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.
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.
The Flyers - Rangers game is available on TSN. 12:30 p.m. start. Carolina - Buffalo face off at 5 p.m., check back for a stream link.
On the eve of the Leafs meeting with the Ottawa Senators, James Reimer was named the NHL's top rookie for the month of March in what has been a whirlwind season for the recently turned 23-year old goaltender. After making his first career start on January 1st against the Senators in Ottawa, Reimer returned yesterday in hopes of recording his 20th win of the season in only his 34th career game. Not bad for a former fourth round pick who began the season as a Toronto Marlie.
With an impressive 20-8-4 record, including a 2.54 goals against average and 0.922 save percentage, Reimer has earned his stay asÂ a starting NHL goaltender. Not only is he capable of playing in the pressure packed market in Toronto, but he is embracing the spotlight with his calm and collected attitude. Again last night Reimer made the saves that mattered and showed no signs of being fazed after a quickfire double from Ottawa Senators erased a 2-0 lead.
Barring a meltdown from either the eighth place New York Rangers or ninth place Carolina Hurricanes, the Leafs will finish out of the post season for a sixth consecutive season. Despite that likely result, there is a long list of reasons why this team has what it takes to ride back to the glory land next year.
Phil Kessel has been one of the most polarizing figures in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs during his short tenure with the blue and white.Â Kessel will forever be linked with 2010 #2 overall selection Tyler Seguin and the jury might never come to a firm conclusion if that deal was in the best interest of the Leafs short or longer term.
Recently Kessel has come under heavy fire for his pointed comments regarding his lack of recent scoring and suggesting that maybe it â€œisnâ€™t working hereâ€.Â The Toronto media and fans of the team instantly took offense to this comment and basically hung him out to dry.Â Iâ€™ll admit it made me pause but this is Toronto, one of the largest media hubs in the world where even marginal players have microphones and cameras shoved in their grills, after a practise.Â [more…]
The Toronto Maple Leafs had one day to stir over their frustrating overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and were hoping to turn the page and move forward as they welcomed the Edmonton Oilers to the Air Canada Centre. With the Oilers in town, fans were treated to a battle between two of the league's youngest and quickest teams. Unfortunately for both organizations it seems the inexperience is keeping them among the bottom of the NHL StandingsÂ and in most statistical categories. On this night, that youth and excitement was one sided as the Oilers counter attacked their way to a 5-0 victory. [more…]
Finishing 0-2 and recording just one goal following their weekend road trip, the Toronto Maple Leafs anxiously returned home to the Air Canada Centre, looking to their steady play there as inspiration to get back on track. Despite their dreadful offenseÂ on the road, the Leafs have managed to score 12 goals at home in their last three games, all of which have been victories. Eager to continue that trend, the Leafs would need a flawless effort to contain a hungry Tampa Bay Lightning team. After droppingÂ their last two games, the Lightning's schedule was blessed with a game against the desperate and fragile Leafs. Although the score was in their favor and the game in their hands, the seemingly inevitable collapse transpired and the Lightning took full advantage, bolting to a 4-3 overtime victory. [more…]
During the doom and gloom of a lengthy losing streak it can be easy to focus only on the negative aspects of a hockey team and I have noticed my last few pieces have done just that.Â Today I thought I would take a look at some of the positive and promising assets the Toronto Maple Leafs currently possess as opposed to what they ultimately lack.
Although they are much maligned and even despised by some the ownership of the Toronto Maple Leafs has never been a serious impediment to the success of the team, contrary to popular belief.Â Sure MLSE values a profit as most corporations do and yes they charge an arm and a leg for even a lousy ticket, but the fact is the market for all things Leafs is extremely strong.Â With the current supply and demand the way it is the pricing issue will not go away or change, ever. [more…]
It is a popular war cry teams will make when in the midst of an unlikely or unexpected championship run.Â But what exactly is needed to make a championship contending hockey club and just how far are the Maple Leafs from truly becoming one?Â I thought I would attempt to answer that very question while trying to look at how a successful championship contending hockey team is currently composed and then comparing it to the Leafs situation and roster makeup. [more…]
The Toronto Maple Leafs are set to visit the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at the Consol Energy Arena. The Penguins have yet to win at home this season and get another opportunity to erase that stat tonight against a Leafs team that is hoping to remain undefeated. Jonas Gustavsson will get his first start between the pipes according to Sportsnet.
Week one of the Toronto Maple Leafs schedule is in the books, and while it only featured two games, there is plenty to talk about as far as the season goes. Â The Maple Leafs are off to a 2-0 start, having won their second game of the season nearly one month ahead of the time they got win two last season.
Through week one of the season, here are the Maple Leafs player power rankings, as seen by me. [more…]
Not much to dislike about tonight's performance as the Leafs get off to their best start to a season since the 1999-2000 campaign with a 5-1 win over the 0-2 Senators. The Leafs next travel to Pittsburgh on Wednesday after a three-day break in what figures to be their toughest test of the young season.
A few quick thoughts:
Systematically, the forecheck was relentless and the defence looked as organized as it was disorganized this time last year. A full 60 minute effort, when it was tempting to let off in the third. Phil Kessel is looking stronger, better conditioned and even more lethal than where he left off last season. The four forward lines are clicking on all cylinders and serving their functions. The penalty kill is a night and day difference so far. The powerplay production/finishing is still lacking but it is showing serious signs of promise in terms of pressure, movement and the number of chances generated. Clarke MacArthur is not only living up to his top six billing so far in terms of goal output but is making a difference on a shift to shift basis, setting up the opener on a great pass to Kulemin out front. He, along with Kessel and Tim Brent are on pace for 82 this season (TSN's player profiles don't lie). Giguere should've had a shut out if it wasn't for a fumble on the icing touch-up. Kaberle was brilliant and even shot the puck lots. Orr fought Carkner. Versteeg fought Fisher to complete the Gordie Howe hat trick. 'Twas a good night.
Highlights and stats pack courtesy of NHL.com after the jump. The event summary is here.