Thursday, September 30, 2010


The final game of the pre - season battle of Ontario was won by the Toronto Maple Leafs as they edged out a 4 - 3 victory over their provincial rivals. Both teams dressed almost complete NHL lineups, and the game had the physicality and animosity of a regular season match up. A big hit from Mike Komisarek on Daniel Alfredsson, and Francois Beauchemin using Alex Kovalev's big nose as a punching bag, set the tone for the Leafs. Kulemin and Kadri staked the Leafs to a two goal lead after one period of play, before Ottawa tied the game in the second period. The Sens then took the lead early in the third. Their one and only lead of the game would be short lived as Kadri took over in the third. The rookie scored the equalizer after making a beautiful move, and putting home his own rebound. Late in the third period of play the rookie showed great patience before setting up a point shot from Dion Phaneuf, that was deflected into the back of the net by Phil Kessel. Kadri responded well to the media pressure by scoring two goals, and adding an assist. It may be a case of too little too late, as Ron Wilson said that his spot on the team will be determined by his entire pre - season, not just one game. The Leafs went 5/5 on the penalty kill, and 3/9 on the power play, with J.S. Giguere making 22 saves in the winning effort. The Maple Leafs will close out the pre - season with a home and home set with the Red Wings, starting in Detroit on Friday at 7pm

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


This is a recording, the latest Toronto Maple Leaf pre-season two game set, this time with the Buffalo Sabres, saw both teams gain a victory. The Sabres gained the upper hand in the game in Buffalo with a 3 - 1 win.  That game featured a Sabres squad full of NHL talent, playing their first exhibition game, against a Leaf team that was playing their fifth game in five nights. The Leafs dressed one of their most inexperienced rosters to date, and had it not been for the goal tending of Jonas Gustavsson and Jussi Rynnas, the score would have been that much worse.  The only goal scorer for the Maple Leafs was Nikolai Kulemin, who scored on an offensive zone face-off after Grabovski won the draw.

I was in attendance for the second game at the Air Canada Centre, and saw my first live win in two seasons, as the Blue and White won a back and forth battle 5 - 4.  The Leafs line-up was very close to what we will see on opening night, and the Leafs top players made the difference. Kessel and Kulemin scored two goals each, while Christian Hanson notched his first goal of the pre-season.  I was really impressed with the top line of Versteeg, Bozak, and Kessel.  That line is a scoring threat with all three players capable of scoring.  Versteeg is something special with the puck on his stick.  I haven't seen a Maple Leafs first line of this quality since the days that Gary Roberts, Mats Sundin, and Alex Mogilny played together.  The second line was also solid with Kulemin, Grabovski, and MacArthur.  Kulemin will provide the goalscoring on this trio, with Grabovski being the playmaker(yes, he can actually pass the puck), and MacArthur doing the gritty work to get those two the puck.  I was also impressed with Luca Caputi, who is really making the most of this preseason, with his nightly effort in an attempt to make this team.  Mike Brown has been a pleasant surprise.  He won't score many goals, but he is tenacious, physical, and defensively conscientious on the penalty kill.  The Leafs will continue to trim the roster to its final form in the final three pre - season games starting Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators at 7:30pm 

Saturday, September 25, 2010


The Toronto Maple Leafs continued their pre-season with back to back games with the Philadelphia Flyers.  Like the two game set with Ottawa, this min pre-season series also saw the teams each win a game.  Both games required a shootout to decide a winner, with the Leafs taking the first game in London, and the Flyers taking game two in Toronto.  The first game saw Toronto battle back twice from one goal deficits to tie the game at 2 - 2. A marathon shootout went 11 rounds, before the Leafs came away with the win.  Colby Armstrong was the offensive hero, scoring the game equalising goal, and the shootout winner.  James Reimer was simply phenomenal during the game, in which he stopped all but one shot, and then stopped seven out of ten shots in the shootout.  Reimer, Armstrong, Versteeg, Brown and Richmond were the Maple Leafs best players.

In game two, the Blue & White dressed its most experienced NHL roster to date with Giguere playing the full sixty minutes.  For fifty minutes it looked like all that NHL talent was going to pay off, as the Maple Leafs held a 3 - 1 lead over the Flyers on goals from Versteeg, Kessel, and Phaneuf.  However, a combination of sitting back trying to protect the lead, and some bad bounces allowed Philadelphia to square the game at 3 - 3.  The Leafs had the game winner in overtime via Phil Kessel, but the goal was wrongfully disallowed due to poor referee positioning, and the unavailability to use video review in pre - season..  The Flyers capitalized on their opportunities in the shootout.  Despite the loss, the Leafs power play was once again potent, and their penalty killing was formidable.  The Toronto Maple Leafs are back in action again, this time in a back to back battle with their QEW rivals the Buffalo Sabres, starting tonight at 7pm on LEAFS TV.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Leafs Split Pre - Season Battle of Ontario With Sens!

The pre - season is a go and started off with a back to back battle of Ontario with the Sens. At first glance, fans may assume that this team will once again have that "Jekyll and Hyde" persona that has plague the team in recent years. Despite the two different results in the first two outings, that would be an unfair assessment. The first game saw a plethora of minor league talent and rookies, interspersed with what I would consider a mere 7 bonafide NHL players. I am not one to make excuses for this team, but a lack of experience and cohesiveness, had a hand in the 5 - 0 defeat. The Leafs were abysmal on the power play going 0/8. They squandered two five on three opportunities, both over a minute in length, and had no structure, with most of their shots being blocked or going hopelessly wide. In game two, the Maple Leafs lineup boasted eleven NHL regulars and the results showed. The power play scored all four Leaf goals in the 4 - 1 victory. Kulemin, Kessel, Caputi, and Grabovski all got their names on the score sheet, and the penalty kill was flawless. The rookie goal tending tandem James Reimer and Ben Scrivens, did their part to halt any Ottawa scoring threats.

Here are some of my very early first impressions. Nazem Kadri is simply trying to do too much. He needs to settle down, relax and play his game. Don't get caught in the media hype proclaiming you the "saviour" of this franchise. Get back to basics. Kris Versteeg and Colby Armstrong were the only two forwards who showed any jump in the Leafs opening game, and may prove to be phenomenal signings by Burke. Phil Kessel looks to be in mid season form already. Last night he seemed faster then before, and every time he had the puck, he was a scoring threat. If this trend continues 40 goals is a very real possibility from him this year. It seems to me that the Leafs may finally have some depth in net and are in good shape for years to come. Finally, young Jesse Blacker for the last couple of years is proving to be a solid d -man. At 19 years old, he rarely seems to make a bad decision, and in his first pre-season game this season recorded two assists. A few years down the line he could be an integral part of the teams top six defensive lineup. Pre - season continues tonight as the Maple Leafs play the first part of a back to back set with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Training Camp Begins!

The Leafs mini 3 game rookie tournament has come to a close. The Leafs lost their final game against the Senators due to penalty trouble, despite getting goals from key prospects Bradley Ross and Jerry D'Amigo, which put them in the lead heading to the third period. Now that hockey's equivalent of kindergarten is over, it's time for everything to get serious. 63 players have been invited to training camp. All of those 63 individuals have the same goal, to make the cut for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Realistically, this is an impossibility. A large portion will be sent back to their junior clubs, hoping to have at least gained some insight for next time. Others will fill the roster of the AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies. After all, only 23 men are eligible to call themselves Toronto Maple Leafs. It is in that quest for the final 23, that questions are raised, and need to be answered.

Three major quires are nagging me as training camp gets underway. First is on defense. With 8 NHL ready d-men, and five of six spots seemingly spoken for, who fills that final spot? Gunnarsson or Lebda? Will the team dress seven defense men to accommodate both? My second question is in regards to the centre position? Specifically, which players will fill the top two centre roles? Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, Mikhail Grabovski, and Marcel Mueller are the main contenders for the top two spots. For that matter, who will be our bottom two line centres. That position could be filled by any number of candidates including Christian Hanson, John Mitchell, and Brayden Irwin? The question on every Leaf fans mind is what the line combinations will look like come opening night? That answer will be known on opening night, but the answers to the other questions, will be revealed throughout the pre-season, which begins on Tuesday night when the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Ottawa Senators.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Game two of the Toronto Maple Leafs three game rookie tournament against the Pittsburgh Penguins yielded a far different result then the first contest. The Leafs' rookies were outplayed in all three periods and with the exception of spurts of solid puck control, couldn't match the effort of the Penguins. The Maple Leafs were without their top prospect Nazem Kadri due to a hip injury and their only offence came in the form of Brayden Irwin. Irwin was signed out of college late last season by the club and played in two regular season games for the Maple Leafs. The 6'5 215lbs Toronto native was the best player on the ice for the Maple Leafs. He played in every situation and placed a beautiful shot past the Penguins net minder to put Toronto up 1 - 0 after the first period. While Irwin is not the fastest skater known to man, he posses a fantastic shot, and uses his size well to win puck battles. With a little more tutelage in the AHL Brayden Irwin could be a solid addition to the big club in the near future.

The other player who made an impact despite the loss was another college signing, goaltender Ben Scrivens. Scrivens stopped 32 out of 34 shots directed his way, and despite being beaten in the last minute of the game, kept the Leafs in touch with some big saves throughout the contest. Were it not for him, the score would have gotten out of hand in the Penguins favour. He definitely merits serious consideration for Marlies net minding duty. The Toronto Maple Leafs will close out this rookie tournament against their provincial rival Ottawa Senators Tuesday night at 7pm on Rogers TV.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Can you sense it? That slight chill in the air? That is a sure sign that hockey season is upon us. Actually, it's already here. The Toronto Maple Leafs annual Rookie tournament got underway last night against the rookies of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Sure wins and losses don't count, and no points are awarded for the victory, but the young Leafs started the tournament in style with a 6 - 3 win. For a team that had nothing to do in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft this year, the Leafs scouts were looking pretty smart last night, as the top 3 picks of the 2010 draft scored Toronto's first three goals. Brad Ross and Sondre Olden put the Leafs up 2 - 0 early in the contest, and then Greg McKegg scored a highlight reel goal to restore the Leafs two goal lead to 3 - 1. Rounding out the scoring en route to the three goal victory were Jerry D'Amigo, Kenny Ryan, and Simon Gysbers. Goaltender Jussi Rynnas played his first ever North American hockey game, and despite an understandably shaky first period, was very solid in the final 2 periods stopping a total of 31 shots. Most of these young players are eligible to return to their junior teams, and are likely to do so, but all put in a great effort in their first outing wearing the Maple Leafs sweater. Two players who really impressed, and are likely to start the season with the Marlies are Simon Gysbers, and Jerry D'Amigo. At 6'4 and 200lbs Gysbers looked like a tower out on the ice and was very solid on the defensive side of the puck, while also chipping in offensively with 2 assists. Jerry D'Amigo showed speed, grit, tenacity, and some great hand eye co-ordination with his tip in goal. With his effort it is no wonder why Leafs management is so keen on this kid. The Maple Leafs rookies will skate back into action tonight against the youngsters of the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7pm on Rogers TV.