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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.
SCOTT LEVY / GETTY IMAGES
Against the Rangers, the Leafs went 24:33 without a shot. Considering that’s nearly half of regulation, I went back and watched the tape in order to find out what exactly was going on during this time.
3:32 was the time of the Leafs last shot before they finally shot again 24:33 later. There was a delayed penalty coming up on the play for the Rangers and the Leafs were working it around New York’s zone nicely resulting in a Kulemin slap shot from the top of the circle. The Leafs had five shots on net in the first 3:32 of the second and scored on one of them. Those were the only shots they would get all period.
Post game Stats: Kessel now has his 14th of the season and with a hot streak incoming, should be able to hit 30 goals with 8 games left on the schedule. The Leafs’ penalty kill continues its excellence with a man down as they killed off three of the Rangers’ 20th ranked power-plays. And what a game it was after a first period that put my ADHD afflicted dog to sleep.
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
With the boats now foolishly burnt and the season 31 games old, the Toronto Maple Leafs sure look like they’re reeling into form. Since starting the season with a record of 15 – 9 – 0, the Leafs have gone 1 – 3 – 3 in the past seven games, collecting only five points in the standings and now sitting precariously in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Through the good graces of the Hockey gods and the incompetence of their direct competition (the Jets, Hurricanes and Rangers all lost in regulation last night), the Leafs are just barely keeping their head above water.
Anybody still want to debate the wisdom of starting Gustavsson against the Penguins?
For my money, this was the right play.Â Â Anyway you slice it, after a 2-0 start against two undermanned/terrible teams,Â tonight’s game against the Penguins was set to be a measuring stick of sorts (despite the fact that they were somewhat undermanned themselves).Â If Wilson runs his number one guy out there and he gets torched, the Leafs’ momentum comes to a crashing halt: we are measured, and found wanting.Â Instead, the coach pitches the Monster at a talented (and desperate for a home win) Pittsburgh team, and sends a message to the rest of the squad: bring your lunchpail and hardhat, it will be necessary to win the little battles along the boards and elsewhere on the ice to have a chance at two points in this game.
A pair of MLHS readers have kindly submitted FanPosts for your reading enjoyment. Logan Macneil makes the case for converting Tomas Kaberle into a top six forward while Steve Hitchins previews some of the highly anticipated fisticuffs match-ups for the upcoming season. A big pat on the back for both these gentlemen for taking the time.
We will do an extended Torontosaurus Rex after preparing for the playoffs is over, later on in the week. But since the regular season is over, it’s time for some numbers. It’s also interesting to note how the two teams Flyers and Rangers with the lowest amount of shootout games with six, decided their playoff fates with a shootout.
The Week 24 Torontosaurus Rex is ….
Phil Kessel has but one point in five games against his former side while recurrent Leafs nightmare Tuukka Rask, league leader in goals against average and save percentage, stands 3-1-0 against the club that drafted him. This match-up tonight marks the final opportunity this season to get a little bit of that sour taste out of the fan base’s collective mouth and perhaps symbolize that we, too, can make good trades.
Written by Wook
Unlike many veterans who were forced to pack their bags after many consecutive years of dismal play coupled to lack of passion, people tend to turn a blind eye when it comes to Tomas Kaberle.
The Torontosaurus Rex for Week 23 is fitting and also notoriously absent from the only Leafs extra time loss in the last seven overtime/shootout games. In that loss, the Maple Leafs and Penguins tied a dubious NHL record, one night after the Leafs/Rangers surpassed 100 overtime games in the NHL this season.
A shining example and further proof of New Jersey’s dominance recently. Even when blanked for the first time this season, the Devils still ended up with a win, the full two points, and Martin Brodeur extended his record string of shutouts.
Did the neutral zone trap morph into the shootout? The pre-lockout reason for altering the rules, transfigured into the shootout as teams play for the shootout more this season. If trends are any indication, perhaps the two memes have a direct correlation.
By: Gus Katsaros
Prior to the season starting, I had written about the impact of schedules. In particular, as the Leafs face the Habs tonight after playing the previous night, while Montreal is rested. Interesting enough, the last time this happened, Toronto beat Detroit 5-1.
Schedules make a big difference in the results of NHL teams fates during the season. In some instances, it could be the difference between a playoff spot and a tee time (and I thoroughly enjoy both â€“ FORRRREEEE!!).
Leafs fans have been waiting for John Mitchell to step up and start burying his opportunities to legitimize himself as a top 6 forward, where depth is lacking. At Wednesday’s practice, he received that opportunity and looks to excel at it as he was paired up with sniper Phil Kessel to establish some chemistry before Friday night’s matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes.
It’s a hit no one ever wants to happen. It’s the type of collision in which there was no intent to injure, and still a player is left in an unfortunate state. It’s the hit that has left Ben Fanelli in a critical but stable state in the hospital with skull and facial fractures, and Mike Liambas at home deeply depressed and feeling awful over the game he loves.
After a seemingly endless week of postulating, panicking, and debating with the fervent passion that only hockey-starved Leafs fans can display, it is finally gameday.Â While the prevalent hope amongst Toronto followers is that the winless streak gets broken tonight, there is a veritable maelstrom of other stories convoluting that one simple wish.
The Rangers are riding a 4 game win streak, the Leafs are not. The Rangers have a goal differential of +8 in their last 4 games, the Leafs have a goal differential of -6 in their last 3 games. The Rangers are 5th in the league on the PK (88%), while the Leafs are last (53.8%). The Rangers are 4th in the league for goals against per game (2.00). The Leafs are tied in last place with Florida at 4.25.
As per TSN, the Rangers have signed Boston University free agent defenseman Matt Gilroy, winner of the Hobey Baker Award as this year’s best college hockey player. It is believed Gilroy and the Rangers have agreed to terms in the 2 year, $3-4 million range. Burke’s been seriously interested in Gilroy for a few years now but he appears to have balked at the ultimate signing price on the New York native (could this have played a role as well?). It’s obviously a letdown, but sometimes the best signings are the ones you don’t make. Time will only tell if Burke was right to stick to his guns here.
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