The Montreal Canadiens always seem to have the Toronto Maple Leafs’ number. For their relative places in the NHL standings, the long history of their rivalry, and the memory of Montreal putting the team out of last season’s playoffs, the Maple Leafs just seem to lose to the Canadiens too often.
The Maple Leafs are coming off a great four-game road trip, where they took seven of eight points. Right now, they’re in second place in a tight Atlantic Division; and, they’d like to solidify that spot and even move closer to the Florida Panthers if they can. They’ll look to do that when the Canadiens come to town tonight.
Right now the Maple Leafs are sitting with a 46-19-6 (and 98 points). They’re 6-0-1 during their last seven games. The last time the Maple Leafs lost in regulation was on March 26, when the team dropped a 4-2 decision to these same Canadiens.
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One would think all those things, put together, would generate enough of a determination by the team to win tonight. In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the news emerging from the team as they prepare to play tonight.
Item One: Nick Robertson Is a Point-a-Game Player with the Marlies
In news from the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies, Nick Robertson scored his 10th goal of the season. It seems that, for the first time in a long time, Robertson is fully healthy. He’s played 19 games with the Marlies, and he has 10 goals and nine assists. That puts him at a point-per-game pace.
His Marlies’ coach Greg Moore noted after a recent game that he’s happy for Robertson because he seems to have emerged from another injury-impacted season. As Moore noted, “I am happy for guys like that who work hard.” Moore added, “He (Robertson) is a resilient person and has been his whole life.”
Item Two: Axel Rindell Signs a Two-Year Entry-Level Deal with the Maple Leafs
Yesterday, 21-year-old Finnish defenseman Alex Rindell signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs. He’ll join the Marlies for the remainder of the 2021-22 season on a professional tryout. The PTO is needed because Rindell’s contract doesn’t start until next season.
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Rindell was chosen during the sixth round (177th overall) of the 2020 NHL Draft. This season, the right-shot defenseman played 26 games with Karpat of Finland’s Liiga. Look for him to spend most of next season in the minors.
Item Three: Max Ellis Also Signs an Entry-Level Contract with the Maple Leafs
Like Rindell, Max Ellis signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs yesterday. Ellis is another smallish forward at 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds who just finished his third season with the Fighting Irish at the University of Notre Dame. There he scored 16 goals and added 12 assists (for 28 points) in 39 contests.
The 22-year-old right-winger will also likely spend the 2022-23 season in the minors. Because the contract goes into force next season, Ellis will join the Marlies on a professional tryout for the remainder of the year.
Item Four: Auston Matthews Feels Honored to Be Part of Maple Leafs’ Lore
During a recent interview, Auston Matthews feels honored to be in such good company with former Maple Leafs’ players who had previously held the records that he’s broken. Matthews noted that “just to be in the same breath as some of these guys, it’s extremely humbling.”
Matthews added that “It’s a big honor. This feels really nice, but we’re working towards something bigger than this. It’s a nice stepping stone, but there’s work to be done.” Matthews is obviously thinking about playoff success.
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It will be interesting to see if Matthews can put home another score tonight. He’s been red hot since late November and has scored 49 goals in 49 games since that time. Tonight, if he can hit the 50-in-50 mark against the Canadiens, that would put him on the same list as Montreal legend Maurice Richard who was the first NHL player in history to score 50 goals in 50 games.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe knows the deal. Recently, he admitted that (in Toronto), “The playoffs is the most important time of the year.”
However, he also noted a reason to keep winning during the regular season when he added: “But this is an important time right now. We’re trying to solidify ourselves first for the playoffs, and then in the standings for seeding.”
Is there any chance the Maple Leafs can catch the Panthers? It’s going to be tough. Florida has an eight-point lead with only 11 games left to play in the regular season. But, we’ll see. Both teams are playing well.