Monday, May 25, 2015
Authors Posts by Declan Kerin

Declan Kerin

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Ryan Lasch
Photo: iltasanomat.fi

The Toronto Maple Leafs have traded David Steckel to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for right-winger Ryan Lasch and the Ducks’ seventh-round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Ryan Lasch will report to the Toronto Marlies.

The move clears a roster spot off the Leafs for the imminent return of Joffrey Lupul, who has been cleared for contact and says he’s ready for tomorrow’s tilt versus the Jets. The Marlies meanwhile have a depleted lineup with six Marlies now on the Leafs, a seventh coming (Gardiner) and their top scorer (Aucoin) being claimed off waivers. This is a step in helping them repair the depth of that team as they prepare for the playoffs, and adds a body up front after flipping Nicolas Deschamps for a defenceman in Kevin Marshall yesterday. The Marlies are currently 1st in their division.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired defenceman Kevin Marshall from the Washington Capitals in exchange for forward Nicolas Deschamps.

Marshall, 24, played in 52 games with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears this season, registering a goal and four assists with 77 penalty minutes and a plus-five rating.

Originally drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round, 41st overall in the 2007 draft, Marshall played in 10 games with the Flyers in 2011-12, putting up eight penalty minutes.

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Photo: Abelimages/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs are sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference (fourth in the Eastern Conference in wins) and some folks, even Leaf fans who write about the game, are simply writing it of as nothing other than luck. Puck luck. Good goaltending. Streaky scorers. Bad coaching is even bandied around as one of the reasons they’re bad – but not showing it yet – this season.

The truth is that the Leafs are playing right about where they should have been last year—offensively—but with a system that allows them to hold leads, shut down teams when they need to, kill off potential momentum robbing power-plays and turn them something that breeds confidence in their ability to defend and in their goalies’ ability to stop pucks. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Confidence was and is a big difference between this season and last. They were a confident group last season – arriving almost mid-summer for early camp and hitting the ground running – got off to a good start and were confident in their ability to score almost at will. But look no further than the two losses against Boston (3-2 until an empty netter finished it 4-2) and Pittsburgh (5-4 SO) – those were games that would have been horrendous blowouts last year. I think everyone was expecting them to be as much, but both turned into tight games in the end. That wasn’t on the strength of out-of-worldly goaltending, either.

The team has adopted a better structured system—even strength and on the PK—that has allowed them to mitigate the second chances that sank a lot of games last season. Rebound control is still a big issue with both Reimer and Scrivens, however getting good looks at pucks and directing rebounds into less dangerous areas allows them and the team in front of them to bend more without breaking into the type of horrible collapses that plagued the team last year. I feel that not fronting the opposing forwards—standing in front hoping for a shot block—and instead reverting to a method of clearing the front of the net, like defenceman have for decades, is much more effective for this group.

If Toronto were to be compared to any team right now, it would have to be the Ottawa Senators, as much as it pains me to say it. Both have benefited tremendously from strong AHL teams and excellent AHL coaching. Ottawa were a laugh to start the season last season—most were predicting a lottery pick, and instead they took the New York Rangers to game 7 of a close series that could have easily went either way. Toronto is getting exactly the same collection of things this year, between the internal development, the coach and the goaltending. The Marlies, in my opinion, were robbed of a Calder Cup by bad injury luck and I felt that, when healthy, they were the superior team. Regardless, they had the best PK in the league, the best goaltending tandem, and the best shutdown D pair in the league. Say what you will, but it’s impressive that they Leafs can walk three AHL defenceman onto the big club and have them play as well as they have. It’s a credit to the Marlies that they are able to do that so seamlessly. They aren’t ideal defence pairings, but this is the sort of depth that we, as Leaf fans, have been pining for.  The first wave of development seems to have pushed through for the Leafs, and while the Marlies are completely depleted right now that will change as the next round of Burke draftees start to migrate from Jr. to the AHL. This is what a rebuild looks like.

So, just how good are they? I think they’re just that: “good,” if Boston is “Excellent” and Pittsburgh is “Very Good” to “Excellent” (they lack depth on D and a consistently good goalie). I think the Leafs were trending downwards quickly two and three seasons ago and are quickly trending upwards now. It should have happened a year ago, but … Ron Wilson.

It will be interesting to see how Dave Nonis makes his next two big moves to meet the club’s main two needs: A first line center who can play the game at a fast pace and is able to make plays at the same speed as Kessel and Lupul, and another top 4 two-way defenceman—preferably of the top-2 variety. Those moves don’t present themselves very often throughout the course of the season, and we’ll all be curious as to how he keeps adding top-flight talent to a group that has improved internally and is looking to advance gears in order to enter the conversation beside the Bostons and Pittsburghs of the league.

***

Tuesday Morning Leafs Links…

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Toronto Maple Leafs vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Photo: MLHS

Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs (10-6-0) take on the Tampa Bay Lighting (7-6-1) and look to replicate last year’s success in a season series that saw Toronto outscore Tampa 20-7 in their 4-game battle. The Leafs have won six of seven on the road while Tampa Bay Lightning have dropped their last three on home ice.

“We’re still very much a work in progress,” were Randy Carlyle’s words after the team earned its 10th win in its sixteenth game last night against the Panthers. Complacency is being beaten out of the this club, with the coaches keenly aware of the type of start the Leafs got off to last season and where that ended up. The Leafs are looking to reverse their fortunes this season and seem to be a more detail-oriented club with better coaching and solid 1-2 goaltending from Scrivens and Reimer, who at last check had the best combined GAA in the league.

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Toronto Maple Leafs vs Ottawa Senators

With notes from NHL.com

Ottawa Senators (7-5-2) at Toronto Maple Leafs (8-6-0)

TV: CBC

Last 10: Ottawa 4-4-2; Toronto 6-4-0
Season series: This is the first of five matchups this season between these Northeast Division rivals, who will play each other twice in the next week. The teams tied the Battle of Ontario last season, splitting the six-game season series.

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Toronto Maple Leafs vs Carolina Hurricanes
Photo: MLHS'er Mcloki

The Toronto Maple Leafs (8-5-0) are in Carolina to take on the Hurricanes(7-4-1) (7pm, LeafsTV). Toronto will look to extend their winning stream to 5 games with a win. Toronto is one of — if not the — hottest teams in the league at the moment but face some new obstacles as they try to keep on rolling.

A depleted Toronto Maple Leafs lineup will test the club’s depth and will be without: Joffrey Lupul, James Reimer, Matt Frattin and Carl Gunnarsson. Jussi Rynnas has been called up to back-up Ben Scrivens, who was strong when called in for an injured James Reimer in a 5-2 win over Philadelphia and has brought his numbers back up to a more respectable save percentage of .913 and a goals against average of 2.56. As Scrivens goes, the Leafs go. He has an opportunity to run with the starting job while James Reimer is injured.

Carolina, who beat Toronto 4-1 on February 4th, is playing on the back of 2 wins over New Jersey Devils (4-2) and the New York Islanders (6-4), but lost previously to Philadelphia, a team Toronto dominated just 3 days ago.

Projected lines vs. Hurricanes

Forwards:
van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Kessel
Komarov – Grabovski – Kulemin
MacArthur – Kadri – McClement
McLaren – Steckel – Orr
*Brown

Defence:
Phaneuf – Holzer
Liles – Kostka
Fraser – Franson

Goaltending:
Scrivens
Rynnas

Some notes on injuries from Jonas Siegel.
Mike Brown has been activated off injured reserve, and is seemingly available for action as of today but will not dress against Carolina. Brown missed seven games with a shoulder injury.

Carl Gunnarsson did not travel with the team to Raleigh. Gunnarsson remained in Toronto to visit with an ART (Active Release Technique) specialist receiving a deep tissue massage for his hip injury. “He’s had a couple visits already,” Randy Carlyle said, “shown great improvement.” The 26-year-old has missed the past six games with the nagging injury.

The Maple Leafs are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference (7th in the league), against everyone’s better judgement — the smart money being that the Leafs will be a non-playoff team and probably a lottery pick team. And by everyone, I mean everyone except for Ian Dudgeon (@Dudgee) and I. Most people that write about the game had them finishing out of the playoffs again and if I’m being honest, I saw everyone else’s prediction via email first and thought I should be throw them a bone. While the key will be avoiding the characteristic season-crippling slump, this start means considerably more in a 48-game schedule and I wouldn’t have expected 8-5 through the first 13 games, especially not with Joffrey Lupul and Carl Gunnarsson going down early.

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Sabres vs Leafs
Photo: MapleLeafs.com

Toronto will be without Clarke McArthur as they visit the Buffalo Sabres. The injury to his pinky finger won’t sideline him for long but it does leave the Leafs’ LW depth, already missing Lupul, looking thin for tonight.

The Sabres, like the Leafs, are not exactly hot. They have lost three straight and Thomas Vanek was sidelined by a strained muscle in Sunday’s 3-2 loss in Washington. The left winger had been on the ice for all 11 of his team’s goals prior to that contest, scoring three and assisting on six – one versus the Maple Leafs.

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Brian Burke Fired
Photo: winnipegsun.com

By Alec Brownscombe & Declan Kerin

Shocking, is the only way to put it.

No, this wasn’t a move that was waiting in the wings. Last night, Dave Nonis and Brian Burke were taking in a Marlies game expecting to be the assistant GM and President and GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively, for the upcoming 2012-13 season. It came as a bombshell to absolutely everybody short of Tom Anselmi and some board members. If that’s not raising red flags in your head already, it should be.

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The Toronto Marlies look to continue their strong play of late (1st in the Western Conference) as they face-off against the slumping Hamilton Bulldogs. Toronto leads the season series 4-2 over Hamilton.

From Marlies.ca

The Toronto Marlies earned three out of a possible four points this past week. On Friday night in Michigan, the Marlies fell to the Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, by a score of 3-2 in a shootout. Will Acton and Matt Frattin recorded goals for Toronto in regulation and Ben Scrivens stopped 24 of 26 shots. The Griffins managed two goals in the shootout, while Joe Colborne registered the only tally for Toronto. Saturday night marked the second half of a back-to-back between the two teams. Toronto defeated Grand Rapids by a score of 3-1 at the Van Andel arena. Ryan Hamilton had his third multi-goal game of the season and Carter Ashton added the other tally for Toronto. Jussi Rynnas made 27 saves to earn his fifth victory of the year.

  • Head Coach Dallas Eakins will return to the AHL AllStar game for the second time in as many seasons. He was an assistant coach for Oklahoma City’s Todd Nelson last year
  • The Marlies have won 10 of their last 13 games and are currently on an eight game point streak
  • Paul Ranger ranks seventh (tie) in AHL plus/minus (+14)
  • Captain Ryan Hamilton ranks eighth (tie) in AHL goals (14). Hamilton has nine goals in his last 11 games
  • Keith Aucoin ranks sixth (tie) in AHL points (32) and second (tie) in AHL assists (25)
  • Mike Kostka ranks third in AHL powerplay assists (12)
  • Toronto has not lost back-to-back games since November 25

Toronto plays host to the Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, tonight at Ricoh Coliseum. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. Toronto has posted a record of 4-2-0-0 against Hamilton so far this season. Gabriel Dumont and Brendan Gallagher lead the Bulldogs in points with 18 in 31 games. On Saturday afternoon, Toronto will play host to the Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, at 3 p.m.

Martin St. Pierre leads the IceHogs in points with 30 in 33 games. Rockford currently ranks eighth in the Western Conference with 36 points.

In their last game of the week, the Marlies travel to Hamilton for a Tuesday night game with the Bulldogs. Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. The game will mark the eighth of 12 meetings between the two teams this season.

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The Toronto Marlies (18-9-1) take on the Grand Rapids Griffins (17-9-1) 7pm on TSN 1050 and AHL Live. Depending on how the Charlotte Checkers fare tonight, the Marlies could move into first place in the West with a win.

Toronto is one of—if not the hottest team in the league the last 10 games (7-1-1-1), while Detroit’s AHL club is almost equally hot (7-3-0-0).

From Clayton Hansler:

Jussi Rynnas is expected to get the start in goal tonight. There may be some movement amongst the skaters, but firm lineups won’t be available until closer to game time.

***

Dylan Yeo will cycle back into active duty replacing Paul Ranger for Saturday’s game marking only the fifth game missed by the Whitby born rear guard. Nicolas Deschamps also returns after sitting out on Friday, Kenny Ryan expected to sit in his place.

EXPECTED MARLIES LINEUP

IN GOAL: #40 Jussi Rynnas

FOWARD LINES
Hamilton – Aucoin – Abbott
Ashton – Colborne – Scott
D’Amigo – McKegg – Frattin
Ross – Acton – Deschamps

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Yeo – Kostka
Fraser – Holzer
Gysbers – Blacker

—-

And if you missed this pretty cool mic’d up video of Mike Kostka…

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Toronto Marlies vs Abbotsford Heat
Photo: abbotsfordheat.com

The Abbotsford Heat (13-4-3-2), the top team in the AHL, came into town to face off with one of the hottest teams in the AHL, the Toronto Marlies (13-8-0-1). The Marlies played and won their last game less than 24hrs ago against the Rochester Americans and entered this game on the strength of a four-game winning streak and great play at home (7-1-0-1).