Matthews’ wicked shot, Marner’s bad PR team and Mikheyev’s love of soup
It’s been a fun first week of the NHL season and the Leafs have certainly been at the forefront of it all. John Tavares was named the 25th captain in team history ahead of their season opener against Ottawa last Wednesday, and after all the talk about naming Matthews or Rielly captain, the Leafs’ brass seemed to make the obvious choice.
Boy, have the Leafs been fun to watch on the ice. Auston Matthews is on fire once again, scoring five goals in his first three games, including a couple of absolute rockets — the one he scored in Columbus was so filthy that Ray Ferraro audibly moaned on the broadcast. When his shot is on, it’s undoubtedly the best in the league.
There’s been some surprising successes as well, specifically from the third line. Trevor Moore is a speedy workhorse who can usually out-skill other third liners, while Ilya Mikheyev has quickly became a fan favourite, after the Russian said to reporters that he can’t seem to figure out why Canadians don’t eat more soup. Now as a Seinfeld fan, I’m absolutely loving all these soup references and nicknames that are headed his way. “I gotta focus, I’m shifting into soup mode” should be a staple amongst Maple Leaf fan signs from here on out.
Tyson Barrie looks like a forward on the blue line, Rasmus Sandin looks great considering he’s just 19 and Mitch Marner has reminded Leafs fans why he makes the big bucks. He also reminded them to make sure you are thorough when hiring a PR team, as his latest attempt to win back the fans was just a cringey, awkward, Robert DeNiro-on-SNL type video where he says that Toronto was always where he wanted to be.
It’s been a tough couple games for Kasperi Kapanen, who is playing up on the Tavares/Marner line while Zach Hyman recovers from knee surgery. Kapanen has looked lost at times, hasn’t gotten into a good offensive rhythm and made a costly mistake Saturday night against Montreal when he threw his broken stick at Jeff Petry. Hopefully he can figure it out soon, because when Hyman returns it seems likely that he’ll be sent back to an already successful third line.
MLB Playoff Madness
Let’s pour one out for the Tampa Bay Rays and their fan, as MLB’s sweetheart team ran into the two-headed monster that is Justin Verlander and Gerritt Cole in the ALDS. It’s hard to fathom that both these guys finished first and second in virtually every major pitching category this year and that they’re both on the same team. I really like Tampa, they have an incredible pitching staff as well; Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell would usually give you the edge on the mound, but the Astros can throw these two guys out and essentially secure a win with just a couple runs.
Gerritt Cole hasn’t lost a game since May 22. In a best-of-five series, having two guys like that to win both games for you is nearly impossible to overcome. Astros are currently up 2-0 and look poised to advance.
Yet another team that baseball fans feel bad for: the Minnesota Twins. Everyone knows that it’s been tough to be a Minnesota sports fan, and although the Twins haven’t had playoff droughts like the Timberwolves, the Twins haven’t won a playoff game in their last 16 tries. The Yankees have clobbered them in the first two games and have a 2-0 series lead. Seems like we’ll have a rematch of the 2017 ALCS between the Yankees and Astros. While the Yankees bats are as potent as ever, I don’t see them getting past Verlander and Cole.
The National League side of the bracket has been far more interesting, with the Cardinals and Braves playing a crazy Game 1 that had all your favourite stories: lack of hustle, clutch home runs, blown leads, etc.
The Braves are currently up 2-1, and this series is looking like a fifth and final game will be needed. Canadian Mike Soroka was incredible Sunday night in his playoff debut, and with a murderer’s row of Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman and Josh Donaldson, the Braves seem to have more talent across the board. Yet somehow this Cardinals team finds a way to pull these wins out, although it seems like Carlos Martinez hasn’t clued in yet. The Cardinals wasted an absolute gem from Adam Wainwright after Martinez blew it yet again. St. Louis should be up in this series, but will instead have to win two in a row to advance.
Russell Martin! Huzzah! The former Blue Jay knocked in a huge two-out double on Sunday night to cash in two runs, which ultimately led to the Dodgers taking a 2-1 series lead over Washington. While Clayton Kershaw continues to do his best pre-2018 David Price impression, the Dodgers got a stellar start from Walker Buehler to help them take Game 1. Maybe Kershaw will continue Price’s weird journey from playoff bust to World Series hero. Who knows. For the Nats, Stephen Strasburg continues to build his terrific postseason resume while Bryce Harper watches at home in his bathtub full of cash. The Dodgers bats certainly look like they’re capable of winning a third straight N.L. pennant, problem is I don’t see anybody beating the ‘Stros.