Maple Leafs’ respect from Stanley Cup champions provides little consolation for another first-round exit

Now what?
That’s the question the Toronto Maple Leafs are left to answer after falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in Game 7 on Saturday.
After a franchise record 54 wins and 115-point season, the Maple Leafs appeared set to write a new chapter in the playoffs. When they drew the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions as their opening-round opponent, they were eager to measure up against the best.
And despite what was a very close series, the Leafs found themselves on the losing end, again.
Another opening-round playoff defeat.
“At the end of the day, we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to accomplish,” Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said.
It’s the sixth consecutive opening-round exit for a team that hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004 and the pain is compounded by the fact that they held leads 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 in the series, along with many opportunities in the overtime of Game 6 to close it out.
But the champions already have it figured out, while challengers have to find a way.
In the end, they just ran into a better, more-refined version of themselves.
“They’ve got all the pieces,” Lightning forward Steven Stamkos said of the Leafs. “They have everything, it’s just that we have everything, too.”
Heading into Game 7, the Maple Leafs never wavered in their confidence. They came out with a lot of energy, buoyed by a full-capacity Scotiabank Arena crowd, who were treated to their first Game 7 at home since Apr. 20, 2004.
Toronto got out to a great start and had a 5-1 shots advantage before a power play for Tampa in the second half of the first period evened things out.
The Lightning opened the scoring late in the period when Nick Paul picked up a rebound from Ross Colton’s shot for a 1-0 lead.
In the …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

Game #2: The Leafs and Lightning set for the next battle

Game 2 is upon us and the question all across Leafs Nation is pretty simple: can the Maple Leafs put up another performance like the first game?
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper gave the Leafs zero respect for the 5-0 rout in Game 1 of the series, going as far to say “we gave them a freebie” and “I’m not sure the Maple Leafs had to play particularly well to beat us tonight.”
To use a well-worn cliche, those quotes right there? That’s bulletin board material.

Message from Tampa side is that they made it easy on Leafs in Game 1 and mistakes were self-inflicted.
— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) May 3, 2022

So it’s on the Leafs to use that as motivation and come out to play an even stronger game to take all of the oxygen out of this narrative that the Lightning (and certain members of the media) are perpetuating. It won’t be easy, no doubt that Tampa will come out like they’ve been shot out of that dumb cannon the Columbus Blue Jackets fire off, but if the Leafs can weather the initial storm, they’ll have made quite a statement.
Line Combinations
One change to the Leafs’ lineup that is all but guaranteed is the return of Jason Spezza, who will draw back into the lineup as Kyle Clifford serves a one-game suspension.

Clifford will be unavailable to the #leafs for Game 2. https://t.co/MIXWMd1QU3
— David Alter (@dalter) May 3, 2022

( Michael Bunting may also be an option for the Leafs, he skated during prac …

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Author: Dylan Murphy / The Leafs Nation

Do we have the passion? Here are The Leafs Nation playoff prognostications

To answer the question above, yes and no. Some of our writers are very much all in on the Leafs this year, and you know what? The numbers support them this go around (much like last year.) Others are expecting to see somewhat of an improvement, and maybe that’s the middle ground and finally there are those of us who have been hurt too many times to ever believe in the Leafs and will settle for being happy to be wrong.
Ten questions were put to the group, and here are the responses.
Do the Leafs win round one?

Lots of support for the Leafs in this one, and even two thinking they can lift the Game 7 curse. Me, maybe I’m too much of a traditionalist and I picked the Bolts in 7.
As for the unforeseen global disaster, we can’t rule out that the world will come to an end before the Leafs win a round.
How far do the Leafs actually go in the playoffs?

If the Leafs win the Cup, I’ll happily extend an invitation to them to hang out in my backyard and chill on my kid’s bouncing castle while eating Great Value brand lime sherbet out of the Stanley Cup. That just sounds like a nice little way to spend the summer. For the most part, we had a pretty even divide other than there were no second round exits. That seems odd to me as the Leafs making it through the first round only to get swept in the second seems like the next evolution of Leafiness. Thankfully most of our writers are more optimistic than I am.
Who is in net in round one?

Once again, we were fairly divided on this one. Half and half on whether or not Campbell holds the net for the entirety of round one. Fingers crossed that he does as if things go sideways the Leafs are in a tough spot. The return of Mrazek is certainly a suitable Plan B to Campbell, and maybe we’ll get that, but after Kallgren getting torched for eight goals by the Lightning recently, he doesn’t seem like a viable option if the Leafs want to get out of this series.
Who leads the Leafs in scoring in the playoffs?

With the tough competition that Matthews and Marner are going to draw …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Is the Blue Jays Starting Rotation good Enough?

One question I think is prevalent with this Blue Jays team is “Is the pitching staff good enough.”

A lot of fans from other teams seem to think it’s a weak link for the Jays, which is incorrect… Well, it could be.
Starting pitchers:
On the one hand, a rotation of Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman, Alek Manoah, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yusei Kikuchi sounds incredible, and it can be. However, at the same time there are some question marks.
Keep in mind that a full season of these pitchers is not something we experienced last season. If we had, there’s a chance that the Jays would have won the World Series.
Jose Berrios:
He’s the only starter who we know for sure what we’ll get. Removing his 58.1 innings pitched in his rookie season, Berrios has pitched 793.1 innings since 2017, registering a 3.74 ERA and 3.79 FIP. His career BB/9 sits at 2.8 while his career K/9 is a 9.1.
2021 was his best season to date, as he registered a 3.52 ERA and 3.47 FIP. In terms of his K/9, it was marginally below his career best at 9.56, while his BB/9 sat at 2.11, by far his career best. After the trade last season, his K/9 sat a 10 while his BB/9 dropped significantly to 1.7. Even if the 27-year-old does regress, he’s at worst a mid-rotation starter.
Alek Manoah:
The big question is, will there be a sophomore slump for the 24-year-old. The big man absolutely dominated the leag …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Looking Back, Looking Forward: The starting rotation wound up being a strength in 2021, but the Blue Jays have a lot of work to do to repeat that success

The Blue Jays pitching rotation was a huge question mark coming into the 2021 season.

Back in 2020, the team managed to navigate the 60-game sprint despite only really having one reliable starting pitcher most of the way. Until the team acquired Taijuan Walker, Robbie Ray, and Ross Stripling ahead of the trade deadline, Hyun Jin Ryu was the only one who you could bank on going out there and throwing a good start consistently.
By the end of the 2021 season, though, starting pitching was a team strength. It didn’t look like anybody expected it would, as Ryu, ironically, was the weak link in a five-man group that went out and gave the Blue Jays a chance to win nearly every single game.
Can the rotation again be a strength for the Blue Jays in 2022?
The acquisition of the ultra-consistent Jose Berrios and the breakout showing from Alek Manoah gives the Blue Jays a nice place to start, but replacing what the team got out of Ray and Steven Matz won’t be easy.
Apr 7, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu (99) pitches against the Texas Rangers during the fifth inning at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Burning Question: How many goals will Auston Matthews score this season?

It’s a question that all Toronto Maple Leafs fans want to be answered.
Auston Matthews has been a generational goal-scorer ever since he stepped into the NHL. He can beat goaltenders from any area in the offensive zone. And just when you think you’ve seen everything from the 24-year-old, he surprises you.
Every year, Matthews brings something new to the table. Last season, it was the fact that he had an injured wrist, but was still able to score 41 goals in 52 games. The ability Matthews has to transform his game and put himself in different positions to score was phenomenal.
The 24-year-old knew that if it hurt to shoot the puck, he could instead tip it in.

AUSTON MATTHEWS
ONE AWAY FROM 40! pic.twitter.com/NVM8N5HsBA
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 4, 2021

Matthews, though, is most effective when healthy and can shoot the puck.
I wanted to ask the question: ‘How many goals will Auston Matthews score this season?’ because it’s intriguing. He’ll return to the NHL with a wrist that’s healthy this time around. And if he’s scoring goals at an alarming rate with an injury, I’m curious to see how much he …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Steven Matz’s refined sinker has been crucial to his mid-season resurgence

Several months ago, there were plenty of question marks surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation and its lack of depth, making it one of the most obvious weaknesses of the team. Fast-forward to the final stretch of the 2021 season, those same concerns no longer remain.

Considering starters like Tanner Roark, Tommy Milone, Anthony Kay, and T.J. Zeuch were consistently making starts for this club earlier in the season, there’s no question the starting rotation has come a very long way since then. While the pitching staff is currently headlined by Cy Young candidate Robbie Ray, trade deadline acquisition Jose Berrios, and breakout rookie Alek Manoah, Steven Matz has also served an important role over these last two months.
Granted, the start of Matz’s tenure with the Blue Jays didn’t take off smoothly as he proved to be fairly inconsistent throughout the first half of the schedule. Despite allowing one run or fewer over his first three starts of the campaign, he surrendered three runs or more in each of his next four starts, ultimately leading to some extremely mediocre results.
In total, the 30-year-old made 18 starts and compiled 90 1/3 innings pitched from April-July, recording a 4.58 ERA, 4.01 …

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays Nation

Toronto Raptors: 3 goals for OG Anunoby to reach in 2021-22

Toronto Raptors: 3 goals for OG Anunoby to reach in 2021-22

Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby is without question one of the most unheralded players in the game. Box score scouts would overlook his defensive contributions, but now he has the scoring chops to go along with some of the most consistently excellent performances as a defender you’ll see in the league today. Anunoby averaged 15.9 […]
Toronto Raptors: 3 goals for OG Anunoby to reach in 2021-22 – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Toronto Raptors: Kendrick Nunn could be a perfect Kyle Lowry successor

Toronto Raptors: Kendrick Nunn could be a perfect Kyle Lowry successor

The main question hanging over the Toronto Raptors free agency plans this year relates to the point guard position. While players like Dennis Schroder, Kendrick Nunn, and Lonzo Ball could all change teams, the Raptors must first decide if they are going to re-sign franchise legend Kyle Lowry after a disappointing season. Lowry could be […]
Toronto Raptors: Kendrick Nunn could be a perfect Kyle Lowry successor – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Finding a spot in the lineup for Nick Foligno

The question of where Nick Foligno plays seems like it would have been a lot harder to answer before Alex Edler went knee hunting on Zach Hyman, so the easy answer seems to be, he’ll go where Hyman was, and that’s that.
Well, if you are happy with that answer, thanks for reading, please click on a few ads on your way out.
If you are looking for a more detailed exploration that probably leads you around to a similar conclusion, strap in. We’re going for it.
First, it’s important to note that today is the last day of Foligno’s quarantine from the Leafs. He will not be in the lineup against the Canucks, but he is a virtual lock to be in against the Jets on Thursday. That first game might even be a bit of a tease as the Leafs could be easing him back in to playing after his quarantine and his injury that kept him out of his final games for Columbus. In short, don’t count on him riding shotgun with Matthews and Marner…yet.
Heading into Sunday’s game against the Canucks, the Leafs were rolling
Galchenyuk-Matthews-Marner
Robertson-Tavares-Nylander
Mikheyev-Kerfoot-Hyman


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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation