Phil Kessel

Poll: Will the Leafs make the playoffs this year?

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Several NHL teams failed to make the postseason last year — 14 of them, to be exact — but none failed quite so dramatically as the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Leafs, you’ll recall, were in good shape for the majority of the 2013-14 campaign…until a late-season slide saw them go 2-12-0 over their final 14 games, completing a stunning fall from grace (or, more specifically, a stunning fall from second place in the Atlantic Division.)

It marked the second consecutive season Toronto went out like a house of cards. The year prior, the Leafs famously blew a 4-1 lead in Game 7 of their opening-round playoff series with Boston — though, to hear players explain it, ’13-14 hurt worse. At least against the Bruins, the Leafs were in the playoffs.

“Losing to Boston was hard, but this was painful,” Cody Franson said, per the Toronto Star. “We started playing some of our worst hockey the tighter it got. That’s not what good teams do.”

The Leafs seemed to take Franson’s words to heart. Good teams don’t do that, so the club set about making itself over. All of Randy Carlyle’s assistants were fired; Brendan Shanahan was hired as president and wunderkind Kyle Dubas was brought aboard as assistant GM.

On the ice, the team beefed up its forward group by adding Leo Komarov, Daniel Winnik, David Booth, Mike Santorelli and Petri Kontiola. The defense was given an overhaul by adding Stephane Robidas while trading Carl Gunnarsson for Roman Polak. (Tim Gleason was also bought out of his contract.)

On paper, these changes should be enough for the Leafs challenge for a playoff spot, given what was already in place. There’s some real talent in the core forward group of Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul and Nazem Kadri, and Carlyle has vowed to put much more emphasis on defensive awareness and consistency. In goal, the Jonathan Bernier-James Reimer tandem is solid.

But can the Leafs overcome…themselves? This is a group now synonymous with collapse, and questions remain about the leadership group (most notably Dion Phaneuf, who was the target of a potential captaincy stripping this offseason.)

With that said, let’s go to the poll…

Optimism won’t come as easily for Lightning after ugly loss to Canucks

TAMPA, FL - MARCH 17:  Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a save in front of Alex Burrows #14 of the Vancouver Canucks at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on March 17, 2014 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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Maybe the Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t “figuring things out” after all.

They were able to find the bright side of recent troubles, but what do you really say after a 5-1 loss to the struggling Vancouver Canucks?

The Lightning have lost two straight, six of seven and seven of nine during a deeply worrisome run. While they did generate more shots on goal tonight, they’ve now given up at least 30 in all but three of their contests since the start of November.

If the playoffs began today, the Lightning would easily miss them.

“It’s time for us to step up here,” Ben Bishop said after a game in which he was pulled heading into the third period. “Nobody is going to feel bad for us.”

Blame it on injuries if you’d like, but Steven Stamkos isn’t coming back anytime soon. If they don’t get things back together, they won’t be playing for much once he can return.

Flyers wouldn’t give up in seventh straight win; Oilers couldn’t protect a lead

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 08:  Claude Giroux #28 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates after scoring a second period goal against the Edmonton Oilers at Wells Fargo Center on December 8, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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One team just can’t be denied. At times, the other team just can’t seem to defend.

It was a pretty wild one between the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night, with the ultimate result being a 6-5 win for the Flyers.

The ride was bumpy, dramatic and will probably provide Oilers head coach Todd McLellan with a lot of “teaching moments” (or, let’s be honest, reasons to yell really loud).

Things started promising enough for the Oilers, who built an early 2-0 lead thanks to a goal and an assist by Leon Draisaitl. You could then cue the horror music, as the Flyers scored three goals in a minute and 12 seconds to grab a brief 3-2 lead:

There might be some concern about a young team like the Oilers cratering from such a letdown, yet they bounced back … to an extent.

Edmonton rattled off three unanswered goals, giving them a 5-3 lead about five minutes into the third period. It seemed like it would be a redemptive moment after that three-goal blunder.

Then there was another three-goal blunder.

Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl helped the Flyers rattling off another three unanswered goals, giving Philly a seventh consecutive win.

The Oilers? They didn’t even get what sometimes feels like a customary “charity point” by getting to overtime. Three isn’t a magical number for Edmonton lately, as they’ve now lost three in a row. It’s probably safe to say that this one will burn the most.

Avalanche beat Bruins, even as Pastrnak remains almost unstoppable

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 08: Nikita Zadorov #16 of the Colorado Avalanche slides for the puck ahead of David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on December 8, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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David Pastrnak is scoring at an astounding pace. Sometimes it’s still not enough to earn a win for the Boston Bruins.

The 20-year-old wunderkind scored both of the Bruins’ goals on Thursday, giving him a patently absurd 18 in 23 games. Pastrnak now has five goals in his last three games (not to mention a five-game point streak with those five goals and two assists).

Calvin Pickard was perfect against Bruins not named Pastrnak, however, and the Colorado Avalanche beat Boston 4-2.

Perhaps part of the problem was that the Bruins “other” MVP wasn’t in action, then. Tuukka Rask has been right up there with the NHL’s best, but it was Anton Khudobin in net, and he gave up four goals on just 22 shots.

Rather than taking a step up the ladder, Pastrnak’s made leaps. Similarly, Rask is more than merely rebounding from what was – for his lofty standards – a disappointing campaign in 2015-16.

The Bruins need more from their supporting cast members, however, especially when one of these two players can’t suit up.

BREAKING: Carey Price’s composure

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Even the best goalie in the world – one who makes it look easy – can lose his cool sometimes.

(Heck, that used to be the domain of Patrick Roy, right?)

It was quite the sight on Thursday nonetheless: Carey Price absolutely lost his cool and went after Kyle Palmieri during the Montreal Canadiens’ game against the New Jersey Devils. You can watch that spectacle in the video above.

Palmieri received an interference penalty while Price received a roughing double-minor. Apparently fits of Price anger are rare:

By Hockey Reference’s numbers, Price has accrued 39 penalty minutes in 465 career regular season games and eight in 54 playoff contests before tonight’s outburst.

Perhaps it’s just one of those nights.