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2018 Offseason Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs

Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Toronto Maple Leafs and their outlook for the summer.

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There was no competition for the remaining playoff spots in the Atlantic Division this season as only three teams were truly in contention for the top spot through divisional seedings.

While the Tampa Bay Lightning sat atop the Atlantic Division standings for about 95-percent of the season, the Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins swapped 2nd and 3rd all season long until Boston started peaking in March.

Toronto finished the regular season 3rd in the Atlantic with a 49-26-7 record and 105 points on the season, lining up on the road for Games 1 and 2 of their First Round matchup with the Bruins.

It was the first postseason meeting between the two clubs since their 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup and epic collapse in Game 7 by Toronto. Like 2013, however, the Maple Leafs won Games 5 and 6 in the series, forcing a decisive Game 7 back at TD Garden.

This time, though, the Bruins cruised in the third period to a 7-4 victory and won the series, 4-3.

Head coach, Mike Babcock, faced criticism from Toronto media and fans alike for back-to-back years of First Round exits, while Lou Lamoriello fulfilled his three years as General Manager.

Lamoriello’s seven-year contract with the club intended on keeping him in the role of GM for three years, then as a senior advisor for the final four years. Instead, Lamoriello resigned from Toronto and joined his son with the New York Islanders (and was subsequently promoted as General Manager).

Since Brendan Shanahan took a front office job with the Maple Leafs, there’s been another name prime for the GM job. Kyle Dubas.

Hired as an assistant GM as a 28-year-old, the prolific analytics-driven evaluator became General Manager of the Leafs at 32 as his Toronto Marlies (AHL) won this year’s Calder Cup championship.

The old regime is almost completely new-school in the 6ix.

2018 NHL Entry Draft

Dubas and his Maple Leafs scouting crew hold onto the 25th overall pick in the first round of the 2018 Draft and it’s not entirely clear cut on who they’ll likely target. There’s no immediate need to fill with a teenager, the 2018 Draft is deeper than usual and Toronto could always trade the pick.

There’s no ties to a player like Erik Karlsson, but the Leafs seem prime to make some type of acquisition this summer via a trade in addition to sticking with the plan.

Pending free agents

Toronto has about $22.340 million in cap space heading into July with some big names to consider re-signing.

Tomas Plekanec, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Dominic Moore and James van Riemsdyk are all pending-UFAs as of July 1st– with van Riemsdyk as one of the hottest players not named “John Tavares” potentially hitting the open market.

Acquired around the deadline from the Montreal Canadiens, 35-year-old Tomas Plekanec is two games away from the 1,000th in his NHL career. He recorded two assists in 17 games down the stretch with the Leafs and had six goals and 20 assists (26 points) in 77 games with Toronto and Montreal this season.

Since he amassed 54 points in 2015-16, Plekanec has averaged 27 points over the last two seasons. That kind of production drop-off is to be expected at some point in the waning days of his NHL career, but still important to the depth scoring of any organization.

He brings intangibles to the locker room, like leadership and good chemistry with Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau that boosted Toronto’s playoff performance and helped extend the series with Boston to seven games.

The question is, can Dubas keep two 35-plus members on the roster, let along on the same line for another year or two (though nightly lineups are at Babcock’s discretion) and will Plekanec be allowed to regrow his goatee if he re-signs now that Lamoriello is gone?

Regardless, it’s been noted that Plekanec and his turtleneck have a desire to go back to Montreal, but if he truly wants to win a Cup before the end of his playing days…

Bozak, 32, is six games shy of his 600th career NHL game and had 11-32–43 totals in 81 games this season. One of Toronto’s more consistent point-producers, Bozak has only surpassed 20 goals once in his career (he scored 23 goals in 2014-15).

The veteran center has long been a playmaker, reaching 30-plus assists three times in his career– including the last two seasons.

He should get another look, but at what cost given some of the other big names potentially heading for the open waters of free agency from Toronto.

Komarov, 31, had 19 points this season. He’s never reached the 20 goal plateau in his career and– despite being a fan favorite and Brad Marchand‘s man-crush— he shouldn’t expect a big contract from Dubas if he wishes to extend his stay in Ontario’s capital city.

Moore, 37, resurrected his career last season with Boston, notching 11-14–25 totals in all 82 games, but the fourth line center scored just six goals in 50 games with the Maple Leafs this season.

Three games shy of 900 in his career, his 12 points on the year this season doesn’t scream “extension” in a Leafs sweater, but might find work elsewhere as a bottom-6 forward in what could be his last chance at a Cup.

van Riemsdyk, 29, reached the 30-goal plateau for the second time in his career since being drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers 2nd overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He first scored 30 goals and 31 assists (61 points) with Toronto in 2013-14.

He had 33 assists last season and 36-18–54 totals this season.

Under Dubas, the Leafs are on their way to becoming the next Washington Capitals in prospect development. The Marlies just won the Calder Cup with a mixture of grizzled former NHLers in Colin Greening and young, developing, players that are intentionally overcooked at the AHL level for an easier transition to the NHL game.

Moving on from older pending-UFAs is bound to happen and it just might be this offseason’s plan.

In his second full season at the NHL level, pending-RFA William Nylander, 22, matched his rookie season point total (61) on the heels of 20 goals and 41 assists in 82 games this season. Sophomore year went swimmingly for the top-6 forward.

Now he’s a pending-RFA and will need a pay raise with Auston Matthews entering the final year of his entry-level deal.

It might seem easy for Toronto to crunch some numbers, keep van Riemsdyk, Bozak, Nylander and the rest of the gang together, but without a little proper planning for the future, the club could easily get themselves in some deep trouble.

32-year-old pending-UFA defender Roman Polak over came a leg injury, signed a PTO and landed a one-year renewal for his fourth season as a Maple Leaf in October. He had 4-7–11 totals in 75 games last season and improved to 2-10–12 totals in 54 games this season with Toronto. He even recorded his third career point in the playoffs (an assist).

But for the St. Louis Blues’s 160th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, it doesn’t seem like another year in a Leafs uniform is in the cards. Not when Travis Dermott was making waves as a potential top-6 defender next season in the playoffs and Polak was being blown past by Bruins forwards.

Connor Carrick— a 24-year-old, pending-RFA defenseman– had a career-year in goals (4), assists (8) and points (12) in 47 games this season. Why he’s not utilized more is perplexing. He was a healthy scratch for 32 games, injured for two more and did not play in the postseason.

Both Dermott and Carrick should see precedence over Polak next season– especially in today’s game and with Ron Hainsey already as an anchor veteran on the blueline at 37-years-old– but that all depends on whether Dubas makes an effort to bring Carrick back and mend whatever’s between Babcock’s viewpoint and Carrick’s play on the ice.

If the Leafs get older and more reliant on guys like Hainsey, Polak and Marleau, like they did this postseason, Babcock risks being viewed similar to Ken Hitchcock in his loss of being adaptable in an increasingly younger, faster and more skilled than ever league.

That’s not to discredit Babcock as one of the greatest NHL coaches of all-time, but rather to point out he’s got a challenge ahead of him and his staff– and Babcock likes challenges, because he usually excels at them.

In goal, Frederik Andersen, 28, is under contract through the 2020-21 season with a $5.000 million cap hit and backup Curtis McElhinney, 35, has one-year remaining at $850,000.

There’s no need to disrupt something that’s working in net in the dynamic duo that is Andersen and McElhinney, but you can expect to see 24-year-old Garret Sparks get a few extra looks having led his team to the Calder Cup championship.

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

Colin Greening (UFA), Miro Aaltonen (RFA), Frederik Gauthier (RFA), Andreas Johnsson (RFA), Martin Marincin (RFA), Kyle Baun (UFA), Justin Holl (RFA), Calvin Pickard (RFA)

Of note, Toronto has $1.200 million in retained salary on the books (Phil Kessel) through the 2021-22 season.

Maple Leafs force Game 7 after emotional win

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The City of Toronto has all our love after the tragic event on Monday.

For the first time since that game in 2013, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins will face each other in a Game 7 thanks to Toronto’s 3-1 victory on home ice in Game 6.

Frederik Andersen made 32 saves on 33 shots faced for a .970 save percentage as the Air Canada Centre crowd backed up their goaltender with enthusiasm all night. Boston’s Tuukka Rask turned aside 27 out of 29 shots against for a .931 SV% in the loss.

Both teams had great scoring chances in the first period— Brad Marchand even beat Andersen through the five-hole, but the puck deflected wide of the goal after catching some leg pad on its way through— but none of them changed the scoreboard from zeros.

Jake DeBrusk attempted to clear the puck out of the defensive zone around the halfway point of the opening period, but he got a little too much under the puck and sent it over the glass for an automatic delay of game penalty. The Maple Leafs were not able to convert on the ensuing power play.

Later in the period, Andersen made an acrobatic save while the puck was mid-air, having swatted it like a fly with the paddle of his stick to kill Boston’s chances at a rebound goal.

Entering the first intermission, the Bruins were outshooting Toronto, 17-10, and led in hits (11-8), as well as takeaways (4-1). The Leafs led in giveaways (3-2) and were 0/1 on the power play. Both teams had five blocked shots in the first period.

DeBrusk (3) got the Bruins on the board first with his third goal of the postseason 1:02 into the second period. David Krejci (3) picked up the only assist after winning a faceoff in the offensive zone after Toronto iced the puck. Krejci won the draw, got it back to DeBrusk at the top of the faceoff circle, who then promptly fired the puck through traffic and past Andersen.

Just 35 seconds later, Maple Leafs forward, William Nylander (1), tied the game, 1-1.

Nikita Zaitsev (1) and Jake Gardiner (2) were credited with the assists on Nylander’s goal at 1:37 of the second period after the Leafs beat the Bruins once again by virtue of the stretch pass.

Toronto thought they had the first lead change of the series when it appeared they had scored again moments later, but Zach Hyman had skated through the crease, taking Rask’s stick with him as the Bruins netminder was attempting to make a poke check.

The call on the ice was a goal, but Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, used his coach’s challenge, asking for the play to be reviewed for goaltender interference.

Upon video review, the officials concluded that Hyman had reached the crease before the puck and interfered with Rask, thereby reversing the original call on the ice and reverting the score to a tie, 1-1.

Mitch Marner (2) would give the Maple Leafs the first official lead change of the series on a backhand goal at 13:25 of the second period. The goal did not come without controversy, however, as it appears Tomas Plekanec may have been offside entering the zone. Nonetheless, there was no review and the score remained, 2-1, for Toronto.

Plekanec (2) and Ron Hainsey (1) notched the assists on the goal.

Shortly thereafter, Kevan Miller, picked up a roughing minor against Kasperi Kapanen and the Maple Leafs went on their second power play of the night at 14:19 of the second period. Boston effectively killed the penalty and resumed even strength play.

Nazem Kadri slashed Riley Nash with about 10 seconds left in the second period, so the Bruins wound up with about 1:50 of their ensuing power play carrying over into the third period.

After 40 minutes of play, Toronto led, 2-1, on the scoreboard. Meanwhile, Boston led in shots on goal (26-22) and faceoff win percentage (64-36). The Leafs led in blocked shots (12-5), hits (19-16) and giveaways (11-10) entering the second intermission. The B’s were 0/1 on the man advantage and the Maple Leafs were 0/2.

Roman Polak and David Backes mixed things up a bit early in the third period as Backes was attempting to deflect the puck past Andersen. Backes caught Andersen with an elbow to the mask, but only matching roughing minor penalties were handed out to Polak and the Bruins forward at 1:53 of the third period.

Toronto ended up with a rare 4-on-3 power play after Charlie McAvoy served a minor penalty for tripping Kadri. The Leafs were not able to convert on the two-man advantage.

The Bruins ended up on their final power play of the night at 14:17 of the third period after Marner sent the puck over the glass and out of play for a delay of game penalty. Boston did not convert on their special teams opportunity and gave up a couple of tremendous shorthanded scoring chances for the Maple Leafs.

Auston Matthews moved in on Rask in the midst of a two-on-one, but was denied by a vintage-looking poke check whereby Rask slid across the crease on his stomach.

Cassidy pulled his netminder with 80 seconds remaining in regulation for an extra attacker, but things went sour fast.

Four seconds after Rask vacated the goal, Plekanec (2) forced a turnover while Patrick Marleau delivered a check to Backes behind the play. Plekanec pocketed the empty net goal that sealed the deal, 3-1, for Toronto. Marner (6) and Zaitsev (2) were credited with the assists on the empty net goal at 18:46 of the third period.

The Bruins pulled their goaltender for an extra skater again with around a minute remaining in regulation, but could not muster any legitimate scoring opportunities.

After the final horn had sounded, the Maple Leafs celebrated their Game 6 victory, while Boston lamented outshooting Toronto, 33-30, but trailing in blocked shots (23-6). Hits were even (23-23), as were giveaways (11-11), but the Bruins also led in faceoff win percentage (63-37), despite losing.

Neither team scored a power play goal as Boston finished 0/2 and Toronto went 0/3 on the night.

For the first time in the series, the team that scored the first goal of the game did not win.

Game 7 is scheduled for Wednesday night at TD Garden in Boston. Puck drop is set for a little after 7:30 p.m. ET and viewers can tune in on NBCSN in the United States, as well as CBC, Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.

In 2013, it was the Bruins overcoming a 4-1 deficit in the third period for a 5-4 victory in overtime of a Game 7 less than a month after the 2013 Boston Marathon— and having led the series 3-1 before losing Games 5 and 6.

In 2018, it’s the Maple Leafs on the verge of making what could become a deep playoff run after a horrific event took place in their city before Game 6. Once again, Boston had a 3-1 series lead entering Game 5.

For the last series remaining in the First Round— and only one to go seven games— it’s anybody’s game. And Wednesday night, it’s game on.

Maple Leafs hold on, 4-3, to force Game 6

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The Toronto Maple Leafs had another 4-1 lead and… …this time they didn’t blow it.

Yes, Toronto forced a Game 6 back at Air Canada Centre after defeating the Boston Bruins, 4-3, on Saturday night at TD Garden in Game 5.

Frederik Andersen made 42 saves on 45 shots faced for a .933 save percentage in the win for the Maple Leafs, while Anton Khudobin stopped all eight shots he faced in relief for Boston’s Tuukka Rask.

Rask made nine saves on 13 shots against for a .692 SV% in 31:55 time on ice for the loss.

Facing elimination, Mike Babcock looked to shake things up alongside his brightest star in Toronto. William Nylander had played alongside Auston Matthews until Game 5 when Babcock switched Nylander with Connor Brown.

It paid off in just a little over six-and-a-half minutes.

Matthews wrapped around the goal and sent a quick saucer to Brown (1) who whacked the rubber biscuit out of the air and into the back of the twine behind Boston’s netminder. Matthews (1) and Zach Hyman (3) notched the assists on Brown’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and Toronto got out front on the scoreboard, 1-0, at 6:36 of the first period.

The Bruins were pulled apart on stretch passes almost four minutes later, when Jake Gardiner connected on a pass up the ice to Nazem Kadri who then kept things moving by sending it up to Andreas Johnsson on a “create-your-own-breakaway” style play.

Johnsson (1) beat Rask and gave the Maple Leafs a 2-0 lead at 10:12 of the first period. Kadri (1) picked up his first point in his first game back since being suspended and Gardiner (1) recorded the secondary assist on Johnsson’s goal.

Bruce Cassidy started the night mismatching Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy with the Leafs lineup. He ended the first period by putting his best defensive pair on the ice every time the Matthews line was out there.

Tyler Bozak took a penalty for slashing Rick Nash at 13:54 of the first period— giving Boston their first power play of the night.

Yet, after David Pastrnak loudly rang the post, the Bruins were not able to convert on the power play and Toronto remained ahead, 2-0.

After one period, Boston outshot Toronto (15-6), led in hits (12-8) and won 63% of the faceoffs in the first. The Maple Leafs led in blocked shots (5-3), takeaways (3-2), giveaways (7-1) and more importantly, 2-0 on the scoreboard. Toronto had yet to see a power play and the Bruins were 0/1 on the man advantage.

Penalty time keepers got their money’s worth in the second period as Mitch Marner opened things up with a tripping penalty against Pastrnak, putting the Bruins on a power play at 9:28 of the second period.

Shortly thereafter, David Backes (2) collected the garbage and piled it home to cut the Maple Leafs lead in half and make it 2-1 with a power play goal. Jake DeBrusk (2) and Torey Krug (6) had the assists on Backes’s goal at 9:45.

Just as the TD Garden faithful were getting back into it, Bozak (2) sent one past Rask on another goal that all started because of Toronto’s stretch passes. Morgan Rielly (5) and James van Riemsdyk (1) notched the assists on Bozak’s goal and it was 3-1 Toronto just past the halfway point in the second period.

Then Matt Grzelcyk tripped Johnsson at 11:24 and the floodgates opened.

First, van Riemsdyk (3) roofed a goal from the side of the net, beating Rask’s short side blocker after the Bruins goaltender dropped to the butterfly stance. Toronto’s power play goal gave them a three-goal lead and suddenly it was, 4-1, thanks to van Riemsdyk’s goal at 11:55 of the second period.

Marner (5) and Bozak (2) had the assists on the goal that ended up chasing Boston’s starting goaltender from the crease as Cassidy replaced Rask with his backup goaltender, Anton Khudobin.

With the relief effort, Khudobin made his first career appearance in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.

Hyman, Gardiner and Backes roughed each other up after a stoppage in play and all three players were assessed minor penalties. Toronto’s Hyman and Gardiner each received two-minutes for roughing, while Boston’s David Backes got two, two-minute minor penalties for roughing (totaling four minutes). All of the penalties came at 12:51 of the second period.

Then Bozak took a penalty for interference at 13:18 and gave the Bruins a power play that quickly became a 5-on-3 power play for Boston when Roman Polak slashed Rick Nash almost 30 seconds later.

Boston had a two-man advantage for 1:34, but they did not convert on the opportunity.

Late in the second period, Grzelcyk worked the puck down low, pinching behind the net, then pulling the puck along the wall to free himself and send a pass across to Sean Kuraly in the low slot.

Kuraly (2) scored while falling on a one-time and the Bruins trailed by two goals, 4-2. Grzelcyk (1) and Noel Acciari (1) were credited with the assists on the goal at 17:18 of the second period.

Johnsson ended the period’s final penalty call after hooking Pastrnak at 18:33.

After 40 minutes of play, the Maple Leafs led on the scoreboard, 4-2, while the Bruins led in shots on goal, 25-16. Boston also led in hits (19-17), takeaways (8-6) and faceoff win percentage (59-42). The Maple Leafs led in blocked shots (15-7) and giveaways (10-3) through two periods. Toronto was 1/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/5 entering the second intermission.

Early in the third period, Maple Leafs defender, Travis Dermott, was penalized for holding Bruins forward, Noel Acciari.

Despite their best efforts, the Bruins power play was powerless and Toronto made yet another kill.

Acciari (1) took it upon himself, however, to strike back on the scoreboard, bringing Boston to within one at 5:56 of the third period after he crashed the net and cashed in on a puck that rebounded off the side of the goal.

The Bruins fourth liner slipped the puck past Andersen’s right leg pad as the Maple Leafs netminder was moving left to right desperately trying to plug up the net.

Tim Schaller (2) and Krug (7) had the assists on Acciari’s goal and Toronto held onto a 4-3 lead.

Short of the kitchen sink, Boston continued to pressure Toronto for the remainder of the third period to no avail.

Cassidy pulled Khudobin for an extra skater with about 1:13 remaining in regulation and called a timeout after a stoppage in play with 32.8 seconds to go, but the Bruins were unable to set up the perfect play to tie the game and force an overtime.

After 60 minutes of hockey, Toronto had won, 4-3.

Boston led in shots on goal (45-21) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), but the Maple Leafs led in blocked shots (22-8) and the final result. Toronto finished the night 1/1 on the power play and the Bruins went 1/6.

Game 6 is scheduled for Monday night in Toronto, where the Bruins will have a chance to win the series on the road (as they now lead the series, 3-2) or come back home to a Game 7 (in which whoever wins would advance). Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 7:00 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune into NBCSN for coverage. Canadian fans looking to get their fill can follow the action on CBC or TVAS.

Pastrnak propels Bruins to 3-1 win in Game 4

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David Pastrnak’s two-assist night contributed to the Boston Bruins 3-1 victory in Game 4 on Thursday night at Air Canada Centre. Boston holds a 3-1 series lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs heading into Game 5 Saturday night on home ice.

Tuukka Rask made 31 saves on 32 shots faced for a .969 save percentage in the win for the Bruins, while Frederik Andersen stopped 18 shots out of 21 shots against for an .857 SV% in the loss for Toronto.

The City of Boston and the rest of New England collectively held its breath as Patrice Bergeron was not on the ice for warmups prior to Game 4 in Toronto. The Bruins tweeted that Bergeron would be out of Thursday night’s action and listed as “day-to-day” with an “[u]pper body” injury.

With Tommy Wingels back in the lineup, Riley Nash moved into the first line center role alongside Brad Marchand and Pastrnak.

Nash won the opening faceoff and the Bruins entered the offensive zone. Pastrnak worked the puck from along the right side boards back to Kevan Miller at the point. Miller then slid a pass to his fellow blueliner, Torey Krug (1), who then fired a shot past Andersen as Nash was screening the Toronto netminder.

Krug’s goal, his first of the postseason, came 28 seconds into the matchup and was assisted by Miller (1) and Pastrnak (6).

Entering Thursday, the team that scored first in each game went on to win that game in the series. 

Shortly thereafter, things started to go Toronto’s way as Mitch Marner entered the offensive zone on a two-on-one with Patrick Marleau. Marner sauced a pass over Boston defender Charlie McAvoy’s stick and Marleau got off a one-timer that was denied by Rask.

Almost midway through the first period, Marner and Marleau played a vital role to Tomas Plekanec (1) scoring his first of the series. Marner stripped Riley Nash of the puck and moved it to Marleau.

The veteran NHLer in his first postseason with the Maple Leafs quickly moved the puck to Plekanec who fired a one-timer past Rask’s blocker side as the Bruins netminder was moving right to left.

Marleau (1) and Marner (4) were credited with the assists on the goal that tied the game, 1-1, at 7:43 of the first period.

Jake DeBrusk was guilty of the only penalty of the game when he hooked Maple Leafs forward, William Nylander, at 15:08 of the first period. Toronto failed to convert on the ensuing power play.

Boston and Toronto were tied, 1-1, entering the first intermission with the Maple Leafs leading in shots on goal (12-7), takeaways (3-1) and giveaways (5-1). The Bruins led in hits (18-13) and had yet to see time on the man advantage. Toronto was 0/1 on the power play.

Midway through the second period, Marner had a breakaway with speed and all but certainty of scoring a goal, except for the fact that his backhand shot was stopped by Rask.

Shortly thereafter, the Bruins were the ones on the charge after winning a faceoff near the end of a shift on an icing in their own defensive zone. Adam McQuaid cleared the puck off the wall and up to Pastrnak with Toronto defender, Jake Gardiner, overcommitting, Pastrnak burst through the neutral zone on a two-on-one with Marchand on his wing.

Nikita Zaitsev went to play the puck and disrupt a pass from Pastrnak but couldn’t get a handle on it as the young Bruins winger sent the puck across ice to Marchand.

With Andersen in desperation and fully committed to stopping what he thought would’ve been an oncoming shot from Pastrnak, Marchand (2) fired a shot into the gapping net behind the Maple Leafs goaltender and gave Boston a 2-1 lead at 16:55 of the second period.

The goal was Marchand’s second of the postseason and was assisted by Pastrnak (7) and McQuaid (1).

Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, as well as in blocked shots (13-7) and hits (32-20). Toronto led in shots on goal (22-16), takeaways (7-2) and giveaways (10-8) after two periods and had a slight advantage in faceoff win percentage (53-47). Boston still hadn’t seen any time on the power play and the Leafs were still 0/1 from their man advantage back in the first period.

After David Krejci broke up a play in Boston’s defensive zone, the Bruins were on a quick breakout reminiscent of Marner and Marleau’s two-on-one for Toronto back in the first period— only this time it was Krejci and DeBrusk for Boston.

Krejci sent a saucer pass to DeBrusk as Andersen again fell victim to making the first move and DeBrusk (2) fired a shot into the back of the net to give the Bruins a two-goal lead. Krejci (2) had the only assist on the goal that made it 3-1 for Boston at 4:17 of the third period.

Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, tried double shifting Auston Matthews throughout the remainder of the game and pulled his goaltender for an extra skater with about two minutes left in regulation. Toronto’s last ditch effort was to no avail, however, as the Bruins defense— and Rask— proved to be too much.

The final horn sounded at Air Canada Centre and Boston had won the game, 3-1.

Toronto finished the night leading in shots on goal (32-21) and faceoff win percentage (63-37), but Boston had the final result on the scoreboard, as well as the lead in blocked shots (27-9) and hits (40-26).

The Bruins now lead the series 3-1 heading back to TD Garden for Game 5 on Saturday night. Puck drop is expected a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers can tune in on NBC in the United States and CBC, SN or TVAS across Canada.

In 2013, Boston went up 3-1 in the series before the Leafs stormed back to force a decisive Game 7 that culminated in a third period comeback by the Bruins leading to Patrice Bergeron’s game-winning goal in overtime to defeat Toronto, 5-4.

The Bruins hold an all-time series record of 18-2 when leading a series 3-1.

Maple Leafs cut series lead in half, win 4-2 in Game 3

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Patrick Marleau had a big night on home ice scoring two goals in the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Monday night.

Maple Leafs goaltender, Frederik Andersen, stopped 40 shots out of 42 shots faced for a .952 save percentage in the win, while Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask, made 26 saves on 30 shots against for an .867 SV% in the loss.

The crowd was rocking and the teams were trading chances end-to-end throughout the first period. Zach Hyman hit Brad Marchand and the home fans at Air Canada Centre got a rouse.

Rask stopped a couple of breakaway chances by the Leafs, including perhaps his biggest save of the period on a Kasperi Kapanen shot. Rask denied Kapanen with an extension of the right leg pad after Kapanen broke free of Boston’s blue liners.

Late in the period, Riley Nash attempted to clear the puck off the glass and out of the defensive zone. Despite video replay showing what might have been a blown call, unlike an offside ruling, delay of game (puck over glass) calls cannot be reviewed, nor challenged.

As a result, the game’s first power play went to Toronto at 16:58 of the first period and the Maple Leafs only needed seven seconds of the man advantage to make it 1-0.

James van Riemsdyk (2) pocketed his second goal of the series and gave Toronto their first lead in the series with a power play goal. Tyler Bozak (1) and Morgan Rielly (3) had the assists on van Riemsdyk’s goal.

After 20 minutes of play, the Maple Leafs led 1-0 on the scoreboard and 12-8 in shots on goal. Boston led in blocked shots (8-3), but Toronto led in hits (19-11) and giveaways (4-1). Both teams had one takeaway each after the first frame. The Bruins had yet to see a power play, but the Maple Leafs were 1/1 on the man advantage.

The second period witnessed plenty of shifts in momentum as Boston’s fourth line of Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari got some energy going and generated a few scoring chances. In fact, one of those scoring chances resulted in a goal.

Adam McQuaid (1) found a loose puck and threw a shot on goal past Andersen to tie the game, 1-1. Schaller (1) and Kuraly (1) picked up their first assists of the postseason on McQuaid’s goal – just his third career Stanley Cup Playoff goal dating back to McQuaid’s rookie season of 2009-10.

It only took 43 seconds for Toronto to go ahead once again as Mitch Marner started a breakout off of a turnover and passed the puck over to Marleau before Rask could square up to the oncoming shooter. Marleau (1) scored his first of the postseason and put the Maple Leafs ahead 2-1. Marner (2) and Morgan Rielly (4) were credited with the primary and secondary assists, respectively.

Almost a few minutes later, after Kuraly had sent the puck into some open ice, Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara (1) pinched in from the point, picked up the puck and went to the goal, firing a wrist shot off the mask of Andersen and in, top-shelf. Boston had tied it, 2-2, at 6:19 of the second period and with the goal, Chara became just the 7th defenseman age 40 or older to score a Stanley Cup Playoff goal.

Kuraly (2) and Nick Holden (1) notched the assists on Chara’s goal.

For the first time since May 24, 2014, two players over the age of 38 scored a goal in a playoff game with Marleau and Chara having gotten their names on the scoresheet (Martin St. Louis and Francis Bouillon had goals for the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens, respectively, in a game during the 2014 Eastern Conference Final).

Again, late in the period, Boston gave up momentum as Auston Matthews (1) beat Rask blocker side from the low slot to Rask’s right, making it a 3-2 game in favor of Toronto.

The assists on Matthews’ first goal of the 2018 postseason went to William Nylander (1) and Hyman (2).

With 40 minutes in the books, Toronto led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and in hits, 30-20. Boston led in shots on goal (25-23) and blocked shots (19-16). The Bruins still hadn’t seen any action on the man advantage through two periods and the Maple Leafs had only gotten (and converted) on one power play opportunity back in the first period.

Marleau was assessed a hooking minor just 26 seconds into the third period, but the Bruins wound up ringing the post twice on the ensuing power play in addition to several big time saves made by Andersen.

Late in the third, Marleau (2) once again found his way onto the scoresheet by straight-up beating Rask after a mishap by David Krejci in the offensive zone led to another two-on-one breakout for Toronto. Marner (3) and Tomas Plekanec (1) had the assists on Marleau’s second goal of the night.

With about two minutes left in regulation, trailing 4-2, Bruce Cassidy pulled his goaltender for an extra skater, but Boston’s last ditch offensive efforts were no match for Mike Babcock’s reshaped and reformed Maple Leafs lineup.

After Andersen froze the puck at 17:56 of the third period, Brad Marchand and Morgan Rielly took a few liberties with one another, swinging their sticks in each other’s direction.

Both skaters were sent to the penalty box with matching slashing minors and the game continued as if nothing had happened.

The final horn sounded and the Maple Leafs had beaten the Bruins, 4-2, cutting the series lead to 2-1 in favor of Boston. Toronto has assured themselves of at least a Game 5 on Saturday in Boston with Game 4 in the series set for Thursday night on home ice at Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (42-30) and blocked shots (22-19), but trailed the Leafs in hits (38-26) as well as the final score. The Bs went 0/1 on the power play in Game 3, while Toronto finished 1/1 on the man advantage.

Again, Game 4 is Thursday night at Air Canada Centre. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN, while fans in Canada can watch the matchup on CBC or TVAS.

Merkle’s Weekly Bumblings: Week 5

Player of the Week: Nikita Kucherov

Tampa is kind of making these choices too easy every week.

The hottest team in the league continued to roll, and the hottest line in the league followed suit. Linemates Vladislav Namestnikov (4 goals, 1 assist) and Steven Stamkos (1 goal, 5 assists) were certainly no slouches, but Kucherov’s 2 goals and 7 points in 3 games were easily the most impressive output of the week, especially considering both goals and 6 of those points were in the first 2 games of the week.

Kucherov is even being talked about as having a shot at 50 goals in 50 games. While it’s certainly still quite a ways away, it will definitely be interesting to see if he can reach the fabled mark.

Team of the Week: Toronto Maple Leafs

Fans of Steve Dangle’s LFR series will know that this was a week chock full of victory puppies.

After a very shaky stretch that saw the Leafs nearly fall all the way back to a .500 record after a scorching start, things looked increasingly bleak as they learned they’d be without superstar Auston Matthews heading into this week’s 4-game schedule. But the loss of #34 seemed to light a spark under his teammates’ collective tails.

Toronto opened the week hosting the Golden Knights and whoever they could find willing to throw on some goalie pads (we love ya, Max) and the two squads treated us to an extremely fun night that ended in a 4-3 Leafs victory on the strength of a silky shootout goal from Mitch Marner. They would follow that effort up with a 4-2 victory over Minnesota, heading into a back-to-back home-and-home with arch rival Boston.

Now, the Bruins are more Providence than Boston right now as they deal with a slew of injuries, particularly in the forward group, but credit them for putting up one heck of a fight at the ACC on Friday night as they came just 60 seconds from victory before James van Hockey (who notably had 4 points in the 2 games against the Bruins) tied the game and sent it to overtime. In overtime, Patrick Marleau touched the ice, so the team he played for won the game. (If you’re not familiar with Marleau’s ridiculous GWG stats, go have a look. Legitimately about 1/5th of his career goals have won a game.)

Saturday night the Leafs would wrap up a Matthews-less week 4-0 after a 4-1 victory over the Bruins in Boston, with backup goalie Curtis McElhinney shining in net. The Leafs now get 4 days of rest, riding a boatload of momentum, and likely will see the return of Matthews the next time they hit the ice. Maybe hope your team doesn’t play them anytime soon.

Game of the Week: Los Angeles Kings 4 @ Anaheim Ducks 3 (OT), Tuesday November 7th

The NHL likes to think of Wednesday as rivalry night, but boy were they a day late this week.

What was easily the most entertaining game of the year to this point (in this humble writer’s opinion) saw some fantastic stat lines. 7 goals, 79 shots, 54 hits, 51 penalty minutes, and 12 power plays should tell you what sort of game you missed if you didn’t happen to catch this barn-burner.

To put the insanity of this game into simple terms, Jared Boll opened the scoring. Yeah, that Jared Boll! Isn’t that spectacular?! Like, okay, Brandon Montour did 99% of the work and just had his wrap-around attempt bounce onto Boll’s stick so he could hack it into an open net, but who really cares? Somebody get that man a cookie.

Sami Vatanen would send the Ducks up 2-0 later in the 1st just as their power play opportunity expired, and for most of the 1st period the Ducks looked like they had the game by the throat. If not for some simply spectacular goaltending (see also: strategical flailing) by Jonathan Quick, this game could have gotten out of hand early. But after watching their goaltender perform miracles for most of the opening frame, the Kings decided maybe they should help him or something, so Anze Kopitar figured he’d go ahead and score a goal with just over 3 minutes remaining to send the teams to the locker rooms with Anaheim leading 2-1.

The second period saw less offense and more punches in the face. Jonathan Quick attempted to help Derek Forbort ruin Corey Perry‘s day, but the referees felt that someone with a full cage getting into fisticuffs with someone who isn’t wearing a full cage isn’t decidedly fair, so Andy Andreoff (great name, btw) had to go to the penalty box and feel Quick’s shame for him. Jared Boll would later fight Andreoff, I would assume feeling that Andy should earn his own time in the penalty box and not just bum it off of others. Oh, also Rickard Rakell and Adrian Kempe scored goals, so that was kinda neat.

The Kings absolutely mugged the Ducks in the 3rd, racking up 17 shots on John Gibson to just 6 mustered against them, but only Dustin Brown managed to get one past the Anaheim netminder, so off to bonus hockey we would go, knotted at 3. It would take nearly 4 minutes of 4-on-4 madness to decide the game, but finally Nick Shore would complete the Kings’ comeback and end a terrific night of hockey and shenanigans.

News, Notes, & Nonsense:

Jarome Iginla is still unsigned (podcast listeners will appreciate that), but he says he’s not ready to retire. I think he should play on a line with Jagr in Calgary, and we can nickname the line the Geri-hat-tricks or something like that.

Roberto Luongo picked up career win number 455 this week, passing Curtis Joseph for 4th all-time in that category. I’m pretty sure nobody above him is better at self-deprecating Twitter humor, though, so really he’s probably the greatest of all time.

Brian Boyle scored his first goal since returning to the Devils lineup, and his celebration was pretty much the most sincere display of happiness that doesn’t include a dog that you’ll ever see.

The Hockey Hall of Fame inductee class of Danielle Goyette, Clare Drake, Jeremy Jacobs, Dave Andreychuk, Mark Recchi, Teemu Selanne, and Paul Kariya was one for the ages, and if you need a solid laugh, check out the back-and-forth between longtime friends Selanne and Kariya, some of the finest chirping you will ever find.

October 23 – Day 20 – There will be goals

Another Monday, another start to the work week. It’s the same for hockey players, which is good for us; there’s nothing better than sitting back and taking in a game after a day’s work.

For those planning on doing just that this evening, you’ll have to games to choose from – both dropping the puck at 7 p.m. Eastern time. It’s two West vs. East matchups, as Los Angeles makes its annual trip to Toronto (TVAS) and San Jose takes on the New York Rangers (NHLN/SN).

With the Rangers and Sharks both off to slow starts this season, we have to turn our attention to the Air Canada Centre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When two of the current top-five teams in the league square off, it’s must-watch TV.

If it’s possible to be hotter than a 6-0-1 record indicates, the Kings have discovered how as they’re riding a four-game winning streak coming into tonight’s game.

Los Angeles has a long history of being a defensively-minded club, and this year is no different. Allowing an average of only two goals against-per-game, LA might as well be playing with the Great Wall of China in front of its net.

That wall has a name though, and it’s G Jonathan Quick. Having already earned a 5-0-1 record, Quick has returned to the elite status every fan at the Staples Center was hoping for following his lower body injury, as he’s rocking an impressive .938 save percentage and 1.99 GAA, numbers that pale only in comparison to Chicago’s G Corey Crawford (.945, 1.86).

To continue my analogy (because why not?), the wall alone was not expected to be the nation’s lone defender. Similarly, the Kings don’t rely only on Quick, as their defense is also 13th-best in the NHL in the shots-against category, allowing only an average of 31.4 per game. Two defensemen that deserve a lot of the credit are Derek Forbort and Alec Martinez, as both have blocked 16 shots this season, and C Anze Kopitar leads the team with eight takeaways. Martinez’ effort has been particularly exemplary, as he’s amassed his shot blocks in only four games played.

I need to admit something to you: I may have lied when I said this season has been no different in regards to the Kings’ defensive gusto. That part is true, but Los Angeles has also been one of the best offenses in the game, averaging 3.86 goals-per-game to rank third-best in the NHL.

The top line – especially W Dustin Brown and Kopitar – has been nearly unstoppable in the Kings’ first seven games played. Brown and Kopitar have posted almost identical numbers en route to their 11-point efforts, as the captain has managed 6-5-11 totals while Brown has produced a 5-6-11 contribution.

If the Maple Leafs want to win this game, their defense had better make a point of shutting those two down and instead take their chances with the bottom-nine.

Playing decent defense shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for Toronto, which allows a 14th-fewest 32 shots against-per-game. Blocking 3.4 shots-per-game, D Nikita Zaitsev has been a mastermind at keeping pucks off G Frederik Andersen (he averages 3.4 blocks-per-game to lead the team), which has proven necessary given Andersen’s inconsistent play.

5-2-0 Andersen has started all but one game for Toronto this season, and for good reason – he’s definitely better than G Curtis McElhinney. Then again, that’s not exactly all that hard to do, as McElhinney allowed three goals Wednesday to a Detroit team that looks to be trending in the wrong direction.

Meanwhile, Andersen has managed only an .892 save percentage and 3.41 GAA, marking him the second-worst goaltender in the league with at least five starts to his credit.

Maybe that explains Toronto’s (t)eighth-worst 3.5 goals against-per-game, huh?

As you might guess with Toronto’s goaltending situation, there’s a lot of pressure on the offense to keep the Leafs competitive. Fortunately for them, they drafted that C Auston Matthews guy last year, who’s absolutely perfect for the job. Just like we all expected, the sophomore from Arizona has been among the best scorers in the league to start the season, as he’s already registered 7-5-12 totals in eight games.

But what might be Matthews’ most important statistic coming into tonight’s game is his shooting percentage. He’s a managed a goal on 31.8 percent of his shots, which is best on the team among those that have fired the puck more than 10 times.

Remember Quick’s godlike .938 save percentage? Goals will not be easily earned, meaning a pure shot like Matthews’ will be necessary to earn victory.

Now’s the time to make a pick, which is very tough given the Maple Leafs’ solid 3-1-0 record at home. That being said, I have full faith in Quick and his offense to invade the Air Canada Centre and earn two points for the Kings.


With a dominant three-goal second period, the Vancouver Canucks beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 at Little Caesars Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

This contest remained scoreless until First Star of the Game LW Sven Baertschi (Third Star C Bo Horvat and RW Brock Boeser) buried a backhanded shot with 5:26 remaining remaining in the first period to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead. The Canucks almost took that advantage into the first intermission if not for a snap shot by W Anthony Mantha (F Gustav Nyquist and D Mike Green), buried with 92 seconds remaining in the frame.

Since Mantha’s marker was the only goal Detroit could muster, W Derek Dorsett‘s (Horvat and D Derrick Pouliot) wrist shot 8:30 into the second period proved to be the Canucks’ game-winning goal.

The play that led to this goal looks to be something Head Coach Travis Green has been running in practice, as the Canucks ran it to perfection. From his own defensive zone, Pouliot banked a blue line-to-blue line pass off the far boards to Horvat to set up Vancouver’s attack. As that was happening, Dorsett started streaking up the ice towards G Jimmy Howard‘s glove side. Almost immediately upon receiving Pouliot’s pass, Horvat sent a centering pass towards Dorsett, which he quickly put on net. Howard made the initial save with his left shoulder, but the puck bounced into the air and eventually rolled down his back into the goal.

That was Dorsett’s fifth goal and sixth point of the year. After starting the season on the fourth line, he’s earned himself a promotion to a top-six position in the Canucks’ lineup and is certainly one of the most exciting stories in Vancouver.

Baertschi (F Alexander Burmistrov) and Second Star RW Jake Virtanen (LW Daniel Sedin) provided Vancouver’s two insurance goals in the remaining time of the second period, and the Canucks limited the Red Wings to only six shots on goal in the third to ensure the victory.

G Jacob Markstrom earned the victory after saving 20-of-21 shots faced (.952 save percentage), leaving the loss to Howard, who saved 33-of-37 (.892).

In the last four games in the DtFR Game of the Day series, all of them have come back as wins for the road teams. With this run of success, visitors in the series have pulled within two points of the 10-6-4 hosts.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round- April 21

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writers are Connor Keith and Nick Lanciani.

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Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals – Game 5

By: Connor Keith

First Star of the Game Justin Williams proved he’s more than Mr. Game 7 by burying a wrist shot only 1:04 into overtime to lead Washington to a 2-1 victory over the Maple Leafs at the Verizon Center, which pulls it within a win of a meeting with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Semifinals.

The play started with a face-off in the Capitals’ defensive zone. Few were better in this game at the dot than Jay Beagle, and he proved that by winning what proved to be the final scrum of the contest. Matt Niskanen ended up with the puck and advanced it to the red line before dumping it into the Caps’ attacking third. Marcus Johansson was the first reach the puck behind Third Star Frederik Andersen’s net and he immediately passed to Evgeny Kuznetsov between the near face-off circle and the goal line. The Russian one-touched a centering pass for a crashing Williams, who slammed home his shot from the deep slot between Andersen’s wickets.

As evidenced by the score, this was a very defensive matchup following Wednesday’s 5-4 thrilling Game 4. Second Star Braden Holtby faced only 25 shots and saved 24 (96%) for the victory, while Andersen rejected all but two of the 28 shots (92.9%) that reached his crease.

Part of the reason for the low shot totals was actual defensive play, as evidenced by John Carlson’s five shot blocks and William Nylander’s three takeaways – both game-highs. The other was simply all the penalties in the second period that slowed the game down. A total of 22 penalty minutes were served in this game, led by Tom Wilson’s eight.

Usually when it’s said that an athlete plays like a man possessed, it’s a good thing. Wilson did, but he was border-line insane. He received four penalties over the course of the game – including three in the middle frame.

Then again, this situation is not that simple. The reason Wilson and the Capitals were so angry is due to a check by Nazem Kadri that sent Alex Ovechkin violently crashing to the ice with 2:28 remaining in the first period. Though Kadri did serve two minutes in the penalty box for tripping, Washington made sure to remind the entire Leafs team what happens when they try to hurt its star.

And don’t be alarmed Capitals fans: Ovechkin returned to the ice for the second period.

Speaking of Kadri’s tripping penalty, it is that power play opportunity that yielded Washington’s regulation tally. T.J. Oshie (Nicklas Backstrom and Kevin Shattenkirk) provided the goal with 105 seconds remaining in the opening frame. Toronto answered only 7:45 later when Auston Matthews (Nylander and Zach Hyman) buried a wrister at the six-minute mark of the second.

Game 6 will take place at the Air Canada Centre at 7 p.m. Eastern time this Sunday. Americans will be able to view the Capitals’ first opportunity to clinch a 2017 semifinals berth on NBCSN, while Canadians can see if Toronto can force a Game 7 on SN or TVAS.

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Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators – Game 5

Sean Kuraly and the Boston Bruins stole Game 5 at Canadian Tire Centre, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in double overtime, forcing a Game 6 against the Ottawa Senators on home ice at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask made 41 saves on 43 shots faced for a .953 save percentage in 90:19 time on ice for the win, while Senators goalie, Craig Anderson made 36 saves on 39 shots against for a .923 SV% in the loss.

Mark Stone (1) started things off with a breakaway goal at 11:19 of the 1st period. Stone received a stretch pass from Mike Hoffman and brought the puck into the offensive zone, where he dangled past a sprawling Rask and flipped the puck in the net with a backhand. Hoffman (1) and Derick Brassard (4) assisted on the goal— Stone’s first of the 2017 postseason.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau (1) quickly gave Ottawa a 2-0 lead, 30 seconds into the 2nd period on yet another breakaway goal after both Boston defensemen were caught pressing in the neutral zone. Pageau’s goal beat Rask’s five-hole and was assisted by Viktor Stalberg (2) and Alexandre Burrows (1).

The Senators began to protect their two-goal lead with tactically smart possession, until David Pastrnak (2) received a pass from Brad Marchand and sent the puck behind Anderson to cut the lead in half 8:40 into the 2nd. Marchand (1) wrapped around the net on a pass from Patrice Bergeron (2) before delivering the puck to Pastrnak for the goal.

Late in the 2nd period, Kuraly (1) scored his first career NHL goal (and first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal, at that) on a fluke pay in which Kuraly received a pass behind the net from David Backes and bounced the puck off of Ottawa defenseman, Chris Wideman and into the goal. Regardless, Backes (2) and Joseph Morrow (1) collected the primary and secondary assists and the game was tied, 2-2 at 17:05 of the 2nd.

No goals were scored in the 3rd period, which meant that the next goal in the game would end it in sudden death overtime.

Boston thought they had scored on a play in which Kuraly moved in on Anderson on a breakaway and made incidental contact with the goaltender, as Noel Acciari found the loose puck and sent it to the twine. While their was no call immediately on the ice, the officials determined that there had been goaltender interference on the play, while the league in Toronto reviewed the play. The call on the ice was confirmed and thus, Boston had not ended it.

The Bruins then thought they had a chance for an automatic penalty shot moments later when Pageau collapsed on the puck behind Anderson in the crease, while batting the puck away from the goal line. Yet again, the officials on the ice saw it differently and assessed no penalty on the play.

In the long run, whether you had the Bruins having had two could have been goals already on the scoreboard, you technically wouldn’t have been wrong when Kuraly (2) ended it 10:19 into the second overtime. 

Charlie McAvoy shot the rubber biscuit from the point off of a face-off, which Backes deflected and through a short series of bounces, the unsuspecting Anderson was far enough out of position as Kuraly found the puck in the low slot. A quick backhander aimed at the gaping four-by-six frame was enough to end the game, 3-2 in favor of Boston.

Backes (3) and McAvoy (2) tabbed the assists on the game winning goal as Kuraly became the first Bruins rookie to score an overtime game winning goal since Matt Fraser did so in a 1-0 overtime victory on May 8, 2014 in Montreal.

In a game where David Krejci was forced out by virtue of a knee on knee collision with Senators defenseman Wideman, Kuraly came up big in his two-goal effort. Additionally, Kuraly was originally inserted in the lineup in place of Ottawa native, Ryan Spooner, who was a healthy scratch.

Boston’s interim head coach, Bruce Cassidy commented on Krejci’s status as day-to-day after the game and would not give any indication as to whether or not Spooner would be back in the lineup if Krejci is unavailable for Sunday’s matinee.

The Senators now lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 in Boston on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. Viewers in the United States can tune in on NBC while Canadian fans can catch the action on Sportsnet or TVA Sports.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round– April 19

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writers are Connor Keith and Nick Lanciani.

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Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs – Game 4

By: Connor Keith

With the Capitals’ 5-4 victory over Toronto at the Air Canada Centre Wednesday, the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal featuring the two-time defending Presidents’ Trophy winners and the NHL’s version of the all-rookie team is now a best-of-three series.

Barry Trotz probably didn’t need to say much to his club to stress how important this game was, but whatever he did say obviously worked. Before Toronto had even managed its second shot on goal, First Star of the Game T.J. Oshie (Nicklas Backstrom and Nate Schmidt) had already registered the Capitals’ first tally.

That trend continued for the rest of the first period. Though Zach Hyman (Jake Gardiner and Third Star William Nylander) managed to register a marker for the Maple Leafs, Alex Ovechkin (Kevin Shattenkirk) and Second Star Tom Wilson (Lars Eller and Dmitry Orlov) – twice (Andre Burakovsky and Brooks Orpik) – all got on the board before the first intermission to give the Caps a 4-1 lead.

Over the course of the remaining 40 minutes, the real pressure was on Braden Holtby and Washington’s defensive corps, the best in the business during the regular season. Led by Orlov’s five shot blocks throughout the contest, that defense played exceptionally, allowing only 28 total shots against in the second and third periods. Holtby let one by each period to allow the Leafs to pull within a goal with eight minutes remaining on the clock, but the man to save Washington has a little bit of history wearing red, white and blue.

The play started with a loose puck at the blue line of Frederik Andersen’s zone that neither Burakovsky nor Auston Matthews could fully take control. Though the puck ended up between three Maple Leafs, it was Backstrom that ended up with possession. The center quickly passed to Oshie, who ripped a snap shot from the near slot between Andersen’s glove and the pipe.

Oshie’s tally proved to be especially important, as it became the game-winner when Tyler Bozak (Mitch Marner and Nylander) banged home a wrister with the extra attacker with 27 seconds remaining in regulation.

The Capitals made it unnecessarily hard on themselves to secure this victory though, as both Eller (delay of game – smothering puck) and Orpik (slashing against Marner) earned seats in the penalty box during a face-off in the defensive zone to set up 1:53 of five-on-three play to start the third. Regardless, the regular season’s seventh-best penalty kill proved itself by allowing only five shots to reach Holtby, and he saved all of them to maintain the then 4-2 advantage.

The series will recommence Friday at 7 p.m. Eastern time at the Verizon Center, the home of the Capitals. Americans wishing to watch game will find it on NBCSN, while Canada will be serviced by both CBC and TVAS2.

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Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins— Game 4

The Ottawa Senators are one win away from advancing to the Second Round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs after beating the Boston Bruins 1-0 in Game 4. Bobby Ryan continued his hot streak with the only goal in Wednesday night’s action in Boston, while Craig Anderson picked up the 22 save shutout win.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask made 26 saves on 27 shots faced for a .963 save percentage in the loss.

After trading scoring chance after scoring chance in the first period, neither Anderson nor Rask had allowed a puck to sneak behind them into the net. Brad Marchand had a couple of tremendous breakaway opportunities in the first 20 minutes that Anderson had denied (first with his left leg on a Marchand backhand going five-hole attempt, then later with his right leg on another opportunity whereby Marchand couldn’t elevate the puck enough on a forehand snapper).

The Senators dominated possession of the puck on special teams advantages, but couldn’t translate any of that attacking zone time into a power play goal after entering Wednesday night 3/10 on the power play. Instead, the Bruins killed all three of the penalties they amassed in Game 4 to improve their penalty kill to a 76.9% effective rating.

Noel Acciari thought he had his second goal of the postseason just past halfway in the 2nd period on a redirected slap shot from Charlie McAvoy, however after Ottawa challenged the goal on the condition that it might have been offsides, video replay clearly showed Acciari entering Boston’s offensive zone illegally about 20 seconds before the would-be goal was scored. As a result, the call on the ice was overturned and the score remained, 0-0.

Ryan (3) tapped home the game winning goal after receiving a fake shot pass from Erik Karlsson. Ryan crashed the net while Rask was seemingly down and away and if it weren’t for the fact that Rask’s stick paddle was parallel to the ice, perhaps he might have made more than just one desperation save on Ryan’s initial shot.

Instead an outstretched Rask bumped the puck, slowing its velocity, but failed to cover it up for a face-off, leaving the hard-charging Ryan with an easy to pocket “just tap it in” moment reminiscent of the movie Happy Gilmore but with more of a success rate than Happy Gilmore’s mini golf endeavor.

Karlsson (5) and Derick Brassard (3) had the primary and secondary assists on Ryan’s goal at 5:49 of the 3rd period.

Ottawa takes a 3-1 series lead home to Canadian Tire Centre on Friday. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 7:30 p.m. ET and Game 5 can be viewed nationally in the United States on USA and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.

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Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues – Game 4

By: Connor Keith

Facing elimination, the Wild pulled out a 2-0 victory Wednesday over St. Louis at Scottrade Center, pulling them within a 3-1 deficit in their Western Conference Quarterfinal.

Staying true to form, this was another goaltending battle between two of the hottest netminders in the game right now. First Star of the Game Devan Dubnyk rejected each and every one of the 28 Blues shots he faced for his first victory of the 2017 postseason, while Jake Allen saved 26-of-28 (92.9%) in the loss.

The Blues seemed to know what was on the line in this game, and you could see it in their play. That sentence can be read both positively and negatively, and unfortunately for St. Louis it was the latter. Even though the Notes led the first period’s hit count (including five over the course of the game by Third Star Ryan Reaves) – which usually increases the fans’ energy – they managed only four shots on goal.

Second Star Charlie Coyle and the Wild – who fired 11 shots in the first period – took advantage of their opponent’s lackadaisical start by burying a wrister with 3:10 remaining in the frame. Though unassisted, he did get a helper on the play from Allen. Coyle dumped the puck into the zone, and Eric Staal’s pursuit forced Allen to make a play behind his net.

That’s where Coyle’s plan came to fruition. Allen’s sole intention was to get the puck out of the zone, so he tried to play it up the far boards. Instead of chasing the puck, the forward stayed home and intercepted Allen’s attempt at the far face-off circle. He immediately ripped his wrister that banked off the near post and into the back of the net.

The only other goal belonged to Martin Hanzal (Jason Pominville and Nate Prosser), a wrist shot with 3:19 remaining in the second period.  The play stretched the full stretch of the rink, starting with Prosser’s pass from the near face-off dot in the Wild’s defensive zone. His pass found Pominville at the red line, and he immediately dished to a streaking Hanzal. The center split Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo before releasing his shot from between the face-off circles, beating Allen stick-side.

Minnesota forced a Game 5, and it will host that contest at the Xcel Energy Center Saturday at 3 p.m. Eastern time. The Canadian broadcasters will be both SN and TVAS, and American viewers may watch that matchup on NBC.

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Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames— Game 4

The Anaheim Ducks punched their ticket to the Second Round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 3-1 victory on the road, sweeping the Calgary Flames in four games.

Nate Thompson scored what would become the game winning goal early in the first period as the Ducks went on to sweep a playoff opponent in a best-of-seven game series for just the fifth time in franchise history.

Anaheim goaltender, John Gibson made 36 saves on 37 shots against for a .973 save percentage in the win, while Calgary goalies Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson split time in the loss. Elliott stopped two out of three shots before being replaced 5:38 into the 1st period by Johnson who went on to save 20 out of 21 shots against over 51:50 of time on ice.

Patrick Eaves (1) kicked things off on the scoreboard with an unassisted goal at 5:38 of the 1st period. Thompson (2) followed suit with his game winning goal 78 seconds later that made it 2-0 Anaheim. Rickard Rakell (3) and Corey Perry (2) notched assists on Thompson’s goal at 6:46 of the 1st.

Late in the 2nd period the Flames took advantage of their third and final power play of the night as Sean Monahan (4) continued his recent run of scoring. Kris Versteeg (3) and Troy Brouwer (2) collected the assists on Monahan’s power play goal at 16:07 of the 2nd period. Calgary cut the lead in half and went into the second intermission trailing, 2-1.

As the clock ticked down on Calgary’s season, Johnson vacated the goal for an extra attacker. Gibson stood tall as save after save piled up and the Ducks failed to clear the puck without icing it.

After a blocked shot, Ryan Getzlaf (3) brought the puck across the ice and put the series away on an empty net goal with 6.7 seconds left on the clock.

Having won the series, 4-0, the Anaheim Ducks advance to the Second Round and will face the winner of the Edmonton Oilers vs. San Jose Sharks series matchup.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round– April 17

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writers are Connor Keith and Nick Lanciani.

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Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins— Game 3

The Ottawa Senators held off a charging effort from a thrilling comeback that just wasn’t meant to be for the Boston Bruins in a thrilling 4-3 victory in overtime on road ice at TD Garden on Monday night.

Bobby Ryan’s game winning goal on the power play came just five minutes, 43 seconds into overtime, sending Boston fans home unhappy on perhaps one of the happiest days of the year in the city— Patriot’s Day.

Ottawa goaltender, Craig Anderson made 17 saves on 20 shots faced for an .850 save percentage in 65:43 time on ice for the win, while Boston’s Tuukka Rask made 28 saves on 32 shots against for an .875 SV% in the loss.

Senators forward, Mike Hoffman (1) kicked off scoring 7:15 into the 1st period with a nifty move (shades of Peter Forsberg) on a breakaway pass from Erik Karlsson that beat Rask. Karlsson (3) and Zach Smith (1) had the primary and secondary assists on what it sure to be a highlight reel goal in Ottawa’s promotional videos for a little while, at least.

Derick Brassard (2) quickly made it 2-0 with a one-timer from the low slot 35 seconds after Hoffman made it 1-0. Ryan (2) and Viktor Stalberg (1) contributed on Brassard’s goal that all but sucked the life out of the building.

With Kevan Miller in the box for interference, the Bruins’s already lackluster penalty kill from a rash of injuries on the blue line suffered even more. Hoffman (2) found the twine for his 2nd goal of the night just 3:42 into the 2nd period and made it a 3-0 lead. Chris Wideman (1) and Brassard (2) tallied assists on Hoffman’s power play goal.

A three goal deficit looked insurmountable for Boston, considering their lack of offensive prowess thus far into the game.

But Noel Acciari (1) redirected his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal at 6:05 of the 2nd period to put the Bruins on the scoreboard and cut the lead to two. John-Michael Liles (1) and Riley Nash (2) had the assists on the goal that made it a 3-1 game.

Just 42 seconds later, David Backes (1) had his turn to score on the breakaway— and he did, beating Anderson on the low side with help from Liles (2) and Tommy Cross (1). The Providence Bruins (AHL) captain, Cross notched his first career point in a Stanley Cup Playoff game in just his first appearance in a NHL playoff game.

Boston was right back into the swing of things, trailing 3-2.

David Pastrnak (1) unleashed a cannon of a shot on a power play goal for his first career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal in just his third career NHL playoffs appearance at 13:51 of the 2nd. The assists on Pastrnak’s goal went to Charlie McAvoy (1) and Ryan Spooner (2). As a result, McAvoy picked up his first career Stanley Cup Playoff point in his third career NHL playoff game— he’s yet to debut in the regular season, mind you.

Both teams swapped chances until regulation alone could not decide the outcome of the game.

Ryan (2) continued his recent streak of timely contributions with a power play goal at 5:43 of overtime. Ryan’s goal did not come without controversy, however. No, it was not because of an offsides review, but rather, the fact that it appeared as though Ryan had gotten away with a right elbow on Bruins forward, Riley Nash, before Nash retaliated and was subsequently penalized.

Regardless of the right call/wrong call argument, Kyle Turris (1) and Karlsson (4) notched the assists on the game winning goal and the Senators now have a 2-1 series lead.

Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday night at TD Garden with puck drop set for 7:30 p.m. ET. The game can be seen on USA in the United States and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.

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Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs— Game 3

By: Connor Keith

As has become custom with this series, Toronto needed overtime to beat the Capitals 4-3 Monday at the Air Canada Centre and earn a one-game lead in its Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.

Game 3’s overtime hero is none other than longtime Leaf and First Star of the Game Tyler Bozak, but the game-winning play actually started before regulation even ended. Not only did Toronto outshoot the Capitals 9-3 in the third period, but they also earned a man-advantage. With 16 seconds remaining before the end of regulation, Lars Eller earned himself a seat in the penalty box for hi-sticking Zach Hyman. Hyman had already gotten under Washington’s skin earlier in the period, as he and Game 1’s winner, Tom Wilson, both earned negating roughing penalties with 2:32 remaining in regulation.

