Jake Gardiner
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 28: Jake Gardiner #51 of the Toronto Maple Leafs fights Sean Couturier #14 and Michael Raffl #12 of the Philadelphia Flyers for the puck against the boards during the second period at Wells Fargo Center on March 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Maple Leafs 4-2. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

2016 second-round pick Carl Grundstrom expected to sign soon, Leafs players talk new recovery techniques, Leafs defensive metrics trending in wrong direction, and more in the links.


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Maple Leafs expected to sign 2016 pick Carl Grundström (Sportsnet)
Known for his tenacious style of play and willingness to get a little dirty, the promising prospect was initially expected to be taken in the first round but fell to the second after struggling to produce with MODO. He has turned that around this year on a new—and much stronger—team, registering 12 goals and 18 points in 44 games in the defence-driven Swedish League. Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek called Grundström a “hard-working, honest player who plays a simple game” during the lead-up to last year’s draft, adding that he “loves to hit and has a really good wrist shot that he’s able to get off in stride.”

Leafs will need to keep Flyers’ Simmonds in check (The Globe and Mail)
Even if most lineups these days feature whippets who can stickhandle as fast as they skate, coaches will always take a big winger like Simmonds who parks himself in front of the goaltender and whacks rebounds into the net. If opposing defencemen don’t like it, the Philadelphia Flyers power forward will knock them on their butts and/or deliver a knuckle sandwich if needs be.

Leafs learning to chill in NHL pressure cooker (Toronto Star)
More recent additions to the fold are two dressing-room cryotherapy tanks wherein players are immersed from the neck down in a temporary freeze that dips around minus-110C. These should not be confused with the cryogenic facilities where well-heeled optimists preserve the bodies of loved ones, baseball great Ted Williams among them, although they sound nearly as grim. “If you’re just sitting there in silence by yourself, the two minutes seems like two hours,” said van Riemsdyk of the cryotherapy experience, which is said to have inflammation-reducing, sleep-improving effects. “If you have some music on and you’re talking to someone, it’s usually not that bad. Distracting yourself is the key.”

Gilmour’s Leafs banner comes home (TheWhig.com)
For Gilmour, it was an easy choice to have the old banner of him, in jersey No. 93, go up in the rafters at the Rogers K-Rock Centre. “It will be fun to see it go up. There’s a lot of people that want to hang me up there with it, right?” a chuckling Gilmour said. The ceremony for the Gilmour banner will take place Friday night prior to the Kingston Frontenacs’ Ontario Hockey League game against the Mississauga Steelheads.

Leafs playing percentages: ‘If we win our games, we should be OK’ (Toronto Sun)
Counting Thursday, the Leafs have nine to go in their barn, four to end the schedule. With most teams having finished their schedule against the Western Conference, the Eastern head-to-heads and the possibility of three-point games can see the slightest fluctuations in points move teams in and out of a spot in a matter of minutes as each game ends. There is no avoiding talk about the standings anymore, with the Leafs keeping them posted in their dressing room.

What’s behind the Maple Leafs’ rough 18-game stretch (Sportsnet)
No matter how you slice it, the Maple Leafs have become extremely porous defensively through their slide. Overall this season the Leafs have been a middle-10 team in terms of allowing dangerous shots against, but over the past 18 games they’ve been allowing chances against at the same rate as the Arizona Coyotes, the worst defensive team in the league.

Pressure’s ratcheting up for young Leafs: Arthur (Toronto Star)
The Leafs believe Auston Matthews — who wasn’t great on this night — and Marner can rise to the occasion. The rest? They’re watching. One thing Babcock loved about coaching Henrik Zetterberg in Detroit was how he played when it mattered. Babcock said of the younger players in Detroit, “They see him train and they understand how competitive he is when the game’s on the line. The other thing is, when things go bad in the game, he goes and makes a play. So it’s not what you say, it’s what you do in the big moments.”

The Leafs have maxed the 50 contract limit (Pension Plan Puppets)
Can they make space? Yes, absolutely, the old-fashioned way by trading someone. Trades within the season, but post deadline, are very rare, but not unheard of. They usually involve non-playoff teams. In this expansion draft year, however, you never know what a team is up to.  Trades after the season is over are obviously more common, and they almost certainly will start appearing as soon as teams finish their seasons because the Vegas Golden Knights can trade for players once they are done playing.

[Paywall] How the Leafs can learn from the Canadiens when it comes to defensive zone coverage (The Athletic)
Back in December, I wrote a piece about the Maple Leafs’ struggles with implementing the defensive zone swarm and that their young players can be expected to sort things out and grasp the structure in relatively short order. It is now March and very little has changed in three months. The Leafs are still among the best in the NHL in 5vs5 shots for per hour, but trail all but three teams in shots against – Arizona Coyotes, the New York Islanders and Dallas Stars. So I was wrong when I predicted that Toronto would be actually defensively good at this point in the year.

[Paywall] Desperate Maple Leafs hope ‘huge win’ something to build on (The Athletic)
Relief. That was all the Maple Leafs felt after winning this one. Relief that they hadn’t blown a 3-0 lead, at home, against the fourth worst team in the NHL. Relief that the losing streak – which had stretched to five games during a disastrous road trip – was over. Relief that they had something to build on. “Oh yeah. Yeah,” winger Zach Hyman said right away when asked if this was one game they felt they had to win. “I mean home ice – we’re up 3-0. It was good to hold on there and get the win. It was a huge win for us. Especially how big games are now. Every point matters.”