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Ben Scrivens

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So today, a trade happened.

I don’t want to delve too deeply into a breakdown of the trade – mostly because I think this is a topic on its own and you can find what you need elsewhere. Instead, I’m going to focus on the mindset of Leafs management, what this means for James Reimer, as well as the potential Jonathan Bernier carries. I left a semi-large post of my thoughts on the trade in the comment section, but I’m going to expand on it here.

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Anybody who takes rumours at this time of year at face value is either new to hockey and the internet or still reading Hockeybuzz. I’m neither of those. These Jonathan Bernier to Toronto rumours seem like nonsense, and I don’t want to believe them. I really don’t.

Other bloggers have addressed this already, so I won’t retread the obvious. Jonathan Bernier to the Maple Leafs makes no sense. Why on Earth would the Leafs give up assets for him? James Reimer proved all he could possibly prove this season, and all of the underlying numbers indicate he’s on track for a career as a reliable number one, and a good one at that. Ben Scrivens was solid as a back up, and especially when taking the reigns after Reimer fell to injury. Scrivy made a big contribution to the Leafs’ eventual playoff berth when he took over the net last February and posted a 6-3 record with two shutouts. Jonathan Bernier, while a promising young goalie in the sense that he was drafted high and hasn’t got his crack at the starter’s role yet, has proven nothing. He’s played like 25 more games than Scrivens.

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I’m sure I’m not the only one struggling to care about the playoffs. As talented as the remaining teams are, I’m not interested in the hearing the winner of the Stanley Cup become dubbed the next great NHL dynasty. The fact that Boston could claim that honour makes it sting a little worse, as I’m sure another reason I have completely tuned out of the playoffs is the absence of the Leafs after believing it was a real possibility they would be in it for at least four more games.

So, truthfully, I haven’t been watching too much hockey and don’t have much to say today. Rather than weigh you down with my thoughts on the Leafs when admittedly I haven’t been paying too close attention, I’ll turn it over to the comments section and the spiffy new Livefyre comment system to find out the more popular outcome of a few different scenarios:

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Joffrey Lupul

What an impressive showing by Joffrey Lupul last night. Re-united with 2011-12 running mates Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel after an in-game audible by coach Carlyle, he led the Leafs to a not-always-convincing 3-2 win over the lowly Florida Panthers with goals five and six in his last four games.

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Toronto overcame a slow start on the second night of a back-to-back set to close out the league-worst Florida Panthers at home.  The game featured the return of Joffrey Lupul to the Kessel line, simultaneously heralding the revival of said line as contributing members of the team.

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After a game in which the Leafs sat back, tried to limit the damage and relied on the counterattack against Boston, tonight you hope to see the Leafs exhibit spells of dominance against the 30th-placed Florida Panthers. It’s a back to back scenario with travel in between, but we would love to see some killer instinct out of the Leafs knowing the state of the opponent and the importance of the two points.

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‘Tis the season for Leafs trade rumours.

Now, I’m not about to dig up every rumour out there on the internet and go through it, but I do want to provide some thoughts on the team, the direction of the organization, and what’s out there before the Leafs do (or don’t) make any moves.

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The Tampa Bay Lighting (13-15-1) are in town to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs (15-12-2).

The other day, Randy Carlyle called the Leafs’ inability to initiate clean breakouts and avoid getting hemmed in their own zone “the big mystery with this group.” He’s taken steps toward resolving it with the addition of both John Michael-Liles and Jake Gardiner to the lineup, who will apparently play together on a pairing tonight as the defence takes a shape much closer to what many armchair coaches were penciling together before the season. It will be interesting to see how the pair affect the breakout and overall puck movement off the backend. Gardiner will also look to inject some life into a powerplay that’s 0 for its last 19.

Speaking of interesting quotes from the other day, Dave Nonis was asked if the Leafs were in the midst of a downfall akin to last season, with his team currently on a 0-3-2 skid. Nonis said, “The one difference I would draw – I just went over the last 5 games – I think there was only one game where we weren’t happy with the performance and the effort. Last year, when things were going poorly, were were unhappy with the effort a lot more than that.” So let’s hope that translates into an upturn in results before the Leafs play their way out of the playoff picture.

The Leafs were hurt by an off outing from Ben Scrivens in their last meeting with the Lightning. Facing their first non-playoff opponent in five games, this is also a good time to get their first win in five games. James Reimer gets the start.

Liles and Gardiner form the second pairing, with Kostka remaining in the press box for the third straight game. Phaneuf and Gunnarsson will be tasked with the Stamkos and St. Louis head-to-head. Vinny Lecavalier is out with a broken foot.

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Toronto saw a hard fought one-goal lead disappear in the third period against Pittsburgh, as the Penguins Sidney Crosby staged a second consecutive third period comeback to steal the game in regulation.  It’s a tough loss to swallow after a thorough effort across the lineup kept the Penguins scoreless until the final eight minutes of the game.

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Since we are almost at the halfway point, I thought now would be a good time to write some notes on each individual player thus far. Here is the close-but-not-quite-halfway Leafs Notebook:

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Prior to this one, the Habs lost only four regulation games this season, but two of those loses have come at the hands of the Maple Leafs, including the 6-0 shellacking handed to them in the Bell Centre. The 6-0 win also featured physical dominance by the Leafs so this one was expected to be a fiery affair. The Habs added Michael Ryder and PK Subban to the lineup just to make things more difficult.

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There’s no better way to kick off a Leafs season than to beat the Canadiens in their own rink, inspiring some hilarious yet predictable non-blowout booing from the fans and some verbal pleas to the front office to strike a deal with their unsigned RFA.

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My apologies, I would have hoped that in the past week I could come up with an idea for a post. Instead, here are some quick thoughts for discussion at the beginning of the week. Of course there’s also the small matter of Game Six tonight which I’m wagering is the last NHL game we see for the next four to six months. Having wagered on the Devils to win the cup back in April when Bodog had them at 22-1 odds, I can safely say my rooting interests remain with New Jersey. Here are the other discussion points and links.

  • David Jones signing a 4 year 4 million dollar a season deal sets the bar for forwards in free agency. It certainly wasn’t a hometown discount, and skews the value for all other middle of the road free agents. If Burke is looking to add a top six forward I’d rather see him overpay on high end talent like Semin or Parise rather than sign Brad Boyes or Olli Jokinen to $4 or 5 million dollar deals. On the upside, if the Leafs are willing to deal in forwards, it makes Connolly’s deal seem spot on, and Lupul and MacArthur probably could net a nice return if Burke wants to earmark one of their spots for Kadri or the 5th overall pick.

Photo Credit: The Star

Toronto Marlies 3, Abbotsford Heat 2 – Marlies take series 4-1

Game sheet

The Toronto Marlies continue their playoff march towards the Calder Cup finals after disposing of the Abbotsford Heat in overtime of game 5 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Despite not playing a great game, it was good enough to get them the victory. Abbostford were the more desperate of the two teams and it showed—Toronto was down 2-0 during the first period and being outplayed, for the most part.

In the 2nd and 3rd period, The Marlies slowly started to chip away at Abbotsford, and ultimately, it was a game that came down to special teams. The Marlies league leading penalty kill and improving powerplay were too much to for Abbotsford to handle.

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Photo: Graig Abel

The Marlies took a commanding 3-1 lead over the Abbotsford Heat in their Western Conference Semifinal series with a 3-1 win last night. Toronto now sits one win away from the Conference Finals. The Marlies benefited from an unlikely source of offense in Greg Scott, who scored a natural hat trick including a great shot at even strength, a short handed goal, and an empty netter. Scott, who has posted a surprisingly productive 74 points in 130 games over the past two seasons, garnered Matt Mistele’s attention in Game 2 as Matt praised his understated shot and energy level. With an ’88 birthdate, he shouldn’t be ruled out as a potential 4th line energy guy for the big club.

Goaltender Ben Scrivens has allowed three goals against in his last three games despite facing 95 Abbotsford shots to the Marlies’ 72 in that span (last night the Marlies were outshot 38-17). It’s a tough situation the Leafs are in here as the pending restricted free agent, who boasted the league’s lowest goals against average in the 2011-12  regular season, is providing ample proof he’s above the competition. Ideally Scrivens stays with the Leafs, despite no guarantee of increased NHL opportunity, in order to continue to work with long-time mentor Francois Allaire throughout the season (he’s repeatedly credited Allaire for helping him get settled down into this playoff run). Scrivens is 25-years-old however, and beyond thinking about his own career and desire to take the next step, would not be waiver exempt under a new deal. His trade value to the Leafs may prove too useful to risk losing him for nothing.

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Photo: Marlies.ca

For the first time ever, the Toronto Marlies have swept a playoff opponent.

Give the players and coaching staff full credit, too. Sometimes when a team mounts a big lead in a series it rests on its laurels, relaxes a little, and takes the pedal off the gas just a tad, enough for the opposition to maybe take a game or two. But the Marlies came out like a team who had no interest in playing any more games than they had to against Rochester. They clearly wanted to end the series last night and were very business like in their efforts to do so.

Here are some notes from the game, which I watched online via AHL Live.

- With Carter Ashton hurt, Jerry D’Amigo was bumped up to the second line to play with Joe Colborne and Matt Frattin, while Marcel Mueller slotted in D’Amigo’s old spot with Nicholas Deschamps and Phillippe Dupuis. Otherwise, the rest of the roster remained the same as it has for the first two games.

Stuart Percy - July 12, 2013

Leafs fans are showing heightened interest in the Marlies lately, and deservedly so as they have officially begun their run for the Calder Cup. While AHL success in the playoffs is always a fantastic experience for any player – especially young ones – fans of Toronto hockey at the end of the day are asking themselves one thing: How does this help the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Earlier in the year, I wrote a piece looking at Calder Cup Finalists translation to NHL success. That leads into the current edition of the Marlies as we look at who on this team is being counted on to help the Leafs moving forward and which players are likely to become productive NHLers and part of the long-term solution here.

Now, I want to stress that there is a difference between a long-term NHLer, and a fringe AHL-NHL tweener. A player like Darryl Boyce is an AHL-NHL tweener, meaning he’s a very good American league player, but struggles to get into a National league lineup consistently. Usually players that struggle to translate their games are missing one key ingredient that they can get away with in the AHL, but not the NHL – Be that a lack of speed, size, vision, strength, shooting ability, defensive ability, and so on.

So, inevitably, when someone says “where is Greg Scott,” well, Greg Scott brings a lot to the table, and hey, he could potentially make the Leafs as their 12th or 13th forward, but he is not a long-term solution to anything for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Thus, when we are looking at the players below, we aren’t just looking at players who may or may not crack the Leafs next season, we are looking at players who are being counted on to be contributing Toronto Maple Leafs for years to come in the ongoing quest to make the playoffs.

Photo: Marlies.ca

It was another 4-3 game in which the Marlies gave up a two goal lead and Jerry D’Amigo scored twice, including the game winner in the final minutes. In many respects it was like watching the same game as Thursday night’s. Did we mention that Zigomanis scored and Foligno, Verone and Brennan were the same Rochester goal scorers from Game 1? All that matters from the Marlie perspective is that it was the same result and they now hold a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

An announced sell out crowd of towel wavers provided a good atmosphere, particularly in the final moments following the D’Amigo winner. Onto the notes:

-For whatever reason the Marlies have let up on those – cliched, but true – always dangerous two-goal leads, but you can tell when it comes down to it, and when the Marlies need to score the next goal, they seem to believe in the game plan and that they’re capable of pulling it out. Winning a game despite giving up a two goal lead – and giving up leads in the third on both occasions – is not as easy as the Marlies have made it look the last two games. That type of resilience and abiding belief in their abilities should help take them deep in these playoffs.

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Where’s Reimer? Can you find him? I know the Maple Leafs sure wish they could, as they have “no idea” when he’ll be back.

Click to enlarge.