The Maple Leafs played their best game of the season, but were dealt a taste of their own medicine with a sublime goaltending effort by Martin Jones, ultimately thwarting a plethora of fantastic chances and a game full of uncharacteristic sustained offensive zone time by the Leafs.
The first minute of the game had the makings of yet another one of those games where Toronto was going to spend way too much time in their own zone (“The Leafs have difficulty getting the puck out of their zone™”).
That quickly changed at the 18 minute mark, with the Rielly/Gardiner pairing moving the puck with efficiency and in the proper direction.
The initial fears of the game going the way of L.A. domination were scuttled at around the 16:50 mark; Lupul’s first touch was a scoring chance for Kulemin off the rush and should have been buried but for a fantastic save.
Come the five minute mark of the first, the shots were 5-3 Toronto. LA’s slow defense was having to hurry pucks on the breakout, and Toronto seemed more committed to a fast forecheck. If not physical, they were putting a lot of pressure on the Kings, who were being made to look like, well, the Leafs on any given night this season.
The penalty kill still continues to plague the Leafs game, and sunk them early. Despite taking the play to the slower LA Kings team, this was their chance to set up, control the play and get their 1-0 marker, which as an elite team they proceeded to do.
Despite the score, the shots were 9-4 Toronto late in the first.
One of the habits creeping into the Leafs’ heads more and more: their inability to close out periods and games. Inexplicably, the last minute and a half the Leafs were hemmed in and looked like they would concede another goal.
The Leafs got off to a nice start to the 2nd period.
Toronto’s defence was pinching and activating on the rush regularly, and it was giving the Leafs a chance to show off their speed more than they have this season. The D pinching down the wall was giving the Leafs more zone time than as long as I can remember, as reflected in the shot and shot attempt count (as close to a proxy for possession as we have). The Rielly/Gardiner pairing got regular shifts with the Kessel-Kadri-JVR, and they were fantastic in every area of the ice. They held the zone well, made great tape-to-tape saucer passes, pinched with great timing and, of course, lugged the puck as you would expect; lots of clean zone exits, zone entries, and controlled set ups in the offensive zone.
With Phaneuf injured, it’s forced Carlyle to do things he never tries, which is having Gardiner/Rielly on PP#1 and Gardiner/Franson on PP#2. The puck carrying duties went to Gardiner on the breakout and the Leafs achieved easy zone entries by not having, without fail, Phaneuf and Franson on the same PP unit. The dynamic duo are able to pinch with efficiency and still have the skating ability to get back into position on time.
As the 2nd period was winding down, it was apparent that this was the longest stretch of good hockey Toronto has sustained this season.
The Leafs finally evened the game on a 5 on 3 powerplay. It was Gardiner/Franson again, with Leafs getting a flurry of great chances. More great play from the Leafs in front of the net drew a penalty. On the ensuing 5 on 3, Frason scored on a beautiful switch with Kessel on the powerplay. Franson and Gardiner finally called the audible and switched sides (which Carlyle seems to coach them not to do), opening up two one-time point shots.
The Kings were previously a perfect 8 for 8 on 5 on 3s, but that changed tonight. The small victories, right?
That was a hell of a 2nd period for Toronto.
The Leafs were exposing the LA Kings lack of speed; worth noting the Kings were in the 2nd leg of a back-to-back on the road.
A note I made before the game: I was hoping that the addition of Lupul would open up the lines a bit for Toronto and allow Lupul to avoid some coverage, and for the Leafs to roll two lines properly. He looked like the Lupul of old and had a number of great chances tonight; he was hard on the puck and drove the net with reckless abandon. It makes the Leafs a tougher team to play against.
The pinching was a bonus for the Leafs tonight, but it has also cost them with the go-ahead goal by Jeff Carter. A pinch from Ranger resulted in a 2 on 1. Fraser was in a tough spot; he can play it like a 2-on-1 and take the pass away, which he does for the most part, or take the shooter with Ranger closing in on the pass option. He correctly elected for the latter and Carter got off a sneaky hard shot through Bernier’s legs to make it 2-1 Kings. That’s a game breaker goal that Bernier has to save and he didn’t. This was a decidedly average performance from Bernier; he needed to be better tonight. You wonder if starting Reimer against a team that doesn’t have the book on the goalie (like LA did) might have been the better decision.
Once again evident in the period, Gardiner and Rielly were dynamic tonight. Where they usually are a high-risk/reward combination, they were all reward tonight and moved the puck up the ice with skill and speed, making plays that are both exciting and effective. They beat LA’s heavy forecheck, as puck-moving defenseman are wont to do, when they play the game at a high speed.
There was a surefire holding penalty on the JVR rush missed by the refs late in this period. It was a free-hand hold, which is usually a call on every.single.play in every.single.nhl.game. While my tinfoil hat is currently at the dry cleaners, the calls against the Leafs this year are, quite frankly, staggering. I’ve never seen officiating as poor in the NHL in my decades of watching hockey. Perhaps coming out of the 2005 lockout when new rules were implemented, but that’s not saying much.
JVR blew by Regehr, but Regehr impeded JvR’s progress with the loose arm. That’s called holding.
Shortly thereafter, Kadri got cross checked and absolutely filled in from behind by Voynov without the puck.
Alas, Kyle Clifford came back the other way and scored. Insert dagger here. Game over.
Leafs/Kings Shot Location Data
The Toronto Maple Leafs have avoided arbitration with defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, with the two sides agreeing to terms on a three-year contract. TSN’s Darren Dreger is reporting it’s worth $9.45 million. Salary is listed at : $2.85m, $3.15m & $3.45m.
The 26-year-old Gunnarsson had one goal and 15 points in 37 regular-season games for the Maple Leafs in 2012-13 and added an assist in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games.
A seventh-round pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, Gunnarsson has 12 goals and 69 points in 224 games for the Maple Leafs.
Stevens Stephens had a great year end write up on Gunnarsson. He has this to say about re-signing him.
But when looking at Carl Gunnarsson’s future with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it isn’t a question of ‘if?’ It’s a question of ‘how much?’ The soon-to-be 27 year old is a restricted free agent this summer (on account of a late birthday) and you’ve got think he’s the third highest priority to re-sign after fellow RFAs Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson.
On the most recent Leaf Report podcast, both James Mirtle and Jonas Siegel agreed that Gunnarsson’s cap hit would likely fall between $2.5 and 2.9 million. Given the number of tough-as-nails minutes he plays, his chemistry with Phaneuf and burgeoning offensive game, I’d reckon his money will be closer to 3.5 million come July 5.
Whatever the cost, I wouldn’t miss the money, as 30-point defensemen and shutdown defensemen are not usually contained within the body of one man, and to have one so cheaply is doubly rare. The Leafs may need to improve their D corps, but Dave Nonis has real keeper in Carl Gunnarsson.
Here is a list of comparable cap hits among defencemen.
6 Leafs invited to Olympic Camps
Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews lead a list of 47 players invited to a summer orientation camp for the Canadian men’s Olympic hockey team.
The newcomers on the list include young guns like defencemen Alex Pietrangelo and P.K. Subban and forwards Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Claude Giroux and Brad Marchand.
The others are goalie Roberto Luongo, defencemen Dan Boyle, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Shea Weber, and forwards Patrice Bergeron, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Rick Nash, Mike Richards, Eric Staal and Joe Thornton.
The goalies are Luongo, who was the starter in the 2010 gold-medal game, as well as Carey Price, Mike Smith, Corey Crawford and Braden Holtby.
The other defencemen are Karl Alzner, Jay Bouwmeester, Mike Green, Dan Hamhuis, Travis Hamonic, Kristopher Letang, Marc Methot, Dion Phaneuf, Marc Staal and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
The other forwards are Jeff Carter, Logan Couture, Matt Duchene, Chris Kunitz, Andrew Ladd, Milan Lucic, James Neal, Patrick Sharp, Jordan Staal and Martin St.Louis.
Wingers Nikolai Kulemin and Leo Komarov were invited to orientation camps for the Russian and Finnish Olympic squads.
USA Hockey had their roster announced Monday afternoon and Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner, wingers Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk were invited.
Amid the speculation surrounding the Philadelphia Flyers and their cap aches, it was bound to happen that the Leafsâ€™ name would get thrown into the mix. After all, whatâ€™s a rumor about a big name NHL player without Toronto somewhere in the headline?
However, much like a few years back, the recent Jeff Carter rumors actually make a lot of sense â€“ simply because the Flyers are in such a jam right now and have to move salary.
As if the Versteeg deal hasnâ€™t turned out good enough, it has effectively compounded the Flyersâ€™ cap troubles even further.Ville Leino canâ€™t be signed without moving out some other cash and Philadelphia are still in desperate, desperate need of a goalie.
The Playoffs are about to start and what better time than now for the CFB predictions. We highlight every series with individual writers giving their own opinion on why or how a particular team can win the series. This is the Round 1 Predictions for the Eastern Conference.
About a month ago, we tookÂ a look at Phil Kessel’s production, including the on-pace numbers for this season and (theoretically) projected 82-game statistics.
With 10 games left to go in the season, perhaps it’s time we re-visit and update those predictions — this time in the context of other “name” or “impact” players to see just where exactly Phil Kessel ranks, production-wise, among the league’s elite.
Somewhat understandably, a great number of people will be upset with what ended up unfolding (or not unfolding) as Trade Deadline Day progressed, in particular with regard to Tomas Kaberle.
A new twist in the latest “will he or won’t he” saga involving a star player for the Toronto Maple Leafs kickstarted a ravenous day of trade rumours, one which ended disappointingly for all those who dared to believe that a King’s ransom was just around the corner.
However, things are never quite so simple as they first seem.Â And where some are seething with rage, others are basking in the glow of a new-found respect for the class displayed today, for all of us to see, by both the player and the general manager in the face of the onslaught which predictably ensued.
Keith Aulie has been injured indefinitely. Ryan Getzlaf will be a part of Team Canada. Brian Burke talks the favorite in the tournament, and the NHL has released its attendance records of this season. The numbers are shocking, read on to learn more of each of these brief news stories.
My Team Canada Roster selections may seem a little vanilla, but they’ve been selected to play out various situations. Penalty killing, power play and balance on all the forward units took precedent over sheer offensive/defensive ability.
Coming into this offseason, GM Brian Burke promised to drastically overhaul the Maple Leafs roster, and he knew that the primary asset at his disposal was cap space: lots and lots of it. After handing out long-term contracts to Orr,Â Beauchemin, and Komisarek, he’s got a little under $3 million left to play with in order to add an impact top six forward. In an attempt to minimize the amount of outgoing “talent” via trade, it’s no secret that he’s been trying to corner GM’s of teams that are pressed right up against the cap.
While the majority of Leafs fans wrote the team off in the summer, it wasnâ€™t until the New Year that the teams first true season of rebuilding began the inevitable grind into early year golf tournaments.
13 goals, 3 tenders, countless defensive errors and ugly goals.Â You almost felt sorry for Curtis Joseph after Jeff Carter cruised in for an easy breakaway goal and the camera panned to a thoroughly annoyed Ron Wilson.Â The Leafs would attempt a comeback of sorts after going down by six goals, but even with the best efforts of Martin Biron, it all went for naught.
What? You were expecting Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin to top the leading scorers in March? Well then. You’d be wrong … sort of. AO actually was tied at the top with another player.
Yes, Sid the Kid (11-6-12-18) ranked near the top of the list, tied with Ottawa’s Jason Spezza (14-8-10-18). Meanwhile, the Great 8, (12-8-11-19) scored two more than Sid, and two more than the NHL scoring leader for the month of March.
The craft of writing fiction requires an authorâ€™s innate ability to capture – and maintain – the readerâ€™s attention. Itâ€™s sleight of hand – or pen in this instance, with twists and turns deciphering an ending not envisioned by the reader. The process takes vision, vivid imagination, a well scripted story line and â€˜sleight of penâ€™ to playfully mislead readers into a perceived outcome, while planting thoughts and doubts that in the end make for a fantastic story.
It happens in the hockey world, too, and might be happening to Leafs fans currently. It could be a main factor in drafting Victor Hedman over John Tavares in the 2009 draft.
So the Maple Leafs extend their tank-friendly stretch of non-success with a convincing 4-1 loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers tonight, marking their seventh loss in their last nine games. As I snicker while watching Mats Sundin look equal parts lazy, fat and slow (yeah, he scored an empty net chance, so what), here are a few thoughts about tonight’s pedestrian performance from the Blue and White:
When Team Canada went for the third straight Gold Medal, they were ruled â€œtoo small and lacked the necessary talentâ€ to win. They proved them wrong. When Team Canada went for the fourth straight Gold Medal, they were ruled as â€œan underdog team with potential but not enough skillâ€ to win. They proved them wrong. This year, Team Canada went for the fifth straight Gold Medal at the World Junior Hockey Championship. They were ruled as â€œtoo smallâ€ and weâ€™re slated to win nothing more than silver. Again, Canada proves them wrong. How can you rule out the Hockey Capital of the World?
John Tavares ties the most goals ever by a player in the World Juniors with 12 but managed to do so in 1 less game than Jeff Carter, and 13 less games than Eric Lindros, and the tournament isn’t even completed; although, after that performance, it really felt like the Gold medal game. It’s hard to top that one.
Jeff Carter is quietly making a name for himself around the league; in fact, heâ€™s so quiet that some teams donâ€™t even know it until they play him. His speed and gritty game allows him to stand his guard in front of the net to bang in the garbage goals, and his wrist shot is so powerful that he could zip it past you from the blue line as hard some guys can slap it in this league.
Sorry for the delay guys.Â We greatly appreciate the flood of great questions and comments, and are sorry to say we couldn’t get to them all. We’ve all been pretty busy lately for a variety of reasons, so without any further ado, let’s get started on the 1st ever Maple Leafs HotStove Hockey Panel Discussion.
Forming our panel for this session is Alec Brownscombe of Hockeybuzz and MLHS godfather, Gus Katsaros of Mckeen’s and MLHS fantasy expert, and myself, Alex Tran, an MLHS blogger.