Tag Archives: Andreas Johnsson

Game of the week: December 10-16

With the holiday season and the league’s December 19 roster freeze on the horizon, the NHL schedule rages on with 51 fixtures scheduled for this week.

NHL SCHEDULE: December 10-16
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, December 10
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Penguins New York Islanders 2-1 (SO)
7:30 p.m. Los Angeles Detroit 1-3
7:30 p.m. New York Rangers Tampa Bay Lightning 3-6
10:30 p.m. New Jersey San Jose 2-5
Tuesday, December 11
7 p.m. Arizona Boston 3-4
7 p.m. Los Angeles Buffalo 3-4 (OT)
7 p.m. Toronto Carolina 4-1
7 p.m. Vancouver Columbus 3-2
7:30 p.m. Detroit Washington 2-6
8 p.m. Florida St. Louis 3-4
8 p.m. Ottawa Nashville 1-3
8 p.m. Montréal Minnesota 1-7
8 p.m. Chicago Winnipeg 3-6
9 p.m. Edmonton Colorado 6-4
Wednesday, December 12
7 p.m. Vegas Golden Knights New York Islanders 3-2
8 p.m. Pittsburgh Chicago 3-6
8:30 p.m. Philadelphia Calgary 5-6 (OT)
10 p.m. Dallas Anaheim 3-6
Thursday, December 13
7 p.m. Arizona Buffalo  
7 p.m. Los Angeles Columbus  
7:30 p.m. Carolina Montréal RDS, TSN2
7:30 p.m. Toronto Tampa Bay TVAS
8 p.m. Vancouver Nashville  
8 p.m. Florida Minnesota  
8 p.m. Edmonton Winnipeg  
10:30 p.m. Dallas San Jose SN1
Friday, December 14
7 p.m. Vegas New Jersey  
7 p.m. Arizona Coyotes New York Rangers  
7 p.m. Boston Pittsburgh TVAS
7:30 p.m. Ottawa Detroit RDS
7:30 p.m. Washington Carolina  
8 p.m. Colorado St. Louis  
8:30 p.m. Winnipeg Chicago  
9 p.m. Philadelphia Edmonton  
Saturday, December 15
1:30 p.m. Calgary Minnesota  
7 p.m. Ottawa Montréal SN, TVAS
7 p.m. Toronto Florida CBC, CITY, SN1
7 p.m. Detroit Red Wings New York Islanders  
7 p.m. Los Angeles Pittsburgh NHLN
7 p.m. Buffalo Washington  
7 p.m. Anaheim Columbus  
8 p.m. New Jersey Nashville  
9 p.m. Dallas Colorado  
10 p.m. Philadelphia Flyers Vancouver Canucks CBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360
Sunday, December 16
12:30 p.m. Vegas Golden Knights New York Rangers NHLN, SN
1 p.m. Arizona Carolina  
3 p.m. Calgary St. Louis  
5 p.m. Buffalo Boston NHLN
7 p.m. San Jose Chicago  
7 p.m. Tampa Bay Winnipeg SN, TVAS
10 p.m. Edmonton Vancouver  

In terms of rivalries, playoff rematches and player returns, this is a quiet week in the NHL. Only four rivalries will be contested – highlighted by the Penguins visiting the Islanders on Monday and Edmonton at Winnipeg tonight.

Speaking of the Islanders, they’re heading back to Nassau Coliseum for two of their three games this week. The previously mentioned tilt against fellow Metropolitan Division side Pittsburgh will take place in the old barn, as will Saturday’s matchup against Detroit.

Finally, the weekly homecoming list is headlined by D Mike Reilly making his first trip back to St. Paul on Tuesday since being traded to Montréal on February 26.

Considering Reilly is a third-pair defenseman, that might be a liberal use of the word “headlined.”

Instead, I’m immensely more interested in tonight’s game from Florida that features the top two teams from the Atlantic Division.

Ontario’s (wait, you’re telling me there’s another team in the same province?) beloved Maple Leafs enter tonight’s game with a 21-9-1 record good enough for second place in the Atlantic Division, Eastern Conference and the entire NHL.

News flash for those that have been living under a rock for the last six months: yeah, the Leafs are legit.

The Maple Leafs boast a solid 6-1-1 record in their past eight showings, including impressive victories over the Bruins and Sharks – not to mention a thrilling overtime win in Buffalo on December 4.

With the defense blatantly struggling during this run (Toronto has allowed 36.38 shots against per game since November 24, the second-worst mark in the NHL behind Ottawa’s 37.22 in that time), the offense has taken full command of Head Coach Mike Babcock and the Maple Leafs’ game plan.

On the season, Toronto averages 3.65 goals per game – the third-highest mark in the league. Most teams would be happy maintaining that success, but the Leafs have found an even higher gear of late, averaging 4.38 goals per game in their last eight showings.

Leading that charge has been exactly who you’d expect: C Auston Matthews. While his 6-5-11 totals since November 24 technically trail F Mitch Marner’s 13 assists (Marner, of course, ranks second in the league with 35 assists and is tied with Tampa’s F Brayden Point for sixth in points with 41 apiece), it must be remembered that Matthews has only played six games in that time as compared to his teammate’s eight.

Joining Marner and Matthews in averaging a point per game or better during this eight-game run are W Andreas Johnsson (5-5-10 totals) and D Jake Gardiner (1-7-8). And, don’t forget about C John Tavares, whose 19 goals are tied for ninth-most in the NHL with Colorado’s LW Gabriel Landeskog.

A final note in regards to Toronto’s attack is in regards to its deadly power play. For the season, the Leafs rank seventh best in the league with a 25.9 percent success rate. However, goals have been coming far more often since November 24, as they have lit the lamp on six of their last 18 man-advantage situations for a 33.3 percent power play that ties Tampa Bay for second-best in the NHL in that time.

Tonight’s game against Toronto is the finale of a four-game home stand for the 24-7-1 Tampa Bay Lightning, the NHL’s top team. Not only are the Bolts attempting to win all four of those games at their barn, but they’re also trying to continue their current seven-game winning streak that started on November 29 against the Sabres.

Notable victories during this winning streak came against the aforementioned Sabres, Bruins and Avalanche.

Just like the Leafs, the key to Tampa Bay’s domination is its overpowering offense. During this winning streak, the Bolts have scored an average of 5.14(!) goals per game, far and away the best in the league in that time and a massive improvement on the league-leading four goals per game they’ve averaged for the entire season.

Every skater that has taken to the ice during this winning streak has at least two points to his credit, but only four have averaged at least a point per game. C Steven Stamkos (8-4-12 totals since November 29) leads that group, joined by RW Nikita Kucherov (3-9-12), Point (3-6-9) and D Victor Hedman (0-7-7).

Of course, it’s not as if its any surprise which players are leading the charge for the Lightning. Point’s 21 goals on the season are tied for second-most in the league, while Kucherov’s 33 assists and 45 points are both third-most in the NHL.

An added benefit of the Bolts’ commanding offense is its impact on the defensive end of the ice. While D Dan Girardi (1.7 blocks per game since November 29), Kucherov (six takeaways in his last seven showings) and F Cedric Paquette (3.9 hits per game during this winning streak) should certainly be commended for their defensive efforts – especially in light of 9-3-1 G Andrei Vasilevskiy’s foot injury that had kept him out of the crease since November 10 – the fact that they are leading the team in their statistics with average numbers shows just how much the Lightning are dominating possession. During this winning run, Tampa Bay has allowed only 27.29 shots against per game, the sixth-lowest mark in the league in that time.

With Vasilevskiy returning to the ice tonight, it goes without saying that he’d likely appreciate that trend continuing while he gets back into the swing of play.

So who wins this clash of offensive titans?

For me, this game boils down to the goaltenders. How well Vasilevskiy performs in his first action in a month will be a major factor. Before going down with injury, he was managing a solid .927 save percentage and 2.29 GAA. While he does have the benefit of playing behind a solid team, the Leafs are good enough on the attack that they will still be able to test him significantly throughout this game.

Meanwhile, 17-8-0 G Frederik Andersen will not have the benefit of any solid defense playing in front of him this evening, but that has not been a problem yet this year. Despite facing an average of 33.12 shots against per appearance (compared to Vasilevskiy’s 31.69), Andersen has still posted a .928 save percentage and 2.44 GAA to earn the second-most wins in the NHL.

With that in mind, I’m leaning towards the Leafs taking this one in a wildly back-and-forth barn-burner of a game. I think Vasilevskiy will show just enough rust that Toronto can escape Tampa Bay with a 4-3 victory.

KREJCI PASSES NEELY, BRUINS BEAT LEAFS, 6-3

David Krejci (1-1–2 totals) surpassed Cam Neely for 10th place in the Boston Bruins all-time scoring list with his 591st and 592nd career points with Boston in Saturday night’s, 6-3, victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.

Jaroslav Halak (9-4-2, 2.30 goals against average, .930 save percentage in 17 games played) made 29 saves on 32 shots against for a .906 SV% in the win for the Bruins, while Frederik Andersen (16-8-0, 2.50 GAA, .926 SV% in 24 GP) made 22 saves on 28 shots faced (.786 SV%) in 46:10 time on ice in the loss.

Garret Sparks (4-1-1, 2.84 GAA, .913 SV% in seven GP) replaced Andersen almost midway through the third period for Toronto and turned aside all four shots he faced in the remaining 13:47 TOI.

Boston improved to 15-10-4 (34 points) on the season and leapt back over the Montreal Canadiens for 4th place in the Atlantic Division and the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Maple Leafs fell to 20-9-1 (41 points) on the season and remain 2nd in the Atlantic Division– six points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the division lead.

With the win on Saturday, the Bruins are now 1-3-0 in the month of December and are being outscored, 15-10, in that four-game span.

Bruce Cassidy informed reporters prior to Saturday night’s matchup that Jake DeBrusk will miss the weekend’s games at home and in Ottawa as the young Bruins forward has “not [been] feeling well.”

DeBrusk had taken a puck to the back of the head on a shot from his own teammate on Nov. 26th in Toronto, which might be contributing to his current ailment, though it was not confirmed.

As a result of DeBrusk’s injury, Cassidy indicated Saturday night would mark Gemel Smith’s debut (and home debut) as a Bruin.

With DeBrusk out of the equation on the second line, Cassidy juggled the lines to keep Brad Marchand, Krejci and David Pastrnak together on the first line and Colby Cave centering Danton Heinen and David Backes to round out the top-six forwards.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson started the game on the third line between Ryan Donato and Joakim Nordstrom, while Smith slid in on the left side of Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner.

On defense, Torey Krug was paired with Brandon Carlo on the top defensive pair, with Matt Grzelcyk alongside his Boston University teammate, Charlie McAvoy.

John Moore and Steven Kampfer filled out the bottom defensive pairing for the Bruins with Halak getting the start in goal and Tuukka Rask likely to play Sunday in Ottawa.

Noel Acciari and Jeremy Lauzon were healthy scratches on Saturday, joining Zdeno Chara (lower body, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (upper body), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) and Kevan Miller (throat) in the press box.

McAvoy was penalized 13 seconds into the game for cross checking Maple Leafs forward, Mitch Marner, and the Leafs went on the power play for the first time of the night.

Toronto did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Both teams continued to trade chances until midway in the first period when Krejci and Jake Gardiner got tangled up and received matching roughing minors at 10:07.

While on the ensuing 4-on-4 action, Pastrnak sent a shot towards the goal for Forsbacka Karlsson to redirect, but Andersen made the initial save– that is, until he let up a rebound, which Forsbacka Karlsson (3) followed up on and poked the puck through the Maple Leafs goaltender to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

Pastrnak (13) and Grzelcyk (8) had the assists on the goal at 11:20 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, Boston held onto a 1-0 lead, while Toronto led in shots on goal, 11-8. The Leafs also led in blocked shots (6-3), takeaways (13-3) and hits (11-8), meanwhile the B’s had the advantage in giveaways (4-2) and face-off win percentage (56-44).

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play.

Tyler Ennis kicked the action off in the second period with a tripping infraction as Smith went down to the ice at 6:14 of the middle frame. Boston couldn’t convert on the power play, but got a second chance on the skater advantage in the same period about 20 seconds after the first advantage expired.

Nazem Kadri caught Krejci with a stick and brought the veteran Bruins forward down at 8:34 and the Bruins went back on the power play.

Just 20 seconds into the ensuing advantage, Backes (3) fired a wrist shot past Andersen’s glove side to give the B’s a two-goal lead, 2-0, at 8:54 of the second period.

This, of course, after a mad scramble that led to Marchand (18) and Krug (13) being credited with the primary and secondary assists. 

John Tavares was guilty of slashing Gryzelcyk at 10:06, but the 5-on-4 power play for Boston wouldn’t last long as Backes hooked Maple Leafs defender, Nikita Zaitsev at 11:02.

For the next 1:05, both teams would play 4-on-4 action– at least, until  Gardiner boarded Krejci at 11:33 of the second period and sent the B’s on a rare 4-on-3 power play for 34 seconds.

As the string of soft calls started winding down, tempers started to flare on the ice.

Before long, Carlo and Nazem Kadri were at each other’s throats after a stoppage in play, which led to the exchanging of fisticuffs at 14:32.

The fight was just the 2nd fighting major of the season for the Maple Leafs, while it was both Kadri and Carlo’s first fight of the season.

Recently traded to the Vancouver Canucks, forward Josh Leivo  had the other fight for Toronto this season, while Carlo was involved in just the third fight of his young career (about one-a-season, so far).

Toronto began a short onslaught, but Halak stood tall and momentum swung Boston’s way as the Bruins sustained some attacking zone time and capitalized with a goal from the point.

Krug (1) wired a wrist shot past Andersen for his first goal of the season– and first goal in 25 games– to give the Bruins a three-goal lead.

Marchand (19) and Krejci (18) picked up the assists to make it, 3-0, Boston at 17:45 of the second period, marking the first time since Nov. 24th (against the Montreal Canadiens) that the B’s had tallied at least three goals in a game.

With his assist on the play, Krejci officially surpassed Neely for 10th place on the all-time scoring list in Bruins franchise history. Krejci would add another point in the form of a goal in the third period to further pull away from the current Bruins president’s historical marker of 590 career points with Boston.

Krejci now has 592 and counting.

After 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 3-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 23-20, after outshooting the Maple Leafs, 15-9, in the second period alone.

Toronto led in blocked shots (7-5) and takeaways (23-7) through two periods, while the B’s dominated in giveaways (7-3), hits (19-17) and face-off win% (52-48)

The Maple Leafs were 0/1 on the power play entering the second intermission and the Bruins were 1/4.

Heinen (3) kicked off a chaotic third period with his first point in 12 games in the form of a goal at 1:47 into the final frame of regulation.

Donato (1) and Moore (4) tallied the assists and the Bruins led, 4-0.

Moments later, Travis Dermott (2) wired a back-footed snap shot from the point past Halak, high-glove side at 4:03 of the third period to put Toronto on the scoreboard, 4-1.

Auston Matthews (10) and Gardiner (14) had the assists on Dermott’s goal and the Leafs cut the lead to three.

A mere, 34 seconds later, Krejci (4) collected his second goal in two games on a rush and a give-and-go with Pastrnak to make it, 5-1, Boston.

Pastrnak (14) and Marchand (20) were tabbed with the assists at 4:37.

Less than two minutes later, Donato (3) added a goal while being held by Matthews in front of the net and pounding his own rebound behind Andersen to make it, 6-1, Bruins.

Heinen (4) and Krug (14) had the assists at 6:13 of the third period and Mike Babcock replaced his starting goaltender with Sparks.

Andersen’s night was done after allowing six goals.

But the zany game on ice has its ways as Matthews (16) riffled a shot past Halak after Andreas Johnsson freed a loose puck from Carlo to Matthews to make it, 6-2.

Johnsson (6) and Morgan Reilly (23) had the assists on the goal that made it a four-goal game at 9:30 of the third period.

Then, 23 seconds later, Zach Hyman delivered a high, late hit, with the elbow to McAvoy behind the play and Grzelcyk, along with the rest of the Bruins took notice.

Grzelcyk immediately challenged Hyman in effort to standup for his teammate who had just returned this week from a concussion and the two exchanged blows.

The penalty minutes officially read, Grzelcyk (fighting, major) and a game misconduct at 9:53, while Hyman received a fighting major, a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct.

Despite Hyman’s interference major, the Bruins were not given a power play advantage.

This, coupled with soft calls and blown calls from 13 seconds into the game through this point in the third period led to chaos.

Barely a minute later in playing time, Wagner glided into a high hit on Patrick Marleau in the neutral zone.

Toronto defender, Ron Hainsey, immediately challenged the Bruins winger to a duel of fists and the two squared off with Wagner getting the wrestling takedown.

Only Wagner was officially penalized, however, with a minor penalty for charging and a misconduct at 10:55 of the third period.

As a result, the Bruins would be shorthanded and neither bench was very pleased. Both coaches were furious, but the game continued as the refs failed to contain the emotions of the game.

Donato served Wagner’s minor penalty, but it wasn’t long before Johnsson (7) capitalized on a deflection that yielded a rebound and collected a power play goal at 12:22.

Marleau (10) and Gardiner (15) had the assists and the Leafs trailed, 6-3.

With about two minutes remaining in regulation, McAvoy returned to the Bruins bench after going through concussion protocol.

At the final horn, Boston had defeated Toronto, 6-3, and improved to 10-2-2 when scoring first this season.

Both teams finished the night with 32 shots on goal, while the B’s led in blocked shots (13-8), giveaways (12-9) and hits (24-21). The Maple Leafs finished Saturday night ahead in face-off win% (53-47) and were 1/2 on the power play, while Boston was 1/4.

The Bruins and Maple Leafs will meet once more this season in Toronto on January 12, 2019.

Until then, Boston travels to Canadian Tire Centre for a Sunday matinee (5 p.m. ET puck drop) with the Ottawa Senators before traveling back home for a Tuesday night matchup with the Arizona Coyotes.

The Bruins follow up Tuesday’s matchup with another rumble on the road at PPG Paints Arena next Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.


DTFR Podcast #133- Stuffed

The Original Trio reunites to talk recent trades, recent coaching changes, the Buffalo Sabres current winning streak, a haphazard review of the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers, as well as a look at the division standings as of American Thanksgiving.

Craig Berube is now in charge behind the bench of the St. Louis Blues and Ken Hitchcock is back from retirement to coach the Oilers after Mike Yeo and Todd McLellan were both fired respectively from their clubs.

Rasmus Dahlin continues to emerge as a star in Buffalo as the team rises in the standings– can the Sabres keep this up? Will Dahlin get some votes for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year and does Phil Housley deserve credit for the team’s turnaround?

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

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 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.

David is Goliath: Pastrnak’s hat trick; 6 points too much for Leafs

 

 

 

 

 

If Pastafarianism wasn’t already a religion, Boston would definitely be trying to make it one. (But seriously, it is already a religion. Look it up. It’s a hoot.)

It was a rocking night at TD Garden, with Rene Rancourt bringing his two-game fist pump totals to 8 (kid’s on a roll) and the Boston crowd (that included our own @nlanciani53) was thunderous.

After having the proverbial sand kicked in their faces in Game 1, it was expected that Toronto would come into Game 2 looking for redemption, and prove they were the threat they were made out to be. Sure they’d have to do it without Nazem Kadri (serving the first of his 3 game suspension, replaced by Andreas Johnsson playing his first career NHL playoff game) in the lineup, but Boston would be without Tommy Wingels (the one who received the suspension-worthy hit, replaced by Ryan Donato also playing his first career NHL playoff game) so that should even things up, right?

It, uh…it didn’t.

The first solid action kicked off just 1:30 into the game, as Jake DeBrusk sprung Rick Nash on a breakaway with a beautiful stretch pass, but Nash would fire just wide of the net.

Soon after, it was Tuukka Rask making the game’s first notable stop, grabbing a redirect off the stick of William Nylander. On the following shift Rask covered up another puck and took a snow shower from young Kasperi Kapanen, drawing the ire of…basically everyone wearing black and gold. This seemed to be when the troubles really started for the Leafs, actually.

First it was Kevan Miller absolutely freight train-ing James van Riemsdyk in the corner to Rask’s right, igniting the Boston crowd and giving a jolt of energy to his team.

Just over 30 seconds after the big hit, the Bruins’ top line started zipping the puck around, capped off by Torey Krug firing a hard pass to a streaking David Pastrnak. The pass caught a Toronto stick and deflected up in the air, but Pastrnak somehow managed to corral the puck and settle it on his tape while doing a 360 past a Leafs defender and tucking a backhand past the outstretched pad of Frederik Andersen to take the 1-0 lead at 5:26. If you haven’t seen this goal yet, go find it.

Krug would make the church bells ring a few minutes later, firing one off of the post, shortly before Toronto took a penalty. Early in the penalty kill it looked like Toronto was going to tie the game, as Kapanen broke in alone and deked Rask out of his pants, but fired the puck right off the post and sent the play in the other direction where shortly after DeBrusk would tip in a centering feed from Krug (who had pinched all the way to the goal line on the right wing boards) to score Boston’s 4th power play goal of the series to put his team up 2-0 9:46 into the game.

Less than two and a half minutes later Boston would find the back of the net again, with another defenseman, this time being Kevan Miller from the left wing boards, would fire a pass to the middle of the ice from along the goal line. Miller’s pass hit the skate of Leafs defender Nikita Zaitsev and beat Andersen, putting Boston up 3-0 with 7:47 to play in the first.

Mike Babcock decided he had seen enough, and rather than burning a valuable timeout, he chose to make a goaltending switch to get the attention of his team, pulling Andersen in favor of Curtis McElhinney, who made just the second playoff appearance of his entire career.

Unfortunately for Babcock and the Leafs, the Bruins were having none of this attempt to slow things down. Tim Schaller made sure the building stayed in it by flattening Mitch Marner on the forecheck, leading to a fight with Ron Hainsey.

On the power play resulting from Hainsey’s instigator penalty, the Bs extra man unit improved to five-for-eight in the series when Rick Nash cleaned up the garbage from a ricocheting Pastrnak shot just 11 seconds into the man advantage, giving the Bruins a 4-0 lead at the 15:00 mark.

Toronto did manage to somewhat stop the bleeding for the final five minutes, and mounted a bit of a counter-attack, but never got a serious scoring opportunity out of it and went to the room trailing by four with little in the way of positives to build on. Boston scored four goals on eight shots, including the last three on consecutive shots.

Early in the second, Toronto finally found life, with Zach Hyman and Mitch Marner pouncing on a David Krejci turnover to set up a two-on-one, where Marner would bang in the back door goal to make it 4-1 just 1:22 into the middle frame.

Again, it took no time at all for Boston to push Toronto’s faces right back in the dirt, coming out on the very next shift and responding with two thundering hits. First it was David Backes stapling Zaitsev to the end boards behind his own net, then just a few seconds later Leo Komarov tried to step into Miller and instead ended up laying on the ice seemingly unsure of his whereabouts. Or identity. (He’d return only briefly on a power play shift a few minutes later, taking the ice for about 10 seconds before immediately returning to the locker room and never reappearing)

Then just 2:24 after the Marner goal, it would be Krejci making amends for his costly turnover by tipping a Pastrnak shot past McElhinney as he skated across the front of the net, restoring Boston’s four-goal lead 3:46 into the second.

The Leafs would get a power play soon after, but the only real opportunity they’d have was a hard wrist shot by Auston Matthews labeled for the glove side corner that Rask seemingly lackadaisically snagged out of the air.

Rick Nash and Auston Matthews traded breakaway opportunities, both on terrific power moves through defenders, but both were turned aside by the respective netminders.

Toronto again pulled within 3 when Tyler Bozak tipped home a nice spinning feed from below the goal line by Connor Brown with 10:57 remaining. They managed to build a little momentum off of this, having a few good scoring chances (Gardiner one-timer out of a netfront scramble, Marleau getting his own rebound off the end boards and nearly beating an off-balance Rask) turned aside in the next few minutes. Rask continued to be the story for most of the dying minutes, making two of his best stops with just over 4 to play, first on Matthews walking out from behind the net, then stretching out the opposite side pad to deny Patrick Marleau on the rebound. Shots were evened up at 22 at the end of the second period.

Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk spent the last part of the second and the third period nursing an apparent leg injury of some sort, often limping noticeably, but finished the game.

The early minutes of the third passed without incident, until Brown and Tomas Plekanec jumped on a loose puck after Charlie McAvoy tripped near his own blueline for a two-on-one, but Rask again turned it aside. On the following shift at the opposite end it would be McElhinney stopping a Patrice Bergeron one-timer on a feed by Brad Marchand.

With 8:26 remaining Boston would strike again, Marchand turning the puck over from Gardiner and walking in on a breakaway that Gardiner somehow managed to get back and poke check away at the last second, but before Toronto could regroup Bergeron had already retrieved the puck in the corner and handed it to Pastrnak, who walked to the front of the net almost uncontested and roofed a shot over the blocker side of McElhinney for the 6-2 lead.

JVR managed to again cut the defecit to 3 with 5:07 to play when he banged home a rebound past Rask, who had little help on the play, after a hard forecheck by Bozak caused Zdeno Chara to lose his stick, leaving him unable to tie up van Riemsdyk in front of the net.

Just to make sure the winning margin was four goals, and just because he could, Pastrnak took a Marchand pass from behind the goal line, toe dragged it between his own legs, then backhanded the puck into the net past a prone McElhinney to scored the hat trick, bring his point total to six on the night (nine in the first two games of the series), and drive the dagger firmly into the hearts of the Toronto faithful with 1:36 to play. ‘Pasta’ became the first player in franchise history to score 3+ points in each of the team’s first two playoff games of the year.

The simple fact in this series is that Toronto has yet to find any answer for the Bruins’ top line (14 points between them in Game 2). Should they be able to, they could find success, as the rest of the Boston lineup is not supremely dangerous (New Jersey has found a way to keep the Miller/Stamkos/Kucherov line quiet, but can’t match the Bolts’ ridiculous depth). But the Toronto defense looks almost helpless at times, and Rask has simply been too good for Toronto to rely upon their offense to solve all their problems.

Mike Babcock and his team will search hard for an answer, I’m sure, and will hope for a little reinvigorating energy from an energetic home crowd at the ACC. Game 3 will come to you on Monday night at 7 p.m. Eastern with DTFR coverage brought to you by shameless Boston homer @nlanciani53