TLN Three Stars: Say the line, Bart!

Well, that wasn’t a fun one. But it really shouldn’t have been a surprise. The Leafs came into tonight’s game without Mitch Marner, one of their best players, and Pierre Engvall and Ondrej Kase, two key cogs to their shutdown line, so with some obvious holes up front tonight, the fact that they were in the game as much as they were says a lot about how long Jack Campbell kept them in the game, and the dominant play of Auston Matthews tonight. They made a statement in the first half by taking a 4-1 lead in spite of that, and the Avalanche made a statement by coming back.
Three Stars
Third Star: William Nylander
Nylander didn’t end up with a single point tonight, but he was flying out there tonight, creating chance after chance, and honestly probably could have ended up with five or six if anyone could have buried them.
Second Star: Alexander Kerfoot
Kerfoot scored a key goal in the first, changing the momentum of the game early on by getting the first goal after the Leafs were getting hemmed in their own zone for the first eight minutes of the game. He was up against his former team, and got a bigger role playing on the Matthews line without Marner, and he showed up to pl …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

Know Your Enemy: How the Maple Leafs matchup against a slumping Oilers team missing McDavid

Not that the Leafs really needed any help to be better than the Oilers, they got even more help with Connor McDavid testing positive for COVID while Auston Matthews was confirmed a false positive and will be back in the lineup. We already saw what an injury depleted Leafs team did against a mostly healthy Oilers team in December, so a mostly healthy Leafs team against an injury depleted Oilers team favours quite heavily for the Leafs. Obviously this is the Leafs, so it seems like one of those games that is inevitably a loss, but I’m going to ignore the fact that the Leafs are cursed and dive into the statistical reasons why this bodes well for the Leafs.
Tale of the Tape (via Mark Norman)

Projected Lineups
Toronto Maple Leafs

LW
C
RW
MICHAEL BUNTING
AUSTON MATTHEWS
MITCH MARNER
ALEXANDER KERFOOT
JOHN TAVARES
WILLIAM NYLANDER
PIERRE ENGVALL
DAVID KAMPF
ILYA MIKHEYEV
NICK RITCHIE
JASON SPEZZA
WAYNE SIMMONDS

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
MORGAN RIELLY
T.J. BRODIE
JAKE MUZZIN
JUSTIN HOLL
RASMUS SANDIN
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Edmonton Oilers

LW
C
RW
WARREN FOEGELE
LEON DRAISAITL
KAILER YAMAMOTO
ZACH HYMAN
RYAN MCLEOD
JESSE PULJUJARVI
TYLER BENSON
DEVIN SHORE
ZACK KASSIAN
BRENDAN PERLINI
COLTON SCEVIOUR
KYLE TURRIS

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
DARNELL NURSE
EVAN BOUCHARD
DUNCAN KEITH
CODY CECI
WILLIAM LAGESSON
SLATER KOEKKOEK

Forwards

The first line of Warren Foegele, Leon Draisaitl, and Kailer Yamamoto hasn’t had much time together (just under 13 minutes), but so far they’ve been a line that gets shot attempts, but not scoring chances, with a 64.47% CF% but a 44.44% xGF%. Draisaitl has always been a bit of an impostor superstar, as he tends to get by just on his skills (which admittedly are there), but pretty much every other facet of his game is definitely not at the level of someone like Auston Matthews. Take him away from McDavid and off the power play, and he’s even more exposed. Translation: he puts up points, and doesn’t bring much else to the table. The fact that Yamamoto is having a rough season, and Foegele is a little bit out of his element in a top six role with Nugent-Hopkins out makes this a line ripe to be exposed if the Leafs wanted to.
Being without McDavid tonight is a huge hit for the Oilers against a stronger Leafs team, especially when their depth was struggling already. If there is one slight upside to the shakeup of what is usually the top line, it’s that Jesse Puljujarvi will get a little bit of support defensively on this line with Ryan McLeod. It might surprise some that Puljujarvi is the defensive player on a line with McDavid and Zach Hyman, but McDavid has more or less sacrificed defense for the sake of offense, and Hyman usually hasn’t had strong defensive results aside from last season, so Puljujarvi has taken the mantle. Meanwhile, McLeod has put up the best defensive results out of Oilers forwards this season, with a 2.1 5v5 goals above replacement, and is one of only three forwards on the team with a positive GAR, so he should at least keep the line afloat defensively. This combo hasn’t even had a minute of ice time together so there’s not much to comment on how much success it’s had, but on paper, it could at least not cause problems defensively for the team.
Tyler Benson, Devin Shore, and Zack Kassian also haven’t played much time together, so once again we’re just going to have to look at how the players look on paper, and how those skills could potentially work together, or clash. And it doesn’t look super promising. Kassian has at least been competent this year, producing at a solid pace and at least being able to drive play to some extent, but Benson and Shore are both drags offensively and defensively, so Kassian isn’t the kind of guy you expect to excel in spite of that.
McDavid being out of an already depleted Oilers lineup gives the Leafs a really strong opportunity to exploit all three lineups. While Keefe might be inclined to put the Kampf line out against Draisaitl, I’d actually take this opportunity to go “best on best” considering what we know about Draisaitl’s play beyond his finishing ability. The fact that the Matthews line is also one of the best in the league at controlling play and creating chances just means that they can really hammer it down with that line. After that, I’d probably go the route of putting Kampf up against the McLeod line, since they’d probably be the best chance defensively of stopping either the Matthews or Tavares line, and the lack of scoring touch from that Oilers line means you’re not as worried about getting burned. That leaves the Tavares line to feast on that third line that hasn’t had any playing time together, and doesn’t have a lot of promise anyways.
Much like the rest of tonight’s forward group for the Oilers, the combo of Colton Sceviour, Kyle Turris, and Brendan Perlini has had no time together. If there’s any hope out of this group, it’s that Sceviour is one of those other two forwards on the Oilers with strong defensive results with a 1.4 5v5 GAR, but with Turris and Perlini not being able to do much of anything, it doesn’t inspire much for Oilers fans tonight. It also helps that Nick Ritchie being on the fourth line with Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds turns it from one of the best fourth lines in the league to an average line, so they won’t be totally outclassed tonight by the Leafs in the battle of fourth lines.
Defense
The Oilers have gotten a (deservedly) bad rap for their defensive game, but if they have one thing going for them, it’s the current top pair of Darnell Nurse and Evan Bouchard. The duo have been one of the better pairs in the league this season, with a 58.13% CF% that ranks 33rd and a 57.61% xGF% that ranks 54th (out of 341 pairings, mind you). This may come as a bit of a surprise considering that Nurse has notoriously been poor defensively and Bouchard’s lack of experience, but Nurse has turned around his overall game this season and improved defensively overall. In fact, the only part of the game he’s struggled in is driving actual goals, but that’s mostly just regression from last season. Bouchard’s defensive game isn’t quite there, but his offensive game makes up for it, and with Nurse there to keep him propped up, it’s made for a good pair to start the season.
Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci also hasn’t been surprisingly terrible this season considering the two players involved, but even then it’s been pretty average results with a 51.02% CF% and 50.41% xGF% at 5v5. A lot of that comes from the fact that Ceci is actually quite competent defensively, at least results wise (visually, it’s not always pretty). He doesn’t generate a thing offensively, but he can at least prevent shot attempts and scoring chances well enough to keep you afloat. Keith hasn’t been great this season, but he also hasn’t been as abysmal as he usually is, just painfully average, which has led to the pairing being able to have okay numbers.
I’d probably try and keep Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl away from that top pair for the Oilers based on their play so far this season, but considering Muzzin hasn’t played in over three weeks, maybe he’s a bit more rested and back to his old self, which then means Holl can actually play against tough competition again. Still, they’d probably be better suited against the more average Keith-Ceci pair while Morgan Rielly and TJ Brodie take on the stronger Nurse-Bouchard pair for the Oilers.
While losing McDavid tonight will definitely hurt their chances, Tyson Barrie being one of the players out is probably a blessing in disguise for the club, as he’s usually been a drag on any pairing he’s played with, and the fact that he’s being subbed in for William Lagesson is an even better sign for Oilers fans. Lagesson has had solid results all around this year, but hasn’t had much playing time so far this season at the expense of a player like Barrie, so that will help the Oilers chances. Koekkoek hasn’t really been all that good this year, so that could hurt the pairing a little bit, but still, at Lagesson will be there to help stop the bleeding, as opposed to Barrie, who would’ve just cut the wound open more. Lagesson and Koekkoek also have barely played a minute together, so we don’t really know what they’d be like together, but it’s still better than anything with Barrie. That said, they’ll be up against Rasmus Sandin and Travis Dermott, who crush weak competition even better than Lagesson does, so it’ll probably be a good matchup for the Leafs.
Goaltending
Mike Smith will get the start tonight, and while he hasn’t played much this season, when he has, he has been pretty bad. Among goalies who have faced at minimum the same volume of work as Smith this season, Smith has the 11th worst 5v5 save percentage with 90.49%, the 7th worst delta Fenwick save percentage with -1.86%, and the 21st worst goals saved above expected with -3.01. The fact that the latter two stats are as low as they are despite just five games from Smith is pretty telling how bad he’s been in that short span, something also evidenced by his -2.6 goals above replacement, 13th worst in the league. Even if Jack Campbell’s numbers were average instead of how elite they’ve actually been, this still wouldn’t be a close goalie matchup.
Overall
While the Oilers haven’t looked great on their current slump, they aren’t quite as comically bad as they may seem sometimes this season, this matchup is just a situation where everything they can do well, the Leafs can do just as good or better. The Oilers have a high scoring top six with a power play that’s been good at times? The Leafs have that, except their players don’t do it at the expense of offense. The Oilers have a bottom six that can at the very least not bleed chances defensively? The Leafs have that, except their bottom six can chip in from time to time as well. The Oilers defense core has surprisingly worked well? So has the Leafs. The Oilers have bad goaltending? Leafs don’t. With a healthy lineup, this would at least be interesting, but without McDavid this really isn’t close. Draisaitl might burn the Leafs for a goal or two tonight, but he’ll probably get burned for three or four as well, and everything else in the lineup probably won’t be able to help much offensively to compensate.


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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

Top Leafs prospect Roni Hirvonen and Topi Niemela have been named to the Finnish World Junior Roster

So here’s the thing. This really shouldn’t be a surprise at this point. Roni Hirvonen has been playing very well for some time, and Topi Niemela…well…no Finnish defenseman in the history of Liiga is having a season like he’s having. He was not only a lock, but a lock made out of adamantium with a vibranium locking mechanism.

Finland announced its World Junior roster today. pic.twitter.com/PqnBkChbKW
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) December 8, 2021

Roni Hirvonen’s numbers:
Season
Team
League
GP
G
A
P
PIM
2019-20
 Ässät
Liiga
52
5
11
16
14
 Finland U18 (all)
International-Jr
9
6
6
12
10
 Finland U20 (all)
International-Jr
3
1
2
3
14
2020-21
 Ässät
Liiga
54
6
15
21
54
 Finland U20
WJC-20
7
2
4
6
18
2021-22
 HIFK
Liiga
26
4
9
13
18
 Finland U20
WJC-20





 Finland U20 (all)
International-Jr
11
12
3
15
14
Topi Niemela’s numbers:
Season
Team
League
GP
G
A
P
PIM
2019-20
 Kärpät U20
U20 SM-liiga
1
0
1
1
0
 Kärpät
Liiga
43
1
6
7
8
 Finland U18 (all)
International-Jr
9
0
4
4
2
 Finland U20 (all)
International-Jr
9
0
4
4
2
2020-21
 Kärpät U20
U20 SM-sarja
6
1
3
4
0
 Kärpät
Liiga
15
0
4
4
2
 Finland U20
WJC-20
7
2
6
8
6
2021-22
 Kärpät
Liiga
27
5
17
22
6
 Finland U20
WJC-20





 Finland U20 (all)
International-Jr
9
2
5
7
8
Both players had a strong WJC performance last year, and the expectations are just as high, if not higher this year as …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Raptors unveil awesome new black and gold 2021 City Edition jersey

Raptors unveil awesome new black and gold 2021 City Edition jersey

The Toronto Raptors have really leaned into their partnership with Drake when it comes to designing alternate uniforms, as they seem to have a new black and gold set of threats every season. The Raptors City Edition jersey for 2021 was no exception though it appears Toronto may have created their best effort to date. […]
Raptors unveil awesome new black and gold 2021 City Edition jersey – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Hyun Jin Ryu got lit up again. What now?

Hyun Jin Ryu hasn’t really looked like Hyun Jin Ryu lately.

