Mitch Marner and Jack Campbell step up for Maple Leafs with Auston Matthews down in Edmonton


Mitch Marner was just fine on his own Saturday night.

Playing without injured Auston Matthews, Marner stepped up with a power-play assist and then an even-strength goal in the first period, sparking the Maple Leafs’ 4-0 win over the Oilers in the opener of a pivotal three-game series in Edmonton.

Marner and Matthews have created arguably the NHL’s most deadly duo so far this season. But the good news for the Leafs — who continue to list Matthews as day-to-day with a suspected wrist injury — is that Marner is also pretty productive on his own.

While Matthews has mixed his tremendous shot and goal scoring ability with some tenacious defence, Marner continues to have an innate ability to make everyone he plays with better.

That was the case when he set up William Nylander on the power play for the game’s first goal. Marner then scored 73 seconds later, his 10th of the season. It was also his 10th multi-point game of the season, vaulting him into third place in NHL scoring behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Jason Spezza scored on a snap shot after a fake shot in the second period. In the third, Zach Hyman outduelled Darnell Nurse in a corner puck battle before scoring his fifth goal of the season.

This series was billed as a clash with first place in the North Division on the line. The Leafs, now six points up on Edmonton, guaranteed they’ll still be on top after the final two games of this series.

Goalie Jack Campbell, back after missing 13 games with a leg injury, worked well behind a solid defensive effort, stopping all 30 shots he faced for the Leafs’ first shutout of the season and the third of his career.

The Leafs are now 22-11-2 all-time without Matthews in the lineup.

  • Nylander’s hot: Nylander’s goal was the third in a row for the Leafs over two games. He now has eight on the season, three on the power play. He also has four goals and 14 points in 22 games when Matthews is not in the lineup. Nylander’s goal also snapped an 0-for-12 slump on the power play for the Leafs.
  • Johnny on the spot: John Tavares was assigned to the top line between Marner and Joe Thornton with Matthews out. Tavares assisted on both first-period goals and now has 167 points in 167 games as a Leaf.
  • Subtle moves: Two subtle plays created those first-period goals. On the power play, Thornton lightly cross-checked an Edmonton defender into the right post, not enough to draw a penalty, but enough to create confusion in the crease and a narrow hole for Nylander to fire in his goal. The second was a stretch pass from Justin Holl that sprung Tavares on an odd-man rush with Marner. A quick, backhand pass from Tavares set up Marner for the finish.
  • Piling up points: Spezza’s goal was the 952nd point of his career.

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  • Silent stars: Solid team defence kept McDavid and Draisaitl off the scoresheet: McDavid managing one shot on goal and two shot attempts through two periods. He was a minus-3 and has been held pointless in four games now this season. Edmonton entered the game 11-2-0 in the previous 13 games after starting the season 3-6-0. They had scored an NHL-leading 29 first-period goals.

  • Matthews update: Matthews skated on his own Saturday. Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said he continues to be day to day. Toronto plays Edmonton again Monday night. Matthews had missed one other game this season – a Jan. 22 tilt against Edmonton in Toronto, which the Leafs won 4-2.

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Auston Matthews leads the Leafs past the Canadiens, and passes a legend along the way


This is a historic NHL season for so many of the wrong reasons.

Auston Matthews is making history for all the right ones.

Matthews scored twice, added two assists and celebrated his 300th game in this pandemic-shortened NHL season not just by leading the Maple Leafs to a 5-3 win in Montreal on Saturday night, but by continuing his impressive run of goal scoring and points accumulation.

No Leaf has done what Matthews has done through 300 games with the team.

A four-point second period meant Matthews passed the legendary Syl Apps for most points in his first 300 games. Apps had been at 313. Matthews has 314: 176 goals, 138 assists.

Matthews is also putting up points in consecutive games. It’s officially a 13-game streak as far as the NHL is concerned, because he missed one on Jan. 22 against Edmonton. But he’d picked up points in three straight before that, so it’s a 16-gamer for him. He has points in every game he’s played except Jan. 15 against Ottawa, the second of the season.

Only Charlie Conacher (191) and Rick Vaive (186) had more goals in their first 300 games as Leafs than Matthews, who has 176.

Matthews is also tied for 19th all-time in goals as a Leaf with Gary Leeman, who got to 176 in 545 games. Phil Kessel (18th) had 181 in 446 games.

Mitch Marner, Travis Boyd and Alex Kerfoot scored for the Leafs, who won their third in a row. Tyler Toffoli, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Paul Byron replied for Montreal.

  • Remembering Apps: Syl Apps was a six-foot, 185-pound centre who, like Matthews, won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1937. He would go on to win Lady Byng as the league’s most gentlemanly player, something Matthews is in the running for. And more telling, he won the Stanley Cup three times (1942, 1947, 1948), something fans would love Matthews to do in his Leaf career.
  • No stopping Matthews: There was a little song and dance — pride maybe — emanating out of Montreal that Matthews had yet to score on the Canadiens this season. He had scored against everybody else. The Leafs were saying the Canadiens play a tight defence. The Canadiens were saying they like to press against the Matthews line, featuring Marner and Thornton. By the end of the second period, that all sounded like science fiction. The Leafs were up 4-2 with Matthews having his best period ever: four points on two goals and two assists.
  • Wild second: After a goal-less and tepid first period, the second was quite crazy. The Leafs started the period with a two-man power play and connected twice within 15 seconds: Matthews on a one-timer, Boyd on a deflection. But Montreal pressed right back, scoring two goals within 23 seconds to tie, Kotkaniemi and Byron on breakaways. But Marner, through traffic, Matthews, with a wrist shot from the slot, scored again on the power play.
  • No goal: There was a confusing bit when Montreal was awarded a goal despite Kotkaniemi pushing Andersen’s pad over the line with the puck under it. The Leafs had a similar goal called back this past week against Ottawa. The officials reviewed the Montreal goal, and let it stand. Then the Leafs challenged for goaltender interference and the officials reviewed it again, ultimately siding with the Leafs and disallowing the goal.

The NHL’s situation room explained that the second video determined “Kotkaniemi interfered with Frederik Andersen by pushing his pad, which caused the puck to enter the net.” The league did not explain why it took two separate reviews to make the decision. It’s like the on-ice officials saw things differently, but the situation room overruled them.

  • Ode to Auston: Matthews played his 300th game and continued to be the focus of conversation. Coming into the game, He led the NHL in goals (16), was fourth in points (16-9-25) and ranked third in shots on goal (71).

“He’s in a groove now,” said teammate Zach Hyman. “He gives himself an opportunity to score every night. He’s got a lethal shot. He’s playing great and putting himself in great spots. He’s been tremendous so far.”

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Morgan Rielly said Matthews is being rewarded for his hard work: “He’s always in the right spot, and that’s not easy.”

  • Up next: The Calgary Flames visit Scotiabank Arena on Monday and Wednesday. Then the Leafs head to Edmonton for a three-game set, starting Saturday. That’s part of a five-game road trip, their longest of the season, that will finish in Vancouver.



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Leafs tap out late in North Division heavyweight bout against Canadiens


The Maple Leafs remain the class of the North Division, even after a 2-1 loss to the Canadiens on Saturday night.

But the Canadiens are clearly not prepared to concede the division mantle.

After two mostly dormant periods on offence, Montreal opened up for two goals in the third period for the win at Scotiabank Arena. Tyler Toffoli and Brendan Gallagher delivered the daggers to the Leafs, who could have opened up a seven-point lead over Montreal with a win.

The Canadiens outshot the Leafs 13-8 in the third and dished out 45 hits overall to turn the game in their favour.

“They started forcing the game physically, and started to make us look tired,” coach Sheldon Keefe said of the hits total. “You can’t win a game in this league if you only play 20 minutes.”

The momentum shift was obvious in other areas. Toronto enjoyed a 16-12 edge in shots after two periods and failed to convert at least four high-danger chances on Montreal goalie Carey Price in the first period, after Mitch Marner opened the scoring at 3:36.

Montreal wound up with a 25-22 edge in shots and a slight advantage in puck possession in the offensive zone (15:51 to 15:26) after trailing in that area in the first period.

The Leafs’ first period dominance also included a 7-3 edge in slot shots on net, a category the Canadiens led 12-11 by game’s end.

  • Missed opportunity: The Leafs lost despite season highs in two other areas. They posted 90 zone exits, compared to 67 for Montreal, and completed 21 stretch passes.
  • M, M good: The Auston Matthews-Mitch Marner combo continues to be the most lethal in the North, and one of the deadliest in the NHL.

Marner opened the scoring 3:36 into the game on a setup from Matthews. That’s the biggest difference from previous seasons when they worked together: They are both shooters and passers now, less predictable for opposing defences, whereas in the past it was Marner with the pass-first mentality and Matthews with the big shot.

Marner’s closed a book with his goal: the Canadiens were the only NHL team he hadn’t scored on. He now has seven goals on the season. Matthews, meanwhile, is on a 12-game points streak, with nine goals and three assists over that span. It’s the longest active streak in the NHL.

They combined for seven of the Leafs’ nine shots in the first period.

  • Take that: Matthews set up Marner’s goal with a terrific stick check for a takeaway behind the Montreal net. He stripped Phillip Danault before centring to Marner. Mathews now ranks third in the NHL in takeaways with 13.
  • The book on Price: Matthews, William Nylander and Alex Kerfoot all failed to beat Montreal goalie Carey Price on high-danger chances in the first period. Every one went high blocker on Price, who entered the game having allowed 11 of 23 goals against in that area. Clearly, Price made the adjustment.
  • Dry spots: Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli have accounted for 48 per cent of Montreal’s goals. Tomas Tatar has four (none in his last six games) and Danault hasn’t scored in 37 games dating back to last season. Tatar, the Canadiens’ leading scorer last season, was a healthy scratch Saturday. Another telling stat: The Leafs’ centres (Matthews, John Tavares, Kerfoot and Travis Boyd) have 19 goals. Montreal centres (Nick Suzuki, Danault, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jake Evans) have six. And yet, the Leafs lost for the first time in nine games when they held a lead going into the third period.
  • Ins and outs: The Leafs took Nick Robertson, Adam Brooks and Rasmus Sandin off the club’s taxi squad and lent them to the AHL Marlies. Keefe said Robertson, who has been out since the first game of the season with a knee injury, has been cleared to play. He will get that chance with the Marlies, but Keefe has left the door open for Robertson to return to the NHL.

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  • Thornton update: Keefe said Joe Thornton, who suffered a rib cage injury in the second game of the season, has not been cleared to play. That could change after Sunday’s practice.

  • Ownership play: Word broke during the “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcast Saturday that Tavares, Jason Spezza and Sam Gagner have purchased the GTHL’s Toronto Marlies organization. “It’s still in a process, so we can’t say much about it now … but Sam approached me when the opportunity presented itself,” Tavares said later. “We’ll have more of an update, but the organization means a lot to both of us.”



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Auston Matthews, Wayne Simmonds lead another outburst as Leafs rout Canucks


The Maple Leafs can score in bunches. And they can hold leads. In other words, they look like the real deal.

Auston Matthews and Wayne Simmonds each scored twice — with Matthews closing in on franchise records — as the Leafs beat Vancouver 5-1 Saturday, their second win in a row against Canucks and their ninth win 12 games.

Zach Hyman also scored. Mitch Marner had three assists for the 14th time in his career. Mikko Lehtonen added two assists.

The Leafs were so dominant the only drama by the third period was whether Frederik Andersen would get his first shutout of the year. JT Miller thought he beat him in the second, but the Leafs won an offside review to nullify the goal. But a penalty to Jake Muzzin gave Vancouvers’ Brock Boeser the power-play chance he needed to deny Andersen his first shutout of the season.

  • Double trouble: The Leafs have already beaten every other team in the North at least once. Now, they’re halfway to beating them all twice. It’s winning two in a row — against Calgary and now against Vancouver — that stands out.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe had fretted about how hard it would be for teams this season to beat an opponent twice in a row. A reality of the COVID-shortened season this year are two- and three-game sets, giving the losing team a chance to rebound largely by making adjustments.

“I don’t know what the stats are showing on it in terms of the frequency of it, not just within our division, but across the league, but it is a difficult thing,” said Keefe. “It’s a difficult thing in the regular season, it’s a difficult thing in the playoffs to win that second game and that’s the challenge. We’ve been on both sides of that.

“If you’re looking to create separation in the standings, you’ve got to be able to do that, to win the second game.”

  • So far so good: When facing the same team in the same rink two games in a row, the Leafs have gone: 1-1-0 in Ottawa (Jan. 15-16); 1-1-0 versus Edmonton in Toronto (Jan. 20, 22); 2-0-0 in Calgary (Jan. 24, 26); 1-0-1 in Edmonton (Jan. 28, 30); and 2-0-0 at home to Vancouver. So 13 points out of a possible 18.
  • A couple of beauts: Sometimes it’s not that they score, it’s how beautiful scoring looks.

It was two beauties that got Toronto off to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. On the power play, Simmonds controlled the puck to Braden Holtby’s right side. He held just long enough for Holtby to go down and open up a sliver of space in the corner. Simmonds found it with a pinpoint shot.

Matthews got the second one, using his speed as he entered the Canucks zone, picking up a loose puck, barrelling through everybody and picking a corner. The whole play couldn’t have taken more than two seconds or three from the time Matthews entered the zone.

  • Holding leads: The Leafs ran their record to 8-0-0 when leading after 40 minutes. Hyman had put the Leafs up 3-0 in the second and Matthews and Simmonds connected again two minutes apart early in third as Toronto did not experience a letdown.
  • Record trouble: The trouble with writing about records is the precise language sometimes required.

Matthews, who has 10 goals on the season, has goals in seven straight appearances and is the first Leaf to score at least one goal in seven consecutive games played since 1993-94, when Dave Andreychuk and Wendel Clark combined for the feat.

The franchise record was set in 1921 — when they were the St. Patricks — by Babe Dye, and tied in 1922, by Dye. John Anderson scored in 10 straight in 1985, the longest by anyone known as a “Maple Leaf.”

However, since Matthews missed a game early in the streak, his official games-scored streak, according to the NHL, is at six, which ties his career best.

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  • Canucks trouble: No surprise that angst-ridden Canucks fans got the hashtag #FireBenning trending No. 1 on Twitter in Canada when the Leafs opened the 3-0 lead. GM Jim Benning, an ex-Leafs defenceman, is embattled for how his team is performing and for off-season moves that saw the Canucks lose goalie Jacob Markstrom and winger Tyler Toffoli to free agency.

To be fair, the Canucks have had arguably the toughest schedule, already having played their 15th game — most in the NHL — and having visited every time zone.

The Canucks have probably seen enough of Eastern Canada, but they’ve got one more game here Monday before they go home. They’ve lost four in a row, two in Toronto and two in Montreal.



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Maple Leafs re-sign D Dermott to one-year deal



Nov 29, 2019; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (55) tries to block a shot by Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott (23) during the first period at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

October 23, 2020

The Toronto Maple Leafs re-signed defenseman Travis Dermott to a one-year, $874,125 contract Friday.

Dermott, 23, registered four goals and seven assists in 56 regular-season games in 2019-20.

The Ontario native has tallied 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists) in 157 NHL games over three seasons with Toronto.

The Maple Leafs selected Dermott in the second round (34th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft.

–Field Level Media





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Toronto Maple Leafs Continue Facelift Of Defense By Adding Brodie, Bogosian


The Toronto Maple Leafs entered the offseason knowing what they are and what they are not.

They are a high-event, high-flying offensive machine. That’s why, last season, they ranked fourth in shot attempts per 60 (59.97) and fourth in expected goals per 60 (2.85), according to Natural Stat Trick.

They are not a lockdown, suffocating defensive bunch. That’s why, last season, they ranked 26th in goals allowed per 60 (3.13) and 18th in scoring chances allowed per 60 (27.27).

For a team with Stanley Cup aspirations — but zero playoff series wins since 2004 — that’s simply not good enough.

So, in the early days of the NHL’s bustling free agency, the Maple Leafs have addressed their issues head-on. That meant adding defensemen T.J. Brodie (four years, $20 million) and Zach Bogosian (one year, $1 million), two players who will help shape a new-look defensive group for Toronto next season.

The facelift of the Maple Leafs’ defense corps actually started in May, when Toronto signed Mikko Lehtonen to a one-year deal. Lehtonen was named the KHL defenseman of the month three times last season and has 13 points in nine games this season.

Lehtonen can play on either the right or left side and will likely start on the third pairing (next to Travis Dermott). Brodie, meanwhile, should fill Tyson Barrie’s old role as the top right defenseman — and that’s a notable upgrade, at least on the defensive side of things.

Here’s a look at Brodie’s impact last season (the red and orange blotches indicate above-average shot attempts; the blue and purple blotches indicate below-average shot attempts).

The charts show that Brodie was slightly below average on the power play (though he won’t be tasked with quarterbacking Toronto’s top unit, anyway), but above average in all other facets. Tyson Barrie on the other hand …

He was almost as effective as Brodie in the offensive zone, but look at all that red around the net on defense. Yikes.

Barrie should, however, have a better season ahead. He admitted to reporters on Saturday that coming to Toronto and not initially becoming the top power play blue-liner made for a tough situation — one that inevitably spiraled. Sometimes a change of scenery presents its own challenges.

Barrie still possesses a 0.62 points per game rate for his career, versus 0.42 points per game for Brodie, but Brodie’s diligence in the d-zone is a more important trait for Toronto.

Bogosian doesn’t have as desirable of metrics as Brodie, with a career on-ice shot share below 50 percent. But he’s a veteran coming over on the cheap from the Stanley Cup-winning Lightning, and sometimes that’s worth taking a shot.

Consider that two of the Maple Leafs’ top-four defensemen by minutes played in 2019-20 are gone now (Barrie and Cody Ceci). Justin Holl, who was in that top-four as well, will now be battling for a job.

No, Toronto didn’t land the biggest fish on the defensemen market, Alex Pietrangelo (general manager Kyle Dubas joked with reporters that his bid for the perennial Norris contender was “not that close”).

But the additions of Brodie, Bogosian and Lehtonen — as well as the continued development of youngsters like Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren — will make the Maple Leafs’ back end look much different. And better.



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Yolanda Ballard, 87, played central role in Maple Leafs soap opera


Yolanda Ballard, the former companion of crusty Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard who became a central figure in the circus surrounding the franchise in the 1980s and ’90s, has died. She was 87.

Born Yolanda Babic, the daughter of Czech immigrants changed her name to Ballard in 1988, five years after first meeting the owner at the NHL club’s former home, Maple Leaf Gardens on Carlton Street, where he had an apartment.

“You thought it couldn’t get any more colourful under Harold Ballard. Well, you added Yolanda to the mix and it actually did get more colourful,” recalled Bob Stellick, who worked for the Leafs on the business side in the late ’80s and compared the relationship to Archie and Edith Bunker from the old sitcom “All In The Family.”

By the time Yolanda walked into Harold’s life in 1983, she had done jail time for perjury and been married once — to a lawyer, then divorced. Gord Stellick, the Leafs’ general manager in 1988-89 and Bob’s brother, recalled that she “just appeared” at the Gardens one day (holding a cake, according to some accounts, and refusing to leave until he spoke to her).

When he relented, Yolanda — knowing he had also spent time behind bars, for fraud in 1972 — reportedly broke the ice by saying: “We’ve got something in common. We’ve both been to jail.”

She would often hang around the team office until late at night. Soon, they were a couple.

“I was close with (Harold) and he figured out what she was,” said Gord Stellick. “I know the family and friends were totally aghast and ‘Oh my god, she’s a gold digger’ … but he figured out she could take his s— and she, as time evolved, became his caregiver.”

After the owner’s death in 1990, however, she was involved in a bitter dispute with Ballard’s children — Bill, Mary Elizabeth and Harold Jr. — over his estate.

Harold left Yolanda $50,000 a year in his will, but she also wanted a lump sum, part ownership of the family cottage and $12,000 for their dog, TC Puck. In the end, they reportedly settled on somewhere between $2 million and $5 million in total, plus two seats at the Gardens.

“There is only one Mrs. Ballard and that was my mother (Dorothy, who died in 1969),” said Bill Ballard, who was found of guilty of assaulting Yolanda in 1989 and fined $500.

The Stellicks and Howard Levitt, a family friend and lawyer, contend Yolanda deserved the settlement.

“She thought it was horrible, the way she was treated by certain members of the family, and she found it unfortunate they wouldn’t recognize the status she had,” Levitt said. “She was indeed — because I personally witnessed it — Harold’s companion always.”

Early in their relationship, the pair travelled to the Cayman Islands and met dignitaries including Queen Elizabeth II and former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, as well as performers such as opera star Luciano Pavarotti.

“She could dine with the Queen of England at night and the next morning be busting it with any kind of maintenance person,” Gord Stellick recalled.

He said Yolanda would often show up on road trips. Harold would pretend to be angry, then make sure she had a ticket. When she didn’t travel with the team, she would arrange for suitable food to be sent to Harold’s hotel room, ensuring the diabetic would eat well.

“I think there was a genuineness (to her caring) about his welfare,” Stellick said.

Yolanda was born Jan. 3, 1933 in Fort Williams, Ont. and spoke Slovakian as a first language. In 1955, she met Bill MacMillan, the son of a noted magistrate. At the time he was studying law, while she worked as a title searcher for a Toronto firm. They married in 1957 and had two children before he filed for divorce.

Bill MacMillan Jr., who said he was estranged from his mother at the time of her death, recalled how protective his “five-foot little nothing” mom could be. In one instance, some time in the 1970s, the family of three — along with sister Ana — travelled regularly to Ann Arbor in a gold Cadillac to watch the University of Michigan football team. One particular weekend, he said, Michigan beat rival Michigan State and the local students were going wild, which stalled traffic. One drunken, hollering student jumped into their front seat looking for a ride, scaring the kids in the back seat.

“Mom reaches under the front seat and she pulls out this gun,” said MacMillan. “It’s only a pellet gun, but it’s lifelike. Cool as a cucumber she says, ‘You’re going to get you blankety blank a– out of this car or you’re going to have a hole that I can put a football through from here to East Lansing.’

“She just knew what to do at the right time.”

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Yolanda Ballard, who died in her sleep on June 3, is survived by daughter Ana MacMillan, son Bill MacMillan, granddaughter Molly and extended family, as well as longtime caregiver Astrid von Czieslik.

A celebration of life is planned for the Granite Club when pandemic restrictions are lifted. The family requests donations to the Alzheimer Society in lieu of flowers.

In an obituary published in the Star and Globe and Mail, the family wrote: “Mother always referred to Harold as the love of her life and sadly never seemed to be able to get past his passing. Yolanda was obviously a die-hard Toronto Maple Leaf fan to her death, and never missed the home opener.”





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