The Weekender: December 19th

The Weekender: December 19th

    495

    In the second installment of The Weekender, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at the week that was in Leafs Nation, previews the week’s games, and goes around the league.

    The Week That Was

    On Tuesday night the Toronto Maple Leafs made their return to Western Canada, kicking off a three game swing against the Edmonton Oilers.  Following an embarrassing loss at the hands of the Oilers a few weeks before, and comments by Taylor Hall that, whether they came out wrong or not, seemed to fire up the visitors, the Maple Leafs brought their game to Edmonton and skated to a 4-1 victory.  Dion Phaneuf, who was a big storyline of the Western trip, opened the scoring for the Leafs with his first of the season.  Mikhail Grabovski, Kris Versteeg, and Phil Kessel also tallied for the Leafs.  Jordan Eberle was the lone Oilers goal scorer.  Maple Leafs goalie J.S. Giguere got the win, stopping 23 shots.

    Thursday saw the Maple Leafs battle Alberta’s other NHL team, the Calgary Flames.  Unfortunately for Toronto, they were unable to duplicate their success of only a few nights ago.  The Leafs fell 5-2 to the Flames at the Saddledome, and their undoing? A mere 57 seconds.  Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen, and Rene Bourque all scored in less than a minute in what turned out to be the turning point of the hockey game.  Mikael Backlund and Niklas Hagman also scored for Calgary.  Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski scored the goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Goaltender J.S. Giguere took the loss, allowing four goals on 24 shots.  He was replaced for the third period by Jonas Gustavsson, who stopped eight of nine shots faced.

    Saturday the Maple Leafs wrapped up the Western Canadian swing with a match-up against Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks.  While the Maple Leafs were, at times, able to carry the pace of the game, they were beaten by the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Hockey Night In Canada.  Mikhail Grabovski scored the lone goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Jonas Gustavsson stopped 25 shots, taking the loss.

    Player Of The Week

    For the second straight week, Mikhail Grabovski takes home player of the week honours.  Grabovski scored another three goals this week, and along with Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur, has been one of Toronto’s most consistent forwards of late.

    Quotables

    “I don’t know why there would be any negative (reaction),It wasn’t my choice to move. Like I said, I had a lot of great times there and I made a lot of great friends out there.”–Leafs Captain Dion Phaneuf on his return to Calgary.

    “We dug in and got the job done, For us, every game is so important.”–Leafs head coach Ron Wilson on the effort in Edmonton.

    Final Thoughts On The Week That Was

    It was a rough end to the Western road swing for the Maple Leafs, especially bitter following the way it began.  A spirited 4-1 win over Edmonton saw hopes perhaps renewed that the Leafs would be able to string together a nice stretch of hockey before the Christmas break.  However, 57 seconds in Calgary unravelled their game against the Flames, and a solid effort in Vancouver wasn’t enough for the Leafs to snatch a victory against the Canucks.  The team played well in Vancouver, but a few defensive lapses was all it took for the ‘Nucks to take two points.

    The Week Ahead

    The Toronto Maple Leafs will head into this week with just one game on the schedule before the Christmas break.  On Monday night they welcome the Atlanta Thrashers to town.  Atlanta has been one of the NHL’s hottest teams lately, and are a team that always seem to play Toronto competitively.  As of this writing, Atlanta is 6-2-2 in their last ten games.  Their offensive attack has been paced by two newcomers to the team.  Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has 33 points in 34 games, while team captain Andrew Ladd has 29.

    Following the Christmas break the Maple Leafs will return to action on boxing day, traveling to New Jersey to battle the Devils.  One of the biggest surprises of this NHL season, and not in a good way, the Devils are 2-8-0 in their last ten games, and sit just two points up on the last place New York Islanders.  It has been a disastrous season for the Devils by any stretch.  Patrik Elias is leading the team in points, with a respectable 22 points in 30 games this season.  The Devils have a team worst 1.77 goals for, and their leading goal scorer is Jason Arnott, who has nine.

    Name The Player…

    I was born in Cambridge, Ontario

    I played for the St. Michael’s Majors of the OHL

    I was drafted twice.  The first time through I wasn’t signed, so I re-entered.  I was drafted again by the same team who called my name the first time.

    Find The Answer Below

    30 Teams, 30 Thoughts

    Anaheim: Bobby Ryan scoring a goal with Mikko Koivu’s stick-which happened to also be the wrong hand-was one of the more bizarre things I have ever seen in my years of watching hockey.  The Ducks are currently on a seven game road trip that wont see them return home to California until New Years Eve.  The Ducks are 6-8-3 away from the Honda Center this season.

    Atlanta: As I wrote last week, the Thrashers continue to be one of the surprising teams of the season, but is anyone in Atlanta noticing?  The Thrashers, despite their stellar play of late, are still having trouble with attendance, and have even resorted to mascot stealing zamboni tactics to drum up sales.  The mascot for Atlanta is in “jail” until they sell more tickets.  Surprisingly, he was actually freed last night after the Thrashers nearly packed the arena in Atlanta.

    Boston: Tyler Seguin recently spent time in the press box as a healthy scratch.  After a decent stretch of hockey, Seguin is struggling of late, and found himself out of favour with head coach Claude Julien.  However, the Bruins were adamant that sending Seguin to play for Team Canada at the World Juniors was out of the question.

    Buffalo: The Sabres are sliding during a swing through the sunbelt, and are getting set to embark on a lengthy road trip.  The Sabres will be kicked out of the home as the 2011 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship emanates from Buffalo.  The Christmas break will dissect it, but it’s still could be a daunting task for the Sabres, who are 6-7-3 on the road.

    Calgary: The Flames are playing better as of late, putting talks of a shakeup on the back burner for the time being.  Jarome Iginla is playing like a man possessed for the Flames.  The Canadian born winger is on pace for yet another 30 plus goal season, which if he accomplishes, will give him ten consecutive years of reaching the mark.

    Carolina: The Canes are 6-2-2 in their last ten, turning up their level of play as the NHL enters the Christmas break.  Eric Staal is back playing like the Eric Staal fans of Carolina came to know and love, and that’s bad news for the rest of the league.

    Chicago: Did fans of Chicago really boo Chris Chelios on his own appreciation night?  Is that a first for the NHL?  Chelios, a fierce competitor, wasn’t the most liked person on and off the ice at times throughout his career, and perhaps resentment remains for Chelios suiting up for the rival Red Wings.  The Hawks are 6-3-1 in their last ten, but sit in 10th place in the ultra competitive Western Conference.  First to 13th is separated by only 11 points.

    Colorado: As if you couldn’t love Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny any more, what with their slick goal scoring and exciting play making.  The duo have also taken to celebrating a la How I Met Your Mother, and that’s hard not to like if you ask me.

    Columbus: The Jackets are on a three game losing streak, and have struggled to find consistency this season.  The one aspect of the team that has been consistent?  Team captain Rick Nash.  Nash is hot, with eight points in his last six games.  He is also on pace for a 45 goal season, which would be a career high.

    Dallas: It wasn’t the most popular decision when the Dallas Stars announced they would be moving on, deciding not to bring back veterans Mike Modano and Marty Turco.  And while fans in Dallas still miss the two, there is no doubt that the moves have benefitted the Stars for the better.  Dallas sits just two points out of top spot in the conference, and goalie Kari Lehtonen, signed to take over for Turco, has sparked with a .914 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.64

    Detroit: The Red Wings visit the previously mentioned Dallas Stars, with first in the conference on the line, as the Stars can grab a share of top spot, held by Detroit.  The Wings will be looking for a solid effort at The Joe this afternoon.  Not only will they want to have a good showing against the Stars, but goaltender Chris Osgood is one win away from joining the 400 win club.

    Edmonton: Look, let’s be honest.  In today’s sports world, with all the cameras, microphones, blogs, and youtube, it’s more or less a given that something may slip, or be taken in a way it wasn’t meant to be taken.  Taylor Hall knows that all too well.  While he may have slipped on his wording when essentially calling the Leafs an easy team, the Leafs apparently didn’t take it too light, making things hard on Hall this past Tuesday night, including Kris Versteeg, who leveled the rookie as he was cutting across the ice.

    Florida: The Panthers are 5-5-0 in their last ten, and that just about sums up their season to date.  The team has struggled with inconsistency at home and on the road.  Former Maple Leafs defenseman Bryan McCabe has found a home on the Panthers blueline.  In his third season with the Cats, he is knocking on the door of another 40 point campaign.

    Los Angeles: While the Kings have played good hockey so far this season, one key member of their team is struggling to produce points.  Blueliner Drew Doughty, who is no question one of the best young defenders in the league, is on pace for a mere 3 goals at the moment, which would be the lowest total of his NHL career.

    Minnesota: The Wild continue to struggle through the season, taking one step forward and two steps back it seems as the season progresses.  Patrick O’Sullivan, re-acquired this past offseason, has just five points in 21 points.

    Montreal: The Canadiens are set to embark on a seven game road trip, which may turn out to be a crucial portion of the season.  The Canadiens are 7-6-0 on the road, compared to 12-5-2 at the Bell Centre.

    Nashville: Nashville is so hot right now they’re nearly untouchable.  8-1-1 in their last ten for the Predators, who are getting balanced scoring all around.  The contributions of Anders Lindback add to the long list of goaltenders that continue to give Nashville playoff quality goaltending year after year.

    New Jersey: Things are bad in New Jersey.  Like really bad.  So bad in fact, Ilya Kovalchuk just may wish to go back to Atlanta.  Yeah, that bad.  The Thrashers hammered the Devils last night, 7-1, dropping the Devils to 2-8-0 in their last ten, and in danger of falling to last spot in the Eastern Conference, and the entire National Hockey League.

    New York Islanders: The Islanders are once again out in the wilderness for another season.  A disastrous one win November also saw them make a coaching change, but that’s about all that changed.  The Isles are a nasty 2-11-3, and the whole situation is quite sad when you think of the yesteryears of Mike Bossy, Billy Smith, Bryan Trottier and the dynasty gang.

    New York Rangers: The Rangers are 6-4-0 in their last ten, and have been one of the surprise teams as far as I am concerned.  One of those six wins in their last ten included a 7-0 pasting of the Washington Capitals.  Henrik Lundqvist continues to be one of the top goalies in the league.

    Ottawa: The Sens are 3-4-3 in their last ten, and have one of the worst goal differentials in the Eastern Conference.  Alfredsson was able to escape his slump, but it hasn’t been enough for Ottawa so far, who aren’t getting enough from the supporting cast.

    Philadelphia: Is this the Eastern Conference’s best team?  While the Penguins have gotten a lot of the headlines, and rightfully so, the Flyers have put together a sparkling season, including a run of 7-1-2 in their last ten.  They currently have a five game win streak, and are firing on all cylinders, though the loss of Chris Pronger, out for roughly a month, will be tough to overcome, and will test their depth.

    Phoenix: Phoenix has slipped out of the top eight in the West at the moment, but with the parity in that conference bunching things up, it really doesn’t mean all that much at the moment.  It’s been a balanced attack in Phoenix as well, with 13 skaters in double digits points wise.  The Coyotes though do not have a goal scorer with more than nine goals.

    Pittsburgh: The Penguins had their win streak snapped by the Flyers, and have since dropped two straight.  Still, they’re putting together a truly dominant season, and proving to be perhaps as dangerous as ever.  Sidney Crosby’s point streak has reached a ridiculous 20 games, and with the Winter Classic fast approaching, the exposure of Sid will only become more intense, including starring in HBO’s 24/7 series, and a spot on The Price Is Right.

    San Jose: Every team but one from the Pacific Division would be in the playoffs if they were to start today (with Phoenix being the one that isn’t.)  It hasn’t been easy for the Sharks this season, but they are stringing together solid efforts and the results are beginning to come.  6-3-1 in their last ten, the Sharks are beginning to make noise in the West.  Devin Setoguchi, with just ten points this season, is a major concern for the team however.

    St. Louis: The Blues are 10-3-2 at home, making the Scotttrade Center their domain thus far this season.  The team has struggled as of late, but still have a real solid foundation of young, talented players.  In the Maple Leafs seemingly continuous search for a third line centre, it’s worth noting that Alexander Steen has 20 points in 31 games, including four game winners.

    Tampa Bay: The Lightning have seen great improvement under Guy Boucher and Steve Yzerman, and sit in the mix for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.  Like the Blues, the Lightning make trips to Tampa difficult.  They have a record of 9-2-2 at the St. Pete Times Forum.  He may have slowed down a little bit, but Steven Stamkos is still on pace for 63 goals this year.

    Toronto: The Maple Leafs are likely very concerned about the recent injury to J.S. Giguere, and perhaps they should be.  His third groin injury within a span of a month may be detrimental to the team.  The team can rest easy with Jonas Gustavsson starting, but they may have to look at a permanent back-up option for The Monster if the injury to Giguere is significant.

    Vancouver: The Canucks have won eight of their last ten, and are putting together another solid season in the Western Conference.  Roberto Luongo has overcame a slow start and has lowered his goals against average every month thus far.

    Washington: Yikes.  The Capitals are sliding and fast.  First in the conference just a few short weeks ago, the Capitals are in the danger zone, sitting in seventh place.  A record of 2-6-2 in their last ten certainly doesn’t help.  Things are getting frustrating for Washington, as shown by Bruce Boudreau’s tirade that was captured by HBO for the 24/7 documentary which debuted this week.

    Name The Player Answer:

    This week’s Name The Player answer is Tim Brent.  Brent was originally drafted by the Ducks in 2002, but didn’t sign with the team in time, and re-entered the 2004 draft.  In the 2004 draft, he was once again picked by the Anaheim Ducks.

    Just a reminder that there will be no Weekender next weekend, as I will be breaking to enjoy the Christmas Holidays.  On behalf of myself and everyone at Maple Leafs Hot Stove, I want to take this time to wish you and yours a healthy, happy holiday season.

    Questions?  Comments?  Email me at [email protected]

    Follow me on Twitter Here