It’s been a year and a half of a build up for the 2014 Winter Classic. The NHL lockout prevented the winter classic for happening January 1, 2013, and now a year later, the event being dubbed as “The Biggest Hockey Game Of All Time” is going to take place today, weather permitted.
HBO 24/7 has been documenting two teams: the Detroit Red Wings, who have been struggling with injury and consistency problems and, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have been struggling with injury and consistency problems.
Toronto recently had Tyler Bozak return to the lineup versus the Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto’s face-off percentage was in around the 60% mark for the first time in some time. Not having to rely on—and overplay—Jay McClement for all of your key face-offs makes a big difference in how you deploy your team and it’s one of the positives of having Tyler Bozak back in the lineup. Constantly losing draws, while not the most important aspect of the game, does come into play in key situations and game breaking goals off of key draws. Bozak was 56% on the dot vs Carolina and hopefully a trend we’ll see continue.
Toronto will be starting Jonathan Bernier, who has a sizzling .949 save percentage in his last five games, settling into a groove in the Toronto crease. much as been made about the goaltending tandem the Toronto Maple Leafs employ and how James Reimer is not a favorite of coach Carlyle, and is not getting the starts and chances he deserves. Reimer has been given every chance to succeed, and Bernier, even by the slightest of margins, is showing to be the better of the two (shootouts not included).
Henrik Zetterberg will be a gametime decision, as will Daniel Alfredsson, who is nursing an injury.
2014 Winter Classic: Maple Leafs vs Detroit Red WingsToronto Maple Leafs vs the Detroit Red Wings matchup.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Detroit Red Wings
|GF/G||115 (11th)||107 (19th)|
|GA/G||118 (20th)||117 (19th)|
|SF/G||27.4 (27th)||29.9 (15th)|
|SA/G||36.2 (30th)||28.7 (15th)|
|PP||22.3% (5th)||19.3% (11th)|
|PK||77.5% (27th)||84.4% (8th)|
|5 on 5 F/A||1.16 (8th)||1.75 (2nd)|
|Sh%||9.71% (5th)||8.66% (17th)|
|Sv%||0.923 4th)||0.906 (22nd)|
|FO%||47.2% (25th)||51.3% (12th)|
Toronto Maple Leafs 2014 Winter Classic Lineup
James van Riemsdyk
Detroit Red Wings 2014 Winter Classic Lineup
2014 Winter Classic Live Streaming Video
Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston is reporting that the Winter Classic is going to come across the border to Toronto in 2017.
The planned location for it would be BMO field, with extensive renovations to outdoor facility taking place. MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke has been in talks with Municipal, Provincial and Federal Officials to make this happen and they all appear on board.
This dovetails nicely into the Maple Leafs 100th anniversary season.
The cost for expanding the woefully small stadium, would be twice it’s $60,000,000 initial build price, said Leiweke.
“It’s big money, huge money,” Said Lewieke
“It fits a lot of needs,” he said. “It renovates it for TFC, it certainly renovates it for the Pan Am Games, it renovates it for rugby. The Grey Cup would be phenomenal in an outdoor setting in Toronto on the lake, but (the Winter Classic is) clearly one of the things we put on the wishlist.”
“The city, the province and the feds have all told us it’s important to them from an economic stimulus standpoint because we see what it’s doing to the economy in Detroit now – imagine what would happen in Toronto.”
As reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Dion Phaneuf have come to terms on a 7-year contract extension valued at $49-million ($7-million AAV). This keeps the 28 year old Phaneuf in the fold until the end of the 2020-21 season. Bob McKenzie is reporting that there is some form of NMC/NTC, which is a typical addendum to UFA-year contracts. The deal is the second-most expensive contract ever signed by the Maple Leafs (Kessel’s 8-year, $64-million dollar deal signed earlier this season is #1).
The Only Man for the Job
The money should come as no surprise. Back in October, I wrote that the Leafs would likely spend between 47 and 56 million on a 7-8 year deal for the Captain (between 6.7-7 AAV). Very simply, the Leafs defense is among the most porous in the league, and Phaneuf is one of the few defenders that can play 25+ minutes a night in three zones. There’s no one else in the system that can provide what Phaneuf does, and this is the going rate for a defenseman of his pedigree.
Due respect to Morgan Rielly, but even if he is a No. 1 defenseman, it won’t be for at least a few seasons. The prize UFA defender on the horizon is Dan Girardi, though his availability next summer remains uncertain. Phaneuf was going to get paid by some team, and Leafs GM Dave Nonis chose to deal with the devil he knew instead of trolling the free agent market for unknowns.
Terms and Conditions
Detractors will point to his meagre and falling point totals since coming to Toronto – he has just 15 points through 39 games this season – as reason for concern. However, as Elliot Saccucci pointed out the other day, in the world of a rising cap Phaneuf’s dollar figure won’t admit much impediment to building a winner.
His cap number will come in at about 10% of the total cap next season. That sounds high, but will fall as HRR continues to skyrocket and increase the annual salary cap figures league-wide. The more legitimate concern should be: just how prudent is it to pay a guy $7-million until he’s 36 years old.
Phaneuf, selected ninth overall in 2003, has played 261 games for Toronto, recording 35 goals and 92 assists for 126 points over the last 5 NHL seasons. For his career, he’s tallied 110 goals, 245 assists for 355 points in 639 games. Since entering the league in 2005-06, Phaneuf ranks sixth in points and third in goals by a defenseman. Phaneuf has been a finalist for both rookie of the year (2006) and the Norris trophy (2008).
Top Point Producing NHL Defenceman Since 2005-2006Click on column headings to organize or use the search bar.
The Scientific Method
For those who look for more than just box cars, some advanced metrics are unearthing a lode of information on Dion Phaneuf’s two-way contrbutions to the Maple Leafs. One such, THoR (Total Hockey Rating, created by Michael Shuckers and Jim Curro) puts Phaneuf in the top ten among NHL defenders over the last two seasons. It goes on to suggest that Phaneuf’s contributions over a season add up to almost 4 more wins compared to a league-average player.
More on THoR from http://statsportsconsulting.com: THoR is a two-way player rating that accounts for the all of the on-ice action events when a players is on the ice as well as their linemates, their opponents and where their shift starts. Each event is assessed a value according to the chance that it leads to a goal. THoR uses a statistical model to determine the value of each player’s contribution to the overall outcomes that occur while they are on the ice. The values for THoR in the columns of the files below are given in wins over an average player for an 82 game season. Count/Number in the files below is the number of plays that a given players was on the ice.
If that doesn’t float your boat, then there are some more traditional fancy stats to consider. According to Behind the Net, among defenders with at least 20 games played, Phaneuf faces the hardest Relative Corsi quality of competition, the lowest quality of teammates score, while being twice as likely to start a shift in the defensive zone.
Phaneuf is Phaneuf
What we see every night, Phaneuf shouldering the load against increasingly difficult odds, is confirmed in the above numbers. And it’s no small part as to why he’s been paid $49-million over the next seven years. His ability to handle those tough and plentiful minutes as time goes by, while also providing above average offense, will determine whether this deal is a great success or failure. But the money is market value for 2013, and it’s nowhere near the worst deal Nonis has signed a player to in the last 362 days.
Do you have good tickets to the 2014 Winter Classic? With 107,000+ tickets sold and fuzzy details on where Toronto Maple Leafs fans and Detroit Red Wings fans will be sitting, this chart, courtesy of SBNation shows you where your seats are at Michigan Stadium (The Big House) and where the separations for both fan bases will be. The Maple Leaf fan’s sections are outlined in blue, obviously, and the Red Wings section is in, predictably, red.
Click image below for a link to the full image and a closer look.
A bit of a tour on the seating situation at Michigan Stadium / “The Big House”:
Big sigh of relief as the Leafs pull one out in the shootout to stave off .500 and move to 18-16-3. Another one-goal effort here, but the Leafs generated enough chances for a regulation win if the top line could’ve buried.
Welcome to your slightly tardy prospect update. This will probably be my last during the holiday season as my non-NHL focus will shift to the World Juniors — we’ll have you covered on that front, too.
Although the Leafs went 1-2 last week, it really was one of their better weeks of hockey this season. They handily outplayed LA but just weren’t able to bury, and they laid a beating on the first place Hawks. It’s true that St. Louis completely outclassed them, but two pretty dominant games against two of the top five teams in the league is really impressive. The Leafs have to build on that as a positive.
HBO 24/7 Red Wings / Maple Leafs – Road to the NHL Winter Classic – Full Episode #1
In Episode #1 of HBO 24/7 Red Wings / Maple Leafs – Road to the NHL Winter Classic, hockey fans get an inside look to The Original Six Franchise’s dressing room, coaching staff, players, and hockey operations.
Brendan Shanahan and the NHL have come down on yet another Maple Leaf; this time for a cheap, blindside hit to St. Louis Blues player, Vladimir Sobotka, by David Clarkson.
— Nick Kypreos (@RealKyper) December 14, 2013
As a repeat offender, Clarkson will lose $109,576.10 in salary. Add to his $269,230.80 he lost for 10 game susp. and that's $378,806.90 lost
— David Alter (@DavidAlter590) December 14, 2013
Randy Carlyle addresses the media after the Leafs fall 6-3 to the Blues in St. Louis.
The Maple Leafs played their best game of the season, but were dealt a taste of their own medicine with a sublime goaltending effort by Martin Jones, ultimately thwarting a plethora of fantastic chances and a game full of uncharacteristic sustained offensive zone time by the Leafs.
The first minute of the game had the makings of yet another one of those games where Toronto was going to spend way too much time in their own zone (“The Leafs have difficulty getting the puck out of their zone™”).
That quickly changed at the 18 minute mark, with the Rielly/Gardiner pairing moving the puck with efficiency and in the proper direction.
The initial fears of the game going the way of L.A. domination were scuttled at around the 16:50 mark; Lupul’s first touch was a scoring chance for Kulemin off the rush and should have been buried but for a fantastic save.
Come the five minute mark of the first, the shots were 5-3 Toronto. LA’s slow defense was having to hurry pucks on the breakout, and Toronto seemed more committed to a fast forecheck. If not physical, they were putting a lot of pressure on the Kings, who were being made to look like, well, the Leafs on any given night this season.
The penalty kill still continues to plague the Leafs game, and sunk them early. Despite taking the play to the slower LA Kings team, this was their chance to set up, control the play and get their 1-0 marker, which as an elite team they proceeded to do.
Despite the score, the shots were 9-4 Toronto late in the first.
One of the habits creeping into the Leafs’ heads more and more: their inability to close out periods and games. Inexplicably, the last minute and a half the Leafs were hemmed in and looked like they would concede another goal.
The Leafs got off to a nice start to the 2nd period.
Toronto’s defence was pinching and activating on the rush regularly, and it was giving the Leafs a chance to show off their speed more than they have this season. The D pinching down the wall was giving the Leafs more zone time than as long as I can remember, as reflected in the shot and shot attempt count (as close to a proxy for possession as we have). The Rielly/Gardiner pairing got regular shifts with the Kessel-Kadri-JVR, and they were fantastic in every area of the ice. They held the zone well, made great tape-to-tape saucer passes, pinched with great timing and, of course, lugged the puck as you would expect; lots of clean zone exits, zone entries, and controlled set ups in the offensive zone.
With Phaneuf injured, it’s forced Carlyle to do things he never tries, which is having Gardiner/Rielly on PP#1 and Gardiner/Franson on PP#2. The puck carrying duties went to Gardiner on the breakout and the Leafs achieved easy zone entries by not having, without fail, Phaneuf and Franson on the same PP unit. The dynamic duo are able to pinch with efficiency and still have the skating ability to get back into position on time.
As the 2nd period was winding down, it was apparent that this was the longest stretch of good hockey Toronto has sustained this season.
The Leafs finally evened the game on a 5 on 3 powerplay. It was Gardiner/Franson again, with Leafs getting a flurry of great chances. More great play from the Leafs in front of the net drew a penalty. On the ensuing 5 on 3, Frason scored on a beautiful switch with Kessel on the powerplay. Franson and Gardiner finally called the audible and switched sides (which Carlyle seems to coach them not to do), opening up two one-time point shots.
The Kings were previously a perfect 8 for 8 on 5 on 3s, but that changed tonight. The small victories, right?
That was a hell of a 2nd period for Toronto.
The Leafs were exposing the LA Kings lack of speed; worth noting the Kings were in the 2nd leg of a back-to-back on the road.
A note I made before the game: I was hoping that the addition of Lupul would open up the lines a bit for Toronto and allow Lupul to avoid some coverage, and for the Leafs to roll two lines properly. He looked like the Lupul of old and had a number of great chances tonight; he was hard on the puck and drove the net with reckless abandon. It makes the Leafs a tougher team to play against.
The pinching was a bonus for the Leafs tonight, but it has also cost them with the go-ahead goal by Jeff Carter. A pinch from Ranger resulted in a 2 on 1. Fraser was in a tough spot; he can play it like a 2-on-1 and take the pass away, which he does for the most part, or take the shooter with Ranger closing in on the pass option. He correctly elected for the latter and Carter got off a sneaky hard shot through Bernier’s legs to make it 2-1 Kings. That’s a game breaker goal that Bernier has to save and he didn’t. This was a decidedly average performance from Bernier; he needed to be better tonight. You wonder if starting Reimer against a team that doesn’t have the book on the goalie (like LA did) might have been the better decision.
Once again evident in the period, Gardiner and Rielly were dynamic tonight. Where they usually are a high-risk/reward combination, they were all reward tonight and moved the puck up the ice with skill and speed, making plays that are both exciting and effective. They beat LA’s heavy forecheck, as puck-moving defenseman are wont to do, when they play the game at a high speed.
There was a surefire holding penalty on the JVR rush missed by the refs late in this period. It was a free-hand hold, which is usually a call on every.single.play in every.single.nhl.game. While my tinfoil hat is currently at the dry cleaners, the calls against the Leafs this year are, quite frankly, staggering. I’ve never seen officiating as poor in the NHL in my decades of watching hockey. Perhaps coming out of the 2005 lockout when new rules were implemented, but that’s not saying much.
JVR blew by Regehr, but Regehr impeded JvR’s progress with the loose arm. That’s called holding.
Shortly thereafter, Kadri got cross checked and absolutely filled in from behind by Voynov without the puck.
Alas, Kyle Clifford came back the other way and scored. Insert dagger here. Game over.
Honoured to have Leafs TV’s Paul Hendrick join Michael and Michael to talk Leafs.
Toronto welcomed the HBO crew with a 3-2 overtime victory at the Air Canada Centre. They came out with the appropriate amount of desperation and effort for a team that has been stumbling significantly.
The Leafs dropped their first December contest to extend the losing streak to five games, and six of the last seven. San Jose hurled 41 shots on the net and James Reimer was pretty good yet again, but it was another game where a poor first period meant that the Leafs were playing catchup all night.
How will it happen & what does it mean for the Toronto Maple Leafs?
In a memo released in September of this year, the Chief Operating Officer of the NHL notified all league employees of initiatives and staff changes to take effect during the 2013-2014 season. In the memo the league identified a plan to increase annual gross national revenue by $1 billion dollars by the end of three years, or in other words, in time for the 2016-2017 season. To put that type of increase in perspective, it had previously taken the league from 2005-06 to 2011-12 – or 6 years – to attain the same revenue growth. Forget linear growth, we’re talking exponential revenue growth here, folks.
Luciano Pavarotti “Nessun Dorma”, Hockey Night in Canada Opening
“Nessun Dorma” by Luciano Pavarotti opens the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, the forever rivals, on Hockey Night In Canada on November 30th, 2013.
Good morning MLHS,
First off, let me start by thanking Alec, Michael and Michael for inviting me to participate in Maple Leaf Hangout Episode #17 – if you guys and gals had nearly as much fun watching as I did filming, then you and I are off to a good start!
Secondly, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself to anyone that didn’t catch the Hangout and wonders what the heck I’m doing here. I’ve been following Alec’s writing since he started out at that ‘other site’ and I quickly moved over to the greener pastures of MLHS when he made the move. Along with reading all of the incredible content that the writers here put together, I’ve also stealthily followed the comments sections, and although I never actually posted myself, I feel like I’ve gotten to know a number of you by reading your comments over the years. So on that note, let me say that it’s an honour to have the opportunity to write to you along with the rest of the stellar (myself excluded) MLHS team.
Briefly, I’m a lawyer working downtown in Toronto with a concentrated litigation practice. As part of my education I’ve had the opportunity to study and write extensively about sports and entertainment law, and I now work at a firm with a practice in media litigation. As a guy with dreams of working in sports, I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent immersed in this site getting my hockey fix. My hope is that I can provide a slightly different take on some of the news and events that concern hockey and our Toronto Maple Leafs. But make no mistake, I’m a fan of the game – and more specifically the Maple Leafs – first and foremost.
I know that the Michaels and I addressed the Rogers deal with the NHL earlier, but I thought I’d just provide a quick run-down for anyone that missed the Hangout, or who simply wants a quick reference.
The Rogers Deal: The Basics
The proposed deal is for 12 years and approximately $5.2 Billion, which averages out to more than the $400 million/ season that the Commissioner was reportedly seeking from a new Canadian broadcasting deal. The deal is one of the longest in sports broadcasting history, and is unprecedented in that it is the first time in North American sports that a major sports league has granted exclusive distribution rights to a single broadcast network. As a result of the deal Rogers gets exclusive rights to all Canadian hockey, across all media platforms (including television, digital, and mobile) until the end of the 2026 season (or roughly until Rick Dipietro’s deal with the Islanders was supposed to expire). Rogers will have the exclusive right to broadcast Canadian hockey on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
As part of the deal, Rogers will sublicense two games a week to the CBC under the Hockey Night in Canada moniker over the next 4 years, while TVA will carry all French language broadcasts in la Belle Province. It’s not clear what will happen to the CBC’s affiliation with Hockey Night in Canada beyond four years. The CBC will also retain playoff games and Stanley Cup finals games that fall on a Saturday. Interestingly, because HNIC has now become part of the Rogers programming platform, editorial control over HNIC (including on-air content, talent and creative direction) now belongs to Rogers. In other words, if you’re tired of hearing Glenn Healy malign the Leafs call Nadir Mohamed (don’t actually) because the CBC can’t help you anymore.
Probably the single greatest impact of the deal is that is promises to mark the end of “regional games” and “blackouts.” So what does this all mean for us Leafs fans?
The Rogers Deal: Through a Blue and White Lens
Unequivocally, the end of “regional games” and “blackouts” is a good thing for Leaf fans living outside of the Leafs broadcast region who just want to watch hockey games featuring the Leafs. Regional games and blackouts occur as a result of agreements reached between the NHL, the national broadcaster (currently TSN and CBC), regional broadcasters (currently Sportsnet), and to some degree the hockey club. Take for example a poor Leaf fan stranded in Vancouver, far removed from his or her favourite team.
Under the current (expiring) deal, when a regional Leafs game is scheduled only those viewers residing in the Leafs broadcasting zone can see it. Making matters worse is that when a regional game is scheduled on a night when a national broadcaster is airing another game coast to coast, in order to prevent the games from competing for viewership the regional Leaf broadcast is limited to a 50 mile radius around the ACC.
Under the new deal, it would appear that even where the regional broadcaster (which will now be TSN as the station retains 10 regional Leafs games in 2014 and 26 in 2015) is broadcasting the Leafs game in Ontario, Rogers will have the right to broadcast the game outside of Ontario, so our Vancouver residing Leafs fan is now a happy camper. This is one of the major benefits of having a single media broadcaster because the concern over games competing against one another is a lot less pressing when you own the rights to all of the games anyway.
The concern for Leafs fans is that as part of the deal struck between Rogers and the CBC it may become necessary to subscribe to cable to see any Leafs games. The way the sub-license has been structured it’s not necessarily the case that the CBC will be carrying the Leafs on HNIC in Canada on a Saturday night. While Rogers owes the CBC two NHL games a week, the company retained control over on-air content and may simply decide that it would prefer to have the marquee Leafs matchup on CityTV rather than CBC. If that is in fact the case, then fans will not be able to tune in to the CBC’s free HD feed, and may need to start shelling out for games.
While the deal has not yet been ratified, the NHL Board of Governors is set to meet during the second week of December and will vote on the deal. That being said, anything less than resounding approval by the Board would be shocking at this point. In short, get ready for a whole-lot more Kypreos for the next 12 years.
Until next time,
With last night’s loss against Nashville, Randy Carlyle’s stint behind Toronto’s bench has spanned more than a season’s worth of games. Recently, there has been much discussion surrounding this team’s identity. Clearly, the current Maple Leafs are one of the best quick-attack squads in the league. They have a collection of highly skilled players, good special teams, and the support of some fantastic goaltending. Yet naysayers are prevalent in the Toronto hockey scene. Their criticism has often focused on the supposedly debilitating shot differential that has characterized this iteration of the Leafs. This is a team that has seen success under Carlyle in spite of the shot differential statistics. Ironically, it wasn’t so long ago that this franchise bucked this category of questionably predictive statistics from the other side of the spectrum.
A promising first period went badly astray as the Leafs had their five-game home winning streak snapped by four unanswered goals from the Nashville Predators. The Leafs move to 13-8-1 on the season.
Jake Gardiner dazzled in his best game of the season, David Clarkson FINALLY scored his first goal of the season and Jonathan Bernier was good when he needed to be as the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped the New York Islanders 5 – 2. Trevor Smith, Phil Kessel (2), Mason Raymond and Clarkson all scored for the Leafs, who won their second straight game. Smith (1G, 2A) and Joffrey Lupul (3A) tallied 3 points apiece as the Leafs cruised to a pretty easy victory. Bernier made 35 saves for his eighth victory of the season. Kevin Poulin struggled for the Islanders, making just 19 saves. Casey Cizikas and Frans Nielsen responded for the Isles.
1. Despite their middling record, the Islanders came into Toronto having won their last three matches at the ACC. They also have one of the league’s top forward trios with Jonathan Tavares, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo combining for 66 points through the first 21 games. But that didn’t matter all that much because Joffrey Lupul carried the puck cleanly through the neutral zone, sifted through the defense, cut towards the net and found a wide open Trevor Smith out front who scored the game’s opening goal just 22 seconds into the game. Lupul assisted on the goal, Smith’s fourth of the year, breaking a mini slump (2 pts in last 9gp prior to tonight). Hockey’s Handsomest Line™ (Lupul, Smith and Clarkson) was creating chances every shift they took tonight, combining for 7 points.
2. Jake Gardiner was electric in the first period. He turned a defensive zone fourth line shift into two offensive chances. Firstly by adroitly clearing the zone and getting the puck to Frazer McLaren and into the Islanders zone. Later in the same shift, Cody Franson pounced on a turnover and left a soft touch pass for Gardiner. With the Isles forwards switching their vectors onto him, Gardiner floated a surprise pass to Franson. Despite somewhat bobbling the back and forth, Franson had enough time and space to recover and get a crisp, low shot off. Later in the frame he also played a 3 on 1 textbook perfectly, neutering what should have been a good chance by the Isles. He saw 9 minutes through the first 20, 22 through the game, and had a shift in the second period where he was just a one-man breakout machine (fun fact, that was my nickname in high school).
3. For Gardiner’s heroics, his erstwhile (that means former, before you get on me in the comments) defense partner Paul Ranger had another rough game, especially at the blue lines. The Islanders were allowed to keep the puck in the Leafs end for nearly a minute due to Ranger’s inability to get it to the line AND out. With the Leafs applying pressure and the Kessel line on, Ranger turned the puck over at the blue line on a seemingly innocuous play, allowing for a chance the other way. That’s usually the recipe for a good old fashioned benching, so of course he went on to play 17 and a half minutes tonight, even in spite of a foolish roughing penalty towards the middle of the third.
4. Though the Leafs were outshot 11-7 through 20, they appeared to hold the balance of play through the first. The second period started off less favourably for the Buds, getting outshot 4-0 and out played through the first five minutes of play. It wasn’t until a borderline hit by Nikolai Kulemin on Tavares that the Leafs woke up. Though not instantaneous, the ice began to tilt in Toronto’s favour. The Leafs top two lines took to work, hemming the Isles in their zone for sustained periods of time, leading to the inevitable….
5. After James van Riemsdyk got hacked down in the Isles’ zone, the Maple Leafs took the game’s first power play mid-way through the second period. With a PP that’s been scoring nearly a goal per game and the Leafs surging, Phil Kessel took a pass from Lupul, button hooked, took a couple steps down to the circle, and took just a beautiful wrister that sailed passed Poulin’s blocker. The goal was Kessel’s 11th of the season and just his second in 8 games; with Lupul and Phaneuf picking up the assists. He’d later pick up his second goal of the game and 12th of the season off a 2-1 rush with van Riemsdyk to close out the third.
6. This is why you don’t make fun of people’s names.
Poor Casey Cizikas. First for being named Casey. But also for being a Mediterranean topping that pairs well with lamb.
