The Dallas Stars are going to be without Joe Pavelski for at least the next two games in their opening-round series against the Minnesota Wild. The Dallas center isn’t traveling with the team for Games 3 and 4 as he remains in concussion protocol after being on the receiving end of a brutal hit, courtesy of Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, in Game 1.
Stars head coach Pete DeBoer said Thursday that he had “lots of hope” that Pavelski can return to the ice at some point during the first-round series.
“He’s getting better every day,” DeBoer said, according to TSN. “He was at the game last night, just not coming on this trip.”
During the second period of Game 1, Pavelski, 38, was lit up by Dumba on a play behind the net. Pavelski immediately left the game after the hit, one that left Dumba with a two-minute minor penalty for roughing. After a review of the play, he wasn’t given any major penalty.
“To be honest, I thought it was a clean hit. I figured (the refs) were going to see the same. Shoulder on shoulder,” Dumba said following Game 1. “I don’t even know why I got the roughing, probably because I was just in the box already.”
DeBoer stated after Game 1 that Pavelski’s head hit the ice when he fell after the hit.
“We have the best officials in the world. They called a five, they reviewed it, which is the right thing to do. If they reviewed and decided it wasn’t a bad hit then, you know, I guess it’s not for me to argue with that,” DeBoer added. “They got to look at it at multiple different angles and that was the decision they made, so we’ve got to live with that.”
The Stars are being extra cautious with Pavelski, as he does have a history of concussions throughout his length career. Pavelski didn’t play in Game 2, but the Stars rebounded in a big way with a dominant 7-3 win.
The Boston Bruins enter the postseason as the Presidents’ Trophy winners thanks to their historic 135-point season. In the West, the Vegas Golden Knights captured the top seed.
In the opening round, the lower-seeded wild card team faces off against the division winner with the best record. The other wild card team takes on the other division winner. The second and third place teams from the divisions battle it out in the other playoff matchups. In the opening two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, home ice advantage is given to the higher seed, which means that they had the better regular season record.
With the playoffs here, our NHL experts revealed their first-round predictions along with their Stanley Cup picks.
Western Conference gettyimages-1476252710-1.jpg Getty Images (1) Golden Knights vs. (WC2) Jets Chris: After missing the playoffs a season ago, the Golden Knights rebounded in a big way during the regular season. Vegas tallied the most points in the West and did that without having captain Mark Stone for the second half of the season due to a back injury. This will be Jack Eichel’s first career playoff appearance, and I expect him to dominate on the big stage. He enters the postseason riding a nine-game point streak with 11 assists during that stretch. The Golden Knights won all three meetings against the Jets during the regular season and outscored them 13-8 in those games. I do believe that the Jets are going to steal a few games, but will fall just a little short. Pick — Golden Knights beat Jets 4-2
Austin: The Golden Knights went 14-3-3 down the stretch, but they controlled just 46.9% of the five-on-five expected goals, per Natural Stat Trick. The Jets went 11-8-1 in that same span, but they were much better at five-on-five, controlling 56.5% of the expected goals. Even if Mark Stone is back in the lineup for the Golden Knights, the Jets have the biggest advantage in this series. Connor Hellebuyck is a top-three goaltender in the NHL, and he is capable of carrying Winnipeg past Vegas on his own. While Logan Thompson, Laurent Brossoit and Jonathan Quick have been anywhere from solid to really good for the Golden Knights, can you bet on that trio in the playoffs? I’d rather roll the dice with Hellebuyck and pick the Jets to pull off the upset. Pick — Jets beat Golden Knights 4-3
(2) Oilers vs. (3) Kings Chris: This is simple: Connor. McDavid. He’s has put together a season for the ages as he recorded a mind-boggling 153 points, and led the way for the Oilers. These two teams split their four meetings during the regular season, so it’s going to likely be a tight series. While the Kings surpassed expectations, I just think that McDavid and company will be too much for them. Pick — Oilers beat Kings 4-2
Austin: The Oilers have an explosive offense that features a 60-goal scorer, a 50-goal scorer and two 30-goal scorers. Edmonton might give up a little more the other way, but the defense has improved drastically with the addition of Mattias Ekholm, and Stuart Skinner has become a reliable starting goaltender. On the other side, the Kings have been one of the best defensive teams in hockey all season, allowing the second fewest expected goals at five-on-five, per Natural Stat Trick. The battle between elite defensive forwards Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault and peak Connor McDavid will be a lot of fun to watch. The biggest x-factor in this series will be each side’s goaltending situation. If the Kings’ goaltending was in a better place, I would be more tempted to pick them, but the Oilers just have too much firepower. Pick — Oilers beat Kings 4-2
(1) Avalanche vs. (WC1) Kraken Chris: In just their second NHL season, the Kraken are headed to the postseason for the first time. Their reward? Getting to face the defending Stanley Cup champions in the opening round. The Avalanche have dealth with a ton of injuries, but they still won the Central Division and are getting hot at the right time. They’ll be without captain Gabriel Landeskog for the entire postseason, but Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar bring a ton of firepower that Seattle just doesn’t possess. Sure, this isn’t the same loaded Avalanche roster from a season ago, but they’re clearly the better team here. Pick — Avalanche beat Kraken 4-1
Austin: Seattle has solid depth, and the scoring is balanced throughout all four lines, but the team may not have enough firepower to match the talent that fills Colorado’s bench. The biggest issue for the Kraken is in goal. Philipp Grubauer and Martin Jones have combined for one of the league’s worst save percentages again this year, and that is a major problem against this Avs team. For Colorado, Alexandar Georgiev has never started a playoff game, but he is coming off a much stronger regular season than either goalie in Seattle. It’ll be fun to see playoff hockey in Climate Pledge Arena, but Colorado will spoil the party rather quickly. Pick — Avalanche beat Kraken 4-1
(2) Stars vs. (3) Wild Chris: The Wild and Stars were both battling with the Avalanche for the Central Division crown down the stretch. However, the Stars are definitely the better team in my eyes. They’re an offensive juggernaut that ranked seventh in goals-per-game (3.41) throughout the regular season. Jason Robertson has become one of the league’s most lethal goal scorers and the amount of depth that the Stars have is out of this world. For the Wild, it’ll be interesting to see who gets the start between the pipes out of Marc-Andre Fleury and Filip Gustavsson. Gustavsson makes more sense, as he’s had a much stronger campaign, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if head coach Dean Evason goes with the veteran in Fleury to start the series. If that turns out to be the case, how long will Fleury’s leash be? I do believe that we’ll see both goalies in this series, and that’s not a recipe for success. Pick — Stars beat Wild 4-2
Austin: The Stars have played like a top-10 team all season, and when they are at their best, they look like a real Stanley Cup contender. The Wild have been more inconsistent, and they don’t come into the playoffs at the top of their game. After a few years of being a one-trick pony, Dallas has gotten scoring from more than just its top line. Jamie Benn has found his game again, and Miro Heiskanen has added some offensive pop to his game on the blue line. Outside of Kirill Kaprizov and Matt Boldy, Minnesota has struggled to find regular goal-scoring this season, and that means goaltending has been forced to carry the load at times. Filip Gustavsson has done just that, and he has earned the right to be the Game 1 starter for the Wild. He could steal a series. The downside for Minnesota is that Dallas has a goaltender who can do the same thing in Jake Oettinger. The Stars have been the better team in a lot of ways, and I don’t expect that to change over the next two weeks. Pick — Stars defeat Wild 4-1
Eastern Conference gettyimages-1459139715-2.jpg Getty Images (1) Bruins vs. (WC2) Panthers Chris: The Bruins recorded the most points in a single season in NHL history. Star forward David Pastrnak racked up a career-high 61 goals and kept opposing defenses scratching their heads. On top of that, Linus Ullmark was tremendous between the pipes. While the Panthers are certainly no slouch, it’s hard to imagine the Bruins seeing a ton of resistance in this matchup. I’ll say the Panthers steal a game at home, but the Bruins will definitely cruise to victory in the series. Pick — Bruins beat Panthers 4-1
Austin: The Panthers played their best hockey down the stretch and climbed into playoff position after looking dead in the water for most of the season. That would normally make them a dangerous team, except they are going up against a Bruins team that just set the record for wins and points in a single season. There might have been a two-week stretch in the middle of the season where Boston wasn’t playing like the best team in the league, but that is it. The Bruins were second in goals (301) and first in goals allowed (174), and that was no fluke. They were really that dominant. Matthew Tkachuk has been brilliant for the Panthers this season, and Carter Verhaeghe and Aleksander Barkov give Florida some very real threats up front. That said, the Panthers just don’t have enough horses — or the goaltending — to beat the Bruins in a seven-game series. Pick — Bruins beat Panthers 4-2
(2) Maple Leafs vs. (3) Lightning Chris: I’m ready to say it: They’re finally going to get the job done. Yes, I realize it’s crazy to count out the Lightning, but I just think that this year’s Maple Leafs squad is different. Toronto’s dynamic duo of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner was lethal throughout the regular season, and I don’t expect that to change against Tampa Bay. Now the Maple Leafs will need to receive some stellar goaltending since Andrei Vasilevsky will likely provide that on the other side. It’ll be a back-and-forth series, but I believe that the Maple Leafs will finally make it out of the opening round for the first time since 2004. Pick — Maple Leafs beat Lightning 4-2
Austin: Am I going to buy into the Maple Leafs only for them to possibly make me look like a fool? Yes. The Maple Leafs have simply been better than the Lightning this season, and that was especially true in the last 20 games. In that stretch, the Leafs went 12-5-3 while Tampa went 9-10-1, and the underlying numbers also favored Toronto. There is always the chance that the Bolts are able to return to championship form in the playoffs. Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy know exactly what it takes to win at this time of year. On top of that, this is a Toronto team that hasn’t been out of the first round since “Shrek 2” was sweeping the nation. Despite that recent history, the Leafs are in position to get the job done this time around. If Toronto can’t get over the hump this year, I’m not sure when it will happen. Pick — Maple Leafs beat Lightning 4-2
(1) Hurricanes vs. (WC2) Islanders Chris: The Hurricanes have been bitten by the injury bug this year. Max Pacioretty returned for five games before tearing his Achilles all over again. In March, Andrei Svechnikov was lost for the season due to a knee injury. Carolina certainly doesn’t have quite as many weapons as New York, but should still have enough to get out of the opening round, though. If Islanders star Mathew Barzal is actually healthy and consistently plays in the series, the Islanders have a much better chance to knock out the Canes. I still think it’ll be tightly contested, but the Hurricanes will come out on top regardless. Pick — Hurricanes beat Islanders 4-2
Austin: If you’re a fan of low-scoring playoff hockey, then this will probably be the series for you. Neither of these teams really filled the net in 2022-23. The Hurricanes and Islanders aren’t afraid to let shots fly from the point, which makes life a little easier on opposing goaltenders. To Carolina’s credit, it is able to create quite a few slot shots off of rebounds, but those rebounds may not be there against an all-world goaltender like Ilya Sorokin. Therein lies the biggest issue for the Canes. Sorokin has the ability to steal games for the Isles, and Carolina is without a pair of strong finishers in Andrei Svechnikov and Max Pacioretty. It sounds like Mat Barzal will return to the Islanders’ lineup in Game 1, and this has potential to be a tight series. The Hurricanes’ depth wins out, but the Isles will put up a solid fight. Pick — Hurricanes beat Islanders 4-3
(2) Devils vs. (3) Rangers Chris: Pencil this one in as the most entertaining series that the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs has to offer. Falling into the No. 2 spot in the Metro Division isn’t an ideal scenario for a Devils team that doesn’t possess a ton of playoff experience. Still, it’ll be great to see Jack Hughes on the big stage for the first time. I just think that the Rangers will have too much firepower from a forward standpoint. On top of that, reigning Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin gives New York a huge advantage in the crease. Pick — Rangers beat Devils 4-3
Austin: Let’s hope this series is able to live up to the hype. These two rivals have been among the NHL’s best all season, and there will be starpower littered all over the ice. For the second straight season, the Rangers outplayed somewhat pedestrian underlying numbers at five-on-five, as stars like Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox torched opponents. The Devils, on the other hand, were dominant at five-on-five all year as Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier all took big steps forward. New Jersey has the starpower and depth necessary to take down its biggest rival, but Igor Shesterkin might be a rather large speed bump. Shesterkin’s spectacular performance in the 2022 playoffs took the Rangers to the Eastern Conference Final, and he has been elite over the last six weeks. Even though Shesterkin gives me a lot of pause, I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the Devils every step of the way this season, so I’m sticking with them in this series. Pick — Devils beat Rangers 4-3
Stanley Cup winner Chris: This was my prediction prior to the season getting underway and I’m sticking to it. It’s not going to be an easy road for the Rangers to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. New York is likely going to have to take down Boston at some point in order to reach the Stanley Cup Final, and that’s quite a tall task. However, the Rangers beefed up their forward group for this time of year. It won’t come as a huge surprise if Patrick Kane goes on a heater during the postseason. From a Western Conference standpoint, I’d love to go with the Avalanche getting back to the Stanley Cup Final, but the loss of Gabriel Landeskog is just too monumental. I believe it will finally be Connor McDavid’s time to get to the pinnacle of the sport. Seeing these two offenses do battle would be quite the treat. II just think that the combination of a top six that include Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Vladimir Tarasenko and Kane and an elite goaltender in Igor Shesterkin will be too much for the Oilers to overcome. Pick — Rangers beat Oilers 4-3
Austin: This is Connor McDavid’s moment. I cannot be convinced otherwise. He’s been on a mission all season, and it seems like he finally has a great supporting cast around him. The acquisition of Mattias Ekholm and the emergence of Stuart Skinner have made the Oilers a much more complete team. Edmonton may have to dethrone the Avalanche in the process of reaching the Stanley Cup Final, but the teams are much more evenly matched than they were last season. In the Eastern Conference, the Devils and Bruins were two of the best teams from start to finish in the regular season, and I expect them to meet in the conference finals, where New Jersey will end Boston’s historic season. A Stanley Cup Final featuring Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Jack Hughes and Timo Meier is a hockey fan’s fever dream, and there’s a good chance we get it. In that matchup, McDavid leads the Oilers to their first Stanley Cup since 1990. Pick — Oilers beat Devils 4-3
The Boston Bruins had a season for the ages as they won the Presidents’ Trophy with the NHL’s best record for the fourth time over the past 10 campaigns. The Bruins also tallied an NHL single-season record 135 points, which topped the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens’ record of 132 points. Meanwhile, after completely missing the postseason last year, the Vegas Golden Knights earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are one of the most exciting times of the year in any sport. For casual fans that may not have a favorite team to root for, we’ve got you covered with the teams and players that you need to be cheering for throughout the postseason.
Connor McDavid Throughout the season, it was abundantly clear that Connor McDavid is the best hockey player on the planet. After all, McDavid recorded 153 points (64 goals & 89 assists) and helped lead the Edmonton Oilers to the second-most points in the Western Conference behind only the Golden Knights. McDavid tallied the 15th-most points in NHL history and the eighth-most in team history behind several of Wayne Gretzky’s magical seasons.
Simply put, it benefits the sport the deeper McDavid carries the Oilers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Like Patrick Mahomes in the NFL and LeBron James in the NBA, McDavid makes highlight reel play after highlight reel play, and makes impossible feats seem downright pedestrian. If you haven’t seen much of McDavid on a sheet of ice, you’re in for a treat. He’ll weave his way through an entire defense and make your jaw drop. Rooting for greatness is never a bad thing.
Toronto Maple Leafs The Toronto Maple Leafs may have had a terrific regular season, but that’s really become irrelevant at this point. That’s because the Maple Leafs have failed to make it out of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the last six seasons. In fact, Toronto hasn’t won a playoff series since the 2003-04 season, when they defeated the Ottawa Senators in seven games in that year’s Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
It seems like a crime that star center Auston Matthews hasn’t embarked on a deep postseason run, and he’s in his seventh professional season. Much like McDavid, the sport benefits from a player like Matthews chasing the Stanley Cup for as long as possible. After topping the 60-goal mark a season ago, Matthews scored 40 goals this season — and that could almost be viewed as a down year. That’s just because of how talented Matthews truly is. Fans will want to get a glimpse of Matthews on the ice for as long as possible this postseason.
Colorado Avalanche Who doesn’t love a shot at greatness? The Colorado Avalanche won their first Stanley Cup since 2001 last June when they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning. Coming off of that Stanley Cup, it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for the defending champions. The Avalanche have been decimated by the injury bug throughout the regular season. At various points, Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Artturi Lehkonen have all missed significant periods of time.
The Avalanche will definitely have their work cut out for them with captain Gabriel Landeskog slated to miss the entire postseason due to a knee injury. Still, this is a team that is oozing with talent and is more than capable of repeating as Stanley Cup champions. It’s quite possible that Makar could put Colorado on his back much like he did during the 2022 playoffs. Guys like Makar and MacKinnon are certainly worth tuning in for as they can score from just about anywhere on the ice. Obviously, we saw the Lightning win back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021, but it’s also a pretty cool sight to witness a team hoist the Cup in consecutive campaigns.
Seattle Kraken If you like a true underdog story, the Seattle Kraken are the team for you. Just don’t be alarmed when you see the team’s mascot, Buoy, descend from rafters during one of Seattle’s playoff games. In just their second season as an NHL franchise, the Kraken are postseason bound.
This is a team that won just 27 games a season ago, but had an eventful offseason in which they added the likes of Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand. In addition, Matty Beniers excelled as the team’s top-line center in his first full NHL season, and he will likely earn Calder Trophy honors as the league’s top rookie because of it. Beniers’ play also resulted in a strong year for fellow forward Jared McCann, who scored a career-best 40 goals. The Kraken were one of the Wild Card teams in the West, so they likely won’t be favored in many games throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Still, it’s going to be fun to see playoff hockey in the Pacific Northwest.
Vegas Golden Knights The Vegas Golden Knights really broke the mold during their inaugural season in 2017-18. This was a team that defied expectations and advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season. Five years later, the Golden Knights haven’t sniffed the Stanley Cup Final again after that fateful season. In fact, Vegas missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs all together last season after acquiring star center Jack Eichel in a blockbuster trade with the Buffalo Sabres.
Despite being one of the league’s newer teams, T-Mobile Arena offers one of the most electric atmospheres to watch a hockey game. It can be downright deafening if you’re attending a home game in Vegas. Those kind of atmospheres are awesome to see, and they ramp up even more when the postseason rolls around. Plus, it’ll be nice to see Eichel finally get to take part in the playoffs for the first time in his NHL career.
Carolina Hurricanes Next to the Kraken, the Carolina Hurricanes are probably the next in line if you love rooting for the underdog. It may seem surprising that the Metropolitan Division winners would be an underdog, but injuries haven’t exactly been kind to Carolina. The Hurricanes traded for winger Max Pacioretty last summer, and Pacioretty suffered a torn Achilles shortly after being acquired. Pacioretty then returned in January for just five games before tearing his Achilles again, and he is now lost for the season. If that wasn’t bad enough, fellow winger Andrei Svechnikov suffered a season-ending knee injury in March.
The Hurricanes have played the bulk of the 2022-23 season without Pacioretty in the fold. For that reason, they’ve been more equipped to deal with that particular loss, but Svechnikov is one that definitely could hurt as the postseason progresses. A great deal of pressure will shift to goal-scoring threat Sebastian Aho along with strong goaltending. Seeing Carolina embark on a deep Stanley Cup run would be extremely entertaining, and who doesn’t love the team that everybody is counting out.
Colorado Avalanche star Cale Makar has been suspended one game by the NHL following a hearing on Tuesday. Makar’s suspension stems from a hit he made on Seattle Kraken forward Jared McCann in Game 4.
Makar’s hit took place halfway through the opening period of Monday’s game, when McCann was stopped on a breakaway attempt. When McCann was in the corner following the play, Makar delivered an extremely physical hit on him up against the boards:
Makar’s called for a major, but after review it’s reduced to a minor for interference pic.twitter.com/VqtkQGP58n
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) April 25, 2023 McCann was hurt on the play and didn’t return to Monday’s contest. Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol has already announced that McCann has been ruled out for Game 5.
“Late hit. Really late. No puck in play. Our 40-goal scorer not available for the rest of the game,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said following Game 4, according to SportsNet. “I disagree with (the penalty call), obviously, as I assessed it and looked at it live and for sure looking at it after on video.”
Makar was initially given a five-minute major penalty for interference, but following a review, the call was reduced to a two-minute minor.
“I didn’t feel like I tried to finish him that far,” Makar said. “I feel like if I was in that scenario they would have done the exact same thing. I’m not trying to hurt anybody.”
McCann led Seattle with 70 points this season, including a career-high 40 goals. Even without McCann in the lineup, the Kraken were able to come away with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 4 to even the series at two games apiece.
The NHL and NHL Players’ Association announced on Wednesday that the Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs will participate in the 2023 NHL Global Series on Nov. 16-19 in Stockholm, Sweden.
The teams will play two regular season games apiece in Stockholm at Avicii Arena as a part of the event.
The @DetroitRedWings, @mnwild, @Senators and @MapleLeafs to headline the 2023 #NHLGlobalSeries – Sweden.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 26, 2023 The 2023 NHL Global Series will mark the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th games that are being played in Stockholm. Stockholm has hosted more NHL regular season games than any city outside of North America. This will also mark the 10th season in which the NHL will play regular season contests in Europe.
The 2023 NHL Global Series will feature four NHL franchises for the first time, and it’s the first time that the Maple Leafs will play outside of North America. The Maple Leafs will become the 26th team to play regular season games outside of North America.
Meanwhile, this will be just the second occasion in which the Red Wings and Wild will play outside of North America and the third for the Senators. Between the rosters of the Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Senators, and Wild, there are 21 Swedish players.
Earlier this month, the league announced that the Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings would face off in a pair of preseason games in Melbourne, Australia as part of the 2023 NHL Global Series. Those games will be played at Rod Larver Arena in Melbourne on Sept. 23 and 24.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are an Original Six franchise that have enjoyed an immense amount of success throughout their history. They’ve won a whopping 13 Stanley Cup championships.
But lately, they haven’t come anywhere close to reaching the mountaintop of the sport. It’s actually been the exact opposite.
The Maple Leafs have made first-round exits in each of the last six Stanley Cup Playoffs. They haven’t won a playoff series since the 2003-04 season, when they reached the Eastern Conference semifinals. Taking the postseason struggles of the last two decades into account makes Thursday’s Game 5 a must-win situation for the Maple Leafs against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It’s all because of how all too familiar they are with the Lightning.
In the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Maple Leafs held a 3-2 series lead before the Lightning won the final two games to take the series, which included a close 2-1 result in Game 7. Entering Thursday night’s Game 5, the Maple Leafs have all of the momentum. They erased a 4-1 third-period deficit and Alexander Kerfoot tipped home the game-winning goal just 4:14 into overtime to clinch a 5-4 win in Game 4.
The Maple Leafs can’t afford to take the Lightning lightly and need to deliver the knockout blow in Game 5. The Lightning have been to the past three Stanley Cup Finals and have won two of them. They’re a veteran team that has been in these types of situations before.
To paint a clear picture of why Toronto needs to end this series as soon as possible, let’s take a look back at how the Maple Leafs’ playoff woes have played out of late — starting with what happened six seasons ago.
2017: Eliminated by Capitals in first round The Washington Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy during the 2016-17 season and were the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Despite being the second Wild Card team in the East, the Maple Leafs actually held a 2-1 series lead after Tyler Bozak scored the game-winning goal in overtime to put Toronto up in the series. But that was the last time that the Maple Leafs would taste victory in the series. The Capitals won the next three games. Marcus Johansson eliminated the Maple Leafs 6:31 into the overtime period as he scored his second goal of the contest in Game 6. Every game in the series was decided by a single goal and it was just the third series in NHL history in which five games went to overtime.
2018: Eliminated by Bruins in first round Much like the 2023 postseason, the Maple Leafs found themselves in a 2-3 matchup against the Boston Bruins. The Bruins dominated the Maple Leafs in the opening two games of the series as they outscored Toronto, 12-4. Boston went up 3-1 before the Maple Leafs came roaring back thanks to strong performances from goaltender Frederik Andersen, who recorded 74 saves in Games 5 and 6 to help even the series. In Game 7, the Maple Leafs held a 4-3 lead heading into the third period. Then the Bruins scored four unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes to win, 7-4.
2019: Eliminated by Bruins in first round Just one year later, the Maple Leafs took on the Bruins in the opening round of the postseason yet again. The Maple Leafs had finished third in the Atlantic Division and lost to the Bruins in three of their four regular-season meetings. Still, the teams were evenly matched throughout the first five games of their opening-round series. But after alternating the first four games, the Bruins outscored the Maple Leafs, 9-3, over the final two of the series to eliminate Toronto for the second consecutive campaign. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask stopped 32 of the 33 shots that he faced in Game 7 and Boston earned a convincing 5-1 victory.
2020: Eliminated by Blue Jackets in qualifying round The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs had a strange configuration that was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, which heavily affected the NHL’s regular season and postseason schedules. When the regular season was cut short, Toronto found themselves matched up with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the qualifying round. The Maple Leafs were the No. 8 seed while the Blue Jackets were the No. 9 seed. The series started out with a pair of shutouts as Blue Jackets netminder Joonas Korpisalo had one in Game 1 and Andersen responded with one of his own in Game 2 to even the series. Eventually, Korpisalo ended up shutting down the Maple Leafs in Game 5 in a 3-0 triumph, which ended Toronto’s season.
2021: Eliminated by Canadiens in first round The 2021 season was shortened to just 56 regular season contests due to the residuals effects of the schedule being pushed back from the COVID-19 pandemic in the previous year. The Maple Leafs finished in first place in the North Division with 77 points while the Canadiens came in fourth place with just 59 points. After dropping Game 1, the Maple Leafs ripped off three consecutive victories and outscored the Canadiens 11-2 during those contests. The Canadiens rallied to win Games 5 and 6 in overtime to force a winner-take-all Game 7. Canadiens star goaltender Carey Price recorded 30 saves and completely shut down the Maple Leafs in a 3-1 win to take the series
During this six-year stretch we are highlights, this is probably the most deflating series loss for the Maple Leafs. .
2022: Eliminated by Lightning in first round The most recent playoff blunder came during the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs in a series that the Maple Leafs had every chance to win. They earned 115 points in the regular season, but the two teams did split their four regular season contests. Toronto opened the series fairly strong by winning two of the first three games, including a convincing 5-0 shutout in Game 1. After falling 7-3 in Game 4, the Maple Leafs rose to the occasion in Game 5 with a 4-3 victory on their home ice. Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly tallied third-period goals to give Toronto a huge advantage in the series.
The Maple Leafs rallied back from a two-goal deficit in Game 6 to force overtime, but Brayden Point got the last laugh as he scored to force a Game 7. Despite playing at home, Lightning forward Nick Paul proved to be the star of the show as he scored both of his team’s goals in a 2-1 triumph. Following this loss, the Maple Leafs have now lost eight consecutive playoff. Can that drought end on Thursday night?
Cale Makar could only watch as the Seattle Kraken suffocated his Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the first-round series. Makar was serving a one-game suspension for an illegal hit on Jared McCann in Game 4, and Colorado struggled to find answers without him on the ice.
In the first period of the Kraken’s Game 4 win over the Avs, Makar delivered a late hit to Seattle forward Jared McCann, who left the game and did not return. After reviewing the play following the game, the NHL Department of Player Safety suspended the star blueliner for Game 5.
Makar is arguably the best defenseman in the world. The 24-year-old star has a Norris Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup to back up that claim. With Makar out of the lineup, Colorado was much more vulnerable, and Seattle took advantage of that.
The Kraken have controlled play when Makar isn’t on the ice, and that was the case for all three periods in Game 5. Seattle completely stifled Colorado for a 3-2 win in Ball Arena, and now the Avalanche are one loss away from going home in the first round.
The good news for the Avs is that Makar was only suspended for one game, and he will be back for a do-or-die Game 6. Expect the well-rested Makar to see a lot of playing time, because there is a stark difference in Colorado’s five-on-five numbers when Makar is on the ice.
As evidenced in that table above, the Avalanche’s depth defensemen have struggled this series, and Samuel Girard, Erik Johnson, and Josh Manson couldn’t quite pick up the slack in Game 5. The Kraken forecheck gave the Colorado defensemen some problems, and that resulted in the Avs generating just 28 shots on goal.
The Kraken have the edge in this series when it comes to roster depth. They have a few different lines that can be effective, and their entire defensive corps has impressed through the first five games. Colorado has the advantage at the top of the lineup, and Makar is a big part of that. Seattle doesn’t quite have anyone who can match Makar when he is at his best.
That’s exactly what the Avalanche will need from him in Game 6, which will be in front of a hostile crowd at Climate Pledge Arena. The reigning Stanley Cup champions will face elimination on Friday night, and Makar has the chance to atone for his big Game 4 mistake by forcing a decisive Game 7.
The 2023 NHL Playoffs featured some big games on Thursday night. The Vegas Golden Knights became the first team to win a series, the Tampa Bay Lightning staved off elimination against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the New Jersey Devils took a 3-2 series lead agains the New York Rangers.
The Maple Leafs have not reached the second round of the playoffs since 2004, and they had a chance to end that drought on Thursday. However, the back-to-back-to-back Eastern Conference champs had something to say about that. The Tampa Bay Lightning quieted the Scotiabank Arena crowd with a 4-2 win to force Game 6.
In the second game of the evening, the Devils continued their stretch of dominance against the Rangers. New Jersey rolled to a 4-0 win while rookie goaltender Akira Schmid frustrated the Rangers with another brilliant showing in the crease. New Jersey can now eliminate New York in Madison Square Garden in Game 6.
The Golden Knights became the first team to advance to the second round when they blew out the Jets, 4-1, in Game 5. Chandler Stephenson got the party started less than a minute into the game, Vegas didn’t let its foot off the gas pedal. The Golden Knights will now face the winner of the series between the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers.
For the full playoff schedule and final score updates on every Stanley Cup Playoff series, click here. For now, follow along tonight as the first-round action continues.
Lightning stay alive, force Game 6 in Tampa The Toronto Maple Leafs had a chance to reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 19 years on Thursday, but the Tampa Bay Lightning kept that drought alive for at least one more day with a 4-2 win.
The Maple Leafs got Scotiabank Arena rocking early when Morgan Rielly beat Andrei Vasilevskiy to give Toronto a 1-0 lead less than six minutes into the game.
RIELLY RIPS!! 💥 pic.twitter.com/yOZlFJmCd7
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) April 27, 2023 However, it was all Lightning after that.
Just 26 seconds after Rielly opened the scoring, Anthony Cirelli punched home a rebound to tie the game at 1-1.That score would hold until 4:23 of the second period, when Michael Eyssimont flew down the left-wing side of the ice and tucked a shot underneath Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov for a soft goal.
What a BEAUT for your first playoff goal!!! pic.twitter.com/wvqIPEBE69
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) April 28, 2023 Nick Paul extended Tampa’s lead to 3-1 midway through the third period, but the story of the final frame was the Bolts’ ability to smother Toronto’s offensive attack. Toronto couldn’t get much of anything going until it pulled Samsonov for the extra attacker.
Auston Matthews was able to make it a one-goal game with a few minutes remaining in regulation, but the Lightning held on for a huge win to force a Game 6. Now, the series will shift back to Tampa, and there will be a lot of pressure on Toronto to get over the hump on the road.
Devils cruise to Game 5 win over Rangers Unfortunately for the Rangers, the trend of the road team winning every game in this series ended on Thursday night. The Devils turned in another dominant performance for a 4-0 win at home, and they have come back to lead the series 3-2.
For the third game in a row, New Jersey has completely frustrated a New York roster that is loaded with firepower up front. The Rangers could only muster 23 shots on goal, and when the Devils did need a big save, rookie goaltender Akira Schmid was there to make it.
2.5 games of #StanleyCup Playoffs experience under his belt and Akira Schmid has been POISED under pressure. 🥶
— NHL (@NHL) April 28, 2023 On the offensive side of things, Ondrej Palat got the party started just 39 seconds into the first period when he got a fortunate bounce on a rebound goal.
Pally Ondrej attack. pic.twitter.com/IostC3M0g3
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 27, 2023 After the Rangers won the special teams battle in Games 1 and 2, the Devils clobbered them in that department in Game 5. Erik Haula tallied a power play goal in the second period, and Dawson Mercer made it a 3-0 game with a shorthanded goal about 10 minutes later.
MERCDAWG SHORTY! pic.twitter.com/rGNxrt6DH9
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 28, 2023 New Jersey looked dead in the water after dropping the first two games in Newark, but the team has completely flipped the script in the last three games. The Devils have simply outplayed the Rangers, and they are one win away from disposing of their rivals and advancing to the second round.
Golden Knights eliminate Jets in dominant fashion We have our first handshake line of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Vegas Golden Knights were determined to end this series in Game 5, and the Winnipeg Jets didn’t provide much resistance in a 4-1 loss.
The opening minute of this game was a preview for things to come. Just 50 seconds into the game, Vegas forced a turnover, and a slick passing play allowed Chandler Stephenson to slide the puck behind Connor Hellebuyck for a goal.
hot start, Stevie!!! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/HHPbEbp0OL
— z – Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 28, 2023 With star defenseman Josh Morrissey out of the lineup with a lower-body injury, the Jets had major issues trying to get the puck out of their own zone. The Golden Knights’ forecheck was relentless, and it resulted in another goal just 42 seconds into the second period when Mark Stone capitalized on a Winnipeg mistake.
IN THIS HOUSE WE STAN #61 MARK STONE 🗿 pic.twitter.com/h7pqEVwDPt
— z – Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 28, 2023 The Golden Knights would add two more goals in the second period, and by that point, the game was out of reach. Vegas didn’t give Winnipeg any room to breathe, and the Jets didn’t really test Golden Knights goaltender Laurent Brossoit until they pulled the goalie with 8:18 remaining in the third period.
To his credit, Brossoit made one of the best saves of the postseason so far on one of the rare scoring chances for the Jets.
Beaut of a glove save by Brossoit, robbing Lowry blind in tight#VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/djR2qC7HWM
— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) April 28, 2023 After eliminating the Jets, the Golden Knights will now advance to play either the Los Angeles Kings or Edmonton Oilers in the second round.
High school basketball phenom Cooper Flagg announced Friday that he is reclassifying to the Class of 2024 after a standout summer performing in front of college coaches and talent evaluators. Flagg was previously a member of the Class of 2025 but is expediting his potential path to the NBA by reclassifying.
With a December 2006 birthday, Flagg is narrowly old enough for the 2025 NBA Draft, and the decision to jump a class will position him to pursue that option. He would need to play college basketball during the 2024-25 season — or otherwise be one year removed from high school — in order to be draft-eligible in 2025 under NBA rules.
A five-star power forward, Flagg ranked No. 2 in the Class of 2025 and will be ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2024, according to 247Sports. The 6-foot-8 Montverde (Florida) Academy star earned MVP honors at Peach Jam in July while leading Maine United to an appearance in the 16u championship game. In the process, he entered the running to become the No. 1 overall prospect in his class.
Duke is considered the favorite to land Flagg, but UConn is also a factor in his recruitment.
Cooper Flagg scouting report Flagg was turning heads even before he began receiving widespread national attention this summer. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Maine as a freshman for a team that won the state championship. Even then, his promise on both ends of the floor was evident. 247Sports director of scouting Adam Finkelstein described Flagg as “an elite two-way prospect.”
“His instincts are off the charts on both ends of the floor and he competes with a quiet type of killer instinct,” Finkelstein wrote. “He’s a defensive standout and particularly dominant as an off-ball defender. In fact, he’s as good of an underclassman shot-blocker as I’ve seen at his size. Offensively, he’s an excellent passer with a good foundation of early skill and developing playmaking ability. His footwork is excellent. His shooting and handling both good and continuously improving. He doesn’t necessarily need to be the focal point on that end of the floor, but he’s shown he’s plenty capable of it. Physically, frame’s Flagg is solid enough to absorb contact now and will only add additional muscle mass in the coming years.”
Potential implications for Duke If Flagg winds up committing to Duke, which is favored to land him by the 247Sports Crystal Ball, it would merely be the latest splash for second-year coach Jon Scheyer. The Blue Devils just welcomed the No. 2 ranked class to campus for the 2023-24 season after putting together a solid 2022-23 campaign with a freshman-heavy roster.
Five-star wing Isaiah Evans and four-star wing Darren Harris are already committed to the Blue Devils’ 2024 class. Adding Flagg to that group would position Duke to land another top-three class as Scheyer continues finding his footing while replacing the legendary Mike Krzyzewski.
Combate Global hosts an intriguing main event that pits experience against success rate. Ivan Castillo vs. Santiago Guzman headlines the promotion’s return to Miami on Saturday night.
Combate is generally known as a platform for up-and-coming fighters, but Castillo will compete in his 40th professional fight on Saturday night. The jiu-jitsu specialist welcomes Guzman into the Combate cage for the first time. Guzman only has a quarter of his opponent’s professional experience despite a relatively small three-year age gap. What Guzman has going for him is a 70% winning rate, which is notably higher than Castillo, and a recent win over another Combate veteran.
Saturday’s co-main event welcomes women’s bantamweights into the cage. Claudia Villalobos impressed in her MMA debut and looks to extend her perfect run. Opposing her is Kristina Pettigrew who pursues her third consecutive win.
Below is the fight card and viewing information for Saturday’s Combate Global event.