6ix Takes - March 30th
1. Giovinco Who?
Things were looking bleak this offseason after arguably the greatest player in MLS history left TFC. With a disappointing season behind them, Toronto’s only pro soccer team, once again, seems to be heading in the right direction. This Friday they kept their perfect season alive with a huge 4-0 victory over NYC FC in Alejandro Pozuelo’s TFC debut. The 27-year-old buried two goals and an assist, including an absolutely stunning chip from just inside the box that floated over the keeper with unexplainable elegance and grace. His performance prompted many, including myself and Stephen Caldwell to say “Giovinco who?”
2. Raptors growing more confident with Kawhi staying
A story from TSN’s Josh Lewenberg sparked hope in Toronto this week reporting that the Raptor’s organization is growing more and more confident in their ability to resign superstar small forward, Kawhi Leonard. They believe they know what Kawhi values and have what it takes to keep him around long term. Even outside of this story, there is a growing optimism around the league that the Raptors might actually be able to do what people thought was impossible not even five months ago. This is all chatter and realistically what are you supposed to say if you’re in that position? Kawhi does seem to be enjoying his time here and that’s important but he hasn’t made any comments about his future in Toronto past their (hopefully) deep playoff run. Some advice for Raps fan: keep that positive energy going and enjoy the time that he is here, it might not last forever.
3. JT Gunning for 50
On Monday night, John Tavares had his first career four-goal game against the Florida Panthers. This brings him to 45 goals through 77 games, giving him five games to try to hit the 50-goal mark for the first time in his career. He’s probably too far to take over Ovechkin for the league lead in goals but 50 would be quite the accomplishment for the $77 million man.
4. STARting Pitching
The Jays starters have impressed so far in this very young MLB season. They’ve pitched a combined 20 shutout innings, striking out 20 while allowing only seven total hits. Now, this can be taken with a grain of salt as their opponent isn’t the toughest competition in the league. Regardless, good pitching is a good sign as to what’s to come. I don’t know about you but my expectations were fairly low for this pitching staff; my mind hasn’t fully been changed but this home series has certainly given me a more positive outlook.
5. Different Brand of Baseball
I wrote about this in my five things to be excited for this Jays season and definitely expected a new style of play from this team. Because of the new manager and big roster changes over the past few years, the Jays game plan will be altered as well. After being top five in the league in HR’s for five of the past six seasons, they will probably slip out once again with a lack of power in their lineup. Yes, the long ball is the flashy way to do things but of the Jays first nine runs of the season, only two have come from the long ball. Out of 15 total hits, 11 are singles and we’ve already seen the first sacrifice bunt of the year following a season that only had five total. I’m sure some of this will change as guys bats get hot but look forward to more “small ball” coming from this team throughout the season.
6. Playoff Clinching
While the Raptors have already clinched their sixth straight trip to the playoffs the Leafs are still yet to mark their spot. Well, it’s been inevitable they had a spot it’s just been a matter of where it will end up. Their recent struggles have placed them well out of the race for the first or second spots in their division but their early season play has landed them securely ahead of any potential Wild Card team. They will likely clinch a playoff spot in their game against the Senators this Saturday making it three straight years for this young team. The question for this team, however, has never been whether or not they’re making the playoffs, it’s always been how far are they going to go?