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So the curtain comes down on the 2009-2010 Maple Leafs season. I know many readers are upset because we as Leaf fans must once again adopt and follow an entirely different team as a sort of playoff hockey avatar in order to fully enjoy the postseason (I find the only way to really get in to it is to pick a surrogate rooting interest). The angst is ramped up in Leaf land as well because the team finished so low in the standings, yet come draft day the guys clustered around our table won’t be studying anything more intently than the lunch menu, because we won’t likely have a pick for the first day and a half (unless Burkie has a miracle relating to a certain Czech defenceman tucked up inside those French cuffs).
With the final bell about to ring season most fans would be happy to forget – although the impending draft all but dictates they most assuredly will not – the Maple Leafs will officially enter the offseason five campaigns removed from the playoffs at the conclusion of Saturday night’s game in Montreal.
Unlike previous years, however, this season has revealed to fans — amidst the rubble of far too many losses — a silver lining of sorts: the promise of youth.
The Toronto Maple Leafs play their second-last game of the season tonight versus the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7:00 pm et, TSN). The Rangers are fighting for their playoff lives, sitting 3 points back of the Bruins and 4 points back of the Flyers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. As for the Leafs, their hopes of moving out of the basement of the East are all but gone.
I know, I know, when last we met, I promised you that the next installment in these studies in positivity would focus on Nikolai Kulemin.
Well, I lied.Â Sue me.Â Instead of discussing an individual player, I’m going to make some more general team-wide observations.Â Don’t like it?Â Line up at window 106 between the hours of 1 and 1:05 p.m., fill out the forms in triplicate, be sure to bring your receipt and three forms of photo I.D. andÂ the counter staff will be happy to refund in full the money you paid for these charming and entertaining visits to my mind.Â Really, though, following Bruce Boudreau’s logic concerning the Ovechkin hit on Brian Campbell (and the obvious liability of the end boards and equally obvious innocence of Ovie), it’s not my fault that I broke my promise to you;Â it’s your fault for reading that promise in the first place.
Tonight, the Buds and Habs are set to battle it out and put their win streaks on the line. The Leafs are 5-1-0 in their last 6 outings, while the Canadiens are riding an impressive 6 game string of victories. With Toronto now over 0.500 at home (15-14-5), they are looking to play the role of heartbreakers this season, and what better way to continue doing so then by throwing a big fat L at Montreal tonight?
The Toronto Maple Leafs look to put a streak together tonight, while the Devils are seeking control of the Atlantic division. Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel each have 6 points in their last 4 games, while Nikolai Kulemin is showing signs of becoming a promising top two line player with 7 points in his last 5 affairs. He has arguably been the Leafs’ best player for the second half of the season.
Tyler Bozak is Happy. You Should Be Too.
Twice in the last week – once after the Tampa Bay game, once during the first intermission of the Oilers game – we’ve had the opportunity to watch Tyler Bozak do interviews for television. Twice during the past week, he’s stood there in the hallway outside the Leaf dressing room, spiky hair soaked with sweat, talking first to Paul Hendrick, then to Elliotte Friedman, with a giant freaking grin on his face. The big grin on his face tells you that Tyler Bozak is a happy young man. He’s got six goals and eleven assists in twenty-three games as a twenty-three year old rookie centreman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he’s making $875,000 with another 2.8 million dollars worth of bonuses on the table. Of course he’s happy. Why the hell wouldn’t he be happy?
The big grin also tells you he’s a young man. Those of a certain age can’t help but be struck immediately by Bozak’s youthful appearance. He seems to have a little acne here and there, which makes him look even more like the kid behind the counter at Taco Bell than he otherwise might, but more than anything else you can see the excitement of a young man in his eyes and in the corners of his mouth when he simply cannot supress the grin that wants to get out. Doing those interviews, you can tell that he is absolutely stoked, the way only a young player – who hasn’t been doing this sort of thing since Chelios was a child – can possibly be.
First and foremost, let me apologize for my absence. Â As some of you may know, I am in school completing my Sports Marketing degree, and things have gotten really hectic in crunch time. Â I am also organizing a golf tournament for this summer in Strathroy, Ontario. Â Anyone who would like to golf can get in touch with me anytime.
You know, another season of hockey is winding down.Â At least, it is in Toronto with the Maple Leafs.Â While the sun has been shining and treating us to above average weather the past week or so, it does come at a price.
It has become all to accustomed.Â As soon as the sun begins to melt the snow, and the grey, dull sky is replaced by a ray of sunlight, you know that the Maple Leafs arenâ€™t long for this world.Â That the season is just about wrapped up, and lockers will soon be cleaned.
(On the road … so here is a quick thread for tonight’s action.)
The Toronto Maple Leafs (21-33-12), who are coming off a hard-fought overtime win over the Boston Bruins, are host to the Tampa Bay Lightning (27-27-11), tonight at 7pm.
The Leafs, who are all but officially out of the playoff race, are playing for jobs next season. To that end, the young players on the roster have put together a string of impressive efforts, and if their resilient play continues, few players will anonymously refer to them as an “AHL team”.
Before we get to the T-Rex, make sure to stop by Maple Leafs Hot Stove Tuesday night.
I will be live blogging the Leafs/Bruins game from the press box at the Air Canada Centre.
Stop by, bring the funny and join us for a good time. Boston will be without Marc Savard after the devastating headshot from Matt Cooke, and the Bruins have had scoring woes all season long. Will this be the game Phil Kessel finally get his first point against his former team?
In the wake of Sunday’s blockbuster trades, one cannot help but wonder what’s next for the Toronto Maple Leafs? Who’s next to go? Who stays?
In any case, I think that it’s pretty safe to say that this season is a write-off. We’re not making any moves to make a run at the playoffs this season. So, let’s look forward and take a look at what the Maple Leafs should look like next season.
The Leafs took to the ice today in preparation for Martin Brodeur tomorrow night. It featured some interesting one on one drills for a few key players, and one defenceman who claims the future of his career and the Maple Leafs would be better suited if he were traded.
- The Toronto Sun has an interesting article up, talking about the future of several Maple Leaf players leading up to this year’s trade deadline. During an informal survey of hockey executives and general managers attending the CHL Top Prospects game, the consensus was that aside from Tomas Kaberle, Ponikarovsky would be the player who would garner the greatest return. It was speculated that he would perhaps net a late 2nd round pick, being comparable to but not as refined as Nik Antropov (who yielded the Rangers’ 50th overall selection last year).
- The article follows up by noting that players such as Stajan and Stempniak might get “a sniff”, but not to expect a significant return. However, it appears Burke has not been particularly aggressive in dangling any of his players at the present time.
- In another note, according to the Russian website infox.ru via the Toronto Sun, it appears as if winger Nikolai Kulemin will be named to the Russian Olympic roster for the Vancouver games. It’s nice to see that Kulemin’s solid all-around play this season is getting him some recognition from those outside the organization.
Tyler Bozak now has 4 points in three NHL games as a Maple Leafs, and one of those points came last night in a 4-0 victory for the Maple Leafs over the Philadelphia Flyers. Bozak – known for his playmaking capabilities and hockey intelligence – was nothing short of flashy and brilliant on a play that few talented players can make. In one swift motion, he turned Ole-Kristian Tollefson inside out before beating Michael Leighton clean top shelf.
It was the same old story for the Maple Leafs last night. Another bad start, another power-play goal against, another game where they outshot the opposition badly, another good effort, but another loss. The Leafs dropped their fourth in a row, 4-2 to the last-place Carolina Hurricanes.
Drop the penalty kill from the equation and the Leafs win this one 2-0; there’s something, right?
Submit your GFWE predictions here.
Itâ€™s no secret that the Leafs’ biggest disappointment amid a conference-second-worst 15-20-9 first half of the schedule is a total lack of progress in the area of goals against and special teams, where Brian Burke focused much of his off-season efforts.
Despite modest numbers in terms of offensive production, winger Nikolai Kulemin has made great strides in becoming a indispensible, two-way threat that all winning teams require. The young Russian worked up the hopes of Leafs Nation with a dazzling array of speed, skill and finishing ability in various Youtube highlight reels prior to coming over to the NHL, but it’s been his tremendous effort, work ethic and defensive play over here that has won me over thus far this season.
Niklas Hagman, with 15 goals, sits 18 in goals scored this season, fellow european Alexei Ponikarovsky is a little further down, ranked 29th in NHL goal scoring with 12 on the year so far.
Phil Kessel and Matt Stajan both have more goals than Brad Richards, Nicklas Backstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, and Patrick Kane.
And while these stats are a welcome sight to most fans, many would agree that the secret to the Leafs success lies much deeper.Â At least, much deeper down the depth chart.
For the second time in a week, the Maple Leafs have felt the wrath of the Boston Bruins on home ice, only this time there were distinct differences from Saturday’s 7-2 beat down.
The Leafs, after sleepwalking through two periods of the hockey game, decided to bring their game in the third and made things interesting with goals by Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to pull them within a goal of the Bruins. Â A late, costly penalty by Leafs winger Jason Blake sealed their fate however, as the penalty kill sagged once again, and Mark Recchi scored with under three minutes left to ice the game for the Bruins.
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