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Second Canadiens prospect stretchered off after bad hit

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For the second straight game, a Montreal Canadiens prospect has been stretchered off the ice.

The latest incident took place Sunday and was the result of an ugly hit by Toronto Maple Leafs prospect forward Hudson Elynuik on Montreal defenseman Jarret Tyszka in the first period of the NHL Rookie Showdown tournament in Laval.

Sportsnet’s Eric Engels reported that Tyszka was taken to hospital for tests, and said that he was conscious and moving his limbs.

Elyniuk was tossed from the game for checking from behind.

On Friday, Canadiens prospect Jake Evans was drilled by a high hit from Ottawa Senators defenseman Jonathan Aspirot. Evans fell backwards, smacking his head off the ice. He required a stretcher to get off the ice and was taken to the hospital before being released.

Tyszka was selected in the fifth round by the Canadiens in 2017 and has played the past three seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Seattle Thunderbirds. Tyszka is expected back in Seattle for his final season junior hockey.


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

It’s Toronto Maple Leafs day at PHT

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Toronto Maple Leafs.

2017-18
49-26-7, 105 pts. (3rd in the Atlantic Division, 4th in the Eastern Conference)
Playoffs: Lost in seven games to the Boston Bruins, first round

IN
John Tavares
Tyler Ennis
Par Lindholm
Josh Jooris
Adam Cracknell

OUT
Dominic Moore
James van Riemsdyk
Tyler Bozak
Tomas Plekanec
Leo Komarov
Matt Martin
Roman Polak

RE-SIGNED
Andreas Johnsson
Connor Carrick
Frederik Gauthier
Justin Holl

– – –

Let’s start this off by quickly recounting last season’s Toronto Maple Leafs.

– Won some games
– Made the playoffs
– Got ousted from the playoffs in the first round
– Wallowed in offseason mode for a while
Signed John Tavares
– Won the offseason

Do Toronto fans really care about last season at this point?

Call it a B.C. vs. A.D. sort of thing, only its B.J.T. and A.J.T. in this case (Before John Tavares and After John Tavares, for those not following the dating system bit).

He may not be the Messiah, nor the second coming, but signing John Tavares after a drawn out courting period instantly turned the Maple Leafs into a contender, and proved new general manager Kyle Dubas certainly has the chops for the gig he’s earned.

[Maple Leafs Day: Under Pressure | Breakthrough | Three Questions]

The Leafs were already a damn good hockey team beforehand, filled with young talent with the likes of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner. Adding a veteran superstar in John Tavares only sped up Toronto’s velocity as they make their ascent to the top of the league.

In terms of the season, Toronto’s Game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins in the first round was disappointing after allowing four goals in the third period to lose 7-4. A bitter pill to swallow, surely, but also a valuable lesson for a young team on how difficult it is to close out a playoff series.

Toronto shut down in that third period, and they’ll need to learn to handle the ebbs and flows of playoff hockey, and not let the lows get as low as they did in that final frame.

Of course, last season was a giant leap forward for the Maple Leafs, at least in the regular season, where Toronto set a new franchise record with 49 wins and 105 points.

The playoffs were essentially the same story as the year before, losing in the first round, only that time to the Washington Capitals. Matthews lost his way in the series, getting just a single goal and a single assist in the series against the Bruins. And that Game  7 performance by Jake Gardiner was, well, horrible.

But it wasn’t all on Gardiner. Their defense in the series was poor all around, and depth at that position is an over-arching concern as the Leafs roll into the new season. Improving on the back end would certainly help their goaltending out, too. Frederik Anderson saw enough shots all season for two starting goaltenders, and his .896 save percentage in the first round wasn’t good enough.

The Maple Leafs have already ripped off the rear-view mirror though. They went big with Tavares and now have some of the loftiest expectations in the NHL. It should be an exciting season in The Six. Perhaps that 51-season Stanley Cup drought could be nearing an end.

Now, how are they going to fit Nylander under the cap?

Prospect Pool

Travis Dermott, D, 21, Toronto Marlies (AHL) – 2015 second-round pick

An improvement on defense is what the Maple Leafs need, and they might have it in Dermott. Smart, two-way, puck-moving defenseman that plays well at both ends of the ice. He played 37 games with the Leafs last season and also helped the Marlies win the Calder Cup, along with being named an AHL All-Star. There’s a lot of hope being placed in Dermott, who could be in line for a top-four spot this season with the Maple Leafs.

Timothy Liljegren, D, 19, Toronto Marlies (AHL) – 2017 first-round pick

Another defenseman that the Leafs are putting a lot of stock into. Liljegren decided to make the jump from Sweden to North America last year, suiting up with the Marlies. It took him some time to adjust to the professional game in the American Hockey League, but now seems he’s ready to take another step in his progression.

“If you play over here, you have to make fast plays and move the puck quick,” Liljegren told The Canadian Press. “That’s something I developed over the year. I feel comfortable now.”

Andreas Johnsson, LW/RW, 23, Toronto Marlies (AHL) – 2013 seventh-round pick

Alright, how many seventh-round draft picks have gone on to become Calder Cup MVPs? The answer is out there somewhere (by this I mean I have no idea), but Johnsson is now on that list. Taken 202nd overall in 2013, Johnsson paced the Calder Cup playoffs with 14 assists and 24 points to help the Marlies to the title.

“He’s a special, special kid,” Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the team won the Calder Cup.“He’s taken the long road to road to get here. He’s another example that it doesn’t matter when you’re drafted or even if you’re drafted, you just keep working and the cream rises to the top eventually.”

Time for a shot in the Show.

Related: Maple Leafs should be NHL’s best offensive team


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

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