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Maple Leafs Latest Blunder Might Be Best Thing For Them



The Toronto Maple Leafs couldn’t find an answer an overtime in Game 5 against the Florida Panthers. With that, their 2022-23 season was over in disappointing fashion.


Although the Maple Leafs got the monkey off their back by winning a playoff series and knocking the Tampa Bay Lightning out in the process, this loss to the Panthers took away any shine from their first-round victory.

The Game 5 loss happened on home ice in front of their fans. It’s kind of fitting in the sense of it encapsulated how they played on home ice in the entire playoffs.



The Maple Leafs held home-ice advantage against the Lightning and Panthers. They went 1-5 at home including an embarrassing 0-3 against the Panthers. That’s completely unacceptable for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.

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As disappointed as fans should be with this outcome, it’s not the end of the world, not by a long shot. In fact, this latest Maple Leafs’ blunder might actually be the best thing to happen to them. Sounds crazy, right? Actually, it’s not crazy at all. Let’s explore.

Change Can Be Good

It’s widely believed that the Maple Leafs are going to go through some kind of change. Whether it’s in management, on the coaching staff or on the roster, running it back as is doesn’t appear to be an option.


Remember the last time a team went through an embarrassing loss that forced change? The Lightning were swept in 2019 by the Columbus Blue Jackets. That sweep turned out to be the best thing to happen to the Lightning. Why? Because it told them that they had to change. How different would things be had the Lightning defeated the Blue Jackets and didn’t go through that pain?

The Lightning made changes to the makeup of their roster. The result was consecutive Stanley Cups and three consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Final. Sometimes, teams need to experience the pain of losing to finally realize what they have to do.


The Panthers went through this experience in a slightly different manner. They were swept out of the playoffs in the second round last season by the Lightning. This was after steamrolling the league in the regular season. GM Bill Zito saw a need and met it head on.


Zito made one of the biggest trades in recent memory by acquiring Matthew Tkachuk and then signing him to an eight-year deal to be a south Florida fixture. Tkachuk and the Panthers just eliminated the Maple Leafs in five games to advance to their first Eastern Conference Final since 1996.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of being embarrassed and enduring a loss in the way they did. The Florida teams made changes after being swept. Those changes led to more success in each case. The Maple Leafs would be wise to follow this lead.

Maple Leafs Still Good But Need Changes

The five-game loss to the Panthers still doesn’t change the fact that the Maple Leafs are a good hockey team. They’ve enjoyed abundant regular-season success. But they haven’t enjoyed the ultimate success the playoffs would bring.


That’s why major changes are needed on the Maple Leafs. Being a great regular season team is not the goal. Winning the Stanley Cup is the goal. Their current roster has not even made it half way yet. What kind of a message would running it back send to everyone?

The Maple Leafs have tried different approaches since locking down the core four. They’ve added different depth pieces. They’ve tried different goaltenders. They’ve used trade deadlines to acquire players they thought would get them over the top. It hasn’t been good enough yet. The most playoff wins in one season with the core four was this season with five. They need 16.

The Maple Leafs core has never won more than five games in a playoff season. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)


What hasn’t been touched yet? The core four. Is now the time to change the dynamic of the Maple Leafs? They have to do something. But before they go down that road, they have questions to answer.


The biggest of those questions are who will be the general manager? Is Kyle Dubas coming back? Then once the leadership is decided on, where do things go with Auston Matthews? Is he worth the $13-$15 million he could command on the open market? Given his playoff success so far, that might not be a slam dunk answer.

As for the core four, consider this staggering stat. In the series against the Panthers, Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander combined for three goals. That’s about $40 million of cap hit that got three goals. Now consider that Nick Cousins and Gustav Forsling combined for three goals as well, with two of them being game winners. Their combined cap hit is under $4 million.

This has to open the eyes of everyone in the Maple Leafs’ organization that change is needed. They committed half of the salary cap into four players. You need a team to have playoff success. It hasn’t worked to this point.


Right Changes Yield Results

The good news is that the Maple Leafs’ window for playoff contention is still wide open. They have plenty of talent that keeps the window open. But if they want to take the next step as a team, they must make the right changes.

The right changes yield results. The Panthers were willing to trade Jonathan Huberdeau, a player who scored over 100 points and was a major reason for their regular season success. Credit to Zito for doing something that was met with a ton of resistance and doing it because he felt it was needed. Who’s laughing now?


Bill Zito Florida Panthers
Bill Zito made changes and is yielding results. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)


Are the Maple Leafs willing to consider a trade of any of the core four at this point? If they want to win deep in the playoffs, they better consider it. It might not be popular and it might be met with ridicule. But if it gets the Maple Leafs closer to the Stanley Cup, they have to do it.


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The Maple Leafs from top-to-bottom are going to have to look at themselves in the mirror and truly evaluate themselves and their thoughts. Are they capable and willing to make the necessary changes to win? If they do, this situation can still work out for the best.

The potential is there for the Maple Leafs to make this loss to the Panthers the best thing to ever happen to them. But that only works if they swallow their pride, admit what they’ve done hasn’t worked and then make the necessary changes. We’re going to find out through their moves what is important to them.


If it’s winning the Stanley Cup, there will be major changes that will have the hockey world talking all summer. That might be what it takes at this point.

Luckily for the Maple Leafs, they have the Lightning and Panthers to thank for showing that change can bring success. It’s the only thing holding them back from their ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.


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Blue Jays beat Twins on Berrios’ pitching, Kirk’s hitting, Varsho’s fielding



MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — José Berríos made another solid start. Alejandro Kirk delivered a timely hit. Daulton Varsho did a little bit of everything.

The Toronto Blue Jays took another step toward a turnaround at the end of a rough month, posting their first series win in four ties in well-rounded fashion.

Berríos pitched around a season-high five walks and into the sixth inning for Toronto to beat his old team, and the Blue Jays blanked the Minnesota Twins 3-0 on Sunday.

“Hopefully, this kind of springboards us forward,” manager John Schneider said after the Blue Jays played their 17th game in 17 days.


Kirk hit a two-run single in the second inning that held up for Berríos (5-4), who has allowed two or fewer runs in seven of his last nine turns after a rough start.

Daulton Varsho scored all the way from first base on Kirk’s hit. Handling center field for Kevin Kiermaier — the day after he twice had a leaping catch attempt turn into a Twins home run when those balls bounced off his glove and into the grass berm — Varsho was superb. He assisted on the third out of the fourth inning when he fielded a single and threw out Alex Kirilloff at third.

Then in the eighth, Varsho jumped above the center-field wall to take a homer away from Carlos Correa.

“For as magnified as he was yesterday, I’m thrilled that he gets to be celebrated today,” Schneider said.

Jordan Romano recorded his 12th save with a scoreless ninth, allowing a two-out single to rookie Matt Wallner. He was 2 for 2 with two walks and has reached base in eight straight plate appearances.

The Blue Jays (28-26), who are in last place in the AL East, are just 10-17 in their last 27 games.

“You’re going to go through a rough stretch at some point during the year, and for us it’s like right now,” Varsho said. “Hopefully we can get hot here and finish off the year strong.”

With Alek Manoah struggling at the top of the rotation, the Blue Jays need several more starts like this from Berríos, who was traded by the Twins at the deadline two years ago. The right-hander, who is 3-1 with a 2.30 ERA in his last five starts, helped lead a players-only meeting on Thursday after the Blue Jays lost three out of four to division leader Tampa Bay.

“It’s just on us to stay back, get relaxed and try to be ourselves,” Berríos said.

Bailey Ober (3-2) finished five innings for Minnesota for the fourth time in five May starts, with seven strikeouts in a bad-luck loss.

The Twins (27-26) had their lead in the AL Central cut to one game over Detroit (25-26). They’ve led the division for 58 of 60 days this season.

“Every time the opportunities were in front of us, every time there was something we could have done, it felt like we went in the wrong direction,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.


Twins rookie Edouard Julien, a native of Quebec City, Canada, whose favorite boyhood team was the Blue Jays, had a rough afternoon. He made a diving stop of Varsho’s two-out single in the second, but he dropped the ball before he could make the throw to first. The play was ruled a hit.

In the bottom of the inning, the Twins had the bases loaded with none out — for a few seconds. Julien rounded second base too far, ignoring the runner in front of him, and was thrown out by the catcher Kirk.

“Those are mental cramps right there,” Baldelli said.


Blue Jays: Kiermaier was on the bench after being removed from the game on Saturday with discomfort in his right lower back. “All things are trending in the right direction,” Schneider said.

Twins: RHP Emilio Pagán was pulled with a strained left hip flexor after seven pitches in the seventh.


Blue Jays: LHP Yusei Kikuchi (5-2, 4.56 ERA) starts on Tuesday night against Milwaukee after a return home and a day off. RHP Adrian Houser (1-0, 2.25 ERA) takes the mound for the Brewers.

Twins: RHP Sonny Gray (4-0, 1.82 ERA) pitches the opener of a three-game series at Houston on Monday afternoon. RHP J.P France (1-1, 3.43 ERA) starts for the Astros.


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Pressure mounts on both sides as Stars and Golden Knights prepare for Game 6



Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Adin Hill (33) stands with his team during open net at the end of the third period in Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference finals against the Dallas Stars, Saturday, May 27, 2023, in Las Vegas. (Ronda Churchill/AP)

DALLAS (AP) — Jason Robertson is frequently scoring goals again for the Dallas Stars, Jake Oettinger is stopping shots and captain Jamie Benn is about to return from a two-game suspension.

The Western Conference Final isn’t over yet, and suddenly feels much different.

After the Vegas Golden Knights won the first three games, the Stars staved off elimination two games in a row in these NHL playoffs. They are now back home for Game 6 on Monday night, looking to do it again and force a Game 7 to determine who faces the waiting Florida Panthers for the Stanley Cup.

“We put ourselves in a really tough spot, and to get to this point right now, it shows you the character that we have in our room and the belief we have,” said Oettinger, who has stopped 64 of 68 shots since allowing three goals on five shots in the first 7:10 and getting pulled from Game 3. “Even being down 3-0, the series was far from over. We’ve done our job up to this point, but unfortunately for us, our backs are still against the wall.”

Dellandrea delivers remarkable Game 5 performance to keep Stars’ season alive

Dallas is only the fifth team to extend a conference final or NHL semifinal series to a sixth game after losing the first three, and first since the 2008 Stars lost Game 6 against Detroit. Only the 1975 New York Islanders against Philadelphia, and the 1939 New York Rangers versus Boston then forced Game 7, and both lost those deciding games.

Still, has the pressure shifted to the Golden Knights, as Stars coach Pete DeBoer said would happen if his team won Game 5? Vegas lost both Games 4 and 5 after leading 1-0 and 2-1 in each of them.

“We’re playing a desperate hockey team, and nobody ever said it was going to be easy. We’ve got match their urgency and desperation,” Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez said.

“This is the Western Conference Final, right? He’s trying to make a story in the media, I think,” Knights captain Mark Stone said. “There’s pressure on both teams to try to make the Stanley Cup Final.”

Dallas will host Game 6 on Monday night at the same time the NBA’s Boston Celtics, who overcame 3-0 deficit in their conference final, are playing Game 7 at home against the Miami Heat.

The Florida Panthers completed their East Final sweep of Carolina last Wednesday. They are waiting to see if they will go to Las Vegas or Dallas for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final next Saturday.

