The Leafs did make progress, but it was still not good enough

It has been almost a week since it happened and it sometimes doesn’t feel real that the same outcome occurred yet again.
The Leafs have now played in 10 games with a chance to close out a playoff series and have failed to do just that. They have also played in five consecutive winner-take-all games and have lost all of them, becoming the first team to do so in the history of the NHL/MLB/NBA. The odds of this occurring are so rare (0.0036%) that they were more likely to accidentally win a series than lose five straight in this manner.
Being 18 years from their last series win, we are left with questions as to what went wrong and why the best Leafs team on paper couldn’t finish the job. Compared to last year, the stars were not the reason why this series was lost. This is especially true in Game 7 as all of the core four pieces played excellent hockey and could only get one goal past Andrei Vasilevskiy (it should have been two but that’s a whole other story).
After the Leafs blew a 3-1 series lead to the Canadiens in an embarrassing fashion, I wrote about the need for the Leafs to make a big change because whatever it was that they were doing wasn’t going to cut it if they were to take the next step in their evolution. While we are sitting here waiting for the Leafs to win their first postseason series since 2004, there are both reasons to feel optimistic about their future and frustrated that nothing has changed. It’s a much better outcome than how things went a season prior which is what led us to this …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs 3 stars of the week: Auston Matthews hits 60-goal mark, Erik Kallgren earns two solid wins

The final week of the 2021-22 NHL regular season has finally come and it has finally come to an end with three final games on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ schedule as they prepare to enter their sixth consecutive postseason, hoping for a different outcome this time around after repeating history for five years in a row now. After what felt like a super long season, we finally had three games left to play before we can start the playoffs. Games between the Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, and Boston Bruins were on the calendar for the Maple Leafs, and it included some potential playoff implications too.
The Maple Leafs opened their week last Sunday in Washington on the second half of a back-to-back after coming off yet another overtime loss to the Florida Panthers after blowing another multi-lead to them. This time, Toronto was on the receiving end of being down by multiple goals, but they rallied back throughout the second half of the game and ultimately tied it late in the third perio …

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Author: Joseph Zita / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs 3 stars of the week: Jack Campbell grabs two wins in three solid starts, Mark Giordano continues to be a staple on the blue line

After coming off a three-game week where we saw the Maple Leafs lose yet another stinker to the Buffalo Sabres, flat out dominate the Washington Capitals on home ice, and then win a back and forth game in overtime against the Ottawa Senators, Toronto had themselves another busy week on the schedule with four games waiting for them, including two against two divisional rivals again.
The Maple Leafs opened up their busy week on Sunday at home against the New York Islanders, and boy was that a boring first period but good thing things started to pick up and the game got a little more entertaining as it rolled along. After what was a pretty even yet boring first period, Toronto controlled the rest of the game through the last two periods with a combined shot total of 28-20 and ultimately came away with a big win for the standings 4-2, and a big thanks to Jack Campbell for his performance because he made the stops when the team needed them.
Currently, on a three-game winning streak, Toronto stayed home and welcomed the struggling Philadelphia Flyers in …

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Author: Joseph Zita / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs 3 stars of the week: Michael Bunting hits the 60-point mark, Mark Giordano helps lead Toronto to Saturday night win

After what was a pretty memorable week for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Auston Matthews, it was right back to business last week with three games on their schedule with the playoffs just creeping around the corner. With three games on their schedule – two against non-playoff teams and one against a wild card team – the Maple Leafs were definitely looking to continue their momentum into these three games and continue how they have played for the past month and a half.
They opened their week on Tuesday night against a team they have had trouble with this season, the Buffalo Sabres. It’s honestly strange Toronto has had trouble against the Sabres given where both teams are in the standings, but some teams just play other teams harder and have their number. Every team can beat any team on any given night in the NHL, however, it is quite annoying they keep losing to this Sabres team. Tuesday night wasn’t any different, and they played one of their worst games in recent memory and just looked lazy and they lost 5-2 on home ice after a pretty good win the Saturday prior against Montreal.
So following up a pretty bad 5-2 loss to a Sabres team …

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Author: Joseph Zita / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs 3 stars of the week: Auston Matthews sets Maple Leafs single-season goal record and his chase to 60, Mitch Marner’s MVP second-half continues

It was quite the special week if you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs fan because fans of the team, and even just hockey fans in general got to witness history as Auston Matthews tied and then set the new single-season goal record for the Toronto Maple Leafs. On top of history being made, the Maple Leafs had four games on their schedule last week and two of them involved two of the best teams in the league, both being in the Atlantic division.
The Maple Leafs finished a great week of hockey the week prior when they went 4-0-0 against Florida, Boston, Winnipeg, and Philadelphia, but to begin their week last week they had a tough back-to-back against Tampa Bay and Florida, both on the road. However, Toronto played two great games (minus the second half of the Florida game) against both teams and proved to a lot of people that despite them playing down to their competition a lot, they can hang with the elite of the elite among the league. Toronto opened their week on Monday night with a massive convincing 6-2 win in Tampa Bay that silenced the crowd as they dominated from puck drop to final horn.
Following a very impressive 6-2 wi …

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Author: Joseph Zita / The Leafs Nation

Sitting veterans in favour of mystery box players makes sense for the Leafs fourth line

This week marked the debut of Nick Abruzzese, an exciting prospect that is already 22 years old and could very well be ready to step into a regular NHL role. The same could soon be said of Matthew Knies, and while there is some hesitation about putting him into the NHL too early, it’s very possible he too will get a look. They’ll likely be playing on a line with Colin Blackwell, the prototypical energy line player, and ideal center option for a Leafs fourth line looking to make some noise. Both are exciting options that if they pan out, represent the best opportunity for the Leafs to roll four competitive lines heading into the postseason. The question is, which of the fourth line incumbents will join them, and which one will land in the press box.
I want to start off by quickly dismissing Kyle Clifford from consideration. Outside of the antiquated five minute a night enforcer role, there is very little to gain by having Clifford on the ice, and the Leafs often find themselves playing without the puck even in those highly sheltered situations. With the exception of those rare nights when the Leafs are looking to settle an old score, there’s no reason for Clifford taking up a roster spot on the Leafs.
Both Jason Spezza and Wa …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs week ahead: Tough Florida trip, Muzzin returning, and a chance to clinch

It seems like another big week for Toronto, and until they get that “x” next to their name on the standings page, I guess they’ll all be big weeks. Still, this one seems like the most significant part of the schedule remaining, so let’s dive into why.
The toughest possible back to back
Starting off the week in Tampa Bay is already a tough start. Putting a game against Florida right after is about the toughest back-to-back imaginable for the Leafs, and yes, another significant test of their playoff readiness. While a lot can change in the next month, it seems most likely that the Leafs and Lightning will face each other in the first round, and with the Leafs not having seen a lot of Tampa of late, this is a great chance to familiarize them.
It seems like a fortunate turn of events that Florida is the second part of the back-to-back as the Panthers having recently clinched their playoff birth are a bit more likely to take their foot off the gas against the Maple …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs 3 stars of the week: Auston Matthews hits 50-goal mark, Mitch Marner makes Maple Leaf history

The week of the trade deadline was a pretty quiet one for the Toronto Maple Leafs with just two games on their schedule, one at home against the Devils, and one on the road against the Canadiens. They liked their game against New Jersey, as well as their game against Montreal, but left Saturday night upset without the two points given how well they played that night. Fast forward to the next week and Toronto has four games on their schedule, with two against some big Atlantic division teams in the Panthers and Bruins, so the Maple Leafs had to be ready for the week that was ahead.
They opened their week on Sunday night at home in a clash against the Florida Panthers for the first time this season, and following a loss to the Canadiens 24 hours prior, some of us were wondering how this team would come out and perform on the second half of a back-to-back against one of the best teams in the league. Wel …

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Author: Joseph Zita / The Leafs Nation

It looks like Cleveland’s contract negotiations with Jose Ramirez aren’t going very well

Earlier this week, news came out that the Guardians were nearing a contract extension and that the team would do “whatever it takes” to keep the three-time All-Star in Cleveland for the majority of his career.

Well, it seems that the “whatever it takes” sentiment doesn’t include money, as the team offered Ramirez a four-year extension worth $89 million.

According to @mikedeportes the #Guardians first offer to Jose Ramirez was $89M in an additional 4-year deal, but Ramirez and his agents don’t seem to like the idea so much, that why talk got bit slower but anything can happen before the opening day. https://t.co/cRHuZMuENT
— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) April 2, 2022

For context, that’s an average salary of $22.25 million per year, which is in the ballpark of the deal that kyle Schwarber signed with the Phillies in March. I don’t think the player who ranks third in baseball in wins above replacement since the start of the 2018 season is looking for Kyle Schwarber money.
According to Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com, extension talks between Ramirez and the Guardians “have bogged down, if not ended.” The goal was to get Ramirez signed before Opening Day, which is next Friday, and it seems that isn’t going to happen.
Assuming this wasn’t an April Fools’ Day prank played by Cleveland and the Guardians actually fail to reach a new deal with their best player, the Ramirez-to-Toronto rumours are going to continue throughout the season. If July rolls around and Cleveland isn’t in the mix to contend, you’d think they’d pull the trigger on a trade. The longer Cleveland waits, the less they’re going to be able to command in return. …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Time to utilize the Leafs defensive “depth”

It seems like only last week the Leafs were feeling so comfortable in their defensive depth that they could afford to let Travis Dermott walk for a 3rd round pick (a good decision), and that they could cut Alex Biega loose from the Marlies in favour of an AHL loan of Phillipe Myers from the Predators (again, not a bad decision), and the disposal of Brennan Menell (meh.) It was shortly after those moves that the Leafs found themselves faced with a serious injury to Rasmus Sandin, coupled with the ongoing injury to Jake Muzzin, that left the Leafs with limited NHL defensive depth. Luckily it seemed that the top six were gelling.
Then Tuesday night against the Bruins occurred and we are again reminded of how fragile the illusion of depth can be. Both Justin Holl and Ilya Lyubushkin left the game and didn’t return, leaving the Leafs to play the final period with just four blueliners, a task that was performed somewhat respectably and certainly put to rest the debate on whether or not the Leafs needed Mark Giordano at the trade deadline. Still, that leads to the question of who plays if Lyubushkin or Holl can’t play.
First off, let me start by saying …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation