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Maple Leafs crush lifeless Blackhawks in Patrick Kane audition



TORONTO – Bearded wise man Jake Muzzin once said that the Toronto Maple Leafs sometimes prefer themselves an “easy game.”

Well, they don’t get much easier than Wednesday’s 5-2 laugher over the dreadful Chicago Blackhawks.

A mighty mini dynasty in the first half of the last decade, under rookie general manager Kyle Davidson, Chicago is now embracing full Bruno Caboclo status: two years away from being two years away.

The Windy City teardown is so severe, the on-ice product so incomplete and uninspired, Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe found it difficult to even feign enthusiasm over his players’ bounce-back victory.


“Frankly speaking, it’s a game we’re not going to evaluate too much, in terms of anything good, anything bad. We’re gonna wash it, move on, enjoy a day off tomorrow, and get ready for Montreal (on Saturday),” Keefe said.

Maple Leafs happy with a comfortable win in bounce-back game vs. Blackhawks

“We got a tired team in here on a back-to-back, and it’s a team that I didn’t think had much life tonight.”

When you’re strolling through the morgue, you don’t bother checking the cadavers for a pulse.

The Blackhawks play in the weakest conference yet have managed the fewest wins (16). They’re stumbling toward the March 3 trade deadline having lost three straight by a margin of three or more goals. They’ve yet to win on the second half of a back-to-back and barely contend in the first half of them.

So, yeah, Chicago stood a marshmallow’s chance in an incinerator of surviving its lone trip to Toronto, where the Maple Leafs were coming off three days’ rest, had received a series of group and individual smarten-up talks from their coaching staff, and were welcoming the return of MVP Auston Matthews to the lineup.

“Yeah, it didn’t look like he was away for three weeks,” smiled Rasmus Sandin, after watching Matthews rip his trademark wrister, add an assist, and look every ounce like his dominant self.

“It’s Auston. You want him in the lineup every time you can.”

Matthews shines in return to Maple Leafs’ lineup with two-point performance

Perhaps more impressive than his multi-point night was Matthews’ engagement leading up to puck drop. He skipped out on the beach vacations many of his peers took to Barbados, Miami, and Turks and Caicos and instead remained in chilly Toronto to rehab his sprained knee.

Prior to winning the opening faceoff, Matthews drew up this quick-strike play in the dressing room that sprung winger William Nylander free for a burst up the gut and a tally nine seconds in:

Maple Leafs’ Nylander scores nine seconds in to ring in Matthews’ return

“We’ve been talking to our guys a lot about taking charge. A lot of these guys have been playing together for a long time now. They have a sense of what the structure is, and they know what they can do when they get the information on faceoffs. They have a lot of flexibility to call plays and get organized themselves. And that’s what you want. You want the players out there taking charge,” Keefe said. “They have a feel for things that coaches can’t replicate.

“That’s what you love to see: those guys take that initiative and execute it.”

No doubt, execution comes a touch easier against a toothless Blackhawks side that is preparing to Shed Hard for Bedard™.

Try as they might to hold their heads high, the stacks of rumours upon stacks of losses are visibly weighing on a group that is about to get thinner.

Name a player – for the right price, he could be yours.

Patrick Kane, of course, is the headliner of this sad fire sale.

Are the Maple Leafs in the hunt to acquire Blackhawks’ Kane or Sharks’ Meier?

Through a Blackhawks spokesperson, Kane declined to speak following a minus-1, four-shot, two-giveaway performance with plenty of scouts in attendance (two each repping Dallas and Tampa Bay).

“I know it’s tough. Everyone gets frustrated, and we’re losing. No one wants to lose. Definitely not him. He’s one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever met,” said teammate Max Domi, also a pending UFA.

“Selfishly, I hope stays. He’s an awesome guy and Hall of Famer.”

Nylander, too, is a longtime Kane admirer who switched his sweater number to 88.

“Obviously, he’s one of the best to ever play, so it’s always special playing against him,” Nylander said, after a zippy three-point effort. “And it’s just fun in general playing the Blackhawks.”

Especially these days.


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Maple Leafs clinch playoff berth with Panthers loss to Senators



The Toronto Maple Leafs clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday.

The Maple Leafs (44-20-9), who clinched when the Florida Panthers lost 5-2 to the Ottawa Senators, are second in the Atlantic Division, 22 points behind the Boston Bruins and seven ahead of the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning.

It’s the seventh straight season Toronto has clinched a playoff berth. It hasn’t won a postseason series since 2004.

The Maple Leafs are led by forwards Mitchell Marner (94 points), William Nylander (81), Auston Matthews (77), and John Tavares (75). Ilya Samsonov is 24-9-3 with a 2.46 goals-against average, .914 save percentage and three shutouts in 36 games (35 starts). Matt Murray is 14-8-2 with a 2.97 GAA, .905 save percentage and one shutout in 25 games.


Toronto made several moves prior to the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline on March 3, acquiring forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 17, defenseman Jake McCabe and forward Sam Lafferty from the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 27, defenseman Erik Gustafsson from the Washington Capitals on Feb. 28 and defenseman Luke Schenn from the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 28.

O’Reilly is expected back before the playoffs begin April 17. He hasn’t played since getting hit in the hand by Matthews’ shot in the second period of a 4-1 loss at the Vancouver Canucks on March 4 and was projected to be out four weeks.

The Maple Leafs have won the Stanley Cup 11 times, once each as the Toronto Arenas (1917-18) and the Toronto St. Patricks (1921-22). They are without an NHL championship since 1967.


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Canadian Bianca Andreescu retires from Miami Open match after suffering injury



Canadian Bianca Andreescu suffered an apparent leg injury during the second set of her match against Ekaterina Alexandrova at the Miami Open on Monday.

Andreescu was injured in the third game of the second set of the Round of 16 match while trying to run down a ball in the back court.  She remained down on the court, before receiving medical attention and leaving the court in a wheelchair.

Alexandrova won the first set of the match 7-6, Andreescu was up 2-0 in the second set when she retired from the match due to the injury.

The match was delayed for an hour by rain in the middle of the opening set.


The 22-year-old Canadian was playing well at the Miami tournament, entering play on Monday with victories over Emma Raducanu, No. 7 Maria Sakkari and Sofia Kenin earlier in the competition.


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Quick Reaction: Wizards 104, Raptors 114



O. Anunoby37 MIN, 29 PTS, 8 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 11-21 FG, 4-10 3FG, 3-4 FT, 3 BLK, 1 TO, 18 +/-

From the opening tip OG was a force offensively and continued to flash the self creation signs that everyone wants to see, he had a career high 18 in the first quarter and hit a lot of tough jumpers off the bounce, as well as spaced the floor with catch and shoot triples.

P. Siakam34 MIN, 19 PTS, 11 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 7-17 FG, 1-3 3FG, 4-4 FT, 0 BLK, 3 TO, -3 +/-

Pretty poor game from Pascal by his standards, a lot of shots seemed forced and he couldn’t finish through contact, very well, his playmaking also was muted because he seemed to be hunting his own shot.

J. Poeltl26 MIN, 12 PTS, 12 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 6-9 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 3 TO, 7 +/-

Jakob’s floaters and push shots worked wonderfully tonight and he did a great job not rushing it like he does most games, offensive rebounding was also key as well, Jakob had 6 in this game which led to countless second chance points.

S. Barnes32 MIN, 13 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST, 3 STL, 5-14 FG, 0-2 3FG, 3-3 FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 10 +/-


Solid game in his first game back from injury, hit some tough looks in the paint, passing looked good tonight as well, efficiency was a bit off but we can chalk that up to being rusty.

F. VanVleet36 MIN, 28 PTS, 4 REB, 7 AST, 3 STL, 10-21 FG, 5-9 3FG, 3-3 FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 11 +/-

Offensive masterclass from Fred VanVleet, he was zooming all over the floor and he was really burning Washington with his outside shooting, but his playmaking shined really bright tonight as well.

W. Barton04 MIN, 2 PTS, 1 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1-1 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 0 +/-

Left the game early with an injury.

C. Boucher22 MIN, 6 PTS, 7 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 3-5 FG, 0-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 10 +/-

Boucher was battling on the class yet again and often gave Toronto an extra look tonight, he also was solid as a rim protector as well.

J. Dowtin Jr.19 MIN, 3 PTS, 2 REB, 4 AST, 0 STL, 1-2 FG, 1-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 14 +/-

Didn’t add a whole lot offensively but he was harassing guys on ball as a defender, and moving the rock well as well, would like to see Dowtin look for his own a bit more often

C. Koloko15 MIN, 0 PTS, 1 REB, 0 AST, 3 STL, 0-2 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 1 BLK, 0 TO, 7 +/-

Koloko entered the game by recording a steal and then a block on back to back possessions, and then he continued to play solid defense in drop coverage, really strong game for the rook.

M. Flynn07 MIN, 0 PTS, 0 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 0-3 FG, 0-3 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -10 +/-

Didn’t take advantage of his looks on the floor tonight.

P. Achiuwa06 MIN, 2 PTS, 2 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 1-2 FG, 0-1 3FG, 0-2 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -10 +/-

Another rough night for Precious as he tries to regain his footing, just couldn’t find it defensively, ran the floor in transition just fine during limited time.

Nick Nurse

Although Toronto was healthier, Nurse didn’t force anyone into minutes that were going to damage the team.

Things We Saw

  1. OG Anunoby flashed creation skills once again, in the face up game he burned Washington many times and he even hit a pull up three.
  2. Christian Koloko played some pretty nice defense, his technique in drop was really good tonight.

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