Tuesday Mashup: Attack of the Copycat Jerseys

Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, right, reacts after scoring the game winning goal as Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman, left, look on during over-time NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, April 5, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Tonight, the Leafs will host one of the surprise teams in the League this season in the 31-16-5 Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite the loss of Stamkos after his 14-goals-in-17-games start, their reliance on the emergence of an inexperienced netminder and a supporting cast with quite a bit of rookie content, it’s  all come up aces for Jon Cooper, who is a serious Jack Adams candidate through 52 games.

Ben Bishop’s numbers are jaw dropping, with a 26-6-4 record and a .934 save percentage.  The decision to buy out Lecavalier and hand the captaincy to St. Louis, the Bishop for Conacher trade and the Valteri Filppula signing are looking pretty smart right about now.  They’re in great shape and are anticipating a big addition within the next couple of weeks.

The Leafs meanwhile appear to have everyone in wait and see mode at the moment. The way the team manages to win some nights and the pattern of results –  four consecutive losses in regulation, followed by six straight wins, followed by two losses (one in OT) – seems to have many fans unsure as to which direction this season is headed. That may be the answer right there – this is going to be a dog fight right until the very end in a heavily congested Eastern Conference playoff picture between positions 4 all the way down to 13.

Onto the links…

ICYMI: Anthony’s Monday Leafs Notebook looks at the PK and tons of other stuff
Doing a disservice to yourself by not reading this, if you haven’t yet.

JvR and Kessel are banged up, but expect to play tonight
Nobody panic!

JvR and Kessel’s health after the Olympics could be a concern
Everybody panic!

Trevor Smith is just about ready to return
Carlyle apparently plans to add him to the lineup. Too unrealistic to hope for four complete lines?

Phaneuf leads offensive attack plan from Leafs’ rearguards
Three points in his last four.

Nikolai Kulemin is not a fan of Don Cherry
I’m sure we’re all shocked  Cherry skipped past Clarkson and went right for Kulemin among wingers “paid too much” and have done “nothing.” 

Veteran backup Marty Biron feels Reimer’s pain
Even worse in Biron’s case – it was that prick Ryan Miller who took his job.

Tonight’s opponent, the high flying Lightning, have quite a few rookies
Many played under Cooper in Syracuse the season prior and love playing for the guy.

The Many Faces of Phil Kessel
Bookmark it for when you’re feeling blue.