Tonight the playoffs start for the Toronto Maple Leafs when they meet the Montreal Canadiens for Game 1 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series. The two teams have met 15 times before in the postseason, and the Canadiens have won eight of those meetings. However, the last playoff series between these two teams was 42 seasons ago in 1979.
The Maple Leafs have been on a bit of a postseason swoon recently. They haven’t won a postseason series of any kind since 2004, with a record during that time period of 0-5. Obviously, the team expects a better showing this season.
In this post, I’ll share some of the news from the team as it heads into tonight’s game. Although the focus is clearly on the playoffs, there’s more news than that emerging from the organization. In this post, I’ll try to help Maple Leafs fans stay more up-to-date.
Item One: Zach Bogogian Is Ready to Go Tonight
Zach Bogosian’s shoulder injury has healed faster than expected and he skated on the Maple Leafs’ third pairing at practice Wednesday with partner Rasmus Sandin. Everything now points to the fact that he’ll play in the team’s postseason opener tonight.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe noted about Bogosian, “It’s a credit to him for the work that he’s put in to get himself ready.”
Then Keefe spelled out what the 30-year-old Bogosian brings to the team: “He’s got great experience coming off of last season’s playoff and the elements that he brings to our defense helps us both at five on five and on the penalty kill, so it’s a nice addition for us.”
Bogosian’s shoulder injury hasn’t allowed him to play for exactly a month. His last game was on April 20. Given he’s on the third pairing with Sandin, he’ll likely play just under 15 minutes during the game. His season’s average has been 14:32.
Item Two: Welcome Back Zach Hyman
Also in the lineup for tonight’s game is the Toronto-born Zach Hyman. Hyman was activated off the injured reserve (sprained knee) after missing 11 games. He had been on a bit of a run prior to the injury, with 11 points (four goals and seven assists) in the 10 games leading to the injury. He also averaged 18:42 minutes of ice time during that stretch.
Hyman will take a spot on the top line as a partner of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Given Hyman’s previous ability to come streaking out of the gate, I look for him to engage the game with great energy.
Item Three: The Maple Leafs Sign Young Swedish Goalie Erik Kallgren
In an interesting off-ice move, the Maple Leafs signed 24-year-old Swedish goalie Erik Kallgren to a two-year, two-way contract yesterday. Kallgren had just tended the Vaxjo HC to the Swedish Hockey League championship last week; and, during his playoff run had put up a record of 7-3-0 with a goals-against-average of 1.74 and a save percentage of .937.
On that same championship-winning team was teammate Pontus Holmberg, who is a young center the Maple Leafs took a flyer on as a sixth round (156th overall) draft choice during the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. As many Maple Leafs’ fans know, Holmberg’s been a nice surprise and had a breakout playoff series during this season’s SHL playoffs and – with Kallgren – helped push his team to the SHL championship.
Kallgren’s an interesting story. He was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes during the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (183rd overall), but he only played five games in North America before the Coyotes cut him loose because they didn’t see a place for him in what was then a strong organizational goalie depth chart.
Kallgren went back home to Sweden and kicked around since 2019, but his solid 2021 12-9-0 season and postseason success with Vaxjo HC obviously caught the Maple Leafs’ attention. The question many fans are asking now is whether the Maple Leafs will make it a double-signing by inking Holmberg?
Item Four: Just in Case, Michael Hutchinson Is Still Around and Staying Ready
The Toronto Marlies game against the Laval Rocket on Tuesday was interesting. The Marlies dressed eight AHL rookies (including young defenseman William Villeneuve for his first AHL game ever). On the other side of the ice were two Canadiens’ stars, including future Hall of Fame goalie Carey Price and a $6-million-man Brendan Gallagher, who were getting in some game action after coming off their injuries. In a hard-fought performance by the youthful Marlies, they handed the Rocket a 2-0 defeat and handed Price the loss in that game.
In that game, Michael Hutchinson made 39 saves for his 15th career AHL shutout in 174 games played. Hutchinson’s now played in 29 games for the Marlies in his three seasons as he’s moved up-and-down between the AHL and the NHL. His AHL save percentage with the Marlies has been .943 and he’s had 19 wins (including three shutouts).
Marlies’ coach Greg Moore noted after the game that “Hutch was great today — maybe the best game I’ve ever seen him play in person. He was really calm and really poised. He fought so hard to find pucks through traffic and get to them. Being able to get to rebounds and get to his feet and push, he was really impressive to watch today.”
That’s good news, just in case.
Item Five: Nazem Kadri Is at It Again
I have to say that I’ve been watching and rooting for Nazem Kadri since he left the Maple Leafs. That said, he just can’t seem to stay out of trouble during the playoffs. Last night, he was ejected from the Colorado Avalanche’s Game 2 against the St. Louis Blues.
Kadri took Justin Faulk to the ice with what looked like a head shot during the third period of what was eventually a 6-3 Avalanche victory. He received a match penalty for the hit.
It’s pretty clear that Kadri will face yet another postseason suspension. Of course, a Kadri suspension is not news for Maple Leafs’ fans. Kadri was suspended for three games during the 2018 postseason for boarding the Boston Bruins’ Tommy Wingels and was suspended for all the Maple Leafs’ first round 2019 playoff series when he cross-checked Jake DeBrusk in the face. Sadly, different team but same Kadri.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Should the Maple Leafs emerge victorious from the Canadiens’ playoff series, it could be a sign. The team’s last playoff series’ win over the Canadiens was in the 1967 Stanley Cup Final. It was the Maple Leafs’ last Stanley Cup victory.
The organization is hoping for a similar fate – only with a few more series remaining between this and the Stanley Cup final. Is this the season the Maple Leafs end their Stanley Cup drought? Game 1 of the journey is tonight.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf