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For the second time in four days the Maple Leafs will face off against the New Jersey Devils, this time at the ACC. In what seems to be the most nonsensical decision made in recent memory by NHL schedulers, come this Friday the Leafs and Devils will have faced off three times in one calendar week. What’s up with that?
As you are all undoubtedly aware, the Leafs have a few new faces in the fold, and we are all eager to see what Phaneuf, Sjostrom, and Giguere bring to the table as members of the blue and white.
Note: I won’t get into trade analysis here; that has already been covered in excellent fashion by the MLHS crew in prior posts.
Submit your GFWE predictions here.
Itâ€™s no secret that the Leafs’ biggest disappointment amid a conference-second-worst 15-20-9 first half of the schedule is a total lack of progress in the area of goals against and special teams, where Brian Burke focused much of his off-season efforts.
Despite modest numbers in terms of offensive production, winger Nikolai Kulemin has made great strides in becoming a indispensible, two-way threat that all winning teams require. The young Russian worked up the hopes of Leafs Nation with a dazzling array of speed, skill and finishing ability in various Youtube highlight reels prior to coming over to the NHL, but it’s been his tremendous effort, work ethic and defensive play over here that has won me over thus far this season.
Tonight’sÂ loss against the Northeast rival Buffalo Sabres seemed to play out like the typical Maple Leaf ’09-’10 regular season game thus far. A fairly decent effort for about 75-80% of the game, a few brain cramps here and there, a ton of unconverted offensive opportunities, an unlucky bounce or two, along with the end result of an “L” in the record books.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are now back from Chicago to host the Calgary Flames at the ACC in Toronto. Jonas Gustavsson is expected to get the start tonight, but Vesa Toskala must be credited with his strongest performance of the season.
With Kessel and Gustavsson integrating themselves into the lineup, the team seems poised to break off a big-time run to put themselves back into the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture. The team is playing very well of late and continued to build on that with an impressive 5-1 victory at home against the Detroit Red Wings on Hall of Fame night.
Update: During post-game media scrum, Wilson says Komisarek’s injury not serious.
Wanted to take a minute and congratulate our very own Gus Katsaros on his segment on the Fan590 this afternoon.Â Outstanding analysis of both the Phil Kessel/Savard relationship and analysis of the Boston Bruins schedule last year vs this year.Â The little snip at Mr MacLean at the end was priceless as well..Â Congrats Gus, and again, wonderful work..
What follows is a transcript from a recent conversation with a source:
Bad goaltending is now blamed on an injury. The Leafs have called up rookie James Riemer who will be sitting on the bench tonight as Joey MacDonald gets the nod. Vesa Toskala has apparently suffered an undisclosed injury after last night’s 7-2 loss (my bet is a fan clubbed him Nancy Kerrigan style) and is now out. Toronto’s top two goaltenders (arguably) are now sidelined. Gustavsson is expected to return sometime next week.
0-2-1 after 3 games, and the sky is falling.Â Â Or so chicken little would have you believe, anyway.
3 games in and panic?Â Â Seriously?Â Â You’d think the Leafs just traded away a handful of high picks for a relatively-unknown goaltender with an injury history.Â Â Wait, scratch that — they did that a couple years ago and as I recall the move was far more heralded than denounced, at the time.
Which is exactly my point:Â you can’t know, early on, exactly how things will turn out.
In a game that oscillated between sloppy and entertaining, a young squad of Leafs forwards strutted their wares in a final attempt to crack the big club’s roster. If anyone was wondering how the typical Tank Nation extremists’ dream-team of solely youngsters would fare, they would need to look no farther than tonight. It was a mix of rookie mistakes, raw talent, and nerve-fraying moves. Here are some notes from this Tuesday night tilt, from the perspective of someone that was at the game itself:
The Maple Leafs began on-ice workouts today at their new practice facility, the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence.
Iâ€™ve been given credentials and was on site for the first day and will be attending all three days of on ice practice.
The following are a series of notes from Day 1 â€¦
Author: B Leaf
Last season, the Leafs were 10th in scoring (244) and 9th in shots on goal (2,603). There is no major reason why that number should drop other than the loss of Antropov. There are other players who should have better years and help fill his ice time with similar results. On the powerplay, the Leafs were middle of the road at 16th. The Leafs were a respectable 17th in shots allowed (2481), but were a league worst in goals against (286). The PK% was also a league worst. Not all the blame can be placed on the goaltending, but a lot of it can. The collective save percentage for the team was an abysmal .885%.
The Maple Leafs finished as the league’s worst defensive team last season, giving up an astounding 286 goals, which works out to about 3.5 goals against a game. As such, much of the team’s summer remodeling took place on the blueline, which saw the departure of Kubina and the additions of shutdown defensemenÂ Beauchemin and Komisarek. With nearly $20M dollars committed per season through 2011 to the group of Kaberle, Komisarek, Beauchemin, Schenn and Finger, and Tomas being the only player above the age of 30, it appears on paper at least, that this will be the core of the defense for the foreseeable future. If that’s the case, how do they stack up against the rest of the league?
- Mike Van Ryn has some interest with an expiring contract, affordable cap hit and considering he played well when in the lineup last year.
- White is a Wilson & Burke favourite, but if Burke can maximize the return on White he would heavily consider moving him as he will command a hefty pay raise after this season.
In the MLSE land of unreasonable expectations, even a superstar troupe like Burke and Wilson will not be afforded another record breaking season; at least not if said record is a fifth consecutive season of playoff free hockey. Subsequently Burke is going to be looking for a catalyst to the rebuilding project come summer and the most obvious route will arrive in early July, not a week earlier in Montreal.
Maple Leafs’ GM Brian Burke, per the Toronto Star:
“We intend to be pushing the cap every year. We want to spend the money intelligently. We’re Big Blue, we’re going to spend to the cap.”
Now, your initial reaction to that is probably one of surprise, given Burke’s previous statements about a potential cap decline. Â Â Does that mean his statement today runs counter to the theory of a rebuilding effort?Â Â Â Â Not at all.
Slow times in Leafland these days, so let’s have a crack at a couple of those questions.
As the 2008-09 season moves into the stretch drive, it is perhaps time for fans of teams most likely not making the playoffs to take a closer peek at the top prospects entering the draft.
Based on the Maple Leafs’ current spot in the standings with 13 games to go, it is safe to assume that this team will not finish last overall, and perhaps not even in the bottom five.Â Â A finish anywhere from 23rd to 26th overall (picking 5th to 8th) appears most likely at this point.
With that in mind, here is a modified version of the International Scouting Services (ISS) mid-season rankings which were released in February.Â Modified, in that the list is #3 – 12, as those are most likely the players that the Leafs will be looking at come the first round of the Entry Draft.
It looks as though Phil Oreskovic will make his NHL debut tomorrow night vs. Ottawa as the Leafs attempt to cope with an injury-riddled blue-line. Anton Stralman will also feature with Tomas Kaberle, Mike Van Ryn, Jonas Frogren and waiver pick-up Erik Reitz all sidelined. Reitz and Kaberle should be back in action within a week whereas Van Ryn’s season may well be over after he sustained a wince-inducing knee injury last night against the Oilers. Just when we thought we were done with one freakishly injury prone defenseman, it looks like VR will be eliciting the frustration of Carlo Colaiacovo’s tenure as a very skilled defenseman who simply cannot stay off the shelf. The timeline on Frogren isn’t yet known, but Wilson suggested after last night’s loss that “he will be a while” recovering from his lower body injury.
Check out Garrett Bauman’s “Getting To Know You” profile of Phil Oreskovic here.
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