Monthly Archives: November 2011
Leafs vs. Leafs #2? A lot of former Leafs were in that Carolina lineup. Former Leaf Tomas Kaberle, former Leaf and shot blocker extraordinaire Tim Brent, former Leaf Jay Harrison, former Leaf Alex Ponikarovsky, former Leaf Jiri Tlusty, former Leafs coach Paul Maurice. Ontario lad and future Leaf â€“ Eric Staal.
I wonder why they aren't succeeding? (AP Photo/David Duprey)
We’re at the quarter pole of the NHL season, and the Leafs are tied for first in the Northeast Division. They own the most productive offensive duo in the league in Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, who after huge games last night are 1st and 3rd in NHL scoring with 27 and 24 points respectively. Three powerplay goals last night in their 7-1 rout over Washington, extending their powerplay production streak to three games, brings the Leafs’ PP up to sixth in the league at 20.5 percent. The PK is killing at 89 percent in the last eight games. It’s been an up and down ride through 20 games, to say the least, but these are accomplishments, or improvements, to take pride in. But the Leafs can’t afford to reflect on and enjoyÂ any of that, or their best performance of the season last night, as amazingly just four points separates them from last in their division, and 12th in the East. Besides, they’re in Carolina this afternoon for their second game in less than 24 hours.
There has yet to be a confirmed starter reported, though Ron Wilson indicated we would see Scrivens and Gustavsson split the starts before the weekend. Splitting the goalie starts in a back to back situation would be standard protocol for most teams, but there’s an argument to made for allowing Gustavsson to try to build off his 40-save performance last night. It’s a decision that is likely to get overscrutinized either way (Update: Scrivens will start as planned, according to James Mirtle).
Who could have expected this? Come on now, be honest. Reimer, Armstrong, Grabovski, MacArthur, Lombardi and Komisarek all missing from the lineup, yet we do this to a team that is pegged for Stanley Cup glory? Sure, they are also in a midst of a crisis, but come on. This was a wonderful night on which every Leafs fan could simply enjoy hockey.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have called up top prospect Joe Colborne and he is expected to make his season debut tonight against the Washington Capitals. The “Paperboy” (as nicknamed by his teammates – because he looks twelve and always delivers) had gotten off to a torrid start in the AHL with 19 points in 12 games played before sitting out a handful of games to injury. He is expected to skate alongside Joey Crabb, with whom he demonstrated plenty of chemistry while on the Marlies’ top line, and David Steckel. The trio should be able to generate a strong cycle game down low.
Per NHL. com, “Last 10: Washington 3-6-1; Toronto 4-5-1
This is the first meeting of the season. The Capitals won three of four against the Maple Leafs last season, but three of the four contests went to a shootout.Â Two teams going in the wrong direction after great starts meet up for a Hockey Night in Canada clash.
Photo Credit: The Star
Why does a guy with no goals in 16 games keep hold of his roster spot? You might have asked yourself the same question. Sure, Matt Frattin’s shooting percentage isn’t something he’d brag about, but he’s doing a lot of good things on the ice, things that coaches and GMs appreciate.
The first thing is, it’s too early to pinpoint Frattin’s NHL potential, even though he does look like your prototypical 3rd line player. Right now, that’s a good thing. Fact is, if you look at Nazem Kadri, your prototypical skilled prospect, most of the time he’s going to have a tougher time adjusting to the NHL game because of multiple factors.
Photo: Andy Camp/kylecicerella.com
Expect a callup or two from the Marlies shortly as the list of casualties has grown to six with Matthew Lombardi and Mike Komisarek out three weeks apiece (upper body injuries). A timeline on Colby Armstrong’s return remains unknown, while Mikhail Grabovski is out at least two weeks with his lower body ailment. The news is a bit better on Clarke MacArthur as he could return as early as Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. James Reimer returned to the ice today for a 15-minute skate, which is somewhat encouraging, but Brian Burke has warned not to get too excited as Reimer “could be out another month.” Yikes.
Your weekly release from the Marlies:
“The Marlies went 1-1-0-1Â in their three games lastÂ week. They opened theirÂ week with a 3-1 loss againstÂ the Oklahoma City Barons onÂ Tuesday morning. SimonÂ Gysbers scored the lone goalÂ for Toronto, which came onÂ the power play. Mark OwuyaÂ made 22 saves on 24 shots inÂ the loss.Â Â On Saturday night in GlensÂ Falls, the Marlies fell 2-1 in aÂ shootout against theÂ Adirondack Phantoms.
The Leafs had many roster issues coming into this game. Mike Brown was a late scratch and Matthew Lombardi suffered an injury in the game. The team played well for stretches but the giveaways and our own mistakes haunted us once again. A big contingent of Leafs fans made a trip to Music City tonight, gotta love the dedication of Leafs Nation. RIP Wade Belak, the league loves you for a reason. Also, Nashville fans love to tap dance on the glass.
The Toronto Maple Leafs make just their fourth-ever trip Bridgestone Arena tonight â€“ the fewest of any of the NHLâ€™s 29 other teams. It is also just the fourth overall meeting between the Predators and Leafs in the last six seasons. The Predators hold a 6-5-(1)-0 record against the Leafs in their 13-season history, including a 2-1-0 mark at Bridgestone Arena.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are going on the road with a patched up lineup. As if that isn’t bad enough we’re in the midst of a 1-3-1 slide, and have to attempt to snap out of our recent funk without two of our top-six forwards. The Leafs will be forced to face the Predators without Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski, who were both injured during Tuesday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to Phoenix at the Air Canada Centre.
Photo: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press
After a 2010-11 season in which their five consistent top six forwards – Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, and Clarke MacArthur – missed zero man games due to injury, you knew lady luck wouldn’t be so friendly to the Leafs’ key offensive contributors in 2011-12. The off-season addition of Tim Connolly alone guaranteed as much. Connolly returns tonight from his second injury in six weeks, but the Leafs will be without a third of their regular top six scoring cast as Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur are sidelined. Grabovski is out at least two weeks with what looked to be a banged up knee, while we should know more about MacArthur’s condition after he goes through a few more tests today.
The Leafs’ top six is expected to shape up like so: Lupul – Bozak – Kessel; Kulemin – Connolly – Frattin. This leaves a third unit comprised of some combination of Lombardi, Steckel and Crabb. As opposed to inserting Rosehill or Orr (Orr is actually sick anyways) on unit four, James Mirtle expects the Leafs to go with seven defencemen in order to give Cody Franson a shot against his former team in the Nashville Predators. None of the Leafs’ top six blueliners have fallen to injury or played their way out of the lineup yet, so to accommodate Franson’s insertion Jake Gardiner could be taking even strength shifts up front on the wing a la Ian White. Gardiner played forward until his final year at Minnetonka High School and obviously has offensive skill, so it should make for an interesting experiment.
Ever since it was pointed out that there is quite the resemblance between Hershel from The Walking Dead and Brian Burke, I’ve been trying to think of a way to use this information. And when the Leafs announced that Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski are out with injuries, it finally came together.
Image courtesy of Getty Images
Image courtesy of Getty Images
We’re now 18 games into the 2011-12 season. Though the Leafs have hit a bit of a rough patch in the last few weeks, there is much to be optimistic about with regards to playoff hopes. Kessel has emerged as a new player, Lupul is back to old form and though not scoring as much as last year, Grabovski and MacArthur have played well. The oft injured Connolly has been excellent in limited action so far. However, there will be several nights this season where the top six forwards don’t produce. On those nights, a good complimentary package in the bottom six is required to pull out the win. In my review of the bottom six from last season, I stated that without increased scoring from them, the playoffs would be a far more difficult goal. Unfortunately, not much seems to have changed thus far in the 2011-12 season.
The top six for the Leafs have scored 81 points so far, 37 of which are goals. The defence has scored 42 points, 5 of which have been goals. Finally, the bottom six has scored a miniscule 17 points and 9 goals. So they’ve accounted for only 12.1% of Toronto’s points this season. For reference, the Blackhawks have 35 points and 18 goals from their bottom six so far this year, meaning they’ve contributed 22% of the Blackhawks’ points so far. This lack of production can likely account for a few of the losses so far this season and if it keeps up, many more in the future. So the question then becomes what in particular has lead to this lack of production.
Photo: Rick Madonik/Toronto Star
Itâ€™s the middle of November, and schools across the land are giving out report cards.Â Meanwhile, in the nationâ€™s universities, professorsâ€™ TAs are hard at work grading studentsâ€™ essays before the drop date.Â With just over 20% of the Leafs season in the books, letâ€™s take a look at how Brian Burkeâ€™s prized acquisitions have fared so far.
Heâ€™s no superstar, but he tries hard, and effort and attention to detail will always earn part marks.Â For such a big guy, itâ€™s the little things he does so well, whether itâ€™s blocking shots or winning over 60% of his face-offs.Â Heâ€™s the leader amongst the Leafs forward corps in hits (42, tied for team lead with Luke Schenn), blocked shots (20) and penalty kill time on ice per game (2:45).Â Had a three game goal scoring streak early in the season and his ability to win key draws has improved the Leafs possession numbers all season. He’s a big body up front who provides an inside presence, and that’s a lacking element on this roster.
On a day with plenty of Leafs goalie rumors, Ben Scrivens started yet another game for the big club. This was the first and only meeting of the two teams and the Leafs battled back in a big way. A highly polarized game filled with extreme high points and extreme low points for our beloved Leafs.
Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The Toronto Maple Leafs will be looking to get back on track tonight as they take on the Phoenix Coyotes at home. It will be the only meeting with the Coyotes this season and the Leafs will be in tough. Last season, Phoenix handily beat Toronto 5-1 at home, a game which you might remember more for Mike Brown’s controversial hit on Ed Jovanovski.
This is the second game of Phoenix’s five game road trip and they are already 4-1-1 on the road, making this no easy task for the Buds. The Coyotes shutout San Jose on Saturday to kick off this road trip.
For Toronto, Ben Scrivens gets the start after playing a solid game on Saturday night despite taking the loss. This comes amidst rumours that the Leafs have been in contact with Marty Turco, so the pressure will be dialed up tonight on the young Scrivens.
Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America
From Mike Brophy at Sportsnet:
The Toronto Maple Leafs have made contact with veteran goalie Marty Turco. He has been working out with the Soo Greyhounds.
Obviously nothing imminent yet, but with the Leafs’ goaltending struggles, it seemed like most fans were in agreement that veteran help was needed. Is this the veteran help the team needs?
Turco is 36, and in his recent stint with the Blackhawks in 2010-11 he posted an 11-11-3 record, along with a .897 Sv% and 3.02 GAA. Whether he’d be an improvement on the current tandem of Scrivens and Gustavsson is up for debate. Have at it.
(Photo credit: Boston Globe)
(Photo credit: Boston Globe)
In the wake of the recent collision between Bruins’ winger Milan Lucic and Sabres’ goaltender Ryan Miller, in which Lucic escaped a suspension while Miller remains out with a concussion, many among the Maple Leafs’ fanbase were quick to recall the October 22nd collision between Canadiens’ winger Brian Gionta and Leafs’ goaltender James Reimer.
Although the temptation to directly compare the two incidents is understandable (player colliding with goaltender attempting to make a play, goaltender sustains a head injury, player is not suspended), they are in fact two quite different incidents subject to different sets of rules.
Through the course of examining these two incidents, and the reasons for a lack of supplementary discipline in light of the NHL rulebook, we stumble upon a significant debate: does the current iteration of the NHL’s illegal contact rules do more to protect goaltenders, or to hinder them?
Photo: David Cooper/Toronto Star
The recent buzz around the Maple Leafs has been largely focused on their lack of secondary scoring. Â Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel have put forth consistent efforts throughout this season, but Toronto’s offense beyond that duo has been questionable at best.
The team’s upcoming stretch of four games in six nights will feature a few defensively-capable squads that would be all too happy to step on the throat of Toronto’s struggling secondary scorers. Â This will begin tonight with Phoenix and Mike Smith, who feature the 10th best goals against average in the NHL. Â But it won’t get any easier when the Leafs travel to Nashville on Wednesday or return home to face Washington on Saturday.
Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Everyone collectively take a deep breath, and hold it..
….Hold it a little longer…
.. Now, exhale.
You can relax, there is no need to panic.
The Leafs are 17 games into the season, they are 10-6-1 and they’ve hit a rough patch. Nobody thought this team was going to play great all season, did they? Yes, there are many troubling signs (which I’ll get to), but there are also a ton of positives (which we’ll look at first).
All the Leafs have managed to do at this point – and it isn’t much – is not blow their playoff chances. They’ve built up a slight cushion, but the New Jersey Devils sit in ninth, four points behind the Leafs with two games in hand. If anyone thought the Leafs gave themselves a ton of breathing room with their solid start, consider that your reality check.
Photo: Abelimages/Getty Images
I once got a tip from a guy who worked in hockey. He said that the less you hear about a defenseman during a game of hockey, the more probable it is that heâ€™s playing a very sound hockey game.
Carl Gunnarsson just might be the posterboy for this notion. You rarely hear â€œBig hit by Carl Gunarssonâ€. Then again, color commentary is rarely about â€œGunnarsson moved the puck quickly and efficiently out of danger on that occasion.â€
Itâ€™s becoming abundantly clear that all is not well in the house that Brian Burke built.Â The Toronto Maple Leafs, after roaring out of the gate like a bat out of hell, have begun to falter.Â Their weaknesses have been exposed and have damned the team to a 1 â€“ 3 â€“ 0 record in the past 4 games.Â Mired in this slump, the Leafs have a -14 goal differential (5 goals for, 19 goals against) and are primed for a deep plunge in the Eastern Conference standings.
Any panelist can glance at the wonky numbers above and castigate Ben Scrivens, Jonas Gustavsson or Brian Gionta.Â Thereâ€™s about 19 points to support that argument, but an increasing concern has to be Torontoâ€™s inability to get scoring out of anyone not skating with Phil Kessel.Â More specifically, itâ€™s the deteriorating play of the second line of Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin that bears most watching.Â Held (and therefore rendered) pointless over the past 4, they have become the poster boys for the Leafs recent downturn.
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