SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 28: Roman Polak #46 of the Toronto Maple Leafs scores a goal against Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on December 28, 2014 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
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No Aaron Ekblad or Denis Malgin for Panthers tomorrow, Monday night scoreboard watching, Brian Boyle opens up about tragedy and family, and more in the links.


Leafs Links

Life and death: Leafs’ Brian Boyle has seen plenty of both (Toronto Sun)
Imagine being a wee lad of two, gathered with your brothers and sisters on a staircase watching your father kneeling on the downstairs floor, attempting in vain to revive your lifeless infant sibling while your mom is shrieking in horror. Imagine being a teenager, just 14 years of age, and being informed that cancer is eating away at your dad — only to subsequently have him shock his doctors with the type of unbelievable recovery you still refer to as “a miracle.” Then imagine, for a moment, that as a recently married man, you find out that a close friend — someone who had been in your wedding party and a kindred sprit you considered to be “like a little brother” — had suddenly drowned, just hours after hosting a charity event. Brian Boyle does not have to imagine these things. He’s lived them. All of them.

Game #61 Review: Toronto Marlies 5 vs. Manitoba Moose 4 (MLHS)
It’s the time of the season where points matter more than the performances. After taking just three points from their last five games and with their North Division rivals in good form of late, the Toronto Marlies needed to get back to winning ways on Sunday in Manitoba. The Marlies were icing a much-changed lineup, including the returning Brendan Leipsic and the debuting Cal O’Reilly. Sheldon Keefe will not be happy with the overall defensive display from his team, but he’ll be pleased that his group dug deep and found a way to win late in a back-and-forth game.

Game #67 Review: Toronto Maple Leafs 3 vs. Carolina Hurricanes 2 (MLHS)
The Leafs were outshot 9-1 to start this game, with the ninth shot being Victor Rask’s goal. Right after the 1-0 goal, Bill Peters and Mike Babcock matched up their fourth lines; Brian Boyle won the draw, Matt Martin went in hard on the forecheck, and the Hurricanes iced the puck. Babcock was then able to send out the Marner line for an offensive zone start against the Hurricanes’ fourth line and bottom defence pair (Dahlbeck – Murphy). JVR won a battle off of the ensuing faceoff and the Leafs had their first sustained offensive-zone shift with multiple shots on goal before Marner scored off the cycle. A good example of what Babcock was talking about with the new fourth line giving the team key pushback shifts at important times in the game.

Babcock on Boyle: “He’s bringing a tonne to the team” (MLHS)
Babcock: “His line has been outstanding. His line, in all the clips, is stopping on defence, doing the right thing. We can roll four out the gate. We put them out on d-zone faceoffs. We don’t worry about them. I think he’s bringing a tonne to the team. If he wants to score more, that’s great. Score more. But he’s doing a good job for us.”

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Leafs soak up Florida sun after weathering Hurricanes (Toronto Star)
“We have 16 games in 30 days,” Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly, the overtime hero Saturday night, said. “We have to be ready for every single one of them, because they are all important. Big points every night. It’s up to us, up to the training staff to make sure that we’re doing what we have to do at the rink, at home, to make sure we’re ready for all them. You have a totally different routine for the days you don’t skate. You have to manage it. You have to be able to do whatever it takes to be ready for game time, whether that means you go for a walk in the morning, you just got to do whatever it is.”

[Paywall] What has been wrong with the Leafs on the penalty kill? (The Athletic)
There haven’t been many sour notes in the Maple Leafs’ season but one struggle that’s been overlooked is the collapse of their shot rate at 4-on-5. Last year’s Leafs were the second stingiest team in the NHL in terms of their rate of shot attempts allowed at 4-on-5; this year’s team is 25th. The Leafs have yet to pay a price for this because their 4-on-5 save percentage is so much better this year.

Playoff picture: Maple Leafs jump into wild card spot (NHL.com)
With four weeks remaining in the regular season, the Toronto Maple Leafs own the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.  Toronto, with a 3-2 overtime victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, jumped one point ahead of the New York Islanders, who lost 4-3 to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. If the playoffs started today, the Maple Leafs would face the Washington Capitals, the top seed in the East, in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Maple Leafs haven’t made the playoffs since the 2012-13 season.

Maple Leafs selling ticket price hike as good news for fans (Toronto Star)
Next season, season-ticket prices will rise by between $7 and $16 per ticket per game, but MLSE chief commercial officer David Hopkinson says the increase won’t affect the final price on the secondary market, where brokers resell the season seats they purchase. Instead, he says, raising the retail price with shrink resellers’ profit margins. Hopkinson says fewer brokers in business means more tickets for fans. “If we don’t price the tickets appropriately versus what the market is going to pay for them, guess what happens,” Hopkinson says. “The tickets don’t get cheaper. Just other guys make the money . . . and that doesn’t help your hockey team. That doesn’t help us get better.”

James Reimer embraces obscurity after six years with Leafs (National Post)
Reimer says job security was “probably a little bit up in the air” in Toronto, where he found himself in a constant chase to demonstrate his viability as a No. 1. He posted average numbers on poor defensive teams — his .914 save percentage as a Leaf tied for 22nd among goaltenders with at least 200 appearances. “Maybe it just falls on my shoulders of not being consistent enough, or who knows why that sense was always there,” Reimer said.

Heart and soul of Leafs is a man of few words — but those words are positive (Barrie Today)
Nor does the former Leaf captain, Wendel Clark, restrict himself to the obvious choices of who makes the team exciting; guys like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have a really good supporting cast around them, he says. “I’d say (William) Nylander is about the most exciting young player on the team, and let’s not forget Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, and Tyler Bozak, playing with James van Riemsdyk. (Frederik) Andersen is playing awesome, too (in goal).”

Panthers lose Ekblad, Malgin to concussions (TSN.ca)
Florida Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad left Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second period with a concussion. Ekblad was hit in the corner by Lightning centre Gabriel Dumont, with his head appearing to hit the glass. Ekblad headed to the dressing room after the hit and head coach Tom Rowe said after the game Ekblad suffered a concussion, according to a report from the Miami Herald’s George Richards.

HC at Noon: Andersen drowns out noise, but embraces pressure


Playoff Scoreboard Watch: Three Games of Note

Hurricanes at Islanders
The New York Islanders return to Barclays Center after going 5-3-1 on their franchise record nine-game road trip. They enter Monday one point behind the Leafs for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Bruins at Canucks
The Boston Bruins go into Vancouver with a two-point lead on Toronto for the third Atlantic Division playoff spot with one fewer game remaining. The Bruins have won two consecutive over the Red Wings and Flyers and are 7-3-0 in their last ten.

Lightning at Rangers
The Lightning play the first of a back-to-back on the road against New York and Ottawa before returning home to face the Leafs on Thursday. They currently trail Toronto by three points (even on games played) for the final wildcard spot/fourth in the Atlantic.

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