Monthly Archives: November 2011
A spirited rivalry brewing? I swear, in 50 years time we will still be talking about the Kessel trade. Who won the trade? Who cares? All I know is we have Kessel, we love Kessel, and Seguin is a Bruin. We donâ€™t like the Bruins. All I want to know is, who poked the friggin’ Bear?
Photo: STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR
The hungover defending Stanley Cup champs won only four games in the first month of the season, and two of them came against the Leafs. Now, the Bears have woken up out of their post-Cup win hibernation and only the Leafs stand between them and a pretty much perfect month of November. Aside from one shootout loss to Detroit, the Boston Bruins have rattled off eleven wins in the month, and the once-last placed team in the Conference now have top spot in the Northeast Division (and beyond) well within their sights. The Bruins trail the Leafs by a point and have two games in hand.
The Bruins have certainly had the Leafs’ number so far this season, beating them by a collective 13-2 score over two outings, but the Leafs look to be an improved team as well since their Oct. 20 and Nov. 5 meetings. Both of those games came in the midst of a goaltending crisis, when Gustavsson and Scrivens were struggling to put a claim on the net in Reimer’s absence. Four straight wins for a more composed looking Gustavsson has somewhat eased those concerns as we await Reimer’s return to the crease.
Photo: JP Dhanoa/Oye! Times
Photo: JP Dhanoa/Oye! Times
With the Leafs only playing two games this week, I headed out to the Ricoh Coliseum and took in a Marlies game. I don’t know how consistently I’ll be going to the games and talking about the Marlies, but it worked out last night and I thought it was worthwhile. Plus, their obviously an important part of the entire organization and are always worth discussing.
If you live in Toronto, I highly recommend you go watch a Marlies game (or two, or three…). It’s a cozy rink that just feels like a hockey arena, whereas the ACC seems more of like a giant building where events happen. Beyond the Ricoh being a great place to take in a hockey game, the atmosphere is fun. There’s a lot of energetic fans, it’s surprisingly loud and everyone gets into the game.
Photo: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press
There is no understating the importance of tonightâ€™s game at all.Â With a win tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be in a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with 32 points.Â Riding a three game winning streak, the Leafs have gone from looking like pretenders to the real deal in the East, giving them a possible seven-point cushion on ninthÂ place if they can pull off a victory.Â Itâ€™s just a shame that they have to go up against the defending Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins, who look to be in post season form.Â The Beantowners will head into Toronto just one point behind the Buds and two games removed from a tenthÂ straight win.
Photo: Graig Abel Photography
Over the weekend, the Marlies swept a back-to-back against the first-placed Eastern Conference team, the St. John’s IceCaps. They now sit first in the North Division with Â 27 points and a 12-5-2-1 record. With Joe Colborne and Joey Crabb making positive contributions with the big club, the likes of Nazem Kadri, Marcel Mueller and Mike Zigomanis have stepped up and filled the offensive void. Meanwhile, Mark Owuya and Jussi Rynnas continue to perform well between the pipes in Ben Scrivens’ absence. The Maple Leafs lead the Northeast, the Marlies lead their division, and the quality organizational depth Brian Burke and his management team have assembled is shining through as we approach December. It’s a good time to be a Toronto hockey fan. Your weekly Marlies release:
“The Marlies went 2-0-0-0 in their two games last weekend. Jeff Finger scored the overtime winner with 29 seconds remaining in regulation time on Friday night to lift the Marlies past the IceCaps, 4-3. Nazem Kadri factored in on each of the Marlies goals, registering four points (two goals, two assists); while Mark Owuya won his third straight game, making 29 saves. The Marlies power play clicked twice, with Mike Zigomanis recording assists on both of the man-advantage tallies.
Photo: Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
Photo: Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
Somewhere in one of my post Boston Game In 10s I advocated changes to the lineup. A bigger forward on the top line to improve our offensive zone cycles and puck retrieval and have also criticized Wilson for not having a good transition game which partially stemmed from our back end and the inability to make that first pass out of the defensive zone.
Well, I donâ€™t know if you can say that Burkeâ€™s original plan wasnâ€™t/isnâ€™t to bring in a top line forward with size, especially since thatâ€™s what the organization and numerous panelists slated as our No1 need prior to the season. But what you can say is that changes did happen, even if they werenâ€™t exactly by design. Strange as this seems, injuries proved to be a blessing in disguise.
Personally, I thought the changes had to be made via trades. And, I was wrong, but was hardly the only one. How many people really thought those much needed changes could come from inside the organization?
Glove tap to Mislav for the new Notebook graphic.
Something very interesting is unfolding with the Toronto Maple Leafs and it has nothing to do with anything they’ve done on the ice, or any of their players for that matter.
On November 19th, Brian Burke joined his friend and co-worker Ron Wilson by entering the Twitter world. They then proceeded to have a now-notorious exchange with Sun reporter Steve Simmons. The interesting thing here is not the exchange – that was immature, pitiful, funny, take your pick – what’s intriguing is the new dynamic Twitter is creating and the paradigm shift that is beginning to take place.
Now, I should preface this by saying that maybe Brian Burke and Ron Wilson simply got Twitter because they want to interact with the fans and they think it’s fun, maybe they are naive to the potential long term ramifications here and the trend they could be starting. But then again, Ron Wilson is a Providence College graduate and Brian Burke has a degree from Harvard, so they probably put some thought into this.
A game with trade written all over it. Jake Gardiner, Joffrey Lupul, Francois Beauchemin, JS Giguâ€¦ oh. Well, trade written all over it. Grabo was back and thatâ€™s all we needed to put a smile on our faces. Gunnar was out and thatâ€™s enough to keep any Leafs fan worried. Oh, the injuries! Remember, nothing comes easy to a Leafs fan. And we like it that way. Curious reunion with Niklas Hagman made us think of Calgary. Heh Calgary.
Thank You Anaheim (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Update: per Jonas Siegel, Aulie is in for Gunnarsson. Grabovski looks to be on the fourth line as Wilson keeps the MacArthur – Connolly – Kulemin line in tact.
The injury riddled Maple Leafs keep finding ways to grind out wins.
Reimer-less, Grabovski-less, Armstrong-less, Komisarek-less (is this good or bad now? I’m not sure), and for part of last game without first pairing defenceman Carl Gunnarsson and center David Steckel, the Leafs have won three of their last four as the organizational depth, and resolve, of the young club continues to shine through.
Tonight the Leafs are in Anaheim looking to wrap up a southern road swing on a high note; a three-game winning streak. It looked unspectacular, but to me their win against Dallas gave great reason for optimism. Dallas is a hard-working, bigger, physical team (they lead the NHL by a country mile in hits this season), the type of opponent the Leafs have struggled with a bit this season, and the Leafs found a way to win it. The Leafs aren’t a group of softies by any means, nor are they the perfect archetype of Burkean truculence, but they seem to own a trait of perhaps greater importance – mental tenacity.
Wherever you go there are Leafs fans. Only logical I guess. Gotta love the GO LEAFS GO in Dallas. And we went, with a very indicative victory in Texas.Â Even without Morrow, Dallas is a really good, hardworking team. This was a great hockey game.
Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America
The Maple Leafs (12-8-2) and their opponent tonight, the Dallas Stars (13-8-0), have traveled similar trajectories through their opening 20+ games, as hot starts for both clubs were followed by November slumps. A November 5th loss to Boston kicked off a 1-4-1 slide for the Leafs, while a loss to Pittsburgh on November 11 marked the beginning of a 0-5 skid for the Stars. Both teams have recovered a bit as of late, as the Leafs have won two of their last three and the Stars enter tonight on a two-game winning streak. Overall, the two teams have posted solid records despite conceding more than they’ve scored.
The Leafs will go with the same lineup, and same goalie in Jonas Gustavsson, that earned them a 7-1 win in Tampa Bay. Since the beginning of the 2010-11 season, when the expectation became that Gus would take over the reigns as the Leafs’ number one, very little has gone right for Gustavsson, and it hasn’t always been his fault. In his last two performances, things couldn’t have gone better. Consecutive 7-1 wins have to help Gus’ confidence, and certainly have helped dispel the myth that the team doesn’t have the confidence to play their offensive game in front of him. With a good showing tonight, Gustavsson would break the .900 save percentage mark on the season.
The Leafs should get a few chances to put their now-third-best powerplay to work as the Stars are the third most penalized team in the league.
Photo Credit: Abelimages/Getty Images
Letâ€™s get straight to the point. Tim Connolly’s play of late isn’t exactly what many of us can call surprising. If you look at his totals since the 2007-08 season you notice two familiar patterns.
The first pattern that everyone seems to cling to is his inability to play a whole NHL season, although we can notice he has remained healthier for the two seasons prior to 2011-12. In 2009-10 he played 73 games and last year he featured in 68 games for the Buffalo Sabres. Thatâ€™s 25 and 20 more than the number of games he played in 2007-08 and 2008-09 (48 games).
Photo credit: Daylife.com
Following a couple day’s break, the Leafs are back in action tonight with a stop in Dallas. After allowing only one goal each to Washington and Tampa Bay in his last two starts, the oft-maligned Jonas Gustavsson seems to have found his game, his confidence, and perhaps the starting role. “The Monster” will tend the net for the third time in four games against a surprisingly good Stars’ team, one which hasn’t missed Brad Richards at all.
In a bit of an odd schedule quirk, the Leafs will not play a Saturday night game this week (instead, HNIC viewers will see Pittsburgh visit Montreal).Â After tonight, the Leafs head to Anaheim for a Sunday night tilt against the Ducks — the first visit to Anaheim for Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner as members of the Leafs.
Morning links after the jump.
Mark Owuya is 3-1-1 with a 1.51GAA and .941 SV% (Photo: Steve Christie/kylethereporter.com)
The Marlies have been faring just fine as of late without top scorers Joe Colborne and Joey Crabb. Your weekly release from the Marlies:
“The Marlies went 3-0-0-0 in their three games last week. They opened their week with a 2-1 victory over the Americans in Rochester on Friday night. Jerry Dâ€™Amigo scored the gamewinning goal with 2:28 remaining in regulation time while shorthanded. Greg Scott finished the game with a goal and a helper; while Mark Owuya made 26 saves for first star honours.
On Saturday, the Marlies beat the Amerks for the second straight day, 3-2.
Simon Gysbers lead the way with three points (one goal, two assists). Mike Zigomanis netted the game-winning goal late in the second period. Owuya made 32 saves for his second straight victory.
Photo: Abelimages/Getty Images North America
The Toronto Maple Leafs currently sit with an NHL-fifth-best average of 3.09 goals scored per game. Yes, fifth. The same Toronto Maple Leafs who have been desperately chasing a star forward via trade in order to upgrade whatâ€™s perceived as a lacking, ever-so-slightly-impotent offense, are â€“ by statistics â€“ one of the National Hockey Leagueâ€™s highest scoring groups.
Your guess is as good as mine.
Photo: Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
Your Toronto Maple Leafs needed a win in the worst kind of way last night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.Â Responding with a blow out 7 â€“ 1 win (their second in three games), the franchise seems poised to gain ground again in the Eastern Conference.
While incredible, their 7 â€“ 1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Saturday masked the fact that the club had struggled mightily to find consistency and dominate the opposition since the turn of the month.Â Through November, the team has done as well as Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul have let them, and one the few nights that the duo hasnâ€™t been dynamic, the Leafs havenâ€™t had enough gun to win games.Â Tonight was a night for the ensemble, who have taken center stage in the two blow outs.
Mislav had to sit this one out, let’s hope I can fill his shoes as well as Gustavsson filled the Leafs’ net tonight. Glove tap to Alec for contributing a few of his insights as well.
The Tampa Bay Lightning look to rebound from their first home loss in more than a month Tuesday night when they face a Toronto Maple Leafs team that hasn’t scored in its last two visits to the St. Pete Times Forum.
Toronto has been stumbling of late and have be decimated by 7 injuries to their regular line-up. Good news on that frontâ€”James Reimer is expected to return later this week (reported elsewhere, not in that article) and Clarke McArthur is dressed to play against the Lighting.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have been red-hot at home this season with a 6-2-0 record and the Leafs have been mediocre on the road with a 5-5-0 and have a 4-5-1 record in their last 10 games.
Phil Kessel will look to distance himself from the rest of the pack in the scoring and points race tonight. He has 4 goals, 2 assists in the last 5 games.Â After a slow start (for him), Steve Stamkos has started to find his touch around the net and has 5 points in his last 5 games.
There is just something special about an athlete who transcends a normal level of skill by such a large margin that you have absolutely no hope of replicating it, even seeing it in any other venue, at any other time, no matter how much you practice or what level of hockey you watch. Just by knowing that fact we are all even more obsessed by the greatest player in the greatest game in the world.
No, his skill cannot be duplicated by any player in the game right now. Maybe thatâ€™s because no other player works as hard on improving every single aspect of his game. Crosby is obsessed with hockey, and by being obsessed he captivates us like no other player in the game. We hang on each and every move he makes, expecting it, but still being amazed every time.
Photo: Getty Images
Phil Kessel is tired of losing, that much is clear.
In layman’s terms, there are two types of hockey players: Those who love to win and those who hate to lose. It took Kessel some time, but he’s become the second one.
Justin Bourne, who now runs The Score’s blog “Backhand Shelf,” discussed this concept last season over at Puck Daddy (viewÂ here). In it he says, “Here’s the difference: It’s like putting a cupcake between a chubby kid from a mansion on the hill, and some wiry starving kid from the streets. They both want the cupcake. But our portly friend isn’t fighting to the death over the damn thing. He might take a swing or two, but in the end, he knows if he doesn’t get this one another will come along eventually. And that’s when the wiry punk kicks him in the groin and one-bites the entire cupcake.”
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