Friday, May 22, 2015
Authors Posts by Nikhil Daljeet

Nikhil Daljeet

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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    After a seemingly endless week of postulating, panicking, and debating with the fervent passion that only hockey-starved Leafs fans can display, it is finally gameday.  While the prevalent hope amongst Toronto followers is that the winless streak gets broken tonight, there is a veritable maelstrom of other stories convoluting that one simple wish.

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      It may be righteous laughter because you’ve been saying it all along: “Toskala won’t bounce back this year”.  It could also be nervous laughter because you think to yourself: “no way he keeps this play up…right?”.  It may just be maddening, maniacal laughter as you cry out: “well we all knew this season just could not get off to a perfect start for my Maple Leafs”. Any way you cut it, there is no satisfied, back-slapping laughter celebrating the accolades of Vesa Toskala.  This is what you would have hoped for among the legion of Toronto supporters to start the 2009-2010 campaign.  Sadly, our Finnish tender has left us wanting.  Tonight’s 7-6 debacle against the Buffalo Sabres was just more of the same.

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        The Leafs improved their preaseason win total to six tonight at the ACC.  These are the final chances for some of the young hopefuls, and they are not going to go away easily.  Strong nights from Jonas Gustavsson and Viktor Stalberg were the headlines of this matchup.  Even the defense corps has a rookie strutting his stuff as Ron Wilson deemed Carl Gunnarsson their “best defenseman tonight”.

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          Jonas Gustavsson will make his much anticipated debut for the Maple Leafs in tonight’s preseason tilt against Detroit.  Coach Ron Wilson has indicated that he will be in there for at least the first period, but that the staff wants to break him in slowly.  If Toronto does not get barraged in the first twenty minutes as they have in recent exhibition matches, the Monster’s tenure may stretch to a period and a half.

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            In a game that oscillated between sloppy and entertaining, a young squad of Leafs forwards strutted their wares in a final attempt to crack the big club’s roster. If anyone was wondering how the typical Tank Nation extremists’ dream-team of solely youngsters would fare, they would need to look no farther than tonight. It was a mix of rookie mistakes, raw talent, and nerve-fraying moves. Here are some notes from this Tuesday night tilt, from the perspective of someone that was at the game itself:

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              This must be the mantra Brian Burke is following after recent reports indicate that Jason Allison has been invited to the Leafs training camp on a tryout basis.  Some of you remember Allison from his 2005-2006 season with Toronto.  He was often seen losing in casual races with the young children of Timbits Hockey.  At 34 years of age and having not played for full three seasons, this move probably has some Leafs fans scratching their heads and worrying that John Ferguson Jr. has somehow been reintroduced into the organization.

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                The Leafs (former?) goalie of the future is officially back for another year with the club.  With the signing of Jonas Gustavsson, media and fans alike decreed Pogge’s chance to charge in and become the Leafs saviour had all but run out.  Of course, it’s far too early to completely give up on a tender with Justin’s potential, and Brian Burke earlier stated his intentions to qualify the 23 year old without any hesitation.

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                  Brian Burke has been keeping himself relatively busy since returning from his fishing trip.  While they have been all minor league signings, he has locked up three Marlies, securing depth for both our farm team and the big club.

                  -Alex Foster received a one year, two-way deal at the league minimum of 500 000.

                  -Andre Deveaux received a similar one year, two-way deal, also at 500 000.

                  -Darryl Boyce received a two year, two-way deal that averages out to roughly 525 000 per year.

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                    Leafs Nation can breathe a sigh of relief.  The long wait for Swedish goalie Jonas Gustavsson’s decision is over.  Reports indicate that the tender has finally chosen the Toronto Maple Leafs after a long wooing process from a number of interested teams.

                    The contract is a one year deal totaling $900,000.  Many expect Gustavsson to be brought in as Vesa Toskala’s backup and be a constant source of competition for our Finnish goaltender.  Of course, there is the possibility that “the best goaltender outside of the NHL” exceeds expectations and steals the number one spot.

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                      I hope you’ve all called in sick for work, abandoned your family for the day, or are otherwise prepared to fill your normally empty schedule with the whirling excitement of rumours and deals that is the NHL Draft Day.

                      Firstly, the team that tabled the “unexpected offer” for Kaberle has been revealed to be the Bruins. 

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                        According to Andy Strickland the first draft-related move of this (almost) off-season has transpired.  Chris Pronger has been traded to the Los Angeles Kings for “a package including Jack Johnson and the 5th overall pick.”  Note that this is an unconfirmed rumor.  However, in the past Strickland has been very reliable.

                        *EDIT*: Strickland has revised his stance slightly.  New blog link is up.

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                          13 goals, 3 tenders, countless defensive errors and ugly goals.  You almost felt sorry for Curtis Joseph after Jeff Carter cruised in for an easy breakaway goal and the camera panned to a thoroughly annoyed Ron Wilson.  The Leafs would attempt a comeback of sorts after going down by six goals, but even with the best efforts of Martin Biron, it all went for naught.

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                            In a game that was just as much about the Flyers’ failings as it was the Leafs’ success, Toronto played an energetic 60 minutes.  Their bombardment of the Philadelphia net resulted in the exit of a shaky Martin Biron and an eventual total of 38 shots on goal.  To be brutally honest, the Flyers were awful on a night when they should have steamrolled a non-playoff team.  Ron Wilson and company must be happy that their team was the only one to show up tonight at the ACC.

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                              A March meeting with a solid team in the playoff chase (yes, that’s actually Florida I’m talking about here) went pretty much as expected.  Signs of life from the Maple Leafs were quickly overwhelmed by the desperation and talent (surprise! again!) of this Panthers squad.  Sadly, this tussle lacked the fan factor that made Tuesday night’s game in Tampa a joy to watch.

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                                This Tuesday night matchup between two non-playoff teams went largely as predicted: sloppy play by both squads at various points throughout the night.  This was highlighted by a few fights and some thrilling overtime play.  Of course, the thrill factor of extra time has seen a slight decrease since it became a staple of Toronto games.  The most unusual events of the night were in fact goals by a few slump-ridden Leafs.

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                                  Martin Gerber stole this game for the Toronto Maple Leafs.  A few months ago, that sentence would have made absolutely no sense for so many reasons.  In his first game as a Leaf, Gerber played in a fashion that will make more than a few Senator fans shake their heads in frustration.  Other than a late goal that broke his shutout, Toronto’s new Swiss goaltender stopped a Washington squad that has admittedly struggled of late.

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                                    On a night where the real buzz was focused on mounting trade talk, the Leafs tied a NHL record for consecutive overtime games.  Vesa Toskala played an exceptional game in net, and the Leafs came alive in the third period to transform an otherwise dull game into an exciting back-and-forth goaltender’s battle. After an almost full five minutes of riveting overtime play, Toronto eventually succumbed to an Oduya winner.

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                                      In a shaky and at times sloppy game, the Leafs pulled out of yet another overtime with a shootout win.  Vesa Toskala had a night in net that was a simple summary of his season to date: solid at times, with glaring weaknesses and questionable play marring his effort as a whole.  Nonetheless, in a tilt that saw another Leaf rookie debut and a season stalwart leave the game with an injury, Toronto ironically secured two points against one of the very teams that many “tank-minded” fans badly want to see move up in the standings.

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                                        On a night where we can say the “Sundin Saga” came to its exciting and fitting end, the Leafs played a second straight game where they showed the hard work and energy that was so characteristic of their early-season stretch of hockey. Upon the shootout conclusion of this game, I received three different messages all musing over the same thing: “Whoever scripted this game did it perfectly.”  In the steady, reliable fashion that Leaf fans became accustomed to over thirteen years of service, Mats Sundin skated down the ice and with apparent effortlessness netted the shootout winner for his team.  Except this time, he was doing it for the Vancouver Canucks.