The Toronto Maple Leafs finally did the thing! Congrats to the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame Class and taking a look at who might join them in 2020.
Wednesday afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs fired their now former head coach, Mike Babcock, and promoted Sheldon Keefe as the new head coach of the Leafs from his previous head coaching duties with the Toronto Marlies (AHL).
It’s a move that everyone likely saw coming, but this soon? That’s impressive.
Babcock was adamant in his coaching abilities and in his belief in himself as “the greatest coach who ever lived” (paraphrasing, obviously), but could not salvage his hubris when it mattered most– right now.
Toronto is currently 9-10-4 (22 points) on the season, 5th place in the Atlantic Division and outside of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Luckily for the Leafs, the Pittsburgh Penguins (11-7-3, 25 points), Philadelphia Flyers (10-7-4, 24 points) and Buffalo Sabres (10-8-3, 23 points) aren’t that far ahead of them in the standings for now.
It’s the perfect time to be bold and make a move if you’re looking to provide a short-term spark that will hopefully re-ignite some cooling embers and launch the Maple Leafs back into playoff contention at the very least– if not Stanley Cup contention, as many have expected for a few years now before Toronto’s General Manager, Kyle Dubas, was forced to spend about $40.489 million on William Nylander, Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner while somehow forgetting the importance of a defense and a backup goaltender in the process.
For a team that used to employ a coach that notoriously bet on himself and his process for better or worse, well, they’re betting heavily on the salary cap ceiling to make a significant jump by the time a new national TV rights distribution package in the United States is negotiated in 2022.
But that’s a separate discussion entirely.
For now, we’re left in the wake of a post-Babcock Leafs Era and what it means for the Boston Bruins– Toronto’s biggest rival most recently.
The 56-year-old former head coach in Toronto was in his 5th year of an eight-year, $50.000 million contract with the Maple Leafs.
Toronto went 29-42-11 in the 2015-16 season, which led them to drafting Matthews with the 1st overall pick in the 2016 Draft.
The following year, Babcock and the Maple Leafs improved to 40-27-15, qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2013, before losing in six games to the Washington Capitals in the 2017 First Round.
Then history repeated itself as the Leafs went 49-26-7 in the 2017-18 regular season before losing in seven games to Boston in the 2018 First Round.
From there it was a broken record for Toronto– a 46-28-9 effort in 2018-19 led to another First Round matchup with Boston and another Game 7 loss on the road to the Bruins in the 2019 First Round.
This season, through 23 games, the Leafs have six wins in regulation. They have nine total.
Babcock hasn’t won a playoff series since he was still with the Detroit Red Wings in 2013. He hasn’t led a team back to the Stanley Cup Final since losing in 2009 with Detroit in the Red Wings-Penguins rematch from 2008.
He may be “Canada’s Coach”, but he isn’t “Canada’s favorite team’s head coach” anymore.
Enter Keefe, a 39-year-old, from Brampton, Ontario– a short drive from Toronto– emerging as “The Chosen One”.
Hired by Toronto to lead the Marlies on June 8, 2015, Keefe had a respectable first season with Toronto’s AHL affiliate in 2015-16, notching a 54-16-5-1 record (wins-losses-overtime losses-shootout losses, for those of you who aren’t AHL savvy).
Keefe pushed his team all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs (his rookie season as an AHL coach, mind you) before the Marlies succumbed to the Hershey Bears in five games.
In 2016-17, Keefe coached his team to a 42-29-4-1 record and a North Division Final appearance in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs that resulted in a Game 7 loss to the Syracuse Crunch.
That loss didn’t set the Marlies back, but instead motivated Keefe and his team as they marched to a 54-18-2-2 record in 2017-18 and a 2018 Calder Cup Final appearance.
They defeated the Texas Stars in seven games and captured Toronto’s first championship in ice hockey since the NHL’s Maple Leafs raised the Stanley Cup in 1967.
Though it was only the AHL, it proved that something was in the works.
Dubas’ masterplan was coming to fruition as the analytics guru rose to power– taking over as GM of the Maple Leafs with Lou Lamoriello’s departure in the 2018 offseason.
Keefe had followed Dubas from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) to the Maple Leafs organization in 2015, but Babcock stood in the way of his destiny, it seemed.
Babcock was Lamoriello’s choice and fit with Brendan Shanahan’s “Shanaplan”.
Keefe fit with Dubas in the contemporary game, “Shanaplan” be damned.
In 2018-19, Keefe led the Marlies to a 39-24-9-4 record and an Eastern Conference Final appearance for the 2nd year in a row in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Though the Marlies lost to the Charlotte Checkers in six games, one thing was for certain– Keefe had it going in the minor league.
It’s not every day that a coach is able to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in his rookie season, let alone in three of his first four full seasons as an AHL bench boss.
Up until his promotion to the NHL, Keefe amassed a 10-2-2-1 record with the Marlies this season.
They were 1st in the North Division at the time of his departure for the big league.
In 320 career AHL games with the Marlies, Keefe collected a 199-89-22-9 record and a .622 winning percentage in the process– plus one Calder Cup championship in 2018.
So, what does this mean for the Bruins?
A lot when you factor in advantages and disadvantages for each team in the promotion of Keefe from the Marlies to the Leafs.
First, for Toronto, the advantages of having Keefe for a potential playoff matchup with Boston.
The core of Toronto’s current roster (Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Zach Hyman, Morgan Rielly and even Frederik Andersen) has lost in the First Round in at least one of the last three postseasons (Tavares is the only member who hasn’t had to endure three-straight soul crushing First Round departures under Babcock’s reign).
Yes, this may seem bad, but it actually speaks volumes for their playoff experience.
This team is hungry– right from its core– and its fanbase, its front office and its backyard media wants to win sooner rather than later.
Plus, Nylander’s 2nd season in the AHL (although it was only a partial season) overlapped with Keefe’s time behind the bench of the Marlies, so there’s some familiarity between one of the four highest paid players on the Leafs and their head coach.
Additionally, Kapanen, Hyman and others have experience with Keefe and the Marlies’ system.
There’s enough familiarity there for something– potentially something dangerous.
Now for the advantages for Boston.
History is on their side. Boston’s core (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask) has shown its capable of making another Cup run (even with an aging captain and 1-2 centers).
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, remains a constant and in control.
Boston missed the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, but Claude Julien was still their head coach then, so the combination of Cassidy, plus Chara, Bergeron and Krejci’s leadership made for an easier transition into getting the team back into a “top of their game” playoff performer (and eventual Cup contender in 2019).
This isn’t a luxury the Leafs have, where the team’s looking to get back into postseason contention, period, let alone win a series.
Toronto missed the playoffs in their first year with Babcock, but made it for the last three years and lost each year in the First Round.
This leads to Toronto’s disadvantages for another potential postseason meeting with the Bruins.
History is not on Toronto’s side and neither are the statistics.
Yes, Dubas’ 2nd favorite thing in the world– analytics– could get in the way of his 1st favorite thing in the world– bringing the Cup back to the Maple Leafs organization.
As things stand, the Leafs have a greater chance of missing the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs than making them currently.
Toronto– the city, the fans, the players, the front office and the media– wants to win right now. There’s no room for excuses (even if they’re legitimate, like taking one’s time to formulate a defense via prospects or trades and supplementing Andersen in the crease with a legitimate backup goaltender).
But, whereas Cassidy inherited broken pieces in Boston that were addressed and revamped as the team went from outside the playoffs two years in a row to making three consecutive postseason appearances under Cassidy in his head coaching tenure with the B’s– addressing the need for depth down the lineup in the process without the likes of a highly touted free agent acquisition– Keefe and the Leafs have the majority of this season to work on that necessary synergy with a better offense (on paper).
Cassidy was named interim head coach of the Bruins in Feb. 2017. Boston was ousted by the Ottawa Senators in six games in the 2017 First Round and lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the 2018 Second Round prior to their 2019 Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Keefe has Tavares, Matthews and Marner (when healthy) to unleash on any given night and could very well pull a turnaround in one season a la the St. Louis Blues last season (who beat the Bruins in the Final in Game 7 at TD Garden) or the Penguins in 2009 (when Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien midseason and won the Cup) and 2016 (when Mike Sullivan replaced Bylsma midseason and won the Cup).
In that sense, recent history is actually on Toronto’s side.
Boston had some growing pains to go with their dramatic improvement, but the Leafs are built to counteract that pain if Keefe can find a better way to manage it than Babcock did.
As it is, Cassidy is 130-55-27 in 212 games with Boston from 2017-present (good enough for a .613 winning percentage), but 207-128-21-24 in 380 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL) from 2011-16 (.545 winning%).
Babcock was 173-133-45 in 351 games with the Maple Leafs from 2015-19 (.493 winning%).
Keefe gets the final say and has his .622 winning% in 320 games with the Marlies going for him as he steps into the biggest role behind any bench in the National Hockey League.
Playoffs or not, the rest of this season is about to be a wild ride for the Maple Leafs and their fans.
Bruins fans be worried or not.
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.
For the first time this season, the calendar is flipped to a new month– and with a new month comes new expectations.
All 31 National Hockey League teams are starting to find a rhythm– for better or worse– and it’s time to acknowledge the general trends of what to expect based on what’s already happened for the first 1/8th of the season (approximately).
American Thanksgiving is still around the corner, which means that any team in a playoff position by Nov. 28th is more likely to qualify for the playoffs by April 4th.
There’s enough time between now and then for a lot to change.
As always, that means it’s time for a new forecast based on what we’ve seen so far and what we may see in the future.
In other words, here’s an educated guess based on a formulaic approach thanks to the wonderful world of spreadsheets.
This isn’t an exact science. It takes into account everything from the last few seasons, as well as every little detail through the end of Oct. 31, 2019.
Anything can happen. It’s a long road to April.
Projected Standings After One Month
- p-Boston Bruins, 110 points (12 games played entering November 1st)
- x-Tampa Bay Lightning, 106 points (12 GP)
- x-Montreal Canadiens, 92 points (13 GP)
- Florida Panthers, 91 points (13 GP)
- Toronto Maple Leafs, 91 points (14 GP)
- Buffalo Sabres, 82 points (13 GP)
- Detroit Red Wings, 79 points (13 GP)
- Ottawa Senators, 74 points (11 GP)
The Boston Bruins are off to a hot start thanks to Tuukka Rask’s stellar goaltending (6-0-1 record, 1.42 goals against average, .951 save percentage in seven games played) and David Pastrnak’s hot stick (12-12–24 totals in 12 games played).
Bruce Cassidy’s leadership behind the bench has steered the B’s away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance hangover and towards another playoff berth for what would be the fourth year in-a-row.
Meanwhile, after a slow start to their season, Jon Cooper and the Tampa Bay Lightning casually waltz into home ice advantage in at least the First Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and Claude Julien re-enters the postseason frame with the Montreal Canadiens as if it’s 2004 again (granted, Julien and the Habs made it in 2017, but only after Julien replaced Michel Therrien as head coach for the second time).
Joel Quenneville’s first season as head coach of the Florida Panthers led to an improvement, but not quite enough to get them back into the postseason, while another Stanely Cup winning coach took his team in a different direction.
That coach is Mike Babcock and that team is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who trudged through the middle of the road all season and ended up just outside of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference (unless Kyle Dubas and Brendan Shanahan decide to stray from the “Shanaplan”).
Though the Buffalo Sabres are hot right now, it seems history repeats itself. Buffalo’s great October, November and/or December wasn’t enough to sustain themselves through the winer months of January, February and March, but overall the team improved and should be a playoff contender next season.
At least the Sabres aren’t the Detroit Red Wings (still a few years away from being a contender) or the Ottawa Senators (they say they’ll spend money in 2021, but…).
- y-Washington Capitals, 110 points (14 GP)
- x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 102 points (13 GP)
- x-New York Islanders, 95 points (11 GP)
- wc1-Carolina Hurricanes, 92 points (12 GP)
- wc2-Columbus Blue Jackets, 91 points (12 GP)
- Philadelphia Flyers, 89 points (11 GP)
- New York Rangers, 87 points (10 GP)
- New Jersey Devils, 81 points (10 GP)
Alex Ovechkin continues his annual quest for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy and likely succeeds unless Pastrnak has anything to say about it.
