Tag Archives: Auston Matthews

Down the Frozen River Podcast #113- We’re Still UFAs for the Record

Nick and Connor discuss John Tavares signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Crosby/Malkin vs. Tavares/Matthews argument, best and worst free agency signings and more. At this point, we’re also strangely optimistic about the St. Louis Blues.

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Down the Frozen River Podcast #112- Draft, Tavares and Museums

The Original Trio splices together some thoughts on the 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame Inductees, Dan Bylsma, the 2018 Draft, recent trades and John Tavares. Go check out your local museums while you’re at it. It’s the offseason, surely you have nothing going on.

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Down the Frozen River Podcast #111- Centered In Our Takes

Nick, Connor, Cap’n and Pete reveal their top-10 centers in their lifetime and talk about the week’s biggest stories in the NHL, ignoring the 2018 Draft altogether.

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2018 Offseason Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 NHL Entry Draft

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

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

Pending free agents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

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

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

Another Golden Era of Expansion?

It’s a great time for the National Hockey League (ignoring the ongoing concussion lawsuit, poor officiating and [insert your favorite scandal from this season here]), but for league revenues there’s never been a greater time than now.

The Vegas Golden Knights slashed all preconceptions regarding expansion teams and how they are expected to perform and have shown the strength of professional sports in North America– any city*, including Sin City, can support a professional franchise.

*except for Québec City, apparently

Though it’s not the 1990s, where expansion in the NHL saw seven teams (the San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Nashville Predators and Atlanta Thrashers) enter the league from 1991 to 1999– and two more teams in 2000 (Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild)– the league is prime for another era of expansion.

The Golden Knights (2017) are just the first of who knows how many more teams to join the league in the 2010s and 2020s.

Seattle is on the verge of landing a franchise ready to hit the ice in 2020 (with an expansion vote expected to take place this fall) and Houston looks viable, given Houston Rockets (NBA) owner, Tilman Fertitta’s, expressed desire to ascertain a franchise both publicly and in meeting with NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman.

Fun fact, Houston is the largest North American market without an NHL team and looked like they would be part of a looming WHA-NHL merger in the 1970s, but the merger wasn’t finalized until 1979 and– after learning they would not be included in any form of a merger in 1978– the Houston Aeros folded at the conclusion of the WHA’s 1977-78 season.

For some reason there’s a notion in North American sports that 30 is a nice, even, wholesome number for the total number of clubs in a league. Take a look at how big the big leagues were 20-30 years ago and you’ll soon realize that 30 is just a number.

Only two of the four major professional sports leagues in North America have gone beyond 30 teams. The NHL is one of them.


So you want to buy an expansion team…

Well, for starters, you better have at least $650 million (U.S.) lying around, as Oak View Group is all but assured of bringing the league’s 32nd team to Seattle for that price tag. In sports, as in real estate, prices expansion fees only go up over time (so definitely have more than $650 million lying around after Seattle joins the league– assuming Seattle joins the league).

Want to bring back the Québec Nordiques? Good luck.

Québec City would be the league’s second smallest market and selling out 16,000 tickets doesn’t mean as much as it used to with media deals, corporate sponsorships, new markets and division balance (let alone conference balance) all at stake.

Butts in seats only matter for momentum– not ad dollars on TV.

Granted, people in seats laying eyes upon LED signage around the arena, now that’s still an investment and matters to an extent on the local level and/or organization itself for day-to-day operations.

But this league sees the big picture– national level attention, reaching a broader scope, true globalization of their league as the best league– let alone growth of the game.

Boston Bruins owner, Jeremy Jacobs, is also the chairman of the league’s board of governors. He’s also head of the league’s executive committee. Old guard owner jokes aside, Jacobs has the final say on most (if not all) league management decisions, despite the existence of league commissioner, Gary Bettman.

Commissioners in all major North American professional sports work for the owners. Not the other way around.

The commissioner is the collective voice of the board of governors– the face of the league– but ultimately is not the singular directive power.

So at the Bruins season ending press conference, Jacobs was asked about the future of the league regarding the Golden Knights and potential expansion.

Québec just isn’t happening right now.

It’s been said time and time before and it’ll be said time and time again. And it was the main takeaway from Jacobs’s comments regarding further expansion on the near horizon.

Houston was name-dropped. Whether it’s relocation or expansion (and it’s likely another expansion at this point), the league will find its way to Seattle and Houston.

It’s hard to remember the journalistic duty of including the words “proposed”, “expected” or “just about soon to be announced at some point in the near or not so distant future” before mentioning Seattle, let alone Houston, given the known interest.

Maybe the Arizona Coyotes will relocate, you ask?

No. That’s not happening.

If the Coyotes were going to move, they would have moved already. Arizona is committed to Arizona. While the City of Glendale might not see the Coyotes as suitable partners, the Coyotes see Arizona as their true love.

Maybe the Florida Panthers are Québec’s last hope (or Houston’s best opportunity, if expansion fees are an issue) for relocation?

Sure, but as an “in case of an emergency” plan. Remember how the Atlanta Thrashers relocation to Winnipeg played out? If not, keep reading, but also, Florida has an owner that’s committed to Florida.

At least Patrick Roy will be back behind the bench for the Quebec Remparts (QMJHL) next season.

Does market size matter if 16,000 season tickets are sold in a 700,000 population or 2,000,000-plus population?

No, but the media deal that accompanies the market and how many televisions it reaches, that’s where it matters.

Right about here is where things don’t stack up as well for Québec with other prospective expansion candidates, given the surrounding population outside Québec City and the conglomerate of Montreal Canadiens fans that dominate the province.

At one point in time two teams made sense for the province, let alone two teams in one city (Montreal). Nowadays, the Habs have too much of a stronghold– too big of a monopoly of fans. Yes, even among old Nordiques fans and their families who swore they’d never root for their intra-province rivals.

Bettman runs the league like the National Basketball Association, which, considering his background, sounds about right. The NHL’s profits have never been higher and Bettman deserves credit for the business side of the sport.

And the NBA is eyeing expansion of their own, following renovations to KeyArena/Seattle Center, where Oak View Group looks to land an expansion NHL team for the 2020-21 season. In addition to Seattle, the NBA’s apparently eyeing Kansas City, lending some to believe we might be in another golden era of expansion across all major North American professional sports leagues as Major League Baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred, has indicated a desire for MLB to expand to 32 teams (with Montreal and Mexico as possibilities).

As an aside, the author would like to let it be known of his desire for an MLB team in Charlotte, N.C.

31 is the new 30 and 32, 33 and/or 34 is perhaps the near future for at least three out of four of the Big Four leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL).


So about Seattle… (and other sports economics)

It’s totally happening, it’s just a matter of time. Get ready to cut the check for $650 million, Oak View Group.

And Houston?

Once Seattle goes for $650 million, there’s no reason not to expect the expansion fee to go up once again for a 33rd NHL team. Seattle’s not expected to begin play until the 2020-21 season and even without any of the major renovation work that’s going on in the Emerald City, Houston isn’t fully move-in ready for an NHL franchise.

That’s not to say Toyota Center isn’t a great fit, but rather that both Fertitta and the league aren’t presently talking and expansion to Houston would logically have to follow Seattle working with the current timeline of events (and ignoring what it would all mean for division realignment).

So four or five years from now a $650 million expansion fee could quickly become upwards of $800 million for a brand new team. Perhaps it’d be $1 billion by then.

And if Québec can afford a billion dollar (U.S.) pricetag by that point, then sure, they’ll be a shoo-in for the league’s 34th team. By then we might as well be talking 35th and/or 36th even.

Four divisions of nine teams doesn’t sound terrible if you can find suitable locations (Seattle, Houston, Kansas City, Québec City and Atlanta, for example) to level off the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific Divisions.

This is the economy of sports in the 21st century and Bettman’s dream– so long as the value of the majority of NHL franchises continue to climb and start to rival those of midpack/bottom NFL teams (the New York Rangers are valued at $1.5 billion according to Forbes– barely above the Toronto Maple Leafs $1.4 billion valuation)– and that’s ignoring how weak/strong the Canadian dollar is.

Granted, the average NHL franchise is worth around $594 million.

But as the NFL’s Carolina Panthers (a mid-pack team in terms of franchise value again according to Forbes) just sold for $2.2 billion to David Tepper, one would expect NHL franchise values to climb as the future of American football as we know it remains uncertain and the success of the Golden Knights impacts NHL revenues in the coming seasons.

Again, sports franchises and real estate prices always climb. It’s only a matter of time.


Okay, so just tell me where does that leave Québec exactly?

Recall for a moment, if you will, May 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers were purchased by True North Sports and Entertainment and the downfall of Atlanta Spirit, LLC. began (or more accurately, continued).

Yes, Winnipeg got an NHL team back, but they had to essentially go through relegation to get back to the top.

The Winnipeg model of “being sent down to the minors”  for almost 20 years witnessed near sellout crowds in the smallest NHL arena currently (15,321 seats) for AHL games.

That’s great, but the Jets weren’t going to be the Jets again if there was a prospective local buyer in Atlanta interested in busting up Atlanta Spirit, LLC. seven years ago.

There wasn’t, so True North Sports and Entertainment’s rainy day fund came in handy when the league needed a venue for a team immediately– regardless of the support and regardless of Québec, Hamilton or Kansas City’s moaning and groaning (from prospective owners and/or fans).

Canadian fans and some American hockey traditionalists like to bring up “the success of the Québec Remparts” in their new arena (Vidéotron Centre, opened in 2015).

Oh you mean the QMJHL team that plays in a 18,259 seat arena and has been having declining attendance since maxing out around 14,000 their first year there (2015-16) and now sits around 9,400 or less (like all other Junior teams). Please go on and tell everyone how QMJHL support alone will persuade NHL eyeballs.

It would certainly help Québec’s cause for bringing back the Nordiques by landing an AHL team on top of their QMJHL club and continuously supporting the organization(s) a la Winnipeg circa 1997-2011.

None of this rules out relocation, but it does make expansion look slightly more attractive, provided someone (Quebecor or another prospective owner) can fork up over half-a-billion U.S. dollars.


Professional sports are a business of entertainment.

Again, professional sports are a business.

Hockey traditionalism would not profit as well as the league has been profitting today.

Plain and simple as that.

This is a league that does not have to contract– thanks to the salary cap, revenue sharing and constant work stoppages to renegotiate the number of dollars the league eats before dividing up for the players.

This is a league that has shown the sport can be played in any environment.

The State of Arizona produced Auston Matthews. The Arizona Coyotes have been in Arizona for a generation AND THEY ARE NOT MOVING. They’re committed to their fans and their hockey community, but they’re up against a local government that’s unwilling to work with them on even the most basic levels– private vs. public funding for a new arena aside.

Tampa Bay, Nashville, Vegas, San Jose, Anaheim and yes, even Florida and Carolina have all been competitive and have diehard fans.

Sure the Panthers and the Hurricanes haven’t gathered casual eyes since 1996 and 2006 respectively, but you can’t blame the Panthers for being the Cleveland Browns of the NHL in a way (in addition to their poor location in Sunrise, Florida– outside of Miami) and Tom Dundon for any Hurricanes wrongdoings yet (though this summer is all about Carolina and how they just might reinvent themselves– and of course, everyone likes to jump to conclusions after a new owner’s first offseason, right?).

Plus, at least the Hurricanes won the Cup in 2006. Your move Panthers.

But this league, like any major professional sports league, sees a game, entertainment and money to be made.

Tradition is just a sweater, a pregame ritual or a superstition. It’s not a revenue stream for reinvention over time.

Take it from NASCAR, where, coupled with changes back-and-forth in the rulebook every other week on top of overprotection of its traditional image (along with dried up ratings) have removed the basement from the very foundation of the sport– and possibly the sanctioning body as the France family mulls a sale of the entity itself.

Like it or not, we are in an era of expansion– not just for the NHL, but potentially for all four major North American professional sports (and MLS, if you really want to extend the product here, as expansion is wicked hot in soccer currently).

Should I mention we’re getting four more ads on the ice next season or have I already given everyone enough heart palpitations?

Down the Frozen River Podcast #105- Lateral Postseason

Nick and Connor roadmap the offseason for Pittsburgh and Boston, figure out why Washington has been so good (and Tampa), pick a winner in tonight’s Game 7 (WPG @ NSH) and explain how Vegas is going to win the Cup in their inaugural season. Also discussed, Jim Montgomery, Rod Brind’Amour, Don Waddell, the Charlotte Checkers (so Carolina as a whole) and Mark Hamill.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #103- Good Two See You

Second Round predictions, Minnesota needs a new GM, Calgary’s got a new coach, award finalist reactions, a Game 7 breakdown between Boston and Toronto, and where do the Leafs go from here? All that and more as Nick and Connor discuss on the latest DTFR Podcast.

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DeBrusk and the Bruins eliminate Toronto in seven games

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First Star of the game, Jake DeBrusk (2-0—2 totals), and the Boston Bruins are moving on to the Second Round after a thrilling 7-4 victory in Game 7 on Wednesday night. The TD Garden crowd was roaring throughout the game as Boston eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs from the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Tuukka Rask made 20 saves on 24 shots against for an .833 save percentage in the win, while Toronto’s Frederik Andersen stopped 29 out of 35 shots faced for an .829 SV% in the loss. Rask improved to 2-2 all-time in a Game 7, as Andersen remains winless (0-3) in his career Game 7 action.

Bruce Cassidy started his Worker Bs line consisting of Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari against Maple Leafs superstar, Auston Matthews, and the energy level cranked past 11 at puck drop.

Perhaps a bit too much for the Bruins, however, as Kuraly was penalized on a controversial tripping minor against Toronto defender, Jake Gardiner, 30 seconds into the action.

While Boston was struggling to settle their jitters, the Leafs pounced.

Patrick Marleau (3) opened the game’s scoring 2:05 into the first period with a tip-in from point blank and gave Toronto a 1-0 lead. Gardiner (2) and William Nylander (2) had the assists on the goal.

Gardiner fired a shot from the point into heavy traffic where Marleau used his stealthy hand-eye coordination to redirect the puck past Rask.

Entering Wednesday night, the team that scored first won five out of the six prior games in the series. In games where Toronto has led this series, they’ve won. All of that would mean nothing by the end of the night.

Morgan Rielly followed up with a minor penalty of his own, giving the Bruins their first power play, as the Maple Leafs blueliner was sent to the penalty box for delay of game (puck over glass) three minutes into the period.

As was tradition in the regular season, Boston’s power play had several chances, but could not capitalize on the man advantage until late in the power play.

After David Krejci kept the puck in the zone on a Toronto clearing attempt, the veteran Czech forward sent it to his fellow countryman, David Pastrnak, who quickly fired a purposeful shot looking for DeBrusk in front of the goal to redirect it. And that’s exactly what happened.

DeBrusk (4) redirected the shot into the net and the Bruins tied the game, 1-1, on a power play goal at 4:47 of the first period. Pastrnak (8) and Krejci (4) notched the assists on the goal.

The game wouldn’t be tied for long, however, as Marleau (4) scored his second goal of the night on a wicked wrist shot that beat Rask blocker side. Mitch Marner (7) had the only assist on the goal, having been responsible for the reverse pivot— fake shot on goal, turned pass— that was enough to sell Rask just out of position to stop Marleau’s shot.

Just over six minutes into the first period, the Maple Leafs had a 2-1 lead. It was the third time in three games that Boston allowed a goal about a minute after scoring.

Almost three minutes later, Danton Heinen (1), who had returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for part of the series, rocketed a shot past Andersen to knot things up, 2-2. Krejci (5) and Rick Nash (1) assisted on the goal at 9:10 of the first period.

Halfway through the opening frame of Game 7, there were 11 combined shots on goal. Four of them were goals.

Past the halfway mark, Leafs defender, Morgan Rielly took a shot up high— just above his upper lip— that caused a stoppage in play while the blueliner was attended to by Toronto’s athletic trainer.

The Bull Gang scrapped off the blood on the ice and play continued. Rielly would return for the second period after getting stitched up.

Rick Nash caught Zach Hyman with a high-stick at 11:30 of the first period and sent Boston on a penalty kill. The ensuing effort by both Toronto’s special teams and the Bruins penalty killers did not result in any goals allowed and Boston once again swung momentum in their direction, feeding off of the home crowd.

With less than a minute remaining in the opening period, the Bruins worked the puck into the offensive zone, whereby David Backes worked the puck back to Kevan Miller and the Bruins defender took full advantage of everything he had.

Miller shot the puck intentionally wide to attain a carom off the boards on the far side. The plan worked flawlessly as Patrice Bergeron (1) was crashing the net and put home the rebound off the boards to give Boston their first lead of the night, 3-2.

The assists went to Miller (2) and Backes (1) at 19:23 of the first period.

Through 20 minutes of Game 7, the Bruins led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and 12-10 in shots on goal. Boston also led in blocked shots (6-5) and faceoff win percentage (52-48), while Toronto led in takeaways (6-3) and giveaways (4-3). Both teams had 12 hits aside and one power play goal, as the Maple Leafs were 1/2 on the man advantage and Boston was 1/1 heading into the first intermission.

The Maple Leafs became the first team in NHL history to blow two separate first period leads in a Game 7, but fear not, that provided just enough motivation to take back the game’s momentum in the second frame.

Toronto stormed out of the gates to start the second period as Travis Dermott (1) converted on a Bruins turnover to tie the game, 3-3, just 2:07 into the period.

Roman Polak (1) and Nylander (3) picked up the assists on the goal as the B’s started a tumultuous period of sloppy play all over the ice.

Tomas Plekanec knocked down Brad Marchand away from the play at 4:56 of the second period and was assessed a minor penalty for interference. Boston’s power play proved to be powerless, especially after Torey Krug failed to keep the puck in the offensive zone.

With Marchand chasing after the puck, Kasperi Kapanen (1) stripped the Bruins winger of the rubber biscuit and dangled one past Rask on a beautiful individual effort for a short-handed goal to give Toronto the 4-3 lead just over six minutes into the period.

Boston allowed two goals on two shots on net to start the second period and were snake bitten leading up to the second intermission.

After 40 minutes of play, Toronto held a one goal lead— leading, 4-3 heading into the third period. Boston led in shots on goal (25-16), giveaways (6-5) and faceoff win percentage (58-42) after two periods and the Maple Leafs led in blocked shots (10-9), hits (26-22) and takeaways (14-4). Both teams were 1/2 on the power play.

Krejci and Hyman took matching roughing penalties about a minute into the third period, resulting in 4-on-4 action, early in the final frame of regulation.

Four seconds later, Krug (2) redeemed his poor second period play with a one-timer goal that beat Andersen after the Bruins won an offensive zone faceoff. Miller (3) and Bergeron (6) had the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on the goal that tied the game, 4-4, just 1:10 into the third period.

Moments later, Tyler Bozak and Rick Nash couldn’t keep their hands off of each other as Bozak interfered with the Bruins winder and Nash retaliated.

Boston was pressing harder than they had in the end-to-end action that concluded the first period. The Bruins were looking to be the ones to score the next goal and they did just that, thanks to one of their rookies.

After working the puck up the boards, Krejci sent a quick, short, pass to DeBrusk (5) who bolted into the offensive zone, slide the puck under Gardiner’s stick, while taking a hit and went five-hole on Andersen to give Boston their second lead of the night, 5-4, at 5:25 of the third period.

Krejci (6) had the only assist on the goal.

Six minutes later, after surviving counter attacks from the Maple Leafs, the Bruins were on the prowl again, working the puck deep into the offensive zone, where Marchand slid the puck to Bergeron.

Boston’s alternate captain tossed the puck to Pastrnak (5) in the low slot and the 21-year-old star held onto the puck just long enough to let Andersen overcommit and leave a gapping net open.

Pastrnak hit the twine and the Bruins had the first two-goal lead of the night, 6-4, at 11:39 of the third period.

With about three minutes remaining in regulation, Babcock pulled his goaltender for an extra skater and the Leafs went on the assault for a solid minute and a half until Riley Nash skated the puck out of the defensive zone and up to Marchand.

Marchand (3) brought it in just far enough to seal the deal with an empty net goal and gave Boston a three-goal lead with 51 seconds remaining in the game. Riley Nash (1) notched his first point of the series and the Bruins led, 7-4.

At the final horn, Boston had finished the Toronto in seven games— leading, 7-4, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal (36-24), hits (33-31) and faceoff win percentage (57-43). Despite the loss, the Maple Leafs led in blocked shots (10-9). Both teams scored one goal each on the power play, as Toronto finished the night 1/2 and the Bruins finished 1/3 on the man advantage.

Bruce Cassidy completed his first series win as a head coach and is now 1-0 in Game 7s for Boston, while Mike Babcock fell to 3-6 all time in Game 7s, split between Anaheim, Detroit and Toronto.

The Bruins are now 3-1 all-time in Game 7s against Toronto, having last beaten them, 5-4 in overtime, in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Boston improved to 14-12 in Game 7s all-time, tying an NHL record for most Game 7 wins (14) with the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings. Wednesday night’s game was also the 26th Game 7 appearance in franchise history for the Bruins, surpassing Detroit’s 25 appearances for the league lead.

As a result of the win, the Bruins are moving on to the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs and will face the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since the Bolts won the Atlantic Division and secured the best record in the Eastern Conference, Tampa will have home ice in the series and Game 1 is set for Saturday afternoon at Amalie Arena.

Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 3 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBC. Canadian viewers can follow the action on Sportsnet or TVA Sports.

Maple Leafs force Game 7 after emotional win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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