Tomas Kaberle’s return to Toronto to be an awkward one

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When Toronto traded Tomas Kaberle to Boston for Joe Colborne, a first round pick, and a conditional pick all future matchups between the Bruins and Leafs were circled on the calendar by fans of both teams. Leafs fans had tonight picked out in particular because it would be Kaberle’s first game back in Toronto. What many Leafs fans may not have thought at the time was that the Leafs would be hanging onto the possibility of making the playoffs with just ten games left to play.

With Kaberle making his return to Toronto tonight and the Leafs just four points behind Buffalo for the eighth spot in the East, tonight’s game is huge for the Leafs and their chance at the playoffs. For Tomas Kaberle, his first time back in front of the fans that cheered him on his entire career (for the most part anyhow) brings a lot of mixed emotions for him as CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty shares.

“Its mixed feelings,” said Kaberle. “Being here for so long and being in that position that [the Leafs] are in right now is difficult. Obviously everybody has done it before and been traded, so hopefully it’s going to be a fit [in Boston].

“Tonight I’ll do my best for Boston and hopefully we’ll get the two points,” said Kaberle. “We’re just focusing on the game, and not looking at the long run of what we do or what [Toronto] will do. We just want to win a hockey game and play smart. We have 12 games left and we want to play a good hockey going into the playoffs.”

Claude Julien understood that returning to Toronto would be a big deal for a lifelong Leafs player like Kaberle, and also revealed that the B’s are beginning to see some of the defensemen’s personality behind the scenes.

“I think he’s excited to be back here. I haven’t heard him say anything bad about the organization. He was treated well by Toronto, has a lot of respect for the organization and I think he’s excited,” said Julien. “We feel our transition game has improved [with Kaberle] and we feel like he’s made the players around him better. The one thing about Tomas is that he spent close to a dozen years [in Toronto] and it’s his first time with another organization. He’s trying to fit in. He wants to fit in, and we’re going to give him time to do that.

“When you see him playing you can tell that he wants to be part of the solution. I like his attitude and I like his approach. I have a feeling that he’ll only get better as we move on here.”

The fact that Kaberle hasn’t done so hot since joining Boston could be wearing on his mind (just three assists and a +5 rating in 12 games with Boston) but the motivation of playing in front of the old fans with the added juice of potentially being able to deliver the playoff-dream-killing shot to the Leafs has to serve as motivation.

Working against the Bruins is how well the Leafs played against them the last time they faced off in Boston. Phil Kessel scored twice while Mikhail Grabovski scored the game winner with just over a minute to play. If those two can bring the same kind of intensity again while James Reimer stands tall in goal, Leafs hopes live strong for another day. If not, the sadness that sweeps over Toronto seeing one of their favorites go on to help them deliver the punch to the gut will make it sting a little more.

Talbot torments Ducks as Oilers take 2-0 series lead

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Those who vehemently argued for Cam Talbot being a Vezina finalist likely felt vindicated tonight (even if postseason results don’t factor into the voting).

In Game 1, Leon Draisaitl stole the show. Talbot was the standout of Game 2, snubbing a steady Ducks threat as Edmonton won 2-1 on Friday.

And, just like that, the Oilers are up 2-0 in their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Better yet for this young group: the venue shifts to what’s likely to be a rowdy scene in Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.

The tone was set when Andrej Sekera scored just 65 seconds into the contest. That said, the Oilers could have sulked when a would-be 2-0 goal was called off (and they had to kill a penalty). Instead, they just kept battling, even after Jakob Silfverberg ended Talbot’s shutout bit with a laser beam on the power play.

Speaking of the power play, the Oilers managed to match the Ducks (1-for-4 each on the PP), even as Talbot faced 12 shots on goal during Anaheim’s power-play opportunities.

Talbot ultimately made 39 of 40 stops, and while the Ducks kept Connor McDavid from scoring, number 97 sure looked speedy and dangerous at times in Game 2.

Anaheim came into the second round with home-ice advantage through the West side of the playoffs, seemingly enjoying a golden opportunity when other conference powers fell. Instead, it’s looking like the Oilers might just have a chance to prove that they’re big-time contenders, too.

Game 3 airs on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream.

Latest goalie interference mess: Oilers get penalty, not goal

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Ah, goalie interference. Does the fun ever start?

Arguably the most irritating facet of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs reared its pesky head once again on Friday, as the Edmonton Oilers saw a would-be 2-0 goal disallowed in the first period of Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The goal wasn’t just disallowed, either, as Mark Letestu was given a minor penalty.

One would imagine that there are opinions for or against the goal (and penalty counting); there are also many who are just getting a little worn out by the uncertainty surrounding such calls. Tomas Holmstrom is nodding his head so hard right now, everyone.

Here’s one unhappy take:

Moments after this post went up, the Oilers made it 2-0 for real this time. Check out the game here.

Math may help build Vegas Knights, but biggest aim is not being boring

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Unlike Pierre Dorion, it sounds like Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee would rather listen to analytics-minded people rather than … you know, hit them.

As McPhee readies for the expansion draft, he told The Star’s Kevin McGran in Q&A that they’ll at least be factored into decisions.

I’ve been really fascinated by how revealing that data can be. You have these kids speaking a different language. But I’m convinced it has a really important place in this game. You have to pay attention to it, and you have to use it.

Naturally, the real question with McPhee and other executives comes down to how much they will lean on analytics. Some teams seem to pick and choose when to listen to such voices, ending up with an odd mix of moves that please and unnerve the “fancy stats” community.

Owner Bill Foley gave a good idea of how much they’ll lean on stats vs. more traditional approaches in an interview with the Vegas Hockey Hotline back in February, which was transcribed by The Hockey Writers’ Keith Scheessele.

“Analytics is not going to drive how we draft,” Foley said. “Analytics are going to supplement what the scouts are seeing. We’re going to rely on the scouts and what they recommend.”

(Foley also spoke of rating players in 10 different categories, which started to make one think about how old sports video games could only quantify skills in so many ways. Anyway …)

So, it sounds like McPhee & Co. will take a modern approach – a mixture of the old and the new – rather than going full-on bold and revolutionary like, say, the Cleveland Browns or Golden State Warriors.

Considering the mystery of roster quality one faces with the Vegas Knights, it honestly might be most important that McPhee is repeatedly stating that he doesn’t aim to put together a boring hockey team.

Hey, if it takes a while to be good, at least the Vegas Knights might fit with their environment and put on a show.

Tarasenko’s two goals help Blues tie series with Predators

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One of the (many) remarkable things about the St. Louis Blues dispatching the Minnesota Wild was that they didn’t need a ton of production from Vladimir Tarasenko. He didn’t score a goal until the clinching game of that series.

The Blues needed more from him tonight, and he responded with two huge goals to help St. Louis win 3-2 in Game 2, tying the second-round series at 1-1.

Tarasenko scored the opening goal on that major power-play opportunity from the Vernon Fiddler knee on Colton Parayko, while Joel Edmundson wisely got out of the way to let Tarasenko nab the game-winner.

That ended up being the decisive factor as the Nashville Predators finally lost their first game of the postseason.

St. Louis must be breathing a sigh of relief for a number of reasons. The series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4, so going down 2-0 might have been lethal.

Even beyond that, the Blues had some breaks go their way that likely won’t repeat to the same degree in future contests. The Predators didn’t receive a single power-play opportunity while St. Louis spent significant chunks of the contest on the man advantage, going 1-for-5 (but again, that includes a major).

The Blues also won despite what must have been a frustrating start. They only managed a 1-1 tie after the first 20 minutes despite holding Nashville to a mere three shots on goal.

The Predators also managed leads of 1-0 and 2-1, yet the Blues kept fighting to get back in this series. Game 3 will air on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App (Click here for the livestream link).

* – That said, he made a lot of commotion to set up Edmundson’s overtime game-winner from Game 1. That connection continued on Friday, as you likely noticed.