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How David Kämpf’s defence is helping push the Leafs up the standings

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A lot of evaluating the Leafs this season has been trying to make the simple assessment “are they better than last season,” as they were plenty good last season too, yet apparently not good enough. GM Kyle Dubas by and large opted to pass on making any major shake-ups, quadrupling down on his core and instead tinkering at the roster’s fringes.

Through the first dozen games of the season, the Leafs looked about the same team they’ve been. A talented team that would win more than they’d lose but were still prone to periods of frustrating inconsistency. They lost to underdogs in the Sharks and Kings and Senators, but just when you were ready to count them out, they’d push back with solid performances against better teams. Those who’ve been following along have become familiar with the plot of that movie and how it’s ended.

As more games have piled up though, it’s becoming clear that David Kämpf is providing at least one tangible difference to what they’ve been in the past, and his play offers a glimpse of what might even be a “better” group than previous iterations. Last year’s Leafs were good defensively, but they didn’t have a true shutdown centre the way they do with Kämpf (to go along with the surprisingly well-rounded game of Ondrej Kase).

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Among regular players, no NHLer has been put on the ice for fewer offensive zone starts than Kämpf, who’s seen just 15 O-zone draws through 17 games, which is about 100 less than his teammate Mitch Marner. And even with that Kämpf is a positive when it comes to possession numbers, shots and shot attempts, expected goals and all the rest. Tuesday night with the Leafs up 2-0 in the dying minutes, Marner and Auston Matthews went over the boards with Kämpf to close the door. His reach and defensive conscience have made him an integral part of this forward group.

Kämpf’s Tuesday showing was the physical embodiment of what he can be, what the Leafs want him to be, and how their roster can shake out better than last season. He played 15 minutes, 12 of which was at even strength, where he saw zero O-zone starts, six D-zone starts, and had an expected goals number of 65 per cent. All that means is the Leafs generated more and better chances for than they did against while he handled tough defensive minutes.

Because what he does isn’t sexy, I wanted to actually go through Kämpf’s game to show people the little things he does that help the Leafs go from defence to offence. I wanted to show how he prioritizes D-side positioning, and why his natural bent towards defence allows his teammates to be better, offensively as well.

We’ll start light, in that he simply reads plays well. He’s coming back into D-zone coverage from the top of the faceoff circle closest to us here, watching the play unfold. His good read doesn’t allow Nashville possession of the puck in a dangerous part of the D-zone.

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The clip below is our longest, but best encapsulates the point being made. Kämpf is starting in a similar spot as the clip above, but he stops before chasing the play behind the net. Seeing the puck goes up high and that his D aren’t net-front, he defends that area, tying up the Predators’ forward. That pile stops a shot getting through, he helps the Leafs win the puck and gets skating the other way, and there he makes a good touch on the puck to Kase. From defence to offence, just like that.

Below Kämpf is first on the forecheck, but when the D cuts back he does what he almost always does — he backs up and gets on the defensive side of things, making sure he doesn’t get trapped low. When the puck gets pushed out into the neutral zone, he’s there a step before Nashville’s player, able to push the puck back from Toronto’s end, creating a chance the other way.

He’s at the top of the screen in the GIF below. Watch him notice that Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly is a step ahead of him, and immediately pull the parachute and pull back to cover for the D-man.

When he does get trapped below the goal line, he works like hell to get back. He starts in the bottom left here, but look at the pride he takes in getting back above the puck.

In this clip below he starts on the left side of the picture, and forechecks while staying above his guy. Then he pulls out and acts as F3 (out of the frame), surveying the Nashville breakout. Then he gets above the middle, snuffs anything dangerous out, and ends up taking the body as Nashville dumps the puck in.

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Those clips make the point, but watching his defensive positioning over a hockey game is seriously fascinating. Any offence he gets is because the way he plays defence moves the puck the other way, and sometimes the other team just flat-out makes mistakes. You can basically stop the frame at any point during one of his shifts and he’ll be on the right side of things defensively…

Again, and again…

And again…

And again…

And again…

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And again…

And again. He’s got a strong positional conscience.

Now, let’s not get it mistaken: he’s not a gifted offensive player, but a big part of that is he doesn’t seem to care to be, so much as he knows his role and plays it well. In Tuesday night’s game Kämpf had a 2-on-1 with Ondrej Kase where he hit the D-man in the shin pad at about knee height, and if it hadn’t hit the D, it might’ve hit Kase’s thigh. There are moments that leave you wanting there, as there are around the net where it’s not entirely clear if Kämpf’s able to raise the puck or not.

But he can handle it just fine, and he does get himself into good spots as you saw on the Leafs’ second goal last night. I wouldn’t be stunned if an 82-game season saw Kämpf score 10 by virtue of playing enough minutes with good players and his solid positioning leading to enough opportunities.

In the end though, the Leafs won’t care about all that. If he can handle tough assignments and get the puck going the right way, the Leafs will have an asset they didn’t possess in the post-season last year, which could free up some easier match-ups for their best players in home games. If you’re looking for ways the Leafs could be different this year than in those previous, a true shutdown third line centre would be at the top of the list.

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Three Stars from Day 3 of WJC: Canada’s McTavish joins elite company – Sportsnet.ca

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Canada and the U.S. dominated in their second game of the tournament while Czechia and Finland went toe-to-toe and needed a shootout to determine a winner on Day 3 of the World Junior Hockey Championship.

The Canadian team rebounded from a sluggish performance with an 11-1 win over Slovakia, a game in which captain Mason McTavish added his name to the country’s record books.

