After a poor start in Game 4, the Maple Leafs need better from everyone, including John Tavares

TAMPA, Fla. — John Tavares is well aware that his offensive play hasn’t been up to par.
And although some production from the captain probably wouldn’t have been enough to stave off the onslaught put forth by the Tampa Bay Lighting on Sunday, the embarrassing 7-3 loss has put the spotlight on the team’s leader as the first-round, best-of-seven playoff series has suddenly become a best-of-three.
“Obviously I’d like to create more and generate more,” Tavares said. “You just got to continue to keep working and competing and understand the responsibility you have by playing against the guys you are playing.”
Tavares’ play at even strength has been a source of much scrutiny throughout the regular season. Through 79 games, he finished sixth in team scoring with 39 even-strength points (15 goals, 24 assists). And while that isn’t nothing, it’s not what they’ve come to expect from the player they signed back in 2018 to a seven-year, $77 million contract on Jul. 1, 2018.
But he’s had the chance to redeem himself in the playoffs. While he’s been great in winning face-offs (71 per cent) and has some progress from a defensive standpoint, his inability to generate much offence through four games against the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champ …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs may reunite John Tavares and William Nylander on the second line for the playoffs

Although there were times when the duo of John Tavares and William Nylander have struggled to score at even strength this season, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe let it be known on Thursday that he was looking at possibly reuniting the skilled forwards on the team’s second line for at least one look before the playoffs begin.
“We’re looking that way here now but we’ll see who is available to us,” Keefe said following the team’s first full practice since Apr. 15. “We’ve got (Michael) Bunting, we’ve got (Ondrej) Kase and all these (injury) things that do impact the lineup that do impact some of the decision I might make.”
During Tuesday’s 3-0 win against the Detroit Red Wings, Keefe reunited the pair after Tavares initially started the game with Nick Robertson, who was called up for the contest earlier in the day on an emergency basis.
Tavares with Nylander has always been Keefe’s preferred second line duo, but there have been moments this season that forced change.
First there was the 2-4-1 slump to start the season. That forced Keefe to shake things up offensively by swapping Marner and Nylander to play with different centres. Once the ship was righted on that front, Nylander and Tavares ska …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

The Maple Leafs should really trade for a top 6 forward

It’s no secret that the combination of John Tavares and William Nylander has been struggling recently at 5V5. Although, the duo did look better in the team’s last game against the Capitals. Alex Kerfoot has been the third member of that line most of this season. In fact, Kerfoot has been the most common third member of that line ever since he joined the Leafs in 2019/2020. It’s not that Kerfoot is bad, he’s a very versatile player. His ability to play the wing and middle of the ice up or down in the lineup is a huge asset. I just can’t help but look at his spot in the top six as an area the Maple Leafs could improve. Here are Tavares and Nylander’s numbers with and without Kerfoot the last three seasons.

With or without Kerfoot, it’s disappointing to see any combination of Tavares and Nylander only either tie or outscore opponents 33-31 at 5V5 over a three-year sample. Especially when you consider that line is mostly getting secondary matchups with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner drawing most of the attention. What stands out most to me is the on-ice shooting percentage without Kerfoot this season. As far as what the cause of that may be, it could be a number of factors. What I can say for sure is that Kerfoot is definitely not the best passer or shooter on that line.
Tavares may not be what he was in his first season with the Leafs when he scored 47 goals. But are we supposed to believe he’s faded as a goal scorer? Out of 275 forwards to play at least 500 minutes at 5V5 this season, Tavares ranks 11th in individual xG …

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Author: Stephen Brown / The Leafs Nation

John Tavares did everything but score in Maple Leafs win over Capitals

WASHINGTON – At one point, all John Tavares could do is look to the high heavens.
The Toronto Maple Leafs captain was all over the ice when a third-period scoring chance ended in a huge save from Washington Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek.
He didn’t score on Monday and extended his career-worst goal drought to 13 games, but picked up a pair of assists, including one on the game-winner as the Maple Leafs defeated the Capitals 5-3 at Capital One Arena.
“I thought he was really good today,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said of Tavares after the game. “He looks to me like a guy ready to break out here so it’s really good.”
Tavares missed the team’s last practise on Friday with an illness that had spread throughout the team. The captain admitted earlier before the game that he was still fighting it off.
And when he wasn’t battling that, he had Capitals tough guy Tom Wilson all over him in a very physical contest between the two clubs.

Oh Tom Wilson pic.twitter.com/9P2DGB7RSj
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) March 1, 2022

There was also the last-minute adjustment of linemates.
Ondrej Kase, who was expected to skate with the line, missed the game with an undisclosed ailment. He’s day-to-day, according to Keefe.
That reunited Tavares and William Nylander with Alex Kerfoot, and the trio connected on the team’s second goal of the game late in the first period to reclaim a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Michael Bunting was able to assist in matching some of Washington’s physicality, although he did take a pair of minor penalties for his efforts. He kickstarted Toronto’s offence with an early goal …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Tavares and Kerfoot entering COVID protocol leads to Leafs cancelling practice

The unfortunate has finally happened for the Leafs. John Tavares and Alexander Kerfoot have been placed in COVID-19 protocol. And because of that, Toronto has cancelled their scheduled practice in Vancouver.

Forwards Alexander Kerfoot and John Tavares have been placed into the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
For precautionary reasons, today’s practice in Vancouver has been cancelled.https://t.co/rP27ClVJVN
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 17, 2021

“Maple Leafs players and traveling staff were tested yesterday in Vancouver and the club was informed of the testing results early Friday morning.” Said the Leafs’ media release. “All players and traveling staff will undergo additional testing today.”
This comes a day before the Leafs are supposed to take on the Vancouver Canucks — another team who has players in COVID-19 protocol.
Two of the NHL’s eight games on Saturday have been postponed (Wild vs. Panthers, Avalanche vs. Lightning). As the number of players on the COVID list continue to rise, there’s a possibility that more games are postponed, including the Leafs’ Saturday night game.
 

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

WATCH: Nasty Tavares touch pass leads to breakaway goal for Nylander in San Jose

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares deftly set up a beautiful goal by William Nylander early in the first period of Friday’s game against the San Jose Sharks.

Nylander’s goal came less than a minute into regulation time on the first shot of the game by either team. He entered the Sharks’ defensive zone all alone after receiving the puck off a touch pass from Tavares at the blue line.
Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly led the charge with the puck out of his own zone. Erik Karlsson managed to swipe the puck away from Rielly at the red line but inadvertently sent it on a path towards Tavares, who gave it a nearly imperceptible tap with his stick to send it on course ahead of Nylander.
Nylander was able to skate into possession of the puck and deposited it past a sprawling James Reimer for his eighth goal of the season. Tavares and Rielly picked up the helpers. Here’s the video of the play, as posted to Twitter by the official Toronto Maple Leafs account:

Willy with the tuck #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/C2mJoYEs7y
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) November 27, 2021

Wayne Simmonds, Auston Matthews, and Tavares …

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Author: Mike Gould / The Leafs Nation

TLN Top 20 Leafs: #4 John Tavares

To say last year didn’t end how John Tavares wanted it to is probably the biggest understatement I could make. After captaining the Leafs to a division title, there was a lot of hope heading into the post season, and while the Leafs didn’t make it out of the first round, a freak accident meant Tavares didn’t make it out of the first period of Game One, and while disappointing, the only thought that comes to mind about Tavares is that it could have been so much worse and the fact that he’s back at 100% to start the 2021-22 season is one of the reasons for hope this year.
Like the next three Leafs on our list, Tavares was exclusively ranked at the top of the Leafs list. Some three rankings, some four rankings, a couple of fives from our contributors that value defense and goaltender, but for me Tavares is the 2nd best Leaf (I’ll leave you to guess who’s #1.) My ranking, like I’d hope most of our contributors rankings was based in person preference, and for me I’ll take a center over a winger any day, and I think round …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Stop the slander, John Tavares is absolutely worth his contract

When John Tavares signed his seven-year, $77-million contract on July 1, 2018, fans across the nation were ecstatic. The Leafs landed the biggest fish in free agency that year. The “rebuild” phase of the team’s ascent from the ashes of the old regime was over, the team now had bonafide superstars, plural, and were poised to become contenders.
Now, three seasons and a pretty significant shift in the status quo of the planet Earth later, a small but growing and very vocal minority of the fanbase want to get rid of the team’s captain. Some of their main arguments against Tavares and his contract being that “he’s not worth $11 million per season,” “they didn’t need another scoring forward,” and “it’s too much for a player who’s already past his prime.”
And the people saying these things are objectively wrong.
Let’s start with the obvious: as a Maple Leaf, Tavares has 92 goals and 198 total points in 201 regular season games. He is quite literally just under a point per game and has been top three in team scoring during each of his seasons with the team. This is not a player who is past his prime with …

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Author: Dylan Murphy / The Leafs Nation

John Axford has been traded to Milwaukee for cash

The dream of John Axford going from the studio to the pitching mound with the Blue Jays in one season is now dead.

The team announced on Monday that the veteran righty had been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for cash considerations.

#BlueJays announce they’ve traded John Axford to the Brewers for cash
— Kaitlyn McGrath (@kaitlyncmcgrath) August 2, 2021

Though he hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2018, the year he was with the Blue Jays and then got traded to the L.A. Dodgers, Axford performed quite well for the Triple-A Bisons. Through 11 2/3 innings, Axford allowed just one earned run on three this and three walks while striking out 15.
The challenge for Axford is the Blue Jays’ 40- and 26-man roster crunch.
Given he’s on a minor-league deal, the Blue Jays would have either had to DFA somebody or move somebody to the 60-day Injured List to make room for Axford. The team designated Joel Payamps, Nick Allgeyer, T.J. Zeuch, Jonathan Davis, and Tyler Chatwood in the month of July and it isn’t easy to find another name to cut in favour of a 38-year-old pitcher who may or may not be effective.
The …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Josh Axford has been traded to Milwaukee for cash

The dream of John Axford going from the studio to the pitching mound with the Blue Jays in one season is now dead.

The team announced on Monday that the veteran righty had been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for cash considerations.

#BlueJays announce they’ve traded John Axford to the Brewers for cash
— Kaitlyn McGrath (@kaitlyncmcgrath) August 2, 2021

Though he hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2018, the year he was with the Blue Jays and then got traded to the L.A. Dodgers, Axford performed quite well for the Triple-A Bisons. Through 11 2/3 innings, Axford allowed just one earned run on three this and three walks while striking out 15.
The challenge for Axford is the Blue Jays’ 40- and 26-man roster crunch.
Given he’s on a minor-league deal, the Blue Jays would have either had to DFA somebody or move somebody to the 60-day Injured List to make room for Axford. The team designated Joel Payamps, Nick Allgeyer, T.J. Zeuch, Jonathan Davis, and Tyler Chatwood in the month of July and it isn’t easy to find another name to cut in favour of a 38-year-old pitcher who may or may not be effective.
The …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation