Maple Leafs forward Ondrej Kase voted as nominee for Bill Masterton Trophy

The Toronto Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association has voted winger Ondrej Kase its nominee for the 2022 Bill Masterton Trophy, recognizing perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
The 26-year-old winger has been challenged to fulfill his NHL dream several times in his career as a low draft pick and because of health, most recently this season when he missed the past five weeks with a concussion from a game March 19 in Nashville. Head injuries also limited his playing time with the Anaheim Ducks and Boston Bruins, holding him to as few as three games with the Bruins in 2020-21.
But he worked diligently in the summer of 2021 to make a competitive Toronto lineup and amass 14 goals and 13 assists in 50 games as one of the team’s most effective two-way forwards. He earned praise for his defensive work, shot blocking and converting scoring chances. Toronto’s record with Kase in the lineup is 31-19.
“When he’s played and when he’s practised he gives you nothing but everything he has,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said of Kase. “You can’t help but appreciate that.”
The Maple Leafs signed Kase to a one-year contract worth $1.25 million this past summer. His versatility has been an asset to Keefe, who has utilized the forward in both top-six and bottom-six roles.  A …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs’ special teams can carry them through the playoffs

Most hockey fans will be familiar with the rhetoric surrounding ‘playoff hockey’. I’m not immune to it either; there’s something that feels different about it. One of the common assertions around playoff hockey is that fewer penalties are called in the playoffs. The idea is that it’s “called tighter” because the referees have an increased fear of interfering with the game. This means that a team that succeeds during the regular season on being very good at killing penalties, or scoring goals on the powerplay, or both, will have a rude awakening when they’re not able to do the same come playoff time.
This idea of powerplay scarcity in the playoffs doesn’t hold water, though. It’s patently false. There are actually more penalties called the playoffs, and as such, there’s no reason a strong team with effective special teams can’t continue that success in the playoffs.
Don’t believe me? Have some stats. This is Staturday, after all.
From 2007 to 2015, according to this analysis by Garret Hohl at HockeyGraphs:
In the regular season (for 5v5), these teams were called for 3.16 penalties per game and 4.09 penalties per sixty minutes. In the playoffs, the teams were called for 3.31 penalties per game and 4.16 penalties per sixty minutes (again, all for 5v5).
A similar analysis from Pregame Skate comes to the same conclusion when looking from 2007 to 2020:

The Power Kill
If you’re not familiar with the power kill yet, …

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Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

Black Girl Hockey Club prepares to make their mark in Toronto

Black Girl Hockey Club is making its way into the city, with the help of supporters like MLSE, they are ready to take Toronto by storm. 
 
Founded in October 2018 Black Girl Hockey Club, or BGHC for short, at its core is a nonprofit organization that advocates for Black women in hockey. The end goal is to see hockey become more inclusive for Black women first, but also their friends, families and the folks that support them. Founder and executive director Renee Hess created Black Girl Hockey Club to open up a heartstrong community and solidified space for Black women hockey lovers. 
 
BGHC’s mission, “ is to inspire and sustain passion for the game of hockey within the Black community, specifically with our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends.”
 
This is a group where their activism is engrained in every aspect of their work. As it stands now, the NHL pushes quite strongly a narrative that claims hockey is for everyone. Many fans, especially BIPOC individuals, know that this is not the case. This past year has seen a huge rise in issues related to race and racism in this sport at every level, and it’s still going up. That’s where BGHC comes in with an initiative they started about a year and a half ago called the Get Uncomfortable campaign. 
 
This weekend is jam packed with exciting things for many BIPOC fans and BGHC volunteers to take part in. Four of the five events this week were coordinated by MLSE. While a lot of these events are closed, Leafs fans still have the opportunity to come out to a meetup in Maple Leafs Square before the game against Buff …

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Author: Marsha Joseph / The Leafs Nation

Bluelines: The Leafs Nation’s game day betting guide for Leafs vs. Canadiens

POWERED BY POINTSBET CANADA
It’s a classic Hockey Night in Canada matchup as the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Montreal Canadiens for the final time in 2021/22. The Habs have the lead in the season series, up 2-1 this year, so the Leafs will be looking to even things up against Montreal tonight at Scotiabank Arena.
Leafs vs. Canadiens (Leafs: -430)
As you might expect coming into a matchup with the league’s fourth-ranked team taking on the 31st ranked team, the Maple Leafs enter tonight’s game as big favourites.
Simply put, there isn’t much value to be had in the Leafs moneyline in this one. I’m sure you’re aware, but Montreal has been a tough out for Toronto ever since the first-round playoff series last spring. The Leafs have scored two goals in all three matchups against the Canadiens this season, winning 2-1 in Toronto and falling 5-2 and 4-2 respectively in Montreal.
If you are going to bet on Toronto to win, there’s much more value in the Leafs to win by over 1.5 goals at -160 odds.
Montreal’s two wins this year have come facing Petr Mrazek (19 saves on 24 shots) and Erik Kallgren (14 saves on 17 shots). With Jack Campbell back in net and the Leafs on fire offensively, take the much better o …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

Leafs Prospect Roundup: Nick Abruzzese debuts, Nick Robertson injury scare, European playoffs update

It remains an incredibly busy stretch of the hockey calendar with the NHL and AHL entering the final month of their regular seasons, the NCAA preparing for the Frozen Four later this week, and European leagues in the thick of their playoffs already.
Before diving into this week’s updates, I would be remiss if I didn’t begin with Elliotte Friedman’s positive report on Rodion Amirov’s status from Saturday night. Amirov, one of Toronto’s top prospects, was diagnosed with a brain tumour and has been undergoing chemotherapy in Germany. According to Friedman, Amirov has completed his six weeks of chemotherapy and is scheduled to begin his next round in a month’s time.
In the meantime, Amirov has continued skating on a rink the Leafs have been renting out for him in Germany. It’s great to hear good news regarding Amirov’s status, as always our thoughts are with Amirov and we send him our best wishes as he prepares for his next round of chemotherapy.
Nick Abruzzese | LW | Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
One week after signing his entry-level contract, Nicholas Abruzzese made his NHL debut on Saturday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Abruzzese clocked in at 9:05 time on ice, about what you would anticipate for a player making their professional debut on the fourth line, but saw a fair bit of action in those limited minutes. He was on the ice for a Leafs goal in the form of Wayne Simmonds’ breakaway marker but was also on f …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

The race for the Isobel Cup is on — PHF Playoff Preview

The race for the Isobel Cup is on — PHF Playoff Preview

The teams of the Premier Hockey Federation, the PHF, are already in, or are making their way to, Tampa Bay, FL for the Isobel Cup playoffs. All six teams make the playoffs, so everyone, including our Toronto Six, are going to be there.
It’s been an intense and exciting 20-game season, and the march for the Isobel Cup playoffs are the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication to this growing league.
Did you know? The Isobel Cup is actually shorthand for the Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy Cup. Similar to how the Stanley Cup is actually shorthand for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Even better? Lady Isobel and Lord Stanley were father and daughter.
Schedule
The action begins today, with the quarterfinal matchups being played. Here’s how the weekend’s activities will go:
Friday, March 25th4:00PM ET, Boston Pride (3) vs. Buffalo Beauts (6)
7:30PM ET, Metropolitan Riveters (4) vs. Minnesota Whitecaps (5)
Sunday, March 27th
1:00pm ET, Connecticut Whale (1) vs. [Lowest ranked QF winner]
4:30pm ET, Toronto Six (2) vs. [Highest ranked QF winner]
Monday, March 28th
9:00pm ET, Isobel Cup Final game between Sunday’s winners
Preview
The Six had a very strong season, but were edged out of first place in the league when Connecticut took 4 points of a possible 6 in the double-header between the teams who were tied going into the weekend. They’re positioned to do very well regardless.
The science says that bye-weeks in the playoffs are beneficial, at least in other sports. So perhaps the Six and the Whale gain an extra ad …

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Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

The Toronto Six ownership change is important growth not just for the team, but for all of hockey

The importance of growing the game of hockey so that it is inclusive of all genders, races, sexual orientations, abilities, and people who are otherwise discriminated against cannot be overstated. The world of hockey was built for white men, and those in it have not yet done enough to restructure the game to make it truly for everyone. We’re not that far from Jordan Subban experiencing race-motivated abuse during a game. We are still in a moment where women aren’t given anywhere near the same opportunities for growth, development, and success as men are.
There are groups who are trying harder than others to make change happen. The Seattle Kraken, for one, have been adamant about diversity and inclusion being fundamental parts of their organizational philosophy. The Vancouver Canucks, for two, hired both Émilie Castonguay and Cammi Granato as assistant general managers, making history with both hirings. There’s the Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA), the Professional Women’s Hockey Player’s Association (PWHPA), Black Girl Hockey Club (BGHC), to name a few more.
But this story is about another such group; a professional hockey league with proper franchises, proper competition, and compensation for the players. It’s an organization with a mission for equity, diversity and inclusion, which is getting increased coverage and influence, and with wonderful people steering it forward. I’m talking about, of course, the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF).
Being a Toronto Maple Leafs centric blog, our eyes are mostly focused on the local franchise, the Toronto Six. The recent news of their change in ownership was first announced by Jeff Marek on the 32 Thoughts Segment on Hockey Night in Canada, and now it has been confirmed by the league. This gives us an opportunity to have an in-depth conversation about this franchise and what it means for the growth of hockey.

The Toronto Six have been sol …

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Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

Goaltending allowed for a certain Maple Leafs victory to nearly slip away and that is worrisome

DETROIT — The Toronto Maple Leafs won a hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. But a dominating performance nearly turned into a nightmare when the club gave up four goals early in the third period in a span of 4:46.
Just like that, a five-goal lead was down to one and as things got really ugly in goal for the Maple Leafs, but they hung on and defeated Red Wings by a head-exploding score of 10-7.
“Let’s not let the craziness of the third period take away from the fact that we played an excellent
game,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Even in the third period within all of that nonsense. I like the way (Ilya) Mikheyev responded on his goal, the way the penalty kill responded in a key moment.”
Indeed the Maple Leafs pushed back and managed to pull away from the Red Wings, who made brought Toronto’s lead down to 8-7 and had a power play with a chance to tie it before Ondrej Kase scored a shorthanded goal to keep the Red Wings at bay.
But the silliness of that third period almost took away from some impressive accomplishments for Toronto’s top line.
Mitch Marner recorded his first NHL hat trick (a natural one at that) before fi …

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Author: David Alter / The Leafs Nation

The year from Holl

It hasn’t been a great year of hockey from Justin Holl. It’s probably your eyes telling you that, but it’s also the numbers. The Muzzin/Holl pairing doesn’t inspire the confidence it once did and although the Leafs are still an “offense first” organization, the fact that they can no longer rely on Muzzin/Holl as the defacto shutdown pairing has harmed the Leafs enough this season to make fans (and likely the Leafs) take notice that it needs to be addressed.

Jake Muzzin for his part has been serviceable. He’s still contributing in a fashion you can accept from a second pairing defenseman who does some defensive zone heavy lifting. When you consider in the previous season Muzzin had an overall score of 92 and a defensive score of 95 on the Evolving Hockey player cards, the decline here is significant and speaks to the challenges of having a declining, older, and now very injury prone defenseman being paired with a bit of a black hole on his right side.

Interestingly enough, it appears that it is Holl that has been significantly better than Muzzin defensively this year. I’m not sure that many eyes would agree with that, so let’s dive a bit deeper and take a look at how the Muzzin/Holl matches up against other Leafs pairings that have played over 60 minutes together this season…

Looking at how Muzzin and Holl have fared compared to other Leafs defense pairings, you can see where there is the potential for Holl’s numbers to be somewhat driven by his time with Sandin in a more sheltered capacity. When Holl has faced lesser competition his numbers have improved significantly and that might be the biggest takeaway from Holl. He can’t handle the quality of competition that comes with the Muzzin-Holl assignments, and honestly for that matter, neither can Muzzin anymore.
Using PuckIQ’s comparison of the Leafs defense against Elite competition, Justin Holl and Jake Muzzin again show that despite getting significant time against that group, they are struggling with the assignment…

The results from Holl again don’t appear as bad as they do for Muzzin, but it’s notable in their limited time against elite co …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Canadian Men’s Hockey Team isn’t inspiring confidence in the Olympic tournament

The elimination round of Men’s Hockey at the Olympics is finally here, and was it ever interesting.
While Finland, USA, the ROC and Sweden had booked their ticket to the quarter-finals in round robin play, more teams were needed to round out the matchups.
Those four teams watched on as Slovakia took on Germany, Switzerland faced Czechia, Denmark played Latvia, and Canada finished off the day with a game against China.
Slovakia vs. Germany
The German team has had an interesting Olympics thus far.
It was obviously a tough group with the United States and Canada in it, but this seemed like an easy test to get to the quarter-finals. (Germany won a silver medal at the 2018 Olympic Games.)
Their game against Slovakia, though, was a little bit different.
Slovakia played a difficult game against the Germans, actually ousting them from the tournament with a 4-0 win.
With the win, the Slovaks arrive at the quarter-finals to take on the United States, which will be their most difficult test yet.
Denmark vs. Latvia
A great story with Team Latvia unfortunately came to an end today as they lost 3-2 to Denmark.
It was a tie game heading into the third period, which meant an exciting ending for either team. 1:45 into the period and Markus Lauridsen scored for …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation