Im happy with what Ive done, but I have to take this game tonight [against Boston] and try to do something noticeable out there and stay consistent every time I get the opportunity, said fourth-line winger Josh Leivo after the Leafs morning skate on Monday.
You only control what you can control, and right now were all still in the lineup. Have to make the most of it.
Its possible that Toronto will have both Nylander and injured centre Auston Matthews back in the fold by the end of this week, which could leave Leivo or his linemates, Frederik Gauthier and Tyler Ennis, on the outside looking in.
Matthews has been practising with the Leafs in a red no-contact sweater for the past two weeks and been on the ice for several morning skates working closer to a return. The 21-year-old centre said last Thursday he will need at least one full-contact practice before coming back, with his next opportunity on Tuesday. From there, Matthews could be eyeing a return as early as Wednesday against San Jose, or Saturday at Minnesota.
Its interesting that a six-year deal, even at this late stage with next Saturdays deadline looming, remains a term that is possible for this deal, Johnston said during the Headlines segment of Hockey Night in Canada Saturday. It doesnt necessarily mean that it will be a six-year deal, but that conversation is going.
Bruins Pastrnak on Nylanders absence: Its definitely hard for him
Ennis and Gauthier have already experienced being healthy scratches this season – Gauthier didnt play until the Leafs fourth game of the season and Ennis was scratched for three games in mid-October while rotating onto the fourth line with Andreas Johnsson.
Putting what his contract may be in terms of salary, cap hit, or long term implications… lets just imagine this lineup that seems close at hand. Lets FANTASTZE about it and ENJOY it. Weve been dreaming about it since Tavares signed and have yet to see a single second of even a pre-season game or practice scrimmage…
Leafs on the bubble know changes could be coming
It wasnt until Matthews hurt his shoulder on Oct. 27 that both Gauthier and Ennis took hold of regular fourth-line spots; in the 13 games since, Ennis has registered two goals and one assist, while Gauthier has two assists. Leivo has been at his post in all 24 games for Toronto this year, producing three goals and two assists. All three rave about their burgeoning chemistry now and arent ready to quit building on it.
Meanwhile, the Leafs have been chugging along just fine. Matthews got off to a torrid start before getting hurt. Kapanen is in the midst of a breakout season where hes looked electric alongside either Matthews or Kadri. Marner and Tavares are wrecking the league even without Nylander OR Matthews in the lineup.
We just have to focus on doing our best every shift, Ennis shrugged. Our goal is to just go out there every shift and try to score, make sure were good in our own end. Whatever happens with everything else will happen.
Gauthiers position might be most precarious of all, given that he entered the Leafs lineup came when head coach Mike Babcock moved Par Lindholm from centre to the wing prior to Matthews injury. With a centre and winger potentially returning, Gauthier is expendable, even while his game is showing steady improvement.
You thought the Leafs offense looked ridiculous before? Give the Leafs seven games against fucking Boston again. Give them 7 more against Tampa. Give them 7 against whoever emerges from the garbage pile of the Metro, and then 7 against Nashville or Winnipeg.
Jeff Blair: Bruins still the measuring stick for Maple Leafs
When at his best, Gauthier is driving the fourth lines success from the faceoff circle. Their line sees only 36 per cent of their draws in the offensive zone, but still theyre at 50 per cent possession on the season – a credit to Gauthiers 50 per cent success rate overall this season on defensive zone faceoffs, boosted to 53 per cent success in the month of November.
Mike Babcock, on how he feels about #leafs at U.S. Thanksgiving: Obviously ecstatic. Any way you look at it weve got off to a good start. We think our teams going to be better, we have significant pieces not here and they will be here.”
Gauthier has added some quality scoring chances to the mix in recent games, but to his great frustration they have yet to go in.
In other strange happenings, on Saturday nights game between the Sharks and Golden Knights, the Sharks had both Evander Kane AND coach Peter DeBoer tossed from the game. Barclay Goodrow later joined them for an early shower.
Sometimes I hear it from Josh in practice, like Just do that scoring in a game! Gauthier joked. But I think were all just taking it day to day and Im just doing my thing. Were playing tonight, so you come in and do your best and then well see what happens when the big players come back.
Hes just a kid trying to figure it out, trying to get better, added Babcock. Coach wont even play him on the penalty kill yet. There are lots of things you have to work on. But if youre [Andreas Johnsson] two days ago [who scored a hat trick against Philadelphia] versus today, that one game doesnt make a career, but it might give you some confidence. So its all about confidence and earning your way for [Gauthier].
I believe that the Nylander side would accept something around $6.9 million — maybe a little bit above, a shave below seven. They have not yet got to that point but they are believed to be rather close.
Indeed, its reasonable to assume Johnsson has far fewer worries about being pushed out by Matthews and Nylander coming back, despite being a healthy scratch for five games in October. His three-goal game on Saturday put the 24-year-old at five goals and one assist in 19 contests, and hes developed a strong rapport with Lindholm, who stands to remain in the centre position going forward.
All things considered, Mondays outing against Boston could be one of the current fourth lines last opportunities to skate as a unit, and they say they wont squander it. Plus, the trio is hungry for a little redemption. When the Leafs met Boston on Nov. 10, it ended in a 5-1 loss for Toronto, and Gauthiers line had a team-worst 38 per cent possession. They argue a lot has changed since then and can prove it on Monday.
Weve been building chemistry and gelling and built that base where we know what were doing every night and how to do it, said Ennis. When youre on the fourth line you have to be ready to go at all times and just be focused and determined and ready to roll.
Nikita Zaitsev was absent from the Leafs morning skate on Monday due to an illness, but Babcock assumes hell play against Boston. Martin Marincin will slot onto the Leafs second defensive pairing if Zaitsev is unable to go.
Then give them the fucking Stanley Cup. I AM FUCKING HYPED AND MY SUNSHINE OPTIMISM WILL NOT BE RAINED ON BY DOOMSDAY PROPHETS AND AMATEUR CAP SPECTATORS!
If you [told] me when I was 15 that I was going to be playing for $6 million a year when Im 22, I would not think you were saying the truth. Its a dream come true. I could be playing in the Czech [Republic] for a couple hundred bucks a month. Im happy.
– Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak on whether he regrets signing a six-year, $40 million contract extension so quickly in 2017, and not holding out in restricted free agency like his friend William Nylander for a larger deal.
A Thorold, Ont. teenager still can't believe he'll see his first, regular season Toronto Maple Leafs game Monday night, all thanks to the generosity of a Calgary Flames fan he met over Facebook.
Former NHLer Anthony Stewart breaks down the Leafs loss to the Hurricanes last night, gives his latest thoughts on the contract situations of Toronto's young stars, and gives some suggestions on who…
"I'm dedicated to the Leafs hardcore," he said. "I make sure that all the games are on my TV or on some kind of mobile device or something."
He's followed the Leafs to preseason games and to training camp — almost trampling other fans in his quest for an Auston Matthews autograph, according to his mother.
"It was literally like I just won a gold medal or something. My heart just dropped and my eyes sprung open and my mouth dropped," he said.
Bruins pregame notes: Toronto ends long road stretch
It all started when Kyler Mitchell, a 23-year-old firefighter and Calgary Flames fan, realized he couldn't use tickets he'd bought for a Leafs game during a stay in Toronto.
"It's not usual that people are selling tickets on this particular group," he said. "I was more interested just to see what he was charging."
Complete Coverage: Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs, 11/26
Despite receiving offers above $500, he noticed Jack's age and passion and wanted to work something out.
"Talking to a kid and knowing how hard it is to go to a Toronto Maple Leafs game and just thinking about how hard it was for myself at 12, 13, 14 to go to a Flames game I couldn't afford … " he said.
Jack told Mitchell he wanted to take his mother to the game, and he planned to save all the money he made from his job at a local deli to pay for the tickets.
"His very first paycheque, he got paid on a Friday morning and within an hour he had preseason tickets," she said. "He texted me at work and said, 'I got some tickets. We're going to a preseason game.'"
"I remember at 14-years-old, working at the garden centre just trying to make money and all this kid wanted to do is take his mom to the game and that really touched me," he said.
The two began to bond, sharing stories about their love for their families, their passion for their teams and even their struggles.
"I was like, 'Man, I'm looking at myself nine years ago … I've got to help this kid out,'" Mitchell said.
"We video chatted and I was like, 'You know, you seem like an amazing young man and I'd be honoured to just give them to you,'" Mitchell said.
The teen's mother said she didn't hear about the whole exchange until Jack had the tickets in hand.
"You spend a small fortune going to a Leafs game for sure and for someone to just give them away like that, it's really incredible," she said.
Jack and Mitchell still talk regularly — they even play hockey against each other through Xbox — and they hope to one day meet in- person.
"I've been saying to my friends and my family he feels like the little brother I never had," Mitchell said.
"When I'm older and I can afford the tickets like he can I'm definitely going to be returning the favour to somebody else," he said.
"It's definitely going to be an amazing moment in life, something that I will never forget."
Taylor Simmons works in all areas of the CBC Toronto newsroom, from writing for the website to producing TV and radio stories. Taylor grew up in Mississauga, Ont. and studied journalism at Western University. You can reach her at [email protected]