Tuesday, 28 August 2012


In this episode, the ever-so-wacky Tim Connolly has to be serious. He is having some really troublesome health issues. But GM Brian Burke knows a good doctor or two, and with the help of an unlikely friend, Tim realizes that his health problem isn't so bad after all.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

NHL13 - Thoughts on the Demo

Finally I've mustered enough desire to fight off the laziness that has kept me from writing an article over the last few months. This is because EA Sports has released the Demo for NHL 13 today. The game will be available on September 11th, 2012.

After pretty much releasing the same game since 2008 with some minor tweaks over the last four years, this year EA Sports added a bit more to the game. Is it completely different? Absolutely not. Are there a lot of tweaks or just a few? There isn't a lot, but there isn't a few. However, the parts that were revamped this year compared to years in the past were done very carefully to the best detail.

So, what's new?

Speaking strictly about gameplay, there are a few improvements they have made this year. Some for the better, some that may need to be working on by next year to get it just right. The biggest improvement this year is the new skating engine. Players actually look like they're skating across the ice. Unlike previous years where you could do things like stop, turn on a dime and skate at full speed, the skating this year is far more realistic. The downside with the skating, and what may end up being a problem with the game until it is patched by EA (hopefully), is the new skating backwards option. It's a great idea to fully optimize skating as their tutorial video shows, but I think the backwards skating is way too powerful and will end up being a big problem when playing other users online. I have already seen a shoot-out glitch goal where the skater just skates backwards towards the goalie until the last second and turns to face the goalie to score. He did it over and over again only missing a few times.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Kings End One Stanley Cup Drought, But Two More Continue

The Los Angeles Kings win the Stanley Cup for
the first time in franchise history.
The Los Angeles Kings have won the Stanley Cup for the first time in their history. The season had many ups and downs for the Kings, but they managed to make their way into the playoffs by capturing the eighth and final spot in the West. But when the playoffs started, the Kings put their regular season struggles behind them and rolled through each of their opponents with relative ease to capture the Stanley Cup.

The Kings, joined the National Hockey League back in 1967, along with five other teams. This was the league first major expansion and would be the start of many more to come over the next several decades. The downside for cities which already had teams in the NHL was the increased competition, and with that  came a lower chance of success. Although the Kings managed to break their drought, which lasted nearly half a century, there are two more droughts dating back to that same season where the NHL expanded from six to twelve teams.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Roberto Luongo in a Leafs uniform

Roberto Luongo may no longer be a Vancouver Canuck
by the start of next season
PHOTO: nhl.com
Following a season where the Leafs found themselves free falling from a playoff spot to a top 5 draft pick, largely due to inconsistent play in the defensive zone and sub-par goaltending, many fans and members of the media are looking for change. One name that has been rumoured to be on the move this off-season is Vancouver Canucks goalie, Roberto Luongo.

Luongo has played his last six seasons in Vancouver, however with the emergence of Cory Schneider, and the Canucks coaching staff leaning towards him in crucial playoff games, it would seem Luongo would be on his way out. But does he really want to play in Toronto? And how badly do the Leafs need a starting goalie? Well, let's look at the last decade of so of Leafs goaltending.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Who Is Ray Whitney?

Ray Whitney, #13 Phoenix Coyotes
PHOTO: nhl.com

So we all know who Ray Whitney is, and we all are finally realizing that he is good, but how good is he? Whitney was a name that was seldom mentioned even just a few years ago. Somehow he has managed to remain one of the most underrated players in the NHL over the last decade or so, and despite the fact that he is 40 years old, he is still putting up great numbers late in his career. 

Success in hockey came early for the Canadian-born Whitney. In his third year playing for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League (WHL), he lead the league with 185 points and helped the Chiefs win the 1991 Memorial Cup. He was drafted 23rd overall by the San Jose Sharks in 1991, however his NHL career didn't start off as well as he would have liked. Whitney played the better part of two season in the International Hockey League (IHL). After four partial seasons with the Sharks, Whitney was sent down and split time in the American Hockey League (AHL) and IHL. It was only in the 1997-98 season, when Whitney was already 25 years old, that he started to play complete seasons and put up points just shy of a point per game.

On March 31st, Whitney became the 79th player in history to reach 1000 points in the NHL. He had 77 points in the regular season this year, and since the lockout has put up 468 points in 529 games. In total, he has 1003 points in 1229 NHL games. He also helped the Carolina Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup in the year following the lockout season. Despite the good numbers, and the ability to do so year after year, he rarely seemed to be mentioned in a conversation of top players in the league. In fact, in the last twenty years that he has played in the NHL he has never made more than $3.55M per season.  

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Philadelphia Flyers - Acquiring a goalie PART II

Ilya Bryzgalov pulls the puck out of his net as the Flyers
face elimination in the playoffs
When Paul Holmgren, the GM of the Philadelphia Flyers, acquired Ilya Bryzgalov, he thought all of the goaltending issues that plagued the team over the past few years were a thing of the past. But as time has shown, not only is there still have a ton of issues, but they are also shedding quite a bit of salary towards their goalies, mainly Bryzgalov, whereas in the past that wasn't the case. Holmgren made some aggressive moves in the summer to fit Bryzgalov's salary under the cap, and isn't getting his moneys worth, while Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the big name players that he traded, are in the Conference finals with the Los Angeles Kings. I don't think Holmgren ever thought that he needed a backup plan for a starting goalie, but he definitely needs to figure something out for next season.

The last time the Flyers won the cup was 1975. While the Flyers have shown themselves as Cup contenders in recent years, goaltending has been a lingering thorn in their side. Since the lock-out, the Flyers have used several goalies from season to season, and even game to game. There have been eight goalies to play more than a handful of games, Antero Niittymaki, Robert Esche, Martin Biron, Michael Leighton, Ray Emery, Brian Boucher, Sergei Bobrovsky and Ilya Bryzgalov. All of which have shown that they are not capable starting goalies. With the exception of Bryzgalov, they are either all back-up goalies or they aren't even in the NHL anymore.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Rambling on about Sheriff Shanny

Shea Weber smashes Henrik Zetterberg's face into
the glass twice

Brenden Shanahan is in charge of administering discipline to NHL players whose actions are not within the rules of the NHL and thus warrant punishment. The punishment is usually a fine, suspension or both.

Let us look at his role administering suspensions and fines thus far in the playoffs. Things started off really bumpy when Shanahan chose only to give Shea Weber a $2500 fine for his attack on Henrik Zetterberg in game one. Weber took Zetterberg by the back of his head and smashed his face into the glass twice. Since that decision, it seems Shanahan is determined to punish every player regardless of whether they are a superstar or not, which is something that should have been done from the start, but now leaves a void of confusion from player to player as to what will get you suspended and what will not.

Friday, 20 April 2012

After Four Games Of The First Round In The West

Crawford lets the puck slide past him in overtime and the
Blackhawks lose in another tight game with the Coyotes
PHOTO: nhl.com
So, we've made it to the halfway point of the first round of the playoffs, and it has been rather eventful when compared to previous years. Here is my breakdown of each series this far.


The Canucks finished this season with the best record in the NHL, which earns them the President's trophy, but things didn't quite go their way early in the playoffs. Daniel Sedin didn't play in their first three games for the Canucks as the Kings jumped to an 3-0 series lead. Vancouver would win game four with Daniel Sedin in the line-up, but have a big hill to climb.

Roberto Luongo played in net for the Canucks in games one and two, and played considerably well, but Cory Schneider was given the call for game three to change things up. Despite the loss in game three, Schneider, who played well, was given the nod to start in net for game four which he won. This raises a lot of questions about the future of Luongo and whether or not he will be playing for the Canucks in the near future.

The real goaltending story in this series is Jonathan Quick for the Los Angeles Kings. In my opinion he has been the best goalie of the playoffs thus far.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Are the Leafs the worst team in the league?

Leafs are dominated by the Flyers
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com

The Toronto Maple Leafs suffer yet another humiliating loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers and all is lost for many Leaf fans. While some fans are calling for General Manager Brian Burke to be fired, others are calling the Leafs the worst team in the league.

The harsh words and opinions may simply be the aftermath of another disappointing season, which showcased a rather significant debacle. Regardless of anything, the fact of the matter is that the Leafs haven't appeared in the playoffs in eight years.

But let's be honest, everyone calling for Burke's head and running around saying the Leafs are the worst team in the league, are the same people that were claiming to be the #1 Leaf fan a few months ago. So, sometimes things didn't go as planned. In fact, things went terribly. This season ends as a completely failure for the Maple Leafs, but why is everyone blowing up over how bad the team plays in meaningless games?

Friday, 16 March 2012

The Leafs Aren't Nearly As Bad As Their Record Suggests

James Reimer and Phil Kessel celebrate after their victory
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
Quite possibly one of the worst collapses in recent memory is that of the Toronto Maple Leafs this season. Two months ago the Leafs were in a respectable playoff position with hopes of playing in the post-season for the first time in almost a decade. However, a monumental collapse in February, that has continued into March as well, has left the Leafs stranded far from a playoff spot as they currently sit seventh last in the entire league. With the win yesterday, Toronto's record is 31-32-8 with only 11 games left in the season. But are the Maple Leafs really as bad as their record suggests?

The Leafs only have three wins in their last 15 games, and many fans who were praising the team just a few months ago, are now turning against Brian Burke, with complaints that he hasn't assembled a good enough roster. In my opinion, such criticism is not fair to Brian Burke. Many are quick to judge, but have short memories. Before Brian Burke became the General Manager in Toronto, the teams top three forwards were Matt Stajan, Alex Ponikarovski and Nik Antropov. Now, our top three forwards are Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, and Mikhail Grabovski, a big improvement from the previous three players listed.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Bruins beat Leafs 5-4, Leafs playoff hopes fade

Bruins celebrate second period goal vs Leafs
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
The Toronto Maple Leafs were host to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night in search of a win to revive their playoff aspirations, but things didn't go their way. As has been the tradition in the past, the Bruins dominated the majority of the game, especially the second period. The Leafs would lose the game by a score of 5-4.

Toronto scored first and stayed in the game early, as the both teams bounced goals back and forth. The momentum began to seriously shift in Boston's direction late in the first period and continued in the second. A pair of quick goals from the Bruins in the second period was the turning point in this game. The Leafs would gain some momentum back in the third as Mikhail Grabovski, who just signed a 5-year contract extension, scored to cut the Bruins' lead in half. In the end though, some collapses in the Leafs defensive zone in the second period lost them the game.

Randy Carlyle mentioned earlier this week that each player will have a specific role on the team under his coaching. That was evident as Jay Rosehill was inserted back into the Leafs starting line-up and fought Shawn Thornton. Colby Armstrong and Tim Connolly also dropped the gloves, although Tim Connolly and Brad Marchand were only given minor roughing penalties for their short tussle.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Leafs Win in Carlyle's debut as Head Coach

Randy Carlyle during practice
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
Randy Carlyle made his debut as Leafs coach tonight in Montreal. The Leafs won the game by a score of 3-1. The Leafs came out with some jump tonight, but the Habs quickly matches their pace and slowed down the team in blue.

Montreal got on the board in the first period and really took the momentum from there. In the second though, the Leafs started to get their game going. Matt Frattin tied the game as he pulled the puck off a scrummed face-off and threw it at the net, over the glove of Carey Price. The third period was a little dull compared to the first two, until Mikhail Grabovski broke the deadlock with a beautifully placed shot into the top corner. The game really heated up after that goal as Montreal pressed for the equalizer, but late in the game Frattin fed the puck to Grabovski, who was wide open in front, and he put his second of the game past Carey Price.

This was the first win for the Leafs since February 15th, and their second win in just under a month. It might be too late for the Leafs to rejuvenate a playoff run, but this win gives a glimmer of hope. The Leafs are three points behind the Jets for the last playoff spot, but will have to jump Tampa Bay, Washington, and Buffalo, assuming the Sabres convert their lead into a win tonight.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Leafs Fire Coach Ron Wilson, Hire Randy Carlyle

Ron Wilson, former Leafs coach
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com

The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired their coach, Ron Wilson. TSN's Darren Dreger broke the news just after 8pm EST today. Following a dreadful month of February, where the Leafs playoff aspirations fell from a near certainty to next to impossible, the move that many expected has been made, and the Leafs fire Wilson.

Wilson has been the coach of the Maple Leafs since the beginning of the 2008-2009 NHL season. He coached the Maple Leafs for just less than four full seasons. His cumulative record with the Leafs was 130-135-45. The Leafs are in a terrible stretch where they have only won once in their last 11 games, with a record of 1-9-1 that seems to have crippled any hope for the post season.

It's being reported that former Anaheim Ducks coach Randy Carlyle is new coach for the Maple Leafs. In six full seasons with the Ducks, Carlyle never had a losing season and won the Stanley cup in 2007. Carylye was fired earlier in the season after his Ducks only amassed seven wins in 24 games to open the season. Carlyle has only coached the Ducks in his career. His all time coaching record is 273-182-61. He has also won 36 of the 62 playoffs games for a 0.581 winning percentage.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

NEW VIDEO! Fire Wilson!

Simply put, Brian Burke was noted as saying that he believes the current team he has built is a playoff team. Some may agree, some may disagree, the fact of the matter is that they're on the edge of becoming a lottery team. If it's not the players on the team he has built, it must be the coach. Yet, he still hasn't fired his buddy Ron Wilson. Something doesn't add up.


Tuesday, 28 February 2012

NHL Trade Deadline - Full Recap

The NHL's trade deadline past yesterday at 3pm EST. There were more than a few big names kicking around as many major sports broadcasts launched their respective ten-hour trade deadline specials. I'll cut to the chase though, most of the bigger name players, such as Nash, Grabovski and others, ending up staying put with their current teams. The day moved slow, but in the end there were more than a dozen trades before the deadline.

Here is a recap of each trade and a bit on who I think walked out a winner, and who walked out a loser.

Nashville had one Kostitsyn brother, and got the other to get some chemistry between the two for their playoff run this season, but they may have given up too much for a pending UFA. Kostitsyn was drafted 10th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens. The 27-year old had 20 goals and 45 points in 81 games last season and is at a similar pace this season. Those aren't astonishing numbers, but he may prove to be a good secondary scorer. Andrei's brother Sergei will be an RFA this summer. If he decides to stay in Nashville, maybe he can convince his brother to stay as well, and Nashville might walk out winning this trade after all.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

This is the part of the movie where "The Monster" is destroyed

Jonas Gustavsson, #50, Toronto Maple Leafs
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
In the movie of the Toronto Maple Leafs 2012 season, the hero is currently at war with the villain. However, in this complex story-line, the villain is actually one of the good guys who means well, but can't seem to handle the pressure and ends up doing harm to their surroundings. The villain is Jonas Gustavsson, and even though he is good at heart, the hero, Brian Burke, needs to take him down, away from the surroundings where he is causing all this destruction.

Last nights hockey game will likely mark the beginning of the end of the Gustavsson goaltending experiment in Toronto. It takes a special kind of goalie to play in this city. He has to be composed, confident, and skilled. It doesn't take much for the fans in Toronto to turn on you, as we have seen in recent years with Vesa Toskala and Andrew Raycroft, just to name a few. Without those three characteristics in perfect balance, this city will eat you up as a goalie.

Gustavsson, who is 27 years old and in the last year of his current contract, will likely be a free agent this summer. I hope the best for him, and I hope he thrives in a smaller market that doesn't demand perfection from their goalies. Without all the pressure on his shoulders, he may be able to find more consistency in his game.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Leafs win 3-1 over Devils... Wait, no they lost 4-3 courtesy Jonas Gustavsson

Joffrey Lupul's facial expression says it all.
Leafs lose 4-3 in overtime on Tuesday night
PHOTO: TMLsHockeyBlog
The Maple Leafs played 60 hard minutes in Toronto tonight. It has been a while since I have seen the team put in a complete effort like this. They are on the wrong side of a losing skid and barely in a playoff spot, mostly due to the Washington Capitals struggling just as much as Toronto.

The Leafs started the game with a ton of effort and speed, but it was the Devils that scored first as the Leafs defenders left Petr Sykora wide open to tap in his own rebound. From there, Jonas Gustavsson would take over. He let in two bad goals through the five hole that seemed to zap the Leafs of any momentum as they were pushing back to take the lead in the hockey game. Down 3-2 in the final minute of the third period, Phil Kessel would slide the puck past Brodeur and tie the game, but in overtime the Monster struck again. Mark Fayne's point shot was going wide, but Gustavsson stretched to stop it anyway. The puck would hit Gustavsson under his left arm and bounce into the net. The Leafs would lose 4-3 in overtime.

This is the final straw for the goaltenders in Toronto. Enough is enough and something needs to give. I can't imagine Gustavsson will get another start for a while. To say the Toronto's playoff hopes are in jeopardy is an understatement. They need a goalie that can make the simple saves, and sometimes make a big save. As it stands right now, neither of the goalies on their active roster, James Reimer or Jonas Gustavsson, have proven to be a number one goaltender. The starting role has bounced back and forth for a while now. You would think that one of the goalies would take the opportunity and run with it, but that hasn't happened.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Leafs lose 6-2 to Canucks

Leafs goalies Jonas Gustavsson (left) and James Reimer (right)
as Reimer was pulled from the net in Saturday's game
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a really bad whole and can't seem to climb out of it. They have just won win in their last six games including last nights 6-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks shed some light on truly what kind of team the Leafs can be against a top team in the league. The answer on this night was a skilled offensive team with terrible defensive zone coverage, and two goalies who, rather than play really well to prove they want and have earned the starting goaltending job, end up getting the start moreso based on the other goalie's struggling efforts.

The game started out bad when the Canucks scored in the first off a mis-timed pinch by Keith Aulie. We've seen too many of those come back and end up in the back of our net. Aulie needs to gage when is a good time to pinch, and when isn't. Once in a while you will make mistakes, but you would think after being burned by that play so many times, he would be more hesitant to pinch.

It's tough to blame James Reimer on many of the goales the Canucks scored on him last night, but on the flip side he didn't go out there and make any big saves to help the team. If you're a bubble team like Toronto you need your goalie to step up and make some big saves every game. I'm not deflecting away from the issue, which is absolutely awful defensive zone coverage, but a big save from Reimer would have been nice last night. Jonas Gustavsson came into the game in relief of Reimer, and did not look any better, in fact I would say he looked worse, but I wasn't really paying attention, tuning in and out at that point.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Habs trade Hal Gill to Predators

Hal Gill
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
It must be really difficult to manage a team when the ownership keeps you on a really tight budget. Such is the problem in Nashville. That is why in the off-season the Predators traded Cody Franson and Matthew Lombardi to the Maple Leafs for Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney. The only reason the Predators gave up an asset like Franson is because they wanted to get Lombardi's contract off their books. Nashville would end up letting Lebda go and keeping Slaney, until today.

The Predators traded Slaney along with Blake Geoffrion and a second round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for Hal Gill and a conditional draft pick. Gill, who is 36 years old, is in the last year of his current contract and will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer. With not much money left to pay to Gill from now until the end of the season, the Predators add some depth to their defense as they prepare for the playoffs, at a very minimal cost.

Looking back at the those two trades, there isn't much return for what the Predators have given up. They did manage to save the 3.5 million dollars per year, for this year and next year, that Lombardi would have been paid, but have given up quite a bit for not much in return. Compared to last years roster, out of Nashville is Cody Franson, Matthew Lombardi, Blake Geoffrion, and a second round draft pick, and in return is just Hal Gill, who is likely just a rental player until the end of the season.

Mikhail Grabovski Trade Rumour - What Makes Sense?

Mikhail Grabovski, 84, Toronto Maple Leafs
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
When asked about Mikhail Grabovski on Insider Trading, Thursday night, TSN analyst Darren Dreger had this to say:
"The preference is to sign him, but he could go. In fact, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a deal on the table, right now, that would give them a second round draft pick and a prospect for Mikhail Grabovski. Brian Burke believes that he can sweeten that, if necessary, maybe get a first rounder out of the deal. But again, they're not making that decision until February 27th. They know they need him, and the preference is to sign him."
The Leafs will only trade Grabovski if they feel a contract will not be figured out by the trade deadline on February 27th. Toronto does not want to let him go to a free agent market without getting anything in return. Ideally though, Maple Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke, wants him to remain in the blue and white if the two sides can agree on a deal.

As it stands now, the offer of a prospect and a second round draft pick is a bit weak for Grabovski. There is no indication on how good a prospect is on the table, but unless it is a very good prospect, with a ton of NHL upside, I don't think the offer is enough to get Burke to pull the trigger. If in fact Grabovski is to be traded before the trade deadline, he is likely to get a better offer in the next week and a half.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Rick Nash in a Leaf uniform - Is it a good idea?

Rick Nash, #61, Columbus Blue Jackets
photo: mapleleafs.com
News broke on Tuesday that Rick Nash is willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to a short list of teams. Rick Nash is under contract until the end of the 2017-18 season. His cap hit is $7.8M per season. The list is supposedly 5 teams or less, and as for Canadian teams, it has been reported that the Canucks, and the Leafs, are somewhat in the run. The problem for both teams is that they are right against the salary cap.

The price the Blue Jackets have put on Rick Nash is 3 or 4 good young players. According to TSN, a deal that would move Nash to the Maple Leafs would involve Jake Gardiner and another two or three good young players. The problem is that the Maple Leafs don't want to "mortgage their farm", or trade away all of the good young assets that they have drafted and acquired over the last few seasons.

So, Maple Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke, must ask himself a few important questions. Are there sufficient players available on the Marlies that can jump up to the NHL level and play in an opening that might be created by trading for Nash? Will the Leafs have to trade away salary to have a manageable amount of cap space to make the trade? Is it worth it to trade away a handful of good young talent for Nash?

How To Wipe With Nine Million Dollars - The Tim Connolly and Mike Komisarek Story!

Tim Connolly #12, Toronto Maple Leafs
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
So, the Leafs lost again, their fourth straight in regulation. Jonas Gustavsson was in net tonight, and although he let in 5 goals, he looked pretty good aside from a penalty shot goal against. Although, one could argue if Phaneuf didn't get lost on the play there wouldn't have been a penalty shot after all. Kiprusoff was the key to the Flames holding a 3-1 lead until late in the third period when the Flames added two more goals as the Leafs had pretty much given up. The lone goal scorer for Toronto was Tyler Bozak. Leafs defensive zone coverage was a disaster, the slot was open all night and the Flames were ripping them at the Monster from close range. The final score was 5-1 in favour of Calgary.

After three straight loses and an injury to Gunnarsson, the Leafs had to juggle their lines heading into tonight. I don't disagree with the decision to juggle the lines, but I can't say the same for the players Ron Wilson decided to promote. Tim Connolly was jumped up to the second line, where he played the wing with Grabovski and MacArthur, and Mike Komisarek started the game on the first defensive unit with Dion Phaneuf. You would think with the salary spent on these two players, over nine million dollars per season combined, they would deserve their new assignments, but if you've watched many games this season its quite the opposite.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Carl Gunnarsson leaves practice after collision with Jay Rosehill

Carl Gunnarsson celebrates with Jake Gardiner
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Carl Gunnarsson left practice this morning after suffering an injury due to a collision with Jay Rosehill. It's sad enough that Jay Rosehill gets to practice with the team and collect an NHL salary, but now he could be on the bad side of many Leaf fans if in fact Gunnarsson is out for a substantial period of time.

Apparently Rosehill and Gunnarsson collided during practice and Gunnarsson was helped off the ice. He seems to have injured his leg and Ron Wilson suggested that "an image" would need to be taken and reviewed before the team can correctly evaluate the injury. It sounds like he's definitely going to miss some time, but hopefully its not a long-term injury.

Despite the fact that the Leafs have quite a bit of depth on defense, they have some big shoes to fill. Gunnarsson has arguable been the Leafs best defenseman this season. He's a steady defender, who also has some offensive flare. Any replacement the Leafs put into the line-up will not be as good as Gunnarsson has been this season.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Leafs Spoil Sundin Night And Make Playoff Race Interesting

Sundin's night spoiled as the Habs
destroy the Leafs 5-0
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
After a good week of hockey where the Leafs won all three of their games from last Wednesday to this past Monday, the Leafs have struggled badly. They most certainly are making the playoff race interesting, but not in a good way if you're a Leaf fan. They have lost their last three games and have played progressively worse in each game.

It was Mats Sundin's night tonight. His jersey number 13 was honoured and raised into the rafters accompanied by ceremony where Sundin would be cheered for the majority of the 20 minutes of his speech. That was about all the cheering the Leafs would get as the next three segments of 20 minutes would be filled with boos from the stands. The Leafs were flat again tonight. Reimer let in two questionable goals, one through the five-hole and another that fluttered between his arm and squeaked into the back of the net. Luke Schenn attempted to stick handle the puck in the defensive zone, which is usually not a good idea, and turned it over to Montreal for another goal. Dion Phaneuf let Lars Eller walk around him for the fourth goal and Reimers night was done. Gustavsson would come in the third period and would let a goal in on his first shot against, which was a breakaway for Montreal.

Friday, 10 February 2012

2013 Winter Classic and HBO 24/7 - Leafs vs Red Wings

The NHL made it official yesterday. The Winter Classic for next year would be in Detroit at Michigan Stadium, which is more commonly known as the Big House. The Leafs would visit the Red Wings in front of over 110, 000 fans. This isn't big news as this was a poorly kept secret, the rumours had been around for nearly a month. Assuming HBO does a 24/7 series on the event, like they have in the past, it will be a very exciting month leading up to the Winter Classic.

Two Original Six rivals will be going at it in front of an NHL record breaking audience. Leafs GM Brian Burke said, "It's Hockeytown against the center of the hockey universe", when describing the event. The Winter Classic is expected to break the NHL record for largest attendance at a single game, but there are also plans for a series of events to build up to the game around the city. Rather than calling the entire plan the "Winter Classic" its being dubbed the "Hockeytown Winter Festival".

The Winter Festival is set to include far more than the outdoor game between the Leafs and the Red Wings. As per tradition there will be an alumni game played at Comerica Park, but there is expected to be far more. The Great Lakes Invitational, which is a tournament of Michigans four college teams, is also to occur during the weeks leading up to the outdoor game. There is also going to be an AHL match-up between the Maple Leafs affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, and the Red Wings affiliate, the Grand Rapid Griffins. Two OHL games, high school games, youth hockey games, and public-skating sessions are also to be arranged at Comerica Park.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Tough Schedule - Leafs Lose Second Straight

Flyers beat the Leafs 4-3
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
The Maple Leafs schedule is starting to get the better of them. The team suffered its second consecutive loss after playing their third game in four nights. Things dont get better for Toronto as they have very few rest days over the next handful of games.

The Leafs came out really flat in the first period and for the most part James Reimer held the Leafs in it until Hartnell batted a bouncing puck out of the air and through Reimers legs. The Leafs would answer back several times in the game, but ultimately lose 4-3. Tyler Bozak had a very strong game, he scored twice for the Leafs in the losing effort.

Toronto picked up their game at some points through the second and third periods but ultimately made one too many mistakes in front of James Reimer tonight. When you're playing a quality team like the Flyers, you cannot make as many mistakes as the Leafs did, but you could somewhat justify it with the packed schedule and players being tired.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Leafs Bitten By The Curse Of The Awful Goal Once Again

Gustavsson lets in a soft goal vs the Jets
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com

After Kessel opened the scoring to give the Leafs an early one goal lead, a familiar face came to see the Maple Leafs in their efforts against Winnipeg tonight. It was another really bad goal against due to goaltending that simply isn't up to the task. Jonas Gustavsson lets a really soft backhand from a near impossible angle get by him and the Jets would tie the game. Winnipeg would later score again to make it 2-1 and held the lead through the rest of the game.  

For it being the second game in back to back nights, the Leafs put together a very honest effort. The team as a whole worked hard throughout the game, and maybe didn't deserve to win, but at the very least it should have been a tie game through regulation. The Leafs were hesitant to shoot the puck, often electing to make one more pass for the perfect goal that just didn't materialize. That being said, they didn't deserve the fate they walked away with tonight.

Up until James Reimer took back the number one starter job in the last few weeks, those watching the Maple Leafs were all ready to watch an awful goal make it's way into the net behind a blue and white jersey. Joe Bowen's excited voice saying "he would like that one back" would ring in my ears game after game. I had almost forgotten the feeling altogether for the past few weeks as Reimer backstopped the Leafs to a few wins with some very steady goaltending.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Reimer Records Second Straight Shutout

Reimer making one of his 49 saves tonight en route to
his second consecutive shut out
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
James Reimer had a spectacular game tonight as he recorded 49 saves for his second shut out in as many games. In his last two starts he has stopped all of the 74 shots against and likely has taken back his position as starting goaltender for the Maple Leafs. The Leafs picked up an easy 5-0 Victory over the Ottawa Senators, who have really fallen off the map lately. Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak each picked up a goal and two assists, while the back end pitched in for the other three goals. Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn, and Cody Franson all scored as well tonight.

The 5-0 win for the Maple Leafs caps off their fourth win since losing to Montreal two weeks ago. The Leafs only loss was in overtime on Tuesday after a late game collapse versus the Penguins. So they have 9 of a possible 10 points in their last five games. The 5-0 loss is terrible news for the Sens, it extends their losing streak to 6 games. They have recorded just one point of a possible 12 in their last six games. Ottawa does have a 3 point cushion on the 9th place Washington Capitals, but the Capitals have four games at hand. If the Sens don't change things soon, they could find themselves on the wrong side of a playoff race rather quickly.

