Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Toronto Maple Leafs.
For better or worse, the Toronto Maple Leafs rarely have been boring.
The short version of the 2013-14 season was a lot like the last: what started with promise (and maybe a few rather lucky breaks) ended in a stunning collapse. This time around, they didn’t even make the playoffs, as the Maple Leafs lost 12 of their last 14 games as they spiraled out of the playoff picture.
One might say that the advanced stats community laughed the Maple Leafs’ way out of the postseason – at least the more vindictive among that community – but the narrative took a surprise twist as Toronto eventually hired some of those howling critics.
While the executive structure of the franchise remains in flux, the Brendan Shanahan era seems to have begun with some surprising changes, even if head coach Randy Carlyle remains … at least for now.
Last season, it seemed like the onus was on Toronto’s two stars who were seemingly about to enter contract years in Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf. Those two are back and will remain on the hot seat like usual, yet the people who run the team will likely feel the heat more than anyone in 2014-15.
That’s not to say there aren’t quite a few players with quite a lot on the line next season, though. James Reimer may very well push Jonathan Bernier for starts even after he seemed like he was out the door. Players like Bernier, Nazem Kadri, Cody Franson and even new additions like David Booth have a chance to earn (or lose) a lot of money this season.
It’s a stretch to say that the “nerds won” in Toronto, but a transition seems to be happening — or at least is being considered. That’s a big reason why the Leafs should be fascinating to watch next season. As usual.
People love star athletes because they can do amazing things. Even so, people also often love to see the occasional moment of weakness.
Aside from the occasional injury hiccup, Sidney Crosby‘s been as advertised after being a super-hyped No. 1 overall pick. He has that “Golden Goal,” two Olympic gold medals, a Stanley Cup ring and plenty of individual accolades.
Not many people expected the Capitals-Penguins series to be over in five games, but there’s a chance that could happen before the end of the week. After their 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, the Capitals are one loss away from being bounced from the 2016 playoffs.
The Capitals failed to take advantage of the fact that Kris Letang was suspended for Game 4 because of his hit on Marcus Johansson in Game 3. Letang is now set to return for Game 5 which makes Washington’s task even more difficult.
“We didn’t take advantage of it,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, per NHL.com. “One thing I said to the guys coming into this, and we talked it about it yesterday, was when Kris got his suspension, is that they’re going to rally. Their whole team, their forwards are going to come back. They talked about they didn’t play their best game (in Game 3) and now they have Letang out and everybody had to step up on their side, and I thought they did.”
If you look back at the regular season, the Capitals were head and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference and the league for a good portion of the season. Washington finished 11 points ahead of second place Dallas in the league standings and it looked like they had the team that would finally take them over the hump.
Although things look gloomy, it’s important to realize that the series is far from over. Many NHLers would tell you that the fourth win is always the hardest to come by in a best-of-seven series, and by no means is anyone expecting the Capitals to wave the white flag.
“Whenever you lose a game, it’s obviously an opportunity missed, but it had nothing to do with them missing some of their players,” said Caps forward Jay Beagle, per NHL.com. “We’re looking forward. Our back’s against the wall and the most important game of our lives is coming up.”
Game 5 goes Saturday night in Washington.
PHT Morning Skate: Shane Doan takes a (friendly) shot at the Miracle on Ice
The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.
Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.
With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.
Trevor Daley, traded to Blackhawks for Sharp & Johns and to #Pens for Scuderi (who was flipped to LA for Ehrhoff) played 28:41 in G4 W.