Against Switzerland, the United States took their game to another gear that their opponent could not match as they cruised to a 7-1 victory to improve to 2-0 at the tournament.

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Finland dropped a crucial point as they had to overcome a 2-0 deficit but were able to pick up the shootout win over their rival Czechia.

Here is a look at the top performances from Day 3 of the world juniors.

3rd Star: Luke Hughes, USA

Coming from a great hockey family, Luke Hughes is making most of his opportunity as one of the top defencemen for the U.S. 

The younger brother of Quinn and Jack displayed his mobility and vision against Switzerland with a three-point effort. He now has five points in his first two games of the tournament — more than either of his brothers ever achieved at this event in fewer games.

Hughes leads all defenceman in scoring so far in the tournament and is tied for fourth overall.

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The 18-year-old played 21:18 against the Swiss to lead the U.S. in ice time playing on the top pairing with Brock Faber. His play from this point will be a crucial part of his team’s success given the creativity he displayed, especially on Matt Coronato’s goal in the second period.

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He made another top-notch set up on Thomas Bordeleau’s power-play goal in the third period as he delayed enough to get the defenders to pull towards his side of the ice.

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2nd Star: Carter Mazur, USA

Coming into the tournament, Carter Mazur is looking to build off an impressive season at the University of Denver. 

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While he was in a scoring slump in his first NCAA season, the Detroit Red Wings prospect made a call to his NHL team’s assistant director of player development, Daniel Cleary. After that, he would go on to finish with 14 goals and 38 points in 41 games.

Those tips have now turned Mazur into a scoring machine as he accounted for two of the team’s seven goals and was also named the player of the game as the top line of Mazur, Landon Slaggert, and Thomas Bordeleau had an impressive performance against Switzerland

After a scoreless first period, Mazur wasn’t going to make any mistake on a point-blank chance in front of the net with Mackie Samoskevich making a great pass from behind the net.

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With the Americans looking to add to their lead, Mazur was once again the beneficiary of a great pass from Slaggert as he made no mistake from the front of the net.

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He added another assist on Slaggert’s goal later in the period for his third point of the game. Through his first two games at the world juniors, Mazur has four points and is tied for sixth in scoring.

1st Star: Mason McTavish, Canada

On a night where Canada dominated from start to finish, Mason McTavish joined some elite company with a night he’ll certainly remember for a long time.

The 19-year-old joined Mario Lemieux, Simon Gagné, Brayden Schenn, Taylor Raddysh, Maxime Comtois and teammate Connor Bedard as the only players to score four goals in a single world junior game for Canada. The tournament record for goals in a single game is held by Sweden’s Ola Rosander who had six back in 1987.

With his performance against Slovakia in a dominant win for Canada, McTavish now sits atop the scoring lead with eight points in two games after registering six points in this game.

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McTavish scored his first goal of the game on a breakaway — with Canada already leading 5-0 midway through the second — making no mistake to beat Tomas Bolo, who came into the game after starter Simon Latkoczy was pulled going into the second period.

His second goal came off a great play by Joshua Roy who flipped the puck in the air to Brennan Othmann who then set up McTavish as he finished with a backhander to put Canada up 7-1. McTavish would complete the second-period hat trick, a day after Alexander Blank did the same for Germany, after a selfless pass from Roy on a 2-on-0 break.

Canada would capitalize on a turnover on McTavish’s fourth goal as Othmann set him up alone in front of the net and he made no mistake.

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There was some doubt about whether McTavish would suit up for Canada after playing a fair amount of hockey last season. Making his NHL debut with the Anaheim Ducks, the third overall pick from the 2021 NHL Draft played in a total of 72 games between the NHL, AHL, OHL, Memorial Cup and the Olympics.

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Instead, McTavish decided to join the team in Edmonton and take on the role as captain where he has excelled centring Canada’s top line with Bedard and and a rotation of Roy and Othmann.

Canada will now look forward to a matchup against Czechia with a chance to improve to 3-0.

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Field of Dreams Game 2022: A celebration of baseball memories in an Iowa cornfield

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The Field of Dreams is an opportunity for fans and players alike to reflect on the people and places that taught them to love baseball, Jake Mintz writes.



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Ravens extend NFL record for consecutive postseason wins following Thursday’s victory over the Titans

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USA Today

The No. 21 is now synonymous with the longest winning streaks in NFL regular and preseason history. the 2003-04 Patriots won 21 consecutive games, an NFL record. On Thursday night, the Ravens won their 21st consecutive preseason game after securing a 23-10 decision against the Tennessee Titans

Baltimore has not lost a preseason game since 2016. Joe Flacco was their starting quarterback when the streak began, while Steve Smith Jr., who this past year was eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time, was heading into his final NFL season. Baltimore’s roster also included Terrell Suggs, who was entering his second-to-last season with the franchise. 

Along with not losing preseason games, another constant in Baltimore over the past six years has been kicker Justin Tucker, who is entering his 11th season with the Ravens. Tucker’s field goals of 47, 25 and 47 yards on Thursday night helped Baltimore pull out the win after falling behind midway through the second quarter. 

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The Ravens won Thursday’s game by winning the turnover margin while holding the Titans to 1 of 3 red zone efficiency. One of those turnovers was scooped up by Kyle Hamilton, the Ravens’ first-round pick in this past year’s draft. 

Baltimore won despite the efforts of Malik Willis, the Titans’ rookie quarterback who overcame a slow start to score his first NFL touchdown, a 7-yard run early in the second quarter. Speaking of quarterbacks, the Ravens received a strong night from Tyler Huntley, who completed all but two of his 18 pass attempts that included his game-winning touchdown pass to Shemar Bridges



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