Friday, May 29, 2015
Authors Posts by Mislav Jantoljak

Mislav Jantoljak

Hi there, I'm Mislav, a hockey writer from Croatia. My weird hockey journey includes the Maple Leafs Hot Stove, covering the Kontinental Hockey League as a Managing Editor at and doing a piece for the Hockey News that one time. This is me on hockey and stuff in between. Enjoy your stay!

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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.

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      Wherever you go there are Leafs fans. Only logical I guess. Gotta love the GO LEAFS GO in Dallas. And we went, with a very indicative victory in Texas. Even without Morrow, Dallas is a really good, hardworking team. This was a great hockey game.

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        Photo Credit: Abelimages/Getty Images

        Let’s get straight to the point. Tim Connolly’s play of late isn’t exactly what many of us can call surprising. If you look at his totals since the 2007-08 season you notice two familiar patterns.

        The first pattern that everyone seems to cling to is his inability to play a whole NHL season, although we can notice he has remained healthier for the two seasons prior to 2011-12. In 2009-10 he played 73 games and last year he featured in 68 games for the Buffalo Sabres. That’s 25 and 20 more than the number of games he played in 2007-08 and 2008-09 (48 games).

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        There is just something special about an athlete who transcends a normal level of skill by such a large margin that you have absolutely no hope of replicating it, even seeing it in any other venue, at any other time, no matter how much you practice or what level of hockey you watch. Just by knowing that fact we are all even more obsessed by the greatest player in the greatest game in the world.

        No, his skill cannot be duplicated by any player in the game right now. Maybe that’s because no other player works as hard on improving every single aspect of his game. Crosby is obsessed with hockey, and by being obsessed he captivates us like no other player in the game. We hang on each and every move he makes, expecting it, but still being amazed every time.

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          Leafs vs. Leafs #2? A lot of former Leafs were in that Carolina lineup. Former Leaf Tomas Kaberle, former Leaf and shot blocker extraordinaire Tim Brent, former Leaf Jay Harrison, former Leaf Alex Ponikarovsky, former Leaf Jiri Tlusty, former Leafs coach Paul Maurice. Ontario lad and future Leaf – Eric Staal.

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            Who could have expected this? Come on now, be honest. Reimer, Armstrong, Grabovski, MacArthur, Lombardi and Komisarek all missing from the lineup, yet we do this to a team that is pegged for Stanley Cup glory? Sure, they are also in a midst of a crisis, but come on. This was a wonderful night on which every Leafs fan could simply enjoy hockey.

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              Photo Credit: The Star

              Why does a guy with no goals in 16 games keep hold of his roster spot? You might have asked yourself the same question. Sure, Matt Frattin’s shooting percentage isn’t something he’d brag about, but he’s doing a lot of good things on the ice, things that coaches and GMs appreciate.

              The first thing is, it’s too early to pinpoint Frattin’s NHL potential, even though he does look like your prototypical 3rd line player. Right now, that’s a good thing. Fact is, if you look at Nazem Kadri, your prototypical skilled prospect, most of the time he’s going to have a tougher time adjusting to the NHL game because of multiple factors.

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                The Leafs had many roster issues coming into this game. Mike Brown was a late scratch and Matthew Lombardi suffered an injury in the game. The team played well for stretches but the giveaways and our own mistakes haunted us once again. A big contingent of Leafs fans made a trip to Music City tonight, gotta love the dedication of Leafs Nation. RIP Wade Belak, the league loves you for a reason. Also, Nashville fans love to tap dance on the glass.

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                The Toronto Maple Leafs make just their fourth-ever trip Bridgestone Arena tonight – the fewest of any of the NHL’s 29 other teams. It is also just the fourth overall meeting between the Predators and Leafs in the last six seasons. The Predators hold a 6-5-(1)-0 record against the Leafs in their 13-season history, including a 2-1-0 mark at Bridgestone Arena.

                The Toronto Maple Leafs are going on the road with a patched up lineup. As if that isn’t bad enough we’re in the midst of a 1-3-1 slide, and have to attempt to snap out of our recent funk without two of our top-six forwards. The Leafs will be forced to face the Predators without Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski, who were both injured during Tuesday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to Phoenix at the Air Canada Centre.

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                  On a day with plenty of Leafs goalie rumors, Ben Scrivens started yet another game for the big club. This was the first and only meeting of the two teams and the Leafs battled back in a big way. A highly polarized game filled with extreme high points and extreme low points for our beloved Leafs.

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                  Photo: Abelimages/Getty Images

                  I once got a tip from a guy who worked in hockey. He said that the less you hear about a defenseman during a game of hockey, the more probable it is that he’s playing a very sound hockey game.

                  Carl Gunnarsson just might be the posterboy for this notion. You rarely hear “Big hit by Carl Gunarsson”. Then again, color commentary is rarely about “Gunnarsson moved the puck quickly and efficiently out of danger on that occasion.”

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                    Tonight we welcomed Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk and Eddie Belfour to the Hockey Hall of Fame. All three players have a very strong Toronto connection but – next to Wendel Clark – Killer will always remain one of the biggest Leaf heroes of all time. Contrary to popular belief, Doug Gilmour wasn’t nicknamed Killer because of the look he gave other players, or because of his style of play. Brian Sutter gave him that nickname because he thought he looked like Charles Manson. At first he even called him Charlie.

                    Gilmour turned this franchise around, and made it credible again. His work ethic and style of play made him unforgettable, even if, like myself, you only got to see him play a few times. How could we forget Eddie the Eagle, or Crazy Eddie, who, besides being an All World goaltender, prolonged the stereotype of quirky goaltenders. Nieuwendyk played only one season in a Maple Leafs jersey, but that doesn’t make his contribution to this great game any less notable. Congratulations to Mark Howe as well.

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                    Photo Credit:

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                    How do we accurately evaluate this team? Just how good are we? If you’re looking for me (or anyone else for that matter) to answer those questions right now you’re setting yourself up for a pretty big disappointment. In light of recent events, pretty much any scenario is possible.

                    What if we’re missing Reimer until February? How will the duo of Scrivens and, to a lesser degree, Gustavsson perform? Will Tim Connolly ever stay healthy for a considerable number of games? Is our record so far sustainable through 82 games? I can’t answer that right now, nobody can. There’s too many variables involved. Should we look to the trade route? All I can speak to is the need to still improve further, which was always a part of the plan.

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                      On a night where the coaching staff virtually put all our hopes (until Reimer comes back) in the hands of a rookie rather than our backup netminder, things seemed rather bleak. However, the outcome proved quite to the contrary as Scrivens was the key to a big win tonight. The Leafs needed this one.

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                        The last home game before November 11th, this was the night the Toronto Maple Leafs organization honored the soldiers who fought for their country since World War I. A classy ceremony hosted by Andy Frost led the way into this hockey game. I too am grateful for all who fought in the World War II to stop a great evil from spreading throughout the world, liberating parts of Europe in the process. The positives end here.

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                        The effect we as people have on this planet is pretty big. But, some things we just can’t control. Some things we can just deal with. Big losses are a part of life. Be it personal losses, losses for the global hockey community or just crushing defeats in a hockey game. They will happen regardless of our best wishes, desires or hopes.

                        In this life, no path is without roadblocks, no bridge without holes. Each hole we step in gives us an opportunity to learn and more importantly, to grow stronger. What’s important is how you deal with those losses. Each and every stumble, tragedy or loss gives us a chance to honor ourselves (and those lost) by making the most of our opportunity here on this Earth.

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                        Photo Credit:

                        Photo Credit:

                        As things stand right now, Joffrey Lupul is turning out to be quite a coup by our general manager. Personally, this writer was always convinced that Lupul was more than just a throw in or a salary dump in the supposed “Gardiner-Beauchemin” deal. At the time of the deal I compared him to an expensive used car that came with a ton of cool additional features (Gardiner). If the car performed as expected, nobody would knock the car, regardless of the money it cost to buy it or the miles it had already logged. It would only get better when you put some miles on it and got used to how it runs.

                        I argued on his behalf on numerous hockey forums, twitter, etc., mostly because I believed a player with his talent and sublime shot deserved a better look than what he got with the Ducks after he came back from a blood infection incurred during back surgery. Just to jolt the memory, injuries limited Lupul to just 23 games during the 2009–10 season, as he missed the final 59 games along with the first 28 games of the next season due to the infection.

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                          Sure, Martin Brodeur was back but so was Joey Crabb. Happy birthday to Luke Schenn. This wasn’t a textbook example of how you want your team to play hockey, from either side. We won so it’s all good. Except the special teams and defense.