It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, the LeafsÂ aren’t participating in the post season for the sixth consecutive season, but the playoffs began with Vancouver, Washington and Detroit getting the starts they were expecting while Nashville and Pittsburgh took the game one edge in the 4 v. 5 matchups.
Let’s hope tonight’s action onlyÂ buildsÂ on yesterday’s excitement. There are three games on the docket, with Montreal/Boston, Buffalo/Philadelphia and Los Angeles/San Jose getting underway tonight. What game are you most looking forward to watching?
As far as the Leafs’ post-season goes, thirteen Leafs will represent their respective nations at the World Hockey Championships in Slovakia later this month. Carl Gunnarsson will wear the Three Crowns for Sweden while the Marlies‘ Marcel Mueller and Korbinian Holzer will feature for Team Germany. After news Mike Brown will represent Team USA, another pleasantly surprising addition has been in announced in the Marlies’ 20-year-old defenceman Jake Gardiner, who in his ten games with the team to close out the season impressed observers with his speed and puck skills.
With Phaneuf, Schenn, MacArthur and Reimer (Canada), Mikhail Grabovski (Belarus), Nikolai Kulemin (Russia), and Juraj Mikus (Slovakia) also committed, that takes the Leaf count to 13. It’s not the type of tournament they would ideally be playing in at this time of year but with quite a strong Leaf contingent, there’s worse consolation prizes.
â€œThe hockey media across North America questioned us. When you read or hear that weâ€™re â€˜hanging onâ€™ until those guys come back, you take that personally. I mean, weâ€™re obviously a better team with Sidney and Evgeni in the lineup. But weâ€™re also a good team without those guys.
– Penguins forward Mike Rupp, courtesy of Paul Hunter at the Toronto Star
More Leafs’ headed to Slovakia to participate in the Worlds.
Mike Ulmer looks at Reimer’s pursuit of acheiving his goal of becoming an elite goaltender.
The Star’s Mark Zwolinski writes on Leaf fan and entrepreneur Darren Thompson and his pursuit towards owning the blue and white.
Kevin McGran runs down the Toronto-born players and ex-Leafs who areÂ participating in the NHL playoffs.
Good read from the Toronto StarÂ on Moore’s family inspirations.
McCabe gets the last laugh over the Leaf faithful now that he’s participating in the post-season.
Latest from Leafs HQ with final thoughts on the Leafs season and an off season preview.
Other hockey links:
Paul Hunter at the Toronto Star looks at a list of potential playoff heroes.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly denies rumorÂ reported byÂ the FAN 590 that the Coyotes would be moving immediately after the playoffs concluded.
Puck Daddy looks at the Stanley Cup odds.
Led by GM Dave Nonis, Team Canada continues to bolster their roster for the WHC.
The future looks uncertain for pending free agent Brad Richards.
AHL cuts down teamÂ schedules from 80 games to 76.
Montreal tops the list as the highest average cost per ticket at $398.
Rick Moldovanyi at The Houses of the Hockey has some suggestions for your next playoff party.
The Houses of the HockeyÂ assembled a montage of the best hits from this past season.
Last Night in Leafs Prospects:
As expected, the Owen Sound Attack swept their second round series over the Plymouth Whalers with a 4-1 win last night. They will have a few days to prepare for the Western Conference finals, where they will face either the Saginaw Spirit or Windsor Spitfires. Jesse Blacker scored his fourth of theÂ post seasonÂ on the powerplay last night, bringing his current total to eight points in 10 playoff games. Despite an impressive performance in the first round versus Kitchener, Jamie Devane went pointless in four gamesÂ in the second round, but stillÂ finished with aÂ respectableÂ five points.
Josh Nicholls’ Saskatoon Blades bowed out of the post-season after a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Kootenay Ice completed their sweep of the second round series. Nicholls went out on a personal high note, scoring his fourth goal and sixth point in ten playoff games.
WhatÂ series did you pay most attention to around the NHL last night? Who do you think will step up and become clutch playoff performers out of all the teams in action? Do you think the Vancouver Canucks have what it takes to knock off the Blackhawks this time around?