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Matt Frattin

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The Jonathan Bernier to Toronto speculation was ongoing all week, so it wasn’t a complete surprise when the Leafs acquired him yesterday. What was surprising, considering teams that are in much worse shape in net like the Flyers and Islanders were in on the bidding, is that one of those teams didn’t offer big value for a goalie so many are apparently high on.

Ultimately, it seems the Leafs were able to offer a package that matched up well with the Kings’ needs. The Leafs gave Los Angeles a good backup goalie and top nine forward who combine to cost them a million bucks (since the Leafs are retaining salary), along with a second round pick. That’s solid value for a guy who requested a trade on a team that’s tight against the cap.

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Between attempts to acquire Roberto Luongo, Miikka Kiprusoff, and now reportedly Jonathan Bernier, it just doesn’t feel like Leafs management is fully behind James Reimer being “the guy,” does it? Listen in here to Bob McKenzie on the TSN Insider podcast, as McKenzie calls the Leafs interest in Bernier legitimate, and says Leafs brass “like Reimer’s game but don’t love it.”

By now you all probably know Reimer’s numbers. He’s played over 100 games, has a career .915sv%, he played well in the playoffs, and just seems to have that temperament that is tailor fit to the Toronto market. There is one glaring issue with Reimer though, and that’s where the goalie hunt comes into play – he hasn’t been able to stay healthy.

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“Lite power-forward” Matt Frattin had an inauspicious start to his 2013 NHL campaign after getting cut from Maple Leafs out of training camp. This, after finishing the season with the Leafs last year and going on to lead the AHL in points and goals (10 in 13 games) in the playoffs prior to badly injuring his knee in while sliding into an empty net (ironically, in the process of scoring another goal). The coaching staff was less than impressed with his intensity during camp and the addition of JVR on the wing bumped Frattin from the lineup. He went back to the AHL and didn’t have a good start to his season there, either. Whether that was the product of sulking or a lack of Nazem Kadri as his center, it wasn’t working.

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Just a little over 24 hours since the Game 7 letdown, it’s become clear to me I am way too emotionally involved with a damn hockey team; so much so that I start to wonder about myself for being this brutally devastated over a game. But I want to say that Leafs Nation is a special, special thing. I enjoy the fans of this team almost as much as I enjoy the team itself. That’s a weird statement to make, but for those that don’t live here or haven’t experienced playoffs in Toronto, it’s a beautiful, crazy thing. Just as the weather seems to turn a corner, sun dresses are dawned, beers consumed on patios, car stereos are cranked a little louder (mandatory windows down) and Leaf flags start appearing everywhere you look.

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The Leafs are all but set to make the playoffs for the first time in nine years, yet there is an inordinate amount of vitriol being directed at Toronto’s head coach Randy Carlyle, for some reason.

Considering pretty well everyone predicted the Leafs not to make the playoffs, it’s pretty funny to see the coach leading a surprising playoff appearance – and a team that’s currently fifth in the East and 7th in the League – get chastised

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The Leafs played the Sens in the fourth of five meetings between these two teams. This Battle of Ontario offered great value as the Sens held a two point advantage in the Northeast Division and the Conference standings headed into this one. Not anymore.

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In a matchup with big playoff implications, the Leafs could move ten up on the 10th-placed Carolina Hurricanes with a win in this four-point swing game. A loss in regulation puts the Hurricanes within six with three games in hand.

The Hurricanes are an opponent the Leafs have struggled with in both matchups this season. Their strength down the middle has played a key role as the Staal brothers have featured prominently on the scoresheet in a combined 7-2 win over the two games. Among teams the Leafs have played more than once, the Canes are the only opponent they have gained zero points off of.

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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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Tonight, Randy Carlyle will stick with James Reimer seemingly in an effort to give Reimer a chance at staking a number one’s claim to the crease. Carlyle has stated his preference to have one emerge over the other rather than a 1A/1B rodeo situation, and allowing Reimer to try to play his way through a few shaky goals on Thursday seems to be the approach. Although it could be a simple case of Reimer giving the Bruins a stiffer test than Scrivens in the teams’ two meetings so far this season (at least according to the scoresheet; 1-0 loss to Boston in early February with Reimer in net).

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With the boats now foolishly burnt and the season 31 games old, the Toronto Maple Leafs sure look like they’re reeling into form.  Since starting the season with a record of 15 – 9 – 0, the Leafs have gone 1 – 3 – 3 in the past seven games, collecting only five points in the standings and now sitting precariously in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Through the good graces of the Hockey gods and the incompetence of their direct competition (the Jets, Hurricanes and Rangers all lost in regulation last night), the Leafs are just barely keeping their head above water.

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Corey Perry

With just over three weeks to go until the trade deadline, I feel as if I can get away with a rosterbation post without too much scrutiny. I’ll do my best to not go full HFBoards with my ideas, but certainly have a few players in mind that I’d like for the Leafs to target, and a few that I’d like Nonis to jettison. While I’m sure this won’t be the most intelligent post you’ll read this morning, hopefully it will at least spark some Monday morning conversation.

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Toronto Maple Leafs vs Pittsburgh Penguins

In this shortened season it’s never too early to talk about playoff implications. The Leafs currently sit 5th in the Eastern Conference while the Pens come into this game as the 2nd team in the East. In recent years, getting into the playoffs was virtually a lock for Pittsburgh. As we all know, the Leafs have struggled mightily. Given how things have played out so far, this season provides hope. This season can be different.

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Tickets: Are you watching or going to tonight’s Leafs game? RSVP here and be entered to win $200 in free tickets.

We’re at the half way point and the Leafs are in great shape at 15-9-0, sitting in fifth in the East with 30 points. .500 hockey from here on in, while not the best way to enter the playoffs, gets the Leafs back to the post-season.

The Leafs recent form, on paper, has also been dandy, with three wins on the trot. On one hand you’re happy with those final results, with the team finding different ways to win whether coming from behind or holding on for dear life, on the other you’re concerned with the significant portions of game in which the Leafs have been outplayed, outpossessed and outchanced.

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The parallels between these two provincial rivals goes deeper than their matching point totals through 23 games. Both teams are getting good goaltending, sitting top 5 in team save percentage (Senators are 1st at 0.945), despite rotating goalies due to injury, inexperience on the backend and a lot of shots allowed (Leafs – 25th, Senators – 29th). Like the Leafs with Kostka, Holzer and Fraser, the Senators have been giving the inexperienced likes of Eric Gryba, Andre Benoit and Peter Wiercioch significant minutes and so far are hanging in the playoff picture with a goals against total in the top 10 league wide.

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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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Mike Brown has been traded to Edmonton for a conditional 2014 fourth round pick (could become a 3rd depending on if he shaves or retains his moustache) as the Leafs are anticipating a few injured bodies will soon return to active duty. Matt Frattin may make his return to the lineup tonight vs. the New Jersey Devils – he’s labeled a game time decision – or a little later on this week.

Alas, carrying McLaren, Orr and Brown on the 23-man active roster doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given the Leafs are right at the limit and Nonis’ flexibility in terms of waiver exempt options stops after Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov and Korbinian Holzer. The oft-injured Mike Brown essentially had his roster spot nabbed by previous waiver pickup Frazer McLaren, who has surprised so far. He’s not a bad skater for a big man, is competent enough to cycle a puck and has fared well in all of his punch ups to date.