TORONTO -- We're on hand at the Air Canada Centre for Game Six of the Leafs-Bruins series (tonight at 7:30) and I'm wondering if we're way-way-way overdue for one of those into-the-night marathon playoff games that people talk about for a long time.
Last night's Pittsburgh-Islanders game was the 16th overtime contest of the first round -- tying the record for a round set last year. Former East Amherst product Brooks Orpik scored the game winner at 7:48 and you can watch the video above.
But none of the 16 games have gone past the first OT. Only two have gone past 15 minutes and just five have gone past 10 minutes (Boston's David Krejci scored at 13:06 to win Game Four of this series here on Wednesday night. Five have lasted less than three minutes.
The average in total is just a shade over eight minutes. Sure, there's some great players on the ice but I can say no superstar has scored an OT goal yet. I point to bad goaltending and there's been plenty of it in the postseason so far. We'll see what happens here tonight, and whether Tuukka Rask and James Reimer can stretch a tie game deep into the night.
Toronto will be without one of its more potent offensive weapons when it visits Buffalo tonight.
The NHL has suspended Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul for two games for a hit to the head of Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman on Wednesday night. The first game will be against the Sabres in First Niagara Center.
"Lupul approaches from the side and recklessly targets Hedman's head by elevating and making it the principal point of contact," the NHL department of player safety said in its suspension video.
Lupul, who has missed most of the season with a broken arm, has three goals and four points in five games. The suspension will cost him $45,945.94.
TORONTO -- Click below to watch the pregame meetings with the media for Sabres interim coach Ron Rolston and Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, who spoke on Lindy Ruff's firing beginning at about the three-minute mark.
TORONTO -- The biggest unknown for tonight's game between Buffalo and Toronto is how the Sabres will respond to the firing of coach Lindy Ruff.
Will they be fired up and eager to show they can play?
Will they be too stunned to perform?
Will they just keep shuffling along as they've been doing and play like a 27th-place club?
The Maple Leafs are banking on the first option.
"Especially with a new coach coming in, they're going to be fired up and want to show him what they've got," forward Nazem Kadri said today in Air Canada Centre.
The Leafs have their own motivation: to make the playoffs. They haven't reached the postseason since 2004, but they are in position now. They are tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference with 20 points from a 10-7 record. They are 5-2 in the last seven games.
Now they just have to hold off the Sabres.
"We know they're going to come hard," center Tyler Bozak said. "There's a lot of season left."
Matt Frattin burns Jordan Leopold and Ryan Miller for the OT winner. (AP)
By Mike Harrington
The Sabres are off today, a concession to the new CBA that mandates far more time away from the ice than the old one. No way -- and I mean no way -- Lindy Ruff would have taken today off in the past. There are too many things to work on.
So the team is off to Boston later today and I'll be heading to the airport late this afternoon as well, with the next time on the ice coming at 11:30 a.m. Thursday for the morning skate in TD Garden. Still shaking my head about last night's 4-3 overtime loss to Toronto. Lots of little nuggets percolating in my mind:
Veteran defenseman Mike Komisarek was victimized by Marcus Foligno on the memorable Jordan Leopold goal late in regulation that tied the Toronto Maple Leafs' last visit to Buffalo in April. Relive the crazy video above. There won't be any rematch of Komisarek-Foligno battles tonight.
It hasn't been a happy start for Phil Kessel. (Photo from Twitter feed @PKessel81)
By Mike Harrington
As the Toronto Maple Leafs hit town for tonight's game against the Sabres, I'm still pondering this column in Monday's Toronto Star by veteran columnist Damien Cox.
Cox said the Leafs should trade winger Phil Kessel, who has no goals in five games, and not trade away their first-round pick next season (former GM Brian Burke, remember, traded their top pick in 2010 to Boston for Kessel and the Bruins turned the choice into Tyler Seguin.).
Maybe this doesn't happen until the trade deadline April 3 but it's sure an interesting scenario, given the fact Kessel is clearly Toronto's No. 1 player.
Speaking of the Leafs, here's a report from their practice Monday. Ex-Sabre Clarke MacArthur sounds doubtful due to a lacerated pinky (ouch). Meanwhile, captain Dion Phaneuf is shaking his head trying to figure out how he went minus-7 over the last two games as the Leafs dropped both, allowing 12 goals in the process, to join the Sabres at 2-3.
The Canadiens are keeping No. 3 overall pick Alex Galchenyuk. (Getty Images)
By Mike Harrington
The Sabres are still up in the air with Mikhail Grigorenko even though the decision to keep him in the NHL seems like a no-brainer from this view. He's talented, he's creative and he plays center -- an area this team is woefully thin at. You want to see Grigorenko or Matt Ellis? You want them to force Ville Leino back to center, as Lindy Ruff mused about today? Please.
Keep the kid.
Still, it's only been 50-50 among other NHL teams about keeping key junior eligibles or sending them back. Here's a quick rundown:
John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, is in his sixth season covering the Buffalo Sabres. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.