Why the Maple Leafs didn’t make any more trades on deadline day – The Athletic
VANCOUVER — Look back to October at the lineup the Maple Leafs dressed in their season opener and you can see how much things have changed now that the trade deadline has come and gone.
This was the group that head coach Sheldon Keefe rolled out on Oct. 12 against Montreal.
It’s quite a bit different from what’s available to Keefe after all of GM Kyle Dubas’ deal-making. “This is the year we have to put it all together and get rolling,” Dubas said. “We’ve tried to arm them to do so.”
The Leafs lose something in the Jake Muzzin/Jake McCabe swap, but the defence as a whole is deeper, larger and better equipped physically for the postseason. More experienced, too (albeit without Muzzin).
Luke Schenn and Erik Gustafsson slide in for Rasmus Sandin and Jordie Benn.
A top six that started with Denis Malgin can now, at its best, include Ryan O’Reilly. That is a rather large upgrade, to say the least. Alex Kerfoot is no longer required in the middle.
In the bottom six, Dubas has ultimately swapped out Pierre Engvall and Nicolas Aube-Kubel for Sam Lafferty and Noel Acciari. Those are two harder, heavier and generally more competitive dudes who can both play centre, kill penalties and be on the ice late in a close game.
“It’s easy for me to say, but I think the game (Thursday) night sort of exemplifies the difference of the team,” Dubas said of the Leafs’ comeback win in Calgary, which included the team’s best third period of the season in Keefe’s estimation. “Just a little bit more competitive, a little bit more sacrifice. Willing to put themselves on the line to win pucks. Do the right things defensively that aren’t necessarily the fanciest or sexiest things in the game, but they contribute to winning. I just sense that with the players that we’ve added, and also with the growth of some of the guys internally, we’re just far better in that realm.”
What about the somewhat precarious situation in goal? What about all those defenders — all nine of them?
Let’s dig into how Dubas explained the Leafs’ approach to the deadline.
No new goalies
The Leafs did not add another goalie before the deadline, either to upgrade the position or insure themselves against injury.
Which means they’ll continue to roll with Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray, with Joseph Woll and Erik Källgren waiting in the wings if needed.
“When looking at it, I think the question is how confident are you that they can do it in the end and pull through,” Dubas said, referring of course to winning the Stanley Cup. “And Matt has done it in the past, and there weren’t really other guys available that have. And we believe in the potential of Ilya and Joe both.”
If not a goalie with Murray’s Cup credentials, the Leafs could have added a more experienced No. 3, someone to push Woll down the depth chart a peg. Someone to step in and fill the backup role in the event of an injury to either Murray or Samsonov. That was the idea when they acquired David Rittich a couple seasons ago.
The Leafs decided against bringing in that guy last year, rolling with Källgren as Jack Campbell’s backup in the playoffs. Clearly, they’re comfortable going the same route again if necessary — presumably with Woll.
Woll has put together a superb year. He’s 14-1-0 with the Marlies, with a .931 save percentage. He’s won two of his three starts as a Leaf this season, including the win over the Flames on Thursday. And yet, turning his way for one reason or another in a playoff series would be dicey given his limited NHL experience.
Really, this is going to come down — still — to Murray and Samsonov and whether the Leafs can get enough from one — or more likely, both — to win four rounds in the playoffs. It’s still a gigantic question mark even with Samsonov putting together the best season of his career and looking like the guy at the moment.
Said Dubas: “The things we were looking for from him was how would he respond when things weren’t going well? And how would he recover when he got into bad stretches, like any young goaltender? And he’s done an excellent job of that.”
Samsonov has lost back-to-back starts once all season. One more win and he’ll match a career high.
For what it’s worth, he’s registered just one win in seven career playoff starts. Which means his first-round opponent in goal, Andrei Vasilevskiy, will enter the series with more Stanley Cups (two) than Samsonov has playoffs wins. Which may or may not matter. That’s also assuming he beats out Murray for the starting job initially. Point is, Samsonov has to prove himself when it really matters (though he is only in his fourth NHL season so it’s not like he’s had a lot of opportunities).
The guy who has done it — twice — has been injured for most of the season. Twenty-six games in all that Murray has missed. If he gets the go-ahead medically, Murray will make his first start since Jan. 17 when the Leafs play in Vancouver on Saturday.
The Leafs made their bets in goal last summer. One (Samsonov) is paying off so far. The other (Murray), not so much to this point. The playoffs are all that will matter in the end.
Changes on D
“What did we lack?” Dubas said the front office wondered when pondering the acquisition of Schenn. “And we just felt on the back end, having that one more (player with) size and strength, (a) physical defender who’s been through it before, has that experience, was going to be really important for us.”
Just about everyone on the defence now is at least 6 feet and around 200 pounds, bigger in some cases.
Dubas said the Leafs could have netted a second-draft pick in the swap that sent Rasmus Sandin to Washington on top of the first-rounder. They opted for more depth in Gustafsson, intrigued especially with his abilities on the power play.
Gustafsson sits just inside the top 40 NHL defencemen with 46 power-play points since the start of the 2018-19 season, a big chunk coming during his monster 60-point season (18-19) with Chicago.
He had 11 power-play assists with the Caps before the trade.
Gustafsson still feels like the eighth option in this bunch. But the fact that he can move the puck, play both the left and right sides, run a power-play unit if needed, and not get rolled over physically makes him at least an option in a playoff series.
There’s this too: Gustafsson has 31 games of playoff experience (playing marginal minutes).
(Of note: Dubas said the Leafs might well decide to move the first-rounder in June. Or, of course, just make the pick.)
It was mildly surprising that the front office decided not to move anyone from the bunch on defence that runs nine deep.
“We’ve had some arduous times in terms of who’s been available for our D,” Dubas said of the rationale. “And I’d rather have the guys (available) and sort through a little bit of competition. I don’t think the competition hurts them in terms of having to be at your best every night. That pressure, I think, will set us up for what we’re going to encounter come playoff time in terms of what’s expected each night.”
Dubas was referring to November and December of this season when Muzzin, Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie were all out with injuries at various points. That led to the Leafs playing Victor Mete with Mac Hollowell for a stretch of games.
Mete, Carl Dahlstrom and Benn were also unavailable at certain points (the whole season in Dahlstrom’s case).
In other words, the Leafs didn’t want to take any chances.
And, as Dubas noted, rosters expand now, which means the Leafs can bring up a 13th forward if they so choose. (Bobby McMann?)
Also worth noting …
• Dubas acknowledged what’s long been suspected with Auston Matthews: “As everyone knows, he’s played through some injuries and things that have hampered him. But in terms of his impact on the game and the way that he’s helped our team, I’m very happy with the season that he’s had. How he’s competed and battled defensively. The growth that he’s taken as an overall player, it’s all been very, very good. If this is a down season for him offensively, that’s a really good sign in terms of how great a player he is. And the other guys in the group have all stepped up, and that’s why you commit to that core group. When one isn’t at the level that they expect in one specific area, the others tend to step up and help them.”
• On O’Reilly’s early impact: “He’s been everything that we thought when we acquired him, and everything Doug Armstrong said he was, and anyone who’s had him before said he was.”
• The Leafs brought in six new players via trade in the two weeks before the deadline. Dubas said the front office was cognizant of how much change that was to the roster, but added, “I do have a lot of faith, with what I’ve seen from the players when they’re outside the lens of the public and we’re together, that they could handle bringing in some new guys. And one of the new guys has been here before and knows a lot of the staff and I think has a reputation as one of the better character and quality people in hockey.” That player, of course, would be Schenn.
• On the likelihood of playing Tampa in Round 1: “We played them last year, they’re a championship organization every day. So we know how hard it’s going to be. The easiest way to put it is hard things are hard. And so what we’re about to try to do is going to be extremely difficult and we have to ready ourselves.”
(Top photo of Kyle Dubas: Steve Russell / Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Quick Reaction: Wizards 104, Raptors 114 – Raptors Republic
|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.
Although Toronto was healthier, Nurse didn’t force anyone into minutes that were going to damage the team.
Things We Saw
- 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.
- Christian Koloko played some pretty nice defense, his technique in drop was really good tonight.
Washington Wizards vs. Toronto Raptors Live Score and Stats – March 26, 2023 Gametracker – CBS Sports
TORONTO (AP) O.G. Anunoby scored 29 points, Fred VanVleet had 28 and the Toronto Raptors never trailed in a 114-104 win over Washington Wizards on Sunday.
Pascal Siakam had 19 points and 11 rebounds and Jakob Poeltl had 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Anunoby had 11 made baskets, two shy of his career-high. All four of his 3-pointers came in the first quarter.
“O.G. obviously had it going tonight,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
Ninth-place Toronto clinched the three-game season series with the Wizards and maintained a three-game lead over 11th-place Washington in the Eastern Conference standings. Both teams have seven games remaining.
Toronto and Atlanta have identical 37-38 records, but the Hawks won two of three against the Raptors this season to clinch the tiebreaker.
Scottie Barnes scored 13 points in his return to the starting lineup after missing two games because of a sore left wrist as the Raptors won for the ninth time in 10 home games.
Kristaps Porzingis scored 26 points and Corey Kispert had 19 for the Wizards, who have lost eight of 10.
Washington made 18 turnovers, leading to 25 points for Toronto, and was outscored 27-11 in second-chance points.
“Our ball security wasn’t where it should be,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Obviously they thrive in that area. We allowed their strengths to beat us.”
Deni Avdija and Johnny Davis each scored 15 points for Washington and Daniel Gafford had 10.
The short-handed Wizards played without guard Bradley Beal (left knee) for the third straight game, while forward Kyle Kuzma (right ankle) sat for the fourth straight game. Washington was also without guard Monte Morris (left groin).
“Right now, those guys are a level higher,” Porzingis said of Toronto. “ Us without our main guys, it’s a difficult task.”
Anunoby almost single-handedly outscored the Wizards with a career-high 18 points in the first quarter as Toronto led 37-21 after one. Anunoby shot 7 for 10 in the first, making 4 of 6 from long range.
“He got hot,” Porzingis said. “He was hitting 3’s, he was hitting some post-up shots. He was hitting everything else.”
Held scoreless in the opening quarter, Siakam scored 11 points in the second to give the Raptors a 63-46 halftime lead.
Porzingis scored 12 points in the third as Washington outscored Toronto 38-24. The Wizards closed to within a point, 80-79, on a 3 by Davis with 2:16 left in the quarter, but were unable to take the lead. Toronto took an 87-84 lead to the fourth.
Anunoby scored five points as the Raptors opened the fourth with a 13-3 run to restore their double-digit lead.
Wizards: Shot 1 for 8 from 3-point range in the first quarter, but went 15 for 28 over the final three quarters. Washington shot 8 for 12 from long range in the third. … Former Raptor Delon Wright shot 2 for 9 and scored five points. Wright had eight assists and seven rebounds. … Lost their fourth straight road game. … Avdija had nine rebounds and seven assists.
Raptors: F Precious Achiuwa also returned after missing two games because of a sore right hamstring. … G Gary Trent Jr. (right elbow) sat for the third straight game. … G Will Barton left in the first quarter because of a sprained left ankle and did not return.
SPIN TO WIN
Barnes forced a steal and finished with a 360-degree dunk for his first basket of the game.
“I thought it was great,” Anunoby said.
Toronto has won or tied the past 12 season series with Washington. The Raptors lost three of four to the Wizards in 2007-08.
The Raptors won without trailing for the fifth time. They also did it Dec. 7 against the Lakers, Jan. 12 against Charlotte, Jan. 28 at Portland, and March 14 against Denver.
Wizards: Host Boston on Tuesday.
Raptors: Host Miami on Tuesday. —
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Copyright 2023 STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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