Matthews makes difference as Maple Leafs beat Bruins in Game 3

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There’s still a long way to go before Round 1 is settled between the Bruins and Maple Leafs, but Toronto left with more than a 2-1 series after a 3-2 win in Game 3. They had to leave with extra confidence.

Auston Matthews absorbed heavy criticism as he was unable to generate a single point through the first two contests in Boston, but he had a strong Game 3, scoring his first goal and first assist of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Maple Leafs also showed that they can hang onto a lead. They entered the third period with a 3-2 lead, and were able to protect that against a Bruins team that can be quite dangerous. As a bonus, they showed that they can at least slow the deadly line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak, as that trio was unable to generate a single point on Monday.

Matthews had the biggest night, but maybe Mitch Marner‘s moments were the most symbolic. Pastrnak was pressing to get a final chance in the final seconds of Game 3, yet Marner blocked not one, but two shots to ice the win (and he’ll probably need to ice the spots that were wounded by those attempts). Finesse is clearly the Maple Leafs’ game, but they showed grit in Game 3.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

After a generally even first period ended 0-0, the two teams combined for five goals during a hectic second. Both power plays produced (two of Toronto’s three goals in the second period; one of Boston’s two), and, again, Matthews was able to make his presence felt.

Frederik Andersen continues to be a rock in net for Toronto, while Tuukka Rask was able to shake off this hard collision during the second period. Concussion spotters never took a look at Rask, even though he seemed dazed, but if Rask was limited afterward, it was tough to tell.

One promising sign for Boston is that, while the top line was nullified, the Bruins are getting decent production from supporting cast members. Charlie Coyle is starting to get the bounces he wasn’t receiving after being traded to Boston, as he scored his second goal of the postseason, while David Krejci nabbed his first goal of Round 1 on Monday. If Matthews’ top line can occasionally get the edge against Bergeron & Co., then players like Coyle and Krejci needed to step up.

After a tough Game 2 loss, the Maple Leafs regain their series lead to 2-1, and get a chance to take a stranglehold over Round 1 if they can win in Toronto on Wednesday.

Maple Leafs – Bruins Game 4 from Scotiabank Arena takes place Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN (Live stream)

More: Series preview

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

The Wraparound: Leafs need to ‘just play harder’ in Game 3

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

As if a series against the Boston Bruins wasn’t difficult enough, the Toronto Maple Leafs will face an additional test now that they’ll likely be without Nazem Kadri in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series. (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live stream)

Kadri will have an in-person hearing today for his cross-check to the head of Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk. Anytime the Department of Player Safety offers you an in-person hearing, you’re looking at a longer suspension. So without Kadri at his disposal, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock will likely move Patrick Marleau or William Nylander to center.

One of the keys to Toronto’s success is the production they get from their centers. Kadri found a way to accumulate two points in two games in this series, but Auston Matthews is still searching for his first point. The pressure has been on him already, but without Kadri he’ll need to take his game to another level as soon as Game 3.

In Game 1, he was on the ice for 15 shot attempts for and 19 against (CF% of 44.12). In Game 2, the 21-year-old was on the ice 19 shot attempts for and 27 against (41.3 percent). One area in which he improved from Game 1 to 2 was in the scoring chances department. In the first game, his team didn’t have a high-danger scoring chance with him on the ice and they gave up four. On Saturday night, Matthews was on the ice for five high-danger scoring chances for and three against. Improvement (all stats via Natural Stat Trick)

One thing the Leafs have going for them, is that they’re going back home, which means Babcock will have last change. Can he get Matthews easier matchups in the next two games of series?

And this isn’t just on Matthews’ shoulders. The Leafs need a better effort from top to bottom if they’re going to take a lead in this series after Game 3.

“We need to get into them instead of letting them get into us,” Babcock said, per the Toronto Sun. “Getting off to that start and establishing your game first and just playing harder.

“I thought they played harder than we did (in Game 2), I thought we played harder than them the (game) before. The series is now a best of five, it’s in our building, we need to establish our game first (in Game 3).”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Game 3: Capitals at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET (Capitals lead 2-0): Hurricanes fans will get their first live taste of playoff hockey in a long time. If their team has any shot of coming back in this series, they’ll have to find a way to get the job done on home ice tonight. Falling behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series against the defending Stanley Cup Champions is never a good idea, so they have to come out ready to go from the start. (CNBC, Live stream)

Game 3: Predators at Stars, 9:30 p.m. ET (series tied 1-1): The Stars found a way to win Game 1 on the road and they managed to force overtime in Game 2. You’d have to think that they’re fairly confident now that the series is heading back to Dallas tonight. The big question mark in this series is the Predators’ power play. Can they get it going before it’s too late? (NBCSN, Live stream)

Game 3: Flames at Avalanche, 10 p.m. ET (series tied 1-1): Even though the Avs failed to find the back of the net in Game 1, they’re still heading home all tied up in this best-of-seven series thanks to an OT goal by Nathan MacKinnon. Colorado isn’t as deep as Calgary, but they have enough high-end talent to make this interesting. (CNBC, Live stream)

NHL Live, hosted by Liam McHugh, Keith Jones and Keith Yandle, begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Paul Burmeister, Patrick Sharp and Anson Carter will anchor CNBC’s studio coverage throughout the Capitals-Hurricanes and Flames-Avalanche games.

Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle will join NBC Sports’ Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage as a guest studio analyst today, April 15, and Tuesday, April 16. A 13-year NHL veteran, Yandle played parts of nine seasons with the Coyotes organization, including the first seven games of his NHL career during the 2006-07 season, when he skated alongside former Coyote and current NHL on NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick. Yandle was Florida’s representative at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game, and recently completed his third season as a member of the Panthers where he currently serves as an alternate captain.

TUESDAY’S SCHEDULE: 
Game 4: Lightning at Blue Jackets, 7 p.m. ET (CNBC)
Game 4: Penguins at Islanders, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 4: Jets at Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET (CNBC)
Game 4: Sharks at Golden Knights, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

PHT’s 2019 Stanley Cup playoff previews
Capitals vs Hurricanes
Islanders vs. Penguins

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets

Predators vs. Stars
Blues vs. Jets
Flames vs. Avalanche
Sharks vs. Golden Knights

Power Rankings: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup
• 
Roundtable: Goaltending issues, challenging the Lightning
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1 schedule, TV info

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Marner’s agent tries to put out fire from Maple Leafs ‘lowball’ comments

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The Toronto Maple Leafs might be able to make the salary cap situation work enough to keep their biggest names together, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll sign Mitch Marner without headaches.

The ink on Auston Matthewsdaunting five-year extension barely dried before Marner’s agent Darren Ferris ratcheted up the drama.

In a Tuesday column for the Toronto Star, Dave Feschuk reported that Ferris claimed the Maple Leafs have been “trying to lowball” Marner, and described Matthews’ contract as not being a “team-friendly discount.”

Things blew up to such a point that Ferris went on two Toronto morning radio shows (TSN’s First Up 1050 and “The Jeff Blair Show” on Sportsnet 590) to try to put out the fires related to those comments.

In the process, Ferris then made a clarification on his clarification to Feschuk, ultimately stating that while Ferris made comments about the Maple Leafs lowballing Marner on Tuesday, those comments were related to alleged lowball offers from the summer.

*Phew*

After making eyebrow-raising comments, Ferris tried to spin things with the normal boilerplate comments you’d usually expect.

” …the discussions have been going in the right direction, and Mitch will be a Leaf for a long time, and I’m sure that everything will work out,” Ferris said on “The Jeff Blair Show.”

Of course, to many, the damage has been done — at least in terms of acting as if this is “business as usual.”

And, again, Ferris is doing his best to provide damage control after a day’s worth of frightening quotes about Marner wanting to get as close to Matthews’ $11.63 million cap hit as possible. Chris Nicholls transcribed radio interviews where TSN’s Darren Dreger stated that Marner’s camp reportedly believes he shouldn’t get “a penny” less than Matthews, and TSN’s Bob McKenzie seemed to make similar comments.

It’s difficult to shake the feeling that the people around Marner keep making things a little awkward, if not worse.

Back in December, Marner’s father Paul vented to The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel (sub required) about a perceived lack of interest in the winger possibly becoming the Maple Leafs’ next captain.

“I’ll just be honest with you,” Paul Marner said. “It drives our family nuts when we hear you guys all talk about who should be the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mitch never hardly gets any consideration. It’s because he’s like this happy-go-lucky little kid. But he championed the London Knights to the Memorial Cup with that same happy (personality). I watched a guy like Doug Gilmour who had a lot of joy on and off the ice but was a real competitor.

“And that’s Mitch.”

It’s enough to make your head spin, but Marner and the Maple Leafs did their best not to pour extra gas on the fire when asked about the process on Wednesday.

“That’s why you hire an agent, let him talk to Kyle (Dubas),” Marner said, according to Jonas Siegel.

“ … A deal’s going to get done eventually.”

Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock echoed those thoughts. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that Babcock said “Mitch is gonna be … Mitch is a lifetime Leaf.” So the messages seem to be aligned on-the-record, at least one day after things spiraled out of control.

(Or at least until Marner demanded that Ferris clean things up? We may or may not find that out once the smoke clears.)

Either way, if the goal of pushing contract extension negotiations to after the season was to “not be a distraction,” then Marner’s reps have failed in a big way.

However, if the true objective is to get as much money as possible — well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

And grab some popcorn.

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

Stop worrying about Maple Leafs’ salary cap situation

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Stop it.

You’re probably doing it right now.

You’re probably looking at the news that the Toronto Maple Leafs signed superstar center Auston Matthews to a five-year, $58.17 million contract extension on Tuesday and starting to panic.

You’re thinking about the contract extension they just gave William Nylander earlier this season, following the massive contract they gave to John Tavares in free agency.

You’re thinking about the contract negotiation they now have to go through with Mitch Marner this upcoming summer and wondering which one of them they’re going to trade.

[RELATED: Maple Leafs sign Auston Matthews to five-year, $58.17M contract]

Maybe you’re even naive enough to think one of the other 30 general managers in the NHL, despite a mountain of evidence over several years to the contrary, is going to suddenly grow some guts this summer and try to sign Marner to a restricted free agent offer sheet, while also believing that Marner might want to actually play for the undoubtedly worse team that is offering it, bypassing an opportunity to get still get paid a ton of money and be a part of a Stanley Cup contending team in Toronto.

How can they pay all of these players? How can they keep them all? Who will they have to trade for DEFENSE?! This can’t work, you’re screaming!

Yeah, you might be doing that.

Well, if are you are, stop doing that. Right now. Because not only are the Maple Leafs going to figure out a way to keep all of Matthews, Nylander, Marner, and Tavares, they are still going to have a chance to win by doing so. I’ve made this argument so many times I know I’m repeating myself, but until the hockey viewing and observing world gets over this fear of paying elite players I am prepared to continue pounding the table over this.

Make no mistake, the Maple Leafs will have to get rid of some people. They will have to make tough decisions and make trades and cut salary somewhere on the roster. But it is not going to be one of those four players. It shouldn’t be anyway. It also doesn’t have to be.

This situation is not unique to the Maple Leafs. They are not the first team in the salary cap era that has had to pay a core of All-Star level players big money at the same time while also trying to figure out a way to still build a competent team around them. They are not the first team that is going to have tough decisions to make. If your natural reaction to seeing the Maple Leafs do this with Matthews, Nylander, Tavares, and Marner is that it can’t work then you haven’t been paying attention to, quite literally, every Stanley Cup winning team in the salary cap era. All of them have a core of four or five players that takes up close to half (or even more than half) of their allotted salary cap space. It is a necessary part of winning, as long as that money is going to the right players.

These four players are the right players.

Let’s just say, hypothetically speaking, that Marner gets $10 million per year on his next contract, which might be a good ballpark figure. It’s more than Nylander, little less than Matthews, and that is probably fair because that is where he fits on the Maple Leafs’ talent hierarchy. That would mean the Maple Leafs would open next season with $39.4 million committed to the quartet of Matthews, Marner, Nylander, and Tavares. If the projected 2019-20 salary cap ceiling of $83 million becomes a reality, that is around 47 percent of the Maple Leafs’ allotted space.

Just for fun, here’s a little comparison of the past three Stanley Cup winners, who also had some pretty high-profile players on their rosters.

You are not winning the Stanley Cup without players of that caliber. Players of that caliber cost a lot of money. Every year between 2010 and 2015 we used to hear about how the Penguins’ model with a couple of big-money players at the top wasn’t working and they might have to trade one to get more depth. Alex Ovechkin‘s contract was just too much for the Capitals to win with because you can’t have one player taking up such a big portion of your salary cap space.

Rubbish.

Does this mean the Maple Leafs are going to be able to keep everybody they want? No. They will have to make some difficult decisions in the coming years. They might have to dump Patrick Marleau‘s contract this offseason. They might have to trade a young player like Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnnson. Or maybe even a Zach Hyman or a Connor Brown. And that’s okay. Those players are replaceable. Maybe not easily replaceable, but still replaceable. You can find another Kasperi Kapanen.

You’re not going to find another Auston Matthews or Mitch Marner.

Just look at the Capitals in the summer before their 2017-18 Stanley Cup season. The salary cap worked against them and they had to make some tough cuts. They couldn’t re-sign Justin Williams and they had to trade Marcus Johansson for pennies on the dollar. But they still had their core, made enough shrewd signings and trades, and had enough young talent coming through the system that they could still piece a competent team around their core and win the Stanley Cup.

Just like the Penguins did the two years before.

The Maple Leafs will be pressed against the salary cap for the foreseeable future, and some second-and third-tier cuts will be happening. But they also have a smart front office that no doubt knows what it’s going to take to make it work, and a front office that knows the type of talent you need to compete. They have it, they kept it. And before you start talking about their defense and how they could, in theory, trade Nylander or Marner for help on the blue line just remember they have a No. 1 defenseman in Morgan Rielly locked up on a long-term, bargain contract for the next few years and just acquired another top-pairing defender in Jake Muzzin without having to trade a core player of their own.

They have the core that can compete for a Stanley Cup. It is definitely not cheap, and it is not going to be easy, but neither is actually winning the Stanley Cup. This is simply the price you have to pay.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs agree to five-year, $58.17M extension

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One big name down for Kyle Dubas, one more to go.

Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs have agreed on a five-year, $58.17M extension ($11.634M cap hit), which will go a long way in the general manager keeping his young core together for multiple runs at the Stanley Cup. Per Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, 93 percent of money coming the forward’s way will be paid in signing bonuses.

The 21-year-old Matthews, who was set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, could have signed a contract for eight years, the maximum term allowed for teams signing their own players, but a shorter deal allows for cap flexibility going forward.

It’s an extension that buys one unrestricted free agent year and will make him a UFA in the summer of 2024.

In 182 games with the Maple Leafs Matthews has scored 97 times and recorded 178 points. He’s sixth in goals scored and second in even strength goals scored (76) since his rookie year of 2016-17

Now that Matthews is taken care of, next on Dubas’ plate is Mitch Marner, who can also hit the restricted free agent market in the summer. One contract done means the GM has a better view into how to piece things together financially that makes the most sense for the organization and to help keep them a strong Cup contender going forward.

[RELATED: Stop worrying about Maple Leafs’ salary cap situation]

Marner’s agent stated in September that they were fine waiting until the off-season if an extension couldn’t be hammered out by the start of the 2018-19 NHL season. Nothing got done, and the 21-year-old forward has done his part to increase his price with a great season. Through 52 games he’s going to set career highs in goals, assists and points with a stat line of 20 goals and 63 points this season, and an average of 1.21 points per game.

But he’s also a winger and not a primary goalscoring center, which means his next deal won’t be nearly as rich as Matthews’. Could the Maple Leafs try a bridge deal to ensure cap flexibility going forward and allow Marner to still cash in but with a shorter term?

While his agent wants his client to focus on the season, the agent’s job is to do the negotiating for Marner, allowing him to concentrate on playing for the Maple Leafs. Matthews is done and you know Dubas will want to get Marner tied down before the summer.

Will Marner and his agent change their minds if the team puts out an offer now that’s feasible for both sides?

————

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