PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
It used to be one would say the Leafs are becoming accustomed to skating on tilted ice as the start of a joke at their expense. But a month into the season, it’s beginning to appear as though the joke is on the jester. Despite being outshot for the 11th straight game – and 12th out of 14 – the team improved to 10-4-0 (and 5-2-0 on the road), claiming sole possession of first place in the East and tied for 2nd overall in the league. Once again, timely shooting and stellar goaltending were the recipe for success.
Good morning Leafs fans, another week is upon us and it sees the Blue & White heading west to take on Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images
Leafs Nation woke up this Sunday morning with the Leafs in first place in the Eastern Conference standings after a redeeming effort against the Pittsburgh Penguins last night on Hockey Night in Canada. For a few hours, anyway – Tampa Bay could take over the Conference lead with a win today over Florida.
A certain level of production will be expected of David Clarkson given his pay stubs, but his ability to impact a game without showing up on the scoresheet was on full display last night. The Davids of Mimico led Leaf forwards in ice time with 21-22 minutes, as Carlyle leaned heavily on Clarkson and Bolland’s ability to close out a game and refusal to give up an inch of ice. Clarkson led all skaters with eight hits.
Bolland’s line, along with the Phaneuf and Gunnarsson pairing, kept Crosby off the scoresheet and in customary losing form complaining to the referees, while Franson and Kadri took on the Malkin assignment; Malkin was quiet but did notch a powerplay assist.
A lunchpail third line of Carter Ashton, Jay McClement and Colton Orr received around 11 minutes of ice time as they brought a simplified but effective effort, consistently mucking it up in the right end of the rink and getting the better of the Penguins’ bottom two lines. Not that this combination should be a third line fixture under ideal (i.e. healthier) circumstances, but credit to all three players for last night’s effort. Ashton in particular took advantage of an opportunity to not only play but play in the top 9, impacting the game more than he did at any point in his first stint on the team with some strong work on the boards.
Let’s be sure to mention that the Leafs likely aren’t even in the position to go win the game with a big third period if not for James Reimer’s heroics in a 16-save second period in which the Leafs were quadrupled on the shot count. Two consecutive pad saves with Pascal Dupuis wide open off a 2 on 1 were unquestionably the MLHS Turning Point. And what more needs to be said of the combination of JvR and Kessel in terms of their talent levels and telepathic chemistry.
Sunday morning discussion point: With Lupul sounding probable for Tuesday and Bozak out at least for the next three games, how do you see this lineup shaping up for this week’s Western road trip? Does Lupul obviously join Bolland and Clarkson on line two? Or perhaps Ashton and McClement on line three (assuming Kulemin’s still out)?
Thanks to Tim (@tj_bayer) for putting together this morning’s links…
Last night’s Game in 10 | Full Game Replay | Game in 6 | Randy Carlyle Post Game
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Nazem Kadri makes the most of top-line opportunity in win over Pittsburgh Penguins
I’m pretty OK with Kadri at first line center for the next few games. From Michael Traikos of the National Post.
Shoalts: Leafs get shutdown effort from Bolland and Phaneuf
Crosby gets Phaneuf’d. From David Shoalts of The Globe and Mail.
Maple Leafs’ Bozak out 7-10 days with lower body injury
This news came across the wire after the game.
Maple Leafs getting the best out of Bolland
Carlyle continues to gush about how much of a pro this guy is.
Exploring David Clarkson’s Toronto roots
David Clarkson revisits his Etobicoke roots. Video from CBC Sports.
VIDEO: Minnesota players celebrate goal, get helmets stuck together
This isn’t Leafs-related, but it’s pretty funny nonetheless. From Chris Peters of CBS Eye On Hockey.
James Mirtle wrote a column on the Leafs’ abnormally high shooting percentage yesterday. Given we’re at the 10 game mark of the season and the Leafs shooting percentage and save percentage are actually up a significant margin from last season, let’s update the numbers for Carlyle’s team if we combine this season so far with last season including playoffs. (The Leafs currently lead the league in team shooting percentage at 12.3%, and are fifth in the league in team save percentage with a 0.930).
One of my favourite parts about a new season is the sheer volume of roster changes. The Toronto Maple Leafs alone saw 10 players leave the fold from May till October, and have already had 9 players make their Leaf debuts. So let’s catch up with some of the site’s old friends-turned enemies and see what some of last season’s jettison has been up to in the 2013-14 season.
The Leafs are officially in the midst of their first losing “streak” of the season. Tuesday’s contest sees the 7-1 Anaheim Ducks visit town, which will be another difficult test for a Leafs team who have yet to really hit their stride despite being 6-3 on the season. The Ducks shellacked the Stars 6-3 last night, and Getzlaf, Perry, Jakub Silfverberg, Selanne and Mathieu Perreault, who is getting a chance to center their second line, are all off to hot starts.
I was perusing Twitter Saturday morning when I came across this gem from @hockeynight:
How strong is the rivalry between the @MapleLeafs and @NHLBlackhawks? You’ll see tonight 6:30pm ET. #hockeynight
— HockeyNightInCanada (@hockeynight) October 19, 2013
There are few words in the sports world that are as overused and over-debated as the word “rivalry”. What does it mean? From thefreedictionary.com:
n. pl. ri·val·ries
1. The act of competing or emulating.
2. The state or condition of being a rival.
OK, in that case, every single matchup in sports is considered a rivalry, because every team is in an act of competition with every other team. But we, the sports fans, know better, don’t we? Do you have the same sense of anticipation and animosity in a Tuesday night game in Florida as you would on a Saturday night at the Bell Centre? Of course not! All rivalries are simply not created equally. So then, what are some qualifiers we need to come up with to choose the true rivalries from the fake, made-for-TV ones?
1. History. This is what makes Leafs-Habs games the best of the year in my opinion. Sure, the teams haven’t played in a playoff series in a while (1978-79, to be exact), but some rivalries never die, and that’s the case here. Its roots are in the old battles between English and French Canada, and even though the feud isn’t the same, there remains a bit of political tension between Quebec and the rest of Canada. Other rivalries such as Habs-Bruins and Blackhawks-Red Wings were started back in the Original Six days, and remain to this day.
2. Geography. There’s the Battle of Ontario and the Battle of Alberta. How about that vicious three-way rivalry between the Rangers, Islanders and Devils? Or the battles between the two Pennsylvanian tenants: the Flyers and Penguins? California may not be a traditional hockey hotbed, but there’s plenty of ill will tossed around between the three teams hanging out in that state. They even have their own blog (http://www.battleofcali.com) dedicated to hating on each other.
3. Division and Conference. I think we can all agree two teams who are not in the same conference can’t really be considered a rivalry. You just can’t truly build up a hatred for a team you only get to see once or twice a year. I don’t think you necessarily need to be in the same division to be considered a rival, but it certainly helps. What’s that thing people used to say? Absence makes the heart grow fonder? Well, it’s like that, but the opposite. In my case, the four teams I hate the most (Habs, Bruins, Sens and Sabres) are all in the same division as the Leafs, so that’s handy.
4. Playoff History. Is it still considered a rivalry if one team continually beats another in the playoffs? At any rate, at least those four consecutive playoff series in the early 2000s between the Leafs and Sens helped both fan bases hate each other in new and creative ways. There was the time Daniel Alfredsson hit Darcy Tucker from behind . Or the time Daniel Alfredsson pretended to throw his stick in the crowd to mock Mats Sundin (I’m still not really sure why we got so upset about that, but anyway, we did). Or the time Tie Domi knocked Martin Havlat unconscious with a late, blindside hit. During those days, the Battle of Ontario was at its fiercest. Canucks-Blackhawks is another example of a rivalry being taken up a notch thanks to a few memorable playoff battles.
Anyway, those are a few qualifiers I can think of right now. There might be some more I’m forgetting.
So let’s revisit that @hockeynight tweet. Is Leafs-Blackhawks a certifiable rivalry? I’m writing this on Saturday afternoon, so maybe something happened in the game last night which made everybody in Toronto and Chicago instantly hate each other with a newfound passion. But barring an incident of that magnitude, Leafs-Blackhawks should not be considered a real rivalry.
Was it a rivalry back in the 60s? I’m sure it was. I remember reading about the playoff series the two teams battled it out in 1967, starring Bobby Hull, Dave Keon, Stan Mikita, George Armstrong, Tony Esposito, Johnny Bower and company. But unfortunately, the expansion era seems to have killed it. I can’t even remember the last time the Leafs and Blackhawks played against each other. Hence why teams in separate conferences can’t really be rivals.
This isn’t an indictment of HNIC. They’re trying to sell ad revenue and attract eyeballs, so they’re going to play up those old Original Six battles like none other. Part of the reason we love hockey is the history, so those battles should be celebrated. Let’s just not pretend they’re reason enough to call these teams rivals.
Maple Leafs: Hall of famer Allan Stanley dies at age 87
Stanley was a member of four Stanley Cup-winning Leafs teams in the ‘60s. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. Obituary by Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star.
LEAFS POSTGAME – THE BLACKHAWKS ARE DECENT
Mike freaking Kostka. Recap from Steve Dangle of The Leafs Nation.
David Bolland and the bar where everyone knows the Maple Leafs forward’s name
Now all I want is a plate of chicken wings and a glass of orange juice. Thanks a lot, Sean Fitz-Gerald.
The Chris Pronger Effect: Examining the Impact of Flyers’ Captain’s Absence
To what degree are the Flyers’ problems tied to the loss of Pronger? Jonathan Willis of Bleacher Report takes a look.
NHL Corner: Saturday, October 19 2013
Get caught up on some news and notes from around the league. From Dale Lamontagne of Editor In Leaf.
Good morning to all those Leafs fans coming out of their food coma if Thanksgiving dinner was yesterday. To those who are having one today, enjoy!
The banged up Leafs squad entertain the Minnesota Wild tomorrow night, but each game that passes brings the team closer to full health. Thanks to some great goaltending from Bernier (I’ll overlook the Edmonton game), they’ve managed a 5-1 record so far. If they can get some bodies back and keep playing well, the team has set themselves up nicely through the first month.
Editor’s Note: Please welcome Tim Bayer to the MLHS writing staff. Tim contributes at Editor in Leaf and can be followed on Twitter @tj_bayer. He’ll be contributing some Sunday mashups for us here at MLHS.
Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays. How many days during the year are you encouraged to eat food, watch sports and hang out with family and friends all day? As the weather is starting to cool down (although it’s been absolutely beautiful here in Southern Ontario this weekend), the NHL season is just warming up, and Thanksgiving is even more enjoyable when the Leafs are winning. I like to take some time during this great holiday weekend to reflect on the many blessings I enjoy that I usually take for granted. On that note, here are some NHL- and Leafs-related things I’m thankful for:
Cody Franson has been a lot of things to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s seen more of the pressbox than the entire MLHS writing staff combined. He’s been top 10 in defensemen scoring. He’s twice held out on contract demands, only to sign below market value. But last season saw him change from bench warmer to playoff warrior; and through the first four games of the 2013-14 season he’s looked ready for more.
No, winning the first two games of the season does not make the Leafs contenders for the Stanley Cup. You would think that goes without saying. Yet apparently the ever-astute media is under the impression that Leafs fans have been overcome with cup delusions, as they have already felt the need to trot out journalistic diarrhea to talk us down from our delirium. But, we crazy Toronto fans are fairly certain that we have a young, developing team with many high-end pieces that suggest the franchise will continue on their upward trajectory in the near future.
Photo: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press
After back-to-back wins against Montreal and Philadephia, the Leafs find themselves off to a good start, record-wise, and will be looking forward to two days of much-needed rest before returning to the ACC for the home-opener on Saturday against the Senators.
Thanks to Gus Katsaros for stopping by with a few thoughts on now-Calgary Flame Joe Colborne…
Even if you sensed Joe Colborne’s time with the Leafs was dwindling after a less than impressive 2013 training camp, it was a little disappointing to see a former 16th overall draft selection – who many Leafs fans were still holding out hope for, and once considered among the organization’s top prospects – jettisoned for a 4th round draft pick.
Randy Carlyle perhaps put it best:
Courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
While Phil Kessel told reporters yesterday that no talks have taken place as of yet, assistant general manager Dave Poulin has hinted at the possibility of something developing in the next few days as it relates to a new contract extension for the noted pugilist.
Just before the game last night, the league announced that Phil Kessel was suspended for Tuesday’s game and the two remaining preseason games against Detroit this weekend for his extra two-handed slash on John Scott.
Phil Kessel doesn't take shit from no one.
The preseason edition of the Battle of Ontario kicks-off tonight and there is a considerable amount of buzz surrounding both teams. The Leafs and Sens were both very active over the summer and, depending on who you spoke to, became more competitive through their roster moves and acquisitions. As it stands, the Senators are sort of a fashionable/dark-horse pick to claim the Atlantic Division title. Although I wouldn’t go as far as to call them a favorite, they do have a talented crop of forwards, one of the top-5 defensemen in the league, and a solid goaltending tandem. Oh, and let’s not forget about their Jack Adams-winning, bug-eyed walrus of a coach. It should be a good one tonight.
Photo: Nathan Denette/Canadian Press
As training camps opened this week, the last of the RFAs have begun to re-sign with their clubs. Most notably, Leaf phenom Nazem Kadri signed a two year pact that will pay him $2.9-million per season. A hundred or so miles down the road, the Buffalo Sabres locked up their star RFA centre Cody Hodgson to a six-year deal at $4.25-million per year.
Last season, Kadri had a stellar 44 points in 48 games; Hodgson had a good but not great 34 in 48 games. For their careers, Kadri has a .636 points per game average (63 points in 99 games played) compared to Hodgson’s .554 (73 pts in 139 GP). So why does Hodgson get $20-million and four years more than Kadri?
Now, before you bewail another “advanced stats debate,” give this latest article by Anthony Petrielli some time of day. He’s given us permission to post some lengthier excerpts before you head over to his general hockey blog to read the rest.
The Leafs’ rookies took the tournament opener as a result of their energy, skill, and goaltending. They outpaced a Chicago group that was forced to rely more on physicality to gain ground. They caught the Leafs temporarily, but in the end Toronto came away with a win they probably deserved as Morgan Rielly and Tyler Biggs converted in the shootout to secure a 3-2 Leaf victory.
Hockey is officially back!
Well, sort of.
Today kicks off the Leafs annual rookie tournament, which is really a great opportunity for the kids in the organization to make an impression.