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Boston Bruins

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It’s been a hot topic, and a touchy one at that for the better part of almost a year, since the day the trade was consummated.  The Toronto Maple Leafs, toward the end of the pre-season, announced that they had traded two firsts and a second round pick to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Phil Kessel, a young American born sniper who the B’s were having issues resigning.

It was a steep price to pay, but you have to give to receive, and in Kessel the Leafs got a bona fide goal scorer who looks like he could be a perennial 30 goal scorer (more on that later.)

And yet some people have cast Kessel to fail, no matter what impact he has on the Leafs, attaching him forever to the trade that brought him here.

This past week, Bill Watters took that to the extreme, and took a piece of integrity written journalism and turned into something sensational and downright wrong, all in the name of making Phil Kessel look as bad as possible because he doesn’t agree with the trade.

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According to Howard Berger, who reported live from the NHL Entry Draft this weekend, there is a ton of steam behind the Leafs and Bruins looking to make a trade for forward Marc Savard. It seems the Leafs understand he could have a long-term effect from a concussion injury, but the upside of putting him and Kessel back together is just too good to pass up on. Berger explains that the deal does not involve Tomas Kaberle and that Kaberle talks are actually down to minor whispers at this point. Expect that situation to become more relevant as the off-season continues. The trade for Savard surrounds the availability of forward Nikolai Kulemin, who is a pending RFA and is seeking more money than the Leafs are willing to offer. That said, the Bruins could move forward with a $3M dollar Kulemin if they shed the contract of $5M plus from Savard. All in all, it becomes a win/win with the Bruins getting younger and cheaper, adding a player with high potential to become a solid defensive forward, while the Leafs would get their number one center, elite playmaker, and instant chemistry with Phil Kessel. SilverSevenSens now state he has waived his NMC to play for either the Leafs or Senators. ESPN chimes in on it as well. “Reports started to surface that Bruins forward Marc Savard and his agent have eased off the player-s limited no-trade claue that allows the Bruins to deal Savard to only five undisclosed teams. Chiarelli would not confirm or deny the reports. ‘I’m not really into speculating that kind of stuff,’ he said.”

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In 2005, the NHL was returning to work after a year long lockout, a bitter battle between players and owners over cost certainty.  The entry draft in June of 2005 was really the beginning of a new era in hockey, and a new era for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who drafted Sidney Crosby first overall, a move that would change their fortunes forever.

Drafted second that year was Bobby Ryan.  A big bodied power forward with tremendous skill, I had the chance to watch Ryan in person blaze up and down the ice for the Owen Sound Attack.  One look at Ryan moving swiftly between checkers, puck on a string as he bobbed and weaved his way into a prime scoring area, and it was clear.

This dude was one heck of a consolation prize.

And the GM who was afforded that consolation prize, as you are all aware, was one Brian Burke.

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    The Chicago Blackhawks are just 60 minutes away from drinking out of Lord Stanley, and it will be present at tonight’s game at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. Should the Blackhawks win, it will be their first championship in 49 years.

    “It has been flashing in my head since Game 1 of the playoffs,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. “Every time you win one game, it feels like you’re going all the way to the Cup. I’ve always said when you lose a game it feels like your season is going to be over. It just has been such a crazy ride.”

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    National Hockey League

    NHL ShieldThings may be relatively quiet in Leafs Nation these days, but that doesn’t mean there has been a lack of excitement elsewhere in the NHL.

    As such, here are a few quick takes on some of the headlines dominating the NHL landscape these days (including the Phoenix Coyotes situation, the Patrice Cormier charges, and Willie Mitchell’s controversial comments),  as well as a quick glance at the nearly-completed 2nd round of the NHL playoffs.

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    Whichever way you cut it, the Leafs endured a torrid season that no statistical tinkering can mend. Regardless, if there is one thing most opposing NHL fans can agree on it’s the increasing need for an overhaul in the leagues points’ structure and the farcical awarding of points in the overall standings.

    Where once every game had two points at stake, either by means of two for the win or split after an OT tie, the inclusion of an extra point for teams losing in OT or, more prevalently, after the shootout, has spawned an lopsided points structure that favours teams and coaches who adopt an cautious approach toward the end of regulation time that is the polar opposite of what was originally intended.

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    When Brian Burke became the new general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs in November of 2008, Leafs Nation embarked on a new journey.  A new beginning.  With Burke at the helm, the Leafs organization finally had a general manager who had credentials.  Who had a winning pedigree.  Who had the exact type of attitude the Toronto market needed.

    A man who wouldn’t take any nonsense from anyone, and a man who wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a big move that may set the team up for the better in the long term, a characteristic it seemed so many Leafs GM’s lacked in between the time of Fletcher’s first run, and Burke being christened as the new head of the front office.

    Finally, Leafs fans were able to legitimately talk about the “Big O”, and they weren’t faking it either.

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    As you are no doubt well aware, the NHL draft lottery will be held tonight in New York to determine the order of the 14 non-playoff teams heading into the June 25-26 draft in Los Angeles. You can catch coverage of the lottery at 8pm on TSN.

    Update
    And the winner is … Edmonton.  Leafs fans, prepare yourselves to endure “Kessel Trade” debates for the better part of the next decade.

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      The Playoffs are about to start and what better time than now for the CFB predictions. We highlight every series with individual writers giving their own opinion on why or how a particular team can win the series. This is the Round 1 Predictions for the Eastern Conference.

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        It’s that time of year again.  The most wonderful time of the year.  No, not Christmas, and no, you won’t see any of those silly Staples commercials.

        It’s time for the NHL playoffs.

        The annual spring tournament that features some of the most exciting hockey of the season.  It’s  triple overtime games that rage on long into the night, games so long that you’ll hope you saved some sick days.  It’s players skating through pain, all for the common goal of lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup.

        And the great fans of the NHL, well they have the best seat in the house.

        Around this time of year, especially the first round, marriages are postponed.  Assignments are left on desks unfinished.  Scheduled are cleared, or built around.  Kiss your wife or girlfriend, and tell her you’ll see her in a few months, a better person than when you last saw her.

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          Phil Kessel has but one point in five games against his former side while recurrent Leafs nightmare Tuukka Rask, league leader in goals against average and save percentage, stands 3-1-0 against the club that drafted him. This match-up tonight marks the final opportunity this season to get a little bit of that sour taste out of the fan base’s collective mouth and perhaps symbolize that we, too, can make good trades.

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          Brian Burke has done an outstanding job of refacing the Leafs organization in a very short period of time.  I for one am predicting a very surprising season from the Leafs as early as next year or the year after, once again propelling them into the playoffs and a very respectable playoff drive.  The cumulative effort of acquiring several players and prospects that are “NHL ready” is absolutely and positively an impressive feat.  Acquiring a player with the pedigree of Dion Phaneuf for almost zero significant cost was sheer brilliance.  His relentless pursuit of, and ultimate acquisitions of players like Bozak, Hanson and Gustavsson inspire the type of confidence and hope that has been lacking in this city and in this franchise for almost a decade.

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            Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs will host the Atlanta Thrashers at the Air Canada Center. Atlanta is hoping to catch the Boston Bruins for the 8th seed in the East and snag a post-season berth, while the Maple Leafs are looking to continue a playoff of their own – the quest to get out of the bottom five.

            NOTE: Newly signed Brayden Irwin will not make his debut tonight. He will likely see action Thursday or Saturday.

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              Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs hope to rebound from their loss to the Panthers with a win tonight against another team they must steal points from – the Atlanta Thrashers. The Leafs continue their quest to remove themselves from the bottom five in the third of four meetings with Atlanta this season.

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              About a month ago, we took a look at Phil Kessel’s production, including the on-pace numbers for this season and (theoretically) projected 82-game statistics.

              With 10 games left to go in the season, perhaps it’s time we re-visit and update those predictions — this time in the context of other “name” or “impact” players to see just where exactly Phil Kessel ranks, production-wise, among the league’s elite.

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                Tonight, the Buds and Habs are set to battle it out and put their win streaks on the line. The Leafs are 5-1-0 in their last 6 outings, while the Canadiens are riding an impressive 6 game string of victories. With Toronto now over 0.500 at home (15-14-5), they are looking to play the role of heartbreakers this season, and what better way to continue doing so then by throwing a big fat L at Montreal tonight?

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                  (On the road … so here is a quick thread for tonight’s action.)

                  The Toronto Maple Leafs (21-33-12), who are coming off a hard-fought overtime win over the Boston Bruins, are host to the Tampa Bay Lightning (27-27-11), tonight at 7pm.

                  The Leafs, who are all but officially out of the playoff race, are playing for jobs next season. To that end, the young players on the roster have put together a string of impressive efforts, and if their resilient play continues, few players will anonymously refer to them as an “AHL team”.

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                    Just some quick thoughts after the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 overtime win over the Bruins:

                    Assist for Phil Kessel is his first point in 5 games against his old team

                    Bozak continues to progress

                    Carl Gunnarsson had another solid game with a goal and a +3 rating

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                      Luca Caputi makes his Maple Leaf debut tonight as Toronto visits Boston to battle it out with the Bruins. Seidenberg will suit up for the Bruins who are still aiming to remain in the playoffs despite injury woes and a lack of ability to land an elite scoring winger for Marc Savard. The quest to get out of the bottom five continues for the Leafs tonight.

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                        The Carolina Hurricanes are closing in on a deal with the San Jose Sharks for Niclas Wallin, while Leafs fans were begging it was Rickard. Kovalchuk turns down $101M, while the Rangers pull out of the sweepstakes due to the asking price. Find out what the Thrashers wanted in return. Also, Dion Phaneuf has his own plan for the remainder of the Leafs regular season.