Sunday, October 30, 2011
Last night featured a battle of two teams at the top of the NHL standings. The NHL leaders took on the Northeast Division leaders, with the Northeast Division leading Maple Leafs edging out the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3.
Pittsburgh may have the best penalty killing thus far but that didn't seem to matter, as the Leafs went 2/3 with the man advantage. All the scoring for the blue and white came from the top two lines as Grabovski, Connolly, MacArthur and Kessel put the puck in the net. On a night where former Leafs Captain Mats Sundin was in attendance, current Leaf Captain Dion Phaneuf played a great game. He laid a big hit on Evgeni Malkin and notched 2 assists. As a result, Kessel, Grabovski, MacArthur and Phaneuf all had 2 point nights. Jonas Gustavsson was at his best in net again making 34 saves, two of which were scary good by way of his glove hand. Phil Kessel was the first NHL player to reach 10 goals this year. The last time a Leaf player managed that was in the 1949/1950 season.
Tonight, the Maple Leafs are in Ottawa as they try to derail the suddenly surging Senators.
Friday, October 28, 2011
What do the musical "Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark" and the New York Rangers have in common? They both failed miserably opening night on Broadway! While the Spider - Man play had a myriad of problems the Rangers issue was clear, a 4 -2 win by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs welcomed Tyler Bozak and Tim Connolly back into the lineup, however James Reimer is still recovering from whiplash symptoms and was placed on IR. That meant Jonas Gustavsson got the call in between the pipes. Despite being knocked into the net three times by Rangers forwards and letting in a shaky goal early in the game, Gustavsson played his best game of the season. He made a spectacular glove save late in the first period, on his way to a 28 save performance. After allowing the opening goal of the game, the Maple Leafs scored four unanswered goals from Matthew Lombardi, Joffrey Lupul, Clarke MacArthur and Mike Brown. In addition to a goal, Mike Brown absolutely pummeled Rangers forward Kris Newbury with rapid fire fists during their second period fight. Tim Connolly played a straight forward game but didn't look out of place on the top line, creating several scoring chances. Phil Kessel added an assists to his point scoring totals and Jake Gardiner got his third assist in his young NHL career.
Saturday night will feature a battle of the NHL's top scorers as James Neal and the Pittsburgh Penguins will be in Toronto, to take on Phil Kessel and the Maple Leafs.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Watching your favourite team loose is never an enjoyable experience, but it is inevitable. Some losses are easier to swallow then others. The Leafs loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night was one of those losses.
Make no mistake, I hate it when the Blue and White loose, but in this case the effort was there and ultimately that's all you can hope for, that the team competes. That was certainly the case as there were several times throughout the game that Toronto carried the play in the offensive zone. Defensive miscues and Jaromir Jagr (yes the Mullet Man is back in the NHL), cost the Leafs two points. I know Jagr is on the older side of his playing days, but he's no Moses. Well, someone should've told Mike Komisarek that because Komisarek seemingly moved out of his way, leaving him all alone on a breakaway for his first goal upon returning to the NHL. I swear that goal looked like the scene in The Ten Commandments where Moses parts the red sea. The second mistake came on an ill advised pinch by John - Michael Liles late in the game, sending Jagr on another breakaway. He scored giving the Flyers a two goal cushion.
For the Maple Leafs, Phil Kessel scored his 9th goal of the season, while David Steckel did his best impression of Phil Kessel as he scored his third goal in as many games. Despite the loss Jonas Gustavsson was solid in net, making a phenomenal pad save on one of Jagr's three breakaways. The Maple Leafs will reportedly have James Reimer, Tyler Bozak and Tim Connolly back from injury and in the line up for their next game against the New York Rangers.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
As you can probably tell, their was no blog written for the game against Boston on Thursday. It's not because I didn't want to write about a Leaf loss. Truth be told, I was at a family function and didn't get a chance to pay much attention to the game. In retrospect, that's probably for the best given the result.
On to last night's game. Let it be known that I hate the Montreal Canadiens, and think their fans are the most ignorant and obnoxious bunch in the NHL. And that's saying something, given the fan base in Philadelphia. So there nothing better then watching the Leafs beat the Habs in Montreal on a Saturday night. As is typical for a game between these two rivals, it was a back and forth affair ending in a one goal difference, with the Leafs claiming victory by a 5-4 count. Goal scorers for the blue and white were David Steckel, Phil Kessel(Yeah, he's still on fire), Dion Phaneuf, Nikolai Kulemin and of course, Mikhail Grabovski in overtime. Two of the five goals came on the power play and the penalty kill was perfect. In addition to their goals, Phaneuf, Grabovski, and Kessel all had assists.
The game got a little scary when James Reimer left the game at the end of the first period after a collision with Montreal's ever so small captain Brian Gionta. Jonas Gustavsson played the rest of the game. The monster looked uneasy in net, and was to deep in his crease for two of the three goals he allowed. Reimer suffered whiplash symptoms and is listed as day to day.
As a final note. Is anyone else sick of listening to Glenn Healy. My blog is pro -Leafs, obviously. I'm a fan, not being payed to be impartial. As a broadcaster for a national network, you'd expect some impartiality. All you get with Glenn Healy is anti-leaf rhetoric. I mean the fact that Healy suggested that Reimer was faking the severity of his injury to draw a penalty? Are you kidding me. Is this guy bitter because Reimer can make a save, whereas Healy couldn't stop a beach ball? Or is he bitter because the Leafs didn't hire him, when they we're searching for a new GM post Pat Quinn? Either way, if I was CBC I'd tell Glenn Healy to take his bag pipes, lift his kilt and stick it where the sun don't shine! Next up for the Maple Leafs are the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday!
Thursday, October 20, 2011
I've been to quite a few games in my life time. I've seen regulation wins and just about every type of loss imaginable. Be it in regulation time, over-time, and the opposing team tie the game late to win it in the shootout. At yesterday's game against Winnipeg, for the first time live, I saw the Maple Leafs come back from a two goal deficit and win the game in a shootout.
As usual, the Leafs started slow out of the gate. That slow start extended through the first two periods, where a pitiful grand total of 12 shots was amassed. Of course, two former Leafs Antropov and Wellwood, (the NHL equivalent of Borat and Richard Simmons respectively), notched assists on two of Winnipeg's goals. The Leafs power play which has been as unsuccessful as finding water in a desert, erupted for two goals 27 seconds apart to tie the game before Matt Frattin scored the shootout winner. Kessel and Lupul were a dynamic duo on the ice. Kessel tallied a goal and two assists, while Lupul scored twice (breaking the net cam on his first goal). John-Michael Liles had a good outing with two assists. Jake Gardiner returned to the lineup and was the Leafs best defense man logging 25:09 in ice-time. Goaltender James Reimer allowed 3 goals on 29 shots but was perfect in the shootout.
Colby Armstrong suffered a lower body injury and will miss tonight's game against the Boston Bruins. It's being reported that Nazem Kadri will be called up to fill his spot.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Here come the cliche's. You ready? It was bound to happen eventually. Want another one? All good things must come to an end. As a Leafs fan though, this one is my all time favourite; Oh well, at least we got a point. Take your pick but no matter what cliche you use, the Toronto Maple Leafs lost 3-2 to the Colorado Avalanche in overtime. To be honest, the Leafs didn't play well enough for the win, so I'll gladly take the come from behind point.
Aside from Milan Hejduk (yes he's still playing, despite being the same age as Moses was when he received the 10 Commandments), Colorado's youth provided the rest of their offense. Goals came by way of Daniel Winnik and David Jones. As is typical with ex-Leafs who played average in Toronto, J.S. Giguere played a strong game stopping 27 shots to help the Av's to victory.
From the Blue and White perspective, Phil Kessel continued to put the puck in the net scoring his league leading sixth goal of the season. Nikolai Kulemin guaranteed the Leafs a point, scoring late in the third period. In addition to a goal, the Grabovski line had a bevy of scoring chances. On the negative side, our power play was atrocious, Mike Komisarek's lack of foot speed was ever so apparent (insert Gardiner back in the lineup ASAP), and Carl Gunnarsson looked lost out on the ice.
I'll be in attendance as the Maple Leafs play the Winnipeg Jets for the fist time in 15 years on Wednesday Night.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Ok, first off I've got nothing against the Calgary net minder but the tittle; KESSEL DOUSES FLAMES!, was already taken. Plus this rhymes. On with the blog. The Toronto Maple Leafs improved to 3W -0L with their 3-2 victory Saturday night over the Flames. It wasn't easy though, as Calgary jumped out to a two goal lead scoring 1:27 seconds apart. Of course as is always the case with former Leafs, Lee Stempniak and Niklas Hagman had assists on the goals.
After that, the Phil Kessel show began. He started out with an assist on Joffrey Lupul's goal, which pulled the Leafs to within one. Then Kessel powered passed a Calgary defense men and roofed the puck passed Kiprussof. After two periods the score was even. Kessel would then get the game winner early in the third, as he tucked the puck into the back of the net, just as a mother would gently tuck her child into bed for their afternoon nap. With a three point night Kessel now has 5 goals, 3 assists for 8 points on the season. More impressive then the offensive numbers, is Kessel's determination on the defensive side of the puck, which has been incredible over the first three games. Taking a cue from the WWE circa the late 80's, I've officially nicknamed Phil Kessel "Saturday Night Main Event!"
While I'm on the subject of defensive play, Tyler Bozak put on a clinic. He prevented 3 potential goals from Jarome Iginla with relentless back-checking. Add to that winning 74% of the face-offs he took, it's no wonder the Leafs were perfect on the penalty kill. Then there's James Reimer. After allowing two goals on two shots, he made 30 consecutive saves the rest of the way. Not the least of which were several pad saves in the third period to preserve the win. If that isn't enough to provoke ZZ Top to re-work the song "Legs" in honour of Reimer, I don't know what is!
The Maple Leafs will continue their five game home stand Monday night, against the Colorado Avalanche.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Halloween is 21 days away, yet the Toronto Maple Leafs felt the need to scare the crap out of me three weeks early. Wow, what a game! The Leafs dominated the contest over the lowly Ottawa Senators for 50 minutes, until a near meltdown saw the game end in a two close for comfort 6 - 5 win.
Despite the nail biting finish, there were more positives then negatives in this game. The power play accounted for key goals by Mikhail Grabovski and Joffrey Lupul, At the same time our penalty kill went 6/8 on the night, improving to 11/13 over two games. Then there's Phil Kessel who recorded his first hat-trick as a Maple Leafs, the third of his career. He now has 5 points in this early season. All without Tim Connolly. Imagine the potential amount of points Kessel can put on the board when his injured centre returns to the lineup.
You know it's a holiday that comes around once a year when Colton Orr scores a key goal. David Steckel continued to prove his worth with a 65% winning percentage on face-off's. As for Dion Phaneuf, he continues to lead by example. Not only did he get an assist increasing his point total to three, but he proved that he is the Leafs answer to Elvis Presley. He keeps cranking out the big hits! That CLEAN open -ice hit was as stunning as his girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert!
Make no mistake, the fact that Ottawa made the game close is alarming. However, at no point in the game did the Maple Leafs give up the lead. As the saying goes, they bent but didn't break. You can't blame Reimer for any of those goals. He was left by himself, while the team seemed to go into holiday mode 10 minutes too early. Still it's better this happened now, as the team has a week off to correct the mistakes.
The Toronto Maple Leafs next action comes against the Calgary Flames on Saturday. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving! I'm thankful for family, friends, good health and a perfect 2-0 start to the regular season.
Friday, October 7, 2011
It seems like forever since I sat down to write a Leaf Blog. Ok so forever is about 5 months, but it felt longer. I'm not going to run through all the off-season roster moves in detail. If you follow this team, you'll know that Tim Connolly, Matthew Lombardi, John-Michael Liles, Cody Franson and David Steckel are the new additions to the team. Let's cut right to the chase shall we, the 2011-2012 Season Opener against those dastardly Montreal Canadiens.
The first period was one of the worst periods of hockey I've seen. The Leafs were lackluster. Puck possession was non-existent, they couldn't make a crisp pass to save their lives, oh and did I mention were out shot 14-4? Had it not been for James Reimer and some stellar goal tending, Montreal could've easily had a couple goal. Speaking of Reimer, he was perfect the rest of the way with a 32 save shutout win! What a great way to quiet all the over -reacting fans who were worried about his pre-season numbers. Who cares about pre-season? I'd rather him struggle then as opposed to now, you know when it really matters!
If the Maple Leafs hope to improve this year, the penalty killing needs to be alot better then last season. After 1 game, so far so good. Not only were they 5/5 on the PK, they even scored a goal while a man down. Mathew Lombardi and Mike Brown broke away on a 2 on 1 rush and after a couple missed opportunities, Lombardi lifted the loose puck over a sprawled Carey Price. Talk about a feel good story. Here's a guy who missed an entire season due to concussion, and he gets a goal his first game back. For a guy who's supposedly not up to game speed yet, he's fast. At full speed, he might just be the fastest skater on the team. Basically, he's the Leafs equivalent of DC Comics superhero The Flash. Dion Phaneuf got the insurance goal with a rocket of a shot in the third period, capping off a two-point night for the Leaf captain.
Leaf rookies Jake Gardiner and Matt Frattin didn't look out of place. They had solid games. Another player who stood out was newest Leaf David Steckel, a face off specialist to be sure. Going 18/25 on the draw for a 72% total. Travis Green and Peter Zezel would be proud! Even Mike Komisarek had a good game. He didn't even take a penalty. I'll give you all a minute to pick yourselves up off the floor! He used his body, stayed in his own end, and made the safe plays. That's what he needs to do. Don't try to be Mr. Everything, because your not!
After beating the NHL's version of McDonald's small fries (definitely not nearly as good), the Maple Leafs will battle their provincial rivals on Saturday.