Leafs Postgame: Leafs lose a close one in Philadelphia

Ryan Hobart
January 26 2017 08:10PM

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Photo Credit: Eric Hartline/USA TODAY SPORTS

Curtis McElhinney gets his second start as a Maple Leaf tonight as the Leafs take on the Flyers in Philadelphia. The Flyers looked like a dangerous team early on but have cooled as of late, primarily due to some goaltending issues. The Leafs have been on fire for the last 3 weeks, so this looks like a game the Leafs should win.

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Leafs are searching for a center, but true greatness comes from within

Ryan Hobart
January 25 2017 09:59AM

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Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY SPORTS

According to Elliotte Friedman, the Leafs are looking for a center to help their depth . From the same piece, Tomas Jurco and Martin Hanzal are on the block, but I doubt either of them are targets for the Leafs.

It doesn't seem there are a lot of center options for the Maple Leafs to pursue. There's a potential to call St. Louis about pending UFA Patrik Berglund, to see if he's available. Acquiring him would be overdoing it a bit, but he's a really good player for the Leafs to shore up the center position with.

Two things appear to be at work here: the Leafs are not quite satisfied with Gauthier so far, and Ben Smith may still be a ways away. But is it possible there's an internal solution to this problem?

Heading into this season, one of the questions I had about the construction of the Leafs' roster was about the 4th line center position. We knew Auston Matthews was coming and was announced as the 3rd line center. This meant the obvious choices for 1st and 2nd line were Bozak and Kadri. But who would play on the 4th?

Some hoped Peter Holland had a chance to stake a claim on that role, but Babcock and the Leafs decided he wasn't a good enough fit there. Most of Holland success the past season had come on the wing, where he was also played in pre-season, so a long-term role at center likely wasn't in Babcock's plans for Holland anyways. After a few games trying him there, the Leafs claimed former Leaf Ben Smith, who got locked into this 4th line center role from then until his unfortunate hand injury. 

From then forward, for the last 15 games, it's been Frederik Gauthier. The much-bemoaned former 1st round pick of the Maple Leafs, Gauthier had a ridiculous start to this season, statistically. His Corsi numbers were in the high 30's, and his goal-share numbers were in the high 70's. It was amazing to see, for better or worse. 

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TLN Roundtable: Will the Leafs make the playoffs this year?

Ryan Hobart
January 13 2017 02:07PM

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We're now at approximately the halfway mark of the season. The Leafs have played 39 of 82 games and we have more than enough to go on to establish an opinion on what's going to happen to the Leafs this season.

There's no question that every one of us would be ecstatic to see the Leafs make the playoffs. But how many think it's possible? Let's find out.

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The emergence of Nikita Zaitsev

Ryan Hobart
January 10 2017 07:32AM

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Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY SPORTS

This offseason, the Leafs signed Nikita Zaitsev, a KHL free agent that brought much anticipation. The Leafs were in desperate need for improvement on the right side of their defense, and Nikita Zaitsev's play promised to bring that

There were some that were skeptical of just how much an impact he could have, including myself. After all, we're still not totally sure how the KHL stacks up against the NHL, since that league is so volatile these days. Could Zaitsev really be a top 4 defenseman in his first NHL season?

He definitely can.

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Connor Brown is an average depth forward and that's fantastic

Ryan Hobart
December 19 2016 07:51AM

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Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY SPORTS

Recently, Connor Brown has been fitting in nicely for the Maple Leafs. It seems like an appropriate time to talk about his performance so far in more detail. He has played all 29 games for the Maple Leafs so far and has seen a lot of faith put in him by Mike Babcock.

Despite being a forward that didn't have to go through waivers, among a sea of depth forwards that the Maple Leafs had in training camp, Connor Brown was able to find a role on this Maple Leafs team. It started on the 4th line with Holland and Martin, grew into a 3rd line role with Nazem Kadri, and now is partially becoming a shared role on Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman's 1st/2nd line (the line TOI is a little muddled) with William Nylander.

There was a pretty strong feeling heading into this year that Brown was going to win the uphill battle of making the roster, knowing how Mike Babcock lauded over his stint with the Maple Leafs last season. Here is his TLN prospect profile written in the summer (by yours truly) for some context. Now that he's here, he's making waves.

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