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MLHS continues its’ Player Reviews with the longest-serving member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, right winger Nikolai Kulemin. The 26-year-old Magnitogorsk, Russia native had a bounce back season, recording seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points while playing in 48 regular season games. He struggled through seven playoff games, recording only one assist. But it was Kulemin’s ability to do yeoman’s work in the defensive zone that made the Leafs a winner.
Good news, everyone! Over the next couple of weeks, MLHS will be releasing Player Reviews for the Toronto Maple Leafs 2012-2013 season. Every day leading up the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, we’ll profile one Leaf player that will reflect upon their peaks, valleys and overall performance this season. The goals, the hits, the glory and the heartbreak that led to the first post-season berth in nine years.
But these write-ups will be different from years past, for two reasons. The first will be the frequent use of the word ‘playoffs.’ The second will be the role we need you, the readers, to play.
The Toronto Maple Leafs face playoff elimination tonight, but have dug their heels in against the Boston Bruins and have “done a lot of good things” in the series according to Randy Carlyle. From the perpetually unimpressed man who guided the team to a horrid crash and lottery finish and a playoff berth in less than 82 games, I’d call that high praise.
With the Buds backs against the wall, here’s four thoughts ahead of the biggest game in the longest time.
Photo: The Canadian Press
Toronto Maple Leafs came out strong, but ultimately fell to the Boston Bruins 4 – 3 in overtime of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals. The Leafs had no answer for David Krejci, who scored a hat trick to steal the victory from the Buds. The battle of Vezina snubs didn’t disappoint either, with James Reimer making 41 saves in the loss and Tuukka Rask again stopping a phenomenal 45 shots tonight.
Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
With Wednesday night’s beat down in Beantown still bringing up bruises, it sure looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs are punching above their weight class in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup. Such are the wages of glory. Thankfully, the Leafs have some time to lick their wounds and regroup ahead of Saturday’s matchup. Looks like they’ll need it.
Here are some thoughts to get you through your Friday.
Despite splitting the state of Florida, it’s been a pretty terrific week for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The club finished the road portion of the regular season with a record of 13 – 8 – 3, earning a respectable 29 of their 57 points on the season away from the ACC. James Reimer recorded his fourth shutout and 19th win in only his 33rd start of the season. Phil Kessel scored three goals in the two games to leap into sixth in the league in scoring with 51 points.
Are you ready for the most uplifting (small sample size) Four for Friday yet?
As the Toronto Maple Leafs skip along to their first playoff berth in eight seasons, Dion Phaneuf’s play is forcing his name to be included in discussion for the Norris Trophy. The Norris is awarded annually to “the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position,” and that sure sounds like the play of the Leaf captain this season.
He plays a physical, two-way brand of hockey and sits fifth-best in league for defensemen scoring with eight goals and 18 assists for 26 points in 42 games. He’s a leader on the ice, the best defender on the team by a mile and has joined forces with Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri and James Reimer to drag the Leafs into contention.
But how does his performance this season stack up against performances past, and what greater truths can we find about the anatomy of a Norris Nominee?
Without the ‘x’ beside their name in standings it isn’t official, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are tantalizingly close to clinching a playoff spot. Even with their 49 points through 40 games, they may have simply outpaced the also-rans for playoff contention.
The Winnipeg Jets sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, but have only six games to make up ground. Every team above in the standings has at least one game in hand on the Jets. They’re running out of race track. The tenth place New Jersey, losers of eight of their last ten games; sit a nigh-insurmountable nine points back of the Leafs.
The truth is less suspenseful than the idea of the playoff chase, but I’ll take it. Here are some Leaf thoughts for your Friday.
Phil Kessel scored twice as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the New York Rangers 4 – 3 on Monday night. The game was never really in doubt, with the Rangers never able to take a lead, though they hung around with two goals in the third to briefly tie it. Kessel added an assist for his third three-point game of the season, while James van Riemsdyk and Ryan O’Byrne also scored for the Leafs. James Reimer made 31 saves for the victory.
Photo: Getty Images
Mirroring the trade deadline, it’s been a slow and painful week in Leaf land. The club still sits in sixth place in the Eastern conference, briefly flirting with fifth without even playing. Even with the loss, the Buds are sitting on a 20 – 13 – 4 record and play only four games against teams ahead of them in standings in their remaining games. And one of those teams is the Washington Capitals so really it’s three. Here are some Leaf thoughts to start your Friday off right.
I don't know what you'll talk about either, Bob.
With the trade deadline coming next Wednesday, and the Leafs settled snugly into sixth place, the team’s status as either buyer or seller is still unclear. The team as presently assembled is not a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup, and no Jarome Iginla could change that fact. Compounding matters is that Dave Nonis has already iterated that the team is not going to sacrifice the youth movement filtering into the professional ranks of the club for the sake of the immediate future. So even if the Leafs were to be ‘in’ on Ryane Clowe, they’d be priced out of the running by teams like the Bruins or Ducks.
Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron scored in the shootout as the Boston Bruins clawed back to take 3 – 2 decision over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Joffrey Lupul and Nikolai Kulemin scored for the Leafs in regulation, who led 2 – 0 in the second period before ultimately receding to the Bruins. James Reimer made 27 saves in a losing effort, while Tuukka Rask made 23.
With the boats now foolishly burnt and the season 31 games old, the Toronto Maple Leafs sure look like they’re reeling into form. Since starting the season with a record of 15 – 9 – 0, the Leafs have gone 1 – 3 – 3 in the past seven games, collecting only five points in the standings and now sitting precariously in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Through the good graces of the Hockey gods and the incompetence of their direct competition (the Jets, Hurricanes and Rangers all lost in regulation last night), the Leafs are just barely keeping their head above water.
Photo: Windsor Star
Here’s five Leaf thoughts to get you through your Friday, with five links at the bottom.
Steckel and McClement Faceoff Woes
I was taking a look at the faceoff numbers, and I noticed some altogether startling numbers from Steckel and McClement. Both were once kings of the faceoff circle, with McClement averaging 51.6% of his 1152 draws in 2010-2011 and 51.3% of his 873 draws in 2011-2012, whereas Steckel won 62.3% of his 820 draws in 2010-2011, and 58.0% of his 1108 draws in 2011-2012.
Former Leafs Nik Antropov and Kyle Wellwood came back to haunt their old club with five points between them, as the Winnipeg Jets trounced the Leafs 5 – 2 on Tuesday night. Blake Wheeler scored two goals, while Ondrej Pavelec had a rare good showing with 24 saves for the victory. Phil Kessel scored both goals for Toronto, and now has nine on the season, and five in his last five games.
CARLOS OSORIO/TORONTO STAR
With the first half of the season in the books, the Toronto Maple Leafs sit firmly entrenched in fifth place in the East with an impressive record of 15 – 10 – 0. So who should we thank for the great successes so far at the midway mark?
In the least interesting reveal of the article, Nazem Kadri wins this first Middy™ by a wide margin. He took the team lead in points in the third game of the season and hasn’t looked back, having tallied 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points in 25 games. His arrival to the Leafs may have had few more layovers than anyone hoped, but he’s now showing every night just why Brian Burke was right to draft him seventh overall in 2009.
The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators in the alley and on the ice in the first period and survived a late push on the way to a 5 – 4 win on Wednesday night. The Leafs took a lead early, and chose not to look back, with goals coming from Tyler Bozak, Jay McClement, James van Riemsdyk, Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri. James Reimer made 39 saves, while Kessel recorded two assists for his first three point night of the year.
After 22 games, the one thing Leafs fans can agree on is that Randy Carlyle’s coaching methodology can be frustrating as hell. Nowhere is this more apparent than the deployment of Mikhail Grabovski.
After signing a five-year, 27.5-million dollar contract extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs last March, it seemed as though the Leafs had shored up a terrific top-six centreman who could be counted on for 50 points a season. But after 22 games Grabo sits with a modest 10 points (six goals, four assists); good for about 37 points in an 82-game schedule. Yet under Carlyle he’s developed into the team’s top shutdown pivot. So what’s to make of it?
Photo: Aaron Lynett/National Post
Ben Scrivens couldn’t weather the storm, as the Tampa Bay Lightning stunned the Toronto Maple Leafs 4 – 2 on Tuesday night. The Bolts were bolstered by goals from Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn and Matt Carle, while Mikhail Grabovski and James van Riemsdyk responded for the Buds.
The Toronto Maple Leafs continued their winning ways on the road, dropping the toothless Florida Panthers 3 – 0 on Monday night. Ben Scrivens made 37 saves in his second consecutive shutout and the Buds were buoyed by goals from Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri and Clarke MacArthur. The win was the Leafs second in a row, and broke a 5-game losing streak in Sunrise, Florida.
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