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From The Branches: It's Crunch Time

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Seven games left in the regular season, and nobody's stressed out at all!

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Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, PPP!

Last night, there were only four NHL games, none of which have any effect on the Maple Leafs' grip of the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. Before tonight's fun of watching the Maple Leafs play Nashville, while chewing our fingernails and looking nervously at the league scoreboard, let's take a moment to address another important issue: Auston Matthews' social calendar.

Everett in Waterloo speaks for Leafs Nation. While the playoffs are important, I think we can all agree that Matthews has an equally important event to attend.

In Case You Missed It

Playoff probability: Do you believe in magic? - Pension Plan Puppets
Is it the Fates that rule us, or someone else entirely?

Six points in five games: Closer to the goal - Pension Plan Puppets
The Leafs have their second eight point set at just the right time.

Women's Hockey Wednesday: They persisted - and they won - Pension Plan Puppets
The USWNT has triumphed and it's game on for Worlds.

Mailbag: On the best Leafs hug, Quidditch being bad, the playoffs, and more - Pension Plan Puppets
All that and more in the latest mailbag.

Maple Leafs News

Wednesday Practice: Mike Babcock, Frederik Andersen, Matt Martin, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews | Maple Leafs Hotstove
Babcock: "Wendel is a guy who I’ve known since he was a kid. A great ambassador for the Leafs. It’s great for Matty to be mentioned in the same kind of sentence with him, and also a sign of things to come."

Mirtle: Already the Maple Leafs’ best player, Auston Matthews should be their next captain – The Athletic
Mike Babcock had met Auston Matthews before, in the bowels of Joe Louis Arena, back in November of 2014.

Chelios: 'No veteran free agent' wants to play for Mike Babcock - Sportsnet.ca
Hall of Fame defenceman Chris Chelios: "I'm telling you: No veteran free agent is going to want to come in and play for Mike Babcock." (warning for autoplay)

Other Hockey News

A Look Into the Oilers Declining Possession Numbers - The Copper & Blue
Now that the Oilers have clinched a playoff spot, the question is how far can they possibly go.

Detroit Red Wings' playoff streak was great, but what now?
'Detroit has some pieces, they just need to spruce up in some areas,' says Scotty Bowman.

NHL will release teams’ protected, available Vegas expansion draft lists - The Globe and Mail
The league announced the decision on Twitter despite NHL general managers expressing a desire to keep the lists private

University of North Dakota cuts women's ice hockey program - The Ice Garden
This is sad garbage.