Listening to Don Cherry, you would get the impression that rather than fire coach Ron Wilson, Brian Burke should have signed a player from Ontario.
On Saturday night, what started with an inquiry on CBC’s Coach’s Corner about the Leafs coaching change ended with Cherry complaining about how Toronto is the only NHL team without a player from Ontario on their active roster.
Typically local players do become fan favorites, although St. Catharines, Ontario native Bryan McCabe would argue that isn’t always the case. Besides, it’s not as if Burke has avoided Ontario players. In the 2011 NHL entry draft, Toronto used the 25th overall pick to select Stuart Percy, who was born in Oakville, Ontario and has played in the Ontario Hockey League. The Leafs’ next pick, which didn’t come until the third round, was another Ontario-native, Josh Leivo.
In addition to that, the Leafs’ AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, has several Ontario-born players. The most noteworthy of which is Nazem Kadri, who has played in 19 games with the Maple Leafs this season. At the end of the day, it’s the players’ skill that matters. We can assume that Leafs fans would rather have Markham-born Steve Stamkos instead of Matthew Lombardi, but they wouldn’t trade Phil Kessel to get back Mississauga-native Matthew Stajan.
Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)
Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.
Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.
McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).
The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.
They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.
The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.
Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.
The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.
The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.
Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style
It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.
Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:
Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games
This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.
The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.