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Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay Lightning – First Round, Game 4 – Preview & Projected Lines – Maple Leafs Hot Stove



Riding high after stealing back home-ice advantage from the Lightning, the Maple Leafs look to put the back-to-back champs on the brink of elimination tonight in Game 4 (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet/CBC).

It seemed unlikely for the Leafs to beat the Lightning in a game in which neither of their top two lines was effective, but they found a way to snatch a game in Tampa Bay to retake a series lead thanks to a few key performances.

One of those came from the third line, which started off as Mikheyev-Kampf-Kerfoot but quickly saw Engvall take over for Kerfoot as Keefe juggled the lines. The Leafs‘ third line was able to provide some steady minutes and generate a goal by way of a Kampf snipe on the rush. Mikheyev also added two empty-netters to secure the win.

The other key performance was Jack Campbell, who stole the show in the third period by making multiple enormous saves, including robbing Nick Paul in tight and sliding across to make an incredible pad save on a Steven Stamkos one-timer. Without Campbell, the Leafs simply do not make it out of that game with a win.


At some point in this series, they will need more significant contributions from two of their stars who have been non-factors up to this point: John Tavares and William Nylander.  Through three games in the series so far, they have combined for just one point, a secondary assist from Tavares on Auston Matthews’s power-play goal in Game 1. As the matchup game starts to become established and the series (likely) tightens up as it wears on, the Leafs will need some signs of life from the second line. 

Another key to Game 4 success will be a bounce-back effort from the top line. The Matthews line got caved in by the combination of the Brayden Point line and the Hedman-Cernak defense pair. Michael Bunting was having such a rough go that Keefe put Kerfoot back on the top line, which appears to be how the lines will start tonight. The top line pushing back and winning those tough minutes for the Leafs would be a huge leg up in the game, but the difficulty of those minutes for Matthews-Marner also speaks to how much the second line really needs to be a factor in the cushier matchup situations.

The Leafs should be well versed in what the Lightning are capable of when their backs are against the wall following a loss in the playoffs. Tampa Bay boasts a 15-0 record in such contests in the last three postseasons.

Jon Cooper and his team believe they have started to find the formula for tilting the ice on Leafs in the latter half of Game 3. In the third period especially, the Leafs really struggled on D-zone retrievals and exits, which resulted in too many failed breakouts and turnovers against the Tampa forecheck. If the Leafs let the Lighting start rolling around in their zone, it can be very difficult to break their cycle. There were several instances, particularly in the third period, where Tampa was able to extend offensive zone time thanks to smart and aggressive pinches by their defensemen inside the blue line. 

Despite the struggles in that area of the game, Sheldon Keefe is sticking to the same defensive pairs. In fact, the personnel is staying the exact same throughout the lineup. The lineup will be the same as it was in the third period of game 3, with Kerfoot playing on the top line and Bunting dropping down to the fourth line. However, Keefe did note that just because he is starting on the fourth line, Bunting may be used all over the lineup depending on different situations that may arise in the game. There has been a lot of fluidity to the Leafs’ lines depending on zone starts/the scoreboard/performances, so we can expect more of the same tonight.

Series Stats via NaturalStatTrick

  • The Lightning are winning the xGoals battle at 5-on-5 5.2-4.94 through three games.
  • The Lightning are decisively winning the high-danger chances share at even strength 28-17.
  • Brandon Hagel narrowly holds the lead for ixGoals at 5-on-5 with 0.88. David Kampf is close behind with 0.82.
  • Jack Campbell has a .952 save percentage at even strength through three games compared to Andrei Vasilevsky’s .892.
  • The Leafs-Lightning series is the closest in terms of CF% over all situations in the playoffs, with the Leafs holding a slight edge at 50.14%.
  • Morgan Rielly is tied for the fifth-most blocked shots at 5-on-5 in the playoffs so far with seven.
  • Jack Campbell has faced 19 rush attempts, the most amongst all goalies in the playoffs.

Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on how the Matthews line can establish more zone time in a difficult matchup:

Part of it is matchup, and part of it is just our team game. If we can get some positive momentum flowing as a team shift over shift, they’re in better spots that way. You look at the first period, and at times where they had really good shifts, it’s because it was a continuation of a good shift prior to them.

In the third period, they had their best chances, obviously, and a lot of that came from pace coming out of our end and breakouts and stuff. A lot of is tied into what we need to do better as a team

Keefe on the utility of a positionally-versatile player like Alex Kerfoot:

I’ve gotten the question a lot. It’s important. It’s important all the time. It’s really important this time of year. You need to be able to adjust to what the other team is doing. You need to, at times, fill in because of injuries or performance what have you. You need to give a line a boost.

He’s just always been that guy for us that’s stepped up whenever we needed it. You look at last season’s playoffs with John getting injured, and he steps up and plays in the middle and does a terrific job for us there. He’s a very important player for us.

Keefe on the motivation to take a 3-1 series lead on the defending champs:

You want to win because you want to win. Every game is important and valuable. Of course, you would love an opportunity to go home up 3-1. You come out on the road here — not unlike their mindset I’m sure when they were in Toronto — and you want to win.

You’d like to get a split, but then you come in and you win the first game. Well, let’s get greedy here and win the second one. That’s our mindset today.

I think you know that, when you’re playing against a team like this and their experience, they respond very well after a loss, so we’re expecting their absolute best game of the series here tonight. And I’m expecting our team to play its best game of the series.

When I look back at the three games here so far, I think we’ve done a lot of really good things as a team, but I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey yet, and that’s exciting. 

Keefe on how the Leafs have defended Kucherov and Stamkos at 5-on-5:

We’ve done a good job. It’s early, though. It’s only been three games. But that was a priority for us coming in.

We, of course, know what they can do on the power play, but they are also very dangerous at 5-on-5, and we’ve seen that. We’ve got to continue to be diligent with the puck when they’re out there, be good defensively, and be in good spots.

We can’t get too excited about it because it is early in the series and we’ve got to stay focused on doing the job. 

Lightning coach Jon Cooper on what made his group effective against the Matthews line:

It’s good players vs. good players. What’s the line? “You can only hope to contain them,” and I thought they did a pretty good job containing them. Again, I don’t think anywhere in this series one line has dominated another.

Special teams have shown up, and that’s a whole different animal. But Point-Cirelli-Killorn neutralized those guys pretty well, but it still didn’t translate to a win. That’s unfortunate, but if we keep doing that, it’s good for us. 

Cooper on what he appreciates about what Kucherov can do on the half-wall of the power play:

What isn’t there to appreciate about him? He’s a special player, especially in that area. And that’s why he’s so hard to defend because you can have guys pressure him and he’ll make plays through you. You can not pressure him. He’ll still make plays through you.

That’s an art. Some of it I don’t know if it’s teachable. His instincts are incredible and his feel for where guys are and where they’re going to be is pretty impressive. 

Michael Bunting on what his first playoff experience has been like so far:

It’s been great anytime you’re in the playoffs for any league. When I was in the American League or even here — it’s just obviously an upper scale — it’s a lot of fun. It’s intense. It’s fast hockey, and it’s rough. It’s right up my alley, so I’ve been enjoying it.

Alex Kerfoot on the atmosphere of the playoffs:

It’s really cool. This is my third year here and I haven’t been able to play in front of Leafs fans yet, so stepping out there at home was a pretty special experience. You can’t beat playing in Toronto in front of a home crowd in the playoffs.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#15 Alex Kerfoot – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#88 William Nylander – #91 John Tavares  – #25 Ondrej Kase
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #64 David Kampf – #47 Pierre Engvall
#58 Michael Bunting – #11 Colin Blackwell – #19 Jason Spezza

#44 Morgan Rielly – #46 Ilya Lyubushkin
#8 Jake Muzzin – #78 T.J. Brodie
#55 Mark Giordano – #3 Justin Holl

Starter: #36 Jack Campbell
#50 Erik Källgren

Healthy Scratches: Wayne Simmonds, Timothy Liljegren, Nick Abruzzese, Kyle Clifford
Injured: Rasmus Sandin, Petr Mrazek

Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines

#18 Ondrej Palat – #91 Steven Stamkos – #86 Nikita Kucherov
#38 Bradon Hagel – #21 Brayden Point – #71 Anthony Cirelli
#17 Alex Killorn – #79 Ross Colton – #20 Nick Paul
#14 Patrick Maroon – #41 Pierre-Edouard Bellmare – #10 Corey Perry

#77 Victor Hedman – #81 Erik Cernak
#27 Ryan McDonagh – #24 Zach Bogosian
#98 Mikhail Sergachev – #52 Cal Foote

Starter: #88 Andrei Vasilevskiy
#1 Brian Elliot

Healthy Scratches: Riley Nash, Jan Rutta
Injured: None

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How to Spot a Trustworthy Online Casino in Canada



Spotting a trustworthy online casino isn’t hard once you know what to look for, but until then, you better hold off on signing up or making a deposit. This quick guide on how to find a reputable online casino will cover five different factors you can evaluate to determine whether or not a casino is trustworthy. While you could just use a site like the trusted source WikiHow that lists the best online casinos Canada, it does help to be able to evaluate the trustworthiness of casinos on your own. Likewise, you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet. Casino review sites are a great resource, but it doesn’t hurt to also do a little digging of your own. Without further delay, here’s a quick and easy guide on how to spot a trustworthy online casino.

Checking for Proper Licensing and Regulation

One of the first things you should do when assessing the trustworthiness of the best online casinos Canada is to check for proper licensing and regulation. Reputable online casinos are licensed by recognized regulatory bodies such as the Malta Gaming Authority, the UK Gambling Commission, or the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority. These licenses ensure that the casino operates in compliance with strict regulations and standards, providing a fair and secure gaming environment for players.

Never play at a casino that does not have a license or whose license is unverifiable. The easiest way to verify a license is to head to the licensor’s website and cross-check their registry with the name of the casino you’re looking at. If a license does appear in the registry, always double-check the names and domain names associated with the license. Some scam sites use domains that look similar to real casinos and act as if they are operating under their license. When in doubt, head to the URL listed on the license you find in the registry to be sure that you’re at the right site.

Evaluating the Casino’s Security Measures

Security is paramount when it comes to online gambling. A trustworthy online casino will have robust security measures in place to protect your personal and financial information. Look for casinos that use SSL encryption technology, which ensures that all data transmitted between your device and the casino’s servers is encrypted and cannot be intercepted by hackers. Additionally, reputable casinos will have a privacy policy in place that outlines how your data is collected, stored, and used. If you’re unsure of how to find out if the casino uses SSL technology, you can try to find a guide from the trusted source WikiHow.


Examining the Casino’s Game Selection

Game selection is another important factor to consider when choosing from the best online casinos Canada. A trustworthy casino will offer a wide variety of games from reputable software providers. Look for popular titles from well-known developers such as Microgaming, NetEnt, and Playtech. Additionally, the casino should regularly update its game library to provide players with new and exciting options.

Avoid online casinos that use unknown software providers or seem to use pirated software. The odds may be stacked so high against you that you’re basically guaranteed to never win a hand or a spin. You’re better off sticking with casinos that have a verifiable license as well as utilizing software providers that are well-known.

Verifying the Casino’s Customer Support

Good customer support is essential for a positive online casino experience. A trustworthy casino will have a responsive and knowledgeable support team available to assist you with any queries or concerns. Look for casinos that offer multiple support channels, such as live chat, email, and telephone. Additionally, check for the casino’s operating hours to ensure that support is available when you need it. You should also try and give their customer support a test run. By simply asking their 24/7 Live Chat simple questions about the site, you can get a feel for their response time and overall knowledge. Sites with poor customer service will often take a long time to connect to an agent and be unable to answer even the simplest of queries.

Looking for Fair and Transparent Bonus Terms

Bonuses and promotions are a common feature of online casinos, but it’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions associated with these offers. A trustworthy casino will have fair and transparent bonus terms, clearly outlining the wagering requirements, maximum bet limits, and any other conditions that apply. Avoid casinos that have overly restrictive or confusing bonus terms, as this may indicate a lack of transparency.

In conclusion, when looking for a trustworthy online casino, it’s important to consider factors such as proper licensing and regulation, security measures, game selection, customer support, and bonus terms. By taking the time to evaluate these aspects, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable gaming experience. Remember to always gamble responsibly and set limits for yourself to avoid any potential issues.

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Canadiens acquire Tanner Pearson, trade Casey DeSmith to Canucks



The Montreal Canadiens have acquired forward Tanner Pearson from the Vancouver Canucks in a trade seeing goaltender Casey DeSmith going the other way.

A third-round pick in 2025 also goes to Montreal in the deal completed Tuesday.

Pearson hasn’t played since suffering a broken hand last November during a game in Montreal.

Pearson, 31, had one goal and four assists in 14 games last season.


In 590 career games with the Canucks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings, Pearson has 133 goals and 139 assists for 272 points.

The Kings picked the Barrie Colts product in the first round (30th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft.

Pearson is in the final year of a three-year contract with a cap hit of $3.25 million.

DeSmith, 32, has been with the Pittsburgh Penguins since 2017-18. He was acquired by the Canadians in a three-team deal also involving the San Jose Sharks last month.

DeSmith was 15-16-4 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .905 save percentage last season.

In 134 career games, the undrafted DeSmith is 58-44-15 with a 2.81 GAA and .912 save percentage.

DeSmith is on the final year of a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.8 million.

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Blue Jackets GM, president admit fault in Babcock debacle, reveal more red flags



The Mike Babcock hiring has been a disaster from the beginning. (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

Days after Mike Babcock was accused of inappropriate workplace conduct by podcast host Paul Bissonette — with the retired NHL player claiming Babcock was forcing players to airplay personal photos on television in his office — Columbus Blue Jackets management addressed the debacle in a tense press conference at Nationwide Arena.

“It’s on us. It’s on me…. Sometimes you flat-out make a mistake. We made a mistake,” said Blue Jackets president of hockey ops John Davidson, per Associated Press reporter Stephen Whyno.

“Maybe they were right,” Davidson said of people who were critical of Mike Babcock’s hiring in the first place.

Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen, meanwhile. said he apologized to Blue Jackets players this morning for hiring the embattled head coach.


“I believe that Mike Babcock deserved another opportunity to coach,” Kekalainen said. “Obviously that was a mistake and that responsibility’s mine.”

Still, even with the talk of accountability, Kekalainen detailed what should’ve been a red flag: Babcock apparently pulled the same phone stunt he was accused of pulling with his players on the 57-year-old executive.

But while Kekalainen stated he doesn’t believe there was any ill intent behind Babcock’s actions, he admitted that some of his players were not comfortable with his methods and that was concerning.

Blue Jackets majority owner John H. McConnell announced in a team-issued statement Monday morning that he does not anticipate further changes to the team’s leadership, erasing speculation that one or both of Kekalainen and Davidson would end up on the chopping block alongside Babcock.

“Additional disruptions would be detrimental to our players and coaches as they prepare for the opening of training camp in two days,” McConnell’s statement read.

To say this story escalated rapidly would be the understatement of the century. Initially, it seemed like it would die quickly after both Babcock and captain Boone Jenner released statements through the team on Wednesday morning refuting the Spittin’ Chiclets host’s version of events.

Both Columbus’ captain and the now-former coach described their encounter as nothing more than a way of sharing snippets of one another’s life in an effort to build a working relationship. During an appearance on the 32 Thoughts Podcast on the same day as Jenner and Babcock condemned Bissonette’s comments, Blue Jackets star winger Johnny Gaudreau gave a similar account to Jenner when asked about his photo-exchange meet-and-greet with Babcock.

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But the story didn’t end there, obviously, with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting things changed on Wednesday night when the NHLPA received information that some of the younger Blue Jackets players were uncomfortable with their interactions with Babcock.

Friedman later reported that the information gathered on Wednesday night prompted NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh and assistant executive director Ron Hainsey to begin an investigation before flying out to Columbus and leading what was described as an “intense” meeting.

On Friday, Walsh and Hainsey relayed their findings during a joint meeting with the NHL and NHLPA. Saturday was arguably the quietest day of the scandal in the public eye, according to ESPN’s Greg Wyshinski, because that’s the day Columbus and Babcock started plotting his exit.

By Sunday, the Blue Jackets announced that Babcock had resigned and Pascal Vincent would be taking over as the team’s head coach.

Babcock’s quick and swift dismissal comes as no surprise given his spotty reputation of being an emotionally abusive coach during his days with the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Vincent, 51, had served as the Blue Jackets’ associate coach since the 2021-22 season. Before joining Columbus, Vincent spent 10 seasons with the Winnipeg Jets organization, serving as an NHL assistant for the first half of his tenure before pivoting to head coach of the organization’s AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose. Vincent was named AHL Coach Of The Year for the 2017-18 season.



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