Monthly Archives: November 2011
Photo: Nathan Denette/Canadian Press
The Leafs are looking to take over top spot in the league standings with a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at Nationwide Arena. With a win the Leafs, at 19 points through 13 games, would leapfrog the Penguins for top spot in the NHL, at least for the time being (The Pens play a late game against the Sharks). Just in case, when is the last time the top team in the league also owned a sub-70%, last-placed penalty kill? Combine that stat with their mere +3 goals for/against differential and it speaks to 1) the Leafs have been the best team in the league five on five this season; 2) how good they’ve been at finding ways to win in high scoring affairs, and 3) the tantalizing yet befuddling thought of what this team might be capable of with an even mediocre PK.
The Leafs will skate into Columbus to face off with a franchise in a seriously bad state at the moment, whose first month has been lowlighted by an early, lengthy suspension to James Wisniewski, a foot injury sidelining new acquisition Jeff Carter, a coaching change and a league-worst five points (2-9-1). Can Toronto take advantage? In recent seasons, the seeming easy outs have been far from it for this Leafs team, so this will be an interesting test in that sense.
Photo: Graig Abel/Getty Images
Photo: Graig Abel/Getty Images
Toronto is in Texas tonight as Matt Frattin makes his Marlies debut in Joey Crabb’s place on the top line alongside Joe Colborne and Jerry D’Amigo. Here’s your weekly release from the Marlies:
“The Marlies went 1-2-0-0 in their three games last week. Toronto shutout the Abbotsford Heat, 5-0 on Wednesday night at Ricoh Coliseum. Joe Colborne scored two goals and added an assist; while Joey Crabb also recorded a three-point night with a goal and two assists. Ben Scrivens made 23 saves for his first shutout of the season. Greg Scottâ€™s first goal of the season in the first period held up to be the game winner.
On Friday night in Cleveland, the Marlies lost a 2-1 decision to the Lake Erie Monsters. Colborne scored the gameâ€™s opening goal, but the Monsters replied with two unanswered tallies. Jussi Rynnas made 31 saves on 33 shots in the loss.
These might not be the same old Leafs, but it is looking like the same old Leaf penalty kill.
At this stage of the season, I maintain a couple of things as I write this: it’s still very, very early, and the Leafs are adjusting to a new penalty killing scheme which is bound to cause mix-ups and missed assignments early in the season. So I don’t think this penalty kill is completely doomed, but I do think there is a lot of work to be done.
First let’s look at penalty killing in it’s most basic form. At the youngest of ages you are taught how to form a box on the penalty kill. You make a box because you can keep the play to the outside and it allows you to have two guys down low to protect the net, and two guys up high to keep the defensemen honest and to take away point shots.
Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America
In what’s been a dream season so far for the Maple Leafs, defenceman Luke Schenn is currently going through the most nightmare-ish period of his career, performance-wise. Though, it’s tough to notice his poor play, since he’s barely on the ice.
What you’re about to read may be offensive to some. Viewer discretion is advised.
Luke Schenn had the least amount of ice time for the entire Leafs squad during the win against the Devils on Wednesday night. 10:01, that was his total. Ten minutes and one second. Dupuis was second-to-last with 10:38 on ice. You know, Phillipe Dupuis, that guy who plays on the fourth line. Schenn didn’t even see the ice for one special teams situation – unbelievable.
A fight kept him out of the game for 5 minutes late in the second, as I guess he tried to spark some interest from the coaches. It didn’t really work.
Sure, Martin Brodeur was back but so was Joey Crabb. Happy birthday to Luke Schenn. This wasnâ€™t a textbook example of how you want your team to play hockey, from either side. We won so it’s all good. Except the special teams and defense.
Fresh off a 7-3-1 month of October, the Maple Leafs begin November on a mini road trip which will take them to New Jersey (tonight) and Columbus (Thursday) before returning home to face Boston on Saturday.Â A quick start to the month will be essential for the Leafs if they hope to finally eradicate the Ghost of November Past.
Maple Leafs’ November record, post-lockout:
2010-11: 3-7-3 | 2009-10: 5-5-3 | 2008-09: 4-6-3 | 2007-08: 4-6-3
2006-07: 7-6-1 | 2005-06: 8-5-1
Thereâ€™s a lot going on in Leaf land this Wednesday morning, so lets take a look at whatâ€™s making news and look back a little at the month that was.Â Your Toronto Maple Leafs will take on the New Jersey devils tonight, hoping to rebound from Sundayâ€™s loss to the Ottawa Senators.Â The Leafs will sport a new line up due to injuries, demotions and call ups, and because the only constant is change.Â Itâ€™s been a promising sign that in spite of the numerous roster changes, the wins have been frequent and most games have been very close. Â Itâ€™s a testament to the depth of talent (even if the ceiling is a little low) that Brian Burke has provided in his tenure in Toronto.
That depth will be tested tonight, as Jake Gardiner is the latest Leaf to fall victim to the injury bug.Â The 21 year old rookie has been a solid if unspectacular defender for the Leafs, and his two way acumen, speed and utility will be missed if heâ€™s out of the line up for any extended period of time.Â This news must come as glad tidings for Cody Franson.Â The former Predator has been a healthy scratch ever since the Leafs lost in Boston after he went -3 on the night.
Maple Leafs’ rookie winger Matt Frattin, who to the surprise of many earned himself a spot on the team out of training camp, has been assigned to the AHL Toronto Marlies. Coming up to take his spot on the Leafs’ roster is veteran winger Joey Crabb.
Although Frattin acquitted himself to the physical game of the NHL quite well, and was able to generate scoring chances, he was only able to register a single assist through the first 11 games (plus a shootout game-winner), and recently appeared to be playing with less confidence.Â A trip to the AHL, where top ice time on a scoring line awaits, may be just what the doctor ordered to get his game back on track.
Photo: John Ulan/The Canadian Press
As we all know far too well, the Leafs early-season record since the lockout has ranged from dismal to catastrophic. Â At the conclusion of the first month of play, we’re typically floundering on the edges of a playoff spot or in the deepest chasms of the Eastern Conference. Â So far, this year is markedly different. Â In fact, this is the first time Toronto has made it out of October with seven victories in exactly a decade, having last accomplished the feat in the 2001-2002 season that saw them hit 100 points (eventually losing to the Hurricanes in the conference finals).
But if this franchise has learned anything in its recent stretch of ineptitude, it’s that a successful season cannot be had on the back of one strong month. Â Rather, the teams that are perennial playoff features in the NHL do so through year-long consistency. Â As a unit, this team will need to avoid lengthy losing streaks through whatever means possible. Â Because sadly, while a fantastic month guarantees nothing, a disastrous one can be fatal.
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