Thursday, May 30, 2024

Remembering the most unlikely overtime hero in each NHL team's history

Ah, playoff overtime. It’s the best. Just pure adrenaline and/or terror, depending on your perspective, a universal experience so good that it inspired one of history three or four good tweets.

And then it ends. That’s part of the fun, especially if it’s a great goal scored by a worthy superstar. So far this year, we’ve had winners from big names like David Pastrnak, Artemi Panarin and Connor McDavid. We’re used to seeing that, with some of the most famous overtime goals in NHL history were scored by superstars like Bobby Orr, Brett Hull, Steve Yzerman and Wayne Gretzky.

Then again, not everyone gets to experience the thrill of being an overtime hero. Mario Lemieux never had a sudden death playoff goal. Neither did Gordie Howe, or Marcel Dionne, or Mark Messier, or (so far) Alexander Ovechkin.

That’s what makes it so beautiful when somebody you wouldn’t expect gets to join the club that Super Mario and Mr. Hockey never could. Today, let’s celebrate a few of those guys with a simple question: Who was the most unlikely overtime goal scorer in each team’s history?

Let’s remember some guys, who also happened to be OT heroes.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Who’s the frontrunner for the Conned Smythe, for worst trade with a Cup contender?

With just four teams left, the battle for the Conned Smythe Award is really heating up.

Yes, that’s the “Conned” Smythe, not to be confused with the far less prestigious Conn Smythe for playoff MVP. The Conned Smythe is a team award. Specifically, it goes to the team that made the dumbest trade with the biggest impact on the Stanley Cup winner. That trade could have been recent or a decade ago, but it had to have directly delivered a player who’s about to help the team win it all. (Deals for future picks and non-trade transactions are ineligible, a rule we passed because Wild fans were already sick of hearing about the Brayden Point thing.)

I’m not sure any of the four remaining teams can give us as many options as last year’s champs could, but there are some intriguing scenarios in play that would fit well with history’s other winners. I’ve got ten teams that are in contention for the honors, and we’ll count them down from weakest to strongest case.

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Monday, May 27, 2024

The 2024 NHL playoffs all-disappointment team: Mitch Marner, Elias Pettersson, more

We’ve made it to the conference finals, with four teams left and a dozen playoff losers already sulking on the sidelines. It’s time to let them all know that we’re not mad, just disappointed.

Well, that’s not completely true – we’re also mad, about everything, all the time, because that seems to be how the league likes it. But today, we’re going to focus on the second half of the equation, as we build out a 21-man roster of playoff disappointments.

As always, we’ll have a few ground rules. We’ll place a limit of two players per team, because I know you guys get mad when I write a piece that’s all about the Maple Leafs. And we’ll have a mandatory one-player-per-team rule, including the four that are still active. That’s always tricky, since it means there’s a good chance that somebody we call a bust will have a hat trick and the OT winner in their next game. Hey, not guts, no glory. (Yes, I do consider sitting on my couch and calling professional athletes disappointments to be a form of glory, thanks for checking.)

We’ll build from the net out, always a crowded field at this time of year, which is why we give ourselves a third slot. But I’m not sure anyone will disagree with our first pick…

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Friday, May 24, 2024

The playoffs’ final four teams: Lessons to learn (and what to avoid)

We’re down to four teams in the NHL playoffs, which means it’s time for the copycats to get to work.

We’re constantly told that this is a copycat league, one where teams look to the contenders to see what’s working, then steal that plan. Plagiarism for the win, or at least the .500 record. Yesterday, Shayna had some suggestions for what teams can learn from this year's success stories.

From a fan's perspective, that’s all well and good, as long as teams are borrowing the right ideas. That’s where we come in, with our annual attempt to guide the conversation in the right direction. As fans, we don’t mind a little bit of copying as long as it’s the fun ideas that are being stolen. What we don’t want is for teams to learn lessons that make this league more boring.

So today, we’ll continue our annual tradition of looking for three fun lessons from each of the remaining teams. And we’ll also find one that isn’t as much fun, and try to shoot it down early. We can’t stop NHL teams from copying off each other’s papers, but we can at least try to steer them in a more fan-friendly direction.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Revisiting the good, bad and awful from my oddly specific 2023-24 NHL predictions

Every year, right before the season starts, I get to write one of my favorite columns of the year: My oddly specific predictions. That’s the piece where I try to predict what will happen with alarming and frankly unnecessary specificity. I lay out one call for every team, some of you take notes and others just laugh at me, and a good time is had by all.

Do I ever get any right? Well, about that…

Somewhat surprisingly, I’ve had a few hits over the years. Not a ton, but at least enough that I can still show my face at the end of the year. Back in 2021, I called a season-opening two-goal game for a guy coming off a season where he’d had only one goal all year. In last year’s predictions, I told you the specific game that would see the Kings get their only misconduct of the year. And nothing will ever top my 2022 column, in which I predicted that a guy with zero career regular season goals would finally get his very first, then told you the exact game he’d do it in.

Those were all cool. Let’s not talk about the roughly 100 other predictions from those years.

As always, I’ll hold myself accountable by going through each and every prediction I made in this year’s column, which you can go back and read here. Will it be pretty? No. But will it be an embarrassing oh-fer? Only one way to find out…

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Monday, May 20, 2024

Matt Duchene's OT controversy was a message from the hockey gods to ditch replay

The symmetry was almost perfect.

In the history of the NHL’s foray into the world of replay review, there are two moments that stand out as crucial landmarks, the key signposts that pointed us towards where we wound up. The most recent came in 2013, when Colorado center Matt Duchene scored a goal despite being roughly a mile offside.

The play is, to this day, widely misunderstood. The linesman didn’t somehow miss the fact that Duchene was offside; rather, he thought that the Predators had directed the puck back into their own zone, which would negate an offside call. But the optics were terrible. Everything about the play looked wrong, up to and including Duchene’s muted celebration. He knew he’d gotten away with one, as did everyone watching. And eventualy, the confusion and frustration of such an obvious missed call coalesced around a seemingly easy solution: Why don’t we have replay review for these plays?

And now we do, and it’s awful, but hold that thought. Because for the other key moment, we have to go back even further. Now it’s the 1999 Stanley Cup final, and we’re in triple-overtime of Game 6. With the Sabres fighting to extend the series, Dallas star Brett Hull collects a rebound and scores the Cup winner.

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Thursday, May 16, 2024

Bruins-Panthers is an all-time great hate-watch series and I hope it never ends

The second-round series between the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers is, to a neutral observer, a puzzle without any hope of a satisfying solution, the sort of matchup that leaves fans of every other team exhausted and slumped over with their eyes rolled so far back into their own head that they can see into the past, where the only outcome that would feel like a win would be for Gary Bettman to announce the series over, declare both teams the loser, suspend everyone involved, and fold both franchises.

That's intended as a compliment, by the way.

No really, it is. An NHL postseason needs a lot of things to be truly great – an underdog, a juggernaut, a few OGWACs, and as much overtime as possible. But it also needs a great series between two teams that you can’t stand, because there’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned hate-watch.

This year, the hockey gods have delivered. Because man, this series, right?

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Tuesday, May 14, 2024

The one simple rule that explains goaltending in the NHL playoffs

Welcome to the NHL playoffs, where it’s all about goaltending.

It really is that simple, right? Sure, we like to pile on the narratives, arguing about which rosters have the most talent or experience or heart, sprinkling in subplots about who knows how to win or who wants it more. But most of the time, that’s just noise, and deep down we know it.

Want to know who’s going to win a playoff series? Figure out who’s going to get the better goaltending. There’s your winner.

Of course, that leads to an obvious follow-up: How do we know who’s actually going to get that better goaltending?

That’s a tougher question, but it’s one that shouldn’t be all that difficult to figure out. After all, we’re roughly four weeks into the postseason, meaning the 16 playoff teams have been handing the answer to us, one game at a time. If you’re a fan, all you have to do is observe. The rule reveals itself as you go.

This stuff just isn’t that complicated.

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Monday, May 13, 2024

Team Big Brother vs. Team Little Brother: Who wins a battle between NHL stars?

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, which was hopefully a pleasant day for you and your family and/or explains why your wife seems like she's mad at you today. It also seems like as good a day as any to honor all those hockey moms out there by tackling a simple question sent in by a reader.

Pekka L. wants to know: Who’d win, a team made up of NHL big brothers, or little brothers?

Sounds fun. But first, a few ground rules™:

- We’re building 21-man rosters, with four lines of forwards, three defense pairings and three goalies. We’ll try to slot in wingers with centers, but won’t get too hung up on position.

- To be eligible, a player must have a brother who played in the NHL for at least 100 games.

- I’m only going back to the Original Six era, because otherwise we wind up with a bunch of guys that a lot of you have never heard of. Apologies to the Cooks, Conachers and Cleghorns.

- In cases where three or more brothers all played in the NHL, the middle children will be ignored, which they should be used to.

You may have noticed that 100-game limit that we slipped in there. That takes out some big names like Wayne Gretzky (whose brother Brent played only 13 games), Gordie Howe (whose brother Vic played 33) and Patrick Roy (whose brother Stephane played 12). Maybe that feels arbitrary, or like it violates the spirit of the thing. But here’s the deal: If we don’t put that limit in, we’re not going to have a contest. Team Big Brother would absolutely destroy Team Little Brother. It wouldn’t be a contest. There are just a ton of NHL stars who had younger brothers show up for a cup of coffee and then disappear.

Why? I have two theories. The first is that older siblings are clearly superior to their coddled, snot-nosed little wannabes. But more importantly, I think there’s some clear cause-and-effect here, with teams over-drafting or signing younger brothers of star players in hopes that genetics will kick in. If you see a guy like Sergei Fedorov or Paul Kariya tearing up the league, why not roll the dice on their kid brother? It works sometimes, usually it doesn’t, and it screws up our contest if we don’t account for it. So yeah, a 100-game limit is in play.

This will be fun, because athlete brothers always enjoy a spirit of friendly competition and oh no it’s started already. Let’s build from the net out and see where this goes

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Friday, May 10, 2024

Who to trade, who to fire, and is there any hope? A "Leafs lose" DGB mailbag

It’s the second round of the playoffs, so it must be time for our annual “the Leafs were just eliminated” mailbag. This should be a million laughs, I can’t wait.

Note: Submitted questions have been edited for clarity and style.

Based on the one-way parasocial relationship between us as podcaster/listener, I hope you don't find it weird that my only real question is "are you okay?" – Danny B.

I am, thanks. Honestly, this one barely stung at all.

I once wrote a column about how difficult this version of the Leafs is to root for, and that was almost two full seasons ago. It’s fair to say it hasn’t got any easier. This is a talented group, but it’s not an especially likable one, especially when the story always ends the same way.

So yeah, my reaction to Game 7 was a lot closer to a shrug than a tantrum. (And if you don’t believe me, here’s Ian Mendes opening Monday’s podcast with a description of what it was like to watch the game with me.)

Honestly, this is pretty easily the least disappointment I’ve ever felt after a Leafs playoff loss, which is maybe not a great sign. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one, which is worse.

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Thursday, May 9, 2024

“We can and we will.” A history of how the Maple Leafs got here, in 12 quotes

“Obviously we’re looked upon as… you know, kind of gods here to be honest.” – Mitch Marner, May 2024

Did you enjoy the Maple Leafs’ final media day of the season, at least for players and coaches? I sure did. Nothing quite like being reminded over and over, by just about every player on the team, that they’re “close”. Always close, with these guys. Close to winning something, close to each other, close to making you throw your remote through the TV screen. So close!

This year, we got a memorable bonus quote from the current whipping boy, who decided this would be a good week to compare the players to deities. He’s not even wrong. The Toronto Maple Leafs players really are gods, in their own way. Then again, so was Oizys.

For the record, I don't think Marner's "gods" quote was especially controversial; I think we can all appreciate what he was going for, even if he might have preferred to have it come out a bit differently. And if Marner's sound bite was a bit awkward, at least it fit with a larger trend in Leafs land, where the team has spent the last few years leaving quote-based sign posts along to the road to wherever this is that they’ve wound up.

So today, as we wait for the implosion to truly start, let’s remember 12 sound bites that this team offered up during the Brendan Shanahan era, and how they ultimately add up to explain the way it all fell apart.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Was David Pastrnak fighting Matthew Tkachuk stupid or awesome? Yes.

Late in the third period of a game that his team was losing badly, David Pastrnak figured he’d had enough.

The Florida Panthers were pouring it on, having just scored their sixth goal of the night. They were going to win Game 2 and even the series. They were letting the Boston Bruins know about it too, with Matthew Tkachuk choosing the moment to show off his formidable trash-talking skills.

At some point, Pastrnak decided he’d handle it according to whatever version of hockey’s fabled Code was in effect in the moment. And that meant hand-to-hand combat.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Draft lottery power rankings: Who needs it, who deserves it, who is it rigged for?

We’re just a few hours from the moment when a barrel full of ping pong balls will determine the future of the NHL. Yes, there are better ways to determine a draft order, and even more entertaining options. But there’s something to be said for the simplicity of a lottery, and the dramatic tension of watching those cards flip over in real time.

It’s fair to say that hockey fans have learned to love lottery day… right up until they don’t.

That’s the gamble we’re all taking tonight. Whether your team is involved or not, you have your own ideas about who you’re rooting for or against, and the results may or may not match those hopes. By the end of the night, some fan base will be shopping for Macklin Celebrini jerseys, while others will be screaming about how unfair the whole thing is.

For now, let’s get calibrated with our annual draft lottery power rankings, in which we look at things from a few different angles.

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Sunday, May 5, 2024

Looking for a Maple Leafs mailbag, or not

Hey folks...

Should we do another "Leafs lose" mailbag? I'm honestly not sure I have one in me. But let's open it up and see what you've got, and maybe I'll feel inspired and/or so depressed that I won't care anymore. Send your questions, comments and rants via email at


Thursday, May 2, 2024

The Maple Leafs have come back. Now, for once, it's time to finally finish the job

With the obituaries already written and the pink slips all printed, the Toronto Maple Leafs have flipped the script. After dropping three of the first four games and losing their best player in the process, the Leafs have gutted out a pair of 2-1 wins to force the Bruins into a nightmare Game 7.

Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be.

The conventional wisdom is that this version of the Leafs team disappears when the going gets tough. But the conventional wisdom is wrong.

Never let facts get in the way of a narrative, I suppose, but let’s think back to some times during the Shanahan era when this Leafs team had their backs against the wall.

In 2018, against these same Bruins, a young Leafs team fell behind 3-1 in the series, outclassed and outscored 15-5 in the losses. They fought back, winning two straight to force a Game 7 back in Boston, then took a lead into the third period.

In 2020 against the Blue Jackets, they were facing elimination and trailing 3-0 with four minutes left. That’s as close to being done as you can get in the tight-checking NHL, but the Leafs didn’t quit, scoring three quick goals to force overtime, where Auston Matthews won it to force a deciding game.

In 2021 against Montreal, they watched their captain suffer a horrifying injury early in Game 1, then lost an understandably low-energy game. Rather than look shaken, they took over the series, winning three straight games and making the Habs look overmatched.

In 2022 against Tampa Bay, they played their worst game of the series in Game 4, losing an embarrassing 7-3 laugher that seemed set to tilt the series. They trailed heading into the third period of Game 5, but rallied back to win, taking a 3-2 series lead.

Even last year against Florida, trailing the series 3-0 and forced to give an inexperienced rookie his first career playoff start in a must-win, the Leafs played their best game of the series, grinding out a 2-1 road win to stay live.

The patten has been clear. Time and again, these Maple Leafs are counted out. And time and again, they defy expectations. They get back up off the mat. They look like a different team.

And then, well, you know what happens next.

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The 20 stages of an NHL playoff controversy

It’s the NHL playoffs. Do you know where your controversies are?

No, really, where are they? We’re most of the way through the first round, and we haven’t really seen anything crazy yet. Sure, we’ve had another round of the Matt Rempe discourse, and a distinct kicking motion debate, and the usual goalie interference questions, and the refs are all clearly out to get your favorite team. But compared to previous years, the NHL has made it through the first few weeks relatively unscathed when it comes to big-time controversy.

What does it mean? Probably that the hockey gods have something awful lined up for us. Probably soon. We’d better prepare.

NHL playoff controversies are all unique, like precious little snowflakes, although they typically fall into a handful of categories. There’s the (maybe) dirty hit. There’s the (maybe) missed call. There’s the (maybe) violation of The Code, which may also involve a dirty hit on which there’s a missed call.

One way or another, something is on the way, and we’re all going to be mad at each other about it. For now, we may as well prepare. So let’s get ready for the inevitable, with a quick reminder of the 20 stages of an NHL playoff controversy.

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