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The Edge of Lori: Let the games begin

By Lori Bennett

Sports Columnist

NHL Noise

After splitting games at home, the Toronto Maple Leafs headed to Tampa Bay to continue their series against the Lightning. Friday’s game (May 6) was closer than the 5-2 score indicated, but the Leafs won Game 3. On Sunday, May 8, the Lightning pummeled the Leafs to the tune of 7-3 and tied the series at two. In a regrettable performance, the Leafs looked a little too content with one road win.

On Tuesday, the waters looked choppy for Toronto when the Lightning took an early lead. Down 2-0 at the end of the first period, the Leafs needed to shake things up. A rousing intermission speech from veteran Jason Spezza got them back on track. The Leafs outscored Tampa 4-1 in the final two periods, with Auston Matthews scoring the game winner in a 4-3 victory.

The Leafs were headed back to Tampa for game 6 with a chance to win their first playoff series since 2004.

Once again, they got down by two goals early, but a goal from Matthews and two from Captain John Tavares had them leading after two. Then halfway through the third period, Nikita Kucherov tied the game. A nail-biter overtime was necessary, and late in the period Braydon Point won the game for Tampa Bay.

The seventh and deciding game was scheduled for Saturday night, and that’s where press deadline left us – wondering if the Leafs could exorcise the Game 7 demons.

The Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings also split games last weekend in California, after heading there locked up at one game apiece.

On Friday the Oilers took a series lead with a convincing 8-2 win. Evander Kane’s hat trick and a pair of goals for both Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were more than the Kings could handle. On Sunday the Kings stormed back and tied the series with a 4-0 win.

On Tuesday, it was an overtime goal from Adrian Kempe that led the Kings to a 5-4 win to take the series lead. Then on Thursday, facing elimination, Kane scored another pair of goals in a 4-2 win to tie the series. The final game was scheduled for Saturday.

The Calgary Flames headed to Dallas last Saturday, with the series tied at one. Joe Pavelski scored two to lead the Stars to a 4-2 victory and a 2-1 series lead. The Flames needed the win on Monday’s Game 4, and they did not disappoint. The eventual game winner came on a third period penalty shot from Johnny Gaudreau and the final score was 4-1.

On Wednesday the Flames found a new level in the third period and it was three goals from depth players that secured a 3-1 win, and a 3-2 series lead heading back to Dallas on Friday.

Elsewhere in the NHL, the Nashville Predators became the first team eliminated from the 2021-22 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Colorado Avalanche completed the sweep on Monday night. On Thursday, the St. Louis Blues eliminated the Minnesota Wild to move on to the second round.

Round 2 matchups are set and the NHL playoffs are heating up along with the weather!

The NHL Draft Lottery took place on Tuesday night, May 10. The balls dropped and it was the Montreal Canadiens who won the number one pick for the 2022 Amateur Draft. It will be the Habs sixth first overall pick in franchise history.

The last time they picked first was in 1980, a draft that featured hall of famers Denis Savard, Larry Murphy, Paul Coffey, and Jari Kurri. The Canadiens selected Doug Wickenheiser, who was a fine player, but can only be considered a miss with the others who were ultimately selected by other teams.

The draft is being held in Montreal on July 7-8, and the new Canadiens management group will want to make a big splash to jumpstart their journey back to top-team status. While this draft does not feature a generational talent like a Crosby or a McDavid, most scouts agree that Centre Shane Wright of the Kingston Frontenacs is the best player available at this year’s draft.

Toronto was the last host team to have the top pick, in 1985, when they selected Wendel Clark.

Blue Jays Babble

Last weekend the Toronto Blue Jays were in Cleveland to face the Guardians, and their showing was not impressive. They lost the opener on Thursday, were rained out on Friday, split the double header on Saturday, and lost again on Sunday. The Blue Birds are showing signs of a tough schedule to open the season.

The Jays had Monday off before heading to New York for a twogame series against the Yankees. On Tuesday, it was a ninth inning 3-run homer from Aaron Judge that handed the Jays a 6-5 loss. Then on Wednesday, second basement Gleyber Torres was Toronto’s nemesis, driving in all five Yankees runs in a 5-3 loss for the Blue Birds. This was the first series sweep of the season for the Jays.

Frustration is growing in Toronto, with the Jays having an annoying habit of leaving runners stranded. Before we panic, we should consider the challenging schedule to open the season. The Boys in Blue had a rest day on Thursday and were headed to Tampa Bay for a three-game series against the Rays this past weekend. They were 17-15 and in third place in the American League East heading to Florida.

It’s possible your Monday mood has everything to do with how the guys from Toronto fared against their Floridian opponents on the weekend!

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