Home Authors Posts by Mislav Jantoljak
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Usually, HBO’s 24/7 beats the actual Winter Classic in fanfare and expectation. This year, it has simply been a welcomed preview. The Big House in Ann Arbour, Michigan gathered a record number of bodies (105,491 people), vastly exceeding 71,217 humans attending the first Winter Classic in 2008. After a tough 5-4 SO loss against the Wings on December 21st, the Leafs were due for a victory. Paul Ranger had the right idea, wearing the eye-paint of the tiger and looking very much up for a game which brought him and all those in attendance to the core of their love of hockey. We’ve all been waiting for this a long time, so let’s see how this one panned out.
1) The Leafs are 21-16-5 and this was a proper celebration of the game. Also, in the midst of the Classic it was confirmed that JM Liles and Dennis Robertson were traded to Carolina for a dependable shutdown defenseman Tim Gleason. Don’t expect miracles, but the defensive end of things should be somewhat bolstered by his presence. Now, let’s get to the on-ice happenings. Considering the standings, this was an important game for both teams.
2) The conditions certainly played a major part right from the start, and showering the goaltenders wasn’t really frowned upon as much with all the snow. Frequent breaks for ice cleanup offered a chance for some additional strategizing on the benches. Dump and chase was the name of the game as goalies weren’t advised to take field trips behind their net (Bernier didn’t seem to have any trouble in doing so, though). Also, the surface made it difficult for players like Datsyuk to take full advantage of their puck-handling skills offensively but a lot of it played into Detroit’s hands with the kind of ‘meat and potatoes’ style of play they employ which was obvious by the shot count after the opening frame. The first powerplay of the game came after Abdelkader crosschecked Phaneuf from behind in the corner and the Californian made ice/snow removers were once again called into action. A fresh sheet of ice didn’t help the Leafs who couldn’t really put anything dangerous on Jimmy Howard.
3) Like Healy noticed (or heard on 24/7) all Detroit defenseman are left handed shooters which made it difficult for their defense to handle the puck on their off-side, especially in conditions like these. Unfortunately, the Leafs didn’t take advantage of that throughout the opening period. The Wings got their first man advantage during the middle of the opening frame when Lupul took a revenge on Kindl’s hit by crosschecking Eaves into the head. Bernier had to be really sharp since the Wings’ powerplay didn’t look as lethargic – still, no goals were scored as Dan Cleary looked to the sky following another good save by the Leafs netminder. The period ended with some grit shown by the Leafs and another good penalty kill following an unfortunate penalty call on Dion.
4) The water bottles were a tougher opponent for the likes of Todd Bertuzzi today. The things were frozen solid and required frequent replacements to keep the goaltenders hydrated. As the second period played out, Nazem Kadri got absolutely robbed by Howard on the best opportunity of the game created by Joffrey Lupul. The kid was slamming his stick on the bench for missing that one. We also found out that the elements were no match for the greatness of Pavel Datsyuk who was still doing his thing in the second.
5) The middle frame saw both teams pushing the pace, but the majority of puck possession and chances still belonged to the Red Wings. Half way into it, Dan Cleary couldn’t put the biscuit past a sprawling Jonathan Bernier who got a slight piece of it and continued with his solid performance in this one. Tatar’s rush just prior to that wasn’t something to sneeze at either. The Leafs were spending too much time in their own zone and the Wings almost made them pay. The shot count stood 19-10 in favor of the red team 12 minutes into the 2nd.
6) Wings got a break on a lucky bounce of the boards which put Zetterberg and Alfredsson on a two-on-one break as Franson got caught up ice. Surely enough, that got them first goal of the hockey game. This was followed by another Leafs penalty, Jay McClement sat in the box as Leafs Nation held their breath. A two goal lead with one period to play, in a game like this – yeah, you’re basically done. Fortunately, the PK did it’s job, thanks mostly to some stellar saves by Bernier. First he stole one from Cleary and followed that up with a 10-bell save on Detroit’s top powerplay unit. Some end to end stuff saw Howard do the same on JVR after his big hit, resulting in a Leafs man advantage. It was surely too late, but the US-born goalie was making his final bid for a roster spot at the Sochi Olympics, stopping the Buds time after time. Be that as it may, our own American wouldn’t be denied. JVR tied the game just 37 second from the buzzer by batting a puck out of the air and scoring past Howard who was seemingly unbeatable down low. Phil Kessel (12:43) and van Riemsdyk (12:34) were leading all forwards in ice time after 2.
7) The tying goal set everyone up for a terrific third period. Dion Phaneuf’s bloody lip gave him an some added nastiness, which seemed to be squarely aimed at Daniel Alfredsson. He was pinching and frequently finishing checks, the best of which coming against the Swede in the offensive zone where he got the puck and the man.
8) Our captain also celebrated his new contract with a huge assist from the point. He simply threw a puck to the net, it passed a bunch of bodies and sticks in front and ended up behind Detroit’s goaltender – a quick review was made but it was definitely a good goal, a vital goal, which should kill all the talk about his extension, even if only for a brief period of time. Bozak was credited with a deflection in the end.
9) A half-handed effort by Franson let Abdelkader power his way to the net and put the puck behind Bernier. Nothing in hockey, especially in a spectacle such as this, comes easy. The Wings pinched like crazy and it most certainly paid off. Still, if there was any doubt prior to tonight, Jonathan Bernier used the brightest of spotlights to grab the starting position ahead of James Reimer. Perhaps, this will be the biggest storyline of the Winter Classic. Overtime, as exciting as it was, solved nothing and the game went to a shootout where Tyler Bozak, of all people, scored to end the game. Welcome back sir!
10) The final episode of 24/7 will taste much sweeter now. It’s not a Stanley Cup, but it’s a major win the team can rally around and a soothing sensation for the entire contingent of Leafs Nation, which can finally celebrate something. Enjoy it.
2014 Winter Classic Shot Location Data
2014 Winter Classic Game in 6
Leo pleads his case before the courts (Photo by Davor Sajko / KHL.hr)
On Friday, hockey fans in Zagreb, Croatia got to see the fantastic Dynamo Moscow, without a doubt the best hockey team outside the NHL. Their ‘pest’ is also a fantastic player, one particularly familiar to Leaf fans – Leo Komarov. Our beloved Finnish grinder is doing a bit of everything in the KHL, including throwing opponents off their game. In last night’s 5:0 trashing of Medvescak, he managed to get Hugh Jessiman thrown out of the game on a major penalty for spearing; the former Rangers prospect completely lost his mind…
‘Yeah, you know, they’re supposed to know who I am and everything, it was a little stupid of him, I just did my job’, said Komarov who leads the team with 28 points in 36 games. After some quick words about the game, KHL.hr’s Danijel Jelenek and yours truly talked to Leo about his NHL journey both prior and after the game against Zagreb’s Bears.
You played very well for the Leafs last season. Do you see yourself coming back next year?
‘Yeah, I’m trying to get back to the NHL and I hope some team will pick me up. But it was my decision to leave (the NHL) too, we’ll see if it turns out to be a good decision or not.’
Did you leave because you wanted top six minutes?
‘No no no, I’m not that kind of a player, everything was good with the Leafs and I really enjoyed it there. But I didn’t get the offer I maybe wanted, and I wanted to play a lot of minutes over here (in the KHL) because it’s an Olympic year and I knew that if I came back to Dynamo I’d get a lot of ice time. It’s hard to say really, I liked the team, the city, everything – coming back (to Russia) was a hard decision.’
If you do end up returning to the NHL, would you like it to be with the Leafs?
‘Oh yeah, I enjoyed it there, it was probably the best time of my life. I was really happy to play with the Leafs and I hope they are going to take me back, but you never know what’s going to happen. They hold my rights until July and I would love to get an offer from the Leafs.’
What was your favorite goal in a Leafs jersey?
‘The first one against the Montreal. I’ll remember that whole my life.’
Do you still watch them this season?
‘Yeah, I follow them really closely.’
You can find the full interview with some more really great Leafs content over at KHL.hr, your source for glorious Finnish pests and news about the Kontinental league. In all honesty, we quite enjoyed talking to Leo, who seemed as much as a fan of the Leafs as the two editors conducting the interview or anyone here at the Hot Stove. Personally, I do feel this team misses Komarov and, as you can read in the rest of our interview, he misses Toronto.
Photo: Richard Lam/Getty Images
The Leafs visited the Vancouver on Pavel Bure night for the first of two seasonal meetings with the Canucks. In other news, Luke Schenn was a healthy scratch for the Flyers as Paul Holmgren saw fit to reward the former Leafs defenseman on his birthday. More importantly, but certainly less amusing, Liles, Bodie and Ashton were healthy scratches for the Leafs and Mason Raymond was in the lineup against his old team. Anyway, see how this one turned out… or don’t. Your choice. I’d prefer the latter.
The Leafs extended their relationship with center Tyler Bozak and signed winger David Clarkson from Free Agency. Bozak’s new deal is a 5-year, $21M deal while Clarkson comes in on a 7-year contract worth just north of $5M per over that span. Clarkson’s contract includes limited No-Trade and No-Movement clauses.
We all know what Bozak brings, and, in my mind, it’s nowhere close to the term and contract value received. As for Clarkson, it’s an overpayment yes, one that doesn’t worry me so much; not because of him not really being a true 30 goal scorer, but because he’s a player who does numerous other things to help your team.
David has a solid frame and plays a hard nosed game. He can defend teammates and is a dangerous offensive player on both wings. Clarkson can create havoc when utilized up close on the powerplay. He’s strong on the cycle, he provides net presence and can finish in tight. The Leafs needed a forward like him.
BUT. It’s the term on the contract is what I find most baffling. Clarkson is 29 years old, and even if he can continue to play on the level shown during the last two years (45 goals in 128 games, 216 PIMs in that span) he probably won’t be at that level for even 2/3 of the contract duration.
