Game #6 Recap: Leafs face elimination in seven once again

It was never going to be this easy. It was always going seven.
And it was always going to be heartbreaking as the Tampa Bay Lightning found a way (though legitimately or not- don’t worry, we’ll get to that,) to stave off elimination and force yet another Game 7 for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Much like Game 5, the game truly began with the Lightning getting the game to 2-0, the Leafs erasing the defecit, pulling ahead, then the Lightning tying the game. Unlike Game 5, there was no moment of heroic triumph that saw the Leafs move forward into the 2nd round for the first time since 2004.
And let’s be perfectly frank and honest here, the Leafs were robbed of the victory by the officials.
Yes, it’s a cliche of the stereotypical ‘salty fan’ to blame the referees, but objectively, all emotion detached, raw facts only: the Leafs were robbed. Lets’s look at it in more detail.
The Gifs:

Not going to change anything now, but sure looks like an errant call on David Kampf high-stick.
Replay seems to indicate Kampf got Foote in the jersey/shoulder pad, but it was sold well.
(h/t @JoshRimerPR) pic.twitter.com/h7Q4EZB37L
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) May 13, 2022

There you have it, plain as day, Foote sold a phantom high stick and the official bit on it like a fish on a baited hook. The level of complete incompetence from the officials in this league is disgusting to say the absolute least …

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Author: Dylan Murphy / The Leafs Nation

Besides the big four, which Maple Leafs need to step up in the playoffs?

It’s always interesting when people discuss the Maple Leafs and the playoffs, together in the same sentence.
Each and every year, Toronto loses and fans say they’re done but by the time the next playoffs roll around, they’re back in. There’s so much to discuss around this time, like whether Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner will keep their form, if Jack Campbell can have a strong showing consistently against top-tier teams, and whether or not Toronto’s defence can hold up.
This season feels a little bit different. Maple Leafs fans haven’t found themselves asking much of those questions — or any at all. Many are confident in this team, even if they have to play the defending Stanley Cup Champions in the first round.
But, here at The Leafs Nation decided, we’d still like to ask this question; Who needs to step up (besides the big four) in the playoffs?
Ryan Hobart:
Well, the title intentionally takes away the obvious answer. The main thing that’s gone wrong these last few playoff runs is that the main core wasn’t been what we’ve come to expect from their regular season dominance.
Secondary scoring is one way to mask that, so we could say that. Getting some production from the 3rd and 4th lines would go a long wa …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Pre-2022 Blue Jays Top Prospect Countdown – No 1: Gabriel Moreno

The best prospect in the Jays system was always a given, it’s Gabriel Moreno.

The 22-year-old catcher is the second best catching prospect according to most sites and in 2021, Moreno blossomed. However, let’s take a look at his background.
Background:
His story begins with Vlad Jr. The Alex Anthopoulos run Blue Jays went over the International Free Agency bonus pool, meaning that the most they could sign an international free agent was limited to $300,000. Despite this, they signed the Blue Jays third best prospect, Otto Lopez to a signing bonus of $60,000, Alejandro Kirk for only $7,500 and Gabriel Moreno for $25,000.
The fact that they were able to find two catchers who’ll be MLB regulars is quite incredible, but Moreno wasn’t always a catcher. Prior to moving to the most important role, Moreno was a shortstop., which you can still see hints of while he plays catcher.
Moreno started his professional career in 2017 playing in the Dominican Summer League (DOSL). He registered 135 plate appearances and slashed .248/.274/.570 with no homers. The catcher was also a contact hitter, only walking 4.4% of the time while striking out 3.7%.
In 2018, he started with the State-side rookie league team, and put up great numbers in his 101 plate appearances. The then 18-year-old slashed .413/.455/1.108 with his first two professional homers. This prompted a call up to their Bluefield team, where he slashed .279/.303/.762 in 66 plate appearances, hitting two m …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Frank Seravalli is reporting increased interest in 2023 first round picks

If there is one thing you can always count on, it’s that NHL GMs will adopt a “grass is always greener on the other side” approach to asset management. This is partially how you wind up with competitive teams lining up to throw assets at Montreal so they can tuck Ben Chiarot into their 3rd pairing.
That’s why with an abundance of 2022 draft picks being made available, teams are losing interest and focusing on 2023 picks instead:
From Seravalli:
… so far, teams have asked for and prefer 2023 draft picks as compensation over picks from the upcoming 2022 Draft. They are seen as more valuable – and that includes later-round picks, not just first-round picks.
Unscientifically, the 2023 Draft is perceived as being “deeper” than 2022. Whether that is actually true depends on the eye of the beholder.
So much of what will transpire over the next week will likely be circumstantial and dependent on what teams have to trade. This year, it just so happens also that some of the teams that may be most active (Florida, Colorado, Vegas, Carolina) have already traded away their top 2022 picks and only have 2023 currency to trade.
So the good news for the Leafs is that they a …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The five players you’ll meet in trade deadline hell

One of the things that always amazes me about the trade deadline is that people look at a team that is doing really well and come up with the worst type of player as the guy who can put them over the top? “You know what the Tampa Bay Lightning needs to build a dynasty?” “No, who?” “A young Doug Houda.” It’s painful to me and often ignores the idea that the team in question may have been successful all season long because they’ve actively avoided putting Kris Russell clones (or worse, the actual Kris Russell) in their lineup.
Still, it seems year after year people give into the cliched need for certain player archetypes, and the myth of the player who excels at playoff hockey is reborn. As a result, we spend the next couple of months living in fear that it will be our team’s GM who thinks that there is a magical switch that makes Ben Chiarot relevant again each May.
I’m not going to pretend that playoff hockey isn’t more intense and that the psychology of players change when there is finally something on the line, but it also seems like teams like the success …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Know Your Enemy: Shesterkin and a few elite skaters the only real concern for the Maple Leafs tonight

Every season, there’s always a team that plays well above what they’re capable of. The most famous examples are the 2014-15 Calgary Flames, 2013-14 Colorado Avalanche, and of course, the 2012-13 Toronto Maple Leafs, and this year, that team is the New York Rangers. While they have some solid pieces in Adam Fox, Igor Shesterkin, Artemi Panarin, and Mika Zibanejad, they’re attempts to go a tougher route this season means that the team pretty much struggles when they aren’t on the ice. Shesterkin has masked a lot of that for them in net, bailing them out on many occasions to give them wins, but when he isn’t on his game, this team is usually in tough to get wins.
Note: This is based on projected lines and starters at the time of publishing. Coaches really love to surprise us right before game time, so there’s a solid chance that some of the matchups aren’t accurate for the actual game because of that.
Tale of the Tape (via Mark Norman)

Lineups
Toronto Maple Leafs

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

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
MORGAN RIELLY
T.J. BRODIE
RASMUS SANDIN
TIMOTHY LILJEGREN
TRAVIS DERMOTT
ALEX BIEGA

New York Rangers

LW
C
RW
CHRIS KREIDER
MIKA ZIBANEJAD
KAAPO KAKKO
ARTEMI PANARIN
RYAN STROME
FILIP CHYTIL
DRYDEN HUNT
BARCLAY GOODROW
JULIEN GAUTHIER
GREG MCKEGG
KEVIN ROONEY
RYAN REAVES

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
RYAN LINDGREN
ADAM FOX
K’ANDRE MILLER
JACOB TROUBA
PATRIK NEMETH
BRADEN SCHNEIDER

Forwards
The first line of Chris Kreider, Kaapo Kakko, and Zibanejad is one of the few line combinations that actually work well together for the Rangers this year, generating a 52.61% CF% and a 56.08% xGF% in almost 250 minutes together this season. Kreider is having a resurgence this season on that line, living up to what was thought to be a very pricey contract up to this point, finding himself fourth in the NHL in goals, and aside from a lack of discipline, doing very well in most facets of the game. Zibanejad has established himself as a strong first line center from a points perspective for a few years now, but he struggles to drive play on a consistent basis at both ends of the ice. Kakko is in a similar boat, except he also doesn’t put up points, and just struggles to live up to his draft pedigree at any part of the game up to this point in his career. Kreider clearly carries the line from a possession standpoint, but between him and Zibanejad, it has the potential to burn you every now and then, so it’s still one to keep an eye on.
Filip Chytil isn’t the normal candidate on the second line next to Ryan Strome and Panarin, but with the current injuries, that seems to be the case, although it’s not a pretty one, as the combo finds themselves on the wrong end of the ice more often than not with a 44.74% CF% and a 27.95% xGF%. It speaks to Panarin’s skill then that the line has a 68.87% GF%. While his defense leaves much to be desired, he’s one of the best playmakers in the game, and his ability to create offense out of nothing more than makes up for his defensive game. Strome has found a home next to Panarin these past few seasons, and rediscovered his game after a disappointing stint with the Oilers, at least offensively. And going with Chytil on this line shows their going all in on offense, who while he doesn’t put up points on the scoreboard, he can somewhat drive offense, so he won’t hold back Panarin and Strome in that regard. Still, none of them can defend, so if you can put a strong offensive line that can defend up against them, you can take advantage of them.
The third line of Barclay Goodrow, Dryden Hunt, and Julien Gauthier is one that hasn’t got much time together, so their results are a little bit all over the place with a 33.57% CF%, but a 55% xGF%, so not much to go off of their. Goodrow was one of the Rangers big additions this offseason, as they wanted a piece of the infamous third line from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Cup runs. The problem is, they picked the wrong piece, as Goodrow was definitely the beneficiary of that line’s results. He’s okay defensively, but he can’t carry a shutdown line like the Rangers think he can. Hunt actually can, so he saves the line a little bit, but he lacks a bit in other aspects of his game, so overall he still isn’t quite as effective as the Rangers probably want in a third line shutdown role. Meanwhile Gauthier is here pretty much because of draft pedigree, as the former first round pick really hasn’t established much of an NHL game aside from hints of driving offense, and playmaking, but he really struggles elsewhere, making it for an investment that overall isn’t worth it. This all amounts to what the Rangers will probably want to use as their shutdown line, although the Leafs probably shouldn’t worry too much about actually getting shutdown by them.
While I think you could match up the Matthews and Kämpf lines against either of the top six for the Rangers, it might be an advantage to go Matthews vs. Panarin as I alluded to earlier. They’re good offensively, but really weak defensively, so it’s an opport …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

The TLN 3 Stars: Leafs hang on to win in a shootout against Vegas

The idea of bonus hockey always seems appealing until it’s added to a game that already had a 10pm ET start time, is followed up with another late game tomorrow, and doesn’t involve blowing a 3-1 lead. Nevertheless, the Leafs picked up a win on the road against a very solid Golden Knights team, even with their depleted roster. The Leafs finished the night with a 4-3 victory in the shootout, thanks to the hot hands of William Nylander.
The night marked Jack Campbell setting his career best for starts in a season with 27. Yes, just 27, but Campbell was again solid tonight, and will have the luxury of rest tomorrow night, a pleasant reward for goaltender who has certainly earned it.
Looking at the milestones attached to the game, it was also a big night for Morgan Rielly,

Morgan Rielly ties Bill Derlago for 32nd in all-time Leafs scoring with 334 points.
— Mark Norman (@MNorman87) January 12, 2022

Also in Marner’s absence, Rielly was able to creep ahead of Mitch on the Leafs all-time assists list.
Here are the night’s three stars.
Third Star: Rasmus Sandin
Tonight was one of those nights where you could see Sandin learning on the job, and showing that he is going to be capable of taking the next steps to being a solid top four defender for the Leafs. Like most of the Leafs defense he took an absolute beating on the underlying shot differentials, as the Leafs were noticeably peppered by the Golden Knights thoughout the game, and Toronto looked tired and had a hard time keeping up.
Sandin seemed u …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Leafs sign 2021 5th round pick Ty Voit to entry level contract

It seems like the Leafs always have some late round draft pick for fans to get excited about with how well Kyle Dubas has been drafting since he took over as GM, and it looks like we have another one in forward Ty Voit, who the Leafs have just signed to a three year entry level contract.

We’ve signed forward Ty Voit to a three-year entry level contract. #LeafsForever
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 19, 2021

Voit was a 5th round pick in the 2021 draft after not playing for a full year due to the OHL not restarting because of COVID-19. He had just 28 points in 49 games as a rookie for the Sarnia Sting, but many expected him to play at a higher level in his draft eligible year. He has since lived up to that expectations, already surpassing his totals from his rookie year in just 24 games with 29 points thus far, all while also making the transition from winger to center.
His stock has definitely risen over the course of the season, as he jumped up four spots since in October in fellow TLN writer Kyle Cushman’s draft rankings, sliding in at 13th on the team.
It’s a …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation

Corey Seager and Javier Baez are off the board, the Blue Jays are reportedly interested in Chris Taylor

It was always a pipedream, but the Blue Jays’ “ideal target” of Corey Seager is off the market.

Seager joined Marcus Semien, inking a massive 10-year contract worth $325 million with the Texas Rangers.
Texas spent $600 million and completely revamped their infield… but still look like complete ass?

Looks so much better when you sign the best middle infield available to you in free agency:
2B SemienSS Seager1B LoweRF CalhounCF TaverasDH CalhounLF McKinney3B Kiner-FalefaC Heim
Could maybe use another outfield bat, definitely another starting pitcher.
— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) November 29, 2021

Billy McKinney batting seventh?!? I mean, hey, good on them for spending some cash on marquee free agents, but it’s sort of hilarious to see a team add two impact players and come out of it looking like they’re going to challenge to finish .500.
As much as it sucks to lose Semien and subsequently lose out on, in my mind, the best fit for the Blue Jays on the free-agent market in Seager, the positive here is that both players joined a non-competitive team. Things would be much worse if Semien and/or Seager signed with the Yankees.
Anyways, after Semien signed in Texas, Shi Davidi offered us …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

TLN Top 20 Leafs: #19 Wayne Simmonds

Wayne Simmonds always seemed to be the dream Toronto Maple Leaf for a lot of fans, especially in his 30 goal power forward days from the early 2010s. Of course, when he finally joined the Leafs last season, he was not that player anymore, but fans were still excited for him to finally wear the blue and white.
Simmonds ranking was relatively consistent among our contributors, going as high as 16, and two people not even ranking him, so it seems after a solid first season with the Leafs, expectations have been tempered.
Five Interesting Stats
5v5 CF%
5v5 xGF%
Sh%
PP TOI
PP P/60
53.62
55.35
11.3
68:07
2.64
One of the biggest surprises of Wayne Simmonds’ 2020-21 season was his effectiveness at driving play. In his three year’s prior to last year, he was significantly worse with a 46.68% 5v5 CF% and a 47.77% 5v5 xGF%, so there was some question as to whether or not he’d be an anchor for a line. His most common linemate was Ilya Mikheyev, so it’s not like he was carried, but at the very least, he wasn’t a drag regardless of where he played in the lineup.
He also surprised fans with a bit of his …

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Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation