB Rashaad Penny
Well, I hate to say I told you so, but the Chris Carson show has officially begun in Seattle. With a paltry 43 yards on 20 attempts, it’s safe to say Penny hasn’t had the start he wanted. While it may not be a real reflection on his abilities personally, the inability to overcome Seattle’s offensive line deficiency as well as Carson has done has made expendable. Like Anderson, this situation is worth monitoring in dynasty leagues, but there are many more productive streamers available.

Christian McCaffrey – Fantasy Boom or Bust for 2018?

Ahh, August is upon us which means it’s officially okay to start talking fantasy football. First up on the docket – Christian McCaffrey.

The sophomore running back for the Carolina Panthers has a year of experience under his belt and had a solid first season in the NFL. One aspect of his game that became clear very quickly was his effectiveness in the passing game, and the subsequent reluctance for Ron Rivera to use him as a bell-cow, four down back.

The fantasy rankings and stats back this up; McCaffrey offered a lot to Rivera’s offence just not as a typical four-down back.

2017 Yahoo Rankings and Stats (PPR League):

  • Ranked 13th in fantasy points for running backs
  • Ranked 48th overall for offensive production
  • 3rd in RB receptions (80)
  • 5th in RB receiving yards (651)
  • 3rd in receiving touchdowns for RBs
  • 2 rushing touchdowns
  • 39th in rushing attempts (117)
  • 42nd in rushing yards (435)
  • Scored 2 rushing touchdowns

Despite there being a large disparage between rushing and passing success for McCaffrey only this should matter – top 50 in offensive production. This includes QBs, WRs, and TEs, so not bad! Undoubtedly PPR adds a lot to this value, but that shouldn’t take away from McCaffrey’s attractiveness on fantasy market.

With durability not being an issue – only missed one game in college (2016) – the biggest hindrance to his success will be newly recruited running back CJ Anderson. Anderson was brought in to fill the veteran RB spot left by Jonathan Stewart who departed to the New York Giants this off season.

Anderson was 9th overall in rushing yard, breaking the 1000 yard threshold (1007), adding 224 receiving yards and a combined four touchdowns. The rushing yards are a concern as Anderson is tried and true as a tackle breaking back. He’s carried the mail for Denver over the last few seasons and has thrived on a team that has had a massive void at QB since Peyton Manning retired.

I think McCaffrey will be able to weather the storm that Anderson will bring simply because of the unpredictability of the Carolina offence. Cam Newton offers a lot as a QB, and while he does suck up some rushing yard situations, his elusiveness does open up short pass opportunities in the flats. Sure, if Carolina want to bash the ball up the middle of the field we could see more of Anderson, but Newton and Rivera’s dynamic offence should provide better opportunities for the versatile McCaffrey over Anderson.

Another hiderance in McCaffrey’s 2018 game may be the reemergence of Greg Olsen. Olsen only played in seven games last season after dealing with foot issues for the majority of the season. He’ll be back and motivated to play as he is in a contract year.

The connection to McCaffrey is obvious – Olsen will scoop up a lot of short yardage throws that McCaffrey benefitted from last season with the big TE out. He is the #1 receiving option in front of Funchess, Smith, and rookie DJ Moore, and should see the majority of the targets for 2018. McCaffrey might have to up his rushing game skills to see more time as an early down back this season simply to keep up with Olsen and the receivers on this roster.

Prediction time! So, where will McCaffrey slot in on a fantasy team and where should you draft him? He was top 50 last season sharing time with Stewart who knows Rivera and his offence well, so while Anderson does offer competition for carries it should be McCaffrey’s job to lose. If he can slot in as an RB-3 that you can pick up passed the second round you are set on good PPR value, without overpaying for back with competition. Not extremely reliable and certainly in a week-to-week battle, McCaffrey has something to prove this season in Carolina and could cement himself as the four-down back Carolina want.

Boom or bust? Neither. McCaffrey slots in right in the middle; appreciate the versatility and pick him up if you’re in a PPR league to see some big receiving yard return on the investment…. just maybe try and get Anderson too as a back up.


Atkins Double-Talks and Folds To Social Media Pressure; Osuna Traded

The Toronto Blue Jays have traded their closer Roberto Osuna to the Houston Astros for RHP Ken Giles, RHP Hector Perez, and RHP David Paulino. Osuna is currently in the minors after sitting out 75 games for a domestic violence arrest. While Osuna has not been criminally convicted of anything, the Jays felt the need to move on from their prolific 23 year old closer who boasts a career 2.87 ERA, 104 saves, and 253 strike outs.

It is no secret that the Blue Jays management team has been feeling some heat regarding the impending reinstatement of Osuna to the big league team. On June 29th Atkins was asked about Osuna and the trade deadline and responded by saying “We’ll be adding a closer on Aug. 5… Roberto is our closer.” So what has changed in a months time?

Atkins offers little to no information or personality for that matter when talking to the media; frankly its a waste of the radio hosts, TV interviewers, and viewers time. Usually its because he dances around questions and manages to fill time with nondescript cliches before ending the interview, however in this occasion he just flat out lied to Blue Jays fans. It would be understandable if the Astros offered a massive package for Osuna but as it stands now, the return is underwhelming to say the least.

And despite what bloggers, radio hosts, TV presenters, and writers (who constantly boast that they root for stories, not for teams) will tell you, the Jays are a worse off baseball team after this trade, and will be for years to come.

So the rich get richer in Houston and the MLB, its fans, and its media members are all okay with that. So why did the Blue Jays have to move on from their franchise closer? Because there is a double standard in the MLB that favours the likes of World Series contending teams and shits on teams that are out of contention, or ya know are in Canada. It’s not a conspiracy theory either, just fact.

Take Aroldis Chapman for instance. The 100+mph closer for the New York Yankees had charges dropped after his wife failed to cooperate with law enforcement following Chapman’s arrest for discharging a fire arm eight times into a wall during a domestic dispute. Chapman served a 30 games suspension for his involvement in the incident despite the charges being dropped.

Chapman has pitched for the Cubs and Yankees since his suspension, two of the leagues most iconic franchises, with no problem. He wasn’t convicted, as Osuna hasn’t been, and has not been blackballed by the league for his involvement in an incident that deemed a 30-game suspension by the league. If we put this into Osuna terms there are two major groups – happy Houston fans for getting a legitimate elite closer, and pissed off Jays fans for having to lose their franchise closer due to the court of public opinion. Again, don’t let the twitter charlatans tell you other wise with their social justice pushing agendas.

The Astros now have an alleged woman beater in Roberto Osuna and a confirmed racist in Yuli Gurriel on their roster and are poised for another deep playoff run in hopes of repeating their World Series success – as I said before the rich get richer. Gurriel taunted Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish following a home run making a “slanted eye” gesture and yelling “chinito”, which means Chinese boy, (Darvish is Japanese and Iranian) at the pitcher from the dug out. Gurriel served a five game suspension and happily returned to life as a major league player… without having to switch teams.

As for Osuna he was recently followed around by a camera crew from SportsNet to recant his arduous journey to the major leagues. This documentary shed light on his life and his struggles with anxiety, an affliction that kept him out of the Jays line up for multiple games in 2017. Osuna was a likeable character at the start of this season and a guy a lot of people were cheering for. Now he has become the incarnation of evil, as twitter would have you believe, and needed to be moved regardless of return.

Above all, however Osuna is human and humans make mistakes – some less forgivable and more incriminating than others, but nonetheless what Osuna allegedly did was a mistake. He is currently paying the price for it, having his name dragged through the mud across social media, but if he helps the Astros win another World Series mark my works it will be a redemption story proudly presented to us by the same people who demanded he be traded – because of their integrity.

The Blue Jays integrity, something many have quoted as the reason for moving Osuna, has done a terrific job in getting a return for their closer. A return that includes a player who was suspended 80 games for PEDs, and another who was demoted to AAA this season for telling his manager to “fuck off” after he pulled him for blowing a 4-0 save.

Facts are facts and stats are stats – Ross Atkins has lied to the Blue Jays fans, and the team is worse off for it today and in the future. I thought these guys were supposed to be good at rebuilds?

*This blog is not in defence of Roberto Osuna or his actions, but rather a light being shed on the hypocrisy and double standard expressed by the MLB and MLB media members.