The best thing for John Tavares might be to play wing, but that opens up a big hole at center

Last fall I might have been a bit premature in beating the “move John Tavares to wing” drum, and to some extent, a 76 point in 79 game season points to JT doing just fine at center this year so I’ll accept that we weren’t quite there yet. Now things have changed a little. Most significantly there was a spike in GA/60 against the Tavares line this season. There was a notable trend upwards on xGA/60, and a modest increase in CA/60 as well. Defensively a step backward was taken. Tavares’ line was also more offensive, but not enough that it balanced out to a favourable goal differential. While high event hockey is by definition fun, and the Tavares line was getting its chances, the outcomes raise some concerns.
There’s also something to be said for the way Tavares plays the center role. He’s never had much in the way of speed or physicality, two hallmarks of what you’d hope to put in the center of the ice, but his smarts and positi …

Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Raptors select quality shooting guard in 2022 NBA Mock Draft

Raptors select quality shooting guard in 2022 NBA Mock Draft

The NBA Draft Lottery was officially consummated last night, as the Orlando Magic were given the top selection in the 2022 NBA Draft. Now that the dust has settled, the NBA Mock Draft prognosticators have started to figure out which players would make sense for the Toronto Raptors. In possession of the No. 33 overall […]
Raptors select quality shooting guard in 2022 NBA Mock Draft – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

Read More

Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Is this time different? A confidence check on the Maple Leafs

Last night for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, I decided to rewatch Avengers: Infinity War. The opening scene where Loki is stating his case for returning to earth seemed particularly relevant to the Leafs in game seven:

Anyway, here we are. I feel like if you didn’t think we’d end up at Game Seven in this series you were lying to yourself, but the biggest question now is about how confident we feel in the Leafs ability to close it out. It’s been easy to say “this time is different” and to be honest it has been. The Leafs are healthier, their stars are producing more, and suspensions haven’t factored in. The Leafs are more ready for this game than they’ve been for any previous series, but there is another difference and that’s the Tampa Bay Lightning. They are a better team. They are healthier than they’ve been all season, and they’ve won the Stanley Cup the past two seasons.
With all that considered, the question I posed to the TLN crew was: “How confident are you that the Leafs WILL win game seven, and why?” Here are the responses:
Dylan Murphy:
They can and they will. That sentence has been meme’d to death, but this time, it’s right. I’m dreading the game and the pain it will bring should something go wrong with every fibre of my being, and I’m mad that it’s even happening because if not for truly incompetent officiating, the Leafs would’ve won it in 6, but here we are, on …

Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs vs. Lightning series numbers are concerning and encouraging, depending on which numbers you mean

Last night, I imagine that we all ecstatically saw the Maple Leafs take their second win of the four they need against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 2-1 series lead is critical, according to Hockey-Reference, teams who go up 2-1 in a series while away have a 70.9% chance of winning the series, compared to 55.4% after they lose game 2 at home.
Moneypuck has actual team-based odds, based on the performance so far this season and throughout the playoffs. The Leafs currently have a 77.8% chance of defeating the Lightning and moving on to the second round. Toronto also sits atop the charts for likelihood of winning the Cup right now, at 15.9%, slightly ahead of the Avalanche, who are 2-0 up on the Predators so far.
Clearly, the odds machine at Moneypuck sees the Leafs as a team that is playing well, giving them a ~7% higher chance to win the series than historical odds would say they should have. Let’s look into the numbers in the series so far to see if the excellent regular season performance that is driving those odds is carrying into the playoffs.
Game 1
Some might say that 5-0 is the only stat we need from this game, but even a dominant win like that can show chinks in the armor. If you look at just shot attempts, which is ill advised in a single game, especially …

Read More

Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

A number of Marlies may have played their final games in the Leafs organization

The Marlies’ season came to an end last weekend. It’s a bit disappointing following the number of years that Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe, and even Dallas Eakins before them made the AHL team competitive on the strength of established veterans and a deep prospect pool. Ryan Hardy and Greg Moore have taken a decidedly different approach, and the Marlies have become a development first team and the priority seems to be given to making players ready for their time on the Leafs roster. Arguably this is the right approach, but you’d think a measure of success would still be the team qualifying for the playoffs. They didn’t, but it’s not the end of the world.
With the season coming to an end there is a need to look at the four unrestricted and four restricted free agents that may or may not be part of the Leafs’ organization next season.
The most intriguing name of the group is probably Joseph Duszak. Duszak made the AHL second all-star team, put up 52 points in 61 games, and at 24 seems to be ready to t …

Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Auston Matthews is officially the Rocket Richard winner

We patiently waited until the last regular season game ended to post this in the most accurate fashion, but Auston Matthews is now officially the 2021-22 Rocket Richard winner with his 60 goals.
The feat is even more impressive considering the nine missed games, and leads us to wonder what could have been and what’s coming next year.
The impressive total is a new single season record for the Leafs and it’s only the third time in the 2000s that a player has hit that mark. Matthews hitting the 100 point mark, and being the first Leaf since Doug Gilmour to do that only adds to the impressiveness of the feat, and puts an exclamation mark on a very special season.
To celebrate, here are all 60 of Matthews goals this year.

Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The depth of skill on the Leafs should make life easier for their star offensive talent

The last time the Leafs were in the playoffs it didn’t go so well. This is a statement that seems to ring true every year, but last year seemed to carry with it the highest expectations of a season since the glory days of Pat Quinn. Frankly, the Leafs weren’t supposed to lose, and whether you want to brush it off as Carey Price playing some of the best hockey of his career, or the impact of losing players like Tavares and Muzzin, and others like Hyman and Foligno not being at 100%, the decision is up to you, but with Tavares out of the round due to his injury, and the Canadiens effectively neutralizing the Matthews and Marner line, it really just left William Nylander to carry the load. That didn’t work, and there probably needs to be steps taken to avoid that happening again.
One of the things that perhaps needs to be addressed is that the Canadiens didn’t really shut down the Matthews-Marner-Hyman line. Carey Price did. Ben Chiarot certainly threw some hits, but it didn’t impede Matthews, Hyman, and Marner being 3 of the …

Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The Maple Leafs have become a tougher team to play against

The Maple Leafs are a lot tougher than last season, period.
Looking at the potential matchups for Toronto in the first round, it’s either the Boston Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both teams have been a tough team for the Maple Leafs in the past, but not so much anymore.
There was a lot of discussion about Thursday’s game against Tampa and it had a lot of fans wondering whether Toronto could keep up physically in a seven-game series. I, personally, didn’t feel like the Maple Leafs were pushed around at all.

Blackwell goes for Paul pic.twitter.com/IcD7QUnn5z
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) April 22, 2022

Whenever there were scrums, plenty of players from Toronto weren’t afraid to step in. There was one instance where Wayne Simmonds and Pat Maroon dropped the gloves and the Lightning player ended up not wanting much of a part in the fisticuffs.

Wayne Simmonds and Pat Maroon drop em pic.twitter.com/c5InwQuDmy
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) April 22, 2022

I believe that when you look at the physical battle the Maple Leafs are going to face, you have to wonder how much they’re going to throw their own weight around. There will be players like Mark Giordano, Ilya Lyubushkin, Jake Muzzin, Wayne Simmonds, Kyle Clifford, Auston Matthews, Michael Bunting, and even Mitch Marner using physicality to their advantage.
Marner, in particular, has eight games this season where he’s thrown three or more hits. The 24-year-old has more 3+ hit games this season than he’s had in his previous five year’s combined.
If you can get him throwing the body along with putting up career point totals in the playoffs, another head is added to the monster that is Toronto.
When looking at the Maple Leafs team as a whole, you have the tough, physical players. But the team also has guys who can outmuscle and outbattle the opposing team for the puck and positioning. Some of those players include John Tavares, Pierre Engvall, David Kampf, Ilya Mikheyev, Morgan Rielly, an …

Read More

Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Nick Nurse, Joel Embiid have heated exchange after Raptors loss

Nick Nurse, Joel Embiid have heated exchange after Raptors loss

The Toronto Raptors have spent the last two spurts of game time getting absolutely pummeled into submission by Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers. The first two games of their series have seen Toronto get beat by a combined 35 points, as their much-vaunted defense has eroded. The performance of Embiid might be the biggest […]
Nick Nurse, Joel Embiid have heated exchange after Raptors loss – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

Read More

Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Jake Muzzin’s return means a tough lineup choice for the Maple Leafs

After missing the last month and a half with a concussion, it looks like Jake Muzzin will finally return to the Maple Leafs lineup when they take on the Florida Panthers.
Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe pretty much confirmed it during Monday’s morning skate in Tampa. But with Muzzin entering the lineup, there’s obviously one player who has to come out. And at this point, it’s either Justin Holl or Timothy Liljegren.
Muzzin’s eventual return will likely push TJ Brodie, who’s playing on the left side, back to the right. That, in turn, will push one of Liljegren or Holl out of a spot.
There’s two scenarios that I can go through in this article — who I think deserves to stay in the lineup versus who I think Keefe keeps in the lineup.
I’ll start off with who I believe Keefe will take out of the lineup on Tuesday night, and that’s Liljegren.
During Keefe’s availability on Monday morning, the Maple Leafs’ head coach discussed Toronto’s depth on defence. Keefe went into detail and used Liljegren’s name, but never mentioned Holl.
“Having the ability to have someone like Giordano down in that third pair right now, I think that’s fair to say, that’s as comfortable as we’ve been there,” said Keefe on Mo …

Read More

Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation