With the Boston Bruins dominating their playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs so far, it’s quite obvious the team needs to shore up their defense quite a bit more if they want to get back into the series. With the team’s defense having been a sticking point all season, it has been exposed even more by the Bruins.
What Toronto needs is to get defenseman Nikita Zaitsev to play like they need him to do, according to The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel (subscription required). The blueliner was not just on the ice Saturday for each of the Bruins’ four goals in the first period, but was part of each of the plays. Now in his second season, Zaitsev is still trying to prove that he is worthy of the seven year, $31.5MM deal he signed last summer. While he had a promising rookie campaign of four goals and 32 assists last year, his assists took a nosedive as he had just eight assists this year and a total of 13 points. And while his plus/minus rating has improved from a -22 to a +8 this year, his defensive play has not helped helped him in the playoffs. If the team has any chance of coming back, it must start with Zaitsev.
- The Los Angeles Kings not only get back defenseman Drew Doughty from suspension tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights, but the team also got the good news that defenseman Jake Muzzin will be back as well, according to Fox Sports Jon Rosen. Muzzin, who has missed the past seven games with an upper-body injury, is a key part to the team’s defense as the team attempts to fight back from an 0-2 deficit to Vegas.
- While Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, who took a hit from Philadelphi’s Claude Giroux Friday in Game 2, is considered a game-time decision for today’s game. Pittsbugh Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey writes coach Mike Sullivan revealed that Letang did not have to go through concussion protocol Friday when he was injured during the game. The veteran defenseman missed all of the playoffs last year on the Penguins’ Stanley Cup run.
- Tarik El-Bashir of NBC Sports writes that center Jay Beagle and defenseman Michal Kempny are both expected to play Sunday. Both players have played key roles behind the scenes in Washington who hopes to even their series with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Beagle, a faceoff specialist, was badly missed in Game 1 after the Capitals lost 10-of-11 draws in the third period. He has missed four straight games with an upper-body injury. Kempny was hit from behind by Columbus’ Josh Anderson in Game 1, but did not suffer a concussion.