LEAFS INSIDER: How Torontos hockey team keeps kicking butt despite hurdles

LEAFS INSIDER: How Toronto\s hockey team keeps kicking butt despite hurdles
Toronto Maple Leafs: Nikita Zaitsev Out Against Bruins
The Toronto Maple Leafs lost 5-1 to the Bruins two weeks ago, and of course in last year’s playoffs as well. They’ll look to get a small measure of revenge tonight.  Frederick Andersen will be in net for the Leafs and Jaroslav Halak will go for Boston.

The Leafs beat the Flyers 6-0 on Saturday, and it was the first shutout of the season for Garret Sparks (who has performed great in a back-up role this season so far, hopefully silencing the strange collection of Curtis MacElhinney fans) as well as the first hattrick for Andreas Johnsson, who is making  a case to stay in the lineup when Auston Matthews and William Nylander return.

Share Share GDT: Maple Leafs vs. Bruins tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email Södertälje Sportklubb Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston BruinsTime: 7:00 p.m.Location: Poorer Than You Knew After Our Fees ArenaBroadcast/Streaming: TSN4 (blackouts in effect) Opponent SBNation Site: Stanley Cup of Chowder Our game preview with lineup information is here. The Leafs are facing the Bruins for the second of four games this season. The last time they played was on November 10 and the Bruins won that one 5-1. The Leafs had Garret Sparks in net then, but its going to be Frederik Andersen tonight.

Though it is early in the season, tonight’s game is a very important one for both teams.  The Leafs and the Bruins are both cup contenders and two of the best teams in the NHL.  Because of that, neither one wants to lose the division title and risk facing off against the other one, or the Lightning, in the first round.

One can hope there is a surprise return of a certain player tonight to help out the Leafs. A player who has chemistry with a member of the Bruins, and knows all his moves.

The Leafs have played one extra game, and they sit two points ahead of the Bruins.  If the Leafs win tonight, they will pass the surprising Buffalo Sabres, and sit only one point behind the Lightning.

You have Morgan Rielly putting himself in the Norris conversation with an absurd amount of points. You have Travis Dermott slowly taking more minutes and more of a role as he continues to emerge as a solid young defenseman in the league. You have a surprising fourth line built around Josh Leivo, Tyler Ennis and Frderik Gauthier at least outshooting and outchancing teams, while both Ennis and Leivo have started putting some of their chances in the net recently. And we just had an Andreas Johnsson hat trick hinting at even MORE scoring depth that is starting to be realized.

If the Leafs lose, they will be passed by the Bruins and sit in the Wild Card position.  With the Atlantic Division being one of the best in hockey, every game is important, especially inter-divisional ones.

Share Share Monday FTB: William is coming tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports The William Nylander contract saga has been… exhausting, if I want to put it politely. From endless NHL executives who have never been named throwing their opinion around, to so-called NHL insiders filling in THEIR opinion because of a lack of any real information, to an increasingly frustrated and bitterly divided fandom either railing at Nylanders greed or railing back at the people talking about his greed.

On the injury front, Auston Matthews will miss his 214th straight game (just 14, but it feels like more) and Nikita Zaitsev missed the morning practice, and there is word that he will possibly miss tonight’s game in favor of Martin Marincin.

Meanwhile, Babcock has doubled down at any chance to say he expects Nylander to join the team after he went a long time not saying anything so hopeful. Some other seemingly innocent details have come out in this time: Gilman, the Marlies GM noted for his contract expertise, joined the NHL team. Also theres Kyle Dubas at a Marlies game doing the famous Fortnite Floss dance to signify victory.

Is Zaitsev injured?  Has he been traded? (I doubt it, but we can hope!) As of writing this, no one seems to know.  I do think that the Leafs should think about upgrading on Zaitsev, but I really wouldn’t expect any trades to go down before William Nylander is signed, sealed and playing.

How a pair of Leafs tickets and a good deed led to a cross-country friendship

Either way, a Leafs and Bruins game to kick off the week is pretty sweet. Here is hoping for a Leafs victory.

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…

Jeff Blair: Bruins still the measuring stick for Maple Leafs

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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]

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"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.'"

Physical play key for injury-ravaged Bruins against Leafs

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"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.

Mike Augello – Matthews nearing return, what about Nylander??? Leafs vs. Bruins

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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.

TORONTO – As the clock ticks on the Maple Leafs window to sign restricted free agent winger William Nylander by Saturdays Dec. 1 deadline, Torontos bubble players are both bracing for change and using the looming possibility as motivation.

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. 

Is tonight's Leafs-Bruins game Toronto's biggest of the season-to-date? (0:49); CBS MLB Analyst/Former Miami Marlins President David P. Samson on Major League Baseball's political lobbying (30:23);…  

You only control what you can control, and right now were all still in the lineup. Have to make the most of it.

If William Nylander ends up still signing a long-term deal, it's a huge win for both sides (1:32); Good Show's Leafs Analyst Justin Bourne weighs in on if Nylander will take a PR hit, why the rules…  

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.

The William Nylander situation seemed to gain some positive momentum for the Maple Leafs over the weekend (5:31); Good Show's NFL Insider Sage Rosenfels joins the guys look whether any of the blame…  

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. 

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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.

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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.

The Leafs penalty kill percentage is fourth best in the league this year, and theyve only given up 11 goals shorthanded. Theyve scored two. In terms of shot rates against (CA60), theyre 20th, so not great, but not horrible. Their save percentage on the kill is a little better. Its very difficult to measure effectiveness of penalty killers because they do it in so few minutes, and the percentage method tells you the results, not what to expect in the future, but the Leafs certainly seem to do close to league average on the kill, and close to exceptionally elite on the power play itself.

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.

In 2017-2018, the leafs played the least power play minutes of any team with 359:49. Now, that could be good. The faster you score on the power play, the fewer minutes you spend on it. But the Leafs played the fourth highest amount of five-on-five time in the league with Carolina, Columbus and Edmonton ahead of them. Note that two of the three teams the Leafs played this week are on that list. The other thing they all have in common is that they are generally fast, young teams with skill up front deep into the roster (some more than others).

Maple Leafs Fans Wish William Nylander Had David Pastrnaks Mindset About Contract

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.

If you go look at last years chart again, way out at the tip of the trend line with a slightly negative differential is the Colorado Avalanche. They spent a lot of time on the power play, and MacKinnon helped get them there by drawing a lot. But he also took a lot. His wingers, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, also took a lot of penalties last year. The three of them transitioned the team out of five-on-five, where they were very weak beyond their top line, and into special teams play.

Gauthier has added some quality scoring chances to the mix in recent games, but to his great frustration they have yet to go in.

Roman Polak led the team in penalties taken last year with 22 and he drew only 8. People complained bitterly about his negative effect on the team, but 22 penalties isnt even Kuznetsov territory. Next up was Nazem Kadri (of course) with 18 taken and 29 drawn. Third was Zach Hyman with 17 taken and 19 drawn. Mitch Marner was tied with Hyman for 19 drawn, as was William Nylander. Auston Matthews only had 18. Those three took very few penalties themselves of course.

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.

Bruins pregame notes: Toronto ends long road stretch

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].

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. ​

Complete Coverage: Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs, 11/26

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.

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.