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New dad Muzzin gives Leafs D core some swagger

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Jake Muzzin became a father yesterday welcoming a baby girl into the world, but he still made it to Boston for the Leafs morning skate.

“It’s been fun,” the 30-year-old said. “It’s exciting, you know, it’s a big part in our life away from hockey and now we’re here back to work so it’s been a crazy 24 hours.”

Will he ride a wave of adrenaline into Game 5?

“Um, I’m a little tired,” he said with a smile, “but other than that I’ll be fine.”

New dad Muzzin tired, but happy after ‘crazy 24 hours’

Jake Muzzin and his wife Courtney’ welcomed their first child on Thursday. After a whirlwind 24 hours, the Maple Leafs defenceman says he is tired, happy ahead of Game 5.

Muzzin is a key part of Toronto’s plan to contain Boston’s top line. That plan seemed to be working well until Wednesday when David Pastrnak got his first two goals of the series (one on the power play) while Brad Marchand posted three points. Muzzin’s ill-timed pinch led to a Pastrnak goal early in the second period.

“We got to limit some mistakes,” Muzzin said. “They capitalized on a few mistakes we made. Every shift is important. We got to have attention to detail and execution every shift. You give them a chance, they’re going to score.”

“We just got to get back to what we were doing,” said coach Mike Babcock. “Any time you’re a goal scorer and you score, you feel good about yourself. So, that’s the beauty of a series is they didn’t have it going, suddenly they’ve got it going. We’re the same way. The series has been about responding and we have to respond here today.”

The Leafs let an opportunity slip through their fingers in Game 4, but Muzzin believes the inexperienced core is responding well.

“When I was a young guy, you know, I was kind of oblivious to the pressure and kind of just went out and played and I think I see some of that here with these guys. They’re just going out, they’re excited, they’re hungry and they’re just going out and playing hockey and I think that’s the best way to go about it.”

The series is as tight as can be with the teams deadlocked in games, even-strength goals (8-8) and five-on-five shots (117-117).

Babcock: ‘This series has been about responding and we have to respond’

After the Bruins’ top line had a breakout performance in Game 4, Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock wants to see how his team responds tonight in Game 5.

Muzzin has made his presence felt with some booming hits. He knocked Torey Krug out of Game 2 and has flattened Pastrnak on a couple of occasions. The arrival of the six-foot-three, 213 pound native of Woodstock, Ont., has given Toronto’s blue line an edgy force in the top-four.

“He kind of brings a swagger to our D corps that’s nice to have,” said Mitch Marner. “He’s a physical guy, who can play a real defensive game … He’s very good at timing the hits and I think kind of drawing people into thinking he’s not going to come and then he comes out of nowhere so he does a good job of kind of being incognito.”

Muzzin, a Stanley Cup champion in 2014 with the Kings, has been credited with 12 hits in the series, which leads all defencemen on both teams.

“In a long series it wears on guys,” he said. “When you get hit and you get hit and you get hit, slowly but surely it wears on you. Mentally, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to get hit again,’ and physically it may wear you down a little bit.”

Muzzin’s physical play gives Leafs D ‘swagger’; wearing down B’s top guns

Mitch Marner had high praise for defenceman Jake Muzzin and the ”swagger” that Muzzin brings to Toronto’s back end.

Zach Hyman, who leads the Leafs with 15 hits, struggled to get off the ice after an awkward collision with Marchand late in Game 4. He stayed in the game and was back on the ice at the morning skate today.

“Just a weird play,” the left winger explained. “I initiated the hit and got stung and for a second got nervous there and then got to the bench and everything was OK. Ready to go tonight.”

Hyman appeared to grimace upon taking the ice this morning and was shaking his leg at times, but insists all is well.

“It’s fine,” he said. “Good to go.”

Leafs Ice chips: Hyman good to go after getting stung by ‘weird play’

The Maple Leafs got a scare late in game 4 when Zach Hyman took a hit from Brad Marchand and struggled to get off the ice. Hyman stayed in the game and skated with his teammates on Friday morning before declaring himself ready to go for the pivotal Game 5.

Hyman is a key part of Toronto’s embattled penalty kill, which has allowed five goals on 11 chances in the series.

“We have a lot more to prove,” Hyman vowed. “I don’t think we’ve been as bad as the numbers show. We’ve got to get back to playing our way and be confident out there and go after them.”

“We thought we had it covered and we didn’t,” said Babcock. “Obviously, we addressed that. I mean, it’s a game of mistakes as you all know. You try to eliminate the mistakes as much as you can. The onus is on the coaching staff to do a good job and then the players to execute that job.”

Kasperi Kapanan, who was on the ice for the first Bruins power play goal on Wednesday, worked with the penalty kill at the morning skate rather than with the second power-play unit, which he was added to after the Nazem Kadri suspension.

With Leafs struggling, Poulin shares his four principals of penalty killing

The Maple Leafs have surrendered five power-play goals to the Bruins in 11 chances this series. TSN Hockey analyst Dave Poulin explains his four principles of penalty killing and how Toronto can use them to be better against Boston.

Boston will get a boost tonight as Sean Kuraly is expected to return to the line-up for the first time since sustaining a broken right hand on March 21.

“Sean’s greatest strength is his ability to transport the puck out of our zone, close first, get out. He’s strong, real good skater so he can get the puck out of our zone,” head coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters on Thursday. “That line’s done a good job in terms of structurally being in lanes, blocking shots, willing to battle, but they miss that element, a guy that can get it and go and separate. In the offensive zone, he can be a puck possessor and be a one-man cycle, specifically teams that are man-to-man. He will force the other team to defend, hang onto pucks, get it out of our end and possess it in their end.”

