On a night that started out as a complete nightmare, the Toronto Maple Leafs picked up a win and clinched their first playoff appearance since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Although they won, all Leafs fans are worried about the status of their starting goalie, Frederik Andersen.
Two minutes into the game, Andersen was hit in the head by Tom Sestito’s hip as he tried to navigate his way towards the front of the net. Andersen immediately dropped and held his head in pain, eventually leaving the game with what looked like an upper-body injury. With a history of concussions, the timing couldn’t be worse for the Maple Leafs.
Gotta See It: Andersen exits game after brutal hit to the head https://t.co/QMkQCfE98y
— Jake (@Jacoblebel35) April 9, 2017
Sadly, Andersen will not start today against Columbus. On a more positive note, he has shown no signs of concussion symptoms and looks like he will be ready for Game 1 of playoffs.
Babcock says he expects Andersen to be ready for practice tomorrow and to start in Game 1.
— David Alter (@dalter) April 9, 2017
Frederik Andersen will not play tonight. Babcock says Andersen showed "no symptoms" of concussion.
— David Alter (@dalter) April 9, 2017
In Mac We Trust
That means that the crease belongs to Curtis McElhinney on Sunday, and Garret Sparks was called up from the Toronto Marlies to serve as the backup.
McElhinney was amazing in yesterdays playoff-clinching win over the Penguins, and he saved his best stop for the best player in the world.
McElhinney is about as dependable of a backup you can find in the NHL. Pulled straight off the bench following a sudden Andersen injury, he made what some are calling a possible save of the year. Toronto was lucky to pull him off of waivers from Columbus, and now McElhinney has a chance to move the Leafs into third in the Atlantic Division against his former team.
Two Rookies, Two Most Important Goals of the Season
Down by one goal with under six minutes remaining, Kasperi Kapanen couldn’t have picked a better time to score his first career NHL goal. Take a look at the celebration, the kid is pumped.
The goal was also Kapanen’s first career NHL point, one he will never forget. In perhaps the biggest game of the season, he makes no mistake on the feed from Matt Hunwick to tie the game.
Cue Connor Brown, the 20-goal scorer?
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) April 9, 2017
With the tip, Brown became the fifth Maple Leaf to hit the 20-goal mark this season, and the third rookie, joining the likes of William Nylander and Auston Matthews. It’s only fitting that a guy who grew up in Toronto scores the game-winning goal to send the Leafs to the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Eastern Conference Standings
Following the 5-3 Maple Leafs victory, both the New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning were eliminated from postseason contention. Every Eastern playoff position is final other than the third spot in the Atlantic Division and the final wild-card position. The Bruins have already finished their 82-game season, so once again the Leafs control their destiny.
With a win tomorrow against Columbus, the Leafs would surpass the Bruins, therefore playing Ottawa in the first round. If the Leafs manage to lose in overtime or a shootout, it would result in the exact same fate. A regulation loss, however, would result in finishing the season in the last wild-card spot, which would mean their opponent would become the Washington Capitals.
I’ve been a Leafs fan since I was a little kid, and had to live through the painful collapse of the 2012/13 season against the Bruins. Most of the Leafs top players are my age. They light up the NHL and I write about it! The youth on this roster makes for very entertaining hockey. You won’t want to miss a game!