Washington was only seven seconds from killing off Toronto’s third power play of the game, but Bozak had other intentions. After Bozak won possession behind Braden Holtby’s net, Morgan Rielly got ahold of the puck at the blue line to reset the play. He dished to Nazem Kadri at the far face-off circle, who quickly fired a wrist shot towards the crease. It was intentionally off target, a set play the Leafs have been working on that allowed Bozak to redirect the puck to the near post past Holtby’s blocker for the lone man-advantage goal of the contest.

To make matters worse for the Caps, they are just another chapter in what seems to be the most popular sports meme of the past year: Washington joins the Cleveland Indians and Golden State Warriors in blowing a 3-1 lead.*

Washington’s first line was on fire to start this matchup. After only 4:49 of play, Third Star Nicklas Backstrom (Nate Schmidt and T.J. Oshie) and Alex Ovechkin (Backstrom and Oshie) had both found the back of the net for an early 2-0 lead. If not for Second Star Auston Matthews’ (Rielly) tally with 5:52 remaining in the first period, Evgeny Kuznetsov’s (Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams) goal 5:39into the second frame would have been three-straight goals before the midway point.

But as swift as the Capitals’ offense was to start the first period, the Maple Leafs were just as fast to close the second. In a span of only4:07, Kadri (Leo Komarov) and William Nylander (Matthews and Hyman) scored a tip-in and a wrister, respectively, to level the game at three-all.

Perhaps the most exciting play of the game belonged to Holtby, but it wasn’t anything he did in his crease. He stopped any chance of a Leafs breakaway opportunity at the tail end of a Washington five-on-three advantage in the second period. As Mitch Marner was screaming up the far end of the ice, he emerged from his crease to beyond the face-off circle to force the puck off of the rookie’s stick.

*Honorary Mention: the Atlanta Falcons blew a 28-3 lead.

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Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators— Game 3

By: Connor Keith

With a 3-2 overtime victory at Bridgestone Arena Monday, Nashville has taken a three-game lead in its Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup against the Blackhawks.

Pick your overtime goal-scorer from the Predators’ roster: Viktor Arvidsson? Second Star of the Game Filip Forsberg? Ryan Johansen? James Neal?

No, nope, nada and that was the closest guess, but still wrong. It was actually rookie Kevin Fiala, who took First Star honors with only his second tally of the postseason.

The play actually started as a simple dump along the far boards into the offensive zone by Calle Jarnkrok to give Nashville a defensive line change due to a poor pass from Neal at the blue line. To make up for his mistake, Neal meets the puck along the near boards and begins advancing it towards Corey Crawford’s net by using the eventual goal-scorer as a screen. Once Fiala reached the top of the crease, Neal dished the puck to him for an easy backhanded winner.

An overtime winner is far from how the Preds started Game 3. It seems the Blackhawks’ offense was taking a vacation and catching some tunes at the Grand Ole Opry in the first two games of this series. Now that it is reconnected with the club, it’s all Chicago could seem to do. Only 65 seconds into the second period, Dennis Rasmussen (Marcus Kruger and Richard Panik) scored the Hawks’ first goal of the series, followed 10:10 later by Patrick Kane’s (Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews) first goal since March 27. Chicago took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission and looked to be righting the ship.

My how things changed in a hurry, but Joel Quenneville is going to have some questions for the league on his day off Tuesday, as he is probably of the opinion that neither of the Predators’ regulation goals should have counted.

The first is less of a discussion point. Arvidsson fired the original wrist shot, but overshot the crossbar and sent the puck flying towards the glass. …Or, at least that’s what Crawford expected. But instead of finding glass, Arvidsson’s misfire banked off one of Bridgestone Arena’s golden stanchions that connect the panes of glass, causing a wild ricochet that ended up landing right in front of an unknowing Crawford. Forsberg discovered the puck first, and he finished the play with a wrist shot only 4:24 into the third period.

The reason for doubt with this goal is no camera angle – at least not one that CNBC had access to – could tell if the puck continued travelling up the glass after hitting the stanchion and touched the netting. If it did, the puck that landed in Crawford’s crease should have been ruled dead, meaning the goal would not have counted.

The second though, that is the one that had the entire Windy City screaming at its televisions. After receiving a feed from Johansen, Ryan Ellis fired a strong slap shot from the point. His aim was pure, but Crawford was able to deflect, but not contain the puck. Forsberg took advantage, as he collected the rebound by crossing the crease and puts it far post to level the game at two-all.

Forsberg’s collection (or his board, as basketball fans would say) is where things get a little hairy. As he traverses the crease, he makes contact with Crawford – who is technically outside his crease, but has established his position – and knocks the goaltender off-balance. Though the Blackhawks challenged the play, the replay official in Toronto upheld the goal with no goaltender interference.

Probably something about no conclusive evidence. That’s what every official ever says from the replay booth.

A third period battle that was especially exciting to watch was contested between P.K. Subban and Toews. Near the midway point of the third period, the golden-clad defenseman effectively, though legally, tripped the Hawks’ captain. Of course, Toews didn’t like that too much and landed a forceful slash on the back of Subban’s legs – one of the few places a skater has no padding. But what really made this battle so interesting – be it between Subban and Toews or any other plays – is the level of respect exhibited by both sides. No matter what happened while the clock was running, the physical play stopped almost immediately after the whistle was blown.

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Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames— Game 3

Speaking of blown leads (look at Connor’s WSH @ TOR recap for reference), the Calgary Flames blew a 4-1 lead in Game 3 of their First Round matchup with the Anaheim Ducks and succumbed to a 5-4 overtime loss Monday night on home ice at Scotiabank Saddledome

Anaheim goaltender, John Gibson made 12 saves on 16 shots against before being replaced by Jonathan Bernier, who went on to stop all 16 shots he faced in the remaining 32:57 of the game for the win. Flames goalie, Brian Elliott made 22 saves out of 27 shots faced for an .815 save percentage in the loss.

Sean Monahan (3) kicked off scoring early into the 1st period for Calgary with a power play goal. Troy Brouwer (1) and Johnny Gaudreau (2) were credited with the helpers as the Flames took a 1-0 lead just 2:10 into the game.

Kris Versteeg (1) followed suit with a power play goal of his own and his first goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs a little over seven minutes later to put Calgary up 2-0. Monahan (1) and T.J. Brodie (3) had the helpers on Versteeg’s first postseason goal in a Flames uniform.

Before the first period was out, there were some signs of life from the Ducks, as Nick Ritchie (1) notched his first of the 2017 postseason behind Elliott. Antoine Vermette (1) and Hampus Lindholm (1) assisted on Ritchie’s goal which cut the lead in half heading into the first intermission. 

Things were looking up for the Flames as their February acquisition from the Arizona Coyotes, defenseman Michael Stone (1), scored his first of the playoffs 4:34 into the second frame. Stone’s goal was assisted by Brodie (4) and Mikael Backlund (1) and added some insurance to their lead at 3-1.

Sam Bennett (2) added to a hot night for the Flames power play unit with a goal at 8:33 of the 2nd period. Calgary captain, Mark Giordano (1) and Backlund (2) picked up the assists as the lead grew to 4-1.

But Shea Theodore (1) wouldn’t let the Flames or their fans become complacent just yet, firing his first of the postseason into the twine with 49 seconds left in the 2nd period to make it a 4-2 game. Rickard Rakell (1) and Kevin Bieksa (3) assisted on Theodore’s goal.

If you thought the Flames were in the clear past halfway in the 3rd period, you were wrong.

Nate Thompson (1) tipped in his first of the playoffs on a goal that was reviewed for a potential high stick 11:14 into the final frame of regulation. Lindholm (2) fired the original shot and Corey Perry (1) sent the initial pass to Lindholm for the primary and secondary assists on Thompson’s goal.

Theodore (2) struck for the 2nd time on the night with Bieksa (4) and Thompson (1) collecting the helpers on the game tying goal at 15:39 of the 3rd period.

In a little over four minutes the Ducks had tied the game, 4-4, and forced overtime.

Sudden death overtime didn’t last too long, however, as Perry (1) wired one past Calgary’s net minder 90 seconds into the overtime period. Rakell (2) and Thompson (2) had the assists on what became a three point night for Nate Thompson (one goal, two assists). Anaheim had completed the comeback and stolen a win on road ice.

Perry’s goal marked the first time in franchise history for the Ducks to have overcome a three-goal deficit and win in a postseason game. Monday night also marked the third time in Stanley Cup Playoffs history that all four games scheduled on the same night required overtime.

Anaheim now leads Calgary 3-0 in the series with Game 4 scheduled for Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET. Wednesday’s action can be viewed nationwide in the United States on USA and in Canada on CBC and TVA Sports.