MAPLE LEAFS (29-41-11) at DEVILS (37-36-8)
Sometimes we are reminded that the game of hockey is just that, only a game when crisis strikes. Friday night the Toronto Marlies were hosting the Lake Erie Monsters when during the second period forward Brett Gallant collapsed on the Lake Erie bench. Paramedics and doctors were quickly on scene. After a short time Gallant was stretchered off the ice and transported to hospital.
This scene was a stark reminder of the human side of the game. Frightened fans, shaken up players and concerned staff all witnessing tragedy unfolding. Players were given a short break to collect themselves before resuming play. Reports from Lake Erie indicate that Gallant is okay but needs to undergo further testing.
Leafs Hub and Leafs Nation as a whole are sending well wishes to Gallant on first, a speedy recovery, then a return to the ice.
From this dark moment came a bright light as the Marlies captured the win and were crowned regular season champs. All without the services of William Nylander and company. For two months the Marlies have iced a supposed ‘B’ team and still have racked up wins and points. That is a testament to the good work by Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe, his staff and the players. After tonight’s NHL game expect a flurry of transfer activity by the big club as the post trade deadline call-ups are sent back to the farm team to take a run at the AHL championship.
New Jersey is hosting the Leafs for its season finale. This is the fourth consecutive season that the Devils will miss the playoffs. Tonight’s game has little meaning for the club. For some players, this is the last chance to audition for next October’s roster out of training camp. For the club the off-season will be a chance to evaluate and further implement a plan to return to the post season.
Jersey has lost four in a row and is 3-6-1 in their past 10 games. It is difficult to see where motivation to play hard will come from. Pride is one factor but at the expense of getting hurt it is easy to see how some players may go through the motions to finish the season. As already mentioned some skaters are playing for next year.
For the Toronto Maple Leafs, the task is simple. Lose tonight against and gain a 20% chance of landing the top pick in this year’s entry daft. There are two corners to what are the possible implications. Some fans are screaming and are pissed off that a tank is on. Others are not so quietly cheering for a loss. Watching my Twitter feed fly by has this scribbler sitting on the fence on what should happen tonight.
Coming off a surprising 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday, tonight marks game 82 and the end of the 2015/2016 season. Leaf players surely would enjoy a win for Lou Lamoriello as he completes his first season as Leafs GM. All in all, the all star off-ice lineup of Shanahan, Lamoriello, Babcock and supporting staff have outperformed expectations.
This Leafs team was expected to finish at or near the bottom of the standings. Nobody expected the Leafs to perform so well night after night. So many one goal games, hard to suffocate tenacity and restored dressing room pride has endeared this team to most of Leafs Nation. There are those that will put down this team but overall fans are reasonably optimistic about the future.
The near future will bring more anticipated building blocks for a run at the Stanley Cup.
This years draft in Buffalo could bring Auston Matthews into the fold. Odds are against it but if the Oilers can win four 1st overall picks in six years then why not the Leafs receiving the first overall pick for the first time since 1985. You may recognize who was picked 1st overall thirty-one years ago. Some guy named Wendel Clark?
July 1st is possibly the most anticipated date on the calendar for Leafs Nation. The rumours have been running since day one of the season. Steven Stamkos will become a free agent. Currently out of action due to a blood clot, Stamkos is expected to be ready to go next season.
From fans expressing their desire to sign the prolific center, to very shielded responses from players and management when asked about Stammer, to Stamkos “liking” a Tweet regarding a move to Toronto the evidence is there that a Toronto free agent signing is a real possibility. It may be too early in the rebuild for Toronto to commit $10+ million over 7 years for Stammer. Much will likely depend on if Matthews ends up a Leaf this June.
I don’t often offer a personal opinion within these game day threads. Look at my @TML_Darren twitter feed for that. Today is going to be an exception.
Last November, I submitted a 10 game story to Corey and Steven here at Leaf Hub. Lo and behold, in their infinite wisdom I was published. The story was well received and debated. I personally was thrilled to have the opportunity to write about the Toronto Maple Leafs. To those that know me personally you will understand why this was such a personal triumph. Thank you both for the opportunity. It has truly been rewarding.
So here we are at the end of the season. The warm and fuzzies are flowing as I reflect on what has been very exciting and enlightening. I have had the honour of being a certified Hockey Canada trainer on the bench for a few teams including teams with former NHL’ers on the roster. I have worked off ice for semi-pro hockey and now am now enjoying a totally different experience as a writer.
I am sure Leafs Hub will continue to offer everything Leafs for many years to come and I am looking forward to being a part of a terrific team of the most passionate fans hockey has to offer. Hope you will be a part of it too.
Enjoy the off season but more importantly . . . Enjoy the game tonight.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Brooks Laich – Tyler Bozak – PA Parenteau
Colin Greening – William Nylander – Tobias Lindberg
Leo Komarov – Frederik Gauthier – Michael Grabner
Sam Carrick – Byron Froese – Brad Boyes
Morgan Rielly – Martin Marincin
Jake Gardiner – Frank Corrado
Andrew Campbell – TJ Brennan
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Patrik Elias – Pavel Zacha – Devante Smith-Pelly
Sergey Kalinin – Travis Zajac – Kyle Palmieri
Miles Wood – Adam Henrique – Tyler Kennedy
Jacob Josefson – Stephen Gionta – Tuomo Ruutu
Andy Greene – Adam Larsson
David Schlemko – Steve Santini
John Moore – Damon Severson
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Gdiff (5v5) — -37
Gdiff (All) — -44
CF% (5v5) – 51.4
PP% – 15.6
PK% – 81.2
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Gdiff (5v5) — -26
Gdiff (All) — -24
CF% (5v5) – 46.1
PP% – 20.4
PK% – 82.8