The Maple Leafs put together an impressively complete four-line effort in Boston tonight, with the only cause for concern being three injury situations that forced two of their right-handed defensemen and their current starting goaltender out of the game.
Your game in 10:
1. The Leafs were entering this two-game set against high-end Atlantic Division opponents with a few key storylines to watch: Do they look like a team that can compete with their depth over three or four lines against the best in the league, or are they a one-line show that isn’t getting enough offense if it’s not Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and their power play winning them games? Well, the two wins over Boston and Florida could not have played out much better in this respect.
The Leafs received scoring contributions from eight different goal scorers over the two games — all four lines contributed in tonight’s win — including 5v5 goals from Colin Blackwell, Alex Kerfoot, David Kampf, Ilya Mikheyev, and Morgan Rielly off of the blue line.
Dating back to last season when the Leafs dropped Hyman to L3 and waxed the Oilers 3 straight times, they have pretty well looked awesome every single time they have spread out their talent across three lines instead of loading up two (with heavy minutes to boot).
— Anthony Petrielli (@APetrielli) March 30, 2022
After we criticized their starts to games plenty in this space, they also took the lead inside the first five or so minutes in each game, which is incredibly important against good teams, particularly at playoff time. Both games were closed out with multi-goal advantages without too much of a concern in terms of managing the lead to the finish.
Two regular-season contests do not a season make, but those are markers of a better prepared, more balanced Leafs team.
2. The Bruins scored their two late goals and made it halfway interesting, but the Leafs’ approach in the third period for the most part was business-like and necessarily boring given the circumstances (down two defensemen, up four goals, a rookie goalie in net). They didn’t overextend themselves offensively, the forwards made simple plays and got pucks out, and they kept their shifts short so their tired defensemen weren’t bogged down for too many long own-zone shifts. There were a lot of icings in the mix, but in the circumstances, plenty of stoppages to slow the game down and not allow the Bruins to gather much momentum made for sensible game management by the team overall.
3. I take no delight in pointing it out as I am a big fan of the player and person, but it probably isn’t getting enough attention just how far Jason Spezza‘s numbers plummeted this season from third in the NHL in points/60 last season to 322nd this season (prior to tonight’s game, min. 400 minutes played).
Undoubtedly, a big part of the solution is discontinuing the Spezza-Simmonds partnership which has never really made any sense, but I think shifting Spezza to the wing in favour of a player with a better motor over 200 feet of the ice surface, such as Colin Blackwell, makes a good amount of sense as well. We’ll see where Blackwell’s faceoff numbers settle in this season — historically, they’re not too bad at 48.8% over his career — and they can insulate him with Spezza taking the right-side draws.
The fourth line led the team with 79% share of the shot attempts and 83% of the expected goals in addition to getting the team on the board early with the 1-0 goal off of a nice feed from Spezza and backhand redirect by Blackwell.
4. With the 2-1 goal tonight, Morgan Rielly now has goals in two straight after going 17 without scoring, a span that included just seven assists and a minus-nine plus/minus. Rielly’s momentum this season was sacrificed a little bit due to the circumstances beneath him on the defense corps, forcing him away from his usual partner in TJ Brodie, and throwing him in next to Liljegren in assignments Liljegren wasn’t ready for before settling in next to Ilya Lybushkin recently. For a team that does not generate much goal production off its blue line relative to other high-scoring teams, it is a quietly important development that he is emerging from his offensive rut.
5. It was interesting to see Michael Bunting all the way down below 11 minutes time-on-ice in this game, which is his lowest TOI figure since joining the top line full time. After his offensive-zone tripping penalty (leading to the 1-1 power-play goal by David Pastrnak) plus the two off-setting minors, it’s the first time we’ve seen the coaching staff show a little hesitance around his ability to keep it on the rails in a situation where the team needed to play disciplined and protect the lead.
Staying on this side of the line discipline-wise is key when it comes to keeping leads against good teams with good power plays, especially a team like Boston that was attempting to goad the Leafs into rolling around in the mud with a multi-goal advantage.
6. Hopefully, Ilya Lyubushkin is okay, as I’m becoming a big fan of the tone he’s helped set for the Leafs of late on the blue line, including against Florida, where he confronted Mason Marchment after he buzzed Petr Mrazek on the first shift and then stepped up and dropped Marchment at the defensive blue line shortly thereafter. He’s a capable defender of the rush and forces the opposition to keep their heads up through the neutral zone, including landing a good hit on Taylor Hall that led to the retaliatory cheap shot.
He makes the Leafs a harder team to play against, and in addition to the stable veteran presence of a Mark Giordano, it makes the Leafs D core a more well-rounded, playoff-ready unit than it was six weeks ago.
7. A sucker punch to the side of the head/jaw is objectively worse in its intent than the Auston Matthews cross-check that was an exchange of blows between two willing combatants (and led to a two-game suspension). Rasmus Dahlin also stayed in the game after the Matthews cross-check, whereas Ilya Lyubushkin could not continue tonight with an apparent head/face injury after Hall’s punch. Matthews had a hearing scheduled before the game was even over against Buffalo. Tonight, the silence is deafening from the DoPS. Curious!
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) March 30, 2022
8. I thought this was a rough game from TJ Brodie, who was directly involved in three Bruins goals, seemed to continually lose his stick in the third period, and got walked around a number of times, but that was probably in large part a byproduct of his ballooning time-on-due due to the absences of two Leafs defensemen, forcing him to play over 26 minutes. Outside of Brodie, though, the Leafs’ defense looked again quite solid as a unit.
Mark Giordano played nearly 15 minutes at 5v5 (third among Leafs D) and the Leafs gave up a total of two scoring chances in those 15 minutes. He’s played extremely poised, simple, and effective in all three games so far, and he looks to be an invaluable stabilizing influence next to Timothy Liljegren.
The only reservation for the Leafs tonight is how potentially costly this win was from an injury point of view with Justin Holl and Lyubushkin exiting the game with apparent head/face injuries. Those are two of the team’s three right shots that were giving the Leafs solid minutes of late.
9. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse… What a season from hell this is turning out to be for Petr Mrazek. Just as he was gaining some traction with his play — back-to-back strong starts against New Jersey and Montreal, and a good start to this game including a backdoor save in the first minute — the groin injury flares up again, sending him out of action for who-knows-how-long.
Erik Kallgren did let three past him, but he faced 26 shots and acquitted himself well in a tough situation. This was the second time in his very short NHL career (the first being when Mrazek fell apart against Arizona and Kallgren made his NHL debut in horrible circumstances) that he was thrust into a less-than-ideal spot and responded with a lot of composure in the crease.
The Leafs entered the third period down two defensemen (and were icing the puck a ton accordingly), the crowd at the TD Garden was raucous, the refs appeared to have no idea what they were calling, and Kallgren hung in there well and made some solid saves.
Fortunately, Jack Campbell appears to be very close to a return, but if he’s not quite ready, we may see a game with a Kallgren-Hutchinson tandem this Thursday.
10. It’s been noticeable to me just how high Mitch Marner likes to sit when waiting on the weak side of the power play this season. The snapshot below is just prior to the Leafs’ 5-1 goal that stood up as the game-winner via the power play.
There isn’t much sense in him creeping toward the top of the circle sniffing out one-timers, and in addition to the obviously open passing lane, this allows him to get in motion and move downhill when he receives the puck in space. Be it a slap pass into the net-front or bumper, or drawing in a defender and laying it off, Marner attacking downhill in motion — changing his angles and using his elite vision — is much more dangerous than he is from a more static position in more limited room.
Marner was brilliant again tonight in all situations.
Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts
Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts
Game Highlights: Leafs 6 vs. Bruins 4
Oilers on the lookout for Flames' desperation after watching Avs-Blues Game 5 – Sportsnet.ca
CALGARY — Everyone knows how hard it is to eliminate a group of National Hockey League players, or more specifically, to send a Calgary Flames team that won 50 regular season games into its summer.
But just in case any of the Edmonton Oilers needed a refresher, many were watching Wednesday night as the St. Louis Blues forged a heroic comeback on the road in Denver. Down 3-1 in the series and 3-0 in the game, the Blues scored four goals, two in the last five minutes including one after going down 4-3, and won a game in overtime to stay alive.
Game 5 can be seen on Sportsnet, starting at 9:30 a.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. MT.
“Just another thing to see in your head, that you know it’s not going to be easy,” said Edmonton defenceman Brett Kulak, who played for the Montreal Canadiens team that came back from down 3-1 to beat Toronto a year ago. “We’re in a good spot this series (up 3-1), but the job’s not done. We all we all know what needs to get done and we got one more win to go. Now, we’re looking to get it.”
So, how does Edmonton match Calgary’s desperation in Game 5?
“We are desperate to close the series. That’s how,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who was all business Thursday morning. “We want to come out and have a strong performance. play our best game in the series, and close the series out.”
Matthew Tkachuk scored 42 goals in the regular season, and opened this series with a Game 1 hat trick. Since then, he chipped in just a single assist in the next three games, all Flames losses.
There was a time when No. 19 wore the black hat in the Battle of Alberta, and used that antagonistic side of his game to inject himself into the series. Usually offence followed, and when it was all said and done, “Matthew” and “Tkachuk” were the two words trending in both Northern and Southern Alberta.
Thus far in Round 2, Tkachuk has been neither pest nor producer, something that will have to change if the Flames are going to turn this thing around.
What has to change?
“Just the skill set. He’s got to use it more to his advantage,” his coach, Darryl Sutter, said. “It’s got nothing to do with effort, with any of our guys who haven’t been as productive after Game 1 of the series. But you have to give Edmonton credit in that too.
“Maybe our guys are doing all they can. Maybe Edmonton is just a little bit better,” Sutter proposed. “That’s kind of the (sidebar) that nobody’s talked about. It’s always been about the negative. Not the good stuff that’s gone on.”
So far, the best Flames forward in this series has been Mikael Backlund, but he’s a 12-goal guy. If the big boys don’t weigh in — starting with Game 5 — it’s hard to see Calgary winning three straight over Edmonton.
As for Johnny Gaudreau, who is a pending UFA, Thursday night could be his last game at the Saddledome — or for the Flames organization, for that matter. He’s not looking ahead that far, of course.
“I really enjoy playing with all these guys in this locker room,” Gaudreau said. “We have a good group in there. It’s been fun all year long.”
Defenceman Chris Tanev took the morning skate next to Oliver Kylington and looks to be in for the Flames again in Game 5. His suspected shoulder injury cost him four playoff games — from Game 7 of Round 1 through Game 3 of Round 2 — and left him doubled over in pain on the Calgary bench at times upon his return in Game 4.
The Flames like their leader on the ice and in their midst, even if it’s pretty clear they are getting something less than 90 percent of their assistant captain.
“You know, even-strength minutes, he was really good last game,” said Sutter of the 17:12 Tanev played at even-strength (19:24 in total). “He made his partner a better player, and with the experience on our back end — or lack of experience or back end — he was important.”
Plenty of players are playing through the pain here, on both sides. Namely, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse for Edmonton, who have both gutted their way through these playoffs at something less than 100 per cent.
“He’s such a huge part of our team on and off the ice.” Tkachuk said of Tanev. “So, when you get a guy like that to come in for a big game, that definitely motivates you to be a lot.”
“We won 55 games this year. We’re pretty good at getting set for the next one.”
Looks like the same lines as Game 4 for both teams, with Tanev still a bit of question mark and Draisaitl and Nurse once again eschewing the skate.
Evander Kane, whose partner gave birth to a newborn son on Wednesday, remained at home in Edmonton. He’ll be down in time for the game. In other Oilers news, the Finnish media continues to report that goalie Mikko Koskinen is headed for Lugano in the Swiss League next season.
Here are Thursday night’s expected lineups.
CFLPA voting on new tentative agreement with CFL on Thursday – TSN
The CFL and CFL Players’ Association have reached another tentative seven-year agreement.
According to a league source, the two sides hammered out a second agreement in principle Thursday, two days after CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie unveiled the league’s final offer to its players.
The source spoke on the condition of anonymity as neither the CFL nor the CFLPA have confirmed the deal.
The new agreement is pending ratification by both the CFL Players’ Association membership and the league’s board of governors. According to two sources, the players will vote on the deal Thursday night.
Players on six of the nine CFL teams must vote to ratify the deal, with the required margin being at least 50 per cent plus one of ballots in favour.
Time is of the essence as the CFL pre-season schedule is slated to kick off Friday night with two games.
On Monday, the players voted against a tentative deal that the union had recommended they accept. The CFLPA is also recommending the ratification of Thursday’s tentative agreement.
According to sources, CFL teams will have seven Canadian starters and 21 in total on rosters this year. In 2023, that number increases to eight with one being a nationalized Canadian — an American who has spent either five years in the CFL or at least three with the same team.
Clubs will also be able to rotate two nationalized Canadians for up to 49 per cent of snaps. Teams can move to three nationalized Canadians in 2024 but the two franchises that play the most Canadians at the end of the season will receive additional second-round draft picks.
And the seven pure Canadian starters per game will remain intact throughout the term of deal, which can be reopened after five years when the CFL’s broadcast agreement with TSN expires.
The CFL will also provide $1.225 million in a ratification pool for players.
The biggest asset the CFL receives in the deal is extended labour piece and the opportunity to really rebuild its business.
Last December, the league announced a partnership with Genius Sports, a data, technology and commercial company that connects sports, betting and media. In August 2021, the CFL signed a multi-year partnership with BetRegal to become its official online sports-gaming partner.
Last month, the single-game sports betting industry opened fully in Ontario.
But Canadian Justin Palardy, a former kicker who spent time with five CFL teams from 2010-15, took to social media to voice his displeasure with the deal.
“Like I said on another tweet, what’s the point of drafting more (Canadians) if we’re getting rid of Canadian starters?” he tweeted. “You may think it’s a terrific idea, doesn’t mean it makes sense.”
The two sides had been at odds regarding the Canadian ratio.
Last Wednesday, the CFL and CFLPA reached a tentative seven-year agreement, ending a four-day strike by seven of the league’s nine teams. At first glance, there seemed to be many positives for the players, including a revenue-sharing model, the ability to reopen the pact in five years once the CFL signed a new broadcast deal, and veteran players having the ability to negotiate partially guaranteed contracts.
But the agreement also called for CFL teams to increase the number of Canadian starters from seven to eight. The extra would’ve also been a nationalized Canadian.
In addition, three other nationalized Canadians could play up to 49 per cent of snaps. And the deal didn’t include a ratification bonus.
On Tuesday, Ambrosie unveiled an amended proposal that included a $1-million ratification pool and the abolition of the three nationalized Canadians playing 49 per cent of snaps. However, it also reduced the number of Canadian starters to seven, including one nationalized Canadian.
Not only did Ambrosie say it was the CFL’s final offer, but it was good until midnight ET on Thursday, given the league’s exhibition schedule was slated to begin Friday night with two games. Ambrosie added if the players rejected the offer and opted to go back on strike, they’d be served notice to vacate their respective training-camp facilities.
It marked the second time Ambrosie had gone public with a final contract offer to the CFLPA. On May 14, he posted a letter to fans on the league’s website detailing the league’s proposal to players hours before the former CBA was set to expire.
The next day, players on seven CFL teams opted against reporting to training camp and went on strike. The Edmonton Elks and Calgary Stampeders both opened camp as schedule because they weren’t in a legal strike position, as per provincial labour laws, at the time.
It marked just the second work stoppage in league history and first since 1974.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.
Rocket advance with win in 3OT thriller | TheAHL.com – American Hockey League
The Laval Rocket are off to the Eastern Conference Finals after a wild 6-5 triple-overtime victory over the Rochester Americans on Wednesday night.
The Rocket completed a three-game sweep of the Amerks and will face either Charlotte or Springfield in the next round.
Working on a power play following a delay of game penalty against Rochester, former Amerk Jean-Sébastien Dea wristed a shot that beat Aaron Dell at 1:51 of the third OT period to give the Rocket the victory. It was the second goal of the night for Dea, and came on Laval’s 60th shot of the evening.
Rochester nearly escaped with a Game 3 victory, scoring three times in the third period to take a 5-4 lead before Jesse Ylönen netted the equalizer for the Rocket with 1:07 remaining in regulation.
Back home in front of an energetic crowd of 10,662 fans at Blue Cross Arena, the Amerks struck quickly when Mark Jankowski pounced on a loose puck and scored his sixth goal of the playoffs just 1:04 into the contest.
JJ Peterka made it 2-0 in favor of Rochester with a power-play goal at 8:05, and that lead held until late in the second period, when Laval scored four goals in a span of 3:56 to swing the game in their favor.
Brandon Gignac started the comeback with 6:08 to go in the second period with a nifty deflection of a Corey Schueneman shot from the point. Danick Martel tied things up 55 seconds later, taking Gabriel Bourque’s pass from behind the net and snapping home his fifth goal of the series.
Just 76 seconds after that, the Rocket took their first lead of the night as Xavier Ouellet floated a shot from the left point through traffic that found the top corner over the glove of Aaron Dell.
And with 2:12 to go before intermission, Dea put Laval in front by two, hitting an open cage with Dell out of position following a collision with a teammate in front.
Rochester regrouped during the break and needed just 1:32 to tie things back up. Brett Murray scored 13 seconds into the third period to pull the Amerks to within 4-3, and Peterka got his second of the night 1:19 later off a slick feed from Peyton Krebs.
Murray then scored his second of the period at 8:35, getting a piece of Ethan Prow’s shot from the point and deflecting it home to put Rochester back in front.
Laval outshot Rochester 24-12 during sudden death and killed off two Amerks power plays before converting on their own for the winner.
Cayden Primeau (6-1) made 34 saves and earned his fourth consecutive victory in net for the Rocket. Dell (5-5) stopped a career-high 54 shots for Rochester.
North Division Finals (best-of-5)
N3-Laval Rocket vs. N5-Rochester Americans
Game 1 – Sun., May 22 – LAVAL 6, Rochester 1
Game 2 – Mon., May 23 – LAVAL 3, Rochester 1
Game 3 – Wed., May 25 – Laval 6, ROCHESTER 5 (3OT)
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