The Toronto Maple Leafs finally did the thing! Congrats to the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame Class and taking a look at who might join them in 2020.
Wednesday afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs fired their now former head coach, Mike Babcock, and promoted Sheldon Keefe as the new head coach of the Leafs from his previous head coaching duties with the Toronto Marlies (AHL).
It’s a move that everyone likely saw coming, but this soon? That’s impressive.
Babcock was adamant in his coaching abilities and in his belief in himself as “the greatest coach who ever lived” (paraphrasing, obviously), but could not salvage his hubris when it mattered most– right now.
Toronto is currently 9-10-4 (22 points) on the season, 5th place in the Atlantic Division and outside of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Luckily for the Leafs, the Pittsburgh Penguins (11-7-3, 25 points), Philadelphia Flyers (10-7-4, 24 points) and Buffalo Sabres (10-8-3, 23 points) aren’t that far ahead of them in the standings for now.
It’s the perfect time to be bold and make a move if you’re looking to provide a short-term spark that will hopefully re-ignite some cooling embers and launch the Maple Leafs back into playoff contention at the very least– if not Stanley Cup contention, as many have expected for a few years now before Toronto’s General Manager, Kyle Dubas, was forced to spend about $40.489 million on William Nylander, Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner while somehow forgetting the importance of a defense and a backup goaltender in the process.
For a team that used to employ a coach that notoriously bet on himself and his process for better or worse, well, they’re betting heavily on the salary cap ceiling to make a significant jump by the time a new national TV rights distribution package in the United States is negotiated in 2022.
But that’s a separate discussion entirely.
For now, we’re left in the wake of a post-Babcock Leafs Era and what it means for the Boston Bruins– Toronto’s biggest rival most recently.
The 56-year-old former head coach in Toronto was in his 5th year of an eight-year, $50.000 million contract with the Maple Leafs.
Toronto went 29-42-11 in the 2015-16 season, which led them to drafting Matthews with the 1st overall pick in the 2016 Draft.
The following year, Babcock and the Maple Leafs improved to 40-27-15, qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2013, before losing in six games to the Washington Capitals in the 2017 First Round.
Then history repeated itself as the Leafs went 49-26-7 in the 2017-18 regular season before losing in seven games to Boston in the 2018 First Round.
From there it was a broken record for Toronto– a 46-28-9 effort in 2018-19 led to another First Round matchup with Boston and another Game 7 loss on the road to the Bruins in the 2019 First Round.
This season, through 23 games, the Leafs have six wins in regulation. They have nine total.
Babcock hasn’t won a playoff series since he was still with the Detroit Red Wings in 2013. He hasn’t led a team back to the Stanley Cup Final since losing in 2009 with Detroit in the Red Wings-Penguins rematch from 2008.
He may be “Canada’s Coach”, but he isn’t “Canada’s favorite team’s head coach” anymore.
Enter Keefe, a 39-year-old, from Brampton, Ontario– a short drive from Toronto– emerging as “The Chosen One”.
Hired by Toronto to lead the Marlies on June 8, 2015, Keefe had a respectable first season with Toronto’s AHL affiliate in 2015-16, notching a 54-16-5-1 record (wins-losses-overtime losses-shootout losses, for those of you who aren’t AHL savvy).
Keefe pushed his team all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs (his rookie season as an AHL coach, mind you) before the Marlies succumbed to the Hershey Bears in five games.
In 2016-17, Keefe coached his team to a 42-29-4-1 record and a North Division Final appearance in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs that resulted in a Game 7 loss to the Syracuse Crunch.
That loss didn’t set the Marlies back, but instead motivated Keefe and his team as they marched to a 54-18-2-2 record in 2017-18 and a 2018 Calder Cup Final appearance.
They defeated the Texas Stars in seven games and captured Toronto’s first championship in ice hockey since the NHL’s Maple Leafs raised the Stanley Cup in 1967.
Though it was only the AHL, it proved that something was in the works.
Dubas’ masterplan was coming to fruition as the analytics guru rose to power– taking over as GM of the Maple Leafs with Lou Lamoriello’s departure in the 2018 offseason.
Keefe had followed Dubas from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) to the Maple Leafs organization in 2015, but Babcock stood in the way of his destiny, it seemed.
Babcock was Lamoriello’s choice and fit with Brendan Shanahan’s “Shanaplan”.
Keefe fit with Dubas in the contemporary game, “Shanaplan” be damned.
In 2018-19, Keefe led the Marlies to a 39-24-9-4 record and an Eastern Conference Final appearance for the 2nd year in a row in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Though the Marlies lost to the Charlotte Checkers in six games, one thing was for certain– Keefe had it going in the minor league.
It’s not every day that a coach is able to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in his rookie season, let alone in three of his first four full seasons as an AHL bench boss.
Up until his promotion to the NHL, Keefe amassed a 10-2-2-1 record with the Marlies this season.
They were 1st in the North Division at the time of his departure for the big league.
In 320 career AHL games with the Marlies, Keefe collected a 199-89-22-9 record and a .622 winning percentage in the process– plus one Calder Cup championship in 2018.
So, what does this mean for the Bruins?
A lot when you factor in advantages and disadvantages for each team in the promotion of Keefe from the Marlies to the Leafs.
First, for Toronto, the advantages of having Keefe for a potential playoff matchup with Boston.
The core of Toronto’s current roster (Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Zach Hyman, Morgan Rielly and even Frederik Andersen) has lost in the First Round in at least one of the last three postseasons (Tavares is the only member who hasn’t had to endure three-straight soul crushing First Round departures under Babcock’s reign).
Yes, this may seem bad, but it actually speaks volumes for their playoff experience.
This team is hungry– right from its core– and its fanbase, its front office and its backyard media wants to win sooner rather than later.
Plus, Nylander’s 2nd season in the AHL (although it was only a partial season) overlapped with Keefe’s time behind the bench of the Marlies, so there’s some familiarity between one of the four highest paid players on the Leafs and their head coach.
Additionally, Kapanen, Hyman and others have experience with Keefe and the Marlies’ system.
There’s enough familiarity there for something– potentially something dangerous.
Now for the advantages for Boston.
History is on their side. Boston’s core (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask) has shown its capable of making another Cup run (even with an aging captain and 1-2 centers).
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, remains a constant and in control.
Boston missed the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, but Claude Julien was still their head coach then, so the combination of Cassidy, plus Chara, Bergeron and Krejci’s leadership made for an easier transition into getting the team back into a “top of their game” playoff performer (and eventual Cup contender in 2019).
This isn’t a luxury the Leafs have, where the team’s looking to get back into postseason contention, period, let alone win a series.
Toronto missed the playoffs in their first year with Babcock, but made it for the last three years and lost each year in the First Round.
This leads to Toronto’s disadvantages for another potential postseason meeting with the Bruins.
History is not on Toronto’s side and neither are the statistics.
Yes, Dubas’ 2nd favorite thing in the world– analytics– could get in the way of his 1st favorite thing in the world– bringing the Cup back to the Maple Leafs organization.
As things stand, the Leafs have a greater chance of missing the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs than making them currently.
Toronto– the city, the fans, the players, the front office and the media– wants to win right now. There’s no room for excuses (even if they’re legitimate, like taking one’s time to formulate a defense via prospects or trades and supplementing Andersen in the crease with a legitimate backup goaltender).
But, whereas Cassidy inherited broken pieces in Boston that were addressed and revamped as the team went from outside the playoffs two years in a row to making three consecutive postseason appearances under Cassidy in his head coaching tenure with the B’s– addressing the need for depth down the lineup in the process without the likes of a highly touted free agent acquisition– Keefe and the Leafs have the majority of this season to work on that necessary synergy with a better offense (on paper).
Cassidy was named interim head coach of the Bruins in Feb. 2017. Boston was ousted by the Ottawa Senators in six games in the 2017 First Round and lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the 2018 Second Round prior to their 2019 Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Keefe has Tavares, Matthews and Marner (when healthy) to unleash on any given night and could very well pull a turnaround in one season a la the St. Louis Blues last season (who beat the Bruins in the Final in Game 7 at TD Garden) or the Penguins in 2009 (when Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien midseason and won the Cup) and 2016 (when Mike Sullivan replaced Bylsma midseason and won the Cup).
In that sense, recent history is actually on Toronto’s side.
Boston had some growing pains to go with their dramatic improvement, but the Leafs are built to counteract that pain if Keefe can find a better way to manage it than Babcock did.
As it is, Cassidy is 130-55-27 in 212 games with Boston from 2017-present (good enough for a .613 winning percentage), but 207-128-21-24 in 380 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL) from 2011-16 (.545 winning%).
Babcock was 173-133-45 in 351 games with the Maple Leafs from 2015-19 (.493 winning%).
Keefe gets the final say and has his .622 winning% in 320 games with the Marlies going for him as he steps into the biggest role behind any bench in the National Hockey League.
Playoffs or not, the rest of this season is about to be a wild ride for the Maple Leafs and their fans.
Bruins fans be worried or not.
Toronto Maple Leafs
46-28-8, 100 points, 3rd in the Atlantic Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Boston
Additions: F Pontus Aberg, F Kenny Agostino, F David Clarkson (acquired from VGK), F Tyler Gaudet, F Alexander Kerfoot (acquired from COL), F Kalle Kossila, F Aaron Luchuk (acquired from OTT), F Nick Shore, F Jason Spezza, F Garrett Wilson, D Tyson Barrie (acquired from COL), D Cody Ceci (acquired from OTT), D Kevin Gravel, D Ben Harpur (acquired from OTT), D Jordan Schmaltz (acquired from STL)
Subtractions: F Nick Baptiste (signed with Toronto, AHL), F Connor Brown (traded to OTT), F Michael Carcone (traded to OTT), F Tyler Ennis (signed with OTT), F Gabriel Gagne (signed with Allen, ECHL), F Josh Jooris (NLA), F Dakota Joshua (traded to STL), F Nazem Kadri (traded to COL), F Patrick Marleau (traded to CAR), F Chris Mueller (signed with TBL), D Andreas Borgman (traded to STL), D Jake Gardiner (signed with CAR), D Fedor Gordeev (traded to MIN), D Ron Hainsey (signed with OTT), D Vincent LoVerde (signed with Hartford, AHL), D Igor Ozhiganov (KHL), D Calle Rosen (traded to COL), D Jordan Subban (EBEL), D Nikita Zaitsev (traded to OTT), G Eamon McAdam (signed with Binghamton, AHL), G Garret Sparks (traded to VGK)
Still Unsigned: D Steve Oleksy
Re-signed: F Mitch Marner, D Martin Marincin, G Michael Hutchinson
Offseason Analysis: Kyle Dubas had a busy offseason as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. His main priority was re-signing Mitch Marner, which finally wrapped up on Sept. 13th.
Marner signed a six-year extension worth $10.893 million per season. Whether or not he’s actually worth that much money is a different question, but the fact of the matter is it didn’t help the Maple Leafs.
Together with Auston Matthews, John Tavares and William Nylander, Marner and the other three make up $40,489,366 of Toronto’s salary cap.
This season’s salary cap ceiling is $81.500 million.
Three of the seven highest paid players in the league are on the Leafs and the four highest paid Leafs eat up almost half of Toronto’s salary cap.
At the time of Marner’s signing, the Maple Leafs were $13,365,199 over the salary cap.
Granted, Pontus Aberg and Frederik Gauthier were assigned to the Toronto Marlies (AHL), while Nathan Horton, David Clarkson, Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott are all expected to be placed on the long-term injured reserve to allow the Leafs to remain cap compliant.
Things should get interesting, however, once Hyman and Dermott return from injury, not that their salaries are that expensive, but rather the day-to-day cap operations and paper transactions necessary to make things work should be a lot of fun for Toronto’s front office to balance.
Mike Babcock is still behind the bench in Toronto after three straight seasons of First Round exits– including back-to-back Game 7 losses on the road against the Boston Bruins in 2018 and last season.
Dubas was active in the trade market to 1) free up expendable salary to re-sign Marner and 2) improve his roster from last season to this season.
He may have unintentionally 3) stunted the team’s growth in the process.
Toronto seven trades involving players this offseason, including three pretty big deals for the Maple Leafs.
Patrick Marleau, a conditional 2020 1st round pick and a 2020 7th round pick were shipped to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a 2020 6th round pick at the 2019 NHL Draft on June 22nd.
Rather than buyout Marleau’s contract and face cap penalty, Toronto was able to convince Carolina to take on his salary and offer him the chance to play for the Hurricanes or buy him out. Marleau refused to play for the Canes, so now Carolina is saddled with his buyout penalty.
In the process, if the Maple Leafs yield a top-10 pick in the 2020 Draft, the conditional 1st rounder in the trade becomes a 2021 1st round pick.
In place of Marleau, the Leafs signed Jason Spezza to a league-minimum, one-year, $700,000 contract. Spezza will likely play on the fourth line in a limited role as Marleau would have begun to see less and less time on ice at this stage of his career.
Dubas knew Toronto wasn’t going to be able to keep Jake Gardiner and maintain a happy relationship with Nikita Zaitsev as Zaitsev had already requested a trade.
As such, Dubas packaged Zaitsev with Connor Brown and Michael Carcone in a trade with the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 3rd round pick on July 1st.
Ceci then signed a one-year extension– worth $4.500 million– as a restricted free agent with the Leafs.
For that same price and eight points less than Ceci had last season, Zaitsev is at least signed through 2023-24 at the fixed rate of $4.500 million.
Zaitsev has broken the 30-point plateau before as a defender, while Ceci never has– though he did record 26 points with Ottawa last season.
The fact of the matter is that if Toronto was trying to save money this season on a defender, they didn’t.
And if they were thinking “maybe we can find a cheaper replacement in Ceci”, the fact that they’re already paying the defender in his prime what Zaitsev was already making doesn’t do them any long-term favors as Ceci’s cap hit is expected to go up– especially if the current ceiling remains about the same until the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated in 2022.
But for all that the loss of Gardiner did to the special teams in Toronto, at least Dubas was able to find a sweet deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
The Maple Leafs traded Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and a 2020 3rd round pick to Colorado for Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot and a 2020 6th round pick on July 1st.
The Avs retained some salary on Barrie’s contract, which– you guessed it– also expires at the end of this season, but at least Toronto can afford $2.750 million right now as opposed to a more significant cap hit.
To their credit, the Maple Leafs negotiated a four-year extension with Kerfoot worth $3.500 million per season, which is $1.000 million less than Kadri’s cap hit.
Barrie is a versatile defender that excels on the power play and fills the void left behind by Gardiner’s departure.
Clearly, while Dubas has, in fact, made improvements to the team, he’s also made minor tweaks and delayed the inevitable headaches that he or the next general manager of the Maple Leafs is sure to face.
But at least this time around Toronto is convinced they have the team that they’ve been planning for the last five years to “win now”.
The younger players are more experienced, the salary spent is at the ceiling and Babcock– a Stanley Cup winning coach who last won the Cup 11 years ago with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 (a rather different era and style of the game than what it is today)– are all ready for the challenge of making it out of the First Round to show they’ve at least made some progress.
One definition of insanity is “doing the same thing and expecting a different result” and if something doesn’t change the end result in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs for Toronto, then…
At the very least, last season’s backup, Garret Sparks, was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for Clarkson’s contract and a 2020 4th round pick and nobody can blame Marner for being a “greedy holdout” anymore.
Offseason Grade: B-
The Marner contract is not great, but the other moves made by the Leafs this offseason mean that they’re actually trying. There is a plan in place that they remain committed to– constantly evaluating and re-evaluating talent for the overall intended improvement of the organization.
Whether or not Toronto is sure to win the Cup this season remains to be seen. Every year there’s always Cup front runners on paper, but the on-ice product and results vary. This team is capable of winning the Cup, but they still have a lot of work to do to earn it.
The St. Louis Blues are one win away from lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup after a controversial non-call tipped the scales in their, 2-1, victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden Thursday night.
Jordan Binnington (15-9 record, 2.46 goals against average, .913 save percentage in 22 games played this postseason) stopped 38 out of 39 shots faced in the win for St. Louis.
Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (14-8, 1.97 GAA, .937 SV% in 22 GP this postseason), made 19 saves on 21 shots against in the loss.
Binnington has now tied the NHL rookie record for most wins in a playoff year with his 15th victory this postseason, joining Cam Ward, Ron Hextall, Patrick Roy and Matt Murray as the only rookie goaltenders to amass 15 wins in a playoff year.
St. Louis is one road win away from tying the NHL record for most road wins in a single postseason (10, set by the 1995 New Jersey Devils, 2000 Devils, 2004 Calgary Flames, 2012 Los Angeles Kings and 2018 Washington Capitals– all but the Flames won the Cup that year).
The Blues, of course, lead the series 3-2 and will have a chance to win the Cup for the first time in franchise history on home ice at Enterprise Center in Game 6.
The winner of Game 5 has won the Cup about 72% of the time with an 18-7 series record overall since the introduction of the best-of-seven game series format in 1939.
Bruce Cassidy scratched David Backes and went with seven defenders in Game 5, inserting Steven Kampfer on the blue line with Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, John Moore and Connor Clifton.
Chara was on the bench for the entire third period of Game 4 after reportedly sustaining a broken jaw due to an errant puck that deflected off his own stick. He was a game-time decision, but took part in warmups and started Game 5 without any interruption.
With Backes out of the lineup, Boston’s second line right wing was rotated among the remainder of forwards in the action.
As with the last few games, Chris Wagner (upper body), Matt Grzelcyk (undisclosed) and Kevan Miller (lower body) were out due to injury.
Grzelcyk was not cleared from concussion protocol for Game 5, but may be a factor on Boston’s defense in Game 6.
Cassidy’s long list of healthy scratches included Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Peter Cehlarik, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Backes, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.
Robert Bortuzzo was inserted into Craig Berube’s lineup for St. Louis, while Joel Edmundson was scratched on the blue line.
Derek Sanderson and Bobby Orr were Boston’s “Fan Banner Captains” prior to Game 5.
A rowdy crowd at TD Garden erupted in cheers for their Bruins captain as Chara was announced as a starter in Game 5, then the fans kept the noise going as the action progressed.
Blues defender, Vince Dunn, sent the puck out of the playing surface while trying to make a clearing attempt and was instead charged with a minor penalty for delay of game at 6:27 of the first period.
Boston did not convert on the first power play of the game.
Late in the opening frame, Brad Marchand went for a loose puck and got a stick on Binnington while the ref blew a quick whistle. Marchand was also penalized for slashing at 17:22 of the first period and St. Louis went on the power play for the first time of the night.
The Blues did not capitalize on their initial skater advantage on Thursday.
For the first time in the series, the two teams remained tied, 0-0, heading into the first intermission.
The B’s outshot the Blues, 17-8, after one period of play and led in takeaways (5-1) and hits (23-18). Meanwhile, St. Louis held the advantage in blocked shots (8-6), giveaways (3-0) and face-off win percentage (75-25) through 20 minutes played.
Both teams were 0/1 on the power play as the second period got underway.
In the opening minute of the middle frame, St. Louis does what St. Louis has done best in the series– force the Bruins out of position and behind the play.
While both defenders were pressing along the wall, Jake DeBrusk was the closest forward to the low slot and perhaps should’ve been in front of Ryan O’Reilly (6) as O’Reilly received a pass from Zach Sanford and fired a backhand shot over Rask’s glove from point blank.
Sanford (3) and Alex Pietrangelo (14) notched the assists on O’Reilly’s third goal in the last two games and the Blues led, 1-0, 55 seconds into the second period on road ice.
Blues pinch, B’s can’t clear. Rinse, repeat.
Midway through the second period, David Perron was assessed a minor infraction for interference against David Pastrnak at 9:25.
Boston didn’t convert on their second power play of the night.
Through 40 minutes of play, after David Krejci made a save in the final seconds while the Bruins scrambled in their own zone, St. Louis held the, 1-0, lead entering the second intermission.
Boston was still outshooting the Blues, 25-14, and had an, 8-6, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone. The B’s also led in blocked shots (14-9), takeaways (7-6) and hits (35-29) after two periods, while the Notes led in giveaways (6-3) and face-off win% (62-39).
The Blues were 0/1 on the skater advantage and the Bruins were 0/2 on the power play entering the third period.
Alexander Steen kicked things off in the final frame of regulation with an interference penalty at 3:09 of the third period.
For the third time of the night, Boston failed to convert on the power play.
Cassidy started to experiment with his lines, placing Charlie Coyle on the first line with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron and downgrading Pastrnak full-time to the second line right wing with Krejci and Marcus Johansson (in place of DeBrusk).
With 13 minutes left on the clock, after Binnington froze the puck, the officials gathered and summoned an official review to confirm that the puck had, in fact, not crossed the goal line completely on a last ditch effort by Krejci.
Midway through the third period, Tyler Bozak tripped Noel Acciari, but neither ref on the ice made a call– even as the ref behind the net was looking right at the play– leaving many scratching their heads as the Blues kept possession and managed to slip a puck through Rask’s five-hole as the Bruins goaltender was left playing defense for his defenders that had blown coverage.
The non-call left Cassidy irate in his postgame press conference and Berube had the gall to say he’s “not here to judge the officials” in his podium address following Game 5– after complaining about calls made earlier in the series.
But enough about everything you already know if you’ve been watching the entire 2019 postseason.
Perron (7) was credited with the goal that made it, 2-0, St. Louis at 10:36 of the third period, while O’Reilly (14) and Bozak (8) picked up the assists.
Moments later, DeBrusk (4) blasted a shot over Binnington’s blocker side on a delayed call against the Blues for high-sticking and Boston cut St. Louis’ lead in half, 2-1.
Krug (15) had the only assist on DeBrusk’s first goal of the series at 13:32 of the third period.
Despite the being caught in the face with a high-stick, Krug was not bleeding and thus both teams remained even-strength as deemed by the rulebook when a team scores on a delayed call against the other team.
Since there was no double-minor and DeBrusk scored, there was no need to send a St. Louis skater to the penalty box. The action, therefore, resumed.
With about a minute remaining in the game, Rask vacated the crease for an extra attacker as Boston looked to tie the game and force overtime, but it was too little, too late as the seconds ticked off the clock.
At the final horn, the Blues took home the, 2-1, win on the road and took charge of the 3-2 series lead with a chance to win their first Cup in franchise history in front of their home crowd on Sunday.
St. Louis finished the night leading on the scoreboard despite trailing the B’s in shots on goal, 39-21, after 60 minutes of play in Game 5.
Boston finished the night leading in hits (43-34), while the Notes held the advantage in giveaways (7-4) and face-off win% (59-41). Both teams had 15 blocked shots aside.
The Blues went 0/1 on the skater advantage and the Bruins went 0/3 on the power play in Game 5.
With the 3-2 series lead, St. Louis heads home with the chance to officially eliminate Boston from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and win the Cup in front of a packed crowd donning the Blue Note crest on Sunday.
St. Louis improved to 9-3 on the road this postseason, while Boston fell to 5-2 in games after a loss this postseason. The Bruins are now 7-5 at home and are facing elimination for the first time since Game 6 in the First Round in Toronto.
The winner of the last three games in the series also scored the game’s first goal.
Game 6 is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET Sunday night at Enterprise Center and fans in the United States can tune in on NBC. Viewers in Canada have a plethora of options to choose from to watch the action on CBC, SN or TVAS.
If Boston is able to hold off elimination and force a Game 7, the finale of the Final would be next Wednesday night back at TD Garden.
The Blues have never won the Cup on home ice, while the Bruins have not won the Cup on home ice since beating St. Louis at the old Boston Garden in 1970.
Ryan O’Reilly scored two goals and helped even up the series as the St. Louis Blues beat the Boston Bruins, 4-2, on home ice Monday night
It was the first home win in the Stanley Cup Final for the Blues at Enterprise Center and in their entire franchise history.
Jordan Binnington (14-9 record, 2.52 goals gainst average, .909 save percentage in 23 games played this postseason) turned aside 21 out of 23 shots faced in the win for St. Louis.
Meanwhile, Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (14-7, 1.96 GAA, .938 SV% in 21 GP this postseason) made 34 saves on 37 shots against in the loss.
Binnington now has seven wins following a loss this postseason and trails only Nikolai Khabibulin (2004), Mikka Kiprusoff (2004) and Ron Hextall (1987) who all had eight wins following a loss in their respective playoff years.
In the 25 instances in which the team that tied the series 2-2 in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final format– prior to Monday night– that team has gone on to win the Cup 10 times.
Three out of the last five instances have resulted in Cup championships, including 2015, 2013 and 2011 (Chicago, Chicago and Boston, respectively).
Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his lineup for the Bruins, while Chris Wagner (upper body), Kevan Miller (lower body) and Matt Grzelcyk (undisclosed) remained out of the action for Game 4.
Boston’s long list of healthy scratches including Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Peter Cehlarik, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.
Blues head coach, Craig Berube, had Oskar Sundqvist and Vince Dunn back in his lineup for Game 4. Sundqvist returned from his one-game suspension and Dunn made his first appearance in this series after being injured in the Western Conference Final and missing the last six games.
Robert Thomas remained out for St. Louis, while Zach Sanford suited up in his place for the second straight game.
O’Reilly (4) scored the game’s first goal in the opening minute of the action on Monday after jumping on a loose puck and wrapping around the goalframe.
Boston couldn’t clear the zone and Sanford made just enough of a redirection to yield a rebound for O’Reilly to pounce on and bury in the twine as Rask was forced to go end-to-end in the crease.
Sanford (2) and Dunn (6) tallied the assists on O’Reilly’s goal 43 seconds into the first period and St. Louis led, 1-0.
With the secondary assist, Dunn collected his first point of the series in his first game back from injury.
Midway through the opening frame, Danton Heinen absorbed a hit while bringing the puck into the attacking zone, whereby Zdeno Chara scooped up the rubber biscuit and sent it to the net– generating a rebound.
Charlie Coyle (9) collected the puck and pocketed it in the twine to tie the game, 1-1, at 13:14 of the first period– his third goal in as many games, joining Devante Smith-Pelly (2018) and Jake Guentzel (2017) as the only players to score a goal in three straight games in the Stanley Cup Final in the last three years.
Chara (4) had the only assist on the goal as the B’s got on the scoreboard.
Almost a couple minutes later, Vladimir Tarasenko (11) banked in a rebound past Rask after Alex Pietrangelo kept the puck in the zone while entering fresh off the bench in the midst of a line change.
Pietrangelo (12) and Brayden Schenn (7) notched the assists on Tarasenko’s goal and the Blues led, 2-1, at 15:30 of the first period.
After one period of play, St. Louis was leading on the scoreboard, 2-1, and in shots on goal, 13-9. The Blues also held the advantage in giveaways (6-4) and hits (24-16), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (5-0) and face-off win percentage (52-48).
Both teams had four takeaways aside and neither team had yet to see time on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.
With 16:53 left in the second period, Chara took a shot that ricocheted off his own stick and into his mouth, causing the 6-foot-9 defender to bleed and leave the ice for repair.
Early in the middle frame, Coyle caught Carl Gunnarsson with a high-stick and was assessed a minor penalty at 5:47 of the second period.
St. Louis did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.
Gunnarsson, in turn, flipped the puck over the glass without any deflections, yielding an automatic minor penalty for delay of game at 8:31 of the second period.
Though the Blue Notes almost scored a shorthanded goal, nothing happened on the special teams opportunity– Boston’s first power play of the game– and both teams resumed 5-on-5 action two minutes later.
Shortly thereafter, Connor Clifton caught Tarasenko with an illegal hit to the head as Tarasenko attempted to back-check the Bruins defender.
Clifton was sent to the penalty box with a minor penalty at 13:53 after finishing a shift that spanned 3:06.
While shorthanded, Brad Marchand sent Patrice Bergeron up-ice in the attacking zone whereby the longest-tenured alternate captain in the NHL fired a shot and generated a rebound off Binnington.
Brandon Carlo (1) buried the rebound for his first career Stanley Cup Final goal and tied the game, 2-2, with Boston’s first shorthanded goal of the series.
Bergeron (8) and Marchand (13) had the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on Carlo’s goal at 14:19 of the second period.
Carlo’s goal was also the first shothanded goal by a defender since Scott Niedermayer scored a shorthanded goal for the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the 2000 Stanley Cup Final.
No. 25 in black-and-gold scored the 19th shorthanded goal by a defender since the league began tracking the stat in the 1933-34 season.
The Blues did not capitalize on the power play as both teams went to the second intermission tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard with St. Louis still ahead in shots on goal, 25-19 (including a, 12-10, advantage in the second period alone for the Notes).
Through 40 minutes of play, the Blues maintained an advantage in takeaways (9-8), giveaways (9-6), hits (32-29) and face-off win% (51-49), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (12-3).
St. Louis was 0/2 on the skater advantage– while allowing a shorthanded goal– and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play.
Chara returned to the bench for the third period– wearing a fishbowl– but did not take a shift. He is one of the few remaining players that were grandfathered in after the mandatory visor rule was put in place prior to the 2013-14 season.
Early in the final frame of regulation, Heinen tripped up Jaden Schwartz and was sent to the box at 2:08 of the third period.
Once again, St. Louis was not able to capitalize on the power play, but at least the Blues didn’t allow a shorthanded goal against this time around.
Jay Bouwmeester caught Coyle with a high-stick at 6:42 of the third period and was charged with a minor penalty.
Boston did not score on the resulting power play.
Midway through the third period, Pietrangelo sent a shot off of Rask’s blocker and generated enough of a rebound for O’Reilly (5) to bury for his second goal of the game.
Pietrangelo (13) and Gunnarsson (2) had the assists on O’Reilly’s goal at 10:38 of the third period and the Blues took the, 3-2, lead thanks to O’Reilly’s eventual game-winning goal.
Cassidy pulled Rask for an extra attacker with about 1:43 left in the action and Schenn (4) subsequently forced a turnover, then buried the puck in the empty net to seal the deal on St. Louis’ Game 4 efforts.
Torey Krug and Bouwmeester got into a fracas that resulted in a slashing minor for Krug and an elbowing infraction for Bouwmeester at 19:34, yielding 4-on-4 action to finish the night.
At the final horn, the Blues had won their first Stanley Cup Final game on home ice in franchise history with a, 4-2, victory over the Bruins and evened the series 2-2.
St. Louis finished the night leading in shots on goal (38-23), giveaways (9-6), hits (44-41) and face-off win% (52-48), while Boston led in blocked shots (15-7).
The Blues went 0/3 on the power play and the B’s went 0/2 on the skater advantage on Monday.
The team that has scored first in each game has now won the last two games in the series as Boston took down St. Louis, 7-2, in Game 3 and St. Louis beat Boston, 4-2, in Game 4.
Binnington improved to 13-2 after a loss in his career (regular season and playoffs), while the Blues improved to 7-2 when leading after one period this postseason.
Of note, as a result of Carlo’s goal, the Bruins have now had 20 different goal scores in this postseason– the most in franchise history, surpassing the previous record (19) established in 1988.
The series shifts back to Boston for Game 5 at TD Garden on Thursday. Puck drop is expected a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the game on NBC. Fans in Canada can tune in on CBC, SN or TVAS for the action.
Whoever wins on Thursday will have a chance to win the Cup back in St. Louis in Game 6.
For the second time in as many years, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs are going to a Game 7 at TD Garden after the Bruins defeated the Leafs, 4-2, on Sunday afternoon at Scotiabank Arena.
Jake DeBrusk scored the defacto game-winning goal midway through the second period, while Tuukka Rask (3-3-0 record, 2.54 goals against average, .921 save percentage in six games this postseason) made 22 saves on 24 shots against (.917 SV%) in the win for Boston.
Maple Leafs goaltender, Frederik Andersen (3-3-0, 2.70 GAA, .925 SV% in six games this postseason) stopped 37 out of 40 shots faced (.925 SV%) in the loss.
The two franchises are just the third pair in NHL history to require a Game 7 in three consecutive head-to-head postseason matchups (2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, 2018 First Round and 2019 First Round).
Boston has won the last five postseason series matchups against Toronto. The Maple Leafs last defeated the Bruins in the 1959 Stanley Cup Playoffs Semifinal– yes, back when the league had six economically stable franchises.
Connor Clifton (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) remained out of the lineup due to injury for Game 6, while Bruce Cassidy juggled his bottom-six forwards– inserting Karson Kuhlman on the third line right wing and moving Sean Kuraly to center on the fourth line, with Joakim Nordstrom back in the lineup on the left wing after being a healthy scratch for Game 5.
Early in the first period, Chara sent the puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game minor penalty at 5:21.
Toronto did not convert on the ensuing power play.
Moments later, after the Maple Leafs kept the puck in the attacking zone on a turnover by the Bruins, Morgan Rielly (1) blasted a shot from the point past Rask as the Boston goaltender was screened by Leafs forward, Connor Brown, at 9:42 of the first period.
Less than a minute later, Tyler Ennis took a trip to the penalty box for holding at 10:25 of the first period.
Almost a minute into the resulting skater advantage for Boston, Patrice Bergeron won a face-off to the right of Andersen and squibbed the puck over to Brad Marchand (3) for the shot on goal that deflected off of Toronto defender, Ron Hainsey, and slid through the five-hole of Andersen.
Bergeron (2) had the only assist on Marchand’s power play goal at 11:23 of the first period and the game was tied, 1-1.
While being brought down in the corner over a minute later, Nordstrom got a stick up high on Travis Dermott and was assessed a high-sticking infraction at 12:37.
The B’s managed to kill off the penalty with ease and resumed even strength action without difficulty.
About a minute after their power play, Toronto found themselves going down a skater thanks to Dermott’s tripping infraction against DeBrusk at 15:36.
Late in the power play, Boston worked the puck around the horn and back across the ice to Torey Krug (1) for the one-timer rocket that beat Andersen for the game’s first lead change.
The Bruins led, 2-1, with David Pastrnak (3) and Marchand (5) earning the assists on Krug’s power play goal at 17:02.
After one period of play, Boston led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 14-6, in shots on goal. The B’s also led in hits (13-9) and face-off win percentage (57-44), while the Maple Leafs led in takeaways (4-3) and giveaways (5-4).
Both clubs managed seven blocked shots aside entering the first intermission, while Toronto was 0/2 on the power play and Boston was 2/2 on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.
Almost midway through the second period, after a hairy couple of minutes in their own zone, the Bruins went back the other way on the attack with DeBrusk sending the puck across to David Krejci for the give-and-go back to DeBrusk (1) for the redirection into the twine.
Krejci (2) and Pastrnak (4) notched the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 7:57 of the second period and Boston led, 3-1.
Through 40 minutes of play the Bruins led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and outshot the Maple Leafs, 2:1, with a, 30-15, advantage in shots on goal.
Toronto maintained an advantage in blocked shots (17-11) and hits (29-22), while Boston led in face-off win% (58-43). Both teams amassed seven takeaways each and ten giveaways aside.
The Leafs entered the third period 0/3 on the power play, while the B’s were 2/2 on the skater advantage.
After returning to the ice for the final frame of regulation with an extra skip and a jump in their step, the Maple Leafs won a face-off in the offensive zone and worked the puck around to Auston Matthews (5) for the wrist shot goal– off the far post and in– to cut Boston’s lead to one-goal.
Jake Gardiner (2) and Dermott (2) had the assists on Matthews’ goal at 4:15 of the third period and Toronto trailed, 3-2.
Save after save was made all night by both goaltenders, leaving Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, with no choice but to pull his goaltender for an extra attacker.
Perhaps, though, pulling Andersen with 2:04 remaining in regulation left too much time for those pesky, Big Bad Bruins.
After jumping on a puck in his own zone, Marchand (4) worked it loose and fired away from the neutral zone to pocket the empty net goal to seal the deal on the, 4-2, victory for Boston at 18:06 of the third period.
Chara (1) and Charlie McAvoy (2) tallied the assists on the goal as the B’s assured themselves of a Game 7 on Tuesday.
Andersen vacated the crease once more with about 1:42 to go in the game, but Toronto could not find a way to score two quick goals to tie and force overtime.
At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 4-2, and finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal (41-24) and face-off win% (52-48). The Maple Leafs wrapped up Sunday afternoon with the advantage in blocked shots (19-15), giveaways (19-16) and hits (40-34).
There were no penalties called in the final frame, leaving Toronto 0/3 on the power play for the day and Boston, 2/2, on the skater advantage.
For the third time in their last three series matchups against each other, Boston and Toronto will square off in a decisive Game 7 at TD Garden. Puck drop is expected a little after 7 p.m. on Tuesday and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBCSN.
Canadian residents can watch the game on CBC, SN or TVAS.
Mitch Marner had a pair of goals in the Toronto Maple Leafs’, 4-1, victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden in Game 1 of their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup on Thursday.
Frederik Andersen (1-0-0 record, 1.00 goals against average, .974 save percentage in one game played this postseason) made 37 saves on 38 shots against in the win for Maple Leafs.
Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (0-1-0, 3.05 GAA, .906 SV% in one GP this postseason) stopped 29 out of 32 shots faced in the loss.
Toronto leads the series, 1-0, and is 1-0 this postseason, while Boston is 0-1.
The two clubs are meeting in the playoffs for the 3rd time since 2013, Bruins prevailing in seven games in 2013 and 2018 over the Leafs.
Boston re-assigned Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic, Jeremy Lauzon and Zach Senyshyn to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Sunday ahead of their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup after utilizing the group of forwards to rest their veteran players for the series against the Leafs.
Bruce Cassidy revealed his lines for the B’s ahead of Thursday’s game, leaving Karson Kuhlman on the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, while moving Danton Heinen to the third line with Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle.
Steven Kampfer was the only defender that was a healthy scratch for the B’s.
Midway through the opening frame, William Nylander caught Clifton with a high-stick and was assessed a two-minute minor penalty at 8:55 of the first period.
Less than a minute into the ensuing power play, Boston worked the puck around the offensive zone as Brad Marchand connected with Patrice Bergeron (1) to give the Bruins the lead, 1-0, at 9:31 of the first period.
Marchand (1) and Torey Krug (1) collected the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal as Marchand faked a shot and slid a pass across the ice to a wide-open Bergeron, forcing Andersen to play catch up.
With the goal, the current longest-tenured alternate captain in the NHL (Bergeron) now has four goals and eight assists (12 points) in his last eight playoff games against Toronto.
Late in the period, Marner (1) tied the game, 1-1, as the Maple Leafs pounced on an erratic face-off in the attacking zone, first tipping the puck off the near post, then banking it off a body in front of the Bruins net and into the twine.
After 20 minutes of play, the score was tied, 1-1, with the Maple Leafs leading in shots on goal (10-8), as well as takeaways (7-5), giveaways (6-5), hits (17-14) and face-off win percentage (58-42).
Boston led in blocked shots (4-2) and was 1/1 on the power play entering the first intermission. Toronto had yet to see any time on the skater advantage heading into the second period.
Early in the middle frame, Kasperi Kapanen caught DeBrusk with a high-stick and took a trip to the penalty box with a minor penalty at 2:16 of the second period.
The B’s failed to convert on the resulting skater advantage and allowed a shorthanded breakaway that nearly resulted in a goal for Marner.
Instead, DeBrusk tripped Marner as the Leafs winger reached the crease and rewarded Marner with a penalty shot at 2:47.
Marner (2) scored his second goal of the game– a shorthanded penalty shot goal– after getting Rask to commit to the poke check, pulling the puck around the Boston netminder and pocketing it into the mostly open twine.
No. 16 in blue-and-white became just the 5th player in NHL history to score a shorthanded penalty shot goal in the playoffs and the first Toronto player to convert on the penalty shot since Mats Sundin did so against the Buffalo Sabres in Game 4 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Final on May 29, 1999.
Late in the period, Nylander (1) scored off the paddle of Rask’s stick and through the Bruins goaltender’s five-hole after receiving a stretch pass from Nazem Kadri and breaking into the zone all alone.
Kadri (1) and Patrick Marleau (1) notched the assists on Nylander’s goal and the Maple Leafs led, 3-1, at 18:25.
Through two periods of play, Toronto led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and in blocked shots (8-7), takeaways (12-6), giveaways (9-5) and hits (25-21).
Boston led in shots on goal (29-24– including a, 21-14, advantage in the second period alone) and face-off win% (52-48) entering the third period.
The B’s were also 1/2 on the power play after 40 minutes of action.
Midway through the final frame, Zdeno Chara was penalized for interference against Marleau to the displeasure of the Boston crowd– despite the obvious infraction– at 11:45 of the third period.
Toronto did not convert on their only power play opportunity of the night.
With 2:37 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker. About a minute later, after a stoppage in play, Cassidy used his timeout to draw up a plan to score at least one goal and cut into Toronto’s two-goal lead.
Things didn’t go as planned for the Bruins.
After winning a face-off in the neutral zone, Boston bungled a pass that was quickly intercepted by Tavares (1) as the Leafs center went on to bury the puck in the empty goal frame, icing the win, 4-1, for Toronto at 18:41 of the third period.
Tavares’ first postseason goal as a Maple Leaf was unassisted.
At the final horn, Toronto took the, 1-0, series lead with a, 4-1, victory on road ice, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 38-33.
The Maple Leafs finished Thursday night leading in blocked shots (14-11), giveaways (12-7) and hits (33-31), while both teams were 50-50 in face-off win%.
Boston went 1/2 on the power play and Toronto went 0/1 on the skater advantage.
In their four regular season meetings, the team that scored the game’s first goal went on to win all four games. On Thursday, the team that scored the game’s first goal lost.
Welcome to the postseason. It’s a whole new [hockey] game.
Game 2 is Saturday night at TD Garden with puck drop expected shortly after 8 p.m. ET. Viewers can tune into NBC, CBC or TVAS.
The Boston Bruins (46-20-9, 101 points, 2nd in the Atlantic Division) visit the Tampa Bay Lightning (58-14-4, 120 points, 1st in the Atlantic Division) in their final visit to Amalie Arena in the 2018-19 regular season.
Boston is 1-1-0 against Tampa this season with their most recent matchup being a, 4-1, victory on home ice on Feb. 28th and their loss to the Lightning coming at the hands of a, 3-2, defeat in Tampa on Dec. 6th.
The two teams battled in the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Bolts advancing in five games.
Both clubs have already clinched a spot in the 2019 postseason with the Lightning holding home ice advantage throughout the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by virtue of having won the President’s Trophy.
The highest the Bruins can finish at the end of this current regular season is 2nd in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division.
The B’s enter Tampa on a four-game win streak (including a 3-0-0 record on their current four-game road trip) and might be getting back another player from injury Monday night.
Marcus Johansson (lung contusion) joined the club in Florida last Friday and is a game-time decision according to Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy.
Kevan Miller (upper body), Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) and Torey Krug (concussion) remain traveling with the team, but will not be back in the lineup.
Additionally, Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand) remains out for approximately four weeks.
Chris Wagner had a maintenance day at practice on Sunday, but should be good to go on the third line with Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle against the Lightning.
If Johansson does return to the lineup against Tampa, he’ll play on the right side of Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci.
Karson Kuhlman will likely be the odd forward out of the lineup as a healthy scratch on Monday.
Cassidy is expected to start Tuukka Rask (26-10-5 record, 2.35 goals against average, .918 save percentage in 42 games played) in net against the Lightning.
Tampa head coach, Jon Cooper, is expected to rely on his usual starter, Andrei Vasilevskiy (36-9-4, 2.33 GAA, .928 SV% in 49 GP)– in the midst of a career-year and what should be a Vezina Trophy winning performance this season– against Boston.
Yanni Gourde is serving the second game of his two-game suspension and will not be in the lineup for the Lightning. As such, Ryan Callahan will participate in his third consecutive game.
Dan Girardi will also miss Monday night’s matchup and may miss the remainder of the regular season for Tampa.
The Bruins are 8-3-0 in the month of March, while the Bolts are 9-2-0 so far this month with a, 3-0, loss against the Minnesota Wild on March 7th and a, 4-3, loss in St. Louis against the Blues on March 23rd.
Both teams face each other one more time at TD Garden on April 6th, which is the final day of the 2018-19 NHL regular season.
Boston defeated the Florida Panthers on Saturday night at BB&T Center in a blowout victory, 7-3, as the Bruins clinched a playoff berth in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a result of the win.
Jaroslav Halak (20-10-4, 2.31 GAA, .924 SV% in 37 GP) made 31 saves on 34 shots against for a .912 SV% in the effort for the B’s, while Florida goaltender, Sam Montembeault (4-3-1, 3.02 GAA, .893 SV% in eight GP) stopped 32 out of 38 shots faced in the loss for the Panthers.
Halak joins Tuukka Rask with 20 or more wins this season for Boston. It marks the first time since the 1989-90 season that the Bruins have two goaltenders with at least 20 wins on the season (Andy Moog, 24 wins in 1989-90, and Reggie Lemelin, 22).
Noel Acciari, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Karson Kuhlman, Steven Kampfer, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron had the goals for the Bruins, while Jayce Hawryluk, Mike Hoffman and Vincent Trocheck scored for Florida.
Chara’s goal was the 200th goal of his NHL career. He is just the 22nd defender in league history to amass 200 or more goals in his career.
Boston surpassed the 100-point total on the season for a league-leading 23rd time in franchise history and clinched a playoff berth for the third season in a row under Bruce Cassidy’s reign behind the bench.
It is the 10th playoff appearance in the last 12 seasons for the Bruins.