Morning Mashup: Tough Road Ahead


Photo: David Cooper/Toronto Star

The recent buzz around the Maple Leafs has been largely focused on their lack of secondary scoring.  Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel have put forth consistent efforts throughout this season, but Toronto’s offense beyond that duo has been questionable at best.

The team’s upcoming stretch of four games in six nights will feature a few defensively-capable squads that would be all too happy to step on the throat of Toronto’s struggling secondary scorers.  This will begin tonight with Phoenix and Mike Smith, who feature the 10th best goals against average in the NHL.  But it won’t get any easier when the Leafs travel to Nashville on Wednesday or return home to face Washington on Saturday.

You should check out Anthony Petrielli’s Leafs Notebook from yesterday to get some more insight on the specific plights affecting the likes of Kulemin and his linemates.  Furthermore, an interesting fanpost on PPP from the summer analyzed the likelihood of Kulemin repeating his prowess from last year.  If you want to skip the reading, the end prediction was approximately 24 goals, although it should be noted this worked under the assumption of an increase in the winger’s ice time, something that has not yet materialized.  As most of us know by now, his shooting % was notably high and while he has the skill to once again surpass the 30 goal plateau, it will undoubtedly require him to increase the volume of shots he is directing at the net.

While the Grabovski line has earned a long leash from the coaching staff due to their spectacular success from last year, they are finally wearing thin on Wilson.  Look for Wilson to utilize either Frattin or Lombardi as rotating pieces early on in tonight’s game if things are looking grim:

“…we might have to shuffle the deck quicker.  They just have to play their game and relax. There are a few things they can do better.  They have to find a way of getting more pucks to the net instead of overpassing it.  It seems when MacArthur or Kulemin have the puck they immediately want to give it to Grabovski instead of getting their legs going and open up the ice. They’re telegraphing everything to Grabovski. Those guys have to skate with and without the puck.”

Toronto may get another card in their proverbial deck as it appears Tim Connolly will be returning soon from his latest injury.  The rarely seen center practiced Monday, and said that he is close, but not at 100%.  At this point, one would hope that management gives Connolly as much time to heal as possible rather than rushing him back, although with his luck, this would do absolutely nothing to prevent his next ailment.  While Tyler Bozak has filled in admirably with Lupul and Kessel, the options and depth that a player of Connolly’s caliber gives to this team is undeniable.  These strengths would only be amplified if the former Sabre could string together a stretch of games that would allow him to develop some chemistry and acclimate to the team’s systems in multiple game situations.


Kessel still on top of the NHL

Connolly is close to returning

Phoenix has schooled Toronto recently

One writer sees a bright future for the Leafs

Another thinks they are a sham, and not a playoff contender (guess what city he writes in)

Connolly’s defense has been missed

Wilson’s solution to lack of Lucic suspension? Treat the tenders like QBs.

Grabovski line needs to shoot