Posts Tagged ‘Expectations’

Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander is about to suit up for his fourth career Game 7, and he’s learned a couple lessons along the way.

“I think we came out a little flat in those games – like we were a little bit scared to lose,” Nylander said of Toronto’s previous Game 7 struggles, according to ESPN’s Kristen Shilton. “We don’t need to be scared to lose. We’ve got a great team.”

Toronto hasn’t closed out a series in a Game 7 since 2004, against the Ottawa Senators. The Maple Leafs have an all-time record of 12-13 in Game 7 and were outscored 15-6 in their last three (Montreal Canadiens in 2021, Boston Bruins in 2018 and 2019).

Heading into Saturday’s Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, head coach Sheldon Keefe is staying calm under pressure.

“This is as confident as I’ve been coaching this team,” Keefe said.

He added, “It’s because of how we’ve played in this series. … The confidence has grown through the series. The players are going to be relaxed and play with energy. We’re going to give ourselves every opportunity to win the game.”

Keefe is in his third season as head coach of the Maple Leafs. He boasts a regular-season record of 116-50-19 but hasn’t helped his team break out of the first round.

Toronto will face a tall task while trying to eliminate a talented Lightning team chasing its third consecutive Stanley Cup.

“We’re standing here on the cusp of greatness, and why the hell wouldn’t we charge through that door? Let’s go get this. Let’s go attack this,” Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said, per team beat writer Gabby Shirley. “If fear is the motivator, then so be it – but I don’t want there being any excuse if it doesn’t go well for us tonight.”

Game 7 kicks off at 7 p.m. ET.

Edmonton Oilers superstar Leon Draisaitl likes the way his club is rounding into shape as the Stanley Cup Playoffs approach.

“We know when we play our game, and we stick to what we’re good at, we’re a really hard team to beat,” Draisaitl said Tuesday. “We obviously have a lot of offense, but if we stick to the way we want to compete defensively and stick to our details … I wouldn’t want to play us in the first round or in the playoffs in general.”

He added: “It is important, with that being said, that we do stick to our details and take pride in doing the little things right.”

The Oilers have been one of the league’s top teams since Jay Woodcroft replaced Dave Tippett as head coach on Feb. 10. Since the switch, Edmonton sits third in the NHL with 41 points across 29 games, and have seen improvements in many five-on-five metrics over that span:

STATISTICTOTAL (LEAGUE RANK)
GF%56.72% (7th)
CF%53.88% (7th)
xGF%53.91% (8th)
SF%53.64% (7th)
SV%.920 (12th)

(Analytics source: Evolving-Hockey)

The turnaround under Woodcroft has helped the Oilers’ playoff odds jump from a coin flip to a near certainty. With 90 points and nine games remaining, Edmonton holds a 98.3% chance to qualify for the postseason entering Tuesday’s clash with the Minnesota Wild, according to MoneyPuck.

The Oilers also have a strong chance to secure home-ice advantage in the first round, currently holding a four-point cushion on the Los Angeles Kings for second place in the Pacific Division with a game in hand.

Draisaitl, as expected, has played a central role in the Oilers’ surge. The 2020 MVP is up to 101 points this season, and has 17 goals and 20 assists since the coaching change.

Some believe the Detroit Lions will kickstart their rebuild by taking a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

However, the Lions might be taking a different approach as head coach Dan Campbell said Wednesday that he doesn’t buy into the philosophy that having an elite signal-caller is the only path to winning in the NFL.

“No, I don’t think you need that,” Campbell said, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “I think that those guys like that are obviously, they’re special. And they certainly can give you a better chance. But no, I don’t believe you have to have one of those guys to have sustained success.”

With Jared Goff in place as a bridge starter for at least 2022 and Campbell entering his second year in charge, Detroit would usually be in a prime position to take a quarterback with the first of its two first-round picks.

But this year’s class of quarterbacks is widely seen as lacking any franchise-caliber prospects. Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, and Desmond Ridder are all expected to be taken in the first round, but few see them as worthy of a top-three selection.

Detroit’s roster still severely lacks talent, and Campbell wants to take a player at No. 2 that can make an immediate impact.

“That’s really what you’re trying to acquire, a guy that you can feel like can come in, and he’s going to be able to have solid production for you,” Campbell said. “We need to feel like, all right, this guy comes in, it may take just a little bit, but you’d like to believe by the time you hit your first game that this player’s starting for you and is going to be able to produce. And then be able to grow every year a little bit here.”

The NFC North club selected Georgia pass-rusher Travon Walker in theScore’s latest mock draft.

WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon made some interesting comments about family during today’s appearance on The Pat McAfee Show.

