Colby’s back, Jack.
Let’s face it, most people over the age of 18 don’t care for the NHL’s annual All Star Game, but it’s still an important part of the sport nonetheless.
For starters, the host city is provided with a boost in tourism for a weekend in January, while the local community receives more attention and support from the league in terms of growing the game for the duration leading up to that weekend and beyond– making it more accessible, more affordable and more inclusive, ideally.
It’s because of the good public relations and the charitable efforts made that the All Star Game should never go away.
That said, it could use some improvements to try to bring back the casual onlookers of the sport or even the diehards that tune out for the night and would rather watch paint dry.
Here’s three ways to try to bring more eyes to the game and at the very least boost its ratings on a weekend when not much else is happening to distract viewers from that season’s best NHLers having a little fun (how dare they).
Make it like the 2016 World Cup of Hockey
Want to further exemplify how the game is continuing to evolve, while getting younger and faster? Look no further than introducing a 23 and under team inspired by the 2016 World Cup of Hockey’s Team North America to the 3-on-3 format of the All Star Game!
Simply go back to naming teams after players and having them select their teammates and/or opponents, then pit the 23-year-olds and younger against the 30-year-olds and older and see if Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Rasmus Dahlin can beat Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin (assuming he wouldn’t skip the game) and John Carlson.
Want an added challenge? Bring back the Young Stars Game for players ranging in age from 18 to 20 and have them take on each other in an East vs. West format or simply throw them into the fire with the 23 and under team, 24 to 29-year-old team and 30 and older team (or something like that).
But seriously, either adopt the World Cup of Hockey teams for a 3-on-3 battle, mix it up with a young vs. old mentality or just pick who goes to the All Star Game and let them create their teams.
Imagine a team solely comprised of goaltenders. Now that’s worth tuning in for.
Better yet, let’s have the Elite Women’s team take on NHLers in a Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs inspired matchup or have Marie-Philip Poulin lace up her skates alongside Crosby, while Hilary Knight suits up with Matthews and unleash the fury that is all of Hockey Canada and USA Hockey coming together for an ultimate 3-on-3 battle.
Make it a weekend of skills
If most fans over the age of 18 are tuning in for All Star weekend festivities just to see who’s the fastest skater, who has the hardest shot, what kind of crazy relay race Gatorade has come up this year or the all-new addition of a 3-on-3 women’s game to the skills competition, then why not make it a two-night main event?
The Hardest Shot competition, for example, wouldn’t get to be featured on both nights with the possibility of players altering their sticks within legal manners to try to get more speed on their shot– unless you wanted to add something like that as a curveball.
If you don’t want to expand the number of events, then get creative and allow a little tampering for players to study what they did on the first night, learn what their competition did better and try to beat that on the second night.
Alternatively, the league could just have have a mixture of traditional skills (Hardest Shot, Fastest Skater, Accuracy Shooting) and newer competitions (Shooting Stars, Save Streak, Elite Women’s 3-on-3 game) spread out over two nights with the return of the Breakaway Challenge, Skills Challenge Relay, Premier Passer, Puck Control Relay, Elimination Shootout and whatever you can come with to split each night with six different events.
Bring back the Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference format or have the divisions compete against each other and award points to the winners of each event.
The squad with the most points at the end of the two-night challenge wins bonus money or something.
Throw in an extra $50,000 for a charity that the winning team was playing for and you’ve got yourself even more good PR.
Don’t announce the All Star rosters until player introductions
Remember the outrage about Team USA’s 2010 Winter Games roster after it was announced immediately following the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park?
This would be like that, but with more people than ever before on Hockey Twitter™ completely freaking out about how Jack Johnson was named to the All Star Game.
Think of the controversy that could be drummed up in real-time without allowing anyone to have about a month to whine about All Star snubs or substitutions.
Even better, it might force players to go to the game instead of using the built-in time off from the bye week as an excuse to skip out on something that’s made for fans to get a chance to see who they might otherwise not see regularly.
(So the NHLPA’s never going to agree to this idea from the start, because time off matters.)
Sure the schedule currently lets every market see players from out of town, but the novelty of the All Star Game has always been that the host city and its fans (or anyone that may have traveled from out of town to the region) can get to see the stars of the game without the barriers of dynamic ticket pricing getting in the way (in theory) for a family of four that might not be able to afford a regular matchup against one of the more superstar loaded teams.
This idea’s the hardest one to pull off given how well secrets are kept in the league (they’re not), as well as due to the fact that people would know by warmups who’s made the team and tweet about it, plus the fact that All Star merchandise with any player’s likeness would still need to be made ahead of time to sell at just the right time leading up to the game and thereafter (which could get leaked).
New jerseys and future Winter Classic venues and teams are constantly being disclosed before official announcements or reveals, which can sometimes take the fun away from the moment when it actually happens or– more often– only further stew angry complaints on social media until fans see it on the ice.
But just think, what if we all agreed to show up to Enterprise Center or watch the 2020 All Star Game on TV without knowing who’s in it only to find out that Brad Marchand was left off the team even though he’s currently 6th in league scoring (with 64 points– 10 points fewer than league leader, McDavid) or that anyone from the Detroit Red Wings or New Jersey Devils even made the team despite the former being on track for the worst regular season since the 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche?
Imagine the drama– then watch them play a 3-on-3 tournament!
Oh yeah, this also assumes that you’d somehow not spoil the rosters with the Skills Competition, but we can work those details out at a later time.
Wednesday afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs fired their now former head coach, Mike Babcock, and promoted Sheldon Keefe as the new head coach of the Leafs from his previous head coaching duties with the Toronto Marlies (AHL).
It’s a move that everyone likely saw coming, but this soon? That’s impressive.
Babcock was adamant in his coaching abilities and in his belief in himself as “the greatest coach who ever lived” (paraphrasing, obviously), but could not salvage his hubris when it mattered most– right now.
Toronto is currently 9-10-4 (22 points) on the season, 5th place in the Atlantic Division and outside of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Luckily for the Leafs, the Pittsburgh Penguins (11-7-3, 25 points), Philadelphia Flyers (10-7-4, 24 points) and Buffalo Sabres (10-8-3, 23 points) aren’t that far ahead of them in the standings for now.
It’s the perfect time to be bold and make a move if you’re looking to provide a short-term spark that will hopefully re-ignite some cooling embers and launch the Maple Leafs back into playoff contention at the very least– if not Stanley Cup contention, as many have expected for a few years now before Toronto’s General Manager, Kyle Dubas, was forced to spend about $40.489 million on William Nylander, Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner while somehow forgetting the importance of a defense and a backup goaltender in the process.
For a team that used to employ a coach that notoriously bet on himself and his process for better or worse, well, they’re betting heavily on the salary cap ceiling to make a significant jump by the time a new national TV rights distribution package in the United States is negotiated in 2022.
But that’s a separate discussion entirely.
For now, we’re left in the wake of a post-Babcock Leafs Era and what it means for the Boston Bruins– Toronto’s biggest rival most recently.
The 56-year-old former head coach in Toronto was in his 5th year of an eight-year, $50.000 million contract with the Maple Leafs.
Toronto went 29-42-11 in the 2015-16 season, which led them to drafting Matthews with the 1st overall pick in the 2016 Draft.
The following year, Babcock and the Maple Leafs improved to 40-27-15, qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2013, before losing in six games to the Washington Capitals in the 2017 First Round.
Then history repeated itself as the Leafs went 49-26-7 in the 2017-18 regular season before losing in seven games to Boston in the 2018 First Round.
From there it was a broken record for Toronto– a 46-28-9 effort in 2018-19 led to another First Round matchup with Boston and another Game 7 loss on the road to the Bruins in the 2019 First Round.
This season, through 23 games, the Leafs have six wins in regulation. They have nine total.
Babcock hasn’t won a playoff series since he was still with the Detroit Red Wings in 2013. He hasn’t led a team back to the Stanley Cup Final since losing in 2009 with Detroit in the Red Wings-Penguins rematch from 2008.
He may be “Canada’s Coach”, but he isn’t “Canada’s favorite team’s head coach” anymore.
Enter Keefe, a 39-year-old, from Brampton, Ontario– a short drive from Toronto– emerging as “The Chosen One”.
Hired by Toronto to lead the Marlies on June 8, 2015, Keefe had a respectable first season with Toronto’s AHL affiliate in 2015-16, notching a 54-16-5-1 record (wins-losses-overtime losses-shootout losses, for those of you who aren’t AHL savvy).
Keefe pushed his team all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs (his rookie season as an AHL coach, mind you) before the Marlies succumbed to the Hershey Bears in five games.
In 2016-17, Keefe coached his team to a 42-29-4-1 record and a North Division Final appearance in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs that resulted in a Game 7 loss to the Syracuse Crunch.
That loss didn’t set the Marlies back, but instead motivated Keefe and his team as they marched to a 54-18-2-2 record in 2017-18 and a 2018 Calder Cup Final appearance.
They defeated the Texas Stars in seven games and captured Toronto’s first championship in ice hockey since the NHL’s Maple Leafs raised the Stanley Cup in 1967.
Though it was only the AHL, it proved that something was in the works.
Dubas’ masterplan was coming to fruition as the analytics guru rose to power– taking over as GM of the Maple Leafs with Lou Lamoriello’s departure in the 2018 offseason.
Keefe had followed Dubas from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) to the Maple Leafs organization in 2015, but Babcock stood in the way of his destiny, it seemed.
Babcock was Lamoriello’s choice and fit with Brendan Shanahan’s “Shanaplan”.
Keefe fit with Dubas in the contemporary game, “Shanaplan” be damned.
In 2018-19, Keefe led the Marlies to a 39-24-9-4 record and an Eastern Conference Final appearance for the 2nd year in a row in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Though the Marlies lost to the Charlotte Checkers in six games, one thing was for certain– Keefe had it going in the minor league.
It’s not every day that a coach is able to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in his rookie season, let alone in three of his first four full seasons as an AHL bench boss.
Up until his promotion to the NHL, Keefe amassed a 10-2-2-1 record with the Marlies this season.
They were 1st in the North Division at the time of his departure for the big league.
In 320 career AHL games with the Marlies, Keefe collected a 199-89-22-9 record and a .622 winning percentage in the process– plus one Calder Cup championship in 2018.
So, what does this mean for the Bruins?
A lot when you factor in advantages and disadvantages for each team in the promotion of Keefe from the Marlies to the Leafs.
First, for Toronto, the advantages of having Keefe for a potential playoff matchup with Boston.
The core of Toronto’s current roster (Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Zach Hyman, Morgan Rielly and even Frederik Andersen) has lost in the First Round in at least one of the last three postseasons (Tavares is the only member who hasn’t had to endure three-straight soul crushing First Round departures under Babcock’s reign).
Yes, this may seem bad, but it actually speaks volumes for their playoff experience.
This team is hungry– right from its core– and its fanbase, its front office and its backyard media wants to win sooner rather than later.
Plus, Nylander’s 2nd season in the AHL (although it was only a partial season) overlapped with Keefe’s time behind the bench of the Marlies, so there’s some familiarity between one of the four highest paid players on the Leafs and their head coach.
Additionally, Kapanen, Hyman and others have experience with Keefe and the Marlies’ system.
There’s enough familiarity there for something– potentially something dangerous.
Now for the advantages for Boston.
History is on their side. Boston’s core (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask) has shown its capable of making another Cup run (even with an aging captain and 1-2 centers).
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, remains a constant and in control.
Boston missed the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, but Claude Julien was still their head coach then, so the combination of Cassidy, plus Chara, Bergeron and Krejci’s leadership made for an easier transition into getting the team back into a “top of their game” playoff performer (and eventual Cup contender in 2019).
This isn’t a luxury the Leafs have, where the team’s looking to get back into postseason contention, period, let alone win a series.
Toronto missed the playoffs in their first year with Babcock, but made it for the last three years and lost each year in the First Round.
This leads to Toronto’s disadvantages for another potential postseason meeting with the Bruins.
History is not on Toronto’s side and neither are the statistics.
Yes, Dubas’ 2nd favorite thing in the world– analytics– could get in the way of his 1st favorite thing in the world– bringing the Cup back to the Maple Leafs organization.
As things stand, the Leafs have a greater chance of missing the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs than making them currently.
Toronto– the city, the fans, the players, the front office and the media– wants to win right now. There’s no room for excuses (even if they’re legitimate, like taking one’s time to formulate a defense via prospects or trades and supplementing Andersen in the crease with a legitimate backup goaltender).
But, whereas Cassidy inherited broken pieces in Boston that were addressed and revamped as the team went from outside the playoffs two years in a row to making three consecutive postseason appearances under Cassidy in his head coaching tenure with the B’s– addressing the need for depth down the lineup in the process without the likes of a highly touted free agent acquisition– Keefe and the Leafs have the majority of this season to work on that necessary synergy with a better offense (on paper).
Cassidy was named interim head coach of the Bruins in Feb. 2017. Boston was ousted by the Ottawa Senators in six games in the 2017 First Round and lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the 2018 Second Round prior to their 2019 Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Keefe has Tavares, Matthews and Marner (when healthy) to unleash on any given night and could very well pull a turnaround in one season a la the St. Louis Blues last season (who beat the Bruins in the Final in Game 7 at TD Garden) or the Penguins in 2009 (when Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien midseason and won the Cup) and 2016 (when Mike Sullivan replaced Bylsma midseason and won the Cup).
In that sense, recent history is actually on Toronto’s side.
Boston had some growing pains to go with their dramatic improvement, but the Leafs are built to counteract that pain if Keefe can find a better way to manage it than Babcock did.
As it is, Cassidy is 130-55-27 in 212 games with Boston from 2017-present (good enough for a .613 winning percentage), but 207-128-21-24 in 380 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL) from 2011-16 (.545 winning%).
Babcock was 173-133-45 in 351 games with the Maple Leafs from 2015-19 (.493 winning%).
Keefe gets the final say and has his .622 winning% in 320 games with the Marlies going for him as he steps into the biggest role behind any bench in the National Hockey League.
Playoffs or not, the rest of this season is about to be a wild ride for the Maple Leafs and their fans.
Bruins fans be worried or not.
After blowing a four-goal lead heading into the third period against the Florida Panthers before losing, 5-4, in a shootout on Tuesday, the Boston Bruins entered Scotiabank Arena on a four-game losing streak.
The B’s snapped their four-game losing streak with a, 4-2, victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday.
Brad Marchand had a pair of goals in his 700th career National Hockey League game en route to the win, while Tuukka Rask (8-2-2 record, 2.14 goals against average, .927 save percentage in 12 games played) made 29 saves on 31 shots against for a .935 SV% in the win for the Bruins.
Maple Leafs goaltender, Frederik Andersen (9-4-3, 2.74 GAA, .912 SV% in 16 GP) stopped 30 out of 33 shots faced for a .912 SV% in the loss.
Boston maintained 1st place in the Atlantic Division, while improving to 12-3-4 (28 points) on the season.
Toronto fell to 9-8-4 (22 points) and remained 4th in the Atlantic as a result of the loss.
The Bruins improved to 5-3-1 on the road this season and snapped their first four-game losing streak since Nov. 2017 in the process.
Once more the Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), David Backes (upper body), Jake DeBrusk (lower body), Brett Ritchie (upper body) and Torey Krug (upper body) due to various injuries.
Zach Senyshyn (lower body) joined them on the long list of players out of the lineup against Toronto on Friday after being injured in Tuesday night’s matchup against the Panthers. He will be re-evaluated in approximately four weeks.
As a result, Trent Frederic was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) and inserted on the third line left wing alongside Par Lindholm and Danton Heinen.
Frederic has five assists in 15 games with Providence this season and skated in 15 games with Boston last season.
Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, left his lines the same as Tuesday night with the exception of Frederic’s addition in place of Senyshyn.
Urho Vaakanainen was paired with Connor Clifton on the third defensive pairing while Matt Grzelcyk was bumped up to the second pairing with Brandon Carlo, as well as the first power play unit.
Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy remained together on the first pairing, while Steven Kampfer was the only healthy scratch for the Bruins against the Maple Leafs.
Midway through the first period, Bjork sent Grzelcyk behind the goal whereby the Bruins defender then flipped a pass from the trapezoid to Coyle (3) as No. 13 in black-and-gold ripped a shot high past Andersen’s glove on the short side to give Boston a, 1-0, lead.
The goal was Coyle’s first in seven games and was assisted by Grzelcyk (4) and Bjork (1) at 13:48 of the first period.
Less than a minute later, David Pastrnak was assessed an interference minor after bumping John Tavares while the Leafs captain did not have possession of the puck at 14:09.
Toronto did not convert on the ensuing power play.
Shortly after exiting the penalty box, Pastrnak was held by Nicholas Shore, resulting in a minor infraction for Shore at 16:37 and a power play for Boston.
The Bruins weren’t able to capitalize on the skater advantage.
After one period of play at Scotiabank Arena Friday night, Boston led Toronto, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing in shots on goal, 9-8.
The B’s led in blocked shots (9-2) and hits (16-9), while the Maple Leafs held the advantage in giveaways (7-2) and faceoff win percentage (74-26) entering the first intermission.
Both teams had two takeaways each and were 0/1 on the power play entering the second period.
Toronto announced that forward, Trevor Moore (shoulder), would not return to the night’s action prior to the end of the first period and was short a skater for the remainder of the game.
Jake Muzzin let go of a shot from the point that was redirected by Auston Matthews (14) and found its way past Rask to tie the game, 1-1, at 9:20 of the second period.
The ref closest to the goal ruled it a goal, while the ref farthest away from the action deemed it “no goal” thinking Matthews altered the direction of the puck with a high stick, but after an official review, the call on the ice (the one made by the ref at the goalframe) stood.
Muzzin (8) and William Nylander (9) tabbed the assists on Matthews’ goal as the Leafs tied the game midway through the middle frame.
Moments later, Andreas Johnsson tripped up McAvoy– yielding a power play for Boston at 11:11.
The Bruins did not capitalize on their second power play opportunity of the night and instead took a penalty of their own late in the period.
Patrice Bergeron took a skate to the sin bin for slashing Tavares at 16:52 and the Maple Leafs went on the power play.
Toronto did not score on the ensuing skater advantage, despite heavy pressure in the attacking zone.
Through 40 minutes of play, the game was tied, 1-1.
The Leafs led in shots on goal, 24-19, after two periods– including a, 15-11, advantage in the second period alone. Toronto also led in giveaways (9-5) and faceoff win% (63-37) entering the second intermission.
Boston led in blocked shots (20-6) and hits (24-18) after two periods, while both teams had three takeaways each and were 0/2 on the power play heading into the third period.
Marchand (12) pocketed his own rebound on a quick break off the opening faceoff to begin the final frame of regulation with a goal 11 seconds into the third period.
Carlo (5) and Bergeron (11) had the assists as the Bruins took a, 2-1, lead.
Less than four minutes later, Kasperi Kapanen (6) tied the game with a catch-and-release shot from point blank while Rask performed a split from one side of the crease to the other.
Tavares (8) and Zach Hyman (1) notched the assists on Kapanen’s goal at 3:56 of the third period and the two teams swapped a pair of goals in a 3:45 span.
Marchand (13) tallied his 2nd goal of the game after once again gathering his own rebound and finding the back of the twine– this time after a quick shot that was stopped by Anderson’s glove initially, but rebounded to the Bruins forward as Marchand crashed the slot, picked up his own rebound and slid the rubber biscuit under Andersen’s leg pad for the eventual game-winning goal at 5:08.
Coyle (6) and David Krejci (8) collected the assists on Marchand’s 2nd goal as Boston pulled ahead with a, 3-2, lead just 1:12 after Toronto tied the game.
The two teams combined for three goals in a 4:57 span.
With 1:51 remaining in regulation, Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker in a last ditch effort to tie the game.
It did not go as planned, however, as Sean Kuraly sent the puck deep into the offensive zone, fished it out from along the wall and forced the play back to Chara as the seconds ticked down.
The Bruins captain then blasted a shot from the point for his 4th goal of the season as Chara (4) notched the empty net goal at 18:27 of the third period on an unassisted effort.
Boston sealed the deal on a, 4-2, victory that was ensured at the sound of the final horn.
The B’s finished the night leading in shots on goal, 34-31, and led in shots on net in the third period alone, 15-7.
Boston also wrapped up the action with the advantage in blocked shots (22-10) and hits (35-24), while Toronto finished the game leading in giveaways (13-8) and faceoff win% (63-37).
The two teams finished 0/2 on the power play Friday night as no penalties were called in the third period.
The Bruins are now 10-2-2 when scoring the game’s first goal this season and 9-1-0 when leading after the first period.
Boston returns home to take on the Washington Capitals on the second day of back to back games on Saturday. The Bruins then travel to New Jersey to take on the Devils next Tuesday (Nov. 19th) before a two-game homestand against Buffalo (Nov. 21st) and Minnesota (Nov. 23rd).
The B’s close out November with back to back nights in Montreal (Nov. 26th) and Ottawa (Nov. 27th) before finishing the month at home against the New York Rangers in a Black Friday matinee on Nov. 29th.
Of note, per the NHL’s PR team, Chara is now the fourth defender in NHL history to record a point streak of three or more games at the age of 42 or older, joining Chris Chelios (four games in 2003-04 with the Detroit Red Wings, and again over three games with Detroit in 2006-07), Tim Horton (three games in 1972-73 with the Buffalo Sabres) and Doug Harvey (three games in 1968-69 with the St. Louis Blues).
Meanwhile, Marchand is the first player in NHL history to score a goal in the opening 15 seconds of a period on seven occasions (including OT).
Zdeno Chara surpassed 1,500 career games, Claude Julien reached 1,200 games behind the bench, the Toronto Maple Leafs are facing injuries and backup goaltender struggles, Taylor Hall reportedly won’t sign an extension with the New Jersey Devils, the 2019 NHL Global Series happened and the 2020 NHL Global Series was announced.
Morgan Rielly had two goals– including the game-winning goal in overtime– in the, 4-3, victory for the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Arena Saturday night.
Leafs goaltender, Frederik Andersen (5-2-0, 3.09 goals against average, .902 save percentage in seven games played) turned aside 43 shots out of 46 shots against for a .935 SV% in the overtime win for Toronto.
Meanwhile, Bruins netminder, Jaroslav Halak (2-1-1, 2.23 GAA, .931 SV% in four games played) had 25 saves on 29 shots for an .862 SV% in the overtime loss for the B’s.
Boston fell to 5-1-2 (12 points) on the season, but retained 2nd place status in the Atlantic Division, while Toronto cemented their foundation in 3rd place with a 5-3-1 record (10 points) this season.
The Bruins fell to 3-1-1 on the road this season, while the Maple Leafs improved to 3-2-1 on home ice.
For the eighth time this season, Kevan Miller (knee) and John Moore (shoulder) were out of the lineup due to injury. Joining them in not traveling to Toronto, were David Krejci (upper body) and Joakim Nordstrom (upper body), who also missed Saturday night’s action against the Maple Leafs.
With injuries piling up for Boston, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, re-inserted David Backes on the fourth line right wing (moving Chris Wagner to the left side in place of Nordstrom) and flipped Brett Ritchie with Karson Kuhlman on the second and third lines.
Kuhlman rejoined Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle while Krejci is injured and Ritchie joined Danton Heinen and Par Lindholm on the third line.
Steven Kampfer was the only healthy scratch for the Bruins on Saturday, while John Tavares (broken finger) was the only member of Toronto not already on the injured reserve, but out of the lineup due to injury nonetheless.
Tavares suffered his injury Wednesday night in Washington, D.C. in Toronto’s, 4-3, loss to the Capitals.
Zach Hyman (torn ACL), Travis Dermott (shoulder), Mason Marchment (undisclosed), David Clarkson (back) and Nathan Horton (back) are all on the injured reserve/long term injured reserve for the Leafs and were not in action against Boston.
Maple Leafs alternate captain, Morgan Rielly (1) scored his first goal of the season with a shot from the point the deflected off of Bruins defender, Brandon Carlo, and through Halak’s five-hole to give Toronto the lead, 1-0.
Mitch Marner (7) and Andreas Johnsson (3) tallied the assists on Rielly’s goal at 5:55 of the first period.
Almost ten minutes later, Sean Kuraly turned the puck over in his own zone, as Dmytro Timashov (1) stripped the Bruins fourth line center of the rubber biscuit, skated to the slot and wristed a shot over Halak’s glove side for his first career National Hockey League goal at 15:44.
Frederik Gauthier (1) had the only assist on Timashov’s goal and the Leafs led, 2-0.
In the final minute of the opening frame, Toronto’s two-goal lead was cut in half as DeBrusk (1) notched his first goal of the season from point blank in the low slot on a pass from Coyle at 19:39.
Coyle (2) and Wagner (2) recorded the primary and secondary assists, respectively, after working hard to keep the puck in the attacking zone and setting up DeBrusk for the tally.
DeBrusk’s goal was the first goal for the Bruins by someone not named Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand or David Pastrnak in almost 200 minutes of hockey.
Entering the first intermission, the Maple Leafs led Boston, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite trailing the Bruins, 18-15, in shots on goal.
Boston managed to hold the advantage in blocked shots (4-3), giveaways (6-5) and faceoff win percentage (71-29), while Toronto led in takeaways (7-3) and hits (12-6) heading into the second period.
Neither team had taken a penalty in the first period and thus both teams were still 0/0 on the power play.
Early in the middle frame, Ilya Mikheyev was called for holding against Carlo and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the night at 1:56 of the second period.
Toronto’s penalty kill was too good for the B’s skater advantage, however.
Nicholas Shore tripped up Lindholm at 7:52 and the Leafs went back on the penalty kill, but were able to hold off Boston’s advances on the power play.
Late in the period, after being pushed by Martin Marincin and not able to stop because he had too much speed to begin with while crashing the net, Backes received a goaltender interference minor and was subsequently wrestled to the ice by Marincin at 16:41.
It appeared as though Toronto would see time on their first power play of the night, except for the roughing minor that was called for Marincin’s actions in front of the net.
Why? Nobody knows, but hey, both teams got through 4-on-4 action unscathed and resumed full strength, 5-on-5, play with 1:19 remaining in the second period.
But then Marincin hooked DeBrusk at 19:37 after a long flow of action in Toronto’s own zone without a stoppage.
So Boston would on be on the skater advantage into the third period as a result of not scoring at the conclusion of the second period.
The Maple Leafs entered the second intermission with the, 2-1, lead on the scoreboard after 40 minutes of play, while the Bruins led in shots on goal, 33-18– including a, 15-3, advantage in the second period alone for Boston.
Toronto led in blocked shots (11-6), takeaways (12-6) and hits (20-19) heading into the third period.
Boston led in giveaways (11-10) and faceoff win% (54-46) after two periods.
The Leafs had yet to see time on the skater advantage, while the B’s were 0/3 heading into the third period.
Boston’s power play from the second period extended into the final frame of regulation.
Late in the skater advantage, Ritchie worked a pass to Heinen (2) for the elevated shot over Andersen while the Maple Leafs goaltender dove to make a save, tying the game, 2-2, in the process.
Ritchie (1) and Pastrnak (6) had the assists on Heinen’s power play goal at 1:36 of the third period.
A mere 61 seconds later, Alexander Kerfoot (3) followed a rebound from point blank and floated a backhanded shot over Halak’s blocker side to give Toronto another lead, 3-2, at 2:37.
Jake Muzzin (4) and Mikheyev (4) tallied the assists on Kerfoot’s goal.
Late in the period, Bergeron tossed a pass to Marchand who sent the puck to Pastrnak (9) for the one-timer blast past Andersen’s short side over the blocker and into the twine to tie the game, 3-3, at 15:34.
Marchand (8) and Bergeron (6) had the assists on Pastrnak’s 15th point of the season.
No. 88 in black-and-gold now has 15 points in eight games so far this season and became the 5th Bruin in franchise history to record at least 15 points in his first 10 team games multiple times in his career, joining Bobby Orr (1969-70, 1971-72, 1973-74 and 1974-75), Phil Esposito (1970-71, 1971-72, 1973-74 and 1974-75), Bill Cowley (1940-41, 1943-44 and 1944-45) and Adam Oates (1992-93 and 1993-94), according to Conor Ryan of Boston Sports Journal.
At the end of regulation, the two teams were tied, 3-3, despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal, 45-27.
Boston held a slight edge over Toronto in shots on net in the third period alone with a, 12-9, advantage.
The Leafs led the B’s in blocked shots (14-9), takeaways (14-9), hits (34-32) and faceoff win% (54-47) after 60 minutes of play, but both teams had 16 giveaways each heading into overtime.
Toronto did not see any time on the power play and Boston finished 1/3 on the skater advantage as neither team was penalized in overtime.
Cassidy started Kuraly, Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy in overtime, while Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, went with Kerfoot, Kasperi Kapanen and Tyson Barrie.
With almost a minute remaining in overtime, Auston Matthews wrapped around the net and tossed a pass to Marner.
Marner fired a shot from the slot that deflected off of Rielly (2) and found its way over Halak’s blocker and into the back of the net to win the game, 4-3, for Toronto.
Marner (8) and Matthews (2) had the assists on Rielly’s game-winning goal at 3:54 of the overtime period.
The Maple Leafs won the game, 4-3, but trailed the Bruins in the final shots on goal total, 46-29.
Toronto controlled all the other statistics, however, finishing the night with the advantage in blocked shots (14-9), giveaways (17-16), hits (36-34) and faceoff win% (53-47).
The Leafs improved to 1-0 in overtime this season, while B’s fell to 0-1 in OT. It was the 2nd straight game that required overtime for Boston, but the first that ended before a shootout.
Boston and Toronto finish their home and home series Tuesday night at TD Garden.
The B’s then have a few days off before they face the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in a 2019 Stanley Cup Final rematch for the first time this season at home on Oct. 26th.
St. Louis will actually be the first of games on back-to-back days for the Bruins, as Boston will travel to New York to face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 27th before finishing the month at home against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 29th.
Toronto Maple Leafs
46-28-8, 100 points, 3rd in the Atlantic Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Boston
Additions: F Pontus Aberg, F Kenny Agostino, F David Clarkson (acquired from VGK), F Tyler Gaudet, F Alexander Kerfoot (acquired from COL), F Kalle Kossila, F Aaron Luchuk (acquired from OTT), F Nick Shore, F Jason Spezza, F Garrett Wilson, D Tyson Barrie (acquired from COL), D Cody Ceci (acquired from OTT), D Kevin Gravel, D Ben Harpur (acquired from OTT), D Jordan Schmaltz (acquired from STL)
Subtractions: F Nick Baptiste (signed with Toronto, AHL), F Connor Brown (traded to OTT), F Michael Carcone (traded to OTT), F Tyler Ennis (signed with OTT), F Gabriel Gagne (signed with Allen, ECHL), F Josh Jooris (NLA), F Dakota Joshua (traded to STL), F Nazem Kadri (traded to COL), F Patrick Marleau (traded to CAR), F Chris Mueller (signed with TBL), D Andreas Borgman (traded to STL), D Jake Gardiner (signed with CAR), D Fedor Gordeev (traded to MIN), D Ron Hainsey (signed with OTT), D Vincent LoVerde (signed with Hartford, AHL), D Igor Ozhiganov (KHL), D Calle Rosen (traded to COL), D Jordan Subban (EBEL), D Nikita Zaitsev (traded to OTT), G Eamon McAdam (signed with Binghamton, AHL), G Garret Sparks (traded to VGK)
Still Unsigned: D Steve Oleksy
Re-signed: F Mitch Marner, D Martin Marincin, G Michael Hutchinson
Offseason Analysis: Kyle Dubas had a busy offseason as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. His main priority was re-signing Mitch Marner, which finally wrapped up on Sept. 13th.
Marner signed a six-year extension worth $10.893 million per season. Whether or not he’s actually worth that much money is a different question, but the fact of the matter is it didn’t help the Maple Leafs.
Together with Auston Matthews, John Tavares and William Nylander, Marner and the other three make up $40,489,366 of Toronto’s salary cap.
This season’s salary cap ceiling is $81.500 million.
Three of the seven highest paid players in the league are on the Leafs and the four highest paid Leafs eat up almost half of Toronto’s salary cap.
At the time of Marner’s signing, the Maple Leafs were $13,365,199 over the salary cap.
Granted, Pontus Aberg and Frederik Gauthier were assigned to the Toronto Marlies (AHL), while Nathan Horton, David Clarkson, Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott are all expected to be placed on the long-term injured reserve to allow the Leafs to remain cap compliant.
Things should get interesting, however, once Hyman and Dermott return from injury, not that their salaries are that expensive, but rather the day-to-day cap operations and paper transactions necessary to make things work should be a lot of fun for Toronto’s front office to balance.
Mike Babcock is still behind the bench in Toronto after three straight seasons of First Round exits– including back-to-back Game 7 losses on the road against the Boston Bruins in 2018 and last season.
Dubas was active in the trade market to 1) free up expendable salary to re-sign Marner and 2) improve his roster from last season to this season.
He may have unintentionally 3) stunted the team’s growth in the process.
Toronto seven trades involving players this offseason, including three pretty big deals for the Maple Leafs.
Patrick Marleau, a conditional 2020 1st round pick and a 2020 7th round pick were shipped to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a 2020 6th round pick at the 2019 NHL Draft on June 22nd.
Rather than buyout Marleau’s contract and face cap penalty, Toronto was able to convince Carolina to take on his salary and offer him the chance to play for the Hurricanes or buy him out. Marleau refused to play for the Canes, so now Carolina is saddled with his buyout penalty.
In the process, if the Maple Leafs yield a top-10 pick in the 2020 Draft, the conditional 1st rounder in the trade becomes a 2021 1st round pick.
In place of Marleau, the Leafs signed Jason Spezza to a league-minimum, one-year, $700,000 contract. Spezza will likely play on the fourth line in a limited role as Marleau would have begun to see less and less time on ice at this stage of his career.
Dubas knew Toronto wasn’t going to be able to keep Jake Gardiner and maintain a happy relationship with Nikita Zaitsev as Zaitsev had already requested a trade.
As such, Dubas packaged Zaitsev with Connor Brown and Michael Carcone in a trade with the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 3rd round pick on July 1st.
Ceci then signed a one-year extension– worth $4.500 million– as a restricted free agent with the Leafs.
For that same price and eight points less than Ceci had last season, Zaitsev is at least signed through 2023-24 at the fixed rate of $4.500 million.
Zaitsev has broken the 30-point plateau before as a defender, while Ceci never has– though he did record 26 points with Ottawa last season.
The fact of the matter is that if Toronto was trying to save money this season on a defender, they didn’t.
And if they were thinking “maybe we can find a cheaper replacement in Ceci”, the fact that they’re already paying the defender in his prime what Zaitsev was already making doesn’t do them any long-term favors as Ceci’s cap hit is expected to go up– especially if the current ceiling remains about the same until the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated in 2022.
But for all that the loss of Gardiner did to the special teams in Toronto, at least Dubas was able to find a sweet deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
The Maple Leafs traded Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and a 2020 3rd round pick to Colorado for Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot and a 2020 6th round pick on July 1st.
The Avs retained some salary on Barrie’s contract, which– you guessed it– also expires at the end of this season, but at least Toronto can afford $2.750 million right now as opposed to a more significant cap hit.
To their credit, the Maple Leafs negotiated a four-year extension with Kerfoot worth $3.500 million per season, which is $1.000 million less than Kadri’s cap hit.
Barrie is a versatile defender that excels on the power play and fills the void left behind by Gardiner’s departure.
Clearly, while Dubas has, in fact, made improvements to the team, he’s also made minor tweaks and delayed the inevitable headaches that he or the next general manager of the Maple Leafs is sure to face.
But at least this time around Toronto is convinced they have the team that they’ve been planning for the last five years to “win now”.
The younger players are more experienced, the salary spent is at the ceiling and Babcock– a Stanley Cup winning coach who last won the Cup 11 years ago with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 (a rather different era and style of the game than what it is today)– are all ready for the challenge of making it out of the First Round to show they’ve at least made some progress.
One definition of insanity is “doing the same thing and expecting a different result” and if something doesn’t change the end result in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs for Toronto, then…
At the very least, last season’s backup, Garret Sparks, was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for Clarkson’s contract and a 2020 4th round pick and nobody can blame Marner for being a “greedy holdout” anymore.
Offseason Grade: B-
The Marner contract is not great, but the other moves made by the Leafs this offseason mean that they’re actually trying. There is a plan in place that they remain committed to– constantly evaluating and re-evaluating talent for the overall intended improvement of the organization.
Whether or not Toronto is sure to win the Cup this season remains to be seen. Every year there’s always Cup front runners on paper, but the on-ice product and results vary. This team is capable of winning the Cup, but they still have a lot of work to do to earn it.
47-30-5, 99 points, 2nd in the Central Division
Eliminated in the First Round by St. Louis
Additions: F Mark Letestu, D Anthony Bitetto, D Neal Pionk (acquired from NYR)
Subtractions: F Alex Broadhurst (signed with San Diego, AHL), F Marko Dano (signed with CBJ), F Kevin Hayes (traded to PHI), F Matt Hendricks (retired), F Nicolas Kerdiles (signed with Manitoba, AHL), F Par Lindholm (signed with BOS), F Brandon Tanev (signed with PIT), D Ben Chiarot (signed with MTL), D Bogdan Kiselevich (KHL), D Joe Morrow (signed to a PTO with NYR), D Tyler Myers (signed with VAN), D Jimmy Oligny (signed with Manitoba, AHL), D Jacob Trouba (traded to NYR), G Ken Appleby (signed with Milwaukee, AHL)
Still Unsigned: F Kyle Connor, F Patrik Laine
Re-signed: F Andrew Copp, D Nathan Beaulieu, D Nelson Nogier, D Cameron Schilling, G Eric Comrie
Offseason Analysis: The Winnipeg Jets have $15,450,836 million in cap space currently and two prominent restricted free agents still unsigned.
Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine present a challenge for the Jets. Even worse, General Manager, Kevin Cheveldayoff, and head coach, Paul Maurice, aren’t exactly seeing eye-to-eye with their biggest star in Laine.
Regardless of whatever’s going on, the bottom line is we’ve seen this before and it led to one of Cheveldayoff’s trades this offseason.
No, not the Kevin Hayes trade with the Philadelphia Flyers that earned the Jets a 5th round pick in 2019, but rather the Jacob Trouba deal with the New York Rangers.
After back-to-back offseasons of uncertainty surrounding their RFA defender, Winnipeg dealt Trouba to the Rangers for Neal Pionk and a 2019 1st round pick– their own, that they originally sent to New York for Hayes at the trade deadline.
Trouba wanted a long-term deal with a significant pay raise in addition to a little job security.
The Rangers happily handed the 25-year-old a seven-year contract worth $8.000 million per season with a no-movement clause that goes into effect next season and becomes a modified no-trade clause in the final two years of the contract.
But it took a little drama in Winnipeg– without all the hype that surrounded William Nylander and Mitch Marner in Toronto over the last couple of summers– to get to the end result.
Laine has never scored fewer than 30 goals in a season and is sure to rebound from his 30-20–50 totals last season after reaching a career-high 44-26–70 totals in his sophomore season (2017-18).
He’s a goal-scorer, no doubt, and he might just be one of those players that exceeds expectations one year, then meets expectations the following year.
But since he’s of a higher caliber than others in the league, a “down” year might look like a tremendous drop-off.
It’s like saying Patrick Kane is a shell of his former self after posting a 76-point season in the midst of the last four seasons in which Kane has had 106 points in 2015-16, 89 points in 2016-17, 76 points in 2017-18 and 110 points last season.
Sure, Laine hasn’t reached the 60 or 70-point plateau as many times as Kane has in his career yet, but then again, Laine has only been around for three seasons to Kane’s 12 seasons entering 2019-20.
There’s a lot of potential left in the Finnish forward– just like there is or there was still a lot of potential in the Jets organization until the team that was three wins away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2018 had the wheels fall off.
Dustin Byfuglien– a huge part of their defense– was granted a personal leave of absence and is contemplating stepping away from the game with two-years left on his contract (worth $7.600 million per season).
If there’s no lingering injury that would enable Winnipeg to place Byfuglien on the long-term injured reserve, well, that leaves Cheveldayoff with an even tougher proposition.
If Byfuglien’s done there’s a chance his contract could be traded, freeing up enough cap space to fit both Laine and Connor comfortability under the ceiling.
Connor’s had back-to-back seasons of more than 30 goals. He’s been a pleasant surprise for the Jets in his consistent play, but it’d be premature to throw him a larger contract like what should be expected with Laine.
Though both were first round picks, only one of them (Laine) came immediately after Auston Matthews in their respective draft.
Contract negotiations, especially for quality RFAs, are infused with untapped potential and future performance expectations– both in signing bonuses and performance bonuses, as well as the cap hit itself.
Laine has every right to feel that he should be paid what he thinks he is worth based on his career projection. Connor might have to settle for a bridge deal to further supplement his own belief in himself if he is to aim for the kind of money Laine might be looking at.
The hardest part of this saga for Jets fans?
Nobody really knows where anyone stands. Laine could be asking for $8.000 million or he could be asking for $11.000 million.
If it’s only $8.000 million, why wouldn’t a deal be done already?
If it’s closer to $11.000 million, why haven’t we heard near constant updates for one of the game’s biggest young stars, a la Marner?
The fact of the matter is that it feels like something is brewing that could send yet another Finnish superstar out of Winnipeg reminiscent of when Teemu Selanne was traded to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1996.
Otherwise, the Jets have already had a lot of departures from their depth that might just start to interfere with their forward progress in the standings as of the last few seasons.
Offseason Grade: F
If two of your RFAs still don’t have a contract by this point of the offseason, it can only be the result of improper management and poor planning– especially as the rest of the league’s RFAs are putting pens to paper.
Besides that, Winnipeg did some major subtraction without addition and is on the brink of returning to pedestrian performance in the regular season and playoffs (if they even make the postseason). If Laine and/or Connor isn’t on the roster by Dec. 1st, then the Jets are a lost cause for 2019-20.