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TORONTO — Justin Bieber is all over NHL All-Star Weekend, which is being held in Toronto near where the superstar singer grew up playing hockey.

His fashion brand, Drew House, collaborated to design the players’ All-Star jerseys.

He was a celebrity captain for his friend Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews‘s 3-on-3 squad, helping to draft that team at a special event on Thursday after what we assume were weeks of in-depth analytic research and scouting reports. Or maybe he just let the hockey players pick the hockey team.

But Bieber’s a puckhead at heart. He got to live the dream on Saturday before the NHL All-Star Game as he took warmups with the stars.

He donned a blue jersey and skated with Team Matthews — which included Maple Leafs teammates Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly and William Nylander — taking shifts and shots with his hockey heroes. He would occasionally chat with All-Stars on the ice, while taking time for photos at center ice.

Because let’s face it: The All-Stars were also a little starstruck by Bieber. That included Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who was delighted to see the singer suiting up before the game.

Alas, Bieber did not suit up for the game itself. But he did wear this coat behind the bench:

As Marner said: “This is a winnin’ jacket.”

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Ruth and Gehrig, Mantle and Maris … Judge and Soto? Yankees’ latest dynamic duo is rocking baseball




It’s the question almost every manager who has faced the New York Yankees this season has confronted: How in the world do you handle a lineup with Juan Soto and Aaron Judge hitting back-to-back?

There’s no easy answer, especially since Judge flipped the switch on a sluggish start three days into May and whipped out a blowtorch to opposing pitchers. Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli smiled when he was asked about it earlier this month.

“I don’t have anything special here,” Baldelli said. “There’s not an ideal way to attack the guys that are the best in the game at what they do.”

Rarely are the two best hitters in baseball on the same team. But the numbers illustrate that Judge and Soto are not only the top hitters in the sport, but one of the greatest duos ever, already drawing comparisons to legendary Yankees combos of the past, from Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. They complement each other to near perfection, a lefty-righty combination putting up historic numbers by patiently exhausting pitchers with remarkable discipline and loudly punishing mistakes.

Soto, 25, is batting .320 with 17 home runs and a 1.025 OPS in his first season in New York. Judge, the 32-year-old captain, is hitting .302 with a 1.118 OPS and an MLB-best 25 home runs.

The outfielders rank first and second in the majors in OPS, OBP, wRC+, and wOBA. Soto’s 4.3 fWAR is fourth. Judge’s 5.0 fWAR is first. Judge is on pace for 57 home runs two years after smashing an American League record 62. Soto is on track to strike gold in free agency this winter before his age-26 season.

They have been the engine for the best record in the majors and a 112-win pace.

“Those two guys benefit from a balanced, strong supporting cast, but [also] the closeness that has existed within the team … and how they’re communicating with one another and how they’re talking to one another,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Certainly, Aaron and Juan being the best hitters in the sport but different. [One’s] right-handed, one’s left-handed. There’s different matchups that favor different guys, but having another guy that they kind of relate to one another, unlike a lot of us can. I’ve seen that, I think, be beneficial.”

It’s what the organization imagined when general manager Brian Cashman chose to send five players to the San Diego Padres for Soto and outfielder Trent Grisham in December, knowing Soto’s Yankees tenure could end after one season. The price, they deemed, was worth paying to partner Soto with Judge for a championship push.

“This,” Boone said, “is what I pictured and fantasized about since the day it happened.”

The fantasy took longer to formulate than expected. While Soto jumped out to a scorching start, Judge languished over the season’s first five weeks as he transitioned to playing center field every day. Judge emerged from a May 2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles with a .197/.331/.393 slash line. His struggles were analyzed from every angle. Were his mechanics off? Was he healthy? Was he just a step slower?

But Judge has laid waste to pitchers since then. He’s batting .413 with a .528 on-base percentage, 19 home runs, and 15 doubles over his last 36 games. He’s slugging 1.000 with nearly as many walks (31) as strikeouts (33) during the stretch. His 1.528 OPS over the span is more than 400 points better than anyone else in the majors. His 310 wRC+ is 109 points better than anyone else. His 4.5 fWAR is 1.9 better than anyone else.

Meanwhile, Soto’s only rough patch of the season lasted all of eight games in which he went 4-for-31 from May 9 through May 16. The stretch was long enough for the right fielder to take extra batting practice on the field with coaches several hours before facing the Chicago White Sox on May 17. Soto then went 4- for-4 with two home runs in a win.

“I was definitely working on my swing,” Soto said. “Trying to find that feeling again where I was hitting the ball the first month and getting that feeling back and just get that confidence back on.”

The Yankees, as a result, are 27-7 with Soto and Judge in the lineup together since May 3.

“I would say it’s the best 2-3 in all of baseball, and I think they’ve shown that’s the case, day in and day out,” Yankees catcher Austin Wells said. “When they’re in the lineup, we have a great chance to win versus any team in baseball.”

No opponent knows that more than the Twins. The Yankees have already swept the season series from Minnesota, going 6-0 with a plus-20 run differential in two series over the last month. Judge went 10-for-20 with seven walks, six doubles, one home run and a 1.680 OPS in the six victories.

“You have to pitch to them,” Baldelli said on June 5. “You don’t really want to put one on base to face the other one. That’s not a good plan, at least in my opinion.”

Later that day, Soto and Judge combined to go 2-for-6 with three walks, five RBIs and three runs scored as the Yankees continued their dominance over Minnesota with a 9-5 win.

The club received a scare the next night, however, when Soto exited a rain-delayed affair with left forearm discomfort. Testing was scheduled for the following day. Suddenly, the Yankees’ World Series hopes hung in the balance, but Soto and the Yankees received the best news possible: No structural damage, just inflammation. Soto’s status was labeled day-to-day, but he didn’t play in the weekend showdown against the Los Angeles Dodgers after starting the Yankees’ first 64 games.

Soto’s absence was palpable in two losses to the Dodgers to begin the marquee series, to the point that the crowd was chanting for Soto while Grisham, his replacement in the lineup, was batting in Sunday’s finale. Grisham reversed their feelings with a go-ahead three-run home run, but the fans’ behavior bothered Judge, who defended Grisham and said, “I wasn’t too happy with it,” while noting Soto’s unmatched presence.

“He’s been carrying this team all year,” Judge said of Soto. “And anytime you go up against good teams like this and fans pay to come see us do our thing, they want to see the best out there.”

Four days later, Soto and Judge were back in the lineup together in Kansas City, occupying the No. 2 and 3 spots, in a 10-1 win over the Royals. It was far from the first time — and most likely won’t be the last time — Soto and Judge wreaked havoc on an opponent. The Yankees are banking on them doing it through the end of October.

“You got that sense right away that this is a good thing,” Boone said. “Certainly, that’s played out so far.”

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Panthers are one win from the Stanley Cup: Grades, takeaways after Game 3 of the Final




Panthers are one win from the Stanley Cup: Grades, takeaways after Game 3 of the Final

The scene changed for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, but the end result similar to Games 1 and 2, as the Florida Panthers beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 and are now one win away from the franchise’s first championship.

After Florida opened the scoring in the first, Edmonton tied the game at 1, followed by three straight tallies by the Panthers. The Oilers got within a goal with about five minutes left, but thanks to some clutch defensive play and saves by Sergei Bobrovsky, the hosts could not get the equalizer.

Here are our grades for both teams, along with takeaways that stuck out the most, key players to watch for Game 4 and the big questions left unanswered prior to Saturday night’s potential Cup clincher (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN+).

Panthers grade: A-

Florida came dangerously close to letting Game 4 slip away.

The Panthers let Edmonton chip away at their 4-1 third-period lead until it was an almost uncomfortable one-goal win — protected primarily by Bobrovsky’s save on Ryan McLeod in the final minutes of a frantic third period.

But that final score is all that matters; Florida is now a single victory away from the franchise’s first championship.

It wouldn’t be the case if not for a fantastic performance (again) by Bobrovsky, an all-in effort from Florida’s entire lineup and a penalty kill that has continued to hold the Oilers’ vaunted power play at bay. Even while Edmonton clawed its way back, it never seemed like the Panthers were panicked. There is something about this team that allows the players to remain calm even when circumstances begin to seem dire. It’s a superpower Florida will try to wield again when it attempts to raise the Cup with a win in Game 4.

Oilers grade: C-

Even with their late third-period push, all the questions surrounding the Oilers’ struggles with the Panthers during the Stanley Cup Final were answered in Game 3.

Scratch that. All the questions surrounding the Oilers’ struggles during the Stanley Cup Final were answered in the second period of Game 3.

Even with a heavy amount of shots on goal, they couldn’t generate the sort of quality of shot that placed Bobrovsky under constant threat. They kept getting beat, which is what led to them having breakdown after breakdown. That led to the Panthers scoring as many goals in the second period as the Oilers had scored in the first eight periods of this series. The third-period rally made things exciting but was ultimately fruitless.

What we learned in Game 3

Aleksander Barkov is a on another level

Edmonton’s stars have not shown up on the scoresheet in this series. Florida hasn’t had that problem — especially when it comes to Barkov. The Panthers’ captain was not only his team’s best forward, but the top skater overall in Game 3.

His effort to dig a puck out along the wall led to Sam Reinhart‘s opening goal. And the individual effort Barkov put in to score late in the second period and essentially seal the victory for Florida — in no small part by entirely deflating the Oilers’ chances of a comeback — was sensational. Barkov’s health had been in question following the high hit from Leon Draisaitl in Game 2, but there was no question Barkov was feeling just fine given the performance he put on Thursday.



Aleksander Barkov pads Panthers’ lead with quick goal

Aleksander Barkov evades two Oilers defenders and finishes at the net with another Panthers’ goal.

Florida could help Sergei Bobrovsky a bit, too

The Panthers have done so much right in this series. Their penalty kill is elite — it can’t get any higher, at 100%. Their entire lineup is contributing with an impressive depth on full display. Their commitment to team defense continues to be a catalyst in their success. And Bobrovsky has been playing lights out in net while Florida holds Edmonton’s top shooters off the board (his save on Draisaitl in the first period was particularly eye-popping).

However, the Panthers were outshot in Game 3 for the first time in this Cup Final, and Bobrovksy had to do more heavy lifting than in previous victories — and this one reached nail-biter territory given how the Oilers pushed back in the third. Florida had just one shot on goal through the first half of the final frame when they were already on the wrong side of the ledger there, 29-18.

The Panthers were masterful at suppressing the Oilers’ chances against Bobrovsky in Games 1 and 2, and that’s what they need to show again in Game 4 if they want to complete the sweep.

The Oilers are getting secondary scoring

It started with Warren Foegele. It continued with Philip Broberg and again with Ryan McLeod tallying a goal with 5:17 left in the third period.

One of the biggest questions facing the Oilers going into the Stanley Cup Final was whether they could receive a consistent amount of secondary scoring. So far, they have. The Oilers’ first five goals of the series have all come from secondary and tertiary sources, which is what allowed them to take Game 3 from what was once a three-goal hole to one that became dangerously close to overtime.

But even with those goals from Broberg, Foegele and McLeod, it raises a complex discussion about the Oilers: While it shows the Oilers can indeed get goals from other sources, is it a viable strategy at a time in which Evan Bouchard, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have not scored once in this Cup Final?

Bad things continue to happen in threes for the Oilers

It happened in the first round, when the Los Angeles Kings scored three goals in the first period of Game 2. The same goes for when the Vancouver Canucks scored three goals in the third period of Game 1 in a second-round series. Then there’s the three goals the Dallas Stars scored in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.

So what the Panthers did by scoring three unanswered goals in the second period, while jarring, was far from a surprise considering it has happened, well, three previous times this postseason.

Players to watch in Game 4

Gustav Forsling, D, Panthers

The attention in this series has squarely fallen on forwards and goaltenders. Forsling deserves what spotlight has come his way — and it’s only going to burn brighter in Game 4.

Panthers coach Paul Maurice called Forsling the best defenseman in the world “in his style,” and that point is continually hard to argue when you see what Forsling has been able to do. He has had Edmonton’s number in his series, through how quickly he can read the play and have an impact.

When Forsling is on the ice, he’s a significant threat in all three zones, and it’s obvious how the rest of Florida’s defensive effort funnels through him. When the Panthers attempt to clinch in Game 4, it’ll likely be in no small part because of Forsling and how he’s able to set a tone and consistently be one of the best defenders on the ice.

Connor McDavid, C, Oilers

While McDavid has yet to score in the series, his two third-period assists were crucial in keeping the game close. No one player makes a team. Or in the case of the Oilers, no two generational centers make a team.

That said, the fact that the Oilers scrambled to score two third-period goals — with none of them being scored by Bouchard, Draisaitl, Hyman, McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins — shows that the Oilers can get contributions from their supporting cast, but that they also need goals from their stars as well.

That has to start with the superstar wearing a “C” on his sweater.

Big questions for Game 4

Is Florida ready to finish?

The last victory is the hardest to get for a reason. It’s going to take everything Florida has on the ice to sweep the Oilers out of a Cup Final in their own building.

There’s a landslide of factors that can influence how a team approaches a game when the stakes are this high, and Florida is low on experience. Yes, the Panthers have closed out multiple series in the past two years, but never one in which names are etched into hockey history at the end. Reaching that point requires more than just complete buy-in. It’s weathering adversity on every shift and matching urgency in ways Florida hasn’t experienced at any other pinnacle before.

Are the Panthers ready to deliver that final blow?

Could that third period be the start of something for the Oilers? Or was it the beginning of the end?

Getting two goals in that third period, on a night when they had three goals total, was massive after they scored one goal combined in the first two games. Scoring three goals in this one could be a sign they might have found an answer in the offensive zone.

But could it be enough? Even with the three goals they scored in Game 3, the Oilers still allowed four, which also comes with this particular significance: The Oilers allowed 14 goals in six games against the Stars in the Western Conference finals; they’ve allowed 11 goals to the Panthers in three Stanley Cup Final games. They’ll need to improve on both ends to get a win, much less make this a series.

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Oilers believe despite miscues, 3-0 hole: ‘No quit’




Oilers believe despite miscues, 3-0 hole: 'No quit'

EDMONTON, Alberta — Stuart Skinner hasn’t given up on the Oilers‘ Stanley Cup dream.

“It is disappointing being down 3-0. We’ve got to let that reality sink in,” the goaltender said after the Florida Panthers4-3 win in Game 3 of the Cup Final on Thursday night. “I’m not too sure what the stats are on coming back in it, but if anyone can do it, it’s the Oil.”

Here are the stats: Teams that go up 3-0 in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final have won 27 of 28 series. The only exception was in 1942, when the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied to defeat the Detroit Red Wings.

Of those 28 series, 20 of them ended in sweeps. The Panthers are trying to get the broom out in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the Red Wings eliminated the Washington Capitals in four games in 1998.

Even if the Oilers manage to send the series back to South Florida with a Game 4 win, 25 of those 28 series have ended in no more than five games.

But the Oilers still believe.

“I think we’ve showed that we can beat this team,” said coach Kris Knoblauch, whose Oilers are now 0-5-0 against the Panthers this season.

“I think there’s a lot of belief in that. It’s not like we’re getting outplayed and we’re just [saying], ‘That team’s better than us.’ We can string together a lot of wins. We’ve shown it,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt in our room.”

Knoblauch pointed to two eight-game winning streaks in the regular season and a 16-game winning streak from the end of December into January.

“There’s frustration that we’re down, but there’s a difference between frustration and quitting. There’s absolutely no quit. There’s a belief that we can do this, so we just need to keep pushing,” he said.

Edmonton did push in the third period Thursday, getting greasy goals from Philip Broberg and Ryan McLeod to cut the Panthers’ lead to 4-3. But the critical takeaway from Game 3 was that the Oilers were down 4-1 entering the third period — on home ice, in a must-win game, against a team with a plus-15 goal differential in the final frame during the postseason.

Their undoing came in an embarrassing 6:19 stretch in the second period when Florida scored three goals. The Oilers had just tied the game at 1-all on a Warren Foegele breakaway goal. But a turnover by Skinner allowed forward Eetu Luostarinen to find Vladimir Tarasenko to make it 2-1, deflating the crowd at 9:12.

It was 3-1 at 13:57, as solid forechecking by Matthew Tkachuk helped force a Darnell Nurse turnover that Sam Bennett snapped into the net for his seventh of the playoffs.

Aleksander Barkov capped the scoring for Florida at 15:31, converting a 2-on-1 chance that the Oilers allowed to start from deep inside their attacking zone.

“After they got that second one, they just kind of got on a roll. We let them take that momentum and stride with it,” Skinner said. “They got two more quick ones. Just kind of silly mistakes that don’t need to happen.”

The mistakes piled up for Edmonton. The goals for their star players have not. Foegele, Broberg, McLeod and Mattias Ekholm have goals. The five leading scorers in the playoffs — forwards Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman and defenseman Evan Bouchard — do not.

Those five players also run the Oilers’ power play, which has been powerless this series against the Florida penalty kill, which is 10-for-10. Edmonton’s power play entered the series clicking at over 37%, best in the postseason.

McDavid has hit the score sheet, with assists on three of the four Oilers goals in the series. The Oilers star is on pace to become just the second player since 1967-68 to have a point on at least half of his team’s goals in the postseason. The only other player to do that was Wayne Gretzky for the Oilers in 1988.

But the other players have yet to score a point in the Stanley Cup Final. Draisaitl took responsibility for his surprising lack of production.

“Yeah, it’s very frustrating. of course. I pride myself on being good in the playoffs and playing well and just can’t seem to get anything going. So yeah, I obviously have to look in the mirror and try to be better,” said Draisaitl, who entered the Final with 28 points in 18 games.

He said the Oilers made it too easy for Florida in Game 3.

“We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit today. Made some individual and collective mistakes that they immediately took advantage of,” he said.

But like the rest of his team, he still believes they can rally, against all odds.

“We’re a good offensive team. They’re doing a good job, but we’re still getting our looks. It’s just when you’re chasing the game for a big chunk of the night, it’s hard to come back,” he said. “It’s a steep hill right now, obviously. No choice but to take it one game at a time. Try and get one win in Game 4 and go from there.”

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