WATCH: Giordano banks puck off two defenders for first goal as a Leaf

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Mark Giordano picked up his first goal with his new team late in the first period of Thursday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.

Giordano, 38, received a pass from teammate Ilya Mikhevey at the left point and walked in toward the circle on his side. Intending to find a streaking John Tavares in the slot, Giordano released a pass that deflected off Jets Logan Stanley and Brenden Dillon before finding its way past goaltender Eric Comrie.
Timothy Liljegren also assisted on Giordano’s first goal as a Leaf (and his seventh of the season), which cut the Jets’ lead to 2–1 at the 15:03 mark of the opening frame.

Mark Giordano’s centering pass pinballs off two members of the Jets and into the net to bring Toronto back within one!#LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/wHNtSfzPb0
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) March 31, 2022

Giordano’s tally redeemed him somewhat after he was exposed defensively by Jets forward Blake Wheeler on the game’s first goal. The veteran rearguard ultimately finished the game with a plus-one rating in 20:09 of total ice-time and picked up an assist on Liljegren’s goal late in the third period. In his first five games with the Maple Leafs, Giordano has one goal and two points (both of which came in the game against Winnipeg).
William Nylander scored twice for the Leafs on Thursday, with Giordano, Liljegren, Mikheyev, Tavares, and Auston Matthews also picking up goals (with the latter becoming the fourth Leaf to ever score 50 in a single season) in the 7–3 win over the Jets.
The Leafs improved to 42–19–5 with the victory; the Jets fell to 33–26–10. Giordano and Co. will return to action in time for Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:00 p.m. ET.
More from The Leafs …

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Author: Mike Gould / The Leafs Nation

Riley McCourt’s versatility a secret weapon for Newfoundland Growlers

It was December 11, 2021, when Newfoundland Growlers defenceman Riley McCourt got an opportunity to do something even he couldn’t have anticipated doing during his first full year as a pro. Instead of patrolling the blue line, he’d be standing just to the left of the face-off dot as a winger. About 12 minutes into the first period, he scored his second goal of the season.
“It’s a lot of fun,” McCourt said after that game. “I think anytime you get the chance to play a different position, it’s obviously exciting. The guys made the transition easy and all the guys in the room were great with gettin’ me excited and gettin’ me fired up.”
McCourt followed up that game with a power-play goal (again opening the scoring) the next day, in what would be the team’s final game for several weeks. More than a month later, on Jan 21, McCourt would find his way back into the forward line rushes, this time at center-ice for a 9-4 win over the Kansas City Mavericks, before returning to defence again for the remainder of a lengthy road trip.
Since then McCourt’s versatility has been a weapon that head coach Eric Wellwood has taken full advantage of when the team is …

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Author: Dylan Murphy / The Leafs Nation

Is Auston Matthews’ outspokenness of officiating hurting or helping the Maple Leafs?

Is Auston Matthews’ outspokenness of officiating hurting or helping the Maple Leafs?

Months before Arizona Coyotes defenceman Jackob Chychrun held the stick of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews, Sheldon Keefe was already making the case for a lack of penalties drawn by his star player.
“If, I’m not mistaken, I don’t think Auston’s drawn a penalty the entire season, which is strange considering how much he has the puck and how involved he is,” the Maple Leafs’ coach said back in December. “Those kinds of things, I think, are worth looking at if you’re involved with that.”
Those comments came two days removed from an on-ice incident that saw Winnipeg Jets defenceman Neal Pionk get suspended a couple of games for a knee-on-knee hit on Maple Leafs defenceman Rasmus Sandin. Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza was suspended six games (later reduced to four on appeal) for a retaliatory hit on Pionk.
Matthews wasn’t involved in that specific play. But earlier in the period, Matthews and Jets forward Pierre Luc-Dubois were involved in a wrestling match on the ice that resulted in offsetting penalties. The latter part of the sequence saw Dubois pin Matthews for a lengthy period of time before officials stopped play.
There appears to be a strong disconnect between a player like Matthews, who leads the NHL in goals with 44 t …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs couldn’t find their offence against the Sabres in an ugly loss

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Justin Holl put it best on Tuesday when he spoke to reporters about playing against a team that isn’t destined for the postseason like the Buffalo Sabres.
“Sometimes, we play down to their level.”
That’s what happened against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday in a 5-1 loss.
Unlike some embarrassing defeat the Maple Leafs have had this year — like the one against the Montreal Canadiens nine days prior where Keefe hoped that would act as a wakeup call —  the Leafs didn’t muster anything at the Sabres’ net.

 
“In terms of how we played with the puck, we were really careless and didn’t have much happening,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said.  Offensively, we were abysmal. All four lines.”
Toronto’s top line accounted for their only goal when Michael Bunting and Mitch Marner assisted on Rasmus Sandin’s tally in the first period.
That was the only highlight for the 21-year-old.
Playing on the right side of the team’s top pair with Morgan Rielly, Sandin was on the ice for three of Buffalo’s five goals.
‘No disrespect to them or anything, but I think that’s a team we should beat,” Sandin said after the game. “We just weren’t prepared the right way. It’s something we need to get better at.”
Keefe poured cold water on trying Sandin up with Rielly on his off side in the future but also felt the team’s overall play was poor that the young defenceman shouldn’t be the focus on the game.
“There were some things there where the focus would be on him, some of the mistakes around the goals, it’s a complete mess around him,” Keefe said Saind. “The three forwards on the ice, his partner, th …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs hope Jake Muzzin can rediscover his game after concussion absence

CALGARY — Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Muzzin will make his return to the lineup when the club takes on the Calgary Flames to kick off a three-game road trip out west on Thursday.
Muzzin took a hit to the head by St. Louis Blues forward Klim Kostin on Jan. 15 and missed the next seven games with a concussion.
But the veteran’s play had struggled before the injury. The Maple Leafs hope the time away from action can help rejuvenate the 32-year-old’s game.
“I think it’s some of his play with the puck,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “I think he’s looking for some consistency there to move it out clean out of our end and get going. This type of reset maybe may turn into a positive for him in that sense.”
Acquired by the Maple Leafs in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 28, 2019 for defenceman Sean Durzi, forward Carl Grundstrom and a first-round draft pick in 2019. Muzzin brought a physical element to the top-four that Toronto’s defense had been lacking at the time.
As each season passed, Muzzin has seen his possession numbers take a dip with a steepe …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Three value trade targets for the Maple Leafs’ blueline

In today’s installment of trading for a top-four defenceman, we’ll talk about some lesser-known options that might be available to the Toronto Maple Leafs at this year’s trade deadline. All-Star weekend and Kyle Dubas’ press conference from this past Sunday revealed a lot of what the team is looking to do with the rest of the regular season and trade deadline. We now know for sure that the Leafs prefer to add players with term instead of rental players. We went over how difficult this would be for them to pull off in a previous article last week. To add to this, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman also revealed that the asking price for a rental defenceman is said to be a first and third-round pick.

Elliotte Friedman on Sportsnet says teams are asking for a 1st rounder and a 3rd rounder in return for rental defensemen this trade deadline.
Basically what CBJ got for David Savard when he got traded to TB.#LeafsForever
— Joseph Zita (@josephdzita) February 5, 2022

 
If the Maple Leafs can’t trade for someone with term, these options should serve as decent backups if they do not wish to pay exorbitant rental prices. Ideally, the Leafs can find someone to eat up top-four minutes playing next to Jake Muzzin. It’s not a knock on Justin Holl, he and Muzzin were not very good to start the season. I’d still like someone better, though. To be fair to Holl, he has been better lately while playing top-four minutes next to Rasmus Sandin. But If you’re able to slot Holl lower in the lineup, that’s how you can create some depth for yourself.

And just to double-check that this isn’t the Sandin effect, here are the with and without stats in 2022.

What Kind of Blueliner Are We Looking For?
But if we’re looking at what type of defenceman the Maple Leafs should look to add, I am reminded of this Sheldon Keefe quote from the middle of January.

Sheldon Keefe full quote on Jake Muzzin’s play thus far pic.twitter.com/kaegqUb9xy
— David Alter (@dalter) January 17, 2022

Specifically, the part where Keefe said, “He’s doing lots of really good things but I think there are some inconsistencies there, particularly with th …

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Author: Stephen Brown / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs’ Muzzin takes ‘a step back’, out through All-Star break

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Muzzin has taken “a step back” in his recovery from a concussion, according to head coach Sheldon Keefe.
“‘They (Maple Leafs medical team) will continue to monitor him and work with him with hopes to ramp things up again as we get back from the break,” Keefe said after the team’s morning skate ahead of their game against the New Jersey Devils on Monday.
Muzzin will miss his fifth and sixth consecutive games when the Maple Leafs kick off a back-to-back, home-and-home series against the New Jersey Devils. He was injured after taking a hit to the head by St. Louis Blues forward Klim Kostin on Jan. 15.
The veteran defenceman took part in the team’s first practice that followed the game but was later diagnosed with a concussion after the player indicated to the team that he didn’t feel well following the skate.
Over the past week, there were signs that Muzzin could possibly return sooner than expected. He returned to practice wearing a non-contact jersey and stayed on the ice for longer sessions as each day passed.
Toronto is 3-1-0 in the four games they have played without Muzzin in the lineup, but have allowed 14 goals in that span. A prolonged absence without the …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Former Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf announces retirement after 14 NHL seasons

Longtime National Hockey League defenceman Dion Phaneuf announced his retirement on Tuesday after a 14-year career, including seven seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs (and six as team captain).

Phaneuf, 36, played his final NHL season as a member of the Los Angeles Kings in 2018–19. He also suited up for the Calgary Flames and the Ottawa Senators, totalling 137 goals and 494 points in 1,048 career regular-season NHL games.

Dion Phaneuf is calling it a career after 1,048 NHL GP in 14 seasons. The three-time #NHLAllStar and former @MapleLeafs captain tallied 494 regular-season points.
Full release: https://t.co/c5TlRf18Ur pic.twitter.com/mSSQ36RcWk
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) November 16, 2021

The Flames originally drafted Phaneuf with the ninth overall selection in the 2003 NHL Draft. He played parts of five seasons in Calgary, being named a Norris Trophy finalist for the 2007–08 season after scoring a career-high 60 points in 82 games, before being traded to Toronto in 2010. During his tenure in Calgary, Phaneuf was named the cover athlete for EA Sports’ NHL 09 video game.
On Jan. 31, 2010, the Maple Leafs sent Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Ian White, and Jamal Mayers to Calgary in exchange for Phaneuf, Keith Aulie, and Fredrik Sjostrom. Toronto named Phaneuf its 17th team captain in franchise history …

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Author: Mike Gould / The Leafs Nation

Toronto Maple Leafs place Teemu Kivihalme on waivers

The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenceman Teemu Kivihalme on waivers Friday morning.

Drafted by the Leafs in the fifth round of the 2013 draft, Kivihalme has never gained traction with the big club. Following his draft year he spent three seasons playing for Colorado College in the NCAA racking up 36 points in 107 games.
And after two seasons in the Finnish Elite League where he put up a solid 50 points in 104 games. He returned to North America in 2019-20 playing for the Marlies, where he’s spent the last two years.
In 75 games over those seasons, Kivihalme scored 10 goals and 20 points.
The 26-year-old has yet to play in any NHL games. He is entering the second year of a two-year contract that pays him an NHL salary of $725,000 and a minor league salary of $70,000, according to PuckPedia.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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Author: Zach Laing / The Leafs Nation

Jake Muzzin stretchered off the ice in third period

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Muzzin was stretchered off the ice Tuesday evening after he was cross-checked from behind.

Here’s the cross check from Pierre-Luc Dubois on Jake Muzzin. No penalty for Dubois. pic.twitter.com/AMdu7lFuU4
— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) August 4, 2020

The incident happened with under two minutes left in the game when Muzzin was trying to corral a loose puck behind the Leafs net.
Muzzin was cross-checked from behind by Blue Jackets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois and fell to the ice, but his head and neck collided with the leg of Oliver Bjorkstrand.
Attempting to get up after the incident, Muzzin fell back to the ice where he remained until he was removed.
There was a 15-minute delay as trainers tended to the rearguard.
There’s no word yet on Muzzin’s condition, but this article will be updated as more information becomes available.
On Twitter: @zjlaing

Scary moment in Toronto as Jake Muzzin is stretchered off the ice. pic.twitter.com/kw5p4jLDSJ
— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) August 4, 2020

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Author: Zach Laing / The Leafs Nation