It’s not often that a tectonic shift like realignment occurs in the NHL, but when it does the competitive landscape is bound to shift, with winners and losers emerging from the rubble. From a scheduling and time-zone perspective, Detroit, Columbus, Winnipeg and Dallas stand to benefit the most. The new scheduling mandate will also ensure that fans in every city will get to watch every team play in their home building at least once, thereby allowing Coyotes fans to fill half the stadium to watch Sidney Crosby torch their team. All joking aside, this will be great for the game as the league’s stars like Stamkos, Tavares, and Giroux will get more exposure around the league, and I’m all for growing the popularity of the game we all love.
Of particular interest to Leafs fans is the renewal of the Detroit-Toronto rivalry, an Original Six tradition that stretches back to the earliest days of the league. I may be too young to remember the battles of days gone by, but I’m not too young to appreciate the wondrous skills of Datsyuk and Zetterberg. I’m looking forward to the renewal of a storied rivalry and being able to one day tell me kids and grand kids about amazing playoff duels. However, as I watched the Red Wings dominate the Blackhawks in Game 3, it made me wonder what their introduction into Division C would mean for the Leafs.
I was just getting back into the playoff swing of things and looking forward to taking in a Marlies game at the Ricoh, hopefully… Then the Marlies gave up three goals with under ten to go in Game 6 last night and lost out to the Grand Rapids Griffins. Meanwhile, the Bruins are walking over the Rangers in their round 2 matchup. I’m sure how to feel about this. It’s kind of bittersweet. Sweet in the sense that it’s impressive the Leafs did have these Bruins – who are probably the favourite to emerge out of the East at this point – on the ropes, and bitter in the sense that the Leafs would’ve had a pretty good chance, I think anyway, of advancing to the Conference Finals if they closed. If you are looking to try betting on your favorite nhl team, check out Topbet.eu.
Bahh, back to hockey hibernation.
Photo: Nathan Denette/Canadian Press
Over the course of the year I have been tracking the Leafs goals in a spreadsheet, largely for the purpose of looking at primary/secondary assists but also for tracking situational statistics. It was through this spreadsheet that I noticed the most amusing fact of the season; that Tyler Bozak finished the year never having had a primary assist on a James van Riemsdyk goal. Amazing since he was his centre for most of the season, and presumably at some point he might have tried passing to him instead of Kessel. I’ll build my case against Bozak some other time, so instead I put together an infographic of Leafs scoring data. Hope you find it interesting. The spreadsheet of data can be found here (2011-12 data is here.)
The Marlies are on the ropes against Grand Rapids after a 4-1 loss last night in Michigan. They’re down 3-1 in their series headed into tonight. If they can take Game 5, the series would come back to Toronto for Games 6 and 7, so you never know. Also on the upside, Carter Ashton has goals in two consecutive.
Audio to tonight’s game will be available here.
I’m finding the playoffs much harder to enjoy now that I’ve been reminded what it’s like with the Leafs in them.
Links after the jump.
I hope everyone is starting to feel a little better this morning. Plenty of eulogies were written and the last couple of days have been brutal to say the least. I haven’t seen the Game in 6 or any of the player interviews. I barely have any idea what’s going on in the playoffs right now, even as two two-way titans, Toews and Datsyuk, square off in the West.
Two things in my mind were abundantly clear following Monday night. You know that cliche players like to use after a tough loss? “Oh yeah, that was a character building game for our team…” Monday night was a character building game for Leafs Nation. In one game, we were subjected to the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. The conclusion of the series had us scrambling emotionally, grasping for answers and words that just wouldn’t come.
Although we may have experienced heartbreak, they do say that one must know bitter defeat before one can saviour the sweetness of victory, and there’s plenty of historical examples across the world of sport that attest to that adage. For a young team like the Maple Leafs to start their comeback from 3-1 down and yet find a way to ultimately throw the series away, it now has a better idea both of what it takes to succeed in the playoffs while being dealt the harsh lesson that it’s going to take that little bit more.
Just a little over 24 hours since the Game 7 letdown, it’s become clear to me I am way too emotionally involved with a damn hockey team; so much so that I start to wonder about myself for being this brutally devastated over a game. But I want to say that Leafs Nation is a special, special thing. I enjoy the fans of this team almost as much as I enjoy the team itself. That’s a weird statement to make, but for those that don’t live here or haven’t experienced playoffs in Toronto, it’s a beautiful, crazy thing. Just as the weather seems to turn a corner, sun dresses are dawned, beers consumed on patios, car stereos are cranked a little louder (mandatory windows down) and Leaf flags start appearing everywhere you look.
After such a critical shortage of meaningful moments in the last decade for this hockey club, these last few days have been almost too much, too fast. Last night, the Leafs earned their first playoff home win in 9 years and the city went bonkers. Dion Phaneuf redeemed himself for his role in an OT loss last playoff home game – which at the time could have been the last this season – splatting yolk on the faces of certain media members eager to get an early start on their postmortem scapegoating of the most valuable members of the hockey team. Phil Kessel scored his third of the series in what proved to be the game winner, of which he now has two against the Bruins in this series. Now, there is a less than 24-hour turnaround to get ready for Game 7, the next biggest game for this fanbase since 2004.
My oh my.
Peter Power/The Globe and Mail
The Leafs are back in Toronto down 3-2 in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. One more win and it is back to Boston to determine the winner of what has already been an excellent display of hockey.
I want to take a moment to praise Gardiner. Friday night’s game was the best I have ever seen Gardiner play. I noted a while ago that there were many issues plaguing Gardiner’s game that the coaching staff needed to iron out. From missing assignments to giving up strong body position on the walls, or simply not being physically engaged, it was a really rough stretch for Gardiner.
I remember it like it was last night. An ill-timed pinch, two Bruins streaking out of the zone, and a “dagger” into the heart of Leafs Nation after an overtime in which the Leafs carried the play. This one is going to take some time to digest. Although the boys battled their tails off, and went toe-to-toe with one of the favourites in the East, some mistakes and puck misfortune ultimately sealed the Leafs’ fate after starting 2-0 up in a brilliant first period.
Alright ladies and gentlemen, it’s down to this. The stakes are high as the Leafs have lost their home-ice advantage after a 5-2 Game 3 loss, and if the they lose tonight we might not see them on ACC ice until next season.
As I’m writing this, I’m currently watching the Vancouver / San Jose game – it’s the 3rd period and the Canucks have just taken a one-goal lead. As much as I dislike the organization and the fan-base that cheers for them, it’s impressive how Vancouver continues to throw themselves with abandon in front of pucks, along the boards, and sacrificing their body to make a play. I just hope that the Leafs have that sense of desperation for the rest of the series against Boston.
But… as Bieska and Sedin just showed, the Leafs need to be careful as well.
For the Leafs to win, they need to do the following:
I was one of the more deflated Leafs fans after witnessing game 1 of this Leafs-Bruins playoff series. I knew Boston previously matched up like kryptonite against the Leafs, and the game went pretty much exactly as I envisioned in my head; essentially, it was an extension of the last dozen or so matchups against the Bs.
Then Game 2 happened. And, even after last night’s Game 3 loss, I now consider myself considerably less pessimistic.
Let’s break down the goals against from last night:
Lee Stempniak, Andrew Raycroft, Vesa Toskala, Jonas Gustavsson, Brett Lebda, John Ferguson Jr. Those and others like them have plagued the Maple Leafs for the past eight seasons and gave us fits of hopelessness, despair, and rage. Tonight represents the the culmination of Toronto’s retooling; the first playoff game in the Air Canada Centre since May 4th, 2004.
As much as our excitement over a first round series has been mocked , it’s generally falling on deaf ears. Are we over doing it for a first round series? I don’t think so. I think the hockey world is just getting reacquainted with how real hockey fans support their team in the playoffs. Hockey in Toronto is not confined to the arena, it spills out across the entire city.
Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
With Wednesday night’s beat down in Beantown still bringing up bruises, it sure looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs are punching above their weight class in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup. Such are the wages of glory. Thankfully, the Leafs have some time to lick their wounds and regroup ahead of Saturday’s matchup. Looks like they’ll need it.
Here are some thoughts to get you through your Friday.
Game 1 is in the books and after a brief moment of post-season exaltation that was nine years in the making, the Leafs were handed a 4-1 drubbing from the Beantown Bruins. ICYMI, here’s the first ever Playoffs Game in 10 in MLHS history via Mislav.
Not shockingly, this game resembled those from prior seasons, where 5-on-5 hockey looked like a Bruins powerplay, giveaways were in abundance, and the Leafs’ top offensive players were unable to gain the Bruins zone with any sort of speed, aggression or consistency. At certain points in the game, even the Bruins’ fourth line had the Leafs hemmed into their own zone. As Carlyle put it during his post-game presser, the team just seemed to implode and “guys were falling down” even when no one was around (psst…Barb Underhill).
Look at that glorious playoff ice paint. I haven’t been this excited about ice paint since… well, when the Leafs painted on their logo at center ice and streamed it online during the lockout. Desperate times, let’s not talk about it. After all IT’S PLAYOFF GAME DAY!
Beggars can’t be choosers I guess. And thanks to the Senators, instead of a historic matchup against the Canadiens the Leafs will be facing the bastards from Bean town. (Here’s a great recap of all of this seasons matchups).
One year ago the articles on this series would be darker than Marc Savards house, but thankfully the Bruins have been falling down to Earth to the point that the Leafs have finally been able to grab a win off of them.
Despite splitting the state of Florida, it’s been a pretty terrific week for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The club finished the road portion of the regular season with a record of 13 – 8 – 3, earning a respectable 29 of their 57 points on the season away from the ACC. James Reimer recorded his fourth shutout and 19th win in only his 33rd start of the season. Phil Kessel scored three goals in the two games to leap into sixth in the league in scoring with 51 points.
Are you ready for the most uplifting (small sample size) Four for Friday yet?
I don’t want to belabor what’s already been talked about last night but what in high hell was that?!
As I’m sure most fans are doing these days, I’ve been incessantly checking the Eastern Conference standings just to get a snapshot of what the current match-ups are and to make guesses about how things might shake-out. Following last night’s confounding loss, and before I lost my cool, I noticed something interesting about the recent records of the Eastern Conference playoff teams. In particular, if you combined the records of these playoffs teams’ most recent games against non-playoff teams, you’ll find that they’ve gone a dismal 1-5-1 against non-playoff teams. The list of playoffs teams that have played, and lost, their most recent games against a non-playoff team include the Penguins, Bruins, Canadiens, Leafs, Islanders, and Rangers. Now, this stat isn’t meant to absolve the Leafs of an unacceptable performance against the Lighting, however it appears that they are not alone in their struggles to finish strong despite meagre competition.
Good Day MLHS readers! How was your Sunday? Did you find that you got your best night’s sleep? Did the air feel a little crisper, the sun shine a little brighter? Does everything in your life feel significantly better? I sure found that to be the case. Why? THE LEAFS ARE IN THE MUTHA FUNKIN’ PLAYOFFS!!!1 WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
Okay, I’m good now. This weekend is just the start of the good times, we’ve got at least four hockey games in May worth watching and I’ll optimistically say I think we’ll be seeing more than seven this year. We may not yet know who the Leafs are playing in round one, but we know for sure that CBC will be the network carrying the games.
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