Tonight the Leafs will shouldÂ be desperate for a win, as they cling to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Â The players have acknowledged that their trip out west left much to be desired. Â They have vowed to come out strong here at home as they know that even the awful play of Alex Ovechkin won't be able to keep the Washington Capitals below them much longer if they keep losing at this rate. Â They'll be in tough against a New Jersey team that has ripped off eight ROW wins in their last ten games and have consequently surged up the standings.
The Devils have seen success recently, partly due to the steady play of Martin Brodeur, who has been dominant since gettingÂ embarrassedÂ in Calgary last month. Â The goaltending legend is showing that he can still play at an elite level, going 3-0-0 with a 0.956 SV% over the past week. Â Thankfully, Brodeur hasn't played his best games against Toronto in recent years, a trend that hopefully continues tonight. [more…]
What a test this is tonight for Canada's team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Vancouver Canucks are on a riotous tear at the moment, looking to extend their points streak to twelve and pick up their tenth consecutive win over the Maple Leafs in the process. The last time the Canucks lost in regulation was January 15 (a month and three days ago), and the last time the Leafs beat the Canucks was November 24, 2003 (nine years, two months and 24 days ago). If there's a reason for positivity, it's that the Canucks have been to overtime or shootout seven times during their eleven game points streak, meaning the games have been tight.
"The Leafs have always been a team I hated as a kid," Vancouver's Alexandre Burrows said after scoring the game-winner in a 5-3 victory at Toronto on Dec. 17. "I know a lot of fans in Vancouver don't like this team. It just makes it extra special."
With a date with the Vancouver Canucks awaiting the Leafs on Saturday, a win tonight in Edmonton seems like the Leafs best shot at picking up some points on their Western road trip and avoiding a disastrous six game losing streak at a crucial point in the season.
The Leafs were in a much different position the last time they played (and beat) the Oilers, and that was just a week and a half ago. A 6-3 win over Edmonton at home capped off a 5-0-1 stretch in which the Leafs outscored their opposition 23-10. The Leafs have lost four straight by a collective score of 16-5 since.
Fortunately, the Leafs seem to match up well with the Oilers based on their meeting last Monday. It will be interesting to see what adjustments are made by the home team as the Oilers willingly entered a wide open game of traded chances, a style that suited Toronto's speedy transition game just fine. The Leafs weren't perfect defensively either, but scored six in a convincing offensive display. [more…]
A few notes before we get into the game preview:
- In his 30 thoughts blog this week, Elliotte Freidman revealed a somewhat disconcerting detail in the Mikhail Grabovski contract negotiations, suggesting that agent Gary Greenstin has named Phil Kessel's $5.4 million as his starting asking price. Granted, it's a basic negotiating tactic to start high, but it makes you wonder just how big of a gulf there is between the asking price and what Burke and co. are willing to offer. For a 28-year-old player with only one 50+ point season to his name entering his contract season, $5.4M is bordering on asinine.
- Rick Nash has submitted a shortlist of five or less desirable destinations to Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson. On the possible teams included, Bob McKenzie could only channel Eklund: "the four or five teams could come from a group that includes Boston, the Rangers, Philadelphia, San Jose, Toronto, and perhaps Vancouver and/or Los Angeles. That isn't to say there aren't others like Nashville or St. Louis, who are perhaps more interested than some of those others, and maybe even better positioned in terms of assets and finances to pull it off." [more…]
Hockey Night in Canada, against their oldest rival, on Mats Sundin night at the Air Canada Centre. That's more than enough reason for the home team to get up for this one and we'll expect nothing less than a spirited effort from the Leafs tonight.
Moreover, the Leafs will be eager to prevent back to back losses from turning into a losing skid. The Leafs will need to distance themselves from the ninth placed Washington Capitals, who currently trail Toronto by a point with a game in hand, or they risk losing their grasp on a playoff spot when the Capitals play the Rangers early tomorrow. [more…]
The Leafs lock up with the Flyers in Philadelphia tonight for their 55th game of the season. It's the second game of the season between the two - the first being a 4-2 win for the Flyers. [more…]
The Maple Leafs continue a busy week with another all-Canadian matchup (one of three this week) tonight in Winnipeg. When playing as the tired team against a rested opponent, the Leafs are 1-4-1 this season, which makes sense for a team that needs its legs to be there in order to play its speed game. The Leafs do have momentum on their side, having collected 11 of their last 12 points, while Winnipeg enters tonight coming off of two losses in which they've scored once.
The Leafs will stick with the same lineup that's been showing some good chemistry lately and playing well in all facets of the game. Their offense sits fifth in the league, while the defence has been shored up considerably since the New Year, posting five shutouts and limiting the opposition to 30 goals over their fifteen games since January 1. Five weeks into the calendar year, miraculously the once-moribund PK has yet to be scored on in 2012, while the powerplay is holding steady at fifth in the league (20%). Combined with good health, it seems to all be coming together at the right time for the Leafs in their bid to end the franchise's seven-season playoff famine. [more…]
Having collected 9 of a possible 10 points in their last 5 games, and coming off back to back shut outs by James Reimer, the Toronto Maple Leafs look to move into 7th place in the East as they take on the surging Edmonton Oilers tonight at the ACC.
The Sens try to avoid a sixth defeat in a row as they take on a Maple Leafs club that has points in four straight...
In fact, the last time Ottawa was in danger of dropping six in a row, it picked up a road win at Toronto on Nov. 12. That victory is part of the Senators' current three-game win streak over the Leafs and they have won six of the past nine encounters overall. Toronto, though, has won four of its past six at Ottawa...
Toronto, 3-0-1 in its past four, is holding onto the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, two points up on Washington and one behind seventh-place New Jersey.
There's some life back in the Battle of Ontario this season with both teams competitive and sitting in close proximity in the playoff fight. It's the definition of a four point game between the eighth-placed Leafs and the sixth-placed Senators tonight in Ottawa. With a win, the Leafs would put themselves within a point of the struggling Sens with two games in hand. [more…]
Tuesday was a pretty good day for the Penguins all around. Pittsburgh will try to keep the good times going this evening and extend its eight-game win streak with a home-and-home sweep of the hosting Toronto Maple Leafs.
Yesterday began with the Penguins seeming to have zeroed in on what is exactly wrong with superstar captain Sidney Crosby. The club announced that the former Hart Trophy winner has a soft tissue injury in his neck with no evidence of a past or present neck fracture according to an independent specialist. That ailment could be what is causing the 24-year-old his neurological symptoms, as they are similar to that of a concussion.
Crosby missed 61 straight games after suffering a concussion last January and returned to action in late November for eight games before again getting shut down due to the return of his symptoms. He has missed Pittsburgh's last 22 games, but found Tuesday's news to be encouraging.
"I think the biggest thing to take from it is that it's something I can work on. I can come in and get my neck worked on," Crosby said. "There's a pretty big possibility that could be causing some of the issues. So I really hope that's the case and hope with some treatment that it'll improve and that's hopefully the end of it. But I think being able to work on that and not sitting around hoping to get rid of the symptoms, it's nice to kind of have some information and go with it."
The rest of the Pittsburgh organization probably agrees and the players on the ice continued to play well without Crosby, posting a 5-4 shootout win over visiting Toronto in last night's opener of this home-and-home.
The Leafs look forward to getting their power play quarter back tonight with the addition of John-Michael Liles. His ability to move the puck, walk the line and get opposing forwards scrambling gives the Leafs a totally different look on the power play that we have been missing desperately since he went down with a concussion injured. [more…]
The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to pick up where they left off before the All-Star break, as they shoot for an eighth straight victory tonight in the opener of a home-and-home series against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Penguins were the hottest team in the NHL heading into the All-Star break and posted a 3-2 shootout decision last Tuesday in St. Louis for their seventh straight victory. The hot streak is the longest for Pittsburgh since a 12-game winning streak last season and it comes on the heels of a six-game slide from Dec. 29-Jan. 11.
The last three victories in Pittsburgh's winning streak have come after regulation and Chris Kunitz posted the game-winner in the shootout victory over the Blues.
Kessel and Lupul will play alongside Tyler Seguin in Sunday's All Star Game (4 p.m. [more…]