The Toronto Maple Leafs have yet to win a game since the trade deadline. Yet, their fans could not be more over the moon even in the face of the team's six-game losing streak.
There's a palpable excitement now surrounding the Maple Leafs organization. Gone are the familiar faces of David Clarkson, Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf as the team stripped itself bare over the last two seasons. With the biggest pieces moved, the Maple Leafs now fill their cupboards with their future talent that hopefully will one day usher in an era of success.
Though the Maple Leafs certainly aren't winning now, the kids -- as the quartet of Zach Hyman, Kasperi Kapanen, William Nylander and Nikita Soshnikov are being called -- have given Toronto fans a reason to smile. Their stints up from Toronto's AHL club might be short -- Kapanen has already been sent down after four games with the Leafs -- but they're certainly making the most of it.
It's only been a handful of games, but Nylander, Soshnikov and Hyman already have their first career NHL goals and are making big differences in the lineup.
Nylander's first back on March 5 was the tying score for Toronto in the first period of their game against Ottawa. Despite the 3-2 loss, the forward's goal helped spark some life in the Maple Leafs after an early deficit.
Four games prior to Monday, Soshnikov put the Maple Leafs on track to take the NHL-leading Capitals to a 2-2 tie in the third period. Toronto would again take a 3-2 defeat, but battling back to tie the league's best in Washington is no small feat.
Then on Monday, Hyman had his first as a Maple Leaf while showing us the textbook definition of a gritty, hard-working goal.
The Maple Leafs did not win this contest against the Sabres, either, falling, 4-3, in the gimmicky shootout. Even so, Toronto's season is already lost. They're dead last in the league with 53 points and have the best odds as the draft lottery winners. The Maple Leafs certainly have not outright embraced the tank, but it's hard to come up with a compelling reason for them to keep winning besides making the fan base happy in the short term.
Yet, they already are. Even getting just a glimpse of the magic their kids will bring in the years to come has lightened Toronto from a city where all fun came to die to one with a bright future. There will no doubt be a rocky transition period, but having the Maple Leafs back in the fold as possible contenders is not only good for Toronto, but for the hockey world as a whole.
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3 things we learned
1. Lightning streak snuffed out by a Ghost Bear
Shayne Gostisbehere is sure something, isn't he? With two of Philadelphia's four goals, the Flyers defenseman helped halt the Lightning's win streak just before it hit double digits. Now, the rookie has 14 goals and holds the Flyers' franchise record for a first-year blue liner. With 17 games left in the season, there looks to be no stopping the electrifying defenseman -- even the aptly named Tampa Bay Lightning.
2. Sharks troll Flames at the expense of a shutout
Calgary had some real false hope after scoring with less than two minutes left to tie it at one apiece against San Jose. Not only are the Sharks the best road team in the NHL by far -- with a 24-9-3 record -- but goaltender Martin Jones was having the night of his life with a 47-save performance. Joe Pavelski put the game away for the Sharks 2-1 just 19 seconds into overtime, but the night most definitely belonged to Jones -- who without a doubt deserved a shutout.
All Martin Jones, all night.— NHL (@NHL) March 8, 2016
3. Coyotes lose not only another game, but their best player
It's probably time to say goodbye to Arizona's playoff hopes. Though this injury to defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson doesn't look too serious, having their best player out for any stretch of time will make it even harder to make up a 10-point deficit. Eight losses in their last nine games doesn't help them out, either.
You're looking at history here, folks. Jaromir Jagr now holds sole possession of third place atop the NHL's all-time points scorers. Jagr netted his 1,851st point Monday night against the Bruins and is now 36 behind Mark Messier's second-place record.
Stat of the Night
Favorite stat from that piece: the Caps are 19-11-4 after giving up the 1st goal. No other NHL team is even close to .500 in that situation— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) March 7, 2016
And guess what? The Capitals won, again. This time beating the Ducks in the shootout, 2-1.