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NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 23: Benoit Pouliot #67 of the New York Rangers checks David Clarkson #71 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period at Madison Square Garden on December 23, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
It’s not time to sound the alarm, but the sense of urgency is heightened across Toronto.
The Leafs are still firmly in a playoff spot and, other than Detroit (who has three games in hand on the Leafs, but are also missing Zetterberg and, for the moment, Datsyuk), the 4+ point gap the Leafs have on everyone else is a much tougher hill to climb than it looks because of the “three point era” in the NHL. It’s extremely tough to make up ground at this stage of the season in this day and age.
There isn’t much I can add to the powerplay analysis that wasn’t in the write up by JP Nikota describing the Leafs use of the 1-3-1. They adopted this system in 2012-13 while more teams have incorporated the formation throughout the NHL.
It seems like the Jake Gardiner talk just won’t go away, even though an immediate trade seems extremely unlikely.
The Leafs dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to the Philadelphia Flyers in a sloppy second game of preseason. Remarkably, Phil Kessel took 6 minutes worth of aggressive stick infractions.
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
The Leafs are back at it after a welcomed four day lull in the schedule. The deadline hurdle has been cleared for the players, with no significant additions or subtractions to the roster. The group that got the Leafs into this position is going to have a chance to finish what they started by clinching the Leafs’ first playoff berth in eight years. It’s tough to imagine James Reimer is viewing this as a vote of confidence, though, after his GM publicly admitted that Miikka Kiprusoff was of much interest to the team and that the two sides discussed the possibility of an extension.
The Maple Leafs are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference (7th in the league), against everyone’s better judgement — the smart money being that the Leafs will be a non-playoff team and probably a lottery pick team. And by everyone, I mean everyone except for Ian Dudgeon (@Dudgee) and I. Most people that write about the game had them finishing out of the playoffs again and if I’m being honest, I saw everyone else’s prediction via email first and thought I should be throw them a bone. While the key will be avoiding the characteristic season-crippling slump, this start means considerably more in a 48-game schedule and I wouldn’t have expected 8-5 through the first 13 games, especially not with Joffrey Lupul and Carl Gunnarsson going down early.
The Leafs refused to let another pair of Canadian brothers come into their barn and come out on top, taking it to the Flyers with a 5-2 win Monday night. A dominant performance that saw five different Toronto players score, it is a game that will bring the team’s record at home slightly closer to the realm of respectability. However, it may have came at the cost of James Reimer, who left the game with an apparent lower body injury partway through the night.
Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The worst kept secret in all of hockey finally became a reality.
Luke Schenn is now a Philadelphia Flyer, and James Van Riemsdyk is finally a Toronto Maple Leaf.
JVR (whose name I’ll probably never type in full again) was the second overall pick in the 2007 draft and has had a slow, but upwards, trend in his development since. After getting drafted he returned to New Hampshire, where he played college hockey, and threw up 40 points in 36 games along with 10 points in six world junior games. He ended that season playing some AHL games, but jumped straight to the NHL the following year and put up a respectable 35 points in 78 games. The next year he had five more points in three less games well also breaking the 20 goal barrier by notching 21.
His big breakout moment though was in the playoffs of last year when he put up seven goals in 11 playoff games while single- handedly dominating some games. To put it into perspective, he had 70 shots throughout those playoffs. That’s over six shots a game. In the playoffs.
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?
Coming off a tough shootout loss against the Flyers last night, the Leafs will look to rebound on the road against the Sabres tonight at HSBC Arena. Despite blowing a late third period lead, there was a lot to like about the Leafs’ performance, including a strong bounce back game from captain Dion Phaneuf and spurts of brilliance from the club’s new top line of Versteeg, Bozak and Kessel. The Buds will be in tough tonight against the Sabres, who will be icing a lineup very similar to the one they will open the season with.
An intriguing top line of Kris Versteeg, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel will feature in tonight’s rematch with the Flyers following the Leafs’ 11-round shootout win over Philadelphia last night at the John Lebatt Centre in London. The trio is the most skilled iteration of forwards the Leafs’ roster has to offer, and combined with Dion Phaneuf and Tomas Kaberle on the blueline (who will also dress) represent an interesting potential powerplay option for coach Wilson. The results with the man advantage tonight, then, will be well worth monitoring.
McKegg will be one to watch tonight
The Leafs face the Flyers tonight in London in what will surely be a physical endeavor. Paul Hendrick over at MapleLeafs.com has the lines for tonight’s game:
In the final part of his 12 Burning Questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at the Maple Leafs chances of getting back to postseason hockey this year.
May 4th, 2004.
Both teams, tired and weary from what had already been a long, arduous road, a journey that had left both teams battered and bruised. Â The teams went back and forth, showing tremendous heart and determination, showing what it takes to win hockey games at this time of year.
Up the ice they went, rewarded with a good scoring chance, but stopped by a goaltender who was up to the task. Â Then down the ice the other way, another good chance, this time for the other team. Â The goalie in this net, equally up to the task of making the save and preserving life, for at least another moment.
Quickly, and in a whirlwind of emotion, it was over.
In part ten of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at the importance of a good early start, and if the Leafs can avoid another disastrous start.
There really isn’t any other way to put it. Â No matter how you slice it, no matter how you try to spin it, or how you try to put a sugar coating on it, the cold hard fact still shines through.
The Toronto Maple Leafs were not a very good team last year.
Although their stats, and their general play, improved dramatically following the late January trades that saw them overturn nearly half their lineup, the fact remains that the 2009-2010 edition of the Maple Leafs fought inconsistency, as well as young inexperience that had them struggling most of the year.
But it could be argued that never were they worse, than in the first month of the season.
Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke should have uttered one phrase to explain the situation, one simple little phrase to envelope the reasoning for the Phil Kessel trade;
â€œOur picks in our vision of where we ended up are overvalued in accordance to the available crop of prospects.â€
But in Toronto, to admit that in whatâ€™s deemed as a â€˜rebuildâ€™ would have been a PR disaster.
Despite popular opinion, he wasnâ€™t wrong.
The world is no longer flat, itâ€™s round .. like a full-cirle
The book has (finally) closed on the Ilya Kovalchuk saga, as the Russian winger elected to remain with the New Jersey Devils. Â This ends weeks of mind-numbing speculation and rumour-rehashing, including a recent explosion of news in the hockey world that had all signs pointing towards Los Angeles. Â Thus, while there will be some surprise that Kovalchuk did not head down south, the overwhelming feeling amongst hockey fans today will be relief. Â A side-effect of Kovalchuk’s prolonged decision-making has been the absolute cessation of any other hockey activity. Â The dam should finally burst as the remaining free agents and possible trades will now be explored further by the league’s general managers.
In case you haven’t already heard, the Maple Leafs have broken off negotiations with prospect Bill Sweatt, acquired in the Versteeg trade from the Blackhawks. In a statement to the Toronto Sun, Burke explained that the club would rather keep a spot on the 50 contract limit open than continue discussions with Sweatt. As the talks continued to stall, the Leafs likely turned and upped their offer to Marcel Mueller, whose ELC contract value sits at $1.12 million. Sweatt is likely looking for a figure close to Blake Wheeler’s $2.825 cap hit as a 4-year college free agent, which is a steep price to pay for a player with speed but limited offensive upside.
Just a month ago, the Chicago Blackhawks were the envy of the National Hockey League. Â Having finished off the Philadelphia Flyers in six games courtesy of a Patrick Kane overtime goal, the Hawks had climbed to the top of the mountain, and had risen out of what could once have been considered obscurity years earlier, to build a winning team, and break the Stanley Cup drought that loomed over the franchise for so long.
And while many general managers stood in jealousy and envy of Stan Bowman and his management team for the feat they had just accomplished, not one GM was going to envying Bowman in the days following.
For the Chicago Blackhawks, winning the Stanley Cup came at a price, and it was rather large.
Since they won the Stanley Cup, the Blackhawks have made many moves, tearing down their roster that brought them their once elusive championship. Â Fan favourites were shipped out in favour of draft picks and younger players, on cheaper contracts.
One of those trades involved Kris Versteeg, a trade Brian Burke was all too happy to accommodate.
Brian Burke must have felt a lot like the eponymous Old Mother Hubbard when he first reached into the Leafs prospects cupboard. Of course, unlike the elderly dog-mistreating crone of the rhyme, Burke already knew what lay in stock prior to his arrival in Leafs country. In short: a few notable exceptions to a decade of draft property mismanagement.
Subsequently, the draft of 2009 looked to be a vital cornerstone in Brian Burkeâ€™s rebuild. The first chance for the Leafs to restock in a new, finally directed era.
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