Vegas, which led the Western Conference in the regular season with 51 wins and 111 points, has consecutive losses for the first time since mid-March. The only time the Knights lost four games in a row was at the end of January, part of a month-ending stretch when they lost seven of eight. But they are also trying to get to their second Stanley Cup Final in the franchise’s six seasons, and are this deep in the playoffs already for the fourth time.

Benn was suspended after his cross-check and stick to the neck of Stone, who fell to the ice without his stick after the captains collided less than two minutes into Game 3 on Tuesday night.

The Stars came off the ice Saturday night and were welcomed by Benn dressed in a suit and tie. No. 14 will be back on the ice Monday night.

“I think what it tells you is what Jamie Benn means to them,” DeBoer said. “I think that’s a direct reflection on what the guy means to our team in that dressing room, what they’ve done the last couple of nights.”

Why Stars’ Benn deserved to be ejected for cross-checking Golden Knights’ Stone

Ty Dellandrea, a healthy scratch earlier in the series and in the lineup with Benn and Evgenii Dadonov (lower body) both out, scored twice in a span of 87 seconds in the third period Saturday night as Dallas won 4-2.

Robertson scored the Stars’ second tying goal Saturday night. He had both of their goals in regulation to twice tie Game 4 at home Thursday night, getting his first career multigoal playoff game before 38-year-old Joe Pavelski became the oldest player ever with an overtime goal for a team facing elimination.

“The fourth (win) is always the hardest, right? I mean, the season on the line, so obviously they feel that they’ve got to get it done. And, you know, it’s just as much pressure on us to keep it going, keep our composure,” said Robertson, with five goals this series after only three in his previous 20 playoff games. “All we can do now is focus on Game 6. Hopefully, ideally, we don’t go down by a goal, but if we do, we’re going to look for that same response.”


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IIHF Hockey: Canada downs Germany 5-2 – CTV News



TAMPERE, Finland –

Samuel Blais scored two goals to rally Canada to a 5-2 victory over Germany in the final of the ice hockey world championship on Sunday.

It’s a record 28th world title for Canada, and its second in three years. Russia has 27 while Germany has never won the trophy.


Blais netted with a backhand 4:51 into the final period for a 3-2 lead for Canada, which was playing in its fourth straight final.

Lawson Crouse, Tylor Toffoli and Scott Laughton also scored for Canada, Peyton Krebs had two assists and goaltender Samuel Montembeault stopped 21 shots.

Toffoli stretched the lead to 4-2 from the left circle with 8:09 remaining and Laughton made it 5-2 with an empty net goal.

Canada had to come back twice in the final.

John Peterka wristed a shot past Montembeault from the left circle 7:44 into the game. It was the sixth goal for the Buffalo Sabres forward at the tournament.

Blais was fed by Krebs to beat goaltender Mathias Niederberger and tie it 1-1 at 10:47.

Daniel Fischbuch put the Germans ahead again with a one-timer with 6:13 to go in the middle period.

Crouse equalized on a power play with 2:32 remaining in the frame.

It was the first medal for Germany since 1953 when it was second behind Sweden.

The two previously met just once in the final with Canada winning 6-1 in 1930.


Defenseman Kristian Rubins scored his second goal 1:22 into overtime to lead Latvia to a 4-3 victory over the United States and earn a bronze medal earlier Sunday.

It’s the first top-three finish for Latvia at the tournament. Its previous best was a seventh place it managed three times.

The U.S. lost in the bronze medal game for the second straight year. The U.S. team was cruising through the tournament with eight straight wins until it was defeated by Germany in the semifinal 4-3 in overtime.

Rubins rallied Latvia with his first with 5:39 to go in the final period to tie the game at 3 to force overtime.

Roberts Bukarts and Janis Jaks also scored for Latvia.

Rocco Grimaldi scored twice for the U.S. in the opening period to negate Latvia’s 1-0 and 2-1 leads.

Matt Coronato had put the U.S. 3-2 ahead 6:19 into the final period.

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