— Michael Stephens (@MLHS_Mike) November 20, 2013
Casey Cizikas, who isn’t a tasty thing that goes with donair, scores an absolute beauty on a breakaway with 11 seconds left in the 2nd, outracing Jake Gardiner (Not a typo) and slipping the puck through Bernier’s wickets. The Leafs held a 2-1 lead through 40, and I’m still sorry about the whole thing guys.
7. The third period started in a similar fashion to the second, with the Islanders controlling play. Shortly after Eric Boulton and Colton Orr chucked knuckles, Carl Gunnarsson blocks a shot and gets the puck out to Mason Raymond. The puck finds its way to a driving McClement in the center lane, who puts a shot on Poulin. Raymond was Johnny on the spot and buried the rebound to make it 3-1. The goal was Raymond’s 8th of the season, with McClement getting the lone assist. It was all over but the screaming at that point.
8. I wanted to use this space to discuss just how great a game Nikolai Kulemin had, but David Clarkson’s goal – and play tonight – warrant mention. The second line was great tonight. Their ability to wear the Isles down in the offensive zone was noticeable, and all three were rewarded handsomely on the score sheet. But for Clarkson, who is suddenly hot with three points in his last three games, his third period tally was the monkey off the back goal he so desperately needed. Much like Phil Kessel last season, it took Clarkson 21 11 games to pot his first, but it sure was a beauty. He played just a shade under 19 minutes tonight, and was hell for the Islanders to play throughout.
The line of Raymond, McClement and Kulemin was also effective while lining up against the Tavares unit for a number of shifts.
9. Special Teams Report: The league’s 11th ranked PK entering tonight (83.5% success rate) went 2/2 and kept the Leafs ahead the Islanders in the waning minutes of the second and mid-way through the third. Carl Gunnarsson, whom I maligned earlier this afternoon, made a huge play to block a couple shots with Bernier scrambling to get back in position. Gunnarsson’s selfless maneuver kept the Leafs two-goal lead intact with just over 10 left to play in the game.
The Leafs power play, ranked 3rd in the league with a 23.1 success rate, went 1/2 and helped put the Leafs out front by a two-goal margin. They never had to look back after that. For the record, the Zebras looked kindly on the Maple Leafs all game. In the first, Frazer McLaren attempted to instigate a fight with an unwilling Matt Martin. That probably should have been a penalty. Kulemin’s thunderous hit on Tavares, while the most hit Kuli’s had since May, was certainly on the edge of legality. The refs, thankfully, kept the whistles away, allowing for a fun, fast paced, even game.
10. The Islanders weren’t exactly expected to be a fearsome competitor facing the East’s third best team. Instead they served as slump busters, getting both Lupul and Kessel back on the score sheet after short droughts. It wasn’t always pretty for the full 60, but at no point did the game truly seem in doubt for the Leafs. There’s still plenty of room to grow, but this was a better, more dominant win than most for the Buds.
The Leafs will be in action on Thursday as they host the Nashville Predators. It’ll be the second and final regular season matchup between the two clubs; Toronto won their previous tilt 4-0.
|0:22:00||TOR||Trevor Smith (3) Snap shot - ASST: Joffrey Lupul (5)||1 - 0 TOR|
|11:19:00||TOR||PPG - Phil Kessel (11) Wrist shot - ASST: Joffrey Lupul (6), Dion Phaneuf (7)||2 - 0 TOR|
|19:48:00||NYI||Casey Cizikas (3) Wrist shot - ASST: NONE||2 - 1 TOR|
|3:39:00||TOR||Mason Raymond (8) Backhand shot - ASST: Jay McClement (2)||3 - 1 TOR|
|12:52:00||TOR||David Clarkson (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Trevor Smith (2), Joffrey Lupul (7)||4 - 1 TOR|
|15:14:00||NYI||Frans Nielsen (10) Wrist shot - ASST: Josh Bailey (6)||4 - 2 TOR|
|17:17:00||TOR||Phil Kessel (12) Wrist shot - ASST: James van Riemsdyk (7), Trevor Smith (3)||5 - 2 TOR|
Islanders at Leafs - November 19Leafs 5 vs. Isles 2.
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||0||1||1||1||0||2||0||0||2||1||25%||2:36:00||1:13:00||16:54:00|
|45||J. Bernier||35 - 37||0.946||0||60:00:00|