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Category: Toronto-Maple-Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs Won Their First Playoff Game Since 2013

from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,

“Unreal,” said William Nylander as he made his way to the bus on the wrong side of midnight.

All of it.

Kasperi Kapanen’s winning goal in double overtime and the pass of Brian Boyle’s life to create it. Or how about the fact Kapanen won a faceoff against Evgeny Kuznetsov 20 seconds before scoring in what was the first recorded faceoff attempt of his entire NHL career?

The young Leafs came into Verizon Center, a building where the Washington Capitals lost all of nine times this season, and allowed the Presidents’ Trophy winners to lead for a grand total of three minutes 19 seconds.

Over two games.

“Two overtime games,” Boyle said after Saturday’s 4-3 victory. “That’s kind of baptism by fire for some of these guys and that’s a great thing for them. A great opportunity for them to have.”

This was a night where the Leafs could truly start dreaming of pulling off an upset in this series.

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Video- Roman Polak Injury

Follow Polak's right leg, foot/ankle.

 

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Afternoon Line- Mike Babcock On Nicklas Backstrom

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The Leafs Drop Game 1 To The Capitals

from David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail,

Just as they did for most of the season, the rebuilt version of the Toronto Maple Leafs figuratively thumbed their noses at the doubters and came out flying for their NHL playoff debut.

There was no sign of nerves from the start on Thursday night and for almost two periods and then parts of a third, the young Leafs had the Washington Capitals, the NHL’s best team in the regular season but one with a shaky playoff past, nervous and on the ropes.

But it wasn’t quite good enough. The Washington Capitals fought back from a two-goal disadvantage to subdue a determined group of Leafs with a 3-2 overtime win in the first game of their Eastern Conference first-round series. Tom Wilson won the game with a long shot that eluded Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen, who deserved better, at 5:15 of the first overtime period. It was Wilson’s first career playoff goal.

It was a long shot that seemed to catch Andersen off-guard and drifted into the top corner. Yes, it was a whiff but without Andersen’s excellence in the previous 65 minutes and change, the Leafs would not have made it that far. He stopped 41 shots, while his counterpart with the Capitals, Braden Holtby, made 35 saves.

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The Pressure Is On The Washington Capitals

from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,

This Maple Leaf playoff edition has no Darcy Tucker, but could have the Pucker Factor in its corner.

That’s coach Mike Babcock’s term for a tightness that a heavily favoured team, such as the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals, experience in certain lower body parts when the whole hockey world expects them to romp in the opening playoff series. The Caps are starting to hear how they’re the best team in the East never to win a Cup, lasting just one series last year and don’t want to think about an upstart team upsetting them.

So the Leafs are embracing that underdog role as they prepare to leave for Game 1 on Thursday, hoping to plant that seed of doubt and have it blossom like the spring cherry trees in D.C.

“That’s the whole key,” Babcock said Tuesday. “If you let (the Caps) get going, then they’re loose and driving. But that ‘pucker factor’ is an unbelievable thing. Until you’ve been the best seed, until you have your whole city expecting, you don’t know what’s that like and how good a defence that is for the underdog.”

Babcock has endured both sides of first-round foibles.

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Shanahan’s Plans

from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,

The author of the Shan-a-plan won’t allow himself a moment to stop and smell the playoff roses.

There is still too much work to be done, Brendan Shanahan said, in a lengthy interview. In his third season on the job as Maple Leafs president — the first year to assess, the second to strip down the roster and essentially tank, the third to remarkably qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs — Shanahan calls this rather stunning season as “just another positive step in the process.

“In the moment, like on Saturday night, it feels fantastic,” he said. “And then everyone involved, including the players, immediately switches to: ‘What’s next?’

“We’re like everybody else. We enjoyed that game and the nature of it. But five minutes after it’s over, it has to be: ‘What’s next?’”

What’s next begins Thursday night in Washington and a Stanley Cup playoff series against the best regular-season team in hockey. What’s next will be the first exposure many of his young Leafs have had to this new game called NHL playoff hockey.

Shanahan hopes the post-season run, however long it lasts, will give some perspective. He doesn’t just want to build a playoff team, as he already has. He wants to build a team capable of competing for the Stanley Cup every year.

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The Leafs Are In

from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,

All of the doubts, all of the angst, all of the anger and frustration and bewilderment that has been Toronto Maple Leafs hockey this last decade?

It’s all gone.

This is truly the dawn of a new era for the Maple Leafs, who are headed to the playoffs in their first season with a rebuilt core.

“I told the coaches at the start of the year that if we got in it was going to be tomorrow in Game 82,” Mike Babcock said after a stomach-turning 5-3 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night. “I thought it would be like this – you have to really crawl in at the end. We’re one game ahead of schedule.
  
“But, to be honest with you, I didn’t know the kids could be this good.”
  
No one did. No one could.
  
They have lifted the franchise further, and faster, then Brendan Shanahan or Lou Lamoriello or Babcock once thought reasonable.
  
When everything hung in the balance against the Penguins – after No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen had been knocked out of the game with an injury, and Jake Guentzel put the visitors ahead on a goal that pinballed off the skates of Nikita Zaitsev and Jake Gardiner – it was the kids that pulled them through.

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The Ottawa Senators Are In, The Toronto Maple Leafs Are Not There Yet

from Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen,

Welcome back to the Stanley Cup playoffs, Ottawa Senators.

With injured captain Erik Karlsson at home, the Senators secured a playoff berth with a 2-1 shootout victory over the Boston Bruins Thursday.

After the victory, a loud, boisterous cheer from the Senators dressing room echoed into the hallway at TD Banknorth Garden.

“It’s just a great feeling,” defenceman Dion Phaneuf said. “You could see when we got the point and knew we were in. We knew we had pushed through a lot of ups and downs this year. We found a way to stick to it. (Thursday) was a game that was textbook the style we’ve played all year.”

Well, textbook minus the club’s best player, the best defenceman in the NHL. And by securing a playoff spot, the Senators will be able to rest Karlsson until the playoffs begin.

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from Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun,

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The Toronto Maple Leafs March Into Buffalo

from Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News,

Now things get juicy good in Game 79. The Leafs are in town again Monday night. Second time in nine days.

And there's more: It appears Alex Nylander will make his Sabres debut. In the midst of a circus atmosphere. Against his older brother, William, just named NHL Rookie of the Month for March.

Sign us all up.

Toronto comes to town hip-deep in a wild playoff race as the season heads into the final week. The Sabres, of course, are not. Worse yet, while the Leafs are pushing to finish second in the Atlantic Division and are a full 15 points ahead of Buffalo, the Sabres are simply trying to stave off the Detroit Red Wings and stay out of the Atlantic cellar.

So sure, let's keep pushing the silly injury excuse -- the Sabres are a mediocre 25-25-7 WITH Jack Eichel -- or keep trying to to explain away how the Leafs have blown past Buffalo in Rebuild Square.

All that's left is to put a crimp in the Leafs' run and to silence their fans, who undoubtedly have gladly soaked up as many tickets as they can from the Sabres' rightly disgruntled season ticket base.

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“Shifting Attitude” Towards Gambling

from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,

Komarov is the new global ambassador for NordicBet, a European-based betting website. His sponsorship deal is the first of its kind for an active NHL player and signals a shifting attitude within the sport about affiliations with gambling.

Todd Diamond of International Sports Advisors Co., the agency that represents Komarov, said the arrangement was cleared with the Leafs front office before it was finalized.

It didn’t raise any red flags for the NHL or NHL Players’ Association, either.

“It doesn’t violate our rules as long as he isn’t directly promoting sports wagering and as long as the advertising is limited to where NordicBet’s business is legal,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Sportsnet.

Komarov was actually approached by multiple betting companies, according to Diamond, and found NordicBet most appealing because it is a publicly traded company in Sweden.

“They are sensitive to the legalities and concerns of Leo,” said Diamond....

With the NHL expanding to Las Vegas starting next season, it’s reasonable to expect more of these deals to start emerging in the hockey world.

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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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