Pat McAfee brought up the TV show “Succession” about a wealthy family who owns a media/entertainment company, and mentioned how people speculate that the show is like what goes on behind-the-scenes at WWE. McAfee asked Vince at what point was the future of WWE brought to him, and was he upset with this conversation because this could mean WWE is no longer his, if someone else were to take over.

McAfee noted that this is a big topic conversation outside of WWE, and he asked Vince if he ever thinks about family or someone else taking over.

McMahon responded and said he does not think about it. He also made interesting comments on what he’s expected from his family members over the years, and how if one person isn’t working out, then they shouldn’t be involved with the company.

“No, I don’t think about it a lot,” Vince said. “Hopefully, if you, if you built something, you want it to continue on, you know, and prosper and grow. Whether that’s with a family member or without a family member. Because my view, this business is, is best for everybody, whether you’re a part of it or you’re not a part of it, and you have to treat it as such.

“You have to be objective, you know, and look at family members or whoever it is just as you would other employees. And quite frankly, I’ve probably expected more, you know out of my family members, which is probably not the right thing to say. But nonetheless, it’s like, you have to do the right thing for the business. So if this person is not working out, then they shouldn’t be a part of the company.”

McAfee predicted Vince’s comments on expecting more from his family members is going to be a big deal online, but Vince didn’t react.

There’s a reason Joe Burrow wasn’t as excited as Cincinnati Bengals fans expected following the team’s first playoff win in 31 years Saturday: the quarterback believes postseason success will be Cincy’s new standard moving forward.

“The fans were very excited, but I tried to downplay it and all that because this is how it’s gonna be from here on out,” Burrow said Tuesday, according to Local 12. “It was a great win for us. But now this is the standard for the bare minimum every year going forward.”

The Bengals edged the Las Vegas Raiders at home Saturday, clinching their first postseason victory since the 1990 season. Burrow went viral during his postgame press conference, saying “it felt good” to break the 31-year drought.

The 25-year-old was Cincinnati’s first overall pick last year, but his rookie campaign ended prematurely after he suffered a torn ACL in Week 11.

“I thought (snapping the playoff win drought) would happen last year, but unfortunately I got hurt,” Burrow said. “We weren’t super good last year. This year this is the expectation.”

Big games aren’t new to Burrow, who also led LSU to an undefeated campaign and the national title in January 2020 before turning pro.

The Bengals, who went 4-11-1 and finished last in the AFC North in 2020, went from worst to first this season, winning the division with a 10-7 record.

Burrow led the NFL in completion percentage (70.4) and yards per pass attempt (8.9) while tossing 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns against 11 interceptions through 16 appearances.

Cincinnati will try to clinch a spot in the AFC title game on the road against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday.

The Milwaukee Bucks are one win away from capturing the franchise’s first NBA title in 50 years, but Giannis Antetokounmpo is attempting to stay even-keeled leading up to the biggest game of his career.

“It’s hard not to get ahead of yourself. But this is the time that you got to be the most disciplined,” Antetokounmpo acknowledged Monday, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “That’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m going to try to be as disciplined as possible. Don’t get too excited. Don’t get too pumped up for the game. None of that.”

Antetokounmpo’s brilliant play has helped Milwaukee rattle off three consecutive wins and battle back from an 0-2 series deficit to the Phoenix Suns. The two-time MVP is averaging 32.2 points, 13 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks through the five contests. Antetokounmpo has also delivered a pair of series-altering plays, with a clutch block in Game 4 followed by an alley-oop slam to seal Game 5.

While momentum may currently favor the Bucks, Antetokounmpo knows the job is far from finished and that his squad must continue to remain calm and collected the way it has all postseason.

“As a team, I feel like throughout the year we didn’t get too high, we didn’t get too low. We kept focusing, building good habits,” he said. “I think it comes from, as I said, Coach (Mike Budenholzer), Khris (Middleton), Jrue (Holiday), me, to have that mentality. And then you pass down to the whole team. So we did a really good job.

“Now, is it going to end up well in the championship? Who knows. But no matter how it ends up, I’m really proud of this team. Really proud of all the work we have put in.”

The Bucks host Game 6 on Tuesday night. Milwaukee will have plenty of supporters on hand for the potential close-out game, as the team announced 65,000 fans will be permitted to watch from the Deer District outside Fiserv Forum.

Nine-year NFL veteran Mike Remmers will play left tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, but his name doesn’t mean much to Tampa Bay Buccaneers edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul.

“I didn’t even know who that was,” Pierre-Paul told reporters Monday, according to Nick Shook of NFL.com. “Man, I’m not going to lie to you. Is this a tackle that you’re talking about? Like I said, I don’t care too much about it. They got to figure that out. I’m going to play some great football this weekend.”

Remmers started at right tackle for the Chiefs with Mitchell Schwartz sidelined by a back injury down the stretch. The 31-year-old will slide over to the left side for the Super Bowl after Eric Fisher suffered an Achilles injury in the AFC title game.

The Chiefs are also expected to deploy right guard Andrew Wylie at right tackle and insert Stefen Wisniewski at right guard. Pierre-Paul showed little compassion for the defending champions while they deal with their injury bug.

“I don’t care, it don’t matter. This is the freaking Super Bowl,” he said. “I don’t care if they have three offensive linemen, they send two to block me, three to block me. I’m going to do what I need to do. Us boys going to do what we need to do. That’s a you problem. They gotta figure that out. I’m coming to play a football game. Not just any football game, but Super Bowl LV.

“I ain’t got time to play games. The only game I’m playing is football. … I don’t care about their offensive linemen. I don’t care.”

Pierre-Paul had 9.5 sacks in the regular season to earn his first Pro Bowl selection since 2012, and he has two through the Buccaneers’ three playoff contests.

The 32-year-old is set to play in his second career Super Bowl. He posted two tackles, a quarterback hit, and two pass breakups in Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, helping the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots.

The Cincinnati Reds are going to the postseason for the first time since 2013 after securing a berth Friday, and Joey Votto thinks that’s trouble for opposing teams.

Votto is the last surviving member of the ’13 club that lost the National League wild-card game to the Pittsburgh Pirates. That Reds team finished 18 games above .500 over a full season, but the first baseman believes this year’s squad is superior.

“We’re better,” Votto said, according to Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “We’re good and we’re better. I like this team much more than I liked those (playoff) teams, and I really liked those teams. I think we’re a f—— nightmare, and I think everybody knows that. I can’t wait.”

The Reds entered September a season-worst six games under .500 and appeared set to miss the playoffs again following significant investment over the offseason, which included the signings of Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas.

Instead, Cincinnati went 14-8 in September, won eight of its last 10, and hasn’t lost a series in more than two weeks.

“This is a big step for us because a lot of people doubted us, man,” reliever Amir Garrett said. “It was time for us. We were talking the talk, and now it’s time for us to walk the walk. Now that we’re in, it’s time to go, man. I truly believe that we have a legitimate shot at this because our team is scary.”

The Reds currently own the NL’s first wild-card spot, which, as it stands, would match them up against the Atlanta Braves in a best-of-three series. With two games against the Minnesota Twins left on their regular-season slate, Cincinnati has a chance to improve its playoff position.

Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki may find himself in a different jersey during the 2020-21 season for the first time in his career.

“As of right now, we feel it’s highly likely that we’ll be testing the waters of free agency for the first time in Mark’s career,” his agent, Steve Bartlett, said, according to The Athletic’s Hailey Salvian.

“I feel there’s a lot to Mark that makes sense for a number of teams.”

Bartlett went on to confirm that it isn’t a matter of the Senators undervaluing Borowiecki’s place with the team, but rather that it’s just about his client exploring what free agency has to offer.

The 31-year-old has quickly turned into a fan favorite in Ottawa since the Senators drafted him in 2008. He posted a career-high seven goals and 18 points in just 53 games during the 2019-20 season.

Back in February, general manager Pierre Dorion claimed that he hoped that he could make Borowiecki a Senator for life, according to TSN 1200.

LeBron James and his teammates know they are playing for a lot more than themselves as members of one of the most storied franchises in sports history. When they take the floor, today’s players carry on the tradition of all former Los Angeles Lakers.

And in the year of his passing, no former Lakers’ memory is more central to the team’s ongoing playoff run than franchise icon Kobe Bryant.

“At the end of the day, we just hope we make him and his family proud, and that’s just all it’s about,” James said immediately after Tuesday’s 112-102 win that lifted the purple-and-gold to a 2-1 series lead against the Houston Rockets.

“And anybody that’s ever stepped foot and put on a Lakers jersey, we hope we make them proud as well, from Kobe all the way down to everybody that’s ever played in Los Angeles or been a part of the Los Angeles Lakers organization. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

This year’s delayed postseason is the first for the 35-year-old James since joining the Lakers in 2018. By comparison, Bryant made 15 postseason runs with the team, resulting in a 5-2 series record in trips to the NBA Finals.

A championship for this year’s Lakers would be the franchise’s 17th overall and first since Bryant led the team to victory over the rival Boston Celtics in 2010. Regardless of whether James navigates this year’s condensed playoff schedule and tough opposition in Orlando to bring back another Larry O’Brien Trophy or not, he hopes to carry on the Lakers’ legacy.

“It’s a tradition here, and it’s our responsibility – win, lose, or draw – to uphold that with the utmost responsibility and utmost respect,” he added. “And that’s what (late former team owner) Dr. (Jerry) Buss would want as well.”