The Toronto Maple Leafs will have to wait until Thursday to kick off their run in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs but that delay may prove to be a huge benefit to the team.
According to a report from National Hockey League insider Chris Johnston, veteran defenseman Zach Bogosian was back out on the ice for Monday's practice with his teammates. This time around however Bogosian had shed his no-contact jersey, something that Johnston believes has the Maple Leafs "trending" towards a big return for Game 1 against long time rivals the Montreal Canadiens.
To be clear here Bogosian has not been officially cleared to play yet by the Leafs organization, at least not that we know of, but Johnston believes the progress he has made over the last few days does point towards his return to the lineup. Even if Bogosian does not suit up for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs it does now seem extremely likely that he will be ready to go at some point during the first round.
Bogosian has been out of action for nearly a month now, having last suited up for the Leafs all the way back on the 20th of April, after he suffered a shoulder injury that has kept him out of the lineup ever since. Prior to being injured Bogosian had made 45 appearances for the Leafs over the course of the regular season, picking up no goals and 4 assists for a combined total of 4 points and finished the regular season with a plus minus rating of +7.
Bogosian not only brings his talent to the blue line however, he also adds a level of grit that the Maple Leafs have in relatively short supply throughout their lineup. Although perhaps less important throughout the course of a regular season, that degree of toughness can prove vital over the course of a playoff series where wearing down your opponent can prove as valuable in the long run as putting up points on the scoreboard.
The Maple Leafs still have one practice left before they officially begin the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and I suspect that we may learn more regarding Bogosian's status then.
Photo Credit: Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI/Getty