What players will the Toronto Maple Leafs send to the ice for the playoffs?
As reported by Elliotte Friedman, the current plan is that teams will be permitted to carry up to 28 skaters and as many goalies as they want once play resumes. While it’s nice to have many spares in the case of injury, it opens the question as to who exactly will be on the ice for the Toronto Maple Leafs?
The Columbus Blue Jackets play a tight-checking style where everyone contributes by committee, rather than relying on the play of a superstar (of which they have none).
Both teams will be getting a boost in the form of several players returning from injury. With some exceptions (Andreas Johnsson for the Leafs, Josh Anderson for the Blue Jackets being chief among them), both teams should go into this series as healthy as they possibly could, and despite that, I will stand by my earlier prediction that the Toronto Maple Leafs will win this 5-game series in four games.
Toronto Maple Leafs Playoff Forwards
Ilya Mikheyev is expected to be cleared to play for the first time since late December.
The rookie winger scored 23 points in 39 games before his injury and was fantastic at supporting the defense. In my opinion, Pierre Engvall performed best alongside Kerfoot and Kapanen on the third line, so barring injury during the training camp portion of the Return-To-Play plan, I see the forwards lining up in game 1 against Columbus as follows:
Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Ilya Mikheyev – John Tavares – William Nylander
Pierre Engvall – Alex Kerfoot – Kasperi Kapanen
Kyle Clifford – Frederik Gauthier – Jason Spezza
It’s believed by many that Nick Robertson, Kenny Agostino, Denis Malgin, Egor Korshkov, Nic Petan, and Adam Brooks will be the extra forwards that the Leafs carry.
However, unless several injuries strike the team, I don’t believe any of these players will see the ice during the playoffs.
The lone exception to this is rookie sensation, Nick Robertson. Like many, I’m very excited to see what he can offer at the NHL level after a historic year in the OHL.
Should he prove himself ready to step into an NHL lineup, we could see him join Kerfoot and Kapanen on the third line, with Engvall getting bumped down to the fourth line and Gauthier becoming a healthy scratch.
Toronto Maple Leafs Playoff Defense
Jake Muzzin and Morgan Rielly will both presumably be 100% healthy for the first time in the 2019-20 season, giving the Leafs blue line a much-needed boost. This will be controversial, but I believe this defense corps is very underrated and in their return to play, I think they would be best suiting icing this as their lineup:
If the Toronto Maple Leafs are to have any success in the playoffs, Cody Ceci must not play. It is my firmly held belief that Ceci is not an NHL player, he is a complete void both offensively and defensively. His “little mistakes that end up in the back of the net” at this point outnumber Jake Gardiner’s worst game by a long shot.
At this point, there is no need to put Ceci out there, they’ve paid him everything he was owed, so we can stop pretending he’s the best option for the third pair and penalty kill. And if you still feel like defending him, I’ll direct you to go re-watch the brutal February 3rd game against the Florida Panthers.
“But Barrie sucks even more” you might say “why does he go on the top pairing?” To that, I simply reply Tyson Barrie is no defensive stalwart. He has certainly made his share of mistakes, but at the very least, Barrie contributes offensively (he led all Leafs defensemen with 39 points). He and Rielly as a unit worked well in their limited time as a pairing when limited to offensive zone starts, look for that to continue, while Muzzin and Holl do the defensive work of shutting down the Columbus offense.
Playoff Goaltenders for the Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs have five goalies on NHL contracts. One of them, rookie Ian Scott, is still recovering from an injury, but the other four will all be on the roster, though of course, Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell will be the only two suiting up to play (barring injury).
Whether they remain healthy or go through a rush of injuries, the Toronto Maple Leafs deep farm system will be an asset when play resumes.
Grier, Salvador coach all-minority team to tournament championship – NHL.com
An all-minority team coached by former NHL players Mike Grier and Bryce Salvador won the Beantown Summer Classic Tuesday, with the help of a British import.
Forward Mason Alderson’s goal with less than three minutes to play in the third period snapped a 2-2 tie and led the NextGen AAA Foundation to a 4-2 win against the Bombers.
“This is like nothing that I’ve ever had,” said Alderson, who played at Berwick Academy in Maine last season and captained Great Britain at the 2019 IIHF Under-18 World Championship Division I, Group B in Hungary. “To be out there with that caliber of players — we had a Montreal [Canadiens] draft pick, a QMJHL goalie. It just goes to show that we can do as good as anybody, if not better.”
The NextGen team fulfilled its primary goal of winning the invitation-only tournament, which attracts NHL scouts, by going undefeated.
The team of 19 Black players and one Hispanic player was also successful in showcasing minority talent in hopes of attracting more players of color to the sport.
