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Category: Toronto-Maple-Leafs

Hockey Notes With Your Coffee

from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,

- ...The Leafs, not even halfway through the season, playing a limited schedule in a limited division, look like one of the best teams in the NHL. How that translates to playoffs and then crossover playoffs will be determined later. The chore for Shanahan and Dubas now is to take advantage of the greatest opportunity they’ve ever had in management. This is a shrunken season of possibilities. There may never be another like it.

- Connor McDavid had no points in three home games against Toronto. Does that impact his Hart Trophy candidacy in any way? … It’s early but the Hart conversation already includes McDavid, Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, Victor Hedman, Mark Scheifele, Mark Stone and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Who it doesn’t include at this point: Nathan MacKinnon, Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Elias Pettersson.

- New nickname for Sabres GM Kevyn Adams. Wiarton Willie. He pops his head out once a year to inform us of how many bad weeks are left in the NHL season.

- When Mike Babcock was choosing between Buffalo and Toronto, he preferred the Sabres roster to that of the Leafs. His wife preferred living in Toronto. That, of course, was before Matthews was drafted. Some five years later, the Leafs are contending, Sabres have become an NHL embarrassment.

- The Maple Leafs are caught in a squeeze of sorts with their most dependable player. They can’t afford to sign the pending free agent Zach Hyman for what he would be worth in the open market — and they can’t afford to let him go.

Whatever Hyman was expected to be when then fill-in general manager Kyle Dubas made his first ever trade, acquiring Hyman’s rights from Florida, the fiery and dependable winger has exceeded any and all expectations....

more on the first and last topic plus additional hockey blurbs...

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All Is Well In Toronto

from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,

In substance and in style, it looked like a reasonable copy of the game they played in the same building 48 hours earlier, right down to the fact they emphatically grabbed another two points with Auston Matthews and Frederik Andersen watching injured from the stands.

In this second of a three-game set, the Maple Leafs were also down goaltender Jack Campbell after he tweaked a previous leg injury while delivering a shutout on Saturday night. No bother. Michael Hutchinson, No. 4 on the team’s depth chart in January, stepped up with another strong performance and stopped 31 shots to make it two Leafs doughnuts in a row.

“I just want to open it up with comments about our goalies. I think the past two nights they’ve been outstanding and I don’t think they get enough credit,” Morgan Rielly said before taking any questions on his post-game Zoom call.

That the backups blanked Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl is a testament to their performance, but also a level of connected play the Leafs struggled to reach last season. They are really settling into a groove and sit at an absurd 17-4-2 — good for an eight-point advantage over Edmonton, head-and-shoulders above the rest in the North Division.

Just as importantly, they are slowly putting to rest some former demons. They have been prone to distractions in years gone by. And this season played amid a pandemic is full of plenty of those for everyone involved.

more

Below are the game highlights of Toronto's 3-0 win.

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Better Options In Goal For The Toronto Maple Leafs Than Frederik Andersen?

by Damien Cox at the Toronto Star,

Could they replace the 31-year-old Andersen with a free agent next summer, like they replaced Curtis Joseph with Ed Belfour 19 years ago? Possibly. Of the netminders currently set to be out there this summer, Pekka Rinne, Jordan Binnington and Tuukka Rask could possibly provide an upgrade.

Rinne’s having a bounceback season on a mediocre Preds squad, but he’s 37 (same age Belfour was). Rask is 34. Binnington is only 27, but it’s hard to see the Blues letting him walk. Then again, Vancouver let Jacob Markstrom leave for Calgary as a free agent at age 30.

How free-agent goalies will perform in new cities is difficult to predict. Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky has not come close to giving value for his $10-million (U.S.) cap hit. Holtby ($4.3 million) has been average with the leaky Canucks. Semyon Varlamov, meanwhile, has been very good behind a sturdy defensive team in Long Island since leaving Colorado in the summer of 2019.

So the Leafs, in theory, could upgrade the position. But they might not, and could spend a lot of money trying.

more

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A Five Point Night For Connor McDavid Surpassing Four Points From Auston Matthews

from Mark Spector of Sportsnet,

There are only so many things you can write or say about Connor McDavid, and having covered him since the day Bill Daly flipped the placard, we can attest that there is only one way to spell the all the words that another McDavid five-point night brings to mind.

Awesome, dominant, lightning fast, other worldly… We would asked one of our copy editors — a distant relative of Gordie Howe we have nicknamed “Mr. Copy” — if the term ‘smoke show’ is hyphenated?

So here we are again after a 7-1 Saturday night win, trying to describe another one of those legendary McDavid nights witnessed by an entire country of hockey experts who still — six seasons and 506 points into McDavid’s career — aren’t sure they can believe what they’re seeing.

“It’s the same for us in the room,” said linemate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, whose two goals thrust him into the Top 10 in NHL goal scoring with nine. “Even though you see it on a daily basis, you almost forget how impressive he is when he has a night like this. He’s on a different level.

cotninued

from Lance Hornby  of the Toronto Sun,

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A One Line Team In Toronto

from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,

William Nylander is like buying furniture from IKEA with the instructions somehow missing from the package.

You know you have all the parts — you see them in front of you — you just have no real idea of how to put it all together.

Nylander was not the reason why the Maple Leafs blew a 5-1 lead Monday night and lost in rather embarrassing fashion to the hapless but growing Ottawa Senators. But bigger picture, away from this messy defeat, away from the somewhat offence-first style of the North Division, his lack of impact in games has become a serious issue for the Leafs.

He’s not alone. The captain John Tavares, Nylander’s centre on the Leafs’ second line, the fifth-highest-paid player in the National Hockey League, is struggling alongside Nylander. Their line, even with new addition Zach Hyman, seems rather lost. Sheldon Keefe is nothing if not an equal-opportunity coach.

Play well and you get ice time. Don’t play well, and it’s cut considerably. Nylander is 152nd in the NHL in ice time for forwards. That tells you what Keefe thinks of his play. Tavares is 90th among forwards in time on ice per game — hardly what GM Kyle Dubas envisioned when he and the club committed $77 million over seven years for Tavares and, months after that, signed Nylander for just under $7 million a year. That’s more money than anyone on the Boston big line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand are paid. And more than Nathan MacKinnon, Brayden Point, Johnny Gaudreau, Patrik Laine … We could go on.

continued

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Video- Ottawa Scores Five Unanswered Goals To Beat Toronto 6-5 In OT

The Toronto Maple Leafs held a 5-1 lead with 20:09 left in the game.

Then the Ottawa Senators scored the next 5 goals to win 6-5 in OT.

 

Filed in: NHL Teams, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink
 

A More Physical Auston Matthews

fom Kristen Shilton of TSN,

Auston Matthews has courted headlines with his gaudy offensive numbers to open this season, but the Toronto Maple Leafs’ star has quietly evolved in other directions too, by becoming one of the team’s more powerful forwards. 

“I think I've made it a point in my game to be more physical,” Matthews told reporters on a Zoom call Saturday, ahead of facing the Montreal Canadiens. “I don't think it's really over the top, but when I have opportunities to use my size and strength, whether it's with the puck or without the puck, I’ll just try to utilize that to my advantage.”

So far, that strategy's been working. Through 13 games this season, Matthews has been credited with the second-most hits among Leafs’ forwards at 20, for a hits/60 of 4.20.

By comparison, Matthews turned in a 1.18 hits/60 over the first four years of his career. 

continued

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The Toronto Maple Leafs vs. The Montreal Candiens Tonight

from Luke Fox of Sportsnet,

With the Habs and us getting off to a great start, that’s two excited fan bases. We’re aware of that. It’s exciting for us as players too. They’re special rivalries that maybe we haven’t seen a lot of in the last few years," Jason Spezza says.

"We have a chance to kinda reignite those fan bases and the rivalry. As players, that’s a great opportunity.”...

Steel sharpens steel. So, surely the players themselves would like to use this Montreal-Toronto set to measure how good they really are. Right?

“You’re not going to like this answer, but I could really care less about what the Leafs are doing,” Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher said. “They're a very good team. They got their own storyline that they’re following.

“For us, it’s just about playing our game. Obviously, we were disappointed we lost the first game to them. Now it’s a chance to get a little revenge in that aspect.”

Toronto will roll into Bell Centre with two more wins and three more points, but Montreal holds a game in hand and a superior goal differential (+17).

read on

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Talking With Frank Mahovlich

from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,

Imagine being a kid from Northern Ontario, who played hockey, lived hockey and idolized Rocket Richard, and you get called up as a teenager for your first NHL game. And there you are, at Maple Leaf Gardens, all set to face the iconic Montreal Canadiens.

This isn’t a children’s book.

This was Frank Mahovlich’s life.

“Howie Meeker was the coach and, before the game, he looked at me and said ‘You’ll be checking Rocket Richard tonight, ‘A ” the great Mahovlich, now 83 years old, said in a rare and lengthy interview.

“I’m 19 at the time. I think Rocket was 38. I’d read so many books on him. The first time I’m on the ice, Meeker tells me, ‘Don’t let him get away, he’s too dangerous.’

“I’m right beside Rocket at the red line. And everything I knew about him was, if he got the puck at the red line, we were finished. I panicked, of course. I was bigger than him. I wrapped both my arms around him and held on. He got a little frustrated. At one point, we were so close together his nose was touching mine.

“A ‘Let go, kid,’ Richard said.

“And I’m thinking, ‘Rocket Richard just spoke to me. He spoke to me.’

“A ‘Yes Mr Richard,’ I said, and I let him go.”

continued

Filed in: NHL Teams, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink
 

Goals In Seven Straight Games For Auston Matthews

from the CP at TSN,

Auston Matthews has never had a run like this in the NHL.

And in the process, the Maple Leafs star helped heap more misery on a flailing opponent once again left searching for answers.

Matthews scored twice — including a stunning finish that materialized out of almost nothing — to extend his goal streak to a career-best seven consecutive games Saturday as Toronto thumped the Vancouver Canucks 5-1.

"I try to have the same mindset whether the puck's going in or not," said the 23-year-old centre, who also buried a pair in Thursday's 7-3 victory over Vancouver, and is always more eager to talk about a teammate's success than his own.

continued

Game highlights are below.

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com

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