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Maple Leafs Centennial Season in Review

by Adam Proteau Proteautype / MapleLeafs.com

When the Maple Leafs kicked off their centennial season in October, there were a few clear signs and events that underscored the depth and accomplishment of the organization, and the crucial role the team has played in the city of Toronto's history and identity: The team redesigned its logo. Legendary centre and Hockey-Hall-of-Famer Dave Keon re-embraced his place in franchise history by having his number retired - along with 16 other Buds icons - and returning to the city to see a statue of himself erected on Legends Row.

Video: BOS@TOR: Maple Leafs retire Dave Keon's number

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Five Takeaways - Leafs vs. Capitals - 04/23/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 2-1 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series Sunday at Air Canada Centre:

by Adam Proteau Proteautype / MapleLeafs.com

1.   Toronto outshoots, out-chances Capitals in opening frame, but neither side produces offence in first 20 minutes. Facing elimination, the Leafs came out of the gate Sunday with a sturdy and smart first period, keeping the puck in the Capitals' zone for long stretches and outshooting Washington 14-10 in the first 20 minutes of action. 

However, neither the Buds nor the Caps were able to generate any offence before the first intermission, and the score remained 0-0 entering the second frame. But Leafs Nation and head coach Mike Babcock likely both were pleased to see the defensive structure and competitive effort out of Toronto's players right off the bat. In a must-win matchup, the Leafs played with necessary urgency.

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Five Takeaways - Leafs at Capitals - 04/21/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 2-1 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series Friday at Verizon Center:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

1. Leafs have improved start to game, but trail after 20 minutes thanks to late power play goal by Capitals. Toronto's players and coaches said prior to Game 5 they needed to have a better start to the game than they did in Games 3 and 4, when they surrendered the first two goals of the game. That's what they did Friday, preventing the Capitals from estab-lishing an early lead - but after a Leafs penalty at 17:32 of the first, winger T.J. Oshie scored his third goal of the series and Washington had a 1-0 advantage entering the second period.

The Leafs were outshot by the Caps 11-6 in the first 20 minutes, but they didn't allow Wash-ington to break down their defence repeatedly as they did in the prior two games, and alt-hough they trailed as of the first intermission, that was a step forward for the young group.

 

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Leafs Remain Confident Ahead of Game 5

by Adam Proteau Proteautype / MapleLeafs.com

The Stanley Cup playoffs are an extended roller-coaster of emotions. One day, you're screaming and smiling with your arms in the air, and a short time later, you're on the downswing and looking forward to the next surge. And as they make their way through their 2017 first round series against the Washington Capitals, the Maple Leafs are experiencing the ups and downs that come along with post-season play.

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Five Takeaways - Leafs vs. Capitals - 04/19/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 5-4 loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series Wednesday at Air Canada Centre:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

1. Capitals start night in virtually identical fashion to Game 3, take two-goal lead early in opening period. In the Leafs' 4-3 overtime win in Game 3 Monday, Toronto gave up the first goal of the night to the Capitals at the 2:43 mark of the first period, then went down 2-0 to the visitors at 4:49 of the frame. And that's virtually exactly how the first period of Game 4 started Wednesday: Washington got the first goal of the night at 2:58 from winger T.J. Oshie, who was assisted on the play by centre Nicklas Backstrom and defenceman Nate Schmidt - the same three players who combined to score the Caps' first goal in Game 3 - and they made it 2-0 at the 4:34 mark thanks to a power play marker from winger Alex Ovechkin, who also had the second goal of Game 3.

The similarities were eerie, and equally ominous for the Leafs, who were outshot by the Capitals 15-6 in the first 20 minutes and were far too lax and unstructured in their own zone Wednesday. 

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Leafs depth a big factor versus Washington

by Adam Proteau Proteautype / MapleLeafs.com

One of the most important qualities in any NHL playoff team is depth. The chase for the Stanley Cup almost always includes dealing with injuries, and having capable players prepared to step in and step up is crucial as clubs move from round to round. But depth also matters because the league's coaches - who know the opposition has the power to zero in on and clamp down on individual players or lines - need balanced contributions throughout the lineup to maximize their chances at winning.

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Five Takeaways - Leafs vs. Capitals - 04/17/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 4-3 overtime victory over the Washington Capitals in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Monday at Air Canada Centre:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

Matthews chips in loose puck

WSH@TOR, Gm3: Matthews follows puck, beats Holtby

R1, Gm3: Auston Matthews grabs a loose puck off a defender, then slides it past Braden Holtby for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal

  • 01:02 •

1. Capitals strike early to stake out two-goal advantage, but Leafs cut lead in half before first intermission thanks to Matthews' terrific individual effort. The Air Canada Centre was abuzz with excitement when the game began Monday, but it was the Capitals who got on the scoresheet first via a Nicklas Backstrom goal at 2:43. Washington extended their lead 2:06 later, when winger Alex Ovechkin wired a slap shot past Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen. But before the period was over, Leafs Nation had much to cheer for - including a massive hit by centre Nazem Kadri on Brooks Orpik, and, shortly thereafter, a phenomenal goal from cetnre Auston Matthews at the 14:08 mark.

Matthews' first career NHL post-season goal came on an amazing individual effort, where he controlled a bouncing puck before batting it past Caps netminder Brayden Holtby. That sent the crowd into an eruption of applause, and sent the Capitals a message: that, just like they did in the first two games of the series, the Leafs weren't about to be pushed over by anyone.

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Five Takeaways - Leafs at Capitals - 04/15/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 4-3 double-overtime win over the Washington Capitals in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series Saturday at Verizon Center:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

van Riemsdyk snipes opening goal

TOR@WSH, Gm2: van Riemsdyk roofs top-shelf wrister

R1, Gm2: James van Riemsdyk picks up a loose puck in the slot and fires it over Braden Holtby's glove to open the scoring late in the 1st

  • 01:00 •

1. Leafs need half a period to unwind, but van Riemsdyk's goal puts them up as of the first intermission. Toronto built up a 2-0 lead in Game 1 of the series, but ultimately fell 3-2 to the Caps in overtime. But where the Leafs quickly established a lead in Thursday's game, Washington was constantly in their zone and they needed the first 10 minutes of the opening period in Game 2 to get their first shot on Washington netminder Brayden Holtby.

However, Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen turned aside all eight shots he saw in the period, and after the halfway mark of the frame, Toronto found its stride and became more aggressive and engaged until the period ended. They also took the first lead of the night when winger James van Riemsdyk finished off a dazzling offensive zone pressure sequence by blueliner Jake Gardiner and made it 1-0 for the visitors at 17:34.

The Leafs had three power play opportunities in the first 20 minutes of action and thus were looking at a golden chance to increase their lead, but Holtby was solid in stopping 10 of 11 shots Toronto generated in the final 10 minutes of the frame to keep the score at 1-0 entering the second.

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Five Takeaways - Leafs at Capitals - 04/13/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 3-2 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Thursday at Verizon Center:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

Video: TOR@WSH, Gm1: Marner lays out to open the scoring

1. Loose Leafs jump out to early lead on goals from Marner, Gardiner. The Leafs said prior to the beginning of the series they weren't intimidated by the Capitals finishing the regular season as the NHL's best team, and they certainly didn't look intimidated in Game 1, as Toronto scored the first two goals of the night Thursday to jump out to a 2-0 lead by the midway through the first period.

The Buds' first goal came from winger Mitch Marner, who began the scoring sequence at the Capitals' blueline, then knocked a James van Riemsdyk rebound past Caps goalie Brayden Holtby at 1:35 of the first for his first career NHL post-season marker. Toronto then doubled their lead at 9:44 of the frame when a Jake Gardiner shot from the point went through traffic and eluded Holtby. The play was initially waived off due to what the officials believed was goalie interference, but the Leafs challenged the play, and video review showed centre Nazem Kadri made no contact with Holtby, so the call was reversed in Toronto's favour.

The pair of goals demonstrated to Caps fans in attendance and the hockey world that the Leafs were more than capable of competing with Washington, and a throng of Buds fans watching on in Maple Leafs Square were elated by their team's start.

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Leafs Defense Corps Ready to Step Up

by Adam Proteau Proteautype / MapleLeafs.com

Injuries are a fact of life in the NHL, both in the regular season and the Stanley Cup playoffs. So, while it was unfortunate to hear Wednesday that the Maple Leafs won't have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev in the lineup for Game 1 of their first-round post-season series against the Washington Capitals, Toronto's players and coaching staff can't and won't allow that to be an excuse for not competing to the best of their abilities.

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