Matt Martin


WATCH LIVE: Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres



Toronto Maple Leafs

Zach HymanWilliam NylanderConnor Brown

Patrick MarleauNazem KadriMitch Marner

James van RiemsdykTyler BozakLeo Komarov

Matt MartinTomas PlekanecKasperi Kapanen

Morgan RiellyRon Hainsey

Jake GardinerNikita Zaitsev

Travis DermottConnor Carrick

Starting Goalie: Frederik Andersen

[Maple Leafs – Sabres preview.]

Buffalo Sabres

Zemgus GirgensonsRyan O'ReillySam Reinhart

Scott WilsonJohan LarssonJason Pominville

Jordan NolanJacob JosefsonKyle Okposo

Benoit Pouliot — Kyle Criscuolo — Nicholas Baptiste

Marco ScandellaRasmus Ristolainen

Brendan Guhle — Casey Nelson

Nathan BeaulieuVictor Antipin

Starting Goalie: Chad Johnson

Laying it on the lines: Maple Leafs rolling after adjustments

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It’s kind of crazy how a little tinkering can completely change the complexion of an offense.

On Jan. 23, the Toronto Maple Leafs were stuck in a rut. For the better part of the past month-and-a-half, dating back to Dec. 12, they’d essentially spun their tires.

With a 6-7-3 record during that 16-game span, something needed to change, even if they were still sitting comfortably in third place in the Atlantic Division.

Still, limping into the playoffs wouldn’t be ideal for Mike Babcock, so he did what he’s done best over his long tenure as an NHL bench boss: he adjusted.

Gone were the lines that weren’t working and in came something to experiment with.

Mitch Marner moved up to the second line. Leo Komarov dropped down to the fourth. Gone was Frederik Gauthier, who went from the fourth line to the minors. Matt Martin took a seat in the press box. And the Leafs brought up 21-year-old prospect Kasperi Kapanen, who put up good numbers in the American Hockey League.

The result looked like this:

Zach HymanAuston MatthewsWilliam Nylander

Patrick MarleauNazem Kadri – Mitchell Marner

James van RiemsdykTyler BozakConnor Brown

Leo Komarov – Dominic Moore – Kasperi Kapanen

Babcock must be quite the alchemist. His concoction has proven effective. Really effective.

Kadri and Marner have benefitted most. The former had two points in his previous 20 games before welcoming Marner on his right wing. Kadri, during the team’s 9-1-0 run as of late, now has seven goals and 15 points (including a hat trick and a five-point night on Wednesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 6-3 win).

Marner had just one goal in his previous 11 games before linking up with Kadri and Marleau. Since then, he has seven goals and 13 points.

Even Kapanen is getting in on the fun. He’s got two goals and three assists in that span playing a less offensive role on the team’s fourth line.

Babcock wanted balance, and he got it.

The Leafs, for all their offensive successes during this stretch — they’ve scored 43 goals during their past 10 games — could give Frederik Andersen a bit of a break.

Andersen is seeing a lot of rubber. In Wednesday’s win, Andersen saw 19 shots come his way in the first period and another 22 in the second. The barrage continued in the third with a further 16. Yes, the quick math says 57 total shots. The man made 54 saves.

Wednesday’s result could have been much different if not for Andersen’s heroics.

In four of the past 10 games, the Leafs have surrendered 40 or more shots.

As good as Andersen has been for the Leafs, that isn’t sustainable.

The good news for the Leafs and their fans is that Andersen is in the top-five among starters (minimum 1,500 minutes played) when it comes to goals saved above average, one of the better goalie metrics to judge how good a puck-stopper is.

Andersen is also sixth in adjusted save percentage, which takes into account shot location when determining a goalie’s save percentage, taking the traditional metric one step further.

It’s all working right now for Toronto. And within their reach is the top spot in the Atlantic Division. The Leafs are just four points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Matthew Tkachuk suspended one game for unsportsmanlike conduct


Another day, another suspension for Matthew Tkachuk.

On Thursday afternoon, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced that they have suspended the Flames forward for a game because of an incident that occurred in last night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

During a first-period scrum in front of the Flames bench, Tkachuk, who was on the bench, used his stick to spear Maple Leafs tough guy Matt Martin, who was on the ice at the time.

After the game, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock called the move “junior hockey stuff”.

If you missed the incident, you can watch it by clicking the video at the top of the page. 

What this means is that Tkachuk will be forced to miss tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, which is a big deal considering his team will have to play their second game in two nights after losing to Toronto.

Here’s the full explanation of the suspension:

‘Junior hockey stuff’: Matthew Tkachuk earns hearing for spear on Martin (Video)


Matt Martin would like you to know that he’s fine. That spear from the bench by Matthew Tkachuk during Wednesday night’s game? He didn’t even feel it. In fact, he wasn’t even aware of it until after Toronto’s 2-1 shootout win over Calgary when the media requested to talk to him about the incident.

It was during a late first period scrum in front of the Flames’ bench that Tkachuk jabbed his stick into Martin’s midsection.

That wasn’t missed by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, which announced that Tkachuk, who wasn’t penalized, will have a hearing on Thursday.

Martin, who didn’t want to offer an opinion on whether Tkachuk should be punished, did have some advice for the young forward.

“I guess if he’s going to do stuff like that he should probably make it count,” he said. “It’s whatever. That’s child’s play. I don’t really get involved in that kind of stuff.”

Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock wasn’t a fan either.

“The guys told me in-between periods. I mean, whatever, that’s junior hockey stuff,” he said. “He’ll learn over time. You gotta give Tkachuk credit, he played a good game, he played hard. No reason for that stuff.”

Tkachuk, a well-know shift disturber around the league, has had a busy first few months of the season in the area of discipline. He was suspended one game in November for inciting a brouhaha between the Flames and Detroit Red Wings, which earned Luke Witkowski a 10-game ban. Just 10 days later he was on the receiving end of a Gabriel Landeskog cross-check to the head that caused the Colorado Avalanche captain to sit for four games.

Already holding repeat offender status, Tkachuk will likely find himself sitting out at least one game for this.

UPDATE: One game ban for Tkachuk.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL players got weird for Halloween (beyond McDavid as Trump)

via Patrik Laine's Instagram

To some, there’s no topping Connor McDavid‘s Internet-disrupting turn as U.S. president Donald Trump this Halloween. Check out this post for the fallout on all of that.

Then again, that might come down to taste/how much you weigh in timely references, as NHL players and teams have really gone all-in on Halloween this year. In fact, there’s little chance that this post will cover every fake-blood-crusted costume and zany bit, so feel free to share more in the comments or via Twitter.

(Also realize not every Halloween dream was realized. Ask Mitch Marner.)

As you might expect, P.K. Subban came up with a clutch costume, and maybe a little nightmare fuel. Just a lot to unpack here:

Dude, what?

Subban’s teammate Roman Josi went pretty generic with a zombie riff, but made up the difference with how elaborate it got:


A post shared by Roman Josi (@rjosi90) on

The instinct was to make fun of Erik Gudbranson for such an outdated costume as Austin Powers, but the follow-through is inspiration for anyone who wants to dust off an aging reference:

Oh behaaaaave…🤓

A post shared by Erik Gudbranson (@guddy44) on

Then again, Eric Gryba went for a KISS theme, so maybe there are lot of old souls in the NHL?

(Aside: are hairy chests making a comeback?)

Hey, Henrik Lundqvist might be off to a tough start, but at least he provides some comic relief:

There’s King Henrik, and then there’s his teammate Kevin Shattenkirk, who embraced a love of “Game of Thrones” as going with “The Night King.”

Kris Letang also got into the “GoT” spirit.

(This is probably a good opportunity to remind you that hockey players have the sort of time and resources many of us lack when it comes to knocking Halloween out of the park.)

Not sure what to say, Vladimir Tarasenko. Not sure what to say.

Most Marc-Andre Fleury costume possible? Arguably.

Nazem Kadri reminds us of an artist on the ice sometimes, so Bob Ross is a good fit. (We’ll assume Maple Leafs teammate Matt Martin took a day off from looking like Brad Pitt.)

"Make love to the canvas" – Bob Ross

A post shared by Nazem Kadri (@43kadri) on

Finally, Patrik Laine haunts our dreams, instead of mainly scaring goalies with his shot:


A post shared by Patrik Laine (@patriklaine) on

(Hey, at least we did a public service and provided none of the “It” costumes. Don’t say we never did anything for you.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.