All joking aside, it was consistent dominance throughout by Team Canada. There will be some complaints about too little conversion of possession into more goals, but that’s more of a testament to Norway goaltender Lars Haugen, who stopped 35/38 shots, as well as loads of blocked shots by the Norwegians.
Usually, HBO’s 24/7 beats the actual Winter Classic in fanfare and expectation. This year, it has simply been a welcomed preview. The Big House in Ann Arbour, Michigan gathered a record number of bodies (105,491 people), vastly exceeding 71,217 humans attending the first Winter Classic in 2008. After a tough 5-4 SO loss against the Wings on December 21st, the Leafs were due for a victory. Paul Ranger had the right idea, wearing the eye-paint of the tiger and looking very much up for a game which brought him and all those in attendance to the core of their love of hockey. We’ve all been waiting for this a long time, so let’s see how this one panned out.
1) The Leafs are 21-16-5 and this was a proper celebration of the game. Also, in the midst of the Classic it was confirmed that JM Liles and Dennis Robertson were traded to Carolina for a dependable shutdown defenseman Tim Gleason. Don’t expect miracles, but the defensive end of things should be somewhat bolstered by his presence. Now, let’s get to the on-ice happenings. Considering the standings, this was an important game for both teams.
2) The conditions certainly played a major part right from the start, and showering the goaltenders wasn’t really frowned upon as much with all the snow. Frequent breaks for ice cleanup offered a chance for some additional strategizing on the benches. Dump and chase was the name of the game as goalies weren’t advised to take field trips behind their net (Bernier didn’t seem to have any trouble in doing so, though). Also, the surface made it difficult for players like Datsyuk to take full advantage of their puck-handling skills offensively but a lot of it played into Detroit’s hands with the kind of ‘meat and potatoes’ style of play they employ which was obvious by the shot count after the opening frame. The first powerplay of the game came after Abdelkader crosschecked Phaneuf from behind in the corner and the Californian made ice/snow removers were once again called into action. A fresh sheet of ice didn’t help the Leafs who couldn’t really put anything dangerous on Jimmy Howard.
3) Like Healy noticed (or heard on 24/7) all Detroit defenseman are left handed shooters which made it difficult for their defense to handle the puck on their off-side, especially in conditions like these. Unfortunately, the Leafs didn’t take advantage of that throughout the opening period. The Wings got their first man advantage during the middle of the opening frame when Lupul took a revenge on Kindl’s hit by crosschecking Eaves into the head. Bernier had to be really sharp since the Wings’ powerplay didn’t look as lethargic – still, no goals were scored as Dan Cleary looked to the sky following another good save by the Leafs netminder. The period ended with some grit shown by the Leafs and another good penalty kill following an unfortunate penalty call on Dion.
4) The water bottles were a tougher opponent for the likes of Todd Bertuzzi today. The things were frozen solid and required frequent replacements to keep the goaltenders hydrated. As the second period played out, Nazem Kadri got absolutely robbed by Howard on the best opportunity of the game created by Joffrey Lupul. The kid was slamming his stick on the bench for missing that one. We also found out that the elements were no match for the greatness of Pavel Datsyuk who was still doing his thing in the second.
5) The middle frame saw both teams pushing the pace, but the majority of puck possession and chances still belonged to the Red Wings. Half way into it, Dan Cleary couldn’t put the biscuit past a sprawling Jonathan Bernier who got a slight piece of it and continued with his solid performance in this one. Tatar’s rush just prior to that wasn’t something to sneeze at either. The Leafs were spending too much time in their own zone and the Wings almost made them pay. The shot count stood 19-10 in favor of the red team 12 minutes into the 2nd.
6) Wings got a break on a lucky bounce of the boards which put Zetterberg and Alfredsson on a two-on-one break as Franson got caught up ice. Surely enough, that got them first goal of the hockey game. This was followed by another Leafs penalty, Jay McClement sat in the box as Leafs Nation held their breath. A two goal lead with one period to play, in a game like this – yeah, you’re basically done. Fortunately, the PK did it’s job, thanks mostly to some stellar saves by Bernier. First he stole one from Cleary and followed that up with a 10-bell save on Detroit’s top powerplay unit. Some end to end stuff saw Howard do the same on JVR after his big hit, resulting in a Leafs man advantage. It was surely too late, but the US-born goalie was making his final bid for a roster spot at the Sochi Olympics, stopping the Buds time after time. Be that as it may, our own American wouldn’t be denied. JVR tied the game just 37 second from the buzzer by batting a puck out of the air and scoring past Howard who was seemingly unbeatable down low. Phil Kessel (12:43) and van Riemsdyk (12:34) were leading all forwards in ice time after 2.
7) The tying goal set everyone up for a terrific third period. Dion Phaneuf’s bloody lip gave him an some added nastiness, which seemed to be squarely aimed at Daniel Alfredsson. He was pinching and frequently finishing checks, the best of which coming against the Swede in the offensive zone where he got the puck and the man.
8) Our captain also celebrated his new contract with a huge assist from the point. He simply threw a puck to the net, it passed a bunch of bodies and sticks in front and ended up behind Detroit’s goaltender – a quick review was made but it was definitely a good goal, a vital goal, which should kill all the talk about his extension, even if only for a brief period of time. Bozak was credited with a deflection in the end.
9) A half-handed effort by Franson let Abdelkader power his way to the net and put the puck behind Bernier. Nothing in hockey, especially in a spectacle such as this, comes easy. The Wings pinched like crazy and it most certainly paid off. Still, if there was any doubt prior to tonight, Jonathan Bernier used the brightest of spotlights to grab the starting position ahead of James Reimer. Perhaps, this will be the biggest storyline of the Winter Classic. Overtime, as exciting as it was, solved nothing and the game went to a shootout where Tyler Bozak, of all people, scored to end the game. Welcome back sir!
10) The final episode of 24/7 will taste much sweeter now. It’s not a Stanley Cup, but it’s a major win the team can rally around and a soothing sensation for the entire contingent of Leafs Nation, which can finally celebrate something. Enjoy it.
2014 Winter Classic Game in 6
A promising first period went badly astray as the Leafs had their five-game home winning streak snapped by four unanswered goals from the Nashville Predators. The Leafs move to 13-8-1 on the season.
The Maple Leafs and the Red Wings both decided to save their best for the regular season and ice watered down rosters for the last game of the pre-season. Beyond that, I will spare you a lengthy introduction and jump right to the game:
On the back of seven points (three goals, four assists) in three games, Nazem Kadri was named NHLs 3rd star of the week for what has been a fantastic start to the shortened season for the young Leaf.
Kadri currently sits 9th in points in the NHL.
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:
As we await the season opener for the big club, let’s see how some of the kids are doing:
With the pre-season nearly finished, the Leafs roster is beginning to take shape for 2010-11. Similarly, the Marlies are starting to become more defined as major league cuts are shuffled down to the minor league club. What is not so clearly defined on the Marlies is their goaltending situation. There will be a ton of competition between the four goalies in the Leafs minor pro system to get starts this season and those that do will have to seize the opportunity. Letâ€™s take a look:
One of the more interesting subplots to the Maple Leafs’ 2010-11 preseason has been the Michael Liambas situation. Offered a tryout – amidst much fanfare – in time for the team’s annual Rookie Camp, the infamous winger was ultimately released on Thursday, during the first round of cuts at the NHL training camp.
Ordinarily, such a move would be regarded as no more than a footnote, a regular or even “to be expected” occurrence which takes place in any training camp. But Liambas’ situation was – and remains – anything but ordinary.
Day Two of on-ice participation is now in the books .. the sessions all had a purpose, as camp not only winds down, but clear decisions need to be made on who will remain with the main roster and who will be going to the Marlies or back to their original junior team.
A breakdown of the drills and more observations from the intra squad game after the jump.
Sunday Training Camp Day 2 practice
Teams A and B practiced with Team A on the main ice. (Breakdown of teams is here.
The drills weren’t very different from the previous days, they all focused on a real-game situation and the coaching staff made variations along the way.
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.
As much as I tried to just sit back and enjoy the game as a fanÂ last night, I couldn’t help but take a few notes (this might have been because we ended up sittingÂ among the scouts). So without further ado, here are a few additional observationsÂ from last night’s tournament opener to supplement Derek Harmsworth’s excellent coverage.
The following is live, up to the minute coverage of today’s rookie tournament game between the Ottawa Senators and the Chicago Blackhawks. Â Remember to refresh the page to get the latest updates.
Finally the day many of us have been waiting for has arrived. Â The NHL Toronto Maple Leafs rookie tournament kicks off this afternoon in London, Ontario, and for many it’s a chance to catch on ice hockey for the first time in quite a while.
Today’s action features the Pittsburgh Penguins rookies taking on the Ottawa Senators rookies in afternoon action. Â Also on the bill today, the Maple Leafs rookies will play the Chicago Blackhawks rookies in the nightcap.
Here is all you need to know about today’s games.
Brett Lebda has barely registered on the radar for Leafs fans and with good reason. This offseason is yet again centered solely on Tomas Kaberle, while Lebda toils away on the bottom pairing in many fansâ€™ minds. Expectations are understandably low for Lebda, so it now becomes important to gauge proper expectations. All stats not specifically referenced are found on BehindtheNet.ca.
Lebda primarily played with two people in 2009-10. Those players are Jonathan Ericsson and Brad Stuart (courtesy of DobberHockey.com). Lebda registered the fewest points in the trio at 8, with Ericsson amassing 13 and Stuart putting up 20. Lebdaâ€™s -2 rating is by no means a good stat to have, but it is significantly better than Stuartâ€™s -12 and Ericssonâ€™s -15. So in looking at these basic stats, we find that Lebda is average defensively and sub-par offensively. However, do advanced statistics shed any more light on his overall play? Letâ€™s find out.
It’s that time of year again. The Canadian World Junior Development Camp for the 2011 tournament in Buffalo is under way, as the Canadians try to bounce back from a heartbreaking loss against D’Amigo and the Americans. Here are some thoughts on the Leafs’ prospects’ chances of making their respective world junior teams:
- Bradley Ross is the lone Maple Leaf prospect invited to Canada’s Development Camp, but is sitting out the on-ice scrimmages due to a pulled groin. Barring a terrible season, he should have a good chance making the team in order to assume the agitator/pest role vacated by Cormier and Della Rovere. However, he could be facing stiff competition from Cody Eakin, a top scorer in the WHL, who is tearing up the scoresheet at camp so far.
- Jesse Blacker and Greg McKegg were not invited to camp. Unless he makes significant strides forward defensively, Blacker will likely not have a realistic chance at making the squad after finishing with a team worst -22 rating for Owen Sound last season. As is the case every year, the Canadians will be absolutely loaded with premium offensive talents so McKegg will also have to step his game up to another level and improve his two-way play if he hopes to crack the team’s top six. The odds are certainly stacked against these two because no player not invited to last year’s Development Camp made the eventual final roster.
- Jerry D’Amigo should have a top six spot all but locked up for the American squad after being one of the program’s best forwards for both gold medal winning U-18 and U-20 teams over the past couple seasons.
- Swedish stay-at-home defenseman Petter Granberg could have a shot on Sweden’s blueline. He played on last year’s silver medal U-18 team and will be playing full-time in the Swedish Elite League in the fall.
- Power forward Sondre Olden will be one of the youngest players at the tournament this year, but that was already the case last season.Â At 17 years old, he helped the U-20 Norwegian team capture gold in the Division-1 tournament, thus earning a berth in Canada’s group for the 2011 tournament. He has been a huge centerpiece of their national junior teams, having also singlehandedly led the U-18 team to a Division-1 gold medal with 22 points in 5 games last season. Seriously, who wins two gold medals in one year?
Colby Armstrongâ€™s shiny new 3-year, $9,000,000 contract with the Maple Leafs has been the focus of much debate over the past month. Leaving the contract argument aside, it would be prudent to take a look at Armstrongâ€™s advanced statistics in 2009-10, so that we might better gauge our expectations for the coming season. Thanks to BehindtheNet.ca for these fantastic statistics.
Quality of Competition (QoC) and Quality of Teammates (QoT) were very important stats when analyzing the potential impact that Kris Versteeg could have for the Maple Leafs. In Versteegâ€™s case, the QoT stat helped us understand his modest offensive numbers and how they might be improved in Toronto. However, they can tell a different story, namely that of defensive responsibility. Armstrongâ€™s QoT was an astoundingly low -0.119. These stats are calculated with advanced +/- statistics being compared between their linemates throughout the season. As before, it is important to note the linemates Armstrong had to work with (courtesy of DobberHockey.com):
This is why I don’t like doing prospect profiles.Â Call it the “Curse of GB”.
2008-09′s semi-popular “Getting To Know You” series featured six players who were (at the time) prospects Leafs’ fans were excited about.
One by one, five of these prospects were gradually moved out of the system voted off the team, culminating in yesterday’s decision to not qualify Phil Oreskovic.
The result?Â Dale Mitchell is your MLHS “Getting To Know You” Survivor!
[pause for loud cheering, applause, and a spontaneous "Go Leafs Go" chant]
The word out of Los Angeles today remains that Brian Burke has yet to receive an acceptable offer for Tomas Kaberle. While talks are said to be heating up according to Pierre LeBrun’s twitter (rumoured to involve Buffalo, Boston and Los Angeles), Burke appears to be tempering expectations and maintaining the possibility that Kaberle remains a Leaf come Saturday. It could well be that Burke quietly slips out of Los Angeles with only with only six third – seventh round picks to his name. TSN has released a sleeper list with some names Leafs fans can keep an eye on for Saturday: