Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews nominated for Hart Trophy following franchise-record breaking season

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews has been nominated for the 2022 Hart Memorial Trophy, handed out annually to the most valuable player in the NHL.
Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid and New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin were also named finalists. The award is voted on annually by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
The announcement of the nominees came Thursday morning, hours before the Maple Leafs were set to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series.
Matthews won his second Maurice “Rocket’ Trophy, becoming the first player to reach 60 since Tampa Bay Lighting forward Steven Stamkos accomplished the feat during the 2011-12 season.
He also set a new franchise record for goals in a season, eclipsing Rick Vaive’s 54 goals scored in 1981-82
The Scottsdale, Arizona native also set new career highs in assists (46) and points (106).
Matthews finished second in voting last season while McDavid took the top honour. No Toronto Maple Leafs player has won the Hart Trophy since Ted Kennedy for his performance during the 1954-55 season.
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Michael Bunting to make Maple Leafs playoff debut against Lightning in Game 2

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting will make his NHL playoffs debut when the team hosts the Tampa Bay Lighting in Game 2 of their first-round series.
”I think it will have a positive impact as he has had all season,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said of the forward’s return. “He’s an important part of our top line and he makes us a deeper group.”
Bunting took part in his first full practice with the team on Tuesday, just one day after the Maple Leafs took the opening game of the series 5-0. The 26-year-old didn’t disclose the nature of his injury, however he was seen shaking out his right leg when he departed in the first period of the Leafs’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers on Apr. 23.
The Scarborough native said he felt good following Tuesday’s practice and was one of a handful of players who took part in Wednesday morning’s optional team skate.
Although many players are dealing with bumps and bruises heading into the playoffs, the Leafs have a full roster of players available to enter the lineup, with the exception of Kyle Clifford, who was suspended for one game for boarding Tampa’s Ross Colton.
On Monday, Ondrej Kase returned to the lineup after mi …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs’ Michael Bunting feels ‘good’ following first practice from injury, status for Game 2 to be determined

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting is inching closer to a return to the lineup and could be an option for Game 2 in the team’s playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.
“I felt good and I felt like my speed was there,” Bunting said of practice. “I’m pretty happy with it.”
Bunting took part in his first full practice with the club since suffering an undisclosed injury on Apr. 23 in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers. The Scarborough native elected to keep the nature of the injury to himself when speaking to the media on Tuesday, but the forward was seen shaking out his right leg when he left in the first period of the aforementioned game against Florida.
”We haven’t made any determination on his status yet, we’ll see how he is when he comes in tomorrow morning and see how it responded from pushing it again today,” Keefe said of Bunting.
The Scarborough native skated in his regular role alongside star forwards Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner at practice on Tuesday. The Leafs fully expect him to return at some point during the first-round series. So long as there isn’t any flare up, …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

WATCH: Kämpf beats Hedman, snipes shorthanded to give Leafs 3–0 lead

Toronto Maple Leafs forward David Kämpf sent the crowd at and outside Scotiabank Arena into a frenzy with a beautiful shorthanded goal in the second period of Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

With less than a minute remaining in an Ilya Mikheyev holding penalty, Kämpf managed to beat Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman in a race to a loose puck in the neutral zone before skating in all alone on opposing goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Czech forward uncorked a heavy wrister that beat Vasilevskiy under his blocker to give Toronto a 3–0 lead. Kämpf’s first playoff goal as a Leaf was unassisted and came at the 9:27 mark of the middle frame.

Solo Kamping trip pic.twitter.com/BOYvKV1jjz
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) May 3, 2022

Kämpf, 27, reached new career highs in goals (11), points (26), and games played (82) in his first season with the Maple Leafs. The former Chicago Blackhawk signed a two-year, $1.5 million-AAV contract to join the Leafs last July.
Off goals by Jake Muzzin, Auston Matthews, and Kämpf, the Leafs lead the back-to-back defending champion Lightning by a 3–0 score late in the second period of Game 1. Muzzin’s tally was the first goal of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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Maple Leafs vs. Lightning: Leafs edge the Lightning when it comes to the forward group

The Leafs can go up against most forward groups in the league and end up feeling pretty good about how they measure up to the opposition. Tampa Bay is one of the few teams in the league that does warrant a bit of a closer look, and depending on which group is clicking at the moment either one of these teams could feel they have the best group.
Given that we’re already pretty familiar with who the Leafs have, let’s start by diving into what makes the Tampa group so special.
From a high end production standpoint it was Steven Stamkos taking the reigns this season from Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. Stamkos found his way over the 40 goal mark again, and crossed the 100 point mark, tying Auston Matthews for 6th in the league in scoring at 106 points, albeit Stamkos played 81 games.
Looking at who is next on the weapons list you have Nikita Kucherov who missed a substantial amount of time again this season and was held to just 69 nice points. The interesting aspect there is he put up those numbers in just 47 games. If he had been healthy he would have been scoring at a McDavid pace.
The next player …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Auston Matthews set to for Maple Leafs following three-game absence with undisclosed injury

SUNRISE, Fla. — Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews will return to the lineup when his team visits the Florida Panthers on Saturday.
”I’m excited to get back in,” Matthews confirmed. “It’s obviously a very important game for us.”
Matthews missed the last three games with an undisclosed injury. The forward said it occurred in his last game played against the Ottawa Senators on last week.
”It was just an awkward little collision,” Matthews said. “Nothing too crazy, I just kind of put myself in a bit of an awkward spot that just kind of caught me.
With four games remaining in the regular season, Matthews currently sits at 58 goals and is just two away from becoming the first player to hit the 60-goal plateau since Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos hit that mark during the 2011-12 season.
The Leafs begin a set of games in back-to-back nights as they visit the Washington Capitals on Sunday. There was some thought about holding Matthews out the lineup until Sunday, but the player was insistent on returning to action on Saturday.
”Just like we would for any other player coming off injury we’ll see how we get through today then make a determination from there.” Keefe said.
The exact nature of Matthews’ injury was nev …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews to miss third straight game with undisclosed injury

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews will sit out for the third consecutive game with an undisclosed injury when his team visits the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Thursday.
Matthews took part in the team’s optional skate Thursday morning, which later turned into a full skate with everybody on the trip taking part.
“He’s really close,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said of Matthews’ status. “He’s out on the ice, he’s getting his touches and all that but we’re in a similar place to where we were a couple of days ago. It’s not making any sense to put him in the lineup at this point.”
Matthews was held out of the team’s last two games and Keefe didn’t want to disclose the nature of his star’s injury citing the minor status of the ailment and the secrecy that comes close to playoffs time. However, Keefe did reveal following the team’s 5-2 win against the Phildelphia Flyers on Tuesday that the injury is something the player hasn’t dealt with before.
The 24-year-old dealt with a wrist injury that he had surgically repaired in the offseason. That forced him to miss t …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

WATCH: Marner ties career high in points against Islanders

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner continued on his torrid pace late in the first period of Sunday’s game against the New York Islanders.

The 24-year-old winger chipped the rebound of a Mark Giordano shot past Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin to tie the game at 1–1 with 2:29 remaining in the opening frame. Michael Bunting also assisted on Marner’s career-high 34th goal of the season, which coincidentally came without the Leafs’ No. 34 in the lineup.
Marner has been a dominant force for the Maple Leafs since the calendar flipped over to 2022, leading the entire National Hockey League with 73 points (28 goals, 45 assists) in 42 games since New Years’ Day.
Back in 2018–19, Marner set a new career high with 94 points in 82 games; this season, he has 94 points in 67 contests.

Point number 94 (tying career-high) on the year for Mitchy! 🪄 pic.twitter.com/BJll3klpfA
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) April 18, 2022

Marner’s goal came just over three minutes after Anthony Beauvillier opened the scoring for the Islanders with his 12th goal of the season. The Maple Leafs and Islanders both recorded nine shots in the first period.
With just six games after Sunday’s contest remaining on the Leafs’ 2021–22 regular-season schedule, Marner needs just six more points to join teammate Auston Matthews in the century club. Connor McDavid, Jonathan Huberdeau, Leon Draisaitl, and Johnny Gaudreau have also recorded 100 points this season.
The Maple Leafs have never had multiple 100-point scorers in a single season. Only three players in the history of the club have ever reached that plateau:
Darryl Sittler: 100 in 1975–76, 117 in 1977–78
Doug Gilmour: 127 in 1992–93, 111 in 1993–94
Auston Matthews: 102 (and counting) in 2021–22
Josh Bailey scored early in the second period to give the Islanders …

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Author: Mike Gould / The Leafs Nation

WATCH: Marner hits 30-goal plateau for first time in NHL, scores 31st just seconds later

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner is officially a 30-goal scorer in the NHL.
The 24-year-old winger scored two goals just 37 seconds apart to give his team the lead early in the second period against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

Marner got the party started 30 seconds into the period with one of the prettiest goals the Leafs have scored all year. The star winger danced past Panthers defenceman MacKenzie Weegar in the neutral zone before undressing goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for his 30th goal of the 2021–22 season.
The unassisted goal gave the Maple Leafs a 2–1 advantage and elevated Marner to the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his National Hockey League career. Entering this season, Marner’s previous career-best was 26 goals (achieved in 82 games during the 2018–19 season).

Houdini’s muse: Mitch Marner 🪄 pic.twitter.com/dJmW39u0Fe
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) April 6, 2022

Marner picked up his 31st goal of the season at the 1:07 mark of the middle frame with the Maple Leafs on their third power play of the game.
After Panthers defenceman Ben Chiarot was called for interference, the Leafs went to work in the offensive zone and capitalized just 16 seconds into their 5-on-4 advantage. Marner took an east-west pass from Auston Matthews at the right circle and quickly snapped a shot past Bobrovsky to give the Leafs a 3–1 lead.
Matthews and John Tavares picked up the helpers on Marner’s second goal of the game.

MAGIC MITCH! pic.twitter.com/oqDjNU9FzS
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) April 6, 2022

Colin Blackwell scored 57 seconds after Marner’s second goal to put the Leafs up 4–1. Jake Muzzin added another goal …

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Author: Mike Gould / The Leafs Nation

Wayne Simmonds to play against Winnipeg Jets over Colin Blackwell as veteran Maple Leafs forward aims to play better

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds wasn’t happy when head coach Sheldon Keefe elected to sit the veteran forward on Nov. 13 against the Buffalo Sabres on the second night of back-to-back games.
“First time in 14 years in the league I’ve been a healthy scratch so it was definitely a tough pill to swallow,” Simmonds told reporters four days later.
The veteran was consistently in the team’s lineup after that scratch until this month, when he has dressed for just three games in a span of 17 days.
“Naturally you get upset and you look for answers on what you can do to be better,” Simmonds said. “For myself, I know I’ve got to play better, so that’s up to me and that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
On Thursday, Simmonds will re-enter the lineup when the team hosts the Winnipeg Jets and it comes at the expense of forward Colin Blackwell, who scored his first goal as a Leaf in a 6-4 win against the Boston Bruins.
“Blackwell probably played his best game the other night,” Keefe said. “I wanted to get these three veteran guys a chance to come right back in and play a hard and competitive game against a team where those three guys played and it d …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation