While one Maple Leafs defenseman is getting raked over the coals, another is basking in the praise of a head coach who hasn’t exactly sung his blessings all year.
Jake Gardiner — a healthy scratch for Game 1 of the Toronto-Boston series — played 27:45 in Game 4’s overtime loss to the Bruins, and according to Toronto coach Randy Carlyle, played very well.
“I think Jake is moving better than at any time he’s moved this year,” Carlyle said, per the Globe and Mail. “I think his competitiveness on the defensive side of the puck has gone up dramatically from where he was at Christmas when he came back.
“Obviously, we didn’t feel we were getting that from him or he would have been in our lineup. He’s elevated his game here in the playoffs – he has an element that every team would like.”
Gardiner is only 22 years old. Drafted 17th overall in 2008 by the Ducks, he was acquired from Anaheim in 2011, along with forward Joffrey Lupul, for defenseman Francois Beauchemin.
Related: Jake Gardiner’s agent thinks Maple Leafs should #FreeJakeGardiner
Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.
We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.
It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”
Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)
Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.
So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”
… You get the idea.
The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.
The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.
Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.
It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.
The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.
As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.
Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?
The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.
This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.