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Posted On Sunday, 05.12.2013 / 12:45 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Bruins, Leafs finding it hard to maintain momentum

TORONTO -- Momentum can be a great thing for a hockey team this time of year. That is, if you get it and can maintain it.

Last season the Los Angeles Kings barely made the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but got on a roll in the postseason and rode a wave all the way to their first championship.

Thus far in the first-round Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, neither team has been able to carry momentum from one game into the next. The Bruins won the series opener, but then lost Game 2 at home. The Maple Leafs, in their first playoff appearance in nine years, received huge support from their adoring fans, but were unable to translate that into victory at home, dropping both Games 3 and 4.

Then, with the possibility of concluding the series in five games, the Bruins lost a second straight home game and here we are with Game 6 in Toronto on Sunday night (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, CBC, RDS).


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Posted On Saturday, 05.11.2013 / 2:13 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Maple Leafs staying on the road at home

TORONTO -- Is it really Home, Sweet Home?

Well, so far the Toronto Maple Leafs have played two home games in the playoffs -- their first two since 2004 -- and have yet to win. Conversely, the Maple Leafs are 2-1 on the road in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

So the Maple Leafs are treating Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS) like a road game.

"We have offered our players the opportunity to stay in the hotel the night before and the afternoon of games," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "We think that's something that has been a choice, but as for Sunday afternoon, it will not be an option. We will check into a hotel."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.11.2013 / 2:09 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Reimer's heroics big part of Maple Leafs' win

TORONTO -- Two nights earlier, at the most critical time in the game, Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer let a shot slip past him that looked quite stoppable.

It was in overtime and it meant his team lost the game and fell into a 3-1 series deficit against the Boston Bruins in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. Much of the focus after the game was on Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, who had pinched on the play, allowing the Bruins to break away on an odd-man rush. Had Reimer made the save, all would have been well and Phaneuf's indiscretion would have been forgotten.

Fast forward to Friday, and again at a critical time -- this time in a scoreless game -- Reimer produced a game-saving stop, robbing Boston's Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins center cut in front of the net, causing Reimer to do the splits. With his leg stretched to the maximum, Reimer stopped the puck with the toe of his skate.

For Reimer, the spectacular save was all in a day's work.

"Honestly, it's one of those saves that you don't plan," Reimer said. "It just kind of happens. Obviously it's probably mostly just luck. He had a little bit of room on the side, but it went off my toe. It's just a lucky save and hopefully there's a few more of those left."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.11.2013 / 2:04 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

MacArthur making the most of his opportunities

TORONTO -- Veteran Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Clarke MacArthur is learning about the highs and lows of participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Having never been in the playoffs before in his seven-season career, MacArthur suffered the indignity of being a healthy scratch in Games 2 and 3 of Toronto's best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins, but now has goals in back-to-back games as the Maple Leafs won 2-1 Friday in Boston to remain alive.

Game 6 is Sunday in Toronto (7:30 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS).

"I just wanted to stay ready in practice," MacArthur said. "You never know when you're going to get the chance to play again. It was nice to get back in and help the team."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.09.2013 / 1:40 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Maple Leafs had their chances in Game 4 overtime

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs had more than their share of scoring chances in overtime in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Boston Bruins before David Krejci ended the game with his third goal of the night.

On one play, the player the Maple Leafs count on most for goals -- right wing Phil Kessel -- raced into the Boston zone on the right side and had a step on defender Zdeno Chara. Kessel easily could have continued hard to the net and either created his own scoring chance or possibly drawn a penalty, but instead he elected to hit the brakes and fire a snap shot that was easily stopped by Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.

Would Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle have liked to have seen Kessel drive hard to the net with the puck?

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Posted On Thursday, 05.09.2013 / 11:54 AM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Fraser texts teammates, recovering after surgery

TORONTO -- A slap shot to the head followed by surgery wasn't enough to keep Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Mark Fraser from texting his teammates.

The hard-nosed blueliner was drilled in the head by a shot from Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic at 7:49 of the third period of Game 4 of Toronto's opening round Stanley Cup Playoff series and immediately departed for the dressing room then the hospital, leaving a pool of blood behind on the ice.

"Mark Fraser is resting at home and he had surgery last night to repair a fracture between the eyes and cranial area," coach Randy Carlyle said Thursday morning at the team's practice facility. "I don't know if you'd call it a fractured skull; I think that's a little too severe. He was texting and in conversation with his teammates this morning before 8 a.m. He's now back on the road to recovery."

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.08.2013 / 12:15 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Maple Leafs' trio using AHL experience for help

TORONTO -- A year ago they were immersed in the American Hockey League playoffs with the Toronto Marlies, well on their way to the Calder Cup final.

Although the Marlies were swept in the final by the Norfolk Admirals, forwards Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin, along with defenseman Jake Gardiner, all gained valuable playoff experience. Now they are three players the Toronto Maple Leafs hope can help catapult them into the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Maple Leafs trail the Boston Bruins 2-1 in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, with Game 4 here Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, RDS).

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.07.2013 / 2:36 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Thornton prepared to do whatever it takes in playoffs

TORONTO -- If you weren't paying close attention, you might have thought it was Jaromir Jagr carrying the puck into the Toronto Maple Leafs' zone and driving hard to the net in search of a goal.

It wasn't. Nope, it was Boston Bruins fourth-line right wing Shawn Thornton, a player who normally makes his exclamation point with his fists. The right-shooting Oshawa native who grew up a stone's throw away from Toronto, accepted a pass at the Maple Leafs blue line, cruised in along the left boards and made a beeline for the net, causing goaltender James Reimer to make a splits save.

Didn't know you had it in you, Shawn.

"You act surprised," Thornton said. "You don't have the NHL Network? You didn't see my penalty shot goal last year?"


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Posted On Tuesday, 05.07.2013 / 2:30 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Kessel has Toronto fans singing his praise

TORONTO -- Phil Kessel is used to hearing chants of, "Thank you, Kessel! … Thank you, Kessel!"

But that's when his Toronto Maple Leafs are playing the Boston Bruins at TD Garden in Boston, where he got his start in the NHL. Kessel joined Toronto in a trade Sept. 18, 2009, and the Bruins went on to win the Stanley Cup less than two years later. Bruins fans love to jeer the Maple Leafs' top goal-scoring threat.

So it was with pure delight that Kessel heard the same chant, "Thank you, Kessel! … Thank you, Kessel!" from the rabid fans in Toronto during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Monday. It was their way of showing appreciation for his offensive exploits.

"The fans here have always been great to me," Kessel said. "I love playing in this city. We have great fans and they supported us well Monday night."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.07.2013 / 2:24 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Maple Leafs experienced rough night in faceoff circle

TORONTO -- When it comes to winning faceoffs in the NHL, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle insists, "If you aren't cheating, you aren't trying."

That being the case, Toronto's No. 1 center, Tyler Bozak, must have been trying really, really hard Monday night in the Maple Leafs' 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins at Air Canada Centre. Bozak, who is the Maple Leafs' best faceoff man, was repeatedly kicked out of the circle by linesmen Shane Heyer and Don Henderson in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

At the end of the night Bozak won 12 of his 29 faceoffs, and the Bruins as a team won 60 percent of the draws.

"It's tough in the game, but it's over now," Bozak said. "Both sides were cheating quite a bit in the circle, and I was getting caught a lot more than they were. There's nothing you can do about it now."

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Posted On Monday, 05.06.2013 / 12:54 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Despite win, Maple Leafs want to keep improving

TORONTO -- Good is never quite good enough in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

You might think the Toronto Maple Leafs would be sitting on easy street having defeated the Boston Bruins on Saturday to even their best-of-7 opening round series 1-1, but to hear coach Randy Carlyle speak, you'd think they took a pounding.

"Our message as a coaching staff is we're going to have to be better than we were because we know the Bruins are going to be better," Carlyle said. "Our expectation is we're going to have to play the game to a higher level. There are mistakes we are making with the puck as far as turnovers are concerned that are correctable. We need to cut those mistakes down. I don't think any team can afford some of the turnovers and giveaways that we have committed and expect to continue to have success."


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Posted On Sunday, 05.05.2013 / 2:58 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Carlyle working hard to create favorable line matchups

Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle places a great deal of emphasis on matching lines and his ability to get his top goal-scorer, Phil Kessel, away from Boston's top defender, Zdeno Chara, played a huge role in Toronto winning Game 2.

On Saturday night, Kessel was able to play four minutes of hockey in 5-on-5 situations without Chara on the ice, thanks the maneuverings of his coach.

Now, Carlyle will have the last change in Games 3 and 4 in Toronto.

"It's different, but you try to have the people on the ice that match up well against the opposition," Carlyle said. "The one thing you can't do is get caught in the trap of not getting your players out on the ice enough. In that respect, you do have an advantage [at home], but if they decide to, for instance, put Chara out for every defensive-zone faceoff, does that mean Phil Kessel doesn't get an offensive-zone faceoff?

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Posted On Sunday, 05.05.2013 / 2:55 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Toronto ready to welcome NHL's playoff party

TORONTO – Get ready to rock and roll!

A victory in Boston by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference opening-round series has put this city in a party mood it hasn't felt since April 21, 2004. That was last day this city saw NHL playoff hockey when the Maple Leafs defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in overtime.

Little did anyone know at the time nearly a decade would pass before the Maple Leafs would make it back to the postseason.

"I know everyone in Toronto is excited, eager and anxious," said Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri, who set up Phil Kessel for the game-winning goal in Game 2 which evened the series at 1-1. "The players are excited, too, and we're going to use the fans as the seventh man and, hopefully, we don't disappoint them"

All season, coach Randy Carlyle has talked about trying to not be affected by white noise – the distractions that come from playing in a city where media coverage in at the highest level and fans have been starved for a winner for so long. Carlyle, a former Maple Leafs defenseman, said he is happy to be bringing playoff hockey back to Toronto.

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Posted On Saturday, 04.27.2013 / 12:40 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs, Canadiens in possible playoff preview

TORONTO -- For old time hockey fans, it could wind up being a classic playoff match for the ages.

A win by the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night, coupled with a loss by the Ottawa Senators to the Boston Bruins, would mean Montreal and Toronto would meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Though the Maple Leafs have made every effort to not get too ahead of themselves in terms of discussing their first trip to the postseason since 2004, there is no ignoring the fact the game Saturday has special meaning.

"We’re playing a possible first-round opponent and we want to play well," Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf said. "Whether it’s them or another team, you want to go into the playoffs feeling good about your game and about the way your team is playing, so it’s a big game for our team. We want to play our style and feel good about our game going into the playoffs."


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Posted On Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 12:48 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs close in on playoffs, possible home ice

TORONTO -- When it comes to getting into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, James Reimer has no allegiance to his home province in Manitoba.

Reimer will definitely be cheering against the Winnipeg Jets while he tends goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the New York Islanders on Thursday. The Maple Leafs' magic number to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs is four, meaning any combination of points by Toronto and points lost by Winnipeg adding up to four puts Reimer's team into the postseason.

"If that's what needs to happen for us to get into the playoffs then it would be great if the Jets lose," Reimer said. "But you can't bank on that. You have to take care of your own business, so that's all we're focused on."

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Posted On Monday, 04.15.2013 / 12:16 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Fortunes have changed for Devils, Leafs in past year

TORONTO -- A year ago former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke described his team as being akin to an 18-wheel truck being driven over a cliff.

After a terrific start to the year, the Maple Leafs went into a tailspin that ultimately caused them to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the seventh season in a row and cost coach Ron Wilson his job.

The New Jersey Devils, meanwhile, went about their business as usual as one of the hardest-working and best defensive teams in the NHL, making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final ultimately losing to the Los Angeles Kings.

This year it's the Devils who resemble the 18-wheeler going off a cliff while the Maple Leafs, who have been transformed into a tough, hard-checking group by new coach Randy Carlyle, are on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Devils are winless in their past nine games (0-5-4) and sit 11th in the Eastern Conference.


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Posted On Saturday, 04.13.2013 / 1:24 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs, Canadiens ready for HNIC showdown

TORONTO – The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens hooking up on a Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada is a special occasion for many – especially now that both organizations are prospering.

For a kid like Joe Colborne, who is trying to make his mark in the NHL, it is a bit of a dream come true.

For others, such as Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, it's just another day at the office.

"It's going to be very tough to have a pre-game nap today," said Colborne, who had his shares of ups and downs with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League this season before being recalled by the Maple Leafs on April 4. "There's such a buzz when you get to the rink; you can tell it's a big game. I'm ready to step into the rivalry and I know it's going to be a lot of fun."

The Canadiens, under new general manager Marc Bergevin, have been one of the NHL's biggest success stories this season. Through 40 games the Habs possess the fourth-best record in the league at 26-9-5 and sit second in the Eastern Conference behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins with 57 points. Toronto, meanwhile, appears poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and is fifth in the East at 22-13-5.

While the Maple Leafs are still without one of their best player, left wing Joffrey Lupul who is out with a suspected concussion, they got some good news that center Mikhail Grabovski is available for action. Carlyle wasn't sure if the Russian, who underwent a battery of tests in New York earlier in the week because of an infection, would dress, but did acknowledge Grabovski saves some of his best performances for his former team.

"The player is available and we will make out decision on tonight's lineup later this afternoon," Carlyle said. He added the results of the tests Grabovski took would not be available until Wednesday or Thursday.

Carlyle said he understands the fanfare that comes with a Montreal-Toronto matchup, but he said the team does its best not to get caught up in the extra hype.

"What we have tried to do is eliminate all the outside influences that take place," Carlyle said. "You can't ignore it, but you just try to focus on what you can control. Our preparation is paramount because we're a young team and we're learning how to prepare…how to push some of the things that normally would be front and center to the side. Believe me, there's as many things presented to me as the players; people looking for tickets to parking passes. Everybody thinks you have all this free time to concentrate on what their needs are."

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Posted On Monday, 04.08.2013 / 12:32 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs brace for matchup with Lundqvist

TORONTO -- It hasn't been the season many expected from the New York Rangers, but with goalie Henrik Lundqvist finding his game, the end result could be a good one.

Lundqvist was sensational Saturday, making 48 saves, including 20 in the third period, as the Rangers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1. The Rangers, who are seventh in the Eastern Conference, go back to work Monday, starting a home-and-home set with the fifth-place Maple Leafs in Toronto.

New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh said there is a certain comfort level the Rangers enjoy when Lundqvist is in the zone.

"You enjoy it, but you don't want to rely on it," McDonagh said. "To be a successful team you need to be fundamentally sound in your defensive zone and make smart plays with the puck. We just didn't do that enough last game and he was able to correct our mistakes."


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Posted On Thursday, 04.04.2013 / 12:40 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Reimer takes Maple Leafs' lack of deal in stride

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs had an experienced goaltender on their shopping list at the NHL Trade Deadline. They didn't find the deal they were looking for.

James Reimer, now the No. 1 goalie for the Maple Leafs for the foreseeable future, spent his afternoon Wednesday -- trade deadline day -- shopping at the supermarket, stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Just another day in the life of a youngster trying to establish himself as a starter in the NHL.

Steve Mason, on the other hand, was presented a new opportunity, having been traded to the Philadelphia Flyers by the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 24-year-old, who had 10 shutouts in his first NHL season and was the NHL's rookie of the year in 2008-09, joined a handful of his new teammates for the morning skate at Air Canada Centre on Thursday. He is expected to back up starter Ilya Bryzgalov on Thursday when the Flyers play the Maple Leafs.

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Posted On Thursday, 03.28.2013 / 12:18 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs need more goals out of van Riemsdyk

TORONTO -- Randy Carlyle didn't beat around the bush.

When the Toronto Maple Leafs coach was asked what he needed from James van Riemsdyk, he smiled and said, "Goals."

The 23-year-old right wing will try to snap a five-game pointless drought Thursday night when the Maple Leafs host the Carolina Hurricanes -- two teams battling for a Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Carolina defeated Toronto in the teams' previous two meetings this season.

Van Riemsdyk is third in Toronto scoring with 14 goals and 22 points in 34 games, but has one assist in his past seven games.

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.26.2013 / 1:06 PM

By Mike Brophy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs say they won't take Panthers lightly

TORONTO -- There's nothing like taking three of four points from the Boston Bruins to give an emerging team confidence. And the Toronto Maple Leafs know there's nothing like losing at home to the 30th place team in the NHL to throw that credibility out the window.

That's why the Maple Leafs insist they are not taking the Florida Panthers lightly.

"There might be the temptation to take them lightly, but we're not going to let that get into our heads," Toronto defenseman Mark Fraser said. "We got three of four points from a really good team, and now we're going to try to carry the momentum over into tonight's home game. We know we have to get the two points."

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Quote of the Day

I'm just excited about the opportunity. I've been on the ice earlier than usual and in the weight room, pushing around a little more weights than usual. Every day I go into a workout with a smile on my face and ready to go. When you do have a little more responsibility, you want to take your lunch pail and get ready to work.

— Brian Elliott to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch on being the Blues' No. 1 goalie