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phil kessel

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    For all the headlines the franchise had made off the ice, it’s the Phoenix Coyotes on ice product that should be making the news.

    Led by a core of young, talented hard working players, and solid goaltending by Ilya Bryzgalov, the Coyotes have been one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season, and continued their winning ways tonight defeating the Leafs 6-3 in Toronto, denying the Leafs of their fifth straight win on home ice.

    Petr Prucha score twice for the Coyotes, while Vernon Fiddler, Paul Bissonnette, Scottie Upshall and Radim Vrbata all tallied singles for Phoenix.  Jamal Mayers, Phil Kessel, and Alexei Ponikarovsky replied for Toronto.

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      Good to be back! It’s been a little while since I’ve had the opportunity to post anything.

      The following are some random thoughts I’ve had of late, including Luke Schenn’s banishment to the press box, the Leafs’ recent winning ways, the status of the trade front, and more.

        570

        After an abysmal start at home, the Leafs look to string together four wins in a row at the ACC for the first time in almost two years.  The “Battle of Ontario” has been poignantly lacking its once-trademark intensity the last few seasons, but the introduction of new snipers Phil Kessel, Milan Michalek and Alex Kovalev give this matchup a whole new look.  With a win tonight, Toronto could potentially move into a multi-team tie for 9th place in the Eastern Conference.

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          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.  At least, much deeper down the depth chart.

            99

            It took a while, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are finally starting to look comfortable on home ice, and on the ice in general, as one of their better overall team efforts led to a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night in front of a joyful, loud crowd at the Air Canada Centre.

            Jason Blake scored the winner with just under five minutes left in the third period as the Leafs skated away with a hard fought 3-2 win.

            Francois Beauchemin and Ian White also scored for Toronto, who improved to 7-2-2 in their last eleven games.  John Tavares scored both goals for the Islanders.

              96

              As Phil Kessel makes his return to Boston, I can’t help but wonder why some people are still asking who the Leafs should get to play with him.

              Phil Kessel has been playing with Matt Stajan for most of his time in Toronto. Phil Kessel has 10 goals in 15 games with the Maple Leafs. Phil Kessel is also on a point-per-game pace for the first time in his career. I don’t see a problem here.

                402

                Phil Kessel is a legitimate star in the city of Toronto.  Per sporting tradition, he now needs a nickname which is catchy, instantly recognizable, and also describes him as a player.

                In the course of chatting with a source earlier in the week, the topic of Phil Kessel’s impact in Toronto naturally arose.  At which point the source mentioned, “it’s not every day a team can acquire a bonafide star, but the Leafs have found one in Phlair.”

                Wait, what? Phlair?

                “Yeah,” the source replied, somewhat sheepishly. “I don’t know where [the players] come up with these nicknames, but that’s what they’re calling him.”

                  68

                  A Kessel fight, a Blake goal (or two), and a Kulemin shortie.  It was a night of rarities as the Leafs took it to Columbus with a decisive 6-3 victory. Toronto beat the Blue Jackets to loose pucks all night long, forced turnovers with their speed, and miraculously capitalized on their chances.

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                    The Toronto Maple Leafs continue their 3 game road swing tonight as they visit Columbus to take on Rick Nash and his Blue Jackets. The Leafs will be without both Jonas Gustavsson and Carl Gunnarsson for the trip, and Vesa Toskala will be in the lineup as MacDonald’s backup for the tilt.

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                      The Toronto Maple Leafs begin a 3 game road trip tonight as they visit the long time rival Montreal Canadiens tonight for an Original Six Battle. This is the third time these two clubs have met this season, with Montreal taking the first two games by scores of 4-3 in overtime, and 5-4 in a shootout. The Habs will celebrate their 100th anniversary on Friday against another original six club in the Boston Bruins, but will first have to deal with the always threatening but rarely scoring Leafs.

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                        The Leafs hope to get their first three-game winning streak of the season tonight when the Buffalo Sabres roll into the Air Canada Centre.  Toronto has gone five straight games without a regulation loss (3-0-2) and hope to continue their stretch of strong offensive performances (3.8 goals per game).  They’ll be in tough against a Sabres team that is back on the winning track after a slight skid, supported by one of the hottest goaltenders this season in Ryan Miller.

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                          Ho hum, a Saturday night without hockey in Toronto. Here are some interesting/random thoughts to consider:

                          - Now with 8 goals on the season, Phil Kessel has more goals in his 12 games than the Bruins’ highest leading scorer Patrice Bergeron (7 in 25 games played). Wow.

                          - With Kessel in the lineup, the Leafs are 5-4-3, earning 13 out of a possible 24 points. Without him, they’re 1-7-4. Yikes.

                          - More on Kessel; For some reason, he seems to love the weekend adrenaline rush. 20 goals and 35 points in 33 Friday, Saturday or Sunday games for Phil last season. This year, he’s got 5 goals and 8 points in 6 weekend affairs.

                          - The Leafs are dead last in the NHL with a 5.4% shooting percentage, compared to the ridiculous 12.8% of the Colorado Avalanche. Jason Blake’s  sniping ‘em at a 2.6% success rate. In other words, he’s going to score every 38.4 shots… Fantastic. Meanwhile, Hagman’s putting them in at an godly 18.6% clip.

                          - Francois Beauchemin is playing very well of late with 5 points in his last 10 games with a -2 rating, and averaging just a tad under 26 minutes/night during that stretch. Compare that to the 4 points and -7 rating he had after the first 14 games.

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                            By Gus Katsaros
                            The Leafs aren’t as bad as a four win first quarter. They were a playoff bubble team prior to the season, and the postseason wasn’t necessarily the goal, as was becoming competitive enough to stay in the run. They aren’t a bottom five NHL club, and unlikely to finish in a lottery position.

                            This season continues the transition like last season into shaping Toronto into a respectable organization, from management, down. That hasn’t changed with the off season moves, aside from some specific performances.

                            ‘Spirit is Everything’ is a fitting slogan .. because winning this season, means nothing.

                              709

                              As the Leafs prepare for the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, it occurs to many fans that while the Leafs are looking strong as of late, the fate of their playoffs hopes certainly lives and dies on the team’s ability to win in extra time. While it does not show immediately, the 7 extra points from overtime losses would still have them in 14th in the East, but it would have them with 22 points on the year and within 3 points for a playoff position. Toronto has had plenty of practice playing 4 on 4 overtimes and participating in shootouts, it’s time to start capitalizing on these extra points.

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                                Warning: The following could make your eyes fall out, your ears explode, and cost you years of therapy. How’s that an introduction for you?

                                  5

                                  A dreadful 3-11-5 start for the Maple Leafs has everyone asking the same two questions. What the heck happened? And what the heck is the solution?

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                                    Tonight will be a Battle of Ontario, as the Toronto Maple Leafs travel to Ottawa to take on the Senators in a Northeast Division bout. Vesa Toskala will get the nod in goal for the Leafs, while Pascal Leclaire will get the start for the Sens.
                                    Update: Brendan Shanahan Officially Retires.

                                      101

                                      According to Ken Roberts and www.sportsclubstats.com, the Maple Leafs have a 1.7% chance of making the playoffs at the moment…So, you’re telling me there’s a chance?

                                      All jokes aside, I knew the chances were slim, but less than 2%? Is that really accurate? Apparently, Roberts’ site calculates a team’s chances of making the playoffs using a complicated algorithm much too complex to fully understand. But quickly, it takes into account many factors when calculating a team’s chances, including their current record, remaining schedule and goal differential.

                                        314

                                        Ian White took a personal day today and missed practice. Ron Wilson decided to try some new lines as the Leafs prepare for their road game against the Ottawa Senators tomorrow night. Cory Clouston defines his perception of the Maple Leafs.

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                                          The Leafs were down early as rookie phenom Jonas Gustavsson was lit up for 3 goals on 5 shots. Poor defensive coverage, a terrible line change, and a lucky bounce on a shot that Gustavsson likely should have had forced the Leafs to swap the goaltenders and bring in Vesa Toskala. The goaltenders tapped sticks at the bench in the shuffle. “Tag, you’re it” can be described at the outcome.