The Maple Leafs are back and it’s a brand new paradigm for the team. The best-of-five series against the Columbus Blue Jackets starts at 8:00 p.m. tonight and there’s a lot on the line; much more than access to the playoffs. This is a night to both prove they deserve to be there, and to be there for the long haul.

We’ll have our preview of tonight’s game out at noon.

What Else to Watch Today
(all times are EDT)

  • Coyotes @ Predators - 2:00 p.m. SN, SN360, USA, NHL.TV, FS-TN, FS-A
  • Flyers @ Bruins - 3:00 p.m. SN, TVAS, NBC
  • Blues @ Avalanche - 6:30 p.m. SN360, TVAS2, NBCSN, NHL.TV, ALT, FS-MW
  • Wild @ Canucks - 10:30 p.m. SN, NBCSN, NHL.TV, FS-N, FS-WI/

If you have any doubt about the power of winning game one in a shortened series like this, think about how the Oilers are feeling after they were obliterated yesterday afternoon by the Blackhawks. These short series can wrap up before any team can adjust or adapt to the other. Blowing the first game can seal your fate.

But there’s no space for relief from winning the first game either. William Nylander knows about this. He joined the Toronto Marlies in their 2014-15 season where they stormed into the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs and easily won the first two games of their series against the Grand Rapids Griffins. The AHL has had a first round best-of-five series for many years, and you would think winning the first two games would give you a lot of comfort.

But then the Marlies lost three in a row, and it was pretty devastating. The last game was in Grand Rapids and the Marlies lost it 4-1, ending their playoff run almost as fast as it started. Check out that video link if you want to remember some Leafs prospects from back in those days.

In short, anything can happen, but, damn do the Leafs ever need to come out strong tonight and win it. Here’s the final practice lines.

The Hockey Diversity Alliance made a powerful display yesterday at the start of the game in Edmonton. Matt Dumba’s speech was the highlight of the moment and, hopefully, only the start of a much broader effort during the NHL playoffs by the players to acknowledge the systemic racism the Hockey Diversity Alliance has noted and explained exists in both the league and the broader hockey community.

Hockey Diversity Alliance, NHL and HNIC team up to open the playoffs with anti-racist message

Other News

It was a rough start to the “playoffs”. First, we already have a potential suspension.

There actually is a penalty called here, but it’s against Ennis for Delay of Game for putting the puck over the glass. Ah NHL officiating is back.

Second, we have the first potential major injury. The Jets lost Mark Scheifele when Matthew Tkachuk’s skate comes up and perhaps cuts the back of his leg here.

Someone should probably call Eugene Melnyk and ask for a referral to a forensic investigator.

Sidney Crosby has already scored the most Crosby goal of the playoffs last night.

But that wasn’t enough and the Habs actually won the game. Ewww. Gross. But we got to laugh at Jonathan Drouin completely flubbing this penalty shot!

All in all, it was a fun first day back for hockey fans. Now the stakes are up as we aren’t only watching other teams win or lose. We’ll be watching ours.

The Leafs are winning tonight, right?

Yes. It’s a blow out in the making. They’ll win by at least three goals.39
Of course the Leafs will win! It will be by at least two goals.57
It will be a nail-biter and they’ll win by one goal.98
I have a bad feeling about this game.75