Monday, May 25, 2015
Authors Posts by Nikhil Daljeet

Nikhil Daljeet

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Nikhil has been writing for MLHS since the site launched in 2008. He misses talking about Mats Sundin and is currently entrenched in enemy territory (Boston) pursuing a doctoral degree. Contact Nikhil here: [email protected]

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Tonight’s matchup between the Leafs and the New York Islanders will be viewed by outsiders as a tilt between two of the bottom-feeders of the Eastern Conference, devoid of much interest or playoff relevance.  Yet for the fans of both these teams, this game and those of the recent past have been of definite significance for the futures of these franchises.  The Islanders have been on an offensive surge, surprising opponents with their speed and tenacity in an attempt to somewhat salvage an otherwise dismal season.  This has given the New York faithful reason to eb confident in the offense of their young core going forward, lead by the likes of John Tavares and Michael Grabner.  While the defense and goaltending are still a work in progress, hope and potential lies in the likes of Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan, and recently acquired Al Montoya.  Montoya, who has yet to lose in his career with the Islanders, will be in net against a Toronto team that is heading in a similar direction (up!) from both the long and short-term perspective.

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REUTERS/Doug Benz

The Leafs are hoping they won’t need heroics from Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel to pull out a win tonight.  Unfortunately, knowing how it goes in Buffalo these days, they probably will.  The Sabres rested Ryan Miller last night, politely skipping over Patrick Lalime to call up Jhonas Enroth, who then backed them to a shootout win over Montreal.  Buffalo will return home tonight in hopes of propelling themselves into a tie with Carolina for the final playoff spot (provided the Hurricanes lose to the Devils).  From a Toronto perspective, the players have to know that taking these two points from the Sabres will be monumental in preserving their playoff aspirations.  With the raucous atmosphere you get from a Leafs-Sabres tilt at the HSBC Arena and the fast paced action that normally develops, this promises be a good one (7 PM, TSN).

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Photo credit: Getty Images

Brian Burke wasn’t kidding when he said he likes to move in advance of the NHL trade deadline. The Leafs GM, fresh off of moving Francois Beauchemin and Kris Versteeg, has been reported to be in talks with Boston concerning Czech blueliner Tomas Kaberle. Unfortunately, it seems that Toronto’s own 1st round pick is not involved in discussions at the time, although it is surely a desired target in Burke’s negotiations.

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Hopefully they forgot this guy in Raleigh.

The Carolina Hurricanes will be desperate for points when they visit the Leafs tonight.  On the other hand, Toronto would need to take care of the Hurricanes in regulation if they are serious about keeping themselves in the race for that final playoff spot.  It has yet to be seen if the Leafs players truly believe they can work their way into that conversation.  Regardless, Toronto fans have to hope their team fares extremely well over the upcoming stretch of games, as they feature numerous Eastern Conference opponents directly above the Leafs in the standings.  The Maple Leafs will be giving James Reimer the start in hopes that he fares better than his two fellow netminders have against Eric Staal and the Hurricanes.

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In their final match of the campaign with the New York Rangers, the Leafs will be aiming to even up the season series (1-2-0 against NYR thus far) and end a two-game losing streak.  Mike Brown will serve the second game of his suspension.  Kris Versteeg will return from a minor ailment in a lineup change that will immediately infuse offense and change the dynamic of the Toronto powerplay.

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Fresh off a trade with the Dallas Stars, the Maple Leafs will take their game to the desert, facing the Coyotes in an attempt to win five games in a row .  The level of optimism in Toronto has been tempered by memories of the last four game win streak in this city.  While we are currently seeing a hard-working, speedy team with impeccable netminding, it is common knowledge around these parts that any of the above variables is subject to drastic and immediate change.  The Leafs are looking to stay the course against a formidable Phoenix team that plays a structured two-way game.

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James Reimer and the Maple Leafs venture into San Jose tonight hoping to match the infamous four-game win streak that began this season.  They probably couldn’t have picked a better time to visit the struggling Sharks.  A perennial contender, San Jose has not yet found their stride this campaign and has recently hit a four-game skid that has seen them shutout twice.  Toronto fans should be worried by a losing streak that is bound to stop soon for a talented team.

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Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Back-to-back wins, goals aplenty and a red-hot powerplay…doesn’t sound like the Leafs does it?  Toronto kicks off three (late) games in four nights with a 10:30 PM start today in Los Angeles.  While the Leafs will look to continue their momentum, the Kings are aiming to get back on track after a skid that has seen them lose three of their last four matches.  James Reimer will get the chance to continue his strong play, starting in net across from Jon Quick.

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After a rollercoaster Thursday night, the Leafs will be looking to play a more disciplined road game as they start out on a four-game swing with a visit to Atlanta.  The days when the Thrashers were a “soft” team are in the past, as the last two years have given rise to a hard-nosed squad that is very willing to throw their (rather large) bodies around.  This results in a forward group that is tough to get off the puck and strong on the boards.  However, it also creates a team of eager shot blockers that lead the league in that category.  Backstopped by a very-capable Pavelec, picking up a win tonight will be a tough task for Toronto.

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The Leafs will attempt to fight off the Blues for the only time this season when St. Louis visits the ACC tonight.  As you have surely read elsewhere, the Blues have had a grand time in the confines of the Air Canada Centre over the last decade, having not lost a game there in almost 13 years.  St. Louis is looking to build upon a recent surge in play after a successful five-game homestand by victimizing a Toronto team that has lost three of its last four.

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The Leafs will be looking to their fresh faces and new identity to bust the curse of the HSBC Arena when they visit Buffalo tonight.  These hopeful heroes include rookies Nazem Kadri and Keith Aulie, both of whom have not been exposed to the high-energy, fast-paced nature of these divisional games.  Also encompassed in this group is former Sabre Clarke MacArthur.  MacArthur will be looking to score against his ex-teammate Ryan Miller, who returns tonight to fuel a Buffalo team that is struggling.

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    Abelimages/Getty Images

    The Leafs top six filled out the scoresheet tonight against the Dallas Stars and picked up a convincing win.  This is no coincidence, as Toronto’s success going forward will require many more nights like this from the likes of Grabovski, Kulemin and Versteeg.  Jonas Gustavsson had another steady night, but was not required to be as spectacular as he was on Saturday largely due to sustained offensive pressure by his forwards.

    Toronto played to their strengths with determined forechecking and team speed, only sitting back in the third period once they had opened up a 3-1 lead over the Stars.  One of the most important outcomes from tonight’s game will be an injection of life into Tyler Bozak’s game, as the slumping soph netted his first point in over 7 games off a pretty feed from Nazem Kadri.

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    The Dallas Stars and (future Leafs center) Brad Richards come into town tonight looking to extend a recent streak of hot play (2-0-1). Despite a respectable record and a potent offense, the Stars sit at the bottom of a very competitive Pacific Division. Meanwhile, Toronto will be eager to bounce back from a blanking at the hands of Carey Price and the Canadiens while regaining the offensive groove that had seen them win their two previous games.

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    Excitement reaches a new level when Toronto plays Montreal.

    What a difference a two-game winning streak can make.  After a tidy performance against the New Jersey Devils for a second consecutive victory, there is optimism aplenty amongst both Leafs fans and the players themselves.  This young Toronto squad is regaining their confidence, and Jonas Gustavsson appears to be progressing steadily along the path of a respectable NHL goaltender .  They will have a tough test on their hands as they step into the Bell Centre tonight to face a Montreal Canadiens team that has somehow managed to stick around in the conference’s upper echelon.  As always, a Saturday night tilt between Montreal and Toronto promises to be an exciting one.

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      Claus Andersen/Getty Images

      The Leafs are streaking!  That’s right, and not even the losing type either (or the naked Ferrell type—if that’s what you were thinking).  Although Toronto only dispatched the lowly Devils (feels weird saying that) this Thursday night, they did so in a relatively efficient and confident manner that bodes well for the near future.  A solid effort by Jonas Gustavsson and an effective powerplay (feels  even weirder saying that) drove the Leafs to their second win in as many games.

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      The Vancouver Canucks are hoping a visit to the ACC won’t do much to halt their recent winning ways.  Other than a brief speedbump against Montreal on Tuesday, Vancouver has been nearly unstoppable, going 7-2-1 in their last ten games.  This makes it a tough assignment for the Leafs, who won’t have an easy time snapping out of a six-game slide against Roberto Luongo and the Canucks.  Toronto will be hoping that recent call-ups Nazem Kadri and Keith Aulie inject some life into their slumbering squad.  Fans will be hoping that management didn’t jump the gun with Kadri, putting him in the limelight at the peak (hopefully…) of Toronto’s struggles.

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      Be sure to check out Junior’s thoughts from tonight’s tilt.
      Hey, let’s get this straight right off the bat: it sucks to lose 5-0 to the Ottawa Senators.  Any day of the year, any type of game.  There will undoubtedly be at least one mainstream media headline out there along the lines of: “Leafs back to losing ways”.  But a step back will tell us this is the first of a whopping nine exhibition matches Toronto will be playing and a ton can (and probably will) change in the next two weeks.

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      After months of nothing but Kaberle rumours and Grabovski lawsuits, Leafs Nation will finally get a glimpse of their 2010-2011 Toronto Maple Leafs.  Being the first game of the preseason, Toronto is going with a healthy mix of youngsters, borderliners, and veterans.  Luckily, fans will not have to wait to see most of the new Leafs (Clarke MacArthur excepted) as off-season acquisitions Versteeg, Armstrong, Brown and Lebda will all be hitting the ice.

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      In a move that will inevitably add to the frustratingly indecipherable trade rumblings of the last few days, Eric Belanger indicated that he has essentially signed with a team, but is unable to divulge where he will be going.  The article is French, but the English translation of the title (“Eric Belanger signs…but he won’t say where!”) says it all.  The information we can gleam from this is that Belanger can not reveal his new team because they are “working on an exchange that will affect the salary cap”.  Of course, this begs the question: are the Leafs somehow involved?

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      A former Leaf is about to sign with Los Angeles, as Alexei Ponikarovsky has agreed to join the Kings (although a deal has not yet been signed).  This ends some speculation that “Poni” would have to take his games overseas, as this summers UFA market has seen a lot of viable NHL players still without a job.  Ponikarovsky was shipped to the Penguins by Toronto at this year’s trade deadline, bringing back Luca Caputi in what was a very fair exchange of players.  However, Pittsburgh was expecting the Ukrainian to contribute at the level that saw him pour out 61 points for the Leafs in 2008-2009.  With a disappointing 9 points down the stretch for the recent champs and an awful showing in the playoffs, teams weren’t exactly lining up to sign the 30-year old.