Home Authors Posts by Mislav Jantoljak

Mislav Jantoljak

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I'm Mislav, a Croat living in Zagreb. I love the Leafs and write hockey things. First wrote on Leafspace, then did some work on LeafsHQ for about a year and a half and have been a proud member of Maple Leafs Hot Stove ever since. Also wrote for the Hockey News (that one time was sweet!), have been covering Medvescak Zagreb for the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga and the KHL as part of KHL.hr. @Xterratu on Twitter.

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It was rivalry night in the ACC as the Leafs hosted the Canadiens. The Habs were one of the teams we were supposed to take both points from. Tomas Kaberle made a return to the ACC, but this time he was wearing a much hated jersey. A part of the anthem was done in French and it was the only part that Randy Cunneyworth had trouble with.

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The Leafs played a good game in the Battle of Ontario. Unfortunately, we needed points from the Battle of Ontario and we got none. Not to take anything away from the boys, because this really was a good effort, but Ottawa now sits 9 points ahead of us in the Conference standings while we trail the eighth-placed Capitals by one point.

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The Leafs were facing the Conference leading New York Rangers in an Original Six matchup. Our team knew what they were getting with the Rangers. Under John Tortorella they only play one way – hard, and we needed to match that. Unfortunately, we just needed to put some more weight on the gas pedal and we didn’t do it.

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A game against the surging Stamkoses, as the Lightning are currently known and will be known for some time in the future, featured some very entertaining hockey. After all who cares about defense? All it does is win championships. I was entertained and Tampa were plainly and soundly beaten.

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Photo Credit: Mike Cassese/REUTERS

I love the AHL. For me, it’s the best developmental league in the world. It’s not just about developing the skills of young players, it’s also giving a young, skilled player confidence in his ability.

Kadri still isn’t wowing me with his defensive play, though it’s improving. It’s his ability to control his shifts, his game, and contribute in a big way offensively that’s turning my head. It’s becoming a natural thing for the kid. That is what the AHL can do to a player.

In 22 AHL games this year, Nazem has been a point-per-game player. He scored 8 goals and had 14 assists, but was also a minus 4. Plus/minus may be a boneheaded stat, but it’s still a boneheaded stat that speaks of a player who isn’t exactly Datsyukian in terms of how he handles the defensive end of things. But, alongside Connolly and MacArthur the Leafs have given that kind of player a chance to shine offensively and see it translate to the NHL level.

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    Well, this was an interesting game. Interesting as in even if the Kings got two goals that really shouldn’t have happened, you still get the feeling they were the better team tonight. Still sucks losing that point, especially after an improved third period and overtime in which we dominated play.

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    Photo Credit: www.medvescak.com

    On 17th of December 2011 Zagreb’s most prestigious hockey club, Medveščak Zagreb, celebrated their 50th anniversary. To mark and celebrate this event the KHL sent one of their most decorated and historic teams – Dynamo Moscow. To put it in North American perspective, Dynamo is close to the Leafs or Canadiens in terms of their European rating.

    16th of December 2011. I am invited to attend the press conference which is going to be held at one of the hotels closest to Medveščak’s home arena, Dom Sportova (Home Of Sports). It’s only logical since the Russian team will have to depart soon after the game to meet their demanding KHL schedule. I feel extremely honored and lucky to be able to attend because even if hockey is still a growing sport in Croatia, it was always my dream and where I live opportunities like this one don’t come along very often.

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      The Leafs played the Skinerless Carolina Cam Wards tonight, who were coached by none other than Mr. I’m blond I’m tall I’m the most talented coach in the world, Krik Muller. For all intents and purposes, this was a must win game.

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      Photo Credit: Paul Hunter/Toronto Star

      Imagine if you will, being a free agent and having teams covet you; imagine Brian Burke wanting to sign you. Imagine scoring your first goal in the ACC  putting the puck through the legs of a Flyer defenseman and burying it top shelf with Phil Kessel providing the assist. Must be hard to be Tyler Bozak, right?

      It was much harder than even he knew at the time. Bozak was “forced” to play No1 center position in only his second NHL season and that’s a lot to ask from a guy not named Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. There is no denying the pressure was overwhelming, as it often is in Toronto. Not having the poise or the confidence to play with Kessel that season, he found himself in a hole, finishing the season with a -29 and 32 points in 82 games. Ah the perils of being Tyler Bozak.

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        The Leafs meet the Capitals. Last time these two teams met, the Leafs brought the world of hurt and won 7-1. Colby Armstrong returned to the lineup, while Connolly got injured so we brought the hurt this time around too. As far as the score is concerned the story was very different. I suggest reading the 7-1 Game In 10 instead.

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          The boys visited the MSG tonight, a place where we were already successful once this year. Oh, and Grabo made another baby. Congratulations! Good coaching by Ron Wilson is evident off the ice as well.

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            Another game against the Bruins, another night of same olds. Next game against the Bs is March 6th, 2012, so this was a last chance in a long time to make an impression in what is fast becoming a really ugly two player rivalry. James Reimer returned, which given his record against the Bruins made perfect sense. The HNIC commentators would have you believe Chara is a mammoth shutdown angel on skates and Boston can improve fertility with their systems play.

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            Bruce Boudreau

            To be completely honest, I was struggling to find a topic for today’s Mashup. Somehow, yet another recipe for beating the Bruins didn’t seem like a good conversation starter. Sure, we can beat the around the bush, or puck for that matter, but fact is this topic has been beaten so many times now a dead horse metaphor is a putting it mildly.

            But even so, reality is, in light of back to back games against our yellow nemesis, that topic is hardly coming down from anyone’s lips. Since yesterday was a good day to relax – and what better way to relax than reading about hockey – I was reading the last issue of the Hockey News when I came across pure gold written by Ken Campbell.

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              A spirited rivalry brewing? I swear, in 50 years time we will still be talking about the Kessel trade. Who won the trade? Who cares? All I know is we have Kessel, we love Kessel, and Seguin is a Bruin. We don’t like the Bruins. All I want to know is, who poked the friggin’ Bear?

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              Photo: Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

              Somewhere in one of my post Boston Game In 10s I advocated changes to the lineup. A bigger forward on the top line to improve our offensive zone cycles and puck retrieval and have also criticized Wilson for not having a good transition game which partially stemmed from our back end and the inability to make that first pass out of the defensive zone.

              Well, I don’t know if you can say that Burke’s original plan wasn’t/isn’t to bring in a top line forward with size, especially since that’s what the organization and numerous panelists slated as our No1 need prior to the season. But what you can say is that changes did happen, even if they weren’t exactly by design. Strange as this seems, injuries proved to be a blessing in disguise.

              Personally, I thought the changes had to be made via trades. And, I was wrong, but was hardly the only one. How many people really thought those much needed changes could come from inside the organization?

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                A game with trade written all over it. Jake Gardiner, Joffrey Lupul, Francois Beauchemin, JS Gigu… oh. Well, trade written all over it. Grabo was back and that’s all we needed to put a smile on our faces. Gunnar was out and that’s enough to keep any Leafs fan worried. Oh, the injuries! Remember, nothing comes easy to a Leafs fan. And we like it that way. Curious reunion with Niklas Hagman made us think of Calgary. Heh Calgary.