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.

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]
  • 27leafs99

    Alec – does Tampa still play a trapping style of game?

  • mcloki

    Mornign Gents. Tonights game is going to be a big challenge.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Leafs have a way of rising to the challenge.  I demand they destroy the Lightning tonite and next week.  Who knows, maybe then TSN will set fit to move the Leafs to the rank of 18th or 19th best team.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Murph2417 A bold prediction of who will be netminder?

  • MaxwellHowe

    CanuckUKinToronto Not really a pressing question at all is it?  Well Phaneuf has to shut down St. Louis, if he can manage to catch up to him.

  • MaxwellHowe

    CanuckUKinToronto MaxwellHowe yeah the supporting cast for the Leafs has been altogether useless.

  • MaxwellHowe

    So Conner Brown scores 100 points in 48 games and morons who call themselv es Leaf fans already assure us that he might possibly be a third liner with the Leafs or second liner with the Marlies.  Holy crap, I understand the need for restrained expectations, but what else could the kid do?  So he is draft +2 or whatever, but how much better could he possibly do?  Leafs can draft all the rawly talented 6 foot 4 monsters in the first round, we can go on about their skating ability and wrist shot, but if they haven’t developed a hockey IQ or a scoring knack by the age of 18 – after years of paying – I really don’t know why people imagine that suddenly a Tyler Biggs or Fred Gauthier can become a 30 goal scorer when they never scored in any league they ever played in.
    Conner Brown obviousy has an instinct and work ethic that can’t be taught.  And he can work on his skating, even his stature to some degree.   I would take a prospect like Conner Brown over a Gauthier or Biggs any day of the week.  Good on the Leafs scouting personnel for selecting him.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Murph2417 CanuckUKinToronto MaxwellHowe Leafs just need to get invested in the game and skate.  Thats why the P{K suffering.  Guys are not skating or playing with urgency.  At least that deficiency gives me hope for the playoffs – they can and will up their game.

  • MaxwellHowe

    -Keon- not any more

  • MaxwellHowe

    -Keon- Then why is there such a value placed on drafting for mediocrity in the first round?  You know this, you’ve seen the Leaf draft choices over the years.  Kadri and Rielly are like double rainbows for Christ sake; a true rarity for Leaf fans.
    Leafs chose Gauthier – probably a great kid, don’t get me wrong, and the Habs wanted him, so OK, we screw over the habs, cool.  But that kid Petan who lit it up at the WJC?  Yeah he might never make it, he might be a Brandon Kozun.  But he might be a St. Louis or Fleury as well.