Game #3 Recap: Maple Leafs’ depth and Jack Campbell come up big in 5-2 win over the Lightning

If there was any game to remember between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning, it’s this one.
This matchup had everything from hits, goals, power play goals, empty net goals, and even a few massive saves from Jack Campbell. In the end, the Maple Leafs took Game Three 5-2 and now lead the series 2-1. Game Four is on Sunday night.
Before I get started discussing the game, I wanted to take a moment in highlighting what being at Maple Leaf Square has been like. I’ve been there shooting video for The Leafs Nation’s social accounts since Game One and it’s been nuts.
This was after Ilya Mikheyev’s first empty net goal on Friday night.

The serotonin levels right now pic.twitter.com/dgA7Eyp4eg
— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) May 7, 2022

I’ve been at Maple Leaf Square for plenty of playoff games, but for some reason, Friday night’s game had a vibe that I’ve never felt before. Now, it may be because of COVID and how amazing it was to just be around people again, but like I said, this felt incredibly different to past playoff years.
There was an event called ‘Stars on Ice’ being held inside Scotiabank Arena and as the crowd was filtering out, they were standing outside the doors recording Maple Leaf Sqaure. It felt like I was shooting a movie in all honesty.
Do you remember when people would call the 1920s the ‘roaring 20s’, well you better gear up because we’re going to be experiencing that for the next eight years.
The Gifs
The Maple Leafs began this game like they did for the past two games — hungry to get the game started with a goal of their own.
After Pat Maroon shot the puck out of play, Toro …

Read More

Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Maple Leafs may reunite John Tavares and William Nylander on the second line for the playoffs

Although there were times when the duo of John Tavares and William Nylander have struggled to score at even strength this season, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe let it be known on Thursday that he was looking at possibly reuniting the skilled forwards on the team’s second line for at least one look before the playoffs begin.
“We’re looking that way here now but we’ll see who is available to us,” Keefe said following the team’s first full practice since Apr. 15. “We’ve got (Michael) Bunting, we’ve got (Ondrej) Kase and all these (injury) things that do impact the lineup that do impact some of the decision I might make.”
During Tuesday’s 3-0 win against the Detroit Red Wings, Keefe reunited the pair after Tavares initially started the game with Nick Robertson, who was called up for the contest earlier in the day on an emergency basis.
Tavares with Nylander has always been Keefe’s preferred second line duo, but there have been moments this season that forced change.
First there was the 2-4-1 slump to start the season. That forced Keefe to shake things up offensively by swapping Marner and Nylander to play with different centres. Once the ship was righted on that front, Nylander and Tavares ska …

Read More

Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

An early look at the pitchers the Blue Jays lost in free agency and the new guys

Early in the season, there have been some questions about whether or not the Jays are better than the 2021 version of the team.

In this article, I will be comparing the starting pitchers who left through free agency to their replacements.
Kevin Gausman compared to Robbie Ray:
The Blue Jays lost their Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, but replaced him with Kevin Gausman. We’ll start with Ray.
Robbie Ray:
Last season, Ray dominated as he posted a 2.84 ERA and 3.69 FIP in an AL leading 193.1 innings pitched.. He finished with a Fangraphs WAR (fWAR) of 3.9, and had a K/9 of 11.54. 
Prior to 2021, Ray struggled with the walks, as he never had a BB/9 below 3.45, including a BB/9 of 7.84 in 2020. In 2021, his BB/9 dropped to 2.42, even with a 6 walk game early in the season
After the Blue Jays gave him a qualifying offer, the 30-year-old lefty signed with the Seattle Mariners for a contract worth $115,000,000 over five seasons. However, his numbers have already taken a dip with the seaside team.
In an MLB leading 19.1 innings pitched, the tight pants Ray has an ERA of 4.19 and a FIP of 5.62. A more shocking revelation is that his K/9 (he has the highest all-time, by the way) has dropped to 6.05. His BB/9 has also increased to 3.26.
It’s still incredibly early and this could easily turn around, but he just doesn’t look like the same pitcher he was in 2021. For example, his 4-seam fastball velocity has dropped from 94.8 mph in 2021 t …

Read More

Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

William Nylander shows self-awareness as Maple Leafs forward aims to improve as a player

TAMPA — There was little positive to draw from the Toronto Maple Leafs’ disappointing first-round playoff upset against the Montreal Canadiens last season, but William Nylander certainly wasn’t a reason for the outcome.
The forward led all players on his team with five goals and eight points in the seven-game series and found some chemistry with Alex Kerfoot, who finished second on the team in points with six (one goal, five assists).
Given the success the two had together last postseason, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe has reunited them again with the playoffs just around the corner. The change came in the wake of some lineup adjustments after the team’s top star, Auston Matthews, missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury.
Last playoffs, the duo skated with Alex Galchenyuk. And if the last two games are any indication, it looks like Pierre Engvall is going to be targetted for that role in May.
“I want to see if something can spark there,” Keefe said on Wednesday morning. “Then you have three lines that can really score and be really confident.”
Of course, any success of that third line is going to depend on Nylander. The flashy forward is known for his offensive prowess and when he’s on his game he can pe …

Read More

Author: David Alter / 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 …

Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Breaking down five of the best goals from Matthews’ historic season with the Maple Leafs

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve left them.” -Andy Bernard, The Office
When Auston Matthews entered the 2021-22 season, many could feel that something special was about to happen. A full 82-game season ahead of him meant anything is possible, really.
I think there was always optimism that the 24-year-old would break the Maple Leafs’ goal record in a single-season, but you really can’t feel that energy until he’s close. As he approached the record, the hype around it became larger and larger. When Matthews finally did it, he blew by the record, scoring three goals in the next two periods (one in overtime vs. Dallas and two in the first period vs. Montreal).
He scores goals like it’s nobodies business.
That’s why I referenced the quote at the beginning of this article. We are witnessing history in the making and when that happens, some get caught up in it all (including myself) and don’t take in what’s really going on.
Make sure at some point throughout this historic season for both Matthews and the Maple Leafs to take a step back, look around, and just appreciate the greatness that we’re watching because this era will end as fast as it began.
Being mindful is what …

Read More

Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Yankees GM Brian Cashman said Aaron Judge turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million contract extension

There are 13 baseball games on the slate tonight, but, naturally, the New York Yankees are grabbing headlines.

Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman spoke to reporters today ahead of New York’s season-opener this afternoon against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium and said that the team and Aaron Judge haven’t been able to come to terms on a contract extension.
He even outright said in the interview that the Yankees offered the slugger a seven-year contract worth $213.5 million, which is $30.5 million annually. Judge, of course, is eligible to hit the open market as a free agent for the first time in his career following the 2022 season.

Brian Cashman says the #Yankees offer was $30.5 million per year. pic.twitter.com/xuyWDNaqtq
— Marly Rivera (@MarlyRiveraESPN) April 8, 2022

After an injury-riddled 2020 season, Judge had a huge bounceback season for the Yankees in 2022, slashing a .287/.373/.544 line with 39 dingers over the course of 633 plate appearances. Judge finished fourth in American League MVP voting, his best finish since his breakout season in 2017 in which he won AL Rookie of the Year and finished second in MVP voting.
Since 2017, Judge ranks fourth in baseball in terms of FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, behind only Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Jose Ramirez. The contract would make Judge the second-highest-paid outfielder in terms of average annual salary, but the $213.5 million total falls short of the $365 million deal that Betts signed with the Dodgers and the $426.5 million deal Trout inked with the Angels.
Given Judge’s durability concerns and the fact he’s not likely to stick in the outfield for long, he isn’t going to be able to command the same money as Betts and Trout, who are both elite …

Read More

Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Why having William Nylander on the third line helps improve the Leafs

There are few players in the history of the Leafs’ organization that have made the fan base more divisive than William Nylander. There are noticeable portions of the fans that either love his playstyle or cannot stand him and want him gone in every trade scenario.
Whether you adore him or hate him, the Leafs are a better team when he is on his game and playing with confidence. This is why it was frustrating to watch him play inconsistently alongside John Tavares for the last few months despite putting up 32 points since the start of 2022. He would have stretches where he played like he did in the 2021 playoffs (in which he was the MVP after Tavares got injured in Game 1) and others seeing him look unengaged or lackadaisical. It culminated in him getting demoted to the third line after getting beat cleanly by David Savard in a disappointing loss to the lowly Canadiens.
The move was meant to get Nylander back on track while being matched up against some weaker competition. It may not have been Sheldon Keefe’s intention, but this simple move was able to help find a line combination he can turn to down the stretch.

‘BISCUIT WITH THE SHORTY!! pic.twitter.com/BCz7Z5d560
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@ …

Read More

Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

Stop deterring hockey’s best moments

There has to be an NHL where fighting and having skill both belong in the game.
On Friday night, Trevor Zegras scored another lacrosse goal, and the Arizona Coyotes didn’t like it very much. There was a lot that happened in this game including Nick Ritchie intentionally high-sticking Kevin Shattenkirk, a fight between Michael Carcone and Sam Carrick, and then this — Jay Beagle fighting Troy Terry — a player who gets fed punches while he keeps his gloves on.
Not all of it’s related to Zegras’ goal, but each incident led up to the fight below.

“That’s the problem with these young players. You wanna embarrass guys? You wanna skill it up? You better be prepared to get punched in the mouth.”
Coyotes broadcast applauds Jay Beagle cross-checking Trevor Zegras/beating Troy Terry senseless. Embarrassing commentary pic.twitter.com/1AfenuTRkL
— Nolan Bianchi (@nolanbianchi) April 2, 2022

After this game, there was a lot of reaction, but I want to focus on the commentary from the clip above for a second. If NHL players are getting embarrassed by others scoring highlight-reel goals, I think they’ve picked the wrong sport to play. No player deserves to get punched in the face because they’re playing good hockey.
I believe if that’s happening, it’s clear that the player who’s throwing the punches isn’t good enough for the NHL. That’s the type of play that belongs in beer league.
This situation would be easier to understand if Zegras did this on the 5-0 goal, but it was only 3-0. If a player is scoring on you with skill, it’s unfortunate for you, because you c …

Read More

Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Leafs looking to get physical with the Jets

Is there anything better than a revenge game against Winnipeg?
Yes. Many things. It largely sucks whenever we give the Jets a second thought, but following the last meeting, there is likely some unsettled business between the two teams.
The timing of this grudge match comes at both a good and bad time. Having Muzzin unavailable for it, and the Leafs potentially either sitting Lyubushkin and Holl or playing them at less than 100% certainly isn’t ideal, but the Leafs having to play a greasy team following Boston, and being able to continue to ramp up their team toughness in advance of the playoffs is certainly something we should want to see.
It’s probably worth taking a look at where the Leafs are sitting from a team toughness perspective, starting with the most questionable of measures, hits.
Player
Position
GP
TOI/GP
Hits/60
Hits Taken/60
HiT Dif/60
Kristians Rubins
D
3
11.75
20.43
10.21
10.22
Brett Seney
L
2
7.02
12.83
12.83
0.00
Ilya Lyubushkin
D
17
16.06
12.08
8.57
3.51
Kyle Clifford
L
14
8.54
12.04
16.06
-4.02
Nick Ritchie
L
33
11.99
11.98
6.37
5.61
Colin Blackwell
C
4
10.08
11.91
8.93
2.98
Alex Biega
D
2
13.12
11.44
4.57
6.87
Wayne Simmonds
R
60
9.45
11.32
6.35
4.97
Kirill Semyonov
C
3
10.04
7.97
3.98
3.99
Michael Amadio
C
3
9.16
6.55
2.18
4.37
Rasmus Sandin
D
51
16.96
6.10
6.94
-0.84
Nicholas Robertson
L
9
10.01
5.99
9.32
-3.33
Jake Muzzin
D
41
21.01
5.85
7.11
-1.26
Justin Holl
D
55
20.46
5.28
7.89
-2.61
Mark Giordano
D
4
20.20
5.20
6.68
-1.48
Timothy Liljegren
D
48
16.02
4.68
8.04
-3.36
Travis Dermott
D
43
14.72
4.08
4.27
-0.19
David Kampf
C
66
15.04
3.87
4.96
-1.09
Joey Anderson
R
4
7.79
3.85
9.63
-5.78
Michael Bunting
L
66
15.62
3.78
4.66
-0.88
Pierre Engvall
L
62
12.77
3.71
7.28
-3.57
Alexander Kerfoot
C
66
15.22
3.58
7.29
-3.71
John Tavares
C
65
18.04
3.53
3.84
-0.31
Ilya Mikheyev
R
37
14.88
3.05
4.03
-0.98
Auston Matthews
C
61
20.46
2.64
4.23
-1.59
Alex Steeves
C
3
7.97
2.51
5.02
-2.51
Ondrej Kase
R
50
13.98
2.49
5.32
-2.83
Morgan Rielly
D
66
23.99
2.46
3.75
-1.29
Mitchell Marner
R
57
20.77
2.38
2.53
-0.15
Jason Spezza
C
60
10.87
2.02
3.04
-1.02
TJ Brodie
D
66
21.48
1.57
5.21
-3.64
William Nylander
R
66
18.25
0.75
3.44
-2.69
Carl Dahlstrom
D
1
12.50
0.00
14.40
-14.40
data from Natural Stat Trick, greyed out means not on the current roster
Certainly, hits aren’t the full story. For instance take Ondrej Kase, who plays an incredibly hard game, going to tough parts of the ice, and doesn’t back away from any chippiness. His numbers being on the lower side certainly don’t account for his style of play. On the other side of things, you have players like Kyle Clifford who fit the adage of you can only get credit for a hit when you don’t have the puck. His overall benefit to team toughness is questionable. From what we can see the additions of Lyubushkin and Blackwell improve the Leafs on the hitting front, and even Mark Giordano is on the more aggressive side of the curve for the Leafs.
What we’ve seen recently is that players like Mitch Marner are more engaged p …

Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation