Friday, May 22, 2015
Authors Posts by Greg Thomson

Greg Thomson


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Photo Credit: Luis M. Alvarez/AP Photo

Well, the luck continued yesterday for the Blue and White. With their monumental collapse in the playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers last season still fresh in the minds of the Boston faithful, the Bruins once again committed a major defensive lapse by surrendering five unanswered goals to the Rangers yesterday and putting the post season further out of reach for the Leafs. Hopefully the hockey gods have the decency to balance out the Leafs’ misfortunes eventually because we haven’t seen much fall their way since the lockout.

At the end of the day, the Leafs playoff aspirations rely solely on their performance throughout the entire season. While a late stretch created excitement for the city of Toronto, this team must get over the hump and learn to win on a consistent basis without that major, season-killing slump that has had them fighting such a deficit the past few seasons. All Leaf fans can ask for is an honest effort and demand no excuses for mid-season mediocrity. It has been well-documented that the Leafs have put together one of the best records in the NHL since the All Star break. None of that matters if the team is one of the worst through October and November.

With three important games left on the schedule, starting with tonight`s game against Washington, the Leafs will look to finish the year strong to leave no doubts that they finally jumped over the hump. Although the playoffs are still a mathematical possibility, the Buffalo Sabres must lose the rest of their games in regulation while the Leafs need to go three straight in either regulation or overtime. If the Sabres manage to record a point, Toronto will be officially, mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Hey, stranger things have happened, right? I think?

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Photo Credit: Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

The Flyers – Rangers game is available on TSN. 12:30 p.m. start. Carolina – Buffalo face off at 5 p.m., check back for a stream link.

On the eve of the Leafs meeting with the Ottawa Senators, James Reimer was named the NHL’s top rookie for the month of March in what has been a whirlwind season for the recently turned 23-year old goaltender. After making his first career start on January 1st against the Senators in Ottawa, Reimer returned yesterday in hopes of recording his 20th win of the season in only his 34th career game. Not bad for a former fourth round pick who began the season as a Toronto Marlie.

With an impressive 20-8-4 record, including a 2.54 goals against average and 0.922 save percentage, Reimer has earned his stay as a starting NHL goaltender. Not only is he capable of playing in the pressure packed market in Toronto, but he is embracing the spotlight with his calm and collected attitude. Again last night Reimer made the saves that mattered and showed no signs of being fazed after a quickfire double from Ottawa Senators erased a 2-0 lead.

Barring a meltdown from either the eighth place New York Rangers or ninth place Carolina Hurricanes, the Leafs will finish out of the post season for a sixth consecutive season. Despite that likely result, there is a long list of reasons why this team has what it takes to ride back to the glory land next year.

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Photo Credit: Vince Talotta/Torstar News Service

The sixth and final chapter of this season’s Battle of Ontario gets underway tonight in another must-win game for the Leafs, who are five points back of the eighth place New York Rangers with four games left on the schedule. The 14th place Ottawa Senators will look to play a spoiler role against their arch rival in hopes of putting an end to their remaining playoff aspirations. Although the Senators have struggled as of late, they have managed to stay competitive in games due to the impressive goaltending display from Craig Anderson, who was recently re-signed by the team to a four year contract. The playoff chances may be remote, but the last way we want them put to rest is at the hands of the Senators.

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Photo Credit: Rick Stewart/Getty Images

It appeared as though the Leafs received a lucky break when the Sabres announced that Ryan Miller was listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury as a result of being hit in the chest by a Dion Phaneuf slapshot on Tuesday. As Leafs fans, we should know better by now. With Miller out, the Sabres started a relatively unproven and undersized goalie in Jhonas Enroth, who had only appeared in nine NHL games prior to starting last night. He made 23 saves to earn the victory and his first career shutout. Buffalo’s win puts the Leafs seven points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with only five games remaining.

Toronto is back in action tonight against their division rival Boston Bruins, who have struggled against the Leafs this season, winning only two of the five previous matchups. However, the Bruins enter the game on a hot streak, winning three straight, their latest a 3-0 shutout performance over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.

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Photo Credit: Mike Cassese/REUTERS

The Maple Leafs earned an uplifting 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres last night to a thunderous ovation from the ACC faithful. While the Leafs live to fight another day, the odds are still heavily stacked against their favour and they will have to hope the Sabres begin to wilt underneath the added pressure starting tonight against the Rangers.

Led by a three-point performance from Clarke MacArthur, Nazem Kadri’s best game in a Leaf uniform and an energized Dion Phaneuf, the blue and white dropped the Sabres for the third consecutive time in the span of about a month. While the Sabres are still five points ahead of the Leafs with a game in hand, admirably this Leafs hasn’t seemed to have gotten the memo about their season being over, and do maintain a slim chance of crawling back into the top-eight of the Eastern Conference if they can start getting a few favours.

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Nazem Kadri celebrates his second career NHL goal in last night's 4-2 loss to Detroit. (Getty Images)

The Leafs entered last week with the hope of winning at least two of the three games on their Western road trip. They were successful in accomplishing that goal, however last night’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings put the team into a very difficult position heading into the final stretch of the regular season. In order to have a realistic chance of making the post season, Toronto will likely have to win all six of their remaining games and pray that the Buffalo Sabres hit a dead end and win two or fewer of their games.

Considering the season-long brilliance displayed by Ryan Miller, and major offensive contributions from Thomas Vanek and sophomore forward Tyler Ennis, the Sabres will have to suffer a significant blow such as an injury or losing streak to lose hold of the eighth and final playoff spot.

Brian Burke stated prior to the start of the season that the primary goal was to make the playoffs. With yet another season set to wrap up in mid April, the city of Toronto is not filled with negativity and frustration, but rather a sense of optimism and promise that the Leafs have made significant strides towards building a contending team in the very near future.

Links after the jump.

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(Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)

The Maple Leafs visit the Joe Louis Arena in the only meeting of the season against an original six rival in the Detroit Red Wings. Coming off their third-straight win after a victory in Colorado on Thursday, tonight’s game is the next step in the attempt to more or less run the board and climb into the top-eight of the Eastern Conference. Despite being second in the West, the Red Wings have struggled in the month of March, going 4-4-3 in their last 11, including two losses in regulation and an overtime loss, in their last three games.

Toronto is looking to capitalize on the Red Wings glut of injuries. Detroit will be without leading offensive forwards Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Todd Bertuzzi (back) and Johan Franzen (groin). With a 16-7-4 overall record and a 12-3-1 road record when James Reimer is between the pipes, the Leafs have been one of the top three teams since the all star break, behind only the San Jose Sharks and New Jersey Devils. In order to prove up to making the playoffs, let alone to competing in them, Toronto needs to be able to beat the best. Let’s hope the continued lack of outside help hasn’t taken some of the wind out of the Leafs’ collective sail, as the state of Florida failed the Leafs last night with Carolina and Buffalo wins over Tampa Bay and the Panthers.

Follow the jump for today’s Leaf Links.

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With a 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche last night, the Leafs have moved into a tie with the Carolina Hurricanes for ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 78 points, putting them three back of the Buffalo Sabres, who sit in eighth with two games in hand. Based on the past few seasons, the minimum number of points needed to qualify for the playoffs falls between 90 and 92 points. In order to reach that mark, the Leafs must win at least six of their final seven games. The goal heading into this west coast road trip was to collect four out of a possible six points, which has already been accomplished, so earning at least one point in Detroit on Saturday will be a major bonus for the team.

James Reimer is clearly the engine that drives the Leafs’ success, however there is one player in particular who hasn’t garnered nearly the amount of attention that he deserves based on his play this season. With spotlight shining on Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and of course Phil Kessel, there has been less talk of Nikolai Kulemin and his under the radar performance. With two goals last night, he has moved within two tallies of the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career. The 25-year old forward has not only set a career high in goals (28), assists (26) and overall points (54), but he has also been one of the team’s best penalty killers.

Check out your Leafs Links after the jump.