13, 2014.Down 4-0, the Canadiens upped the pressure late in the third. He had an assist on Montreal’s second goal.This was the first game of a back-to-back for Montreal. Winger Sven Andrighetto started in his place.Michael McCarron made his season debut for the Canadiens. Carey Price, who is still looking for his 250th NHL win, was pulled in the second period after conceding four goals on 18 shots. Flynn ended Jones’ shutout bid with 9:32 remaining in the period before Petry scored his fifth of the season with 6:12 left on the clock.Andrew Shaw was out of the lineup with concussion-like symptoms. The San Jose Sharks got goals from four different players as they beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 on Friday night to extend their winning streak to four games.David Schlemko, Patrick Marleau, Timo Meier and Melker Karlsson scored for the visiting Sharks (19-11-1). Michel Therrien’s men were on three days rest after Monday’s overtime loss to the Bruins.Montreal got into penalty trouble early on and it cost them. Goalie Martin Jones made 26 saves.Brian Flynn and Jeff Petry scored in the third period for the Habs (19-7-4). Montreal has only beaten San Jose once in the last six years (1-7-1).Despite being pulled, Price was hardly to blame as the Habs looked sloppy from the get-go. Shaw took an elbow to the head from Boston’s Torey Krug in Monday’s overtime loss to the Bruins. The home side took three minor penalties in the game’s first eight minutes and San Jose scored on two of them.With Paul Byron in the box for hooking, Schlemko got the ball rolling with his first goal of the year, beating a screened Price top shelf with a wrister from the half wall.With the Sharks on another power play two minutes later, Marleau made it 2-0 from the slot after blown coverage by Alexei Emelin.Still in the first period, the 20-year-old Meier, making his NHL debut, added San Jose’s third at 13:18.The Sharks chased Price from the game at 6:44 of the second after Karlsson made it 4-0 by batting a bouncing puck into the roof of the net.It was the first time Price was pulled from a game (not due to injury) since Oct. Al Montoya made five saves in relief.Losing 4-0 in the third, the Canadiens made a game of it but ran out of time. The team travels to Washington face the Capitals on Saturday.
Heading into Friday night, Raptors coach Dwane Casey had instructed his players to forget about that lopsided victory.The Hawks clearly didn’t.With Paul Millsap back in the lineup – he’d sat out the previous meeting – Atlanta raced out to a 19-point lead in the first half, and took a 95-82 advantage into the fourth quarter.Lowry looked intent on single-handedly dragging the Raptors back into the game, and his three-pointer with just under five minutes to play pulled Toronto to within nine points. Dwight Howard had 27 points as the Atlanta Hawks exacted revenge on the Toronto Raptors with a 125-121 victory on Friday.DeMar DeRozan had 34 points to lead the Raptors (18-8), who lost for just the second time in 12 games and first in five outings.Kyle Lowry added 27 points, while Cory Joseph had 17, Jonas Valanciunas had 11, and Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson finished with 10 apiece. Atlanta led 69-52 at halftime.DeRozan led the way with 13 points in the third quarter as Toronto pulled to within five points, but the Hawks ended the quarter with a 12-4 run.The Raptors are in Orlando on Sunday to face the Magic, return home to host the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, then depart for a six-game road trip. The Raptors had humiliated the Hawks two weeks earlier in a 128-84 rout, the largest margin of victory – 44 points – in franchise history. A Ross three-pointer, a dunk by DeRozan with 3:47 on the clock, and suddenly it was just a six-point deficit.A handful of defensive errors by the Raptors proved costly, as easy baskets by Millsap and Dennis Schroder put the Hawks up by eight with 1:22 on the clock.A dunk by Valanciunas and a pair of baskets by DeRozan pulled Toronto to within three points with 11 seconds left, but Schroder sealed the deal for Atlanta with a free throw, much to the dismay of the capacity Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,800.Lowry tossed up a three-point attempt as the clock ticked down, the ball bounced unceremoniously off the rim as the buzzer sounded.It was only the Hawks’ fourth win against Toronto in their last 12 meetings.The Raptors, who were coming off a 123-114 victory two nights earlier in Philadelphia, remained within a couple of points in a back-and-forth first quarter, but the Hawks hit two baskets in the final minute, to stretch their lead to 35-27 to end the frame.A pair of Ross free throws cut the Hawks lead to just four points with 5:47 left in the first half, but a three by Kent Bazemore capped a 23-8 Atlanta run that had the Hawks up by 19 points.
