Like masked pedestrians approaching each other on a sidewalk, the gap just keeps widening.
One week ahead of the NHL’s trade deadline, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Calgary Flames are speeding in opposite directions. To the point where the former can dress their third- and fourth-string goalies, generate a big bag of nothing through two periods of fun-sucking Darryl Sutter hockey, muddle 15 minutes without a shot on net, and still pull out a decisive 4-2 victory.
With their playoff chances shrivelling to 1.2 per cent and no Hamburglar in site, the underwhelming Flames are playing for pride and milestones and, perhaps, their own trade value.
To that end, Sutter’s bunch did a fine job of making the division leaders look something less than ascendent on Easter Sunday. Although Morgan Rielly scored on the game’s first shot, Joakim Nordstrom responded for the home side in short order, laying a skilled blade on a Mark Giordano point shot that gave the captain his 500th point of his career.
Giordano revealed that he’d promised his son he’d get on the board.
“I’ve got my little guy, Jack, at home, and it’s his birthday,” said Giordano, looking into a TV camera at intermission. “That’s for you, buddy.”
Andrew Mangiapane gave Calgary a 2-1 lead with 40 seconds left in the first frame, ripping a high shot that probably should’ve been snuffed by one of the four Toronto bodies between him and the net.
Mangiapane’s go-ahead marker was part of Calgary’s mid-game push that featured 14 consecutive shots and the Maple Leafs’ anemic power play failing to score on its 28th straight attempt.
“Sooner or later, it’s gonna go in,” Galchenyuk had said Friday, but it was unclear if he was promising the Leaf Nation he’s slowly winning over or himself. “It’s something I definitely try to focus on — getting my first one as a Leaf.”
“A big goal by Alex. Got us back in the game,” Joe Thornton said. “It’s huge for his confidence. He’s a young player still.”
So what if Calgary had reined in the explosive Leafs to just four high-danger chances at that point? Tie game.
“We obviously were not very good at all through 40 minutes, but we were in a game,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We gave ourselves an opportunity to win a hockey game.”
“No one was happy,” Galchenyuk said of the second-intermission mood. “We knew we got better and definitely had to come out and with more intensity, more compete level. And we did that, and the game kinda shifted over to our advantage.”
The Maple Leafs’ game-winner was a rebound own-goal that clicked off Flames defenceman Noah Hanifin’s skate blade only after netminder David Rittich stopped shots off the rush by both William Nylander and John Tavares.
The type of head-hanger that crams Calgary’s dismal season into a nutshell.
Auston Matthews provided the insurance — after stripping Matthew Tkachuk of a puck in his own zone — and became the first NHLer to hit the 25-goal plateau.
The Flames offered little pushback, and Michael Hutchinson stood tall when it mattered, backstopping the Leafs to the league’s best road record (13-4-1).
With 53 points, Toronto now holds a six-point lead atop the North over both Edmonton and Winnipeg — and an 18-point lead over Calgary.
So, on a day when prime New Jersey trade bait Kyle Palmieri is healthy-scratched to make sure the merchandise is fresh, Leafs fans wonder if Palmieri might waive the contending Leafs off his no-trade list, and Flames fans wonder what they might salvage from their own expendable forwards.
While it’s no secret Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is trying to add a forward capable of slotting alongside Tavares and Nylander, Galchenyuk says the chemistry with his linemates is growing by the day.
“You’re around the group, playing in our system, the type of team and the type of players we have, you’re only going to get more comfortable,” Tavares said. “At this time of year, things get tighter and tighter. It gets much harder to get open ice and time and space. I think that’s where his work ethic and determination will continue to come through.”
Galchenyuk perks up when describing the upbeat vibe that comes with contributing to a 25-10-3 squad.
“Obviously, it’s a confident group, and everybody has a lot of fun. It’s a loose group. But when it comes to game time, it’s all business. So, that’s what you want,” Galchenyuk said. “Everybody has a lot of fun, but nothing’s more fun than winning.”
You don’t have to tell Hutchinson that.
Flashback to the 2020 trade deadline: Hutchinson commissioned a custom Felix Potvin throwback Leafs mask to represent his team, only to get dealt to Colorado before he could break it in.
Back for his second go with Toronto, Hutchinson has been practising in the Potvin. And if he keeps performing like he did Sunday, maybe the mask will even see game action.
“He’s obviously performed better, but I think we’re a better team. I think we can’t not address that. I think at times when Hutch was struggling last season, our team didn’t play well in front of him,” Keefe said.
“We regrouped in the third and got a win — that’s on the back of solid goaltending. Our guys have done a really good job, all three goalies this year, of giving us opportunities to win games. It’s a big part of why we are where we are.”
Where the Maple Leafs wake up Monday, readying to face the Flames for the second half of this Easter back-to-back, is the same comfortable yet uncertain place they’ve awoken for a couple weeks.
Their power play is in shambles. They’re not certain who will start in goal (Jack Campbell skated Sunday and is hopeful). And yet, they feel pretty good about their chances of winning a hockey game.
“We’ve got 100 per cent confidence in whatever goalie is playing on whichever night,” Matthews said.
Maple Leafs' goalie Petr Mrazek exits with groin injury vs. Senators – The Athletic
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Petr Mrazek exited after the second period of a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday with what the team called a groin injury. The team had no further update on his status after the game.
Mrazek went down awkwardly on the final shot of the period from Ottawa’s Victor Mete, then hobbled down the tunnel at the end of the period. Mrazek made 26 saves but allowed three first-period goals. Jack Campbell came on for the Leafs in goal to start the third period.
Mrazek, 29, was making his debut with the Leafs after signing a three-year deal in the offseason.
(Photo: Chris Tanouye / Getty Images)
Umpire's 'Blown' Check-Swing Call Ends Epic Dodgers-Giants Series And Stuns Fans – Yahoo
The Giants’ Wilmer Flores struck out on what many believed was a blown check-swing call by first base umpire Gabe Morales. The out preserved the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory in Game 5 on Thursday, allowing the team to advance to the National League Championship Series against Atlanta.
The chances of a Giants rally appeared dim at the time. The count was 0-2, there were two outs, a runner on first, and three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer was pitching. Not to mention that Flores had never gotten a hit off Scherzer before, the San Francisco Chronicle noted.
But the anticlimactic ending to the momentous playoff clash between the historic rivals angered fans. Reporters and Major Leaguers, including the New York Mets’ Kevin Pillar (a former Giant), chimed in, too.
Check out the reactions of what some called “the check swing heard round the world.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
Cardinals acquire Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz from Eagles – Sportsnet.ca
The undefeated Arizona Cardinals have added another weapon to their arsenal.
The Cardinals, who are the only 5-0 team in the NFL, acquired three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz from the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday for cornerback Tay Gowan and a 2022 fifth-round draft pick.
Ertz played with the Eagles since they selected him in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He set an NFL record for most receptions by a tight end in a single season with 116 catches and also had a career-high 1,163 yards during the 2018 season. Ertz, who was selected to the Pro Bowl three consecutive years from 2017-19, caught the game-winning touchdown during Super Bowl LII to help the Eagles defeat the New England Patriots 41-33 and capture their first Super Bowl.
“Zach Ertz built a special legacy in Philadelphia,” Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. “Talented, tough, and passionate, he helped to establish our team’s culture and played a vital role in our success over the years.
“Zach created so many memories that will live on forever, from setting numerous franchise and league records, to reaching across the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in our first-ever Super Bowl championship. He will always be a member of the Eagles family, not only because of what he accomplished on the field, but also because of the wonderful person, dedicated leader, and exemplary role model that he was for nine seasons in Philadelphia. We wish Zach and Julie nothing but the best.”
The 30-year-old Ertz has 18 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns in six games this season. Philadelphia lost 28-22 Thursday night to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Ertz hauling in a touchdown catch.
The Cardinals play the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
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