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Through 45 games the abject tandem of Toskala and Joseph has combined for the worst team save percentage in the NHL and by an ever increasing margin. Where .900 is seen as a barometer for average net minding in the modern game, the Blueshirted duo has managed just .886 between them. Subsequently the hard work put into making the Leafs sixth in shots against with a 28.3 per game average is being undone by a last line of defence that bares a startling resemblance to the Maginot line. Worse still the current status quo threatens to undermine the very rebuilding process Toronto are pinning their future on.
A combination of terrible goaltending and suspect defensive coverage undid the Maple Leafs tonight as they sat on an early 3-0 lead thinking they would ride it to the finish line, failing to take into the account the fact that, with a goaltender that’s seriously struggling between the pipes, leads can disappear on the turn of a dime, let alone over the course of 40 minutes. The end result is one which will please neither side of tanking/playoff spectrum.
In a season geared more towards the June entry draft than an April playoff berth, and with the World Junior Championships, the annual showcase of young hockey talent, stealing the hockey headlines as of late – at least in Canada, – it’s hard not to start dwelling on the possibilities available for the Maple Leafs when June rolls around. There are perhaps more imminent Leaf matters at hand in the form of the changes Brian Burke is expected to execute in the nearer few months, but I think I speak on behalf of all of Leaf Nation when I say last June, the time at which the Leafs welcomed Luke Schenn to the organization, was one of the most exciting and promising moments for the fanbase in recent times. This June will hopefully bring about similar jubilation and promise as Burke adds at least one more prized first-round pick to the fold of the re-building Maple Leafs.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun is reporting that Brian Burke has been kicking the tires on a more adequate back-up for Vesa Toskala than Leafs’ current incumbent, the antiquated Curtis Joseph. What was initially tabbed as win-win move has proved to be a misstep engendered by nostalgia. The mandate wasn’t overly demanding for Joseph as the logic was that Vesa Toskala, coming off an impressive first year as a full-fledged starter, would only require relief for 15 games on the season. This hasn’t worked out for two reasons – Curtis Joseph has not proven adequate enough to play at a passable level for 15 games on the season (4.12 GAA, 0.843 SV%) and Toskala hasn’t by any stretch of the imagination been the unquestioned starter he was last season.
Ron Wilson will stick with the struggling Vesa Toskala as his slumping Maple Leafs, fresh off two consecutive losses by a collective score of 12-3, look to get off the schneid against Alex Ovechkin’s red-hot Washington Capitals.
The Leafs goaltending issues at the NHL level have opened the door for some of their young goaltending prospects to strut their stuff and show everyone what they can do.
With Toskala resting a “sore groin” (that’s probably code for .881 save percentage) and Joseph looking like he should have retired, we saw the much talked about Justin Pogge get his first NHL win on Monday night against Atlanta.
I couldn’t catch the game tonight (count me among the lucky ones), but the stats tell the story — outhit 28-7 and outscored 4-1 by the worst team in the league. 4 goals conceded on 27 shots. The Leafs again prove to be the tonic to a struggling team’s woes, in this case a team that hadn’t won yet in the month of December. A real Leafs’ goaltending controversy is brewing. It’s time for Ron Wilson to give Justin Pogge another shot and hope he continues to shine in the spotlight so that Brian Burke can ship out Vesa Toskala before his value is non-existent, which it probably isn’t far off from already. Toskala’s recorded a putrid .882 save percentage so far this season and allowed 12 goals on his last 54 shots. Additionally, he seems to downplay his numerous blemishes with “just one of those nights,” and “some times those things happen” rationalizations. Still love him, Wilson? I know, Toskala has somewhat unfairly become the whipping boy after some pretty lame efforts from the Leafs as a whole, but you only have to look as far as a team like Ottawa to see how deflating anemic goaltending can be to a team. I don’t think Burke will wait long before addressing what has developed into a serious problem in the short-term and possibly the long-term, depending on how Pogge responds to [hopefully] further testing in the coming days. The trade freeze has been lifted as of a few hours ago and certainly a sense of impending change is in the air.
I’ll turn it over to you guys.
Ed. Note: Lots of holiday reading going up today for you guys. Merry Christmas.
Here we are the Christmas break, and Iâ€™d like to take the time to look back at what we saw in September, what we expected by Christmas and what we envision for the future of the Blue and White.
The Maple Leafs, now bearers of a winning record at 14-13-6, are looking to continue their offensive onslaught against the league’s fifth worst defense as they return home to host the underachieving Dallas Stars.
Ron Wilson appears to have assembled a winning combination up front. After an 8-5 beating at the hands of the Boston Bruins, Wilson re-united the line of Nik Antropov, Matt Stajan and Alexei Ponikarovsky atop the roster, kept in tact the dynamic third line of Jason Blake, Dominic Moore and Jeremy Williams and it’s resulted in two dominating wins by a collective score of 13-5. For the first time since early October, the Leafs have surpassed the .500 mark at 14-13-6 after winning five of their last six.
Toronto Maple Leafsâ€™ prospect, Chris Didomenico (or Dido for short) is set to make his World Junior Hockey Championship debut this Friday as the team prepares for its first pre-tournament exhibition match against Team Sweden.
Just received an update from a source. Nothing concrete, as pretty much all rumours concerning Brian Burke’s potential moves are speculative at this point. However, a few interesting tidbits were mentioned.
Today was the long-awaited day when Brian Burke was finally introduced to the Toronto media and fanbase. Highlighted below are several important quotes that stuck out to me as I listened to Burke outline his plans for building a championship calibre team here in the capital of the Hockey Universe:
Mark Bell’s career in Toronto seems to be all but over. The 28-year old from Ontario joined the Leafs along with Vesa Toskala at last year’s draft shrouded under the cloud of an impending DUI sentence. With that cleared up this past summer, many Leaf fans hoped for a revival of the Mark Bell that scored 25 goals in Chicago during the 2005-2006 season. However, it was quite evident that Bell never managed to put it together in training camp or in the exhibition games that the Leafs played.
The Leafs waive, demote and start rumors.
Discuss it Here>>>
After dealing away high picks for so many years, it finally looks like one of the NHL’s worst farm systems is beginning to turn the corner these last couple of years.
For the most part, the Leafs’ prospect talent level is very top heavy with a few bluechippers heading this list, followed by an intriguing combination of high potential boom or bust prospects in the lower ranks. The orgainzation’s biggest strengths are its depth at the centre position and generally high skill level among its forwards. The farm system’s weakness occurs on the blueline where there is little to look forward to beyond Schenn and Stralman, particularly if Vorobiev decides not to come over. The general lack of speed in the organization is also a cause a for concern.
With tonightâ€™s preseason game just a few hours away, there appears to be a shift of mood in the locker room for the duration of the preseason. It looks as if the days are numbered not only for those who wonâ€™t be joining the regular crop this year, but also for a few regulars.
Coughing up the lead late two games in a row is obviously a bit disconcerting considering the history of this team in that respect. But this pre-season is about shaking lingering habits from the former era and, as PPP points out, this is the perfect opportunity for Ron Wilson to kick some of these tendencies. That’s not to mention the fact that tonight’s collapse was largely the result of some rookie mistakes on the part of John Mitchell and Justin Pogge, who played great games otherwise.
My post-game notes from tonight’s 3-2 loss inside Mellon Arena:
-Some promising individual performances, but the chemistry amongst many of the lines was lacking.
-All three goals were avoidable. If Anton Stralman and Josef Boumedienne were facing up ice when playing the cross-crease passes there wouldn’t have been an issue. It just seemed to be a freak incident when Stralman lost his footing on the third marker and Kaberle’s jumping of the gun in heading up ice gave the Pens a 2 on 0 situation.
From Micheal Aldred…
The Toronto Maple Leafs will be watching Luke Schenn with intensity tonight as the rookie is ready to show the world what he can do against arguably the best in the world in Evgeni Malkin. Not far behind him will goalie Justin Pogge be looking to do the same thing. Tonight, however, there will be a stronger cast on the ice for the buds.
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