Game #5 Recap: Maple Leafs are one win away from closing out series against Lightning

In all honesty, I didn’t think I’d be sitting here discussing a Maple Leafs 4-3 win over the Lightning, but here I am.
For the first time in this series there has finally been a lead change during a game and for Toronto fans, it luckily came at the right moment. And now, they’re one win away from moving onto the second round.
It felt different walking around downtown Toronto on Tuesday night. The Maple Leafs have a chance to close out the series against the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions on Thursday night.
As fans exited Scotiabank Arena and Maple Leaf Square, they were chanting “Leafs in Six!” The excitement around the city hasn’t been felt since before the pandemic and it honestly feels like the city is coming back to life.
Fans hugging and high-fiving each other, groups of people hugging and dancing in Maple Leaf Square — it feels normal — with a hint of excitement.
The Gifs
Let’s remember how we got here.
The game began with two unfortunate bounces going the Lightning’s way. The first came on a shot from Steven Stamkos which beat Jack Campbell over the blocker.

Steven Stamkos. 1-0 pic.twitter.com/EFD8wUXSOq
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 10, 2022

The puck bounces over a number of sticks before falling to Stamkos for his second goal of this series.
Under a minute later, Victor Hedman’s point shot somehow finds its way through all of the traffic in front of the net and past Campbell.

Victor Hed …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

The short-term solution to the Maple Leafs’ goaltending situation

I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but Erik Källgren and Michael Hutchinson could be the Maple Leafs netminders for the short-term future.
Yes, you read that right.
The Toronto Marlies are in Abbotsford for a set of games against the Canucks. After Petr Mrazek suffered an injury on Tuesday night in Boston, Hutchinson, who was supposed to start for the Marlies was held out of their game.
Next in line would’ve been Keith Petruzzelli, who’s currently under an AHL contract and has spent time with both the Marlies and Newfoundland Growlers. (If he was to be signed, he wouldn’t be able to go back down to the Marlies this season.)
However, he was also held out of this game due to precautionary reasons because of an illness. You also might be wondering where Joseph Woll might be, well, he’s also out with a shoulder injury.
So, the Marlies entered Tuesday night’s game in Abbotsford with two EBUGs (Emergency Back-Up Goalie).
Tavin Grant last played in 2017 with the Prince George Cougars of the WHL, posting a .892 SV% in 37GP. Talor Joseph is coming from Trinity Western University, where the 27-year-old had an .876 SV% in 12 games this past season. Each were signed to ATOs on Tuesday.
Funny side note: Joseph was called in on Tuesday afternoon to join the Marlies for their game in Abbotsford later …

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Author: Nick Barden / 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

Pre-2022 Blue Jays Top Prospects Countdown – No. 15: Kyle Johnston

I think that the Blue Jays’ 15th best prospect may come as a shock to quite a few people. When looking at Kyle Johnston’s career pitching numbers in the minor leagues, nothing stands out, that is, until we take a deep dive into his 2021 performance.

The 25-year-old right-handed pitcher was drafted in the sixth round of the 2017 draft. However, Johnston is the first prospect on this list that was acquired through a trade. On July 31st, 2019, the Jays traded Daniel Hudson to the Washington Nationals in exchange for prospect Kyle Johnston.
This is one of those baseball trades that worked for both teams, the Nationals got the player who recorded the last out of the 2019 World Series and the Jays received a pretty good prospect in return.
It didn’t always look that way, as Johnston looked like a project throughout his minor league tenure before 2021. He never had an ERA below 3.42 at any level, his K/9 usually sits around the 7 K/9 mark and his FIP has never been particularly good. So what makes Johnston my 15th best Blue Jays prospect.
Johnston’s 2021:
Johnston absolutely dominated 2021, well, not a first. In Double A, he pitched 51.2 innings, registering a 1.74 ERA, 4.06 FIP, with a K/9 of 7.14 and a BB/9 of 4.53 (we’ll get to this). Not particularly great, but he got the promotion to Triple A in mid-August.
In Triple A, he pitched 17.1 innings and posted a 1.04 E …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

A look at who owns what draft pick and how it affects the Leafs

I think it goes without saying at this point in the Leafs’ existence the priority for the team is winning a playoff round (or heaven forbid, two) over worrying about who they’ll draft next. It’s because of that we probably don’t need to sweat the small stuff like the Leafs owning fewer picks than any other NHL team in the 2022 draft. It’s also probably okay that with only three picks owned at this point that number could be reduced to one or two (but definitely not zero thanks to the conditions on the 7th round pick from the Menell trade.)
The Leafs also hold their first six picks from the 2023 draft, and those too will serve them well in the coming days, especially in the final hours of free agency. And there is always the possibility that the Leafs could be making some additional moves (read: trade Dermott) that might net them an additional pick or two along the way as well. And of course, there’s always the offseason and Toronto can recoup what they have given up along the way (in theory.) So in short, it’s too soon to be crying over draft picks.
The Leafs draft pick situation aside, I wanted to tak …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Martin Marincin is off to the medal round as USA and Canada fall in the quarter-finals

I didn’t think I’d be writing about Team Canada and the US getting eliminated from the Men’s Olympic Hockey Tournament this early, but here we are.
All four of the quarter-final games were played today, and each involved teams who could send upsets to the other country. That’s what some did.
The two biggest games of the day were the USA vs. Slovakia (which started the day) and Canada vs. Sweden (that ended the day).
It seemed like the Americans were an exciting team, with players like Matthew Knies and Nick Abruzzese, who are both Maple Leafs prospects. Even without them, USA had Kenny Agostino, David Warsofsky, and Jake Sanderson. This team was supposed go further.
But unfortunately, neither one of Canada or USA will be playing for a medal at the 2022 Olympics.
USA vs. Slovakia
Team Slovakia almost led after the first period, but just before the period ended, Abruzzese was able to pot one for the US after some nice passing.

Here’s Nick Abruzzese’s goal from USA’s quarterfinal matchup with Slovakia:#LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/MjjBoBLIcO
— Nick Richard (@_NickRichard) February 16, 2022

That was the 22-year-old’s only goal at the Olympic Games.
During the second period, the Americans would get on the board again with a goal from Sam Hentges. After that, it went fairly quiet for both teams. There were some penalties being called, but no goals.
However, with 44 seconds left on the clock, Slovakia was able to tie it.

TIE GAME
Marek Hrivik ties the game 2-2 with under a minute to play
Looks like the U.S. and Slovakia are headed to OT
Watch on the CBC Sports app or @cbcgem pic.twitter.com/BDQwCQcN0F
— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) February 16, 2022

Slovakia had the net empty and Marek Hrivik puts it in after a point shot just squeezes through Strau …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Which teams does Matthews love to play against?

I think it’s safe to say that no one expected Auston Matthews to be as good as he has been in his NHL career. An excellent first line center, sure, but to consistently be one of the best goal scorers in the NHL and make a competitive run for best player in the league is not something even the most optimistic Leafs fan dreamed of, but here we are.
We’re almost six seasons into his career, and we’ve watched him absolutely take over in some games, and against some teams. But which teams does he love to play against the most? Let’s dive in.
Ottawa Senators
What better place to start than to where Matthews first took the league by storm. You all know about his four goal game against the Senators in his NHL debut, and he has not let up, as the Sens are the only team that he’s put up 20 goals and the second he’s put up 30 points against in his career with a whopping 23 goals and 39 points in 25 games. Sure, he’s played the most games against them, and they’ve been bad almost the entire time in his career, but that’s why he l …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

Sheldon Keefe’s never satisfied mentality could take Leafs to the next level

What kind of coach do you think of when I say Sheldon Keefe’s name?
The 41-year-old has been the Maple Leafs’ bench boss for just over two years and carries a 139-86-38 record in the regular season. However, the one hump he’s yet to get the team over is the first round.
Keefe has done it in the AHL, winning a Calder Cup with the Toronto Marlies in 2018. But in the NHL, he’s only been able to have regular season success.
When I think of Keefe as a coach, I think of someone who’s never satisfied.

Keefe not satisfied despite winning pic.twitter.com/qOxnZiIbSP
— . (@_marlanderthews) February 10, 2021

If you remember back to the All or Nothing series, there was a part where Keefe felt like he’s losing the team. Toronto was winning games, but not in the ways that he wanted.
He preached playing the right way.
That might be playing in systems, having compete, or just making the correct play. Keefe makes it known if he doesn’t like his teams performance, even if it’s a win.

Leafs have won eight of their last nine games, but Keefe not fully satisfied with the play.
“We’ve been getting a lot of points here as of late. We know we’ve got to play better.”
— David Alter (@dalter) November 14, 2021

On the Maple Leafs’ most recent road trip, Toronto lost a lead quite a few times. Keefe, though, thought the team played well in the circumstances.
“No.” Keefe said after Saturday’s win over the Blues when asked if he was concerned with the amount of leads given up on the road trip. “It’s not indicative of who we’ve been all season long. I think each game has had its different circumstances, and I also think we’re ju …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Making sense of when the Leafs will schedule in nine postponed games

It’s probably premature to think that Omicron related cancellations are over for the Leafs and the NHL, but at the same time it seems like it has been eerily quiet about rescheduling some of those games. Considering the Leafs will have to make up nine games (so far) and the league needs to deal with 98 games total, it seems quite wishful that the NHL will be able either fit all of the games into what was going to be the Olympic break and that they will not upset the broadcasters and ticketholders by waiting until the last minute to announce those revisions. It’s because of that, you’d hope to see the rescheduled dates, soon, but with the acknowledgement that it will be a logistical nightmare to pull it off.

The @NHL announced today that three additional games will be rescheduled for dates later in the season.
Details: https://t.co/2efF8uEZl6 pic.twitter.com/9K1B6ACvn1
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 6, 2022

Amazingly during the Olympic break, there are only two nights that the Raptors are playing home games and the Scotiabank Arena wouldn’t be available to the Leafs for that reason. Beyond that there are only a couple of concerts still scheduled for that time frame as well, so in theory the Leafs 4 home games that will need to be made up can easily be rescheduled if it also works for the Hurricanes, Devils, Blues, and Penguins.
Of the opponents the Leafs had games postponed with, the Blues, Devils and Pens would be on the easier side of rescheduling.
Opponent
Games to make up
Montreal
10
Calgary
8
Carolina
6
Columbus
6
Seattle
5
Pittsburgh
5
Vancouver
5
New Jersey
5
St. Louis
3
St. Louis looks like one of the teams that will have the closest thing resembling some time off during th …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The opportunity is now for Jack Campbell to lead the Maple Leafs into the future

“For right now, we think there’s an opportunity here for Jack [Campbell] to just run with it.”
Those were the words of Sheldon Keefe after Maple Leafs practice on Monday when talking about the opportunity ahead for Jack Campbell.
As Petr Mrazek continues to work his way back from injury, Campbell remains at the forefront of something he hasn’t had before.
Runway.
If you’ve flown in a plane, you know what I mean. And even if you haven’t, I’m sure you understand.
As the Maple Leafs’ schedule got busier, Campbell’s workload in practice became less. For a player who’s never received this much opportunity, his body needs time to recover, which is why he takes part and then leaves early.
Toronto wants to manage his workload and allow him to have success.
With COVID hitting almost every corner within the Maple Leafs dressing room, it allowed Campbell to get some well-needed rest.
“The break has been significant for Jack,” Keefe said after practice on Monday. “It’s quite rare, or unheard of, for a goalie to get that opportunity to rest and recover. It wasn’t all vacation for him because he’s …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation