Another Maple Leafs Game 7: See you on the other side

Here we are. We’ve made it. Game Seven between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning.
How are you feeling?
Tonight can either be spent hugging your loved ones and people on the street as the seconds tick down to a Maple Leafs win, or it can end like the last nine elimination games have — in defeat.
The closer we get to puck drop on Saturday night, the larger the nerves get. This game won’t only be watched by Maple Leafs and Lightning fans, but every fan in across the hockey universe. This game is massive.
Every player on the Maple Leafs must be on the top of their game because the Lightning are going to come out just as hard. Tonight will be a tsunami of emotions for everyone — win or lose.
It’s the Maple Leafs’ biggest game in a very long time.
The lines
Both teams will enter Game Seven with the same lineups they had on Thursday night.
If you missed the game, or missed what the lineup looked like, here’s how the Maple Leafs’ lines shape up ahead of Saturday night’s do-or-die game.

#Leafs line rushes during morning skate May 14/22
Bunting-Matthews-Marner Mikheyev-Tavares-KerfootNylander-Kampf-EngvallSpezza-Blackwell-Kase Extra: Clifford, Simmonds, Anderson
Rielly-LyubushkinMuzzin-BrodieGiordano-HollSandin-Liljegren
Campbell KallgrenMrazek
— David Alter (@dalter) May 14, 2022

If you’re wondering what any of the Maple Leafs had to say prior to Game Seven, it’s all very encouraging. Each of the players and Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe are exc …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs sign a pair of their top Finnish prospects

We’re a day away from an important Game Seven matchup and Kyle Dubas still has his eyes on the future. That’s not a criticism, that’s him doing the job the way he’s supposed to. And this morning it was announced that Roni Hirvonen and Topi Niemela have been signed to their three year entry level contracts.

We’ve signed forward Roni Hirvonen and defenceman Topi Niemelä to future three-year, entry-level contracts.#LeafsForever
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) May 13, 2022

Here are the contract details from the Leafs release:
The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that the hockey club has signed forward Roni Hirvonen and defenceman Topi Niemelä to future three-year, entry-level contracts. The average annual value of both contracts is $856,666.
Both players still have one year left of their contracts in the Finnish Liiga, and that basically translates to the players either playing for the Leafs or in Finland. The AHL option is somewhat off the table for the year, but remember that European seasons tend to wrap up before the AHL season, so they could be late season additions to the Marlies.
There are some similarities between the players. Both are 20 years old, both taken in the 2020 draft (Hirvonen in the 2nd round and Niemela in the 3rd), and both have represented Finland on their World Junior team, with Hirvonen serving as their most recent captain and Niemela as an assistant.
A lot has been said of Niemela this year, who was one of the Liiga’s top scoring defensemen and was at a point per game pace or close to it for much of the start of the year. Injuries derailed him a bit, but still had one of the top seasons from a 20 year old in the league’s history.
Hirvonen was certainly a bit more understated, but nevertheless still impressive. He appears to be developing a strong two-way center and could be a solid fit for the middle six of the lineup at some point.
Leafs prospects from Liiga in 2022:
NAME
POS
GP
G
P1
P
ppg
SHOTS …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Leafs have one week until the trade deadline to figure their s*!% out: A deadline primer

Seven short days for the Leafs to find a NHL caliber starting goaltender.
Seven days to find a physically imposing top four defenseman that preferably shoots right.
Seven days to also work some cap magic and bring in Claude Giroux or Tomas Hertl or JT Miller somehow.
I’m gonna say, some of you are expecting all three of these and are going to be disappointed. In fact when Kyle Dubas has already stated he “doesn’t have a whole lot of bullets in the chamber,” the Leafs might be hooped. One of the first things they might want to start walking back is when Jake Muzzin will be available. Muzzin’s LTIR space certainly creates a bit more flexibility for Toronto to attempt more. It also gives the Leafs the luxury of having a quality defenseman that they will be slotting into their playoff roster at some point when the salary cap is no longer a thing.
Dubas may also want to walk back his statement about goaltending from last week, “I’m not concerned about either one of them,” which I don’t doubt he’ll continue to say is true when asked publicly, but if he’s not at least testing the waters of trades for goaltenders behind the scenes, it’s safe to say that most Leafs fans would be shocked. While wanting to believe that a healthy Jack Campbell could possibly go on a run again is one thing, it’s hard not to view Petr Mrazek as anything other than disaster at this point, even if bringing him in was a move that not many people disagreed with.
“For bet …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

‘He lets younger guys be themselves’: How Rich Clune’s leadership is felt throughout the Leafs organization

Seven years after joining the Maple Leafs organization, and Rich Clune is still playing the game he loves.
The bus was getting packed up on Thursday as the Toronto Marlies get set for a six-game US road trip. Clune walked out of the dressing room wearing a Gold’s Gym crewneck and track pants. He had some nice shoes on too.
He greets you with a big smile on his face and a kind “Hello.”
Clune had just gotten off the ice after a 40+ minute practice. The team also had time on the ice after to work on whatever they wanted. The 34-year-old spent it skating from blue line to blue line, back and forth, at some points also receiving pucks from teammate, Joseph Duszak.
He would stop, take a breath, watch what other players were doing, and then go again. There’s always something about players who work on their craft alone after practice. Bobby McMann, who was the captain while playing at Colgate University does the same thing at Marlies practices.
Players like that are doing what they love, while still finding a way to lead by example.
“I grew up in an area of Toronto where we flooded the streets,” Clune said of where his leadership may have come from. “Whether it was …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Did the Raptors find something in former first-round pick DJ Wilson?

Did the Raptors find something in former first-round pick DJ Wilson?

The Toronto Raptors are officially in panic mode, as seven players (including Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and Scottie Barnes) have entered the league’s health and safety protocols. One of the few beneficiaries of this misfortune has been the G League, as dozens of players like Tremont Waters and DJ Wilson are signing NBA contracts. The […]
Did the Raptors find something in former first-round pick DJ Wilson? – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

José Berríos was well worth the cost of acquisition

José Berríos just re-signed for seven years for a total of 131 million. The speculated breakdown of the contract is 11 million for this season (where he’d have made 11 million in arbitration) and 20 million until the end of the 2028 season.

In 2021, Berríos pitched 192 innings and registered a 3.52 ERA and 3.47 FIP. He had a fWAR of 4.1 and a BB/9 of 2.11 while his K/9 was 9.56. In his career, he owns a 4.04 ERA and a 3.95 FIP in 851.2 IP. He is an incredibly durable pitcher and he’s only 27-years-old. This is a fantastic re-signing, but let’s see what they gave up for him.
I’ll take you back to July 30th. The Jays were a decent team that had the opportunity to make a run at the playoffs. To bolster their starting rotation, they traded prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson for José Berríos of the Minnesota Twins. 
My initial reaction to that trade was anger, disgust, and disappointment. In fact, Cam wouldn’t let me write the article announcing the trade for Blue Jays Nation because he knew I was angry.
However, after thinking about the trade more rationally, I calmed down and saw the reasoning as to why the trade …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Tavares and Muzzin injury updates

Here we are heading into Game Seven of the first round, and the Leafs will appear to be doing so without their captain, and one of their top defensemen. Welcome to Leafs Nation. Here are the updates on where they are at…
Tavares skating…

John Tavares participated in the @MapleLeafs optional morning skate ahead of Game 7 tonight. #NHLonSN pic.twitter.com/JLJqoHZhpj
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 31, 2021

Yep, that’s John Tavares skating (although not looking completely comfortable) in advance of tonight’s Game Seven. The Leafs were quick to rule out Tavares for tonight, and that shouldn’t really be a surprise as this is the first full skate he’s participated in. Having the captain back to work with the players today was hopefully a positive for the team, and maybe, just maybe the Leafs want to play well enough to give Tavares a chance to come back during the playoffs.

“It’s progress that he’s on the ice with other players … He’s had no setbacks” … Sheldon Keefe on John Tavares #Leafs “His recovery has been quite remarkable.”
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) May 31, 2021

Playing guess the return for Tavares is irresponsible, so we won’t, but we will say that it …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs’ regular season report cards

It was a regular season like no other as the seven Canadian clubs battled it out amongst themselves for North Division supremacy, with the Leafs coming out on top at the end of the 56 game schedule. The team as a whole had an incredible season – arguably the best in franchise history – and it came on the backs of some fantastic individual performances.
As the Leafs prepare for what they hope will be a long playoff run, it seems like a good time to reflect on how each player contributed to the team’s strong showing in the regular season. Expectations and role have been considered for each individual, so while a 30 point season is enough to earn Jason Spezza high marks, similar production wouldn’t be as impressive for someone like William Nylander or John Tavares.
Let’s get to the grades.
Reply in the comment section and share your regular season player grades.
Forwards
Auston Matthews | A+
52 GP, 41 G, 25 A, 66 P
Matthews was a dominant force all season long, earning the first Rocket Richard Trophy of his career and scoring at a pace that would have easily shattered the single season franchise goal scoring record over the course of …

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation

TLN Three Stars: More like the Calgary Lames

The Leafs improve to 6-0-1 in their last seven games, and now have a six point lead in the North DIvision following their 4-2 win over Calgary tonight. We were told Matthew Tkachuk was in the lineup but I’m not sure I remember hearing him mentioned even once, and generally the Leafs were treated to the underwhelming performance that the Flames have been known for under new old coach Darryl Sutter. A rough go late in the first, followed by disinterest throughout most of the second gave Leafs fans a slight scare, but as underwhelming as the Leafs were at times, the Flames seemed equally underwhelming.
3rd Star: Second and Third Period Michael Hutchinson
Poor guy. I feel for him, I really do, but no one makes me more nervous in net than Michael Hutchinson. If he was actually in the 4th goaltender on the depth chart role that he was signed on to be in, I’d have no problem with the guy, but here he is, a staple of the Leafs back to backs, and as much he was awful in the first period, Hutchinson was a big part of the Leafs staying a float in …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Toronto Raptors: Five moves the Raptors should make this off-season

  The 2020 NBA Playoffs came to an end for the Toronto Raptors in a seven games series loss to the Boston Celtics. Now, the Toronto Raptors have several roster adjustments to consider, and here is a look at five moves the team should make this off-season. 2020 did not end as well as 2019 […]
Toronto Raptors: Five moves the Raptors should make this off-season – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Jason Mills / Raptors HQ