Colin Blackwell’s got that dog in him

Between the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, we got a 26 game look at Colin Blackwell. He didn’t show up a whole bunch on the score sheet but endeared himself to many in other ways by being a feisty addition to the bottom part of the Leafs lineup. Considering that the Leafs are short on feisty players, is it possible that Blackwell finds his way back to the Leafs next year?

It’s become obvious a lot of us were not only insufferable but also wrong in the mid-late aughts and this is the only correct way to watch and analyze any sport pic.twitter.com/utW34nyD8p
— AF (@ArkansasFred) April 26, 2022

While I feel like most of us at The Leafs Nation often choose the bleak stare against the rock wall approach, there is undoubtedly a time and place for integrating players who drive the opposition nuts as well, and Blackwell appears to be one of those guys. He had 34 hits in 19 regular season games, 12 hits in 7 playoff games, while playing limited fourth line minutes, and in his entire time in Toronto he drew 7 penalties while taking none (save for a misconduct that didn’t leave the Leafs shorthanded.) The fact that Blackwell can line up at center also provides some important depth at that critical position, as does the fact he’s good with moving up and down the bottom nine depending on where he’s needed. If the Leafs decide to move on from Alex Kerfoot, Blackwell could be an affordable, light option.
Of course, Blackwell is also going to draw some Bunting comparisons for his agitating play, t …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

BJN Radio – Ep. 77: Blue Jays beat Mariners despite quiet bats, digging into the Juan Soto stuff, and more!

The Blue Jays have finally won their first series of the month of May!

Despite taking two of three from the scuffling Seattle Mariners, this series felt a little limp because the bats went completely silent on Wednesday when the Blue Jays had a chance to sweep.
We talked about the good stuff from the Seattle series, such as Yusei Kikuchi clowning his old team and Jose Berrios weaving through seven scoreless frames, and also the bad stuff, such as the worrying injury to Tim Mayza and the fact the bats are still in January.
We also talked about the speculation from Buster Olney that Juan Soto could be moved and whether that makes any sense at all. Finally, we looked ahead to a series against the Cincinnati Reds, an awful team that features a handful of Blue Jays castoffs who are doing very well.
You can listen to the episode here…

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

How the Maple Leafs can move on from another first round exit

Well, they did it again. Another first round exit.
Often when the Maple Leafs get eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, there’s plenty of people who like to put on their General Manager hat. They’ll start by saying “Trade this player!” And usually end with “Someone needs to be fired for this mess!”
Every year. After every lost series.
Usually, I would accept this form of reaction. People are upset, and honestly, they have every right to be after yet another first round departure. But this time around for Toronto was different. Very different.
The Maple Leafs went toe-to-toe with the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions. It went to a Game 7 and you could’ve argued that it should be tied after the third period. Fans from each team deserved another stressful overtime, like in Game 6.
As hard as Toronto fought for every inch of that ice, the Lightning fought just as hard, even after losing a key player like Brayden Point.
This isn’t a matter of sitting back and thinking about what’s wrong with this team — nothing is wrong — the Maple Leafs are an incredible team. If they ended up beating the Lightning, I wouldn’t be surp …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

The bats remain quiet as the Blue Jays drop yet another series

The Blue Jays will have a day off on Monday for the first time in three weeks. That’s a good thing because this is a team that looks like it could use an off day.

After getting completely shut down by the Yankees earlier this week, the Blue Jays rolled into Cleveland to play the Guardians in what was viewed as a soft spot at the end of a very difficult schedule.
Cleveland unfortunately didn’t lay down the welcome mat. Instead, they took three of four in an incredibly frustrating series that featured multiple opportunities left on the table.
Jose Berrios struggled on Friday and the bats mounted a comeback but it came up short as the team went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. The bats exploded for eight runs in the first half of Saturday’s doubleheader, which was obviously more than enough for Kevin Gausman, but they went away again in the nightcap as the Blue Jays managed just four hits. Sunday seemed like a win as Alek Manoah was going up against some call-up making a spot start, but, after a loud first inning, the bats went limp. The bullpen would come undone late in the game and Cleveland stole a very winnable game.
The offence, or, well lack thereof, i …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Pre-Series Notes: Teoscar Hernandez is likely to return as the Blue Jays head to Cleveland

Fresh off of their first series loss of the season, the Blue Jays will head to Cleveland to face a team that didn’t make the playoffs in 2021 for the first time in two weeks.

Cleveland is 11-13 on the season, tied for second in the hilariously bad Central Division with the Chicago White Sox. Looking at the Guardians’ wins this season, a good chunk of them have come against weak opponents. They split a four-gamer with Kansas City, they swept a two-game set with the Reds, and they swept both the White Sox and A’s. The White Sox are really the only strong team in there and they aren’t anywhere close to rolling yet. On the flip side, Cleveland was swept by the Yankees, Angels, and Giants.
While Cleveland is generally known to be a team with elite pitching and a limp offence, that hasn’t been the case this year. The Guardians are below league average with a 3.91 ERA and they’re fifth in baseball in runs per game with 4.62. Jose Ramirez is leading the way with a .318/.419/.659 slash line and seven homers, but Cleveland has four more players (Owen Miller, Josh Naylor, Andres Gimenez, and Steven Kwan) who are batting .325 or higher.
One of the advantages Toro …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Adding Jason Spezza to the lineup gives the Leafs a spark and changes the identity of the fourth line

This first game of the series saw Kyle Clifford take an unnecessary penalty and subsequent suspension. Game Two saw Wayne Simmonds take two penalties that resulted in the Lightning scoring on the powerplay. While this has been going on Jason Spezza has been patiently (or impatiently) watching and waiting for his opportunity to come in, and while Clifford’s suspension will be over and there’s the potential for the Leafs to try the fourth line they wanted in Game One, it’s far more beneficial to go with Spezza.
Part of the appeal of having Spezza come in is he is the rallying cry for why there is a sense of urgency about the Leafs winning this season. Spezza, at 38, is in win-now mode even if the Leafs aren’t otherwise feeling much pressure. The fact that Jason is just 5 points off from 1000 likely means he’ll be back in the NHL next season to hit that milestone, but it feels like this is at the very least his second last chance at it, and the best chance to add value.
Spezza coming would also allow for the Leafs to give their second power play unit a different look, and potentially with Jason lining up at center on …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

BJN Radio – Ep. 73: Yusei Kikuchi’s best start as a Blue Jay salvages a difficult series against the Yankees

For the first time all season, the Blue Jays have lost a series.

The Yankees rolled into town on a nine-game heater and proved, well, why they’re on a nine-game heater. New York took the first two games of the series with ridiculously effective pitching and some clutch hitting and then the Blue Jays edged out a win in the finale to save themselves from the sweep.
Me and BK talked about why the bats are struggling, whether or not adding Teoscar Hernandez will be the shot of life the bats need, and what Yusei Kikuchi did differently in the best start of his season. We also talked about the possibility of Josh Bell becoming a Blue Jay and looked ahead to the four-game series coming up in Cleveland.
You can listen to the episode here…

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Kevin Gausman’s elite splitter is reaching new heights of success

Through the first month of the 2022 season, starter Kevin Gausman has been worth every cent for the Toronto Blue Jays thus far. And he’s only getting better.
Over the off-season, Gausman left the west coast to sign a five-year, $110-million contract with the Blue Jays. At the time, most fans were upset the team had replaced the 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner, Robbie Ray –  who later agreed to a similar five-year, $115-million contract with the Seattle Mariners.
But early on, it’s probably safe to say Toronto made the correct decision. It likely wasn’t easy to make, although it’s certainly benefited them this season.
Making an instant impact, Gausman has excelled across his first five starts, posting a 2.27 ERA and a 0.49 FIP through 31 2/3 innings. In addition, the 31-year-old has also recorded 41 strikeouts, earning him a career-best 33.6 per cent strikeout rate. A pretty strong start to his tenure north of the border.
Though, the most impressive aspect of his performance has been what he hasn’t allowed, which are any walks or home runs. He’s one of just two pitchers to accomplish this spectacular feat through the first five starts to open a season.

Pitchers since 1903 to begin a season with 5 straight starts of 0 BB and 0 HR allowed (min. 20 IP):
Cy Young (Yes, that …

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays Nation

Jake Muzzin scores the first goal of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Toronto Maple Leafs have scored the first goal of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Fittingly, it was 2014 Stanley Cup champion Jake Muzzin who beat Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy from distance to give the Leafs a 1–0 lead late in the first period of Monday’s Game 1 at Scotiabank Arena.
Muzzin’s 10th career playoff goal came at the 18:19 mark of the opening frame and was assisted by Ondrej Kase and Ilya Mikheyev.
With the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes still locked in a scoreless draw early in the second period of their Game 1, Muzzin’s goal was the first scored by an NHL team in the 2022 post-season.

MUZZIN OPENS THE SCORING! pic.twitter.com/vNHhQBSa4F
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) May 3, 2022

Muzzin, 33, scored three goals and 14 points in 47 regular-season games this season, his fourth as a member of the Maple Leafs. In 66 career playoff contests, Muzzin has 10 goals and 26 points.
The 6’3″, 222-lb. left-handed defenceman amassed 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 26 games with the Kings en route to winning the 2014 Stanley Cup over the New York Rangers.
After an excellent period which saw them successfully kill a five-minute major penalty to Kyle Clifford, the Leafs lead the Lightning 1–0 in the second intermission. Toronto outshot Tampa Bay 8–5 in the first 20 minutes of play.
More from TheLeafsNation.com
Getting Jack Campbell ready for the playoffs was top ‘priority’ for Maple Leafs, now he has to deliver by David Alter
Do we have the passion? Here are The Leafs Nation playoff prognostications by Jon Steitzer
Maple Leafs vs. Lightning: Who has the advantage on special teams? by Mark Norman
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Author: Mike Gould / The Leafs Nation

BJN Radio – Ep. 71: Another series win against the Red Sox, praise for The Big Man, and more!

The Blue Jays just continue to win games!

They won the first game of the series thanks to a Bo Bichette grand slam, an epic comeback highlighted by a George Springer Dinger highlighted the second game, and then, after getting spanked in the third game, Alek Manoah came out and tossed seven scoreless en route to a 1-0 victory.
The bats might not be rolling just yet but the pitching certainly is!
We talked on this episode of BJN Radio about the excellence of The Big Man, Alek Manoah, and how he’s exceeded anybody’s wildest expectations early in his career. We also talked about Gausman’s insane start to his season, as he still hasn’t walked a guy through his first four outings.
We also talked about the struggling offence, if there’s any reason to panic, and how the ball seems to be different this year than in previous years. Finally, we looked ahead to another series with the Houston Astros this weekend, in which we avoid the possibility of a third Justin Verlander no-hitter in Toronto.
You can listen to the episode here…

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation