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Jake Gardiner dazzled in his best game of the season, David Clarkson FINALLY scored his first goal of the season and Jonathan Bernier was good when he needed to be as the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped the New York Islanders 5 – 2. Trevor Smith, Phil Kessel (2), Mason Raymond and Clarkson all scored for the Leafs, who won their second straight game. Smith (1G, 2A) and Joffrey Lupul (3A) tallied 3 points apiece as the Leafs cruised to a pretty easy victory. Bernier made 35 saves for his eighth victory of the season. Kevin Poulin struggled for the Islanders, making just 19 saves. Casey Cizikas and Frans Nielsen responded for the Isles.
1. Despite their middling record, the Islanders came into Toronto having won their last three matches at the ACC. They also have one of the league’s top forward trios with Jonathan Tavares, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo combining for 66 points through the first 21 games. But that didn’t matter all that much because Joffrey Lupul carried the puck cleanly through the neutral zone, sifted through the defense, cut towards the net and found a wide open Trevor Smith out front who scored the game’s opening goal just 22 seconds into the game. Lupul assisted on the goal, Smith’s fourth of the year, breaking a mini slump (2 pts in last 9gp prior to tonight). Hockey’s Handsomest Line™ (Lupul, Smith and Clarkson) was creating chances every shift they took tonight, combining for 7 points.
2. Jake Gardiner was electric in the first period. He turned a defensive zone fourth line shift into two offensive chances. Firstly by adroitly clearing the zone and getting the puck to Frazer McLaren and into the Islanders zone. Later in the same shift, Cody Franson pounced on a turnover and left a soft touch pass for Gardiner. With the Isles forwards switching their vectors onto him, Gardiner floated a surprise pass to Franson. Despite somewhat bobbling the back and forth, Franson had enough time and space to recover and get a crisp, low shot off. Later in the frame he also played a 3 on 1 textbook perfectly, neutering what should have been a good chance by the Isles. He saw 9 minutes through the first 20, 22 through the game, and had a shift in the second period where he was just a one-man breakout machine (fun fact, that was my nickname in high school).
3. For Gardiner’s heroics, his erstwhile (that means former, before you get on me in the comments) defense partner Paul Ranger had another rough game, especially at the blue lines. The Islanders were allowed to keep the puck in the Leafs end for nearly a minute due to Ranger’s inability to get it to the line AND out. With the Leafs applying pressure and the Kessel line on, Ranger turned the puck over at the blue line on a seemingly innocuous play, allowing for a chance the other way. That’s usually the recipe for a good old fashioned benching, so of course he went on to play 17 and a half minutes tonight, even in spite of a foolish roughing penalty towards the middle of the third.
4. Though the Leafs were outshot 11-7 through 20, they appeared to hold the balance of play through the first. The second period started off less favourably for the Buds, getting outshot 4-0 and out played through the first five minutes of play. It wasn’t until a borderline hit by Nikolai Kulemin on Tavares that the Leafs woke up. Though not instantaneous, the ice began to tilt in Toronto’s favour. The Leafs top two lines took to work, hemming the Isles in their zone for sustained periods of time, leading to the inevitable….
5. After James van Riemsdyk got hacked down in the Isles’ zone, the Maple Leafs took the game’s first power play mid-way through the second period. With a PP that’s been scoring nearly a goal per game and the Leafs surging, Phil Kessel took a pass from Lupul, button hooked, took a couple steps down to the circle, and took just a beautiful wrister that sailed passed Poulin’s blocker. The goal was Kessel’s 11th of the season and just his second in 8 games; with Lupul and Phaneuf picking up the assists. He’d later pick up his second goal of the game and 12th of the season off a 2-1 rush with van Riemsdyk to close out the third.
6. This is why you don’t make fun of people’s names.
Casey Cizikas, who isn’t a tasty thing that goes with donair, scores an absolute beauty on a breakaway with 11 seconds left in the 2nd, outracing Jake Gardiner (Not a typo) and slipping the puck through Bernier’s wickets. The Leafs held a 2-1 lead through 40, and I’m still sorry about the whole thing guys.
7. The third period started in a similar fashion to the second, with the Islanders controlling play. Shortly after Eric Boulton and Colton Orr chucked knuckles, Carl Gunnarsson blocks a shot and gets the puck out to Mason Raymond. The puck finds its way to a driving McClement in the center lane, who puts a shot on Poulin. Raymond was Johnny on the spot and buried the rebound to make it 3-1. The goal was Raymond’s 8th of the season, with McClement getting the lone assist. It was all over but the screaming at that point.
8. I wanted to use this space to discuss just how great a game Nikolai Kulemin had, but David Clarkson’s goal – and play tonight – warrant mention. The second line was great tonight. Their ability to wear the Isles down in the offensive zone was noticeable, and all three were rewarded handsomely on the score sheet. But for Clarkson, who is suddenly hot with three points in his last three games, his third period tally was the monkey off the back goal he so desperately needed. Much like Phil Kessel last season, it took Clarkson 21 11 games to pot his first, but it sure was a beauty. He played just a shade under 19 minutes tonight, and was hell for the Islanders to play throughout.
The line of Raymond, McClement and Kulemin was also effective while lining up against the Tavares unit for a number of shifts.
9. Special Teams Report: The league’s 11th ranked PK entering tonight (83.5% success rate) went 2/2 and kept the Leafs ahead the Islanders in the waning minutes of the second and mid-way through the third. Carl Gunnarsson, whom I maligned earlier this afternoon, made a huge play to block a couple shots with Bernier scrambling to get back in position. Gunnarsson’s selfless maneuver kept the Leafs two-goal lead intact with just over 10 left to play in the game.
The Leafs power play, ranked 3rd in the league with a 23.1 success rate, went 1/2 and helped put the Leafs out front by a two-goal margin. They never had to look back after that. For the record, the Zebras looked kindly on the Maple Leafs all game. In the first, Frazer McLaren attempted to instigate a fight with an unwilling Matt Martin. That probably should have been a penalty. Kulemin’s thunderous hit on Tavares, while the most hit Kuli’s had since May, was certainly on the edge of legality. The refs, thankfully, kept the whistles away, allowing for a fun, fast paced, even game.
Kessel’s 2nd of the night, the 5-2 goal.
10. The Islanders weren’t exactly expected to be a fearsome competitor facing the East’s third best team. Instead they served as slump busters, getting both Lupul and Kessel back on the score sheet after short droughts. It wasn’t always pretty for the full 60, but at no point did the game truly seem in doubt for the Leafs. There’s still plenty of room to grow, but this was a better, more dominant win than most for the Buds.
The Leafs will be in action on Thursday as they host the Nashville Predators. It’ll be the second and final regular season matchup between the two clubs; Toronto won their previous tilt 4-0.
Leafs/Isles Shot Location Data
|0:22:00||TOR||Trevor Smith (3) Snap shot - ASST: Joffrey Lupul (5)||1 - 0 TOR
|11:19:00||TOR|| PPG - Phil Kessel (11) Wrist shot - ASST: Joffrey Lupul (6), Dion Phaneuf (7)||2 - 0 TOR
|19:48:00||NYI||Casey Cizikas (3) Wrist shot - ASST: NONE||2 - 1 TOR
|3:39:00||TOR||Mason Raymond (8) Backhand shot - ASST: Jay McClement (2)||3 - 1 TOR
|12:52:00||TOR||David Clarkson (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Trevor Smith (2), Joffrey Lupul (7)||4 - 1 TOR
|15:14:00||NYI||Frans Nielsen (10) Wrist shot - ASST: Josh Bailey (6)||4 - 2 TOR
|17:17:00||TOR||Phil Kessel (12) Wrist shot - ASST: James van Riemsdyk (7), Trevor Smith (3)||5 - 2 TOR
Islanders at Leafs - November 19
Leafs 5 vs. Isles 2.
Toronto Maple Leafs’ win, a 6-5 victory in OT, marks best start for the franchise in 20 years (1993-1994 Toronto Maple Leafs).
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||0||1||1||1||0||2||0||0||2||1||25%||2:36:00||1:13:00||16:54:00
|45||J. Bernier||35 - 37||0.946||0||60:00:00||
Randy Carlyle and Dallas Eakins are probably going to want to forget this game; it was poorly played with more turnovers than we’ve seen in a while, complete 5-man defensive breakdowns, poor goaltending, no hitting, no commitment and/or sacrifice in the way of blocking shots or being hard on the puck.
When the Hockey World woke up today, there was some good news if you are a Leaf fan.
Based on the personnel on offer, preseason could become at least a little more interesting tonight.
Randy Carlyle will be icing a few line combinations of intrigue, including a potential “shut down line” combination of Dave Bolland, Mason Raymond and Nikolai Kulemin. How Raymond fares on that unit will be a worthwhile talking point; this seems to be, based on the projected opening night lineup, the spot he is vying for. The line looks good on paper, with a nice balance of two-way acumen, speed, and some grit between Kulemin and Bolland.
The Leafs dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to the Philadelphia Flyers in a sloppy second game of preseason. Remarkably, Phil Kessel took 6 minutes worth of aggressive stick infractions.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have avoided arbitration with defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, with the two sides agreeing to terms on a three-year contract. TSN’s Darren Dreger is reporting it’s worth $9.45 million. Salary is listed at : $2.85m, $3.15m & $3.45m.
The 26-year-old Gunnarsson had one goal and 15 points in 37 regular-season games for the Maple Leafs in 2012-13 and added an assist in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games.
A seventh-round pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, Gunnarsson has 12 goals and 69 points in 224 games for the Maple Leafs.
Stevens Stephens had a great year end write up on Gunnarsson. He has this to say about re-signing him.
But when looking at Carl Gunnarsson’s future with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it isn’t a question of ‘if?’ It’s a question of ‘how much?’ The soon-to-be 27 year old is a restricted free agent this summer (on account of a late birthday) and you’ve got think he’s the third highest priority to re-sign after fellow RFAs Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson.
On the most recent Leaf Report podcast, both James Mirtle and Jonas Siegel agreed that Gunnarsson’s cap hit would likely fall between $2.5 and 2.9 million. Given the number of tough-as-nails minutes he plays, his chemistry with Phaneuf and burgeoning offensive game, I’d reckon his money will be closer to 3.5 million come July 5.
Whatever the cost, I wouldn’t miss the money, as 30-point defensemen and shutdown defensemen are not usually contained within the body of one man, and to have one so cheaply is doubly rare. The Leafs may need to improve their D corps, but Dave Nonis has real keeper in Carl Gunnarsson.
Here is a list of comparable cap hits among defencemen.
6 Leafs invited to Olympic Camps
Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews lead a list of 47 players invited to a summer orientation camp for the Canadian men’s Olympic hockey team.
The newcomers on the list include young guns like defencemen Alex Pietrangelo and P.K. Subban and forwards Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Claude Giroux and Brad Marchand.
The others are goalie Roberto Luongo, defencemen Dan Boyle, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Shea Weber, and forwards Patrice Bergeron, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Rick Nash, Mike Richards, Eric Staal and Joe Thornton.
The goalies are Luongo, who was the starter in the 2010 gold-medal game, as well as Carey Price, Mike Smith, Corey Crawford and Braden Holtby.
The other defencemen are Karl Alzner, Jay Bouwmeester, Mike Green, Dan Hamhuis, Travis Hamonic, Kristopher Letang, Marc Methot, Dion Phaneuf, Marc Staal and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
The other forwards are Jeff Carter, Logan Couture, Matt Duchene, Chris Kunitz, Andrew Ladd, Milan Lucic, James Neal, Patrick Sharp, Jordan Staal and Martin St.Louis.
Wingers Nikolai Kulemin and Leo Komarov were invited to orientation camps for the Russian and Finnish Olympic squads.
USA Hockey had their roster announced Monday afternoon and Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner, wingers Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk were invited.
Photo credit: CBC.ca
Our next Player Review takes a look at one of the newest members of the Toronto Maple Leafs, James van Riemsdyk. Acquired in exchange for Luke Schenn on June 23rd, 2012, the former second overall choice in 2007 was brought in to augment the forward corps with skill, enhanced size and net-front presence. His regular season stats (18G 14A) were good for third in team-scoring, putting him on pace for 55 points (31G 24A) in an 82-game season, and he went on to lead the team in playoff scoring (2G, 7A).
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That. That was the win that cemented the Leafs as playoff worthy.
In a matchup with big playoff implications, the Leafs could move ten up on the 10th-placed Carolina Hurricanes with a win in this four-point swing game. A loss in regulation puts the Hurricanes within six with three games in hand.
The Hurricanes are an opponent the Leafs have struggled with in both matchups this season. Their strength down the middle has played a key role as the Staal brothers have featured prominently on the scoresheet in a combined 7-2 win over the two games. Among teams the Leafs have played more than once, the Canes are the only opponent they have gained zero points off of.
Toronto overcame a slow start on the second night of a back-to-back set to close out the league-worst Florida Panthers at home. The game featured the return of Joffrey Lupul to the Kessel line, simultaneously heralding the revival of said line as contributing members of the team.
‘Tis the season for Leafs trade rumours.
Now, I’m not about to dig up every rumour out there on the internet and go through it, but I do want to provide some thoughts on the team, the direction of the organization, and what’s out there before the Leafs do (or don’t) make any moves.
Photo by: Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images
After a good comeback/confidence-building game against the Tampa Bay Lighting, the Toronto Maple Leafs have perhaps created more questions than answers. The Penalty Kill keeps improving (now 6th in the East) and, even as a “work in progress” defensively, they can at least score in bunches to get themselves out of trouble. They are starting to show the signs that the elite teams in the league show on a regular basis. While they are probably a couple of roster moves away from being mentioned in the same breath as a Pittsburgh Penguins, the rebuild is starting to see the light of day, it appears.
It was one of the first times this season that Nazem Kadri was paired against another top offensive line, but he did it the whole game. We’re not talking about any ol’ line, but the best goal scorer in the league and his better-than-ppg-avg wingman. He beat Steven Stamkos on draws, engaged in the game physically and on the score board. It was yet another coming out party for Kadri and what a nice live viewing for the 30 GMs that were in town to discuss various NHL issues. Most were at the Air Canada Centre taking in the game against Tampa.
Up until this game, Randy Carlyle has been riding the Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and—at least most of the time—Jay McClement line hard against the other team’s top lines. Too much so? That’s hard to say. Kulemin has had many opportunities that he simply is not bearing down on; he was on pace for 10 goals this season before his 2-goal effort against Tampa Bay on a line with Kadri.
Grabovski was paired with MacArthur and Frattin against Tampa and was still looking a little lost. As Grabo goes, those two go. And something that was enlightening in Randy Carlyle’s post-game interview:
“The one thing that we are going to do is we’re going to test Kadri against the best players,” Carlyle said after his team snapped a five-game winless skid with a 4-2 victory over the Lightning. “He wants that, he cherishes it and tonight it worked for him.”
“I think this is just another step in the maturing of a young hockey player,” Carlyle said of his decision to increase Kadri’s responsibility. “And I’m sure there’s going to be some speed bumps along the way and he’s going to turn the puck over when we don’t want him to … [but] the good things outweigh the poor judgments that he’s making by 10 to 2.”
Could #FreeGardiner and #FreeGrabo happen in the same week? It looks like Kadri wants to run with the top match-ups and wants the ice-time that is associated with it. Time will tell if he is up to the task, but this appears to be equal parts a praising and a scolding. Praise for Kadri and his excellent play to date, and a scolding for Grabovski who appeared, to me at least, that he didn’t like all his defensive zone face-offs and having to skate 200ft for his goals. It could very well be a case of lost in translation, but changing brands of sticks isn’t going to help Grabovski at this stage. He’s looking lost and it’s affecting his confidence badly.
Also troubling—to my eye—is how ineffective the Phil Kessel line is. Clearly, Phil Kessel’s game is all about speed, attacking off the rush, his release and his quick hands around the net. This may be oddly timed because Kessel is on a 5 game point streak, a testament to his ability to produce regardless of his circumstances. Kessel tallied a single assist last night giving him four goals and four assists in that span. He sits second on the team in scoring with 28 points but shifts go by where I hardly notice Bozak, him or JVR. They are clicking to a certain degree, but they are not dominating the way that Kessel and Lupul were last year with the absence of a legit number one centerman.
James van Riemsdyk, while a great addition to this team and yet another lop-sided trade from Brian Burke, is reaping the benefits from playing with Kessel, it’s just that Kessel is not reaping the benefits of playing with JVR as much as he could from a center and a winger who could play the game as his pace. MacArthur, Frattin and now Lupul have all “found chemistry” with Kadri. I think it’s more of a case of Kadri is just making everyone around him that much better. Lupul can convert those chances better than the others can. JVR would, more than likely, benefit from a good centerman more than Lupul, who has shown in the past that he can play just fine without one—no offence, Bozak.
Tyler Bozak, it seems more than ever before in his career, is playing way above his head on the 1st line. It’s dragging his, Kessel’s and JVR’s play down. He’s constantly a step behind and is not able to make the plays that the other two are able to. If you were to change JVR and Lupul, that would be magnified.
Grabovski, if we can believe what Carlyle says about Kadri, will be freed up to experiment up and down the lineup. The only logical reason that Kessel and Grabovski have never played extended periods of time together is because, it can be assumed, they both love to have the puck on their stick and both love to carry the puck through the neutral zone—they play a similar game, not a complementary game.
The caveat to that, I would contest, is that elite players will figure out how to get the puck to each other. Grabovski can skate, stick handle, navigate through traffic and shoot at absolutely top speed–the same as Kessel can. They’re good enough to play on the PP together, but that is a different discipline where it’s rarely ever off the rush and is instead done with puck movement inside the offensive blueline. Both players’ strength is scoring off the rush and, if you are going to keep Kessel on this team long term and get the most out of him in his prime years (his peak year is historically this year—his 25th year), you need a center that is as fast as him and not lagging behind the play like Bozak constantly is. I don’t think a “Big 1C” would work with Kessel’s game very well. If Kessel, Grabovski and Lupul could play their game at top-speed like they can—and execute—it would be a devastating line that would be able to handle some defensive assignments that Kessel/Bozak/JVR just aren’t able to do right now.
Carlyle is not afraid to put the blender away and try players together for more than 1 shift together. As much as arm coaches scream for change, it’s refreshing to have a coach that will play a line together for a full game, and even for bunches of games before he puts the blender to it. The one thing that has never happened with Kessel and Grabovski is them being played together, on the same line, for a week of games (or more).
Tyler Bozak is a solid hockey player trying to keep up with an elite goal scorer and an elite skater in Kessel and he just can’t keep up with the speed at which the plays are made. Bozak playing with MacArthur and Frattin on the third line would be a much better fit—soft starts, good chances at dominating the faceoff dot—and starting each play with all-important possession—and playing with players of his calibre and his foot speed. It will improve his output tremendously if he can slow the game down to his speed and play with two good, solid wingers in MacArthur and Frattin.
Under Ron Wilson, this experiment would likely have never happened; he had all the opportunity in the world to try it. Under Randy Carlyle, if he does experiment with them on the same line, you would hope that, in keeping with tradition, he’ll give them the appropriate allotment of games together to either sink or swim with this idea for the rest of the season and into the playoffs.
As far as statistical data, Left Wing Lock is said to be wildly inaccurate, but it’s all we have.
- 2010/2011 Even-Strength Forward Combinations
- 2011/2012 Even-Strength Forward Combinations
- 2012/2013 Even-Strength Forward Combinations
There’s enough data there to say that Grabovski and Kessel have hardly played together at even-strength.
Toronto’s 1st line centerman might have been under their nose all along.
The Leafs welcomed the Penguins in what was their second meeting of the season. A win in the first game in Pittsburgh certainly felt good, but this was a Penguins team that has 7 wins in their last 10 games and has just now started to push for the top of the Conference standings. It was a different game entirely.
Photo: USA Today Sports
Since we are almost at the halfway point, I thought now would be a good time to write some notes on each individual player thus far. Here is the close-but-not-quite-halfway Leafs Notebook:
In a Leaf era fraught with frustration and mistrust, nobody brought forth these feelings in fans more than Luke Schenn over the past couple years. After what many would call a promising start, Schenn’s career became known more for blunders than smart defensive plays. Though I have written on how Schenn’s stats seem to indicate underlying problems in his defensive game, I will admit that the goalies in Toronto have made everyone look bad lately. Brian Burke eventually saw what the fans saw in Schenn, trading him for James van Riemsdyk, another young player who had been somewhat soured in management (though that was due to injuries).
Will there be a 2012-13 season? Probably not. Will I do a ‘What to Expect’ for van Riemsdyk anyway? Absolutely. Come with me on a journey down the rabbit hole of advanced statistics.
Photo: Getty Images
It was quite the big weekend. I mean, how often do get a chance to sit around all day teaching your two year old nephew how to play hockey using his very first Maple Leafs mini-sticks? Oh, and apparently there was a draft and a couple of trades, too.Â Iâ€™ll do my best to offer some opinion, but a solid list of links will pick up where I left off and satisfy our hunger for seeing the Leafs roster evolve from the dogs breakfast into something at least comparable to Alphagetti with meatballs.
With the fifth pick in the 2012 draft, the Maple Leafs are proud to select…
Alright, if you check my twitter timeline on Friday night itâ€™s very clear that I was more than a little upset that a skilled forward was not selected. I was listening to the draft on the radio while driving home from work, and the second that Griffin Reinhart was picked by the Islanders I assumed it was a foregone conclusion that we would see Filip Forsberg in a Leafs uniform. Am I still upset by this? Yes. Does this mean I think that Morgan Rielly is a crap prospect? Not at all.
Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
While I had begun to sour somewhat on Schenn’s potential last season, it was a little odd to wake up this morning and remember #2 was now a member of an organization not named the Toronto Maple Leafs. Schenn was celebrated as the first pillar of the Leafs’ rebuild when Cliff Fletcher drafted him in 2008. Many a fan bought his jersey. Some said we had future captain material in Luke. Few would’ve predicted Schenn would be with a new organization before he turned 23.
I’m not going to call Schenn’s rookie season a mirage, but it was somewhat of a tease. We heard Pierre McGuire call this guy a Human Eraser and we saw it with our own eyes when he stepped onto NHL ice as an 18-year-old and tossed a 245-pound Keith Tkachuk to the ice. What seems to have happened between the Schenn we knew then and the one Burke just traded was a combination of expectations heightening and his development traveling the trajectory of a more normal young defenceman, as opposed to the beyond-his-years beast we came to know him as in junior and very early on in his NHL career.
Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The worst kept secret in all of hockey finally became a reality.
Luke Schenn is now a Philadelphia Flyer, and James Van Riemsdyk is finally a Toronto Maple Leaf.
JVR (whose name I’ll probably never type in full again) was the second overall pick in the 2007 draft and has had a slow, but upwards, trend in his development since. After getting drafted he returned to New Hampshire, where he played college hockey, and threw up 40 points in 36 games along with 10 points in six world junior games. He ended that season playing some AHL games, but jumped straight to the NHL the following year and put up a respectable 35 points in 78 games. The next year he had five more points in three less games well also breaking the 20 goal barrier by notching 21.
His big breakout moment though was in the playoffs of last year when he put up seven goals in 11 playoff games while single- handedly dominating some games. To put it into perspective, he had 70 shots throughout those playoffs. That’s over six shots a game. In the playoffs.
Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America
Brian Burke’s radio interview on Wednesday seemed to speak volumes about what he was looking for and what he was willing to part with to improve the Leafs. It’s no secret that the main parts of any potential deal with the Flyers, if it were to happen, would be Luke Schenn and the highly skilled and big bodied James van Riemsdyk. The merits of Schenn and his contributions to the Toronto Maple Leafs are great, but if you want a great player, you have to move another one, unless you’re dealing with Darryl Sutter.
What exactly do we get with James van Riemsdyk? Well, Gus Katsaros was kind enough to provide us with the full scouting report on JVR and it is tantalizing to say the least.
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