Last season, Ryu was the Blue Jays’ MVP. He posted a 2.69 ERA over 12 starts, finished second in American League Cy Young voting, and was the only one in Toronto’s rotation who could go out and consistently have a good outing until the team acquired Taijuan Walker ahead of the trade deadline.
This season? It’s been a rollercoaster ride.
Ryu has a 4.34 ERA over 29 starts. While he can still have very strong, vintage Ryu outings, such as his masterful start in New York a couple of weeks ago, there simply isn’t the same feeling when he takes the mound as there was ast season. At this stage, Ryu stands as Toronto’s No. 5 starter, as even Steven Matz seems like the better bet to put up an effective start when he goes out.
Since that aforementioned start in New York in which Ryu held the Yankees to just three hits over six innings of work, he’s been drilled by two basement teams, the Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins. In those two outings, Ryu has gone four-and-one-third innings, allowing 12 earned runs on 13 hits and two walks …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

BJN Radio – Ep. 45: A record-setting weekend in Baltimore!

That was certainly a trip.

Things looked really ugly on Friday when the lowly Baltimore Trash Birds ended the Blue Jays’ eight-game winning streak despite Robbie Ray being on the mound, but, after that, things got very, very good. The Blue Jays pulled off back-to-back last-second comeback wins in their doubleheader on Saturday, with George Springer and Bo Bichette hitting clutch homers to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. And then, finally, on Sunday, the bats popped off for 22 runs, coming very close to setting a franchise record.
We talked about this whole wild weekend, ranging from the few ugly starts that Toronto’s pitchers had, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde spazzing out at Robbie Ray, the speculation about sign stealing, all the way to the wild records that Toronto set this weekend. Finally, we took a look ahead at the upcoming series against Tampa Bay and we looked at what Boston and New York have on tap.
You can listen to the episode here…

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Toronto Raptors: No. 3 pick odds hint Jarrett Allen could hit FA market

Toronto Raptors: No. 3 pick odds hint Jarrett Allen could hit FA market

The Toronto Raptors rumors have started to really kick off properly over the last few weeks, but one common thread that continues to pick up steam is that this team will look to acquire a new center, either via the draft with Evan Mobley or through free agency with a player like Jarrett Allen. The […]
Toronto Raptors: No. 3 pick odds hint Jarrett Allen could hit FA market – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Frank Seravalli reporting the Leafs will lose Jared McCann to the Kraken

Jared McCann we hardly knew ye. And believe me, we really wanted to get to know you, but alas you are meant for better things and by that I mean completely escaping the gong show that is the Maple Leafs organization.

His stay was short-lived in Toronto. The #SeaKraken will be selecting Jared McCann from the #Leafs.
The end result: Toronto traded prospect Filip Hallander and a 7th round pick to Pittsburgh to essentially protect their roster from Seattle.@DFOHockey
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) July 21, 2021

If you are looking for any attempt at thoughtful analysis here, I’m going to let you down. This situation comes off as incredibly stupid. The Leafs gave up a solid, near NHL ready prospect in Filip Hallander, plus a 7th round pick (the Leafs have been giving all draft picks away like candy) to bring in Jared McCann a few days ago. That was immediately followed by the failure to protect him in the expansion draft, largely creating a situation where the Kraken would be choosing between McCann and Kerfoot.
For the record, McCann is cheaper, younger, better defensively, better offensively, taller, and probably smells better than Alexander Kerfoot too. Basically, McCann was put …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Toronto Raptors mock draft: Masai Ujiri lands Davion Mitchell at No. 7

Toronto Raptors mock draft: Masai Ujiri lands Davion Mitchell at No. 7

Toronto Raptors mock draft season is really starting to kick into high gear now that the season is over, and this unlucky campaign has left them with the seventh-best odds of getting the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. They might miss out on some of the top prospects, but players like Florida […]
Toronto Raptors mock draft: Masai Ujiri lands Davion Mitchell at No. 7 – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

Adam Brooks is having NHL stretch to remember with Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs are playing really, really well. Auston Matthews scored his 37th and 38th goal on Saturday night. Both Jason Spezza and Joe Thornton got points and extended their streak to five-straight games. Even Adam Brooks was going in this one — scoring his fourth goal in eight games this season.
Another player that had a good game was Alex Galchenyuk, who scored his first goal in seven games. Right now, it seems like the Leafs are doing everything right and I just want the playoffs to happen. Immediately.
There’s a lot to discuss about Saturday night’s game! I hope you enjoy the video!

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation