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

Report from the Rock: Local talent powers Growlers through first playoff series

With all eyes on the NHL playoffs, another team in the Maple Leafs organization has just punched their ticket to the second round.
It was a hard-fought battle that took the full seven games, but the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers ultimately emerged victorious in the opening round of the playoffs against their Canadian rivals from Quebec, the Trois-Rivieres Lions.
“Relieved,” said head coach Eric Wellwood when asked how he was feeling after Game 7. “It was nice to have those nerves again. But yeah, it’s a nice relief. I think the boys deserved that win.”
Home cooking rewards early and often
The series began at home on Friday, April 22, and defenceman Matt Hellickson (who recently re-signed with the Marlies for next season,) got the Growlers’ first goal of the playoffs, assisted by defenceman-turned-forward Riley McCourt.
Trois-Rivieres stormed back and took the lead with two quick goals before the first period ended, but an offensive outburst from the team’s top forward line, including a four-point night from alternate captain and team MVP Zach O’Brien, led the Growlers to a 7-4 victory.
“Every shift in every game means so much,” said O’Brien. “I always try and play well in the regular season as well. But when playoffs start, everyone just wants to elevate their game that much more. And this is why we play, this is the most fun part of the season.”
Wellwood had lots of praise for his team’s MVP after Game 1.
“He ca …

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Author: Dylan Murphy / The Leafs Nation

Leafs’ Kyle Clifford to have a hearing for Game 1 Boarding call (Simmonds fined)

It’s just not the playoffs without the Department of Player Safety getting involved. Kyle Clifford made sure they had a chance to get involved in the Leafs series early.

Toronto’s Kyle Clifford will have a hearing today for Boarding Tampa Bay’s Ross Colton.
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) May 3, 2022

Here is the hit in question…

Kyle Clifford has received a major and game misconduct for boarding on his hit on Ross Colton. #LeafsForever | #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/HS4FKaQYjh
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 2, 2022

As mentioned in the Sportsnet tweet, Kyle Clifford had the in-game book thrown at him already with being assessed a five minute major and a game misconduct. The lack of Clifford didn’t really slow the Leafs down, and killing off his five minute penalty seemed to be the spark that energized the Leafs as well. That said, it was a pretty dirty hit and the fact that he’s got a call today isn’t really surprising.
The Department of Player Safety will likely consider some of the time served given that it was a game misconduct in the first period. The DoPS also tends to be slightly more lenient in the playoffs, and Colton was able to stay in the game, so who knows what he’ll get. With the Leafs it never seems to just be a fine.
Clifford missing a game opens the door for Jason Spezza to come back into the lineup, something that many Leafs fans wanted in the first place. With the potential for some escalation in the hitting clean or otherwise, the Leafs might end up missing Clifford though. Although it’s not like they had him for much of Game 1 either.
Additionally, Wayne Simmonds picked up a fine for his part in the scrum with the Lightning…

Toronto’s Wayne Simmonds has been fined $2,250, the maximum allowable under the CBA, for Unsportsmanlike Conduct during last night’s game against Tampa Bay.
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) May 3, 2022

If the Simmonds fine (along with the Maroon and …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Game #1: The highly-anticipated Maple Leafs and Lightning series begins tonight

The playoffs are finally here.
After a few days with no games, the highly-anticipated series between the Maple Leafs and Lightning begins tonight.
This series is the most-anticipated of all the playoff matchups in the NHL right now and it’ll likely deliver as being one of the best (maybe) seven games that we’ve had in recent memory.
You’ve got players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander on one side. And on the other there’s Steve Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Victor Hedman.
It’s a head-to-head that’s likely going to be either a chess match or a firework show.
“It’s about time we met in the playoffs.” Said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper after their final practice ahead of Monday’s game.
Line Combinations
Ondrej Kase will return to the Maple Leafs lineup for game one of the playoffs. It will be his first game back since suffering a concussion on March 19th.

#Leafs lines during practice May 1/22
Kerfoot-Matthews-Marner Mikheyev-Tavares-KaseNylander-Kampf-EngvallClifford-Blackwell-SimmondsExtra: Bunting, Spezza https://t.co/C3li6dSGwx
— David Alter (@dalter) May 1, 2022

Michael Bunting will not return to the lineup for the first game of the series. He’s out with an undisclosed injury, but has been taking part in full practices with the Maple Leafs.
Another player that’s out will be Jason Spezza. He’ll be one of Toronto’s scratches for game one against the Lightning. Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe discussed the difficult conversation he had with Spezza after Monday’s morning skate.

Sheldon Keefe, on the decision to scratch Jason Spezza for Game 1. pic.twitter.com/UO0ZwVjozL
— David Alter (@dalter) May 2, 2022

Another player looking for a cup late in his career is Wayne Simmonds and he had some words on Toronto’s cup drought before Monday’s game.

Simmonds on Toronto Cup drought: “I th …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Leafs Prospect Roundup: Marlies eliminated, Growlers look to close out first round series, NCAA transfer portal

Nobody tell Jim Mora, it’s time for the playoffs! The Toronto Maple Leafs begin their first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, but before we get to the rest of our series preview content here on The Leafs Nation, it’s your weekly Leafs prospect roundup as more and more of Toronto’s prospects have their seasons come to an end.
We do have a couple of news items to get to in this one regarding two prospects entering the NCAA transfer portal, but we begin this week’s edition with the biggest headline of the week in the Toronto Marlies failure to make the playoffs.
Toronto Marlies
As outlined last week, the Marlies needed to capture four out of six possible points to guarantee themselves a spot in the 2022 Calder Cup playoffs. They recorded three heading into their final game of the year and with Rochester’s win on Friday, the Marlies had to at least force overtime to make the postseason.
They fell 5-2 to the Belleville Senators instead.

Final. #MarliesLive pic.twitter.com/mU9YVv9Lht
— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) April 30, 2022

It was a difficult season for the Marlies. Young players were thrust into major roles to varying degrees of success and players in significant positions missed lengthy spells due to injury. Those two factors don’t usually combine to result in a playoff team.
Still, given the Marlies resources and expanded AHL playoff format, a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs is the bare minimum and the 2021/22 Marlies failed to reach that expectation.
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev and Mikhail Abramov were tasked with leading the way down the middle with little professional experience to lean on, a …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

The most optimal lineup for the Maple Leafs heading into the playoffs

One game remaining until the NHL playoffs begin, are you ready?
With a final game against the Boston Bruins, it allows the Maple Leafs to do a lot of things like gain an extra two points and help Mitch Marner hit the 100-point mark for the first time in his career.
It will also let Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe to tinker with his lines one last time before game one against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Instead of waiting one more game to see what Keefe does with the lineup, I’m going to discuss what Toronto’s optimal lineup should look like ahead of their first round matchup.
The Maple Leafs have tried a number of scenarios with their forward group this season and so they should. There can be injuries that occur at any point and the team wants to know who works with who beforehand so they’re not piecing it together on the fly.
But if I had to pick, how would I design the lines for the first round against the defending Stanley Cup champions?
First line: Bunting-Matthews-Marner
This is — by far — Toronto’s best line this season and with Bunting hopeful to be ready for the playoffs, this has to be the Maple Leafs’ top line …

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Author: Nick Barden / 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 …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Jack Campbell’s improved play is a necessity not a luxury for the Leafs come playoff time

Goaltending in the playoffs is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.
When the Maple Leafs began their season, the plan was to have two healthy goalies in Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek for the playoffs. But, that unfortunately hasn’t been the case this year.
Each goaltender has battled significant injuries this season. Mrazek has endured multiple groin injuries and is sidelined for the foreseeable future while Campbell has his fair share of bumps and bruises too.
So, Toronto is entering the playoffs, likely against the Tampa Bay Lightning with Jack Campbell and Erik Kallgren as their two netminders.
You can look at that from a ton of different sides, really.
The first side is, well, if Campbell gets hurt, then Kallgren has to come into replace him. Looking at Kallgren’s numbers since joining the Maple Leafs back in March, he’s got an .886 save percentage over the span of 13 games. Realistically, you’d hope he’s not needed to come in for any games, especially after giving up eight goals to the team they’re likely going to face in the first round just the other night.
But like I said at the beginning of the article, you never know what you’re going to get. Goaltending is voodoo and any …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Who do you want the Maple Leafs to face in the first round?

It’s almost time for the playoffs which means the fun of guessing who the Maple Leafs will play in the first round of the post-season.
As it currently stands with Florida taking the Atlantic Division into their own hands, Toronto will likely be put up against the Boston Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning. Fun, right?
The more the season goes on, the higher the chance it seems that the Maple Leafs will take on the defending Stanley Cup champions. However, there’s still a chance they can still face their (believed to be) kryptonite.
With all of that being said, we put the TLN writers to the test and asked: Who would you like the Leafs to face in the first round of the playoffs?
Ryan Hobart:
For me it’s definitely the Bruins. I know that the Lightning have been pretty quiet this season, even with Kucherov mostly healthy. It’s probably a lot harder to put yourself in top mental shape for the regular season coming off of two Cup wins. I think they’re going to turn the jets on when the playoffs start and they can go for that three …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

3 critical X-factors that will impact Toronto Raptors in playoffs

3 critical X-factors that will impact Toronto Raptors in playoffs

The Toronto Raptors are likely headed back to the NBA playoffs in 2022 after a one-season hiatus in 2021. Pending an extended losing streak, the Raptors are on the verge of an above .500 season and less than a handful of victories away from officially securing a playoff berth. Even though Nick Nurse’s team is […]
3 critical X-factors that will impact Toronto Raptors in playoffs – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Jason Mills / Raptors HQ