The Toronto Maple Leafs held their on-ice portion of training camp today. Players have been split into three squads to accommodate the 63 players invited to camp.
Among the contingent of fans outside the ice surface at the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence was a throng of media and of course, Leafs staff.
Weâ€™ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11.Today we feature Phil Kessel, profiled by Garrett Bauman.
Acquired via a controversial trade during the 2009 offseason in which three draft picks were sent to the Bruins, Kessel rebounded from shoulder surgery to become the Maple Leafs go-to guy in the offensive zone.
Despite missing a month of the season, the electrifying 22-year old winger led the Maple Leafs in several offensive categories while providing the team with a legitimate scoring threat -- and their first 30-goal scorer of the post-Sundin era.
Only 22, Kessel has a bright future ahead of him and many suspect it will be only a matter of time before 40-goal seasons become the norm.
It was a light day practice wise as the optional skate drew only a handful of players to the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence.
I attended practice at the MasterCard Center for Hockey Excellence, watching a loose group of players reveling in the 4-1 win over their provincial arch rivals. It all began with a loose skate, just a warm-up involving firing some pucks off the boards along the way.
Pretty obvious choice this week, with two shutout wins making history after poured into Leafs silks.
J.S. Giguere stabilized the crease with immediate impact in a record setting arrival. The NHL draped him with second star of the week honours. Heâ€™s been rewarded and praised.
So, I'm going off the board.
When Travis Zajac had his face plastered into the boards, I just knew we had found our very own Chuck Norris. Then, Phaneuf dropped the gloves with Colin White and my man-crush officially began.
Despite modest numbers in terms of offensive production, winger Nikolai Kulemin has made great strides in becoming a indispensible, two-way threat that all winning teams require. The young Russian worked up the hopes of Leafs Nation with a dazzling array of speed, skill and finishing ability in various Youtube highlight reels prior to coming over to the NHL, but it's been his tremendous effort, work ethic and defensive play over here that has won me over thus far this season. [more…]
I've been watching Luke Schenn closely this season, looking for creep of the sophomore jinx. Everyone is a little banged up at his junction of the schedule, but he might be playing through some hurt. The rust is off in the NHL, and players are hitting stride, making the young blueliner vulnerable as the games get more intense.
With Kessel and Gustavsson integrating themselves into the lineup, the team seems poised to break off a big-time run to put themselves back into the Eastern Conference's playoff picture. The team is playing very well of late and continued to build on that with an impressive 5-1 victory at home against the Detroit Red Wings on Hall of Fame night.
Update: During post-game media scrum, Wilson says Komisarek's injury not serious. [more…]
The Maple Leafs are creative. You have to hand it to them for finding new ways to lose games all the time. In the home opener against Montreal, it was sloppy turnovers and poor special teams leading to a blown late third period lead. On Saturday night, they decided to pack it away early against the Caps before going on a late run at the end to make the score more respectable. Tonight, it was a listless effort physically and emotionally, creating virtually nothing in the way of offense and falling victim to a pair of strange plays. [more…]
Despite eight new faces in tonight's season opening lineup against the Montreal Canadiens, many of the recurring themes of futility from last year were evident again in the 4-3 overtime loss. Poor defensive zone coverage, poor penalty killing, questionable moments in the net, and the snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory late in the game. Despite the disappointing loss, there were a few bright spots: namely the play of the top line led by Matt Stajan and Viktor Stalberg. [more…]