Sunday, May 24, 2015
Authors Posts by Conor O'Callaghan

Conor O'Callaghan

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Florida Panthers goaltender Scott Clemmensen (30) makes a save on Toronto Maple Leafs centre Nazem Kadri (43) during first period NHL action in Toronto on Tuesday December17, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Good game day, Leafs fans! After a day off to bask in the glory of beating Tampa Bay Tuesday night, the Leafs are back in action this evening as they host the Florida Panthers. Looking at the bottom 3 teams in the East: the Leafs already lost to these Panthers in December, they’re 1-1 against the Islanders, and the Sabres took six points out of five meetings with the Leafs. There has been no such thing as an easy out for the Leafs this season and as such there should be no reason to take this Panther team lightly. While they most recently got smacked by the Bruins 6-2, the Panthers also put up five goals each in two wins over Detroit and Pittsburgh in the past ten days.

Photo: NHLI via Getty Images

The Leafs made a minor league deal last night, sending Andrew Crescenzi to the LA Kings affiliate in Manchester in exchange for Brandon Kozun. Crescenzi was an undrafted rookie camp invitee who brought size and had played well enough to earn a contract with the organization, but he was a low-scoring defensively oriented centre. Kozun is a smaller offensively inclined winger, that will – worst case scenario – improve a Marlies attack with just two forwards on the roster with ten goals. Hard to declare a deal of this magnitude a win, but it also provides some SPC flexibility at the end of the year when Kozun’s contract expires.

The Leafs dropped a 5-4 shootout decision to the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings tonight in Toronto. I missed a portion of the game due to various Christmas functions I was attending but a few things stood out from what I saw:

  • Reimer got pulled after a period and 3 goals against…again. Seems a touch unfair seeing as Bernier has yet to be pulled from any of his starts this season.
  • Carlyle’s insistence on using Raymond in the shootout over other options is becoming a point of frustration. Without the spin-o-rama in his arsenal I don’t know that he’s a good option in lieu of some other players on the bench.
  • 24/7 will have a good time breaking this game down, with multiple lead changes, overtime and a shootout decision.
  • Rielly just missed a game-winner in overtime, would have been an incredible accomplishment on home ice.
  • If the roads where I live are any indication, ice quality should be good for an outdoor game.

Hopefully everyone is staying safe in southern Ontario where the roads are closer to a rink than pavement. Merry Christmas Leafs fans!

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I hope everyone is enjoying the early stages of their hangover this morning. I assume everyone is hungover because the Leafs game last night was a debacle that would drive any Leafs fan to have a few swigs of whatever is closest at hand. The dreaded Southeast-opponent-on-a-Tuesday-night curse has reared its ugly head once again, and even the dissolution of the Southeast division can’t put it to rest it would seem.

The meanest part of the toughest stretch of the schedule is behind the Leafs at this point and they will have to start winning hockey games again if they want to be in the playoff conversation for the rest of the season. Things will have to turn around very quickly or else we could be talking draft lottery by the Olympic break.

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Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin Shake Hands

The Leafs dropped their first December contest to extend the losing streak to five games, and six of the last seven. San Jose hurled 41 shots on the net and James Reimer was pretty good yet again, but it was another game where a poor first period meant that the Leafs were playing catchup all night.

Photo: Getty Images via NHL.com

The Leafs pulled out a win in the shootout Saturday over Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals to move to 14-8-1 on the season, good enough for second place in the Atlantic division. Sitting three points back of the Boston Bruins and in a tie with Tampa (Leafs ahead on goal differential tie-breaker), this week is an important one for the Leafs as they approach a real tough stretch of games in early December. This week sees Columbus in town Monday, Wednesday at Pittsburgh, and closing with a back-to-back in Buffalo and Montreal, Friday and Saturday respectively.

Good evening! Prepare for a long week of distraction as the Leafs are off until Friday’s tilt with the New Jersey Devils. With Bolland going down on Saturday the team’s strength at centre is about as weak as you could imagine. Not too many people count themselves as big Bozak fans, but with him and Bolland both out, there is a gaping hole down the middle. It’s all but guaranteed this week will bring a deluge of trade speculation, and maybe even a trade to bolster the position. While the Leafs’ record is still pretty good, it’s difficult to feel optimistic about a team featuring Kadri, McClement and Smith up the middle.

Today’s practice lines were as follows:

Lupul – JVR – Kessel

Raymond – Kadri – Clarkson

Kulemin – McClement – Bodie

Orr – Smith – McLaren

That top line is juicy on paper, but that’s on paper. The transition to center for JvR, who did play down the middle in college but never at the pro level, is far from guaranteed to be a seamless one.

The Leafs are officially in the midst of their first losing “streak” of the season. Tuesday’s contest sees the 7-1 Anaheim Ducks visit town, which will be another difficult test for a Leafs team who have yet to really hit their stride despite being 6-3 on the season. The Ducks shellacked the Stars 6-3 last night, and Getzlaf, Perry, Jakub Silfverberg, Selanne and Mathieu Perreault, who is getting a chance to center their second line, are all off to hot starts.

Nazem Kadri

Good morning to all those Leafs fans coming out of their food coma if Thanksgiving dinner was yesterday. To those who are having one today, enjoy!

The banged up Leafs squad entertain the Minnesota Wild tomorrow night, but each game that passes brings the team closer to full health. Thanks to some great goaltending from Bernier (I’ll overlook the Edmonton game), they’ve managed a 5-1 record so far. If they can get some bodies back and keep playing well, the team has set themselves up nicely through the first month.

Photo: Jeff McIntosh/AP

Tuesday night the Leafs’ losing streak reached four games, and despite not falling out of the playoff picture yet, the trend of recent play is startling. After a fairly disturbing 5-0 loss to Montreal this past Saturday, the Leafs had a few days to regroup and come into Calgary hungry and ready to work. Instead, fans were presented with an effort that was simply unacceptable, even though the Leafs fired 42 shots at Mikka Kiprusoff. Naturally, with so much on the line and pressure building for this team to finally qualify for the postseason for the first time since the lockout, tension is building among the ranks of Leafs Nation.

With the news breaking that Rick Nash may in fact be available for trade, the remaining two weeks leading up to the trade deadline will undoubtedly be filled with wild speculation about what the eventual package Columbus receives for him. So far, the LA Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs seem to be the most popular teams mentioned as possible destinations, but the asking price sounds like it will be absurdly high.

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Photo: Ray Stubblebine/Reuters

Happy Lunch Hour!

The Leafs find themselves in New York City this evening to take on the Rangers and open the renovated Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist is doing  his usual miracle-working and tonight is the Rangers home opener, so they will be highly motivated and will present the Leafs with a tough test. Despite their loss to the Flyers on Monday, the Leafs didn’t play poorly, and with a few days off they should have some good jump out there tonight, and they’ll probably need it against a fired up Rangers team.

The centre position should be improved tonight with Connolly and Bozak expected to draw into the lineup. If Connolly does in fact suit up, it will be interesting to see how long Ron Wilson gives him with Kessel and Lupul before he invokes his classic line-blending to try and create more offence if he sees fit. A lot of buzz has been generated by the blazing start of Joe Colborne in the AHL, and with the logjam of centres on this Leafs team it seems as though some decisions will have to be made if he keeps up his incredible pace.

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Photo: Sportsnet.ca

On the first day of a new season, the only real question on the minds of Leafs fans is: Will the Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs in 2011-12? After a franchise record six consecutive seasons without playoff hockey in the city of Toronto, the startling reality is that there is no guarantee it won’t be seven consecutive seasons without playoff hockey. Brian Burke is entering his third full campaign as the General Manager, and while making substantial improvements in several areas of the organization, improvement at the NHL level has been slow.

Brian Burke is an extremely smart man, and isn’t one to blindly step into a situation. As a General Manager in the league it is more than reasonable to assume that he understood the difficulty of the job facing the new man in charge. Burke is also not the type of guy to back down from a challenge, and although he was undoubtedly aware that the Toronto franchise was in shambles, it’s tough to imagine he knew he was stepping into a runaway train. Regardless of who came in to clean up the mess left behind by the team’s prior mistakes, no quick fix was really possible that could get this team back into the playoffs quickly without repeating the same errors that led the team to the state it has wallowed in for years.

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Photo Credit: Sportsnet

Photo Credit: Sportsnet

With just seven games left on the schedule for the 2010-2011 NHL season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still in the hunt for the playoffs. Currently sitting five points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Leafs need to keep winning and hope that they get the help they need from the teams ahead of them to sneak into the postseason. Buoyed by the excellent goaltending of James Reimer, the Leafs are looking like a cohesive team committed to pushing as hard as they can towards the common goal of a playoff berth. With any good team, every player has to contribute and commit to the all-important team-first philosophy. Nazem Kadri, recently recalled for his second stint with the big club, is showing he is ready to stick around this time.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

While there’s no debate that James Reimer has risen to assume the mantle of starting goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season, his rise has opened to door for some debate over which direction the team will take with their goaltending as the conclusion of the regular season fast approaches. With just eleven games remaining, and Reimer having started 15 straight, the general consensus seems to be that Giguere will start tonight in Sunrise Florida as the Leafs take on the Panthers in a game the Leafs simply have to get two points from.

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    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    Hot on the heels of a shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Pengiuns Saturday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs were given no time to rest before facing off against the Atlanta Thrashers in a rare Sunday matinee. After gaining only a point for their efforts against the Penguins to keep pace with the Carolina Hurricanes, Sunday’s game against the Thrashers took on even more meaning as far as implications to the Eastern Conference standings.

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      Photo Credit: Reuters

      All the talk leading up to Monday’s contest between the Atlanta Thrashers and the Toronto Maple Leafs was focused on the comments made by Phil Kessel at practice Sunday. As is the case in sports, winning solves a lot of problems, so it was important that the Leafs come out strong and play a solid 60 minutes – if only to silence some of the negativity surrounding the team after the weekend. Especially after coming off a good week in which the Leafs picked up a shootout win over the Florida Panthers and then a shutout victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, a strong response to the poor effort in Buffalo was necessary to prevent a slide down the standings.

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        Doug Benz/Reuters

        The Toronto Maple Leafs visited the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night, who were hot on the heels of a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguis on the road the night before. After two straight wins this week over Florida and Carolina, the Leafs found themselves within 10 points of the eighth and final playoff spot and facing a Sabres team who sit only six points back of the eighth seed Atlanta Thrashers. Unfortunately, HSBC Arena is never an inviting place for Toronto, and reigning Vezina goaltender Ryan Miller has owned the Maple Leafs winning 11 of the last 12 meetings between the two teams.

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          Coming off a shootout win over the Florida Panthers, the Toronto Maple Leafs hosted another Southeast division opponent in the Carolina Hurricanes. The last time these two teams met, Tim Gleason delivered a hard right hand to the nose of Nikolai Kulemin, and the Leafs fell 6-4. To add to the frustration for Leafs fans, Eric Staal passed on Phil Kessel at the All-Star draft and took the opportunity to take a light-hearted jab at Toronto, inspiring a few fans to boo him throughout the game.

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            Ellen Ozier/Reuters

            With Braden Holtby holding the Leafs to a single goal on Saturday night, the Leafs offence was looking to get back on track Monday night in Carolina against the Hurricanes. Knowing the Hurricanes feature a few former Leafs players and also their former coach, this is the kind of matchup Leafs fans look at as an indication of whether they’re better off now than they were when the castoffs were still Toronto property.