“This was an experience of a lifetime,” said forward Reggie Millette, a forward for Dubuque of the USHL who’s committed to playing for American International College in 2021-22. “I know that we did some big things out there and inspired a lot of people.”
The NextGen was stocked with collegiate and junior hockey talent that included Millette; Jordan Harris, a Northeastern University defenseman who was selected by the Canadiens in the third round (No. 71) of the 2018 NHL Draft; Ross Mitton, who played for Omaha of the USHL last season and will join Colgate in the fall; Christian Jimenez, a defenseman for Sioux City of the USHL and a 2021-22 Harvard University commit; and Davenport, who played for Victoria of the British Columbia Hockey League last season.
For Grier, a New Jersey Devils assistant and the only Black assistant who worked behind the bench during NHL games last season, and Salvador, who was the third Black captain in the NHL when he played for the Devils, the tournament was also about helping players bond and strike up lasting friendships.
“I’m not a guy who gets too emotional, but it was at times a surreal experience,” said Salvador, who is a hockey analyst for MSG Network. “You’re in a locker room and you see a group of guys that are just 100 percent comfortable, not being judged, not thinking you’re being judged. You’re just hanging out and having a good time. It was nice to see that. It was an experience I never got to have as a player. So, it’s nice to see other players enjoy it.”
Goaltender Tyriq Outen said it felt like he and his teammates, who he had just met over the weekend, had been playing together forever.
“Right off the bat, everybody just clicked like we were a regular season team for years,” said Outen, who played for Grand Falls Rapids of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League last season and Acadie-Bathurst of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2018-19.
The team was formed by NextGen AAA Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides mentoring and hockey programs to underprivileged youth and underserved communities. It was founded by Dee Dee Ricks, a philanthropist and hockey mom who has provided more than $1 million to help Black and brown student-athletes at some of the leading preparatory schools, colleges and travel hockey programs throughout North America.
Rod Braceful, the assistant director of player personnel for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program helped recruit players for the NextGen tournament team.
The NHL and Pure Hockey, the largest hockey retailer in the U.S., sponsored the team, which attracted a few fans to the Exeter, New Hampshire rink for the tournament.
Bryant McBride, who was the first Black executive in the NHL during the 1990s and the architect of the League’s Diversity Task Force, the predecessor of the Hockey Is For Everyone initiative, made the one hour drive from Boston Tuesday to watch the game. He spoke to the NextGen players in the locker room afterward.
“It’s really special to see all those kids from all over get a chance to do this,” said McBride, executive producer of “Willie,” the documentary about Willie O’Ree, the first Black player in the NHL. “I never had a teammate of color, ever. I just let them know that they were an amazing first. And they had a real sense about how special it was.”
Listen to the Ear-Splitting Home Radio Call of Brayden Point’s Fifth-Overtime Game-Winner – Sports Illustrated
There were no fans to head for the exits early when the Lightning and Blue Jackets played one of the longest games in NHL history Tuesday afternoon (and night).
Tampa Bay and Columbus played 90 minutes and 27 seconds of extra time, the fourth-longest game the league has ever seen. The game started at 3 p.m. ET and didn’t end until 9:23. It went on for so long that the Bruins-Hurricanes game previously scheduled for 8 p.m. had to be pushed back to the morning.
Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo made an NHL-record 85 saves but couldn’t stop Brayden Point’s wrister from the high slot more than halfway through the fifth overtime.
It was a dramatic goal and it produced some fantastic commentary from the guys calling the game on TV and radio.
Here’s how it sounded with Gord Miller on the call for NBCSN.
Rick Peckham handles the play-by-play duties for the Lightning on Fox Sports Sun and sounded like he was in disbelief when Point’s shot hit the back of the net.
Radio play-by-play man Dave Mishkin definitely believed what he saw, though. Mishkin, who handles the Bolts’ broadcasts on WFLA, nearly blew his mic out screaming, “Scores! Scores! Scores!”
Blue Jackets radio guy Bob McElligott, on the other hand, was absolutely crestfallen.
(I couldn’t find Fox Sports Columbus play-by-play announcer Jeff Rimer’s call of the goal, so please send it my way if you come across it.)
The game was the NHL’s longest in 20 years, 94 seconds shorter than a Flyers-Penguins conference semifinal game from May 4, 2000. The two longest games in league history were played in 1933 and 1936, more than two decades before the first goalie wore a mask full-time. So Point’s goal was a truly historic moment that we’ll be seeing for decades to come. With any luck, it’ll be Mishkin’s frantic call that lives on as the preferred historical record of Point’s goal. ESPN.com’s game recap page is already using the audio of Mishkin’s call over NBCSN’s video feed.
The best of SI
The college football dominoes are starting to fall with the Big Ten and Pac-12 canceling their seasons. … From the latest issue of the magazine, Lamar Jackson is helping to redefine the quarterback position for young players.. … What’s next for embattled MLB commissioner Rob Manfred?
Around the sports world
At least 10 Big Ten football players reportedly have a rare heart condition associated with COVID-19. … Rob Manfred concedes it’s going to be tough to have the Cardinals play 60 games this season. … A rugby team in Australia is threatening to cut a player who breached the league’s COVID-19 protocol by going to the opening of a (biker-gang-connected) barbershop. … Hafthor Bjornsson (aka “The Mountain” from Game of Thrones) is retiring from strongman competitions.
The NHL, which has had a really good sense of humor about the empty arenas, had a lot of fun on the video boards with the marathon game
The Orioles won in extras thanks to two blunders by the Phillies
Fantastic idea from the Suns
A rare mean streak from Giannis
The Bucks were a total mess on this sequence after Giannis got ejected
Never change, HBC
The perils of working from home
That’s not Tom Brady
The Blue Jays made their Buffalo debut
MLB gave Alex Cintrón a historic suspension
I want to know where Disney is finding golf clubs that don’t look cartoonish in the hands of a 7′ 5″ guy
The Sabres have new jerseys that throw it back to their original ones
A man in Peru perusing Google Street View discovered that his wife was having an affair. … The world’s last remaining Blockbuster store is being listed on Airbnb. … The cocreator of Better Call Saul gave a cryptic hint about an object that will play a key role in the final season. … A 17-year-old employee at Sesame Place was hospitalized after being attacked by a man he asked to wear a mask.
Hell, I’d get a book from there
Fresh Prince is getting rebooted as a drama
You have to be a special kind of freak to stuff coffee beans in your lip
It was so windy in Australia, waterfalls flowed backward
A good song
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The optimist’s guide to the Canadiens beating the Flyers – Habs Eyes on the Prize
The Montreal Canadiens have been down this road before: heavy underdogs against the top seed in the format they are in. The Canadiens have said they are fine being the underdog, and almost everyone who has spoken to the media since the matchup was set has been praising the Philadelphia Flyers.
If you listened to the last episode of Habsent Minded, you’ll know why I want to bring you back to the 2012-13 season. That year, a Canadiens team that missed the playoffs the season before hired a new coach who previously made a Stanley Cup final, and overcame a months-long break to win the division in a shortened season.
The 2019-20 Flyers missed the playoffs a year ago. They hired Alain Vigneault, who had been a Stanley Cup finalist before. They rose to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, and that’s where they would have been if a months-long break due to COVID-19 had not necessitated a round robin for seeding. The Flyers swept their three games, and find themselves in a position to be the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
You know that the Canadiens, incidentally coached by one of Vigneault’s assistants, Michel Therrien, lost to the Ottawa Senators and never made it past the first round.
Now, I’m not comparing the two teams. Philadelphia does seem like a deeper team than even those Canadiens were, and Montreal had a long list of players playing injured or who were too hurt to play through the series. But that ascent from afterthought to favourite is not an easy rise.
These teams need to prove themselves. Having said that, it’s entirely possible that this talented Flyers team led by a veteran coach will easily dispatch the Canadiens. But the fact that the franchise hasn’t won a playoff series since 2012 means that there may be an opening to exploit. There isn’t the history of success that the other round-robin teams — or even the Pittsburgh Penguins — had. That doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. The Flyers are still the heavy favourites and should be expected to move on in the most likely scenario. However, we don’t know how they will react to being the favourite. After all, the Canadiens just won a post-season series last week against a team that finished three points behind the Flyers.
In 2017, Claude Julien had no answer for Vigneault’s New York Rangers. Some point to his inability to react to the Rangers’ forecheck (which just happens to be similar to the system he is using with the Flyers) as proof that Julien lost his ability to adapt.
Let’s put that series into perspective. The break between the regular season and the post-season in 2019-20 was longer than the amount of time Julien was in charge of the Canadiens before that series against the Rangers.
The Flyers are a better team than the Penguins, and may not be beaten the same way. However, Montreal proved that they have depth of their own, and beat Pittsburgh without any goals from their four top scorers.
The Canadiens will have to rely on players who helped them get through the Penguins, namely Artturi Lehkonen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Nick Suzuki, Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and, of course, Carey Price. They all provided big goals or saves at the right time.
You don’t win a series without players stepping up, and there are many options for breakout performances against the Flyers. Whether the Canadiens get them again will likely decide how long their stay in the playoffs will be.
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