While Clarkson is an upgrade on MacAthur, MacArthur just went to Ottawa for 3.25 million for 2 years. Make of it what you will.
Done deal: Dave Bolland for a 2nd (2013) and two fourth round draft picks (2013, 2014).
Leo Komarov is back in the KHL. His signature for Dynamo Moscow has already been confirmed by official club sources and his own twitter account. Just like that, the Leafs will have to live life without their pesky winger.
If you want to look back and find a Game 7 featuring the Leafs, you need to go back to 2004, the last time the Leafs made the playoffs. The Buds emerged victorious in a 4-1 win over Ottawa to wrap up a first-round series win. Really, this game 7, the first against Boston in 57 years, should’ve ended much the same way. Instead, hearts were broken. This is the toughest Game in 10 I’ll ever write.
Photo Credit: Rick Madonik/Toronto Star
Playoffs – Game 2. They say that nothing goes wrong in the playoffs until you lose a game at home. Advantage: Leafs. After 6 periods of hockey, the Buds return home with a slight edge in the series after splitting Boston. Your Game In 10 is down below.
Here we are with the first ever PLAYOFF Game In 10 on MLHS. The Boston Bruins won three out of four regular season meetings between the two teams, but went 3-5-2 during the last 10 game stretch. Meanwhile, the Leafs entered the series with a 5-4-1 record. Let’s examine the
horror learning process that unfolded.
Well, here we are. Leaf Nation’s 9 year wait for their team to make it to the post season is finally over and done with. Although this sensation is a welcomed one, many Leaf fans cannot help but now feel like they are in uncharted territory. Indeed, as every bold blue and white explorer ventures on, he confronts new challenges in his fandom.
Busting out the classic for this great night. It's funny because the Leafs scrambled them like eggs. Stinky eggs.
The Leafs and the Habs met for the fourth time this season. In what was potentially a preview of the first round playoff matchup, it was important to get a win, not only because of the 5-2 loss in the ACC last time around, but because a win for the Habs would most certainly give them a home ice advantage in the potential series encounter. Here is how it all, beautifully, unfolded.
Photo - Jim McIsaac/Getty
Tonight’s game offered the second of the three seasonal meetings between these two teams. The Leafs were without Joffrey Lupul and they had to get the job done against a team that could creep up to a playoff spot with a win tonight, a Stanley Cup finalist from last year. Komarov and MacArthur made their return and it made things a little bit easier while the Devils are struggling to score without Kovalchuk. Fraser McLaren was scratched because the Devils require less face-punching or something like that.
Listen, I disagree with Don Cherry a lot. Being European, I take issue with a lot of the stuff he says and does. That being said, the relationship is sometimes quite bi-polar.
The Leafs played the Sens in the fourth of five meetings between these two teams. This Battle of Ontario offered great value as the Sens held a two point advantage in the Northeast Division and the Conference standings headed into this one. Not anymore.
Photo credit: thestar.com
The Leafs faced the Bruins for the third time this season. The Bs have taken the first two games along with their 8 last games against the Leafs which made this a statement game for the Buds. A celebration of Sundin’s induction into the HHOF gave it some more flair and we all hoped it wasn’t going to be a repeat of the effort shown on last February’s Sundin night. Fortunately, they got a do-over.
This was the third and final matchup between these two Canadian teams battling for a playoff spot. The previous game still stings, with the Jets easily beating the Leafs 5-2 on Tuesday in Winnipeg. It was payback time. More importantly, it was slump busting time in a game the Leafs desperately needed to win. Well…
The Leafs welcomed the Penguins in what was their second meeting of the season. A win in the first game in Pittsburgh certainly felt good, but this was a Penguins team that has 7 wins in their last 10 games and has just now started to push for the top of the Conference standings. It was a different game entirely.
In this shortened season it’s never too early to talk about playoff implications. The Leafs currently sit 5th in the Eastern Conference while the Pens come into this game as the 2nd team in the East. In recent years, getting into the playoffs was virtually a lock for Pittsburgh. As we all know, the Leafs have struggled mightily. Given how things have played out so far, this season provides hope. This season can be different.
Photo: QMI Agency
Prior to this one, the Habs lost only four regulation games this season, but two of those loses have come at the hands of the Maple Leafs, including the 6-0 shellacking handed to them in the Bell Centre. The 6-0 win also featured physical dominance by the Leafs so this one was expected to be a fiery affair. The Habs added Michael Ryder and PK Subban to the lineup just to make things more difficult.
The second edition of the Battle of Ontario. Last time these teams met (Feb. 16th), the final score was 3-0 in the ACC. Now, last time the Sens were simply missing their top line C and last year’s Norris Trophy winner. Tonight, that list included one of the season’s best goaltenders, Craig Anderson. Fair to say that this was another winnable game. Not to be as the Leafs fall 3-2.
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