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 …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Lightning has struck twice. That’s more than enough

There are a lot of reasons to not be excited about the Leafs facing the Lightning in the first round of the playoffs, but one of the least talked about ones is the blue-on-white vs. blue-on-white matchup. Frankly, I get disoriented quickly and think they should take a house league pinny approach to make one of the teams stand out this year.
My biggest gripe aside, there are other issues to be concerned about, like the fact the Lightning are the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions. When the Leafs were losing playoff series against Boston, Boston was the City of Champions, now it seems that Tampa Bay has taken over that moniker as they’ve been dominant across three sports. Maybe it’s the proximity to Tom Brady that continues to trip up the Leafs, but someone is going to have to commit hours of science to that hypothesis to see if I’m right.
If there’s a true dragon to be slain in the playoffs, it’s probably the Tampa Bay Lightning, and while it won’t be easy for anyone, the Maple Leafs are capable of doing it.
Tampa by the numbers

Tampa Bay
Toronto
GP
76
77
Pts
100
108
GF
251 (10th)
298 (2nd)
GA
211 (8th)
236 (19th)
PP%
21.3% (16th)
27.7% (1st)
PK%
81.7% (11th)
83.2% (7th)
CF%
51.17%
53.68%
xGF%
52.93%
55.14%
HDCF%
55.18%
55.42%
HDGF%
50.28%
51.20%
PDO
1.012
1.003
as of April 20th
In a head-to-head matchup here, it’s very easy to feel good about the Leafs situation. There is no Toronto answer for Andrei Vasilevskiy, but in the three games the teams have played this season Toronto has had a 3.67 GF average. Two of those games did see Vasilevskiy put up a .920 save percentage or better. That .846 game is certainly encouraging for the Leafs though.
As for the Lightning, in general, they’ve been in the top quarter or top third of the league in most categories. The power play might be the most surprising shortcoming for the Lightning, and it could come down …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

David Rittich might still be the cost effective goaltender the Leafs needed

David Rittich might still be the cost effective goaltender the Leafs needed

April 20th, 2021, the day is memorable for a number of reasons. For me it’s the day I received my first dose of COVID vaccination. It’s also a day I smoked a fat bowl, because it’s important to have traditions. It’s also the day that David Rittich was dead to every Leafs fan after allowing 5 goals 28 shots, including a disastrous run in the third period against the Canucks. He also had a one goal against outing against the Canucks just over a week later, with a .938 save percentage, but it’s safe to say minds were made up and Rittich was not going to be looked at as the future goaltending partner of Jack Campbell.
In fact, in the four games Rittich played for the Leafs he finished with a .888 save percentage, and only one quality start out of three. There’s also the fact that Rittich’s upside isn’t up enough. If he is playing at the top of his game, he’s still a sub .910 save percentage goaltender. That’s not endearing. It’s manageable, but you certainly aren’t excited about him as an option.
Of course, coming into a new team that …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Toronto Raptors: 43 points from Norman Powell not enough in loss to lowly Pistons

Toronto Raptors: 43 points from Norman Powell not enough in loss to lowly Pistons

The Toronto Raptors finally had reasons for optimism ahead of their game against the Detroit Pistons. Not only were Norman Powell and the Raptors welcoming Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam back into the fold, but they were playing one of the worst teams in the league. This had all the ingredients for a stabilizing win. […]
Toronto Raptors: 43 points from Norman Powell not enough in loss to lowly Pistons – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Nickeem Khan / Raptors HQ

Our customizable consolidated 2021 NHL Entry Draft Ranking dashboard

It seems strange to talk about the draft for a few reasons. The first is that this is a Leafs blog, and the Leafs are sitting at the top of the league. They are going to be picking late in the first and the player they draft isn’t going to be a focus for a number of years. This isn’t the decade of darkness where the first round pick was what pulled us in off the ledge from after a torturous season. Or in the case of the post Kessel trade years, it was salt in the wound as we saw Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton get selected with the Leafs pick. Frankly the pick isn’t that important anymore because we are no longer searching for the faces of the franchise, the draft has already gifted us Rielly, Nylander, Marner, and, of course, Matthews.
The other reason it seems a little strange is that no one at this point has any idea of if or when the 2021 draft will take place. There is talk of it being pushed back until December, or potentially a double draft next summer. As such there hasn’t been a lot of …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Toronto Raptors: 3 issues impacting Raptors’ success in 2021

Toronto Raptors: 3 issues impacting Raptors’ success in 2021

Several reasons could explain why the Toronto Raptors are mediocre to this point of the season. They lost last night to the Milwaukee Bucks, who are third in the Eastern Conference, 115-108. The Raptors need to leapfrog the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, and Orlando Magic in the standings to be considered a playoff team, […]
Toronto Raptors: 3 issues impacting Raptors’ success in 2021 – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Jason Mills / Raptors HQ

Raptors rumors: Does a P.J. Tucker reunion make sense for Toronto?

Raptors rumors: Does a P.J. Tucker reunion make sense for Toronto?

One of the many reasons Masai Ujiri has been able to consistently turn the Toronto Raptors into winners is the fact that he is always looking for new ways to acquire talent at every potential avenue. Even though the team’s recent uptick in form would make most executives complacent and unwilling to fix what isn’t […]
Raptors rumors: Does a P.J. Tucker reunion make sense for Toronto? – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

FanGraphs has lofty projections for the 2021 Blue Jays

Looking for reasons to feel optimistic? Well, here you go!

Over at FanGraphs, the Steamer projections for the 2021 season have been released and they’re quite bullish on the Blue Jays.
For those who are asking ‘what’s a Steamer?’ it’s FanGraphs’ projection system based on past performance and typical ageing trends. Obviously, Steamer projections don’t all necessarily come true, but it’s widely regarded as one of the most accurate predictors in the industry.
Steamer has 10 (!!!) different Blue Jays with a wRC+ higher than 100 (meaning 10 hitters are projected to be above average). Some interesting notes…

Steamer really believes in Vladdy. He’s projected to slash a .299/.373/.528 line and his projected 144 wRC+ is seventh in baseball, tied with Ronald Acuna Jr. and right behind Freddie Freeman. That kind of breakout from Vladdy would be fantastic.
Though Vladdy is projected to be Toronto’s most productive hitter, Bo Bichette is being projected as their best all-around player. Steamer has Bo producing a nice 119 wRC+ while also being a plus defender, coming out at a team-high 4.1 wins above replacement.
Steamer has also bought into the Alejandro Kirk hype. It’s projecting Kirk will produce a 123 wRC+ over 52 games. It also …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

The Lowry and Gasol playoff shirts are here — get yours today!

The Raptors are in the Finals and two of the bigger reasons why are none other than Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol. Thanks to BreakingT, we’ve got more ways to celebrate: t-shirts! The NBA Finals are here! Setting aside everything else, that means more chances to watch Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol of the Toronto Raptors. And do you know what else it means? More t-shirts!
Thanks to BreakingT, we’ve got two more shirts on offer today. The first relays a sentiment Raptors fans well know. The second is a hold over from a different era. Both have a place on this latest edition of the Raptors team as they’ve made their way through the 2019 NBA Playoffs — and Finals.
Get your Kyle Lowry Over Everything t-shirt here
Get your Grit Grind Gasol t-shirt here
For a closer look:

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Author: Daniel Reynolds / Raptors HQ