That’s why Travis Kelce is the Chiefs’ No. Washington’s emergency long snapper is backup quarterback Colt McCoy. They’re much slicker.“I don’t know why they do that, but it was real waxy,” Celek said.The Eagles signed Rick Lovato to replace Dorenbos, who had played in 162 straight games since 2006. “He’s obviously really good at what he does.”Celek’s only snap on a 50-yard field goal try was low and Jones couldn’t handle it. “That’s a doomsday scenario, for sure.”NFL teams didn’t always dedicate a roster spot to a player who was only a long snapper. But when I went out to do it, I was good at it. Ngata’s snap on an extra point was successful. Neither Celek nor Burton knew that kicking balls aren’t the same as game balls. He doesn’t fit the profile for the position, but McCoy volunteered for the job in the summer.“I told them I could do it, which was a lie,” McCoy said. “I’ve never done it before. That was one of the first things he taught us because it’s definitely got a lot value. His son, Jake Matthews, is Atlanta’s starting left tackle and backup long snapper behind Josh Harris.“I’ve been doing it since like peewee,” Jake Matthews said. They used guys who also played other positions. Long snappers are the most overlooked starters in the NFL until they mess up or get hurt.The Philadelphia Eagles were down to the No. It can take you a long way.”That’s why Kendricks started practising on his own earlier this season with the Eagles after his playing time on defence was reduced.“The more you can do, the longer you can stay in the league,” Kendricks said.The role has become so specialized that each team has a player who serves only as a long snapper. “My dad did it forever in the league. Burton’s snap sailed high, punter Donnie Jones reached up to make the catch and put it down in time for Caleb Sturgis to stutter-step and kick a 41-yard field goal that gave the Eagles a short-lived lead.“Donnie made an unbelievable play,” Burton said. I was serviceable. 3 guy on their depth chart after Jon Dorenbos broke his wrist and backup Brent Celek suffered a stinger in a 27-22 loss to Washington last Sunday.Things got comical at that point. But snapping the ball on punts and kicks is a different, tougher task. I’ve gotten a lot better ever since, and if they need me, I’ll step in and do it.”McCoy also is the backup punter and holder.“We tried everybody who had shoulder pads – everybody who was dressed,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. 2 guy on punts and fullback Anthony Sherman is the backup on kicks.“The idea behind using both guys is that it’s so hard to be a snapper, to do a long snap and then shift to a short snap so I just wanted Kelce to focus on long snapping and then Sherman is another guy that we can use in a short snapping situation,” Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub said.Long snappers have to fire spirals to a punter standing 15 yards away and to a holder 7 or 8 yards deep. The Denver Broncos even have two long snappers on their roster because Casey Kreiter strained a calf a month ago so they signed veteran Thomas Gafford. Defensive end Bryan Braman also attempted a few snaps.But versatile tight end Trey Burton got the call in a clutch spot in the fourth quarter. They may even use kicking balls.“I haven’t done it since training camp,” Burton said.Lovato played two games for the Redskins last month after Nick Sundberg was injured. Not much of a blocker, but he’s pretty good.”The Ravens once turned to star defensive tackle Haloti Ngata after Morgan Cox tore his right ACL in a game in 2014. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks decided to try out for the job on the sideline. But Boyer wouldn’t reveal what the team would do in an emergency now.“It’s a scary deal if you’re in our position,” said Boyer, who played with Eagles special teams coach Dave Fipp in college at Arizona. Jason Taylor, the six-time Pro Bowl defensive end, was Purdum’s backup that year. Celek and Burton now plan to snap a little more in practice. “He’s pretty good actually. The Associated Press His brother, Jason Kelce, is Philadelphia’s starting centre. Baltimore almost used running back Willis McGahee when Cox tore his left ACL in a game in 2010, but Cox finished the game out.Most teams have more traditional backups – linemen, tight ends, linebackers.Travis Kelce, a 2015 Pro Bowl tight end, is one of Kansas City’s backups. Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews was a long snapper throughout his career for Houston/Tennessee. It requires speed and perfect placement because timing is crucial for kickers.“Those guys are specialists for a reason and they’re so good and you don’t realize how bad you’re going to miss them until something like that happens,” Jets special teams co-ordinator Brant Boyer said.Tanner Purdum has been New York’s long snapper since 2010.
Louis and Brad Richards to rely on for offence, Columbus is being led offensively by Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno and Alexander Wennberg – good players, but hardly household names. He checked all the boxes.”Tortorella replaced Todd Richards seven games into last season and posted a 34-33-8 mark – not bad considering injuries limited goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to 37 games. The team that finished last in the Metropolitan Division a year ago with 76 points – leaguewide only Edmonton and Vancouver had fewer – has rebounded in a big way.“He had a lot of work to do with us,” said Blue Jackets defenceman Jack Johnson. John Tortorella is the odds-on favourite to win the NHL coach of the year honours, which may surprise some people, but not John Davidson, who never lost faith. Louis, then with Columbus, and in both cases helped to oversee turnarounds in organizations with massive credibility issues. It’s happened quickly here.” His passion and confidence trickle down into all of us.”Tortorella won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year in 2004 and is currently two victories shy of 500 for his career. Davidson trusted him – and more importantly, he trusted that Tortorella would not go off the deep end the way he had in previous NHL stops with the Rangers and the Canucks, which eventually created irreconcilable differences with the management and ownership of those teams.Davidson remembered how Tortorella led the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup championship and how he got the Rangers to block shots so consistently. Unlike that Lightning team, which also had the enormously talented trio of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. “But we wanted someone that’s won, someone with a passion for the game and someone who wanted to prove he could still do it. This year, Bobrovsky already has more wins (17) than he had all of last year and is doing for Columbus what Nikolai Khabibulin did for Tortorella in Tampa. Louis, Doug Armstrong really pushed for Ken Hitchcock. But Tortorella has cobbled a young, disparate group together and turned them into a cohesive unit. When Tortorella was fired by Vancouver in 2014, one year into a five-year contract, there was some conjecture he might never coach again. We’ve had a pretty good start here, but that means nothing. The fact that he did get back in had a lot to do with a long-standing relationship with Davidson that dates back almost 20 years to when Tortorella was a New York Rangers assistant coach and Davidson worked for the Madison Square Garden Co. “Not just getting us to play the way he wants us to play, but to get the mentality of the team turned around, so you’re going out to play with the mentality that you’re expecting to win rather than hoping to win. “We did extensive research and talked to the really good players and people he’d coached with – and there were zero negatives. Davidson is the Columbus Blue Jackets’ president of hockey operations and currently oversees the NHL’s most unexpected early-season success story. Those things don’t happen overnight.“There’s an old saying: The speed of the ship is the speed of the captain. “When we were in St. He’s done a nice job there, but there was risk. But Davidson tested the limits of his own credibility by going to bat for Tortorella. So we’re always trying to test each other mentally.”Things have fallen nicely into place now, but did Davidson ever see any risk in the hire, which was controversial at the time?“There’s always risk in everything you do,” he replied. He describes himself as a more patient coach this time around and says that last year he was able to figure out who’s who on the Blue Jackets and that, at the same time, the players were able to figure him out.“I think we’re much more comfortable with one another,” he said. I give Doug credit for that.“With us, as an organization – and through no fault of Todd Richards – we needed to change the culture. as a television colour commentator.Davidson eventually got into the hockey business, first with St. The Blue Jackets entered Friday’s game with the Calgary Flames with the fewest regulation losses in the league (five) and boast a winning percentage of better than .700, both at home and on the road. I knew the man, which is different than the perception of him that’s out there.”Davidson paused here.“Now, he’s earned the perception – and we talked extensively about that too,” he said. And he understood why so polarizing a figure had also earned the most NHL victories of any U.S.-born coach.“John really wanted to coach again – he wanted one more kick at it,” said Davidson. A group that has simply gone along and played and said, ‘This is okay’ – that’s how you end up in 27th. “I’m not so sure if it’s about roles. We have to be better, because other teams are going to get better as we go through here.“A young group has to understand that. You have to raise the standard if you want to compete in this league. It’s just about a standard of play for the team – individually, but as a team too.
From that point on, he was an exemplar of consistency without the benefit of any particular inspiration. Both are relentless pluggers. That says more about tennis than the man. He was seventh in the world in July. The thumbnail of Weir’s career is “Masters champion – was otherwise pretty good.” Leave out the first part and all that’s left to show for a quarter-century of effort is an enormous pile of money.If Weir were given a sporting Sophie’s Choice – you can keep either the Masters title or the cash – I’m going to confidently guess which thing means more to him.Raonic is a higher-profile athlete than Weir ever was, both here and abroad. Few thought Raonic was among them.At the least, where are the hosannas about the transubstantiation of Canadian tennis from a mild embarrassment into a national point of pride? He finished the year ranked No. Raonic did win one tournament in 2016 – the Brisbane International, back in January. (By contrast, Jim Furyk, a player of similar quality born on the same day as Weir, won 17.)Weir was a top-10 player for parts of five consecutive years in the teeth of the Tiger Woods/Phil Mickelson heyday.That’s truly something, but it wouldn’t matter much if it hadn’t been for one glorious weekend in 2003. His high-water mark was the finals of Wimbledon – a first for a Canadian man.For just a little while there, after he’d beaten Roger Federer in the semis, it seemed like this was the aspirational moment Raonic and Canada had been waiting years for. Jeered by champagne-swilling toffs on the biggest day of his life – one assumes this was not how he imagined it going down.After Wimbledon, Raonic continued his trudge up the rankings. Neither dominated over long stretches.In 25 years as a pro, Weir won eight PGA tournaments. He was fourth by October. Milos Raonic made the final five in balloting, but amounted to a human rounding error.As one booster put it, “Let me make the case for a guy who had an incredible year – and didn’t win a damn thing.”That was a small exaggeration for effect. By this time next year, 19-year-old Brooke Henderson may have overtaken him. No Canadian men’s golfer has yet matched his feats, but they’re in the discussion. It won’t last.That makes things simple. He got there by virtue of persistence rather than brilliance, but still.Judged in relation to history, what Raonic has done this year is rather like climbing Everest with your ankles zip-tied together. 3. These days, he has more profile as a vintner than a golfer.The thing keeping Weir’s head above the waterline of anonymity is that Masters. But until Raonic finds his way to a major title, it all feels pencilled in. In the midst of its golden age, Canadian tennis is failing the Glengarry Glen Ross rule of ABCs – Always Be Closing. They gave out the Lou Marsh Trophy for Canada’s best athlete this week. That’s holistic success.Raonic has already managed the same trick, with teenage players such as Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime coming up fast from behind. Then a permanently injured, bottom-end one. It guarantees he will never be forgotten, in golf or in Canada.Milos Raonic has already accomplished a great deal – far more than Weir had pre-2003. Raonic has several good years left to play – and only one good reason to play them. Going into the Lou Marsh discussions, everyone agreed it had been such a boffo year for Canadian sport that any one of four competitors might win. But were he to retire tomorrow, Raonic would be forgotten internationally in a month and back home in a couple of years.Weir’s career returned to regularly scheduled service immediately after winning the most major major. Never a star, he became a top-end journeyman. They thought their countryman was taking the piss. There are none.Eugenie Bouchard used up all that good will a couple of years ago. Polite Canadians – yes, har har, good one.Unnerved, Murray blurted out, “No, it’s true.”The camera helpfully panned to Raonic, who stared straight ahead with a pained look of indifference. Both have genial, retiring personalities and are easily missed in a crowd. But his career will have amounted to a long and lucrative disappointment. Then he was rudely shoved aside by Andy Murray, both during and after the championship match.At the Centre Court trophy presentation, the highest praise Murray could find for Raonic was noting “he’s made big improvements.” (This rather made it sound as if a Grand-Slam finalist should be happy with a participant’s ribbon.)Sensing he’d gone down the wrong rhetorical path, Murray began feebly name-checking the Canadian’s support team, calling them “very, very polite and well-mannered.”The largely British crowd laughed. The Big Four era isn’t anywhere close to what it was, but the Big Four are still (intermittently) playing. Other nations win major titles and get the Cadillac car. It didn’t end well. Raonic has cracked that club down the middle over the course of an entire season.And yet, where’s the ovation? But if he continues on as he has – as remarkable as that run has been – he’s in danger of being relegated to the special hell reserved for athletes in individual sports who were always good and never great.What Raonic faces in 2017 might be called the Mike Weir Test.Weir did for Canadian golf what Raonic is doing for Canadian men’s tennis – make a global sport relevant as a homer concern.Weir’s career had a salutary knock-on effect, cutting a trail for those who followed. But when they eventually manage to leapfrog the top man, Raonic will not get the same consideration.Because Weir did what Raonic has not: win the big one.Though gifted in very different ways, Weir and Raonic are essentially the same athlete. Canada gets the steak knives.Raonic is 25 years old and at the peak of his powers. Everything is reduced to two weeks, four times per year.If he doesn’t win a Grand Slam, he will still be the greatest Canadian player of all time.
Most of the voters for the Lou Marsh Trophy probably won’t agree, since they declined to select him as Canada’s athlete of the year, but a lot of people who know a thing or two about hockey think that at the very least Sidney Crosby is still the best player in the game.“That’s a mantle you earn over time,” Wayne Gretzky told ESPN.com. He actually ranked him third behind McDavid and Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. A few months later, Crosby was again the best player and the driving force in an even greater collection of talent, leading Canada to the World Cup of Hockey title.Prior to the Penguins’ game Friday night against the Los Angeles Kings, Crosby had 21 goals and 12 assists in 24 games, six points behind McDavid. It’s going to be the group of six.” Only the coach did not say Crosby. In the last calendar year, he was far and away the best player on the Penguins and, despite the presence of such offensive talents as Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang, was still acknowledged as the one who carried the team to the 2016 Stanley Cup. Only three players have scored 60 or more goals in the past 20 years – Mario Lemieux with 69 in 1995-96, Alexander Ovechkin (65) in 2007-08 and Steven Stamkos (60) in 2011-12.Analytics people will say Crosby’s current pace is unsustainable, but there are not many who would bet against him, especially his peers. Right now, Sidney deserves to be known as the best player in the game. He’s a fun player to watch.”ESPN.com asked 12 people around the NHL – Gretzky, nine players, a coach and a scout – to name the best player in the league. Until somebody takes that mantle away from him, he’s still going to hold the crown.”Crosby, who will lead the Pittsburgh Penguins into the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night to face the Toronto Maple Leafs, is the subject of the great player debate now for a couple of reasons: One, he is in one of the best stretches of his career despite missing six games early this season because of concussion concerns; and two, the heir apparent is really starting to assert himself.McDavid, who will turn 20 in four weeks, was leading the NHL in points before last night’s games with 39 in 32 games on 12 goals and 27 assists. Absolutely. The Penguins were also flying high, with seven consecutive wins.Crosby’s 21 goals in 24 games represents a pace for about 65 goals by the end of the season. “It’s one of those things where you earn that right to have that title – until somebody takes it away from you. I don’t know if we have any one guy who can do it. I think it’s going to be by committee. “You think you’ve seen it all until he pulls another trick out of the bag. It was not until McDavid arrived and hoisted the Oilers on his back that the team was able to harness its collection of young talent and rise to the lofty heights (for the Oilers, anyway) of third in the Pacific Division.To keep this argument as simple as possible, one can say Crosby, 29, has done better with better teams. He’s been the best player consistently in his career. We don’t always use him in that capacity but sometimes we do, and the reason we do is because he’s so capable.”Something that may slow down the Penguins is the loss of Letang, who leads their defencemen with 19 points in 25 games. “Is Connor [McDavid] a great player? Absolutely. “I think he’s as good a defensive centre as he is an offensive centre when we want to use him in that capacity. Does Connor have an opportunity to be the next Crosby? Then again, the coach declined to be identified.Speaking of coaches, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Crosby does not get enough credit for his defensive work, something McDavid is still learning.“I’ve said for a long time that his play away from the puck gets underrated,” Sullivan said. He apparently has a leg injury and is expected to miss about two weeks.While Justin Schultz may take over as the top offensive threat from the blue line and on the power play, Sullivan said replacing Letang will not be that simple.“He logs a lot of minutes,” the coach said. “Those aren’t easy minutes to replace. Like Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand, who enjoyed a run with five goals in 10 games at the World Cup thanks to having Crosby as his centre.“Some of the plays he makes, I think he surprises people every year, especially with the talent that he has,” Marchand told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week. He’s won Stanley Cups and he’s won gold medals.
“Whatever rivalry you can think of, magnify that, because that’s what it’s going to look like. Only Sweden has also finished among the top two at the Olympics, earning silver in 2006. Since losing a heartbreaker in Russia, the Americans have won seven of 10 closely contested games against Canada at five international events. “Women’s hockey has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go.”With a little more than a year to go before the 2018 Olympics, the games Saturday and Monday will provide a preview of the Pyeongchang Games because about half of the women who participated in the dramatic gold medal game in Sochi will be on the ice.The two teams never just show up and go through the motions when they’re on the ice together, either.“This rivalry transcends not just women’s hockey or women’s sports, but sports in general,” Carey said. … The heart, the passion, the grit that we play with, and that Canada plays with, it’s the best 60 minutes of hockey that you’ll see in women’s hockey.”Even though the stakes will be low for the national teams, the intensity is expected to be high as extremely competitive athletes hope to help their country win while doing enough to earn a spot on the team for the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation world championship – taking place in the same venue this spring – and the Olympics in 2018.And unlike NHL players, everyone knows the best female hockey players will be going for gold in South Korea in about 14 months. The two teams will meet again Monday night in Sarnia, Ont., wrapping up a home-and-home set of friendlies that will likely stoke the flames of an emotionally charged series. It’s a great opportunity to see where we’re at.”USA Hockey believes it is set up for continued success, including at the Olympics where it will desperately seek an elusive gold medal. The U.S. Canada and the U.S., though, are helmets and shoulder pads above the rest of the world.The Canadians have won four-straight Olympic golds, beating the Americans in three of those finals. The most an American or Canadian woman can make, in fledgling pro hockey leagues and with financial support from USA Hockey or Canada’s Athlete Assistance Program, is about $35,000 (U.S.).“All of us are making a sacrifice and we realize that,” said Anne Schleper, who plays defence for the Americans and for the Buffalo Beauts in the National Women’s Hockey League. This rivalry has been happening since the early 1990s and every game is a battle.“We’re determined to settle that in 2018, but you get a glimpse of that.” “It’s a great time of year for us to play them again in a way we haven’t in the past. With a deep and talented pool of players, USA Hockey invited 37 prospects to it training camp this week and a vast majority of them have already finished their college careers.“In 2010, we had nine or 10 post-grad players in our pool and now we have 24,” said Reagan Carey, general manager of the U.S. national team. The rest of the field has had to settle for bronze.Since the first IIHF women’s world championships in 1990, the Canadians and Americans have not allowed another country to advance to the finals. beat Canada earlier this year at the world championships, winning the eight-nation tournament for the third-straight time over Canada and sixth time in seven opportunities.“We take that seriously and it still hurts,” Canadian forward Haley Irwin acknowledged. “Expect blood, sweat and tears put into every shift, every period, until the last puck drops. “It’s women’s hockey at its finest,” said Megan Bozek, who plays defence for the U.S. beat Canada in 1998 when women’s ice hockey became an Olympic sport. Nearly 18 million people were watching on TV when the Canadian women’s hockey team rallied from a two-goal, third-period deficit to beat the United States 3-2 in overtime to win Olympic gold in 2014.A few thousand fans are expected to show up when the Canadians play the Americans at USA Hockey Arena in suburban Detroit on Saturday in the first Team USA Winter Champions Series, resuming one of the best rivalries on ice, and many more will be tuned in on NBCSN. “That’s a significant leap.”And it’s not a leap to say these women are truly doing it for the love of the game: None of them are, or will, get rich by playing hockey. The U.S.
“We’re finding each other more and more out there and really have a sense of where each other is at pretty much all the time.”Matthews nearly had his second of the game Thursday on a remarkable chance in overtime. 23, against New Jersey to break the 13-game drought.Few teenagers come into the league and score quite this easily.The last to produce at this pace at a similar age was Sidney Crosby, who tallied 39 goals as an 18-year-old rookie for Pittsburgh. Ihnacak was 25-years-old at the time.What Matthews is doing is more special than both given the significant decrease in scoring today compared with the wide-open game of the 1980s.“He’s just got a knack for the net,” teammate Nazem Kadri said. The attempt was ultimately denied by Smith.Matthews finished with four shots and six attempts in 19 minutes, 52 seconds.He’s now scored at least once in seven of the past 10 games, potting a pair on Nov. Laine, a teenager producing equally inspiring numbers for the Jets, has 17 goals and 25 points to 14 goals and 23 points for Matthews.Asked if he expected to produce this much right away, Matthews said: “I put a lot of expectations for myself. He’s physically ready to combat NHL talent that way and perhaps better seasoned than most first-year players following a campaign with men in the Swiss League.The Leafs are also ensuring that Matthews gets all kinds of offensive opportunities alongside fellow rookies William Nylander and Zach Hyman. “He’s going to do well for a long time.” “He’s getting those minutes to be able to succeed.”“I think every game myself, Hyman, Willie, continue to gel more and more,” Matthews said. The shot was fired with such speed that on-ice officials weren’t actually sure whether it found the back of the net.Matthews has scored 11 of his goals at even-strength, a mark that ties him for fifth in the NHL and puts him first among rookies. He got the puck at the top of the right faceoff circle and just rifled it past Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith. He ranks first on Toronto in offensive-zone start percentage (63 per cent). Auston Matthews couldn’t score for almost a month.For 13 games, from late October to late November, the Toronto Maple Leafs rookie fired 45 shots on goal and none found the back of the net. I feel I’m capable of doing a lot out there.”Kadri believes Matthews’s big six-foot-three, 216-pound frame has helped him step in right away and produce. Nylander floated him a pass as he was charging hard to the net and the American centre batting it out of mid-air. More opportunities to start in the offensive zone means more chances to score and indeed Matthews’s line has been the club’s most productive and dangerous all season long.“He’s getting the opportunity,” Kadri said, crediting Leafs coach Mike Babcock. “He’s got that offensive instinct and obviously he can cash in on the power play too which is basically how those high-production players get such high production. He’s also producing at a 65-point pace, which would threaten Peter Ihnacak’s record of 66 points in a rookie season. “It’s always fun to score goals,” Matthews said after the 3-2 shootout defeat Thursday night, the fourth-straight loss on home ice for the Leafs. The 19-year-old has ripped off eight goals in 10 games since then, including his team-leading 14th against the Arizona Coyotes, his favourite club as a kid growing up in Scottsdale, Ariz. Only Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine has scored more among first-year players than Matthews. Eric Lindros scored 41 goals in 61 games at the age of 19 in his first year for the Philadelphia Flyers, Jeff Skinner also managing 31 goals at 18-years-old for the Hurricanes.“Auston’s a heck of a player,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “It’s what I like to do.”Peter Holland scored the shootout winner for the Coyotes in his first game since being traded by the Maple Leafs last week.Matthews is on pace for 40 goals this season, which would eclipse Wendel Clark’s rookie record of 34 set during the 1985-86 season. He’s definitely got a knack for the net.”Only three of Matthews’s goals have actually come with the man advantage, including the one on Thursday night.