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Maple Leafs go with Kyle Dubas as next GM

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When the Toronto Maple Leafs hired Kyle Dubas as assistant general manager in 2014, the expectation was that whenever Lou Lamoriello vacated his throne, the young executive would take over. Friday is officially that day.

Nearly two weeks after the Maple Leafs announced that Lamoriello would not be returning as GM next season, the franchise has handed that power to the 31-year-old Dubas.

Dubas spent three years as GM of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds before joining the Maple Leafs. Once in Toronto, he oversaw player development and was the GM of their American Hockey League team. In 2017-18, the Marlies were the best regular season team in the AHL for the second time in three seasons. The big club has benefited from their AHL development plan as the Maple Leafs saw eight graduates on their roster this past season.

The Maple Leafs showed just how much they valued Dubas and just how important he was to their future when last summer, the Colorado Avalanche attempted to lure him away to run their hockey operations. Toronto declined to let him leave and now he runs their show.

One of the immediate questions ahead for the Maple Leafs is what becomes of Mark Hunter’s future. Hunter was hired three months after Dubas and has been serving as co-assistant GM. The race to succeed Lamoriello was likely going to be between Dubas and Hunter, so will he continue in his role or will he return to the OHL’s London Knights where he’s co-owner with his brother, Dale.

The Maple Leafs are coming off their most successful regular season since 2003-04 and Dubas has plenty of work ahead this summer to continue the franchise’s progression. There are unrestricted free agents like James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak, and restricted free agents like William Nylander and Connor Carrick to deal with. There’s also the ability, beginning on July 1, to begin talking extension with Auston Matthews.

Dubas has been groomed for this day for a long time, now he’ll get his chance to steer the franchise toward ultimately ending its long Stanley Cup drought.

MORE:
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018: Conference Finals schedule, TV info
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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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.

Maple Leafs hope playing ‘desperate’ aids them vs. Bruins

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Mike Babcock loves himself some clam chowder, so going back to Boston for Game 7 against the Bruins Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, live stream) means he has that option again for a pre-game meal.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have put themselves in this situation with two straight wins after being down 3-1 in their opening round series with the Bruins. The talk about the collapse from five years ago, and the fall-out from that, is in the past, as both teams face a win-or-go-home night ahead.

“There’s no more bullets left in the chamber. This is it,” said Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk. “This is your last shot to move on or go home. Obviously, even that much more, the desperation gets amplified.”

TD Garden will be loud and energy-filled and emotions will be high with the stakes being what they are. The Maple Leafs played a much smarter game in Game 6, taking only two penalties compared to the six power plays they gave the Bruins in Game 5. Boston’s power play is second in the NHL this postseason (31.6 percent), and any time Toronto allows the Bruins to play with a man advantage is time that’s taking away from their stars being able to create scoring opportunities at even strength.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

The approach will be the same refrain you hear from head coaches in these situations: keep it simple. No major adjustments, no overhauling of a game plan for a new 60-minute battle — just worry about puck possession and do your job.

How much does scoring first help? Historically, the team that scores first has won 75 percent of the time (126-43) in Game 7s. That’s all built into Babcock’s plan, as well as the message to his team about not being afraid of what’s in front of them.

“I think the other thing you’ve got to do, and I’ve talked quite a bit about this, there’s only certain moments in your life that turn into memories,” Babcock said on Wednesday. “This is one of them right here tonight. Make it a great memory. We have an opportunity here today to enjoy ourselves, to embrace the situation, to play well, to play hard. We’re capable. Let’s do that.”

This will be the third straight elimination game for Toronto, and the mindset of knowing it could be the last game of your season has so far been enough to result in efforts that has led to victories.

“That’s the positive. I think being down 3-1 we’ve played desperate hockey, we know what that feels like, we know how to start games,” said Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri. “This feeling really isn’t anything new for us over the course of the last few games. They got off to an early lead and we had to step it up. Now it’s really up for grabs.”

Related: NHL announces second round opening games

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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.

Frederik Andersen produces save of playoffs against Bruins

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Paddle saves are the best. Paddle saves in the playoffs? Even better.

Much has been said about Frederik Andersen and his start to the playoffs through the first two games in Boston. The Dane just wasn’t good enough. And although the two goals he allowed on Monday in Game 3 against the Bruins in weren’t much better, Andersen came through in the clutch to produce the save of the playoffs so far.

Leading 4-2 late in the third period, David Pastrnak looked poised to pull the Bruins to within one. Looked, of course, is the key word here.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

The save was vital down the stretch with the Bruins pressing, and the Maple Leafs are back in the series on the heels of Andersen’s 40 saves.


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

Pastrnak gets hat trick, six points in Bruins battering of Maple Leafs

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Uh oh.

Through two games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, no one looks more like a tire fire than the Toronto Maple Leafs. After getting blown out 5-1 on Thursday, you’d at the very least expect some sort of fight back from the Leafs.

But nope.

Instead, the Boston Bruins kept the train rolling, scoring four times on seven shots in the first period, including three goals on five shots against Frederik Andersen — who got the yank after 12:13 — en route to a 7-3 demolition on Saturday night in Boston.

The Bruins hold a 2-0 series lead as they move to Air Canada Centre for Games 3 and 4.

Andersen, who has allowed eight goals on 45 shots in the series thus far, didn’t get a chance to break a sweat. Curtis McElhinney, who came in to replace the Leafs’ No. 1 didn’t fare much better.

And the Maple Leafs can blame David Pastrnak for their troubles.

Pastrnak scored a hat trick and had six points to bring his two-game point total to nine.

Yes, nine. 9. Neuf. IX.

Pastrnak’s line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron are responsible for 20 points in two games. Twenty.

  • Pastrnak – four goals, five assists
  • Marchand – one goal, five assists
  • Bergeron – five assists

That is utter dominance. An unstoppable force with no immovable object in sight.

The Maple Leafs need to get their belongings together. Partly, because they’re heading back to Toronto after this game for Game 3 and 4. But also partly because if this is all they can muster in the series, they might as well start packing for the offseason, because it’s coming very, very soon.

They’re down 2-0 in the series and there’s nothing to suggest they have any hope of winning one game, never mind four at this point.

Hell, the Maple Leafs may not even get a lead in this series.

Boston looks unstoppable so far.


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

Boston Bruins fail in opportunity to win Atlantic Division

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The Boston Bruins had their opportunity.

A win on Sunday night in a make-up game against the Florida Panthers had no bearing on the already-eliminated Cats. But for the Bruins, it represented a chance to dethrone the Tampa Bay Lightning from the top spot in the Atlantic Division one and for all.

Instead, the Bruins wasted the chance, falling 4-2 to the Panthers, who finished the season on a five-game winning streak.

2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Schedule, Bracket, Streams and More

The loss for the Bruins — and their second-place finish — was the gain for hockey fans everywhere.

Boston will now play the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, with the Leafs finishing the season in third place. Two Original Six teams locking horns once more.

Pure hockey bliss.

The win also finalized the playoff matchups in the Eastern Conference.

The Tampa Bay Lightning will face the New Jersey Devils, with the Pittsburgh Penguins renewing their rivalry with the Philadelphia Flyers and the Columbus Blue Jackets and Metropolitan Division winning Washington Capitals.


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