Home Tags Posts tagged with "Toronto Maple Leafs"
Photo: Abelimages/Getty Images
The Toronto Maple Leafs are sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference (fourth in the Eastern Conference in wins) and some folks, even Leaf fans who write about the game, are simply writing it of as nothing other than luck. Puck luck. Good goaltending. Streaky scorers. Bad coaching is even bandied around as one of the reasons they’re bad – but not showing it yet – this season.
The truth is that the Leafs are playing right about where they should have been last year—offensively—but with a system that allows them to hold leads, shut down teams when they need to, kill off potential momentum robbing power-plays and turn them something that breeds confidence in their ability to defend and in their goalies’ ability to stop pucks. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Confidence was and is a big difference between this season and last. They were a confident group last season – arriving almost mid-summer for early camp and hitting the ground running – got off to a good start and were confident in their ability to score almost at will. But look no further than the two losses against Boston (3-2 until an empty netter finished it 4-2) and Pittsburgh (5-4 SO) – those were games that would have been horrendous blowouts last year. I think everyone was expecting them to be as much, but both turned into tight games in the end. That wasn’t on the strength of out-of-worldly goaltending, either.
The team has adopted a better structured system—even strength and on the PK—that has allowed them to mitigate the second chances that sank a lot of games last season. Rebound control is still a big issue with both Reimer and Scrivens, however getting good looks at pucks and directing rebounds into less dangerous areas allows them and the team in front of them to bend more without breaking into the type of horrible collapses that plagued the team last year. I feel that not fronting the opposing forwards—standing in front hoping for a shot block—and instead reverting to a method of clearing the front of the net, like defenceman have for decades, is much more effective for this group.
If Toronto were to be compared to any team right now, it would have to be the Ottawa Senators, as much as it pains me to say it. Both have benefited tremendously from strong AHL teams and excellent AHL coaching. Ottawa were a laugh to start the season last season—most were predicting a lottery pick, and instead they took the New York Rangers to game 7 of a close series that could have easily went either way. Toronto is getting exactly the same collection of things this year, between the internal development, the coach and the goaltending. The Marlies, in my opinion, were robbed of a Calder Cup by bad injury luck and I felt that, when healthy, they were the superior team. Regardless, they had the best PK in the league, the best goaltending tandem, and the best shutdown D pair in the league. Say what you will, but it’s impressive that they Leafs can walk three AHL defenceman onto the big club and have them play as well as they have. It’s a credit to the Marlies that they are able to do that so seamlessly. They aren’t ideal defence pairings, but this is the sort of depth that we, as Leaf fans, have been pining for. The first wave of development seems to have pushed through for the Leafs, and while the Marlies are completely depleted right now that will change as the next round of Burke draftees start to migrate from Jr. to the AHL. This is what a rebuild looks like.
So, just how good are they? I think they’re just that: “good,” if Boston is “Excellent” and Pittsburgh is “Very Good” to “Excellent” (they lack depth on D and a consistently good goalie). I think the Leafs were trending downwards quickly two and three seasons ago and are quickly trending upwards now. It should have happened a year ago, but … Ron Wilson.
It will be interesting to see how Dave Nonis makes his next two big moves to meet the club’s main two needs: A first line center who can play the game at a fast pace and is able to make plays at the same speed as Kessel and Lupul, and another top 4 two-way defenceman—preferably of the top-2 variety. Those moves don’t present themselves very often throughout the course of the season, and we’ll all be curious as to how he keeps adding top-flight talent to a group that has improved internally and is looking to advance gears in order to enter the conversation beside the Bostons and Pittsburghs of the league.
Tuesday Morning Leafs Links…
Photo: Chris Young/The Canadian Press
Among certain members of the mainstream media covering the Leafs, there seems to be this idea that won’t go away where Tyler Bozak will name Mikhail Grabovski’s $5.5 million as his starting point if he is going to negotiate a new contract with Dave Nonis.
You don’t need me to tell you it doesn’t make any sense.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
With just over three weeks to go until the trade deadline, I feel as if I can get away with a rosterbation post without too much scrutiny. I’ll do my best to not go full HFBoards with my ideas, but certainly have a few players in mind that I’d like for the Leafs to target, and a few that I’d like Nonis to jettison. While I’m sure this won’t be the most intelligent post you’ll read this morning, hopefully it will at least spark some Monday morning conversation.
I took in what felt like a one-point win last night at the ACC. I of little faith was thinking “blow out” after the bang-bang goals in the first, but there seems to be something different about this team (visible in the Bruins game as well). They didn’t slip silently into the night, and by the end of it you had the feeling Crosby, Malkin and co. snuck away, or limped away, with the extra point.
I’ll ignore the awful first period from the Leafs – and how deeply underwater the first line was in its head to head with Crosby’s line, or how off Reimer was for the first 20 – because in many ways the fight back was just that good. Reimer played one of his poorer periods of the season in period 1, but his overall performance matched the trajectory of the rest of the team – started slow, but without him the Leafs don’t get the point.
The Leafs welcomed the Penguins in what was their second meeting of the season. A win in the first game in Pittsburgh certainly felt good, but this was a Penguins team that has 7 wins in their last 10 games and has just now started to push for the top of the Conference standings. It was a different game entirely.
In this shortened season it’s never too early to talk about playoff implications. The Leafs currently sit 5th in the Eastern Conference while the Pens come into this game as the 2nd team in the East. In recent years, getting into the playoffs was virtually a lock for Pittsburgh. As we all know, the Leafs have struggled mightily. Given how things have played out so far, this season provides hope. This season can be different.
Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
More of the same in Boston. It was less embarrassing than last season’s visits to the TD Garden, and there’s a small victory in that, but the Leafs fall short nonetheless and drop to 15-10-0 with a 4-2 loss (one empty netter) to the Bruins.
Tickets: Are you watching or going to tonight’s Leafs game? RSVP here and be entered to win $200 in free tickets.
We’re at the half way point and the Leafs are in great shape at 15-9-0, sitting in fifth in the East with 30 points. .500 hockey from here on in, while not the best way to enter the playoffs, gets the Leafs back to the post-season.
The Leafs recent form, on paper, has also been dandy, with three wins on the trot. On one hand you’re happy with those final results, with the team finding different ways to win whether coming from behind or holding on for dear life, on the other you’re concerned with the significant portions of game in which the Leafs have been outplayed, outpossessed and outchanced.
The parallels between these two provincial rivals goes deeper than their matching point totals through 23 games. Both teams are getting good goaltending, sitting top 5 in team save percentage (Senators are 1st at 0.945), despite rotating goalies due to injury, inexperience on the backend and a lot of shots allowed (Leafs – 25th, Senators – 29th). Like the Leafs with Kostka, Holzer and Fraser, the Senators have been giving the inexperienced likes of Eric Gryba, Andre Benoit and Peter Wiercioch significant minutes and so far are hanging in the playoff picture with a goals against total in the top 10 league wide.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Maple Leafs took it to New Jersey 4-2 Monday night and moved up in the standings. Nazem Kadri continues to be Toronto’s most dangerous attacker and James Reimer is on a personal five game win streak.
Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs (10-6-0) take on the Tampa Bay Lighting (7-6-1) and look to replicate last year’s success in a season series that saw Toronto outscore Tampa 20-7 in their 4-game battle. The Leafs have won six of seven on the road while Tampa Bay Lightning have dropped their last three on home ice.
“We’re still very much a work in progress,” were Randy Carlyle’s words after the team earned its 10th win in its sixteenth game last night against the Panthers. Complacency is being beaten out of the this club, with the coaches keenly aware of the type of start the Leafs got off to last season and where that ended up. The Leafs are looking to reverse their fortunes this season and seem to be a more detail-oriented club with better coaching and solid 1-2 goaltending from Scrivens and Reimer, who at last check had the best combined GAA in the league.
One of the more interesting, borderline meaningless stats associated with the Maple Leafs at the moment is their league-leading hit count despite the subtraction of Luke Schenn’s ~270 “hits” (not that Schenn wasn’t physical, but pity the ACC stat recorder who decided his patented three-step push counted as one). Through 16 games in 2013, the Leafs lead the league, ahead of the Flyers and Rangers, with 454 hits.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers
The 9-6-0 Toronto Maple Leafs kick off their first of two games in Florida tonight vs. the 4-6-4 Panthers, who have lost their last three games in OT. The Panthers are once again awful after looking like a legit team again last year, currently sitting dead last in the NHL in goals against per game and not a whole lot higher (25th) in goals scored per game.
The last time the Maple Leafs were in Miami… March of 2012, they were thoroughly routed 5-2. In that game, how Tim Connolly managed to finish -3 with only 11:38 of ice time in that game I will never know… although his new AHL career seems to explain it.
Coming off a strong game vs. those grieving Ottawa Senators, if Toronto can deliver the same physical, high pressure game they have in 3 of the last 4, with Scrivens continuing to deliver in Reimer’s absence, another road win is in the cards.
With notes from NHL.com
Ottawa Senators (7-5-2) at Toronto Maple Leafs (8-6-0)
Last 10: Ottawa 4-4-2; Toronto 6-4-0
Season series: This is the first of five matchups this season between these Northeast Division rivals, who will play each other twice in the next week. The teams tied the Battle of Ontario last season, splitting the six-game season series.
Photo: MLHS'er Mcloki
The Toronto Maple Leafs (8-5-0) are in Carolina to take on the Hurricanes(7-4-1) (7pm, LeafsTV). Toronto will look to extend their winning stream to 5 games with a win. Toronto is one of — if not the — hottest teams in the league at the moment but face some new obstacles as they try to keep on rolling.
A depleted Toronto Maple Leafs lineup will test the club’s depth and will be without: Joffrey Lupul, James Reimer, Matt Frattin and Carl Gunnarsson. Jussi Rynnas has been called up to back-up Ben Scrivens, who was strong when called in for an injured James Reimer in a 5-2 win over Philadelphia and has brought his numbers back up to a more respectable save percentage of .913 and a goals against average of 2.56. As Scrivens goes, the Leafs go. He has an opportunity to run with the starting job while James Reimer is injured.
Carolina, who beat Toronto 4-1 on February 4th, is playing on the back of 2 wins over New Jersey Devils (4-2) and the New York Islanders (6-4), but lost previously to Philadelphia, a team Toronto dominated just 3 days ago.
Projected lines vs. Hurricanes
van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Kessel
Komarov – Grabovski – Kulemin
MacArthur – Kadri – McClement
McLaren – Steckel – Orr
Phaneuf – Holzer
Liles – Kostka
Fraser – Franson
Some notes on injuries from Jonas Siegel.
Mike Brown has been activated off injured reserve, and is seemingly available for action as of today but will not dress against Carolina. Brown missed seven games with a shoulder injury.
Carl Gunnarsson did not travel with the team to Raleigh. Gunnarsson remained in Toronto to visit with an ART (Active Release Technique) specialist receiving a deep tissue massage for his hip injury. “He’s had a couple visits already,” Randy Carlyle said, “shown great improvement.” The 26-year-old has missed the past six games with the nagging injury.
(Photo: Getty Images)
[soundcloud id='79127385' playerType='html5']
The agent for Phil Kessel joined Greg Brady and Jim Lang to discuss the evolution of Kessel’s game, his mindset during the scoring drought and how the forward feels about playing in Toronto.
As if injuries to Carl Gunnarsson, Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner and now James Reimer weren’t enough, the Leafs just announced Matt Frattin is expected to be out for at least a week after undergoing a minor procedure on his previously surgically repaired knee, although James Mirtle speculated he might be out a little longer than that.
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.
A tilt between two of the league’s youngest teams went pretty much as expected. Questionable special teams, fast-paced action, and a blown third period lead. Thankfully, the Maple Leafs were on the winning side of this one and climb to a game above .500 eleven games into the season.
Prev1...8910...55Next Page 9 of 55