Toronto will be without Clarke McArthur as they visit the Buffalo Sabres. The injury to his pinky finger won't sideline him for long but it does leave the Leafs' LW depth, already missing Lupul, looking thin for tonight.
The Sabres, like the Leafs, are not exactly hot. They have lost three straight and Thomas Vanek was sidelined by a strained muscle in Sunday's 3-2 loss in Washington. The left winger had been on the ice for all 11 of his team's goals prior to that contest, scoring three and assisting on six - one versus the Maple Leafs. [more…]
A few quick notes and some links for your hump day morning. [more…]
On July 2, 2011 you could find me in the kitchen preheating an oven. Why? I wanted to make sure that everything was nice and warm for when I threw my head into it because the Leafs signed Tim Connolly. Was this an overreaction? Sure. Connolly may have a high cap hit at $4.5 million a season, but his contract is for only two years.
In year one Connolly did little to prove me wrong. In a season where Connolly would actually avoid the injury bug (missing only 12 games is an achievement for him), Tim would put up his lowest point totals since before the lockout (excluding the season he missed and his 2 game season.) Anyway you cut it 36 points seems bad, especially since this was the player pegged to be the new first line center (unfair expectation alert.) [more…]
It's starting to finally feel like hockey season. The NHL has been holding their R&D camp at the Leafs' Mastercard Centre Practice Facility as GMs, scouts and hockey media descended on Etobicoke to review new ideas being tabled for the NHL season's to come. With that comes lots more NHL news. While Brendan Shanahan has indicated that none of the major changes they were looking at will see the light of day for a while, a shallower net will be brought in as early as this year.
Also coinciding with the NHL's R&D camp were informal workouts with a handful of Maple Leafs, including Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri and Colby Armstrong, as reported yesterday. More workouts will be taking place in the coming days and there is sure to be more interviews and news coming out of the Leafs camp once the NHL R&D camp ends. [more…]
There was a lot at stake last night, with two game sevens on the docket, and several second round berths still up for grabs. With four teams already securing spots in the conference semi-finals, the anticipation leading into last nightâ€™s game was even greater because of the uncertainty.
The Vancouver Canucks came to play in Game 7. Alex Burrows scored early inthe first period to give the Canucks an early one goal lead, which they held well into the third period. Two players on particular - Robero Luongo and Ryan Kesler competed hard and both had strong performances. Kesler was all over the ice and getting to the dirty areas to generate scoring chances. Although he wasn't as flashy as goaltending counterpart Corey Crawford, Luongo was poised between the pipes and avoided his trend of crumbling under pressure. Unlike the previous three games of the series (all Vancouver losses), the Canucks managed to bring a physical element to the game, out hitting the Blackhawks 37-14 midway through the third.
After last night's outcome, the second round of the Western Conference playoff picture has been determined. The Eastern Conference wraps up tonight, with Game 7 of the Boston/Montreal and Pittsburgh/Tampa Bay series.
What are your thoughts on the matchups on the West and who which teams will win tonight in the East?
After watching the playoffs from the sidelines for the past few seasons, the Lightning have made the most of their first post season appearance since 2007. Tampa Bay looked shaky in the first two games of the series, but has settled into the series and have given the Penguins all they can handle.
Head coach Guy Boucher, one of the most promising young coaches in recent memory, has had a calming influence on his team. He has prepared his team to overcome back-to-back elimination games and fought back to tie the series at three games apiece. Led by Steve Downie's game winner and a series of terrific saves from veteran backstopper Dwayne Rolson, the Lighting earned a 4-2 win to force game 7.
With all of their momentum of their side, Tampa looks to secure a spot in the second round when they visit the Pens in a do-or die situation on Wednesday.
I hate to direct traffic towards Glenn Healy's employer but there has been an MLHS Playoff Pick 'em Pool set up over at CBC Sports. Register for an account, locate the league entitled "Maple Leafs Hotstove" and fill in the password "MLHS" to enter. From there, you pick six forwards (three from each conference), four defencemen (two from each conference) and two goaltenders (one from each conference) while staying within the 30 point "player value" limit. CBC has a grand prize of a KIA Optimus Turbo up for grabs but given I'll be driving that home MLHS is offering up a prize of its own. The winner of the Maple Leafs Hotstove pool will receive a Pucking Hilarious t-shirt of their choice. Toss your pool picks and playoff predictions in the comments section. The final first round playoff matchups for your referral: [more…]
It was far from a satisfying send off but last night's 4-1 loss to the Habs was in some ways a microcosm of 2010-11 season that was. With their powerplay quite literally working against them, the Leafs put themselves in a hole early, showed some fight back and ultimately fell short, while some promising youthful performances comprised a silver lining for a better tomorrow. That said, it seemed a good portion of the Leafs roster was still suffering from the hangover of a playoff run fallen short, the giveaways and breakaways against were plentiful and the effort generally uninspired.
It's important to keep one game in perspective but debutants Frattin and Colborne gave Leafs fans a pretty good feel for what the future may hold last night. Colborne's frame will need some further filling out but he looked like an unrefined model of that big-bodied skilled center fans have been yearning for since Mats Sundin's departure. Matt Frattin showed no hesitation in getting right in the mix with a high-tempo game and some good offensive instincts in finding the good scoring areas, registering five shots in 15 minutes of icetime. Frattin would have notched his first NHL goal if not for a couple good saves from Carey Price.
The Leafs second half surge was in large partÂ the result of unexpected play from several Toronto Marlie callups in James Reimer, Keith Aulie, Darryl Boyce and Joey Crabb. Looking to take his first step towards graduation, Joe Colborne has been recalled from the farm while he was in the midst of an impressive 18-game stint with the Marlies, scoring eight goals and adding seven assists. If Colborne manages to perform half as good as he did in his debut with the Marlies - a two-goal performance - the Leafs would be ecstatic. Expectations in check, it's a one-game wetting of the feet that we shouldn't read too far into either way.
Same goes for 23-year old college senior Matt Frattin, who signed a two-year entry level contract with the Leafs on Friday and will join Colborne in making his Leafs and NHL debut. The product of North Dakota won't play a top six role, but will form an intriguing third line alongside Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri.
It was a relatively uneventful off day for the Leafs, with the only noteworthy news being the report from AM640 that J.S. Giguere will undergo a sports hernia surgery this summer. The teamÂ is back onÂ the ice todayÂ to prepare for tomorrow's game when theyÂ play host to the Montreal Canadiens.Â Just like the Leafs final gameÂ one year ago, they will be playing for pride and would like nothing more than to finish off their season series with Montreal by defeating their original six rivals in front of theÂ hometown fans at the Air Canada Centre.
There are only tenÂ returningÂ Leaf players from the team that defeated MontrealÂ 4-3 in overtime onÂ April 10th ofÂ last year. Among those players includes a strongÂ trioÂ of defenseman in Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn and Mike Komisarek. Up front,Â Tyler Bozak,Â Tim Brent, Mikhail Grabovski, Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin and Fredrik Sjostrom were all members of last year's team. One key player in last season's finale against the Canadiens was Christian Hanson, who scored two goals and added an assist in the win. Fellow Marlies teammate and recently acquired centre Joe Colborne is expected to be recalled by the Leafs prior to the game, so he can get a taste of NHL action before heading into the off season.
Colborne has had an impressive stint since joining the Marlies, exhibiting a real scoring touch with eight goals, seven assists and 15 points in 19 games. If Leafs brass decides to bring him up, he could be sampled in various spots in the lineup, perhaps spending some time centering Kessel or Marlie teammate Nazem Kadri. It should be a nice taste of NHL action at the very least and at most his first step in making the case for full-time NHL duty as early as this fall.
Despite a late third period rally with quick goals by Phil Kessel and linemate Tyler Bozak, the Leafs weren't able to mount a comeback over the Devils in their final road game of the season. The Leafs looked a team understandably disheartened by the realization they were no longer playing meaningful hockey. Hopefully the final game against an arch rival on Saturday provides a better send off in front of the home crowd.
James Reimer had a strong start to the night, with several impressive stops through the opening frame, but appeared to show signs of fatigue after surrendering three straight goals, including aÂ snipe byÂ Ilya Kovalchuk on the powerplay. Reimer was replaced by Giguere to open the third period, who fared much better in his first appearance in several weeks.
As the Leafs prepare for their final game of the regular season on Saturday against Montreal, Ron Wilson and the rest of the coaching staff will evaluate the roster and likely recall a forward from the Toronto Marlies. All signs point to Joe Colborne, who wasÂ expected toÂ replace Armstrong in the lineup after he went down toÂ injury, but was sidelined with a head injury of his own. It will be an excellent stage to audition for a full time spot on the Leafs next season.
The Marlies will get a new arrival of their own in near-50-goal-man Greg McKegg after the elimination of his Erie Otters from the OHL playoffs was followed quickly by a three year entry level contract with the Maple Leafs. McKegg is eligible to play out the season in the AHL given his junior season is finished but as an 18-year-old he cannot play there until the same juncture next season.
Well, the luck continued yesterday for the Blue and White. With their monumental collapse in the playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers last season still fresh in the minds of the Boston faithful, the Bruins once again committed a major defensive lapse by surrendering five unanswered goalsÂ to the Rangers yesterday and putting the post season furtherÂ out of reach for the Leafs. Hopefully the hockey gods have the decency to balance out the Leafs' misfortunes eventually because we haven't seen much fall their way since the lockout.
At the end of the day, the Leafs playoffÂ aspirations rely solely on their performance throughout the entireÂ season. While a late stretch created excitement for the city of Toronto, this team must get over the hump and learn to win on aÂ consistent basis without that major, season-killing slump that has had them fighting such a deficit the past few seasons. All Leaf fans can ask for is an honest effort and demand no excuses for mid-season mediocrity. It has been well-documented that the Leafs have put together one of the best records in the NHL since the All Star break. None of that matters if the team is one of the worst through October and November.
With three important games left on the schedule, starting with tonight`s game against Washington, the Leafs will look to finish the year strong to leave no doubts that they finally jumped over the hump. Although the playoffs are still a mathematical possibility, the Buffalo Sabres must lose the rest of their games in regulation while the Leafs need to go three straight in either regulation or overtime. If the Sabres manage to record a point, Toronto will be officially, mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Hey, stranger things have happened, right? I think?