Surely there’ll be a movie made of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. It will be a feel-good story about a 42-year-old wannabe goalie named David Ayers who had a kidney transplant when he was 27 years old that effectively ended his hockey career. Or so he thought.
However, in the rarest of chances, his dreams became a reality when he was thrust into the spotlight. He didn’t disappoint. And, for the first time in NHL history, an emergency backup goalie got a win for a team. It was one of the most bizarre games of any NHL season.
Ayres actually suited up and entered the game after both Carolina Hurricanes’ goalies went down to injuries – first ex-Maple Leafs James Reimer and then Petr Mrazek followed. Ayres was the oldest goalie in NHL history to win his regular-season debut.
Even Sheldon Keefe Feels Good for “the Guy”
Because the Maple Leafs players and management know Ayres personally because he’s a practice goalie for both the Maple Leafs and the Toronto Marlies, even head coach Sheldon Keefe, after outlining in detail his team’s poor showing, had this to say about Ayres:
“He has great energy. He comes to the rink every day and just wants to work and be a part of it. Whether it is with the Marlies or with the Leafs, he is always there when you need him. There is probably not an emergency goaltender who has seen as many pro shots as this guy. He is in pretty much every day getting work. It feels pretty terrible given that he is on the other side today from our end of it, but on a personal note, you can’t help but feel pretty darn good for the guy.”
I wonder how Ayres was welcomed when he returned to his regular job as practice goalie with the Maple Leafs.
In this post, as the Maple Leafs try to heal psychologically from the 6-3 beat-down by the Hurricanes in a game where the team at least needed to show up, I want to keep Maple Leafs fans up-to-date on the news and rumors emerging from the team as trade deadline comes on Feb. 24.
Item One: Tyson Barrie Talks with Vancouver Canucks Heating Up
Tyson Barrie has been in the middle of rabid trade rumors for the past ten days or so. And, if the Maple Leafs were on the cusp of trading him, there must have been a collective gasp when Barrie was taken hard (and awkwardly) into the boards during the first period of Saturday’s loss to the Hurricanes. The injury looked serious and it seemed as if he might miss weeks of action; thus, any planned trades would be negated.
However, when the second period began Barrie was back on the ice. In fact, he played hard and even collected two assists in the game. Those were his first points in five games.
Current rumors have the Vancouver Canucks hot on Barrie’s trail. However, the tweet by The Province’s (a Vancouver paper) Patrick Johnston made sense to me. Johnston doesn’t see Barrie’s fit with the Canucks. Barrie’s best when he’s a high-volume shooter from the point when he quarterbacks the power play, and that’s a job Canucks’ rookie Quinn Hughes is amazingly good at.
However, even if the style of play doesn’t exactly fit, it might be the salary-cap “fit” that carries the most weight for Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning.
The one way this trade makes sense is that the Canucks will have to qualify Troy Stecher after this season is completed. That’s exactly what Elliotte Friedman suggested when he reminded fans that during last offseason the team was so uncomfortable with how much money it would have taken to qualify Ben Hutton and they gave him up for nothing. This season, not wanting to repeat that scenario, trading Stecher for Barrie would be like getting a rental who was an upgrade (Barrie) for a player the team was likely to lose anyway (Stecher). Ergo, Friedman believes Stecher is available.
The bottom line is that the Canucks have a number of free agents to sign in the offseason and can’t sign all of them. From their perspective, trading Stecher might be better than losing him for nothing during the offseason.
Item Two: Dmytro Timashov Has Been Placed on Waivers
Dmytro Timashov was placed on waivers by the Maple Leafs on Sunday. The 23-year-old has potential, but he’s only seen a limited role with the Maple Leafs this season. He scored nine points in 39 games.
Should Timashov clear waivers, and I think there’s a chance a team might pick him up, Timashov would probably finish the 2019-20 season with the Toronto Marlies.
Item Three: After One Great Game, Frederik Andersen Can’t Stop Enough Pucks
Frederik Andersen had one of his best games of the season when he tossed a 24-save 4-0 shutout at a strong Pittsburgh Penguins team on Thursday night. Then he tanked the very next game by giving up six goals against the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes came into town winning three of their last four road games, and they were as good as their record.
Andersen made a lot of saves (41 in total) in the 6-3 loss, but he also let in a lot of goals as the score indicates. His record for his last five games is now 1-4, and he’s let in at least five goals in three of those games. Andersen has been hot sometimes, but he’s been extremely inconsistent most of the others.
Item Four: Kasperi Kapanen Speedy and Suddenly Gritty
Kasperi Kapanen has always been speedy and he’s regularly shown a fair amount of skill. However, his new-found grit has been a surprise. Against the Hurricanes, Kapanen scored two assists and now has three points in his last two games. In recent games, Kapanen’s been chin-to-chin with the action and has been drawing penalties and taking his physical game to a new level.
I find it really tough to take my eyes off him when he’s on the ice. Opponents seem to give him lots of open ice and he’s taking advantage. Given what I’ve seen recently, I’d be surprised if the Maple Leafs traded him – although there’ve been many rumors he’d be moved.
What’s Next with the Maple Leafs?
It doesn’t get easier for the team. The Maple Leafs head off on the road to play the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers this week before returning home to play the Canucks.
It’s a tough run of three games. Should the team lose all three, it might be wise for fans to start dreaming about next season.
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