***BREAKING (6 p.m. EDT): The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired veteran forward Nick Foligno from the Columbus Blue Jackets. But, the club is still in need of goaltending insurance.***
LATE NOTE: Kyle Dubas filled his most–pressing need, late Sunday night, by acquiring goalie David Rittich from the Calgary Flames for a third–round draft pick. Exceptional work by the Maple Leafs GM.
MIKE FOLIGNO WON GAME 5 OF THE 1993 LEAFS–DETROIT FIRST–ROUND PLAYOFF SERIES
IN OVERTIME AT JOE LOUIS ARENA. CAN MIKE’S SON, NICK FOLIGNO PROVIDE SIMILAR HEROICS?
TORONTO (Apr. 11) — As of today, there is virtually no evidence the Maple Leafs cannot survive the North Division in the 2021 Stanley Cup tournament. By so doing, the club would be just one round from appearing in the Cup final for the first time since 1967. At the same time, the Leafs are a muscle pull removed from having Michael Hutchinson as their No. 1 goalie for the playoffs; such is the uncertainty of Frederik Andersen’s health and the recurrent groin ailment of record–setting Jack Campbell: 11–0–0 on the season. And, though Hutchinson has efficiently subbed for Andersen and Campbell (4–2–1 in eight starts), it’s a scenario the Maple Leafs must avoid.
General manager Kyle Dubas would therefore be wise to add an established stopper before tomorrow’s National Hockey League trade deadline. Dubas is normally active in the weeks prior to the deadline but is obviously being careful with such a prolific line–up. Auston Matthews leads the NHL with 31 goals; he and Mitch Marner are tied with Patrick Kane of Chicago at 52 points, trailing only Connor McDavid (69 points) and Leon Draisaitl (61) of Edmonton for the Art Ross Trophy. The Leafs have scored 139 goals for fourth place in the league, behind Colorado (142), Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh (141 each). And, for what it’s worth in a season limited to divisional play, Toronto, with 59 points, sits atop the 31–team NHL. Sandwiched around their lone slump of the schedule (1–6–0 from Mar. 4–19), the Leafs are an astounding 27–4–3. And while it remains a mystery whether the club can match up against such heavier opponents as Vegas and T–Bay, the Leafs and their fans would be happy to find out.
AUSTON MATTHEWS RECORDED A HATTRICK AND JACK CAMPBELL WON HIS NHL–RECORD 11th GAME FROM THE START OF A SEASON AS THE LEAFS EDGED OTTAWA, 5–4, AT SCOTIABANK ARENA SATURDAY NIGHT. TORONTO SITS ATOP THE NHL WITH 59 POINTS. TORONTO STAR PHOTO
Still, goaltending is a potential red flag.
It doesn’t appear as if Andersen is making progress recovering from his groin malady. It’s possible he has played his last game in a Toronto uniform. Campbell, the former Los Angeles King, is undoubtedly the No. 1 stopper right now, but has also been in and out of the line–up with a groin issue. Were he to relapse, Hutchinson would become the Leafs No. 1 man between the iron, with heaven–knows–who as back–up. The acquisition of a veteran such as Anaheim’s Ryan Miller (whose contract expires after this season) would therefore provide the club with some playoff insurance and experience. If Dubas were to aim higher, he might talk with Calgary about David Rittich, who can also become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Rittich, 28, is 4–7–1 with the disappointing Flames but won 51 games in the two prior years. The Leafs would be solid moving forward with a Campbell–Rittich tandem.
ON THIS DATE IN 1990…
HAROLD BALLARD, WHO OWNED THE MAPLE LEAFS FOR 18 MOSTLY DISASTROUS YEARS, DIED ON APR. 11, 1990. HE IS PICTURED, HERE, EXITING A CAR AND WAVING HIS CANE AT REPORTERS COVERING THE ASSAULT TRIAL OF SON, BILL BALLARD, ACCUSED OF PUNCHING HAROLD’S COMPANION, YOLANDA MacMILLAN (LEFT). UNDER BALLARD IN THE 1980’s, THE LEAFS BECAME A LAUGHINGSTOCK, PUTTING UP SUCH–MISERABLE POINT TOTALS AS 48 (WORST IN FRANCHISE HISTORY), 52, 56 AND 57. ONLY UPON HIS DEMISE COULD THE FRANCHISE MOVE FORWARD. CLIFF FLETCHER CAME IN FROM CALGARY ONE YEAR LATER AS PRESIDENT AND G.M. HE SIGNED PAT BURNS AS COACH; TRADED FOR DOUG GILMOUR, AND THE LEAFS — WITHIN THREE YEARS — MADE IT TO GAME 7 OF THE STANLEY CUP SEMIFINALS.
50 YEARS AGO TONIGHT
at Maple Leaf Gardens
STANLEY CUP QUARTERFINALS — GAME 4
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New York Rangers
The Toronto–New York Stanley Cup quarterfinal of April 1971 generated hockey lore when Vic Hadfield of the Rangers — during a bench–emptying brawl at Madison Garden in Game 2 — removed the mask of Leafs goalie Bernie Parent and tossed it among the spectators. Jacques Plante mopped up between the pipes and the visitors tied the series with a 4–1 victory. Back home for Game 3, the Leafs won again (3–1) to take their only lead in the best–of–seven affair. Game 4 was played at Maple Leaf Gardens, 50 years ago tonight, on Apr. 11, 1971.
I still have the program–insert in my collection.
The playoff wins over New York in Games 2 and 3 were the first two for the Leafs since winning the Stanley Cup on May 2, 1967. As such, the Gardens was in quite an uproar for the fourth match, as Toronto could have assumed a 3–1 stranglehold on the Rangers. New York, however, was the better team, as evidenced by a massive, 27–point edge (109–82) in the regular season. And, the visitors had control of Game 4 prior to the midway mark of regulation — Bob Nevin, Vic Hadfield and Dave Balon beating Bernie Parent for a 3–0 lead. Ron Stewart made it 4–0 at 18:10 (he and Nevin were former Leafs) before rookie Darryl Sittler, who apparently didn’t warrant a position note in the line–ups (below), put Toronto on the board with a powerplay goal at 19:33. Sittler scored again midway through the third period (his first two of 29 career playoff markers), but New York hung on for the 4–2 win to even the series. Goalie Ed Giacomin stopped 27 shots for the Rangers. Sittler and Giacomin drew minor penalties for slashing at one another late in the second period. New York had four players that won the Stanley Cup with the Leafs under Punch Imlach: Tim Horton (3), Nevin (8), Stewart (12) and Peter Stemkowski (21). Bill Friday officiated the match with linesmen Neil Armstrong and Willard Norris. New York won the fifth game at home (3–1) then eliminated the Leafs at the Gardens in Game 6 when Nevin beat Jacques Plante in overtime.
Boston had the top four point–producers in the regular season scoring race of 1970–71. Phil Esposito demolished Bobby Hull’s record of 58 goals and Bobby Orr became the first player to record triple figures in assists. The Bruins possessed seven of the top 11 point–getters and scored a record 399 goals, 108 more than Montreal. But, the Canadiens, backstopped by rookie goalie Ken Dryden, famously pulled off a seven–game upset of Boston in the opening playoff round. Montreal went on to beat Minnesota and Chicago for the 1971 Stanley Cup.