Boston’s fourth line, which saw a lot of the John Tavares group during Game 2 in Boston, was dominated at even strength during the two games in Toronto. Joakim Nordstrom will be the odd man out should Kuraly, who had two goals and two assists in the series against Toronto last year, play.

Babcock confirmed that Michael Hutchinson will serve as the back-up goalie for the rest of the series.

Lines at Maple Leafs morning skate: 

Hyman-Tavares-Marner

Johnsson-Matthews-Kapanen

Marleau-Nylander-Brown

Ennis- Gauthier-Moore

Petan

Rielly-Hainsey

Muzzin-Zaitsev

Gardiner-Dermott

Rosen-Marincin

Holl-Ozhiganov

Andersen starts

Hutchinson

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Don Cherry comes back with a new show

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They may have knocked Don Cherry to the ice with a hit he didn’t see coming.

Now watch him get back up.

You people out there who want the 85-year-old Cherry back, here’s the news you have been hoping for.  You people who wanted him to fade away are out of luck as the former NHL coach of the year is going to be able to exercise his free speech, after all.

Don Cherry’s Grapevine is back once again. This time as a podcast.

Coach’s Corner may be “no more” as his one-time Hockey Night in Canada sidekick Ron MacLean announced on Saturday. Cherry was fired by Rogers and Sportsnet for his “you people” who “come here” comment that was misunderstood and later spun as discriminatory.

Cherry wanted his opportunity to properly explain it. Now he is going to get that chance.

You read it right: Don Cherry and his no-holds-barred views are coming back on the air.

The Toronto Sun has learned you won’t have to wait long for the first installment of the new Grapevine. It will drop Tuesday morning and be available on Spotify and other streaming services every Monday during the hockey season.

And yes, the very first one will address Cherry’s firing from Sportsnet.

“But that’s not all we talked about,” Cherry told me Monday. “We are talking hockey, of course. It’s going to be terrific. In this one I am talking about The Rocket (Maurice Richard), one of the all-time greats.”

One thing for sure about the new show is MacLean will not be in his foxhole.

So who will be?

You may have noticed the word “we” in Don’s comments and since so many scrutinize every word he says and what he means by it, I asked.

Turns out Grapes has a new co-host. And perhaps hosts.

“My son, Tim, is going to do it with me and my grandson Del,” said Grapes. 

At least he knows they won’t turn on him when the waters get rough as MacLean did.

“They did great,” Don said of Tim and Del. ”I think people are really going to enjoy this one and the ones we do down the road.”

Tim Cherry tells me the plan is to tape and post it every Monday.

“That way we cover off what happened on the weekend in hockey,” said Tim. “It’s going to be fun.”

For Don’s fans, who are already missing him and unlikely to tune into whatever Sportsnet comes up with to replace the 38-year-old segment, this will give them the opportunity to hear what he has to say. For Don himself, it will connect him with the hockey fans and players he loves while getting back on horse quickly.

It will be in audio broadcast to start with but Tim says it could grow into a TV-style show with cameras and sponsors.

If The Grapevine title sounds familiar it’s because Don’s television show, which Tim produced, was on the air from 1982-93 — filmed in Hamilton.

The new project will feature Don talking about the NHL and hockey and whatever he wants without any censorship.

If he wants to talk about poppies, he can do it without being fired. If he wants to talk about the troops or cops or firefighters or honour the fallen, no one can tell him to keep his nose out of it.

Mostly the plan is to talk hockey. And he won’t have just seven minutes to get it all out.

“The first podcast is about half an hour,” said Tim.

But if they ever find themselves in a position to need more time, or less, the beauty of podcasts is there are no constricting rules.

It also keeps Grapes in game shape while he considers other potential TV offers and opportunities.

Mostly it’s just the perfect outlet for Don Cherry to do what he does best: Be Don Cherry.

Yes Coach’s Corner is over: The new Grapevine has just been planted. Just call this the coach’s comeback! 

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Injuries sideline Habs Drouin, Byron indefinitely

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Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron will be out of the lineup indefinitely as the result of injuries they suffered in Friday night’s win over the Capitals in Washington.

Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron will be out of the lineup indefinitely as the result of injuries they suffered in Friday night’s win over the Capitals in Washington.

Drouin underwent wrist surgery on Monday, and Byron is scheduled to undergo knee surgery on Tuesday.

“We’ll a better idea of a timeline after the surgery,” coach Claude Julien said after the Canadiens practised in preparation for Tuesday’s road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).

The Canadiens recalled Charles Hudon from Laval. He played Saturday against New Jersey and was sent back to the minors after the game.

Julien said Carey Price will start in goal, and he will wait to decide on a goaltender for Wednesday’s home game against the Ottawa Senators.

phickey@postmedia.com

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NHL commissioner says Ron MacLean spoke from the heart

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TORONTO — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says Sportsnet broadcaster Ron MacLean “spoke from the heart” during his monologue on “Hockey Night in Canada” over the weekend.

MacLean opened the first intermission segment on Saturday night — the first since Cherry was fired last week — by speaking alone on camera for nearly five minutes.

Bettman, a panellist at today’s PrimeTime sports management conference in downtown Toronto, says MacLean “obviously made his feelings clear.”

Bettman declined to weigh in on Cherry’s departure, saying he’s not going to start another news cycle.

Cherry used the phrase, “You people,” during the “Coach’s Corner” segment on Nov. 9 but later denied that he was singling out visible minorities.

MacLean, who apologized the day after, talked at length about his close relationship with Cherry but said he had to choose “principle over friendship,” adding “Coach’s Corner is no more.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019.

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