In the meantime, the Washington Capitals continue to take home the regular season crown in the Metropolitan Division because somehow they always seem to do that no matter the postseason outcome.
The Pittsburgh Penguins avoid major missteps without Evgeni Malkin in the lineup for most of October due to injury and turned things on for the duration of the second half of the season as they always do, yielding 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division.
Barry Trotz’s leadership with the New York Islanders has keep things tight-knit and playoff bound, but unless every 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff home game for the Isles is played at NYCB Live/Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, then it’s not worth it.
Rod Brind’Amour is the best coach for the Carolina Hurricanes and he continues to climb the ranks of “best head coaches in franchise history” with another wild card appearance, at least, and what should be yet another thrilling playoff run for the Canes.
Meanwhile, somehow the Columbus Blue Jackets pieced together enough wins to snag the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference before bowing out in the First Round due to a lack of depth.
Finally, the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils are all near the bottom of the division, but only with a few points spread between them– meaning that anything after 1st or 2nd place in the division is realistically up for grabs as long as a team goes on a perfectly timed run.
- z-Nashville Predators, 104 points (13 GP)
- x-St. Louis Blues, 101 points (13 GP)
- x-Winnipeg Jets, 93 points (13 GP)
- wc1-Colorado Avalanche, 92 points (12 GP)
- Chicago Blackhawks, 87 points (11 GP)
- Dallas Stars, 86 points (14 GP)
- Minnesota Wild, 85 points (13 GP)
In the Western Conference, the Nashville Predators are going to pounce on the competition as the leaders of the West in the regular season. The only trouble is, they still might blow it in the last second of overtime or something.
The defending champion St. Louis Blues are content to finish 2nd in the Central Division, but remain hungry in their quest for another Cup.
After a slow start to the season, Paul Maurice and the Winnipeg Jets somehow right the ship and earned themselves the last divisional spot in the Central Division.
But the Colorado Avalanche hold a wild card spot in the latest forecast as the real wild card of the entire Western Conference. Injuries could hold them back in the regular season, but they’ve shown they can make noise in the playoffs last spring.
Otherwise, if the Avs can stay healthy for longer periods of time, then Colorado could climb in the standings.
Finally, the Chicago Blackhawks are still trending in the wrong direction– facing the existential crisis of holding onto the old guard or continuing to dismantle their Cup-winning core– while the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild compete for the worst of the former and/or current Minnesota franchises this season.
Spoiler alert, it’s the Wild.
- y-Vegas Golden Knights, 101 points (14 GP)
- x-Anaheim Ducks, 96 points (14 GP)
- x-San Jose Sharks, 92 points (13 GP)
- wc2-Calgary Flames, 91 points (15 GP)
- Vancouver Canucks, 89 points (12 GP)
- Edmonton Oilers, 84 points (14 GP)
- Arizona Coyotes, 82 points (12 GP)
- Los Angeles Kings, 82 points (13 GP)
Nothing is going how things were expected to go in the Pacific Division and as a result, there’s still no conclusive results.
The Vegas Golden Knights are good and could likely win the Pacific Division regular season title, but the Anaheim Ducks aren’t bowing out of playoff contention just yet.
Meanwhile, the San Jose Sharks are as bad as the Los Angeles Kings, so this forecast will be further fine-tuned next month as the Sharks continue to slip from dominant to dormant in the standings.
The Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers all might take a stab at playoff contention, yet the Arizona Coyotes are on the rise.
At the very least, this is the most unpredictable division in the league that not even our current forecast can make any definitive claims.
Check back next month for further separation in the spread, as well as a more realistic view of where each team should likely land within the range of standings.
Brett Ritchie had the game-winning goal and Par Lindholm added the insurance goal against his former team late in the third period, as the Boston Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-2, at TD Garden on Tuesday night.
Tuukka Rask (4-0-1, 1.78 goals against average, .944 save percentage in five games played) stopped 28 out of 30 shots faced for a .933 SV% in the win for Boston.
Rask played in his 500th career game and became the 28th goaltender in league history to play all 500 games with one franchise, as well as the 72nd goaltender all time to reach 500 games in his career (10th active).
Meanwhile, Maple Leafs goaltender, Michael Hutchinson (0-2-1, 4.02 GAA, .890 SV% in four games played) made 35 saves on 39 shots against for an .897 SV% in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 6-1-2 (14 points) and remained 2nd in the Atlantic Divison, while the Maple Leafs fell to 5-4-2 (12 points)– stuck in 3rd place in the Atlantic.
Bruce Cassidy coached his 200th game as Boston’s head coach and is 123-53-24 in that span.
Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), David Krejci (upper body), Joakim Nordstrom (upper body) and Karson Kuhlman (tibia) made up Boston’s long list of players out due to injury on Tuesday night, while Steven Kampfer remained the only healthy scratch for the Bruins.
Krejci was placed on the injured reserve (retroactive to last week when his injury occurred), while Nordstrom returned to practice without the need for a no-contact sweater since the B’s returned from their trip up to Toronto last Saturday.
Kuhlman suffered a hairline nondisplaced fracture of his right tibia in Boston’s game against Toronto on Saturday (Oct. 19th) and will be reevaluated in approximately four weeks, as reported by the team moments after their win against the Maple Leafs Tuesday night.
As a result of Boston’s many injuries, Anders Bjork was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on emergency basis and took on Nordstrom’s usual role as the fourth line left wing alongside Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner.
Bjork has 3-5–8 totals in seven games with Providence this season and has a plus-five rating in that span.
Ritchie was bumped up from the third line right wing to the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle in place of Kuhlman, while Cassidy also moved David Backes up to the right side of the third line with Danton Heinen and Lindholm as a result.
Torey Krug interfered with Frederik Gauthier after the Leafs skater bumped David Pastrnak along the boards and left the league leading goal scorer hunched over on his way back to the bench.
Krug was assessed a minor penalty at 4:03 of the first period, yielding a power play for Toronto.
The Maple Leafs didn’t convert on the skater advantage.
Just past the midpoint of the opening frame, Pastrnak thought he scored the game’s first goal, but Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, used a coach’s challenge to review how the Bruins entered the attacking zone.
After review, it was determined that the play was offside leading up to Pastrnak’s would-be goal and thus, the score remained tied, 0-0 at 10:48.
Moments later, Andreas Johnsson hooked Kuraly at 16:26 and the Bruins went on the power play for their first time of the night.
It didn’t take long for Boston to capitalize on the skater advantage as Pastrnak (10) received the puck on his backhand, skated backwards in front of the crease and scored a between-the-legs goal through Hutchinson’s five-hole to give the B’s a power play goal and the, 1-0, lead at 17:15.
The goal was Pastrnak’s 300th career NHL point in his 329th career game– becoming the 4th fastest to reach 300 points in Bruins franchise history– and was assisted by Brad Marchand (9) and Krug (6).
Only Leon Draisaitl (328) has more points than Pastrnak among members from the same 2014 NHL Draft class and only Barry Pederson (235 games), Bobby Orr (279) and Ray Bourque (316) got to 300 points in their career for Boston faster than Pastrnak.
Just three seconds after the Bruins scored on the power play, Johnsson was sent back to the sin bin for roughing Wagner at 17:18.
Boston did not convert on the ensuing power play.
At the end of the first period, the B’s held a, 1-0, lead entering the first intermission, while holding an advantage in shots on goal, 12-10, as well.
Toronto led in blocked shots (2-1) and faceoff win percentage (71-29), while the Bruins led in takeaways (4-2) and hits (11-8). Both teams had four giveaways each heading into the second period.
Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs power play was 0/1 and the B’s were 1/2.
Less than 90 seconds into the middle frame, Jake Muzzin tripped up DeBrusk and presented Boston with another power play at 1:18 of the second period.
The Bruins were not able to capitalize on their early skater advantage in the second frame and the Leafs killed off Muzzin’s minor without any harm.
In the vulnerable minute thereafter, Kasperi Kapanen (3) blasted a one-timer past Rask off a backhand drop pass from Alexander Kerfoot to tie the game, 1-1, at 4:23 of the second period.
Kerfoot (3) and Justin Holl (3) tallied the assists on Kapanen’s goal as Toronto pounced on Boston’s lackluster effort defending against Toronto’s rush.
But Marchand (5) responded with a quick goal of his own on a wrist shot from the slot that he sent high into the twine over Hutchinson’s glove side after receiving a pass from Pastrnak in the attacking zone.
Pastrnak (7) and Charlie McAvoy (2) had the assists on Marchand’s goal as the Bruins regained the lead, 2-1, at 6:09.
The two teams swapped goals in a 1:05 span of the middle period.
Midway through the middle frame, Zdeno Chara was called for tripping Gauthier even though Chara had actually interfered with the Leaf– catching the Toronto skater with a one-arm shove from about shoulder height instead of a trip and knocking him over.
Nonetheless, a minor penalty was indeed the right call and the Maple Leafs went on the power play at 11:40.
Toronto converted on a tic-tac-goal as Kerfoot (4) notched a power play goal from dead center in the slot while Rask was caught out of position– seconds behind the play.
William Nylander had sent a cross-ice pass to Kapanen, who tossed the puck back to Kerfoot in the slot for the goal at 12:54, tying the game, 2-2.
Kapanen (5) and Nylander (4) had the assists on Toronto’s power play goal as the Maple Leafs took full advantage of catching the Bruins off of their game in the middle frame.
Late in the period, Morgan Rielly tripped Kuraly and was assessed a minor penalty, but the B’s didn’t score on the resulting skater advantage at 15:54.
Heading into the second intermission, the two teams were tied on the scoreboard, 2-2, despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal, 25-22– even though Toronto actually held a, 13-12, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.
Boston led in every other major statistical category, however, entering the third period, leading the Leafs in blocked shots (7-4), takeaways (11-4), giveaways (7-6), hits (17-14) and faceoff win% (51-49).
Toronto was 1/2 on the power play, while the Bruins were 1/4 to begin the final frame of regulation.
After Coyle dumped the puck around the glass for DeBrusk to dig out of the corner on the other side of Hutchinson, Ritchie (2) followed up on a loose puck after DeBrusk’s initial shot attempt was blocked by a Maple Leafs defender and buried a shot behind the Toronto netminder for what would be the eventual game-winning goal at 6:35 of the third period.
DeBrusk (2) had the only assist on Ritchie’s goal as Boston retook the lead, 3-2.
Though Kuraly caught Johnsson with a high stick late in the final period at 15:48, Toronto’s power play was no match for Boston’s penalty killing unit– even after Babcock used his team’s timeout with 3:27 remaining in the game to try to draw up a game-tying play.
Seconds after being released from the box, Kuraly entered the offensive zone with the puck on his stick and sent a shot right in and out of Hutchinson’s glove.
Lindholm (1), the former Maple Leaf, scored on the rebound with a backhand tap-in goal to provide the Bruins with an insurance goal, giving Boston the two-goal lead, 4-2, at 17:57 of the third period.
Kuraly (3) had the only assist on Lindholm’s first goal as a Bruin.
Eight seconds after Boston extended their lead, Marchand picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction, leaving his teammates shorthanded at 18:05, but the Leafs couldn’t score on the power play– even with their goaltender pulled for an extra attacker.
The Bruins secured another “W” in the win column with their, 4-2, victory over Toronto at the sound of the final horn.
Boston had defeated the Leafs for the 300th time in franchise history– the most wins vs. any opponent since the Bruins joined the NHL as the first American expansion team in 1924.
The B’s finished Tuesday night leading in shots on goal, 39-30, including a, 14-8, advantage in the third period alone, as well as giveaways (10-8), hits (32-16) and faceoff win% (60-40), while Toronto finished the night leading in blocked shots (9-8).
Both teams went 1/4 on the power play as the Bruins improved to 300-265-111 all-time against Toronto in the regular season.
Boston has 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 back-to-back days with games for the Bruins, as Boston will travel to New York to face the Rangers on Oct. 27th before finishing the month at home against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 29th.
The Bruins improved to 3-0-1 at home this season and 5-1-0 when leading after the first period. The B’s are also 5-1-1 when scoring the game’s first goal this season.
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.
Brayden Point re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a bunch of other RFAs signed extensions, the Boston Pride were sold, Dan Girardi retired and DTFR’s season previews continued with the Atlantic Division.