Friday, 3 February 2012

How Good Is Cody Franson And What Is He Worth?

Cody Franson #4 - Toronto Maple Leafs
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
When the Leafs traded Slaney and Lebda for Franson and Lombardi everyone thought the key to the deal was Franson. The Leafs would take on the extra salary from Lombardi but in exchange Nashville had to give up a good young defenseman. Cody Franson, who is 24 years old, had 29 points in 80 regular season games, and six points in 12 playoff games last season. The Leafs weren't just getting a prospect in return, but an NHL ready defenseman who makes a mere 800k this season. Everything seemed to be going well until the season started and Cody Franson found himself a healthy scratch. On top of that, he publicly made known he felt that he deserved to play on a regular basis for the Leafs. This caused a bit of controversy, and suddenly things didn't seem as bright as they were in the off-season, which is when the Leafs made the trade.

Franson would be patient over the next half a dozen games or so until he finally got a shot to play, but he didn't look all that impressive and was in and out of the line-up until Toronto suffered some injuries on the back end. As Franson continued to play more he became more steady in the defensive zone, cutting out those little mistakes that a coach hates, and he showed his offensive skills as well. Franson has a really hard shot, but also knows when to take a softer shot and get it through the traffic on the net. Leafs defenseman have struggled many times with actually getting a shot on the net, often times they shoot the hardest slap shot they can muster and the puck sails over the net or wide of the post.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Optimus Reim is Back! Leafs beat Penguins 1-0!

James Reimer celebrates after a shutout victory over
the Pittsburgh Penguins
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
After a humiliating defeat to the Penguins two nights ago, where the Leafs blew a three-goal lead in half a period, the Leafs started James Reimer last night. The game was rather dull compared to Tuesday night, but there were more than a few good points to take from it. The most important being that the Leafs jumped to 7th spot in the East with 58 points. Also, Clarke MacArthur, who has seen his role increase since being put back on the second line with Grabovski and Kulemin, is back to putting up the type of number he did last year. MacArthur scored the lone goal in this game last night as he deked around Johnson and slid the puck into an open net.

John-Michael Liles and Colby Armstrong returned to action last night. The Leafs send Nazem Kadri and Keith Aulie down to the Toronto Marlies in order to free up roster spots for the two returning players. Both played exceptionally well, given their respective roles in the line-up, it looked as if neither had missed a single game.

James Reimer was perfect last night as he stopped all 25 shots thrown his way by Pittsburgh. Granted, he did get a little help from the goal posts and crossbar on more than one occasion, but he settled into the game rather quickly and was steady as the game progressed. He recorded his second shutout of the season and held the one goal lead for the Leafs.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Leafs Lose To The Penguins In A Very Entertaining Game

Grabovski has been red-hot for the Leafs in January,
but despite his efforts the Leafs lose in Pittsburgh
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
The title could also be "Leafs blow a three-goal lead with half a period to go", either way works. The Leafs started off with all the energy tonight as the Penguins were flat for probably 55 of the 65 (overtime included) minutes of play. Tyler Bozak scores a goal just a few minutes into the game which is disallowed by the referee because he deemed goaltender interference. As the replays would show, however, Michalek bumped into his own goalie and goal should have counted. The refs call on the ice stands and the game is still 0-0.  The Leafs would continue pressing well into the second period until Dion Phaneuf would pinch and find Mikhail Grabovski for the first goal of the game. Grabovski has been red-hot lately for the Leafs and he continued to put up the big numbers again tonight. He would score his second on the night with a beautiful shot through traffic into the top corner for a 2-0 lead. Matt Cooke would redirect the puck pass Gustavsson to cut the lead in half before the end of the second period.

Then Penguins had picked up their game late in the second period and the Leafs needed to come out strong for the last 20 minutes to secure the victory. Quite a bit of back-and-forth hockey was played in the third period, showcasing Marc-Andre Fleury with some spectacular saves. Tyler Bozak would blast one past him on the powerplay six minutes into the period and 19 seconds later MacArthur would score on a beautiful feed from Grabovski. The Leafs now led the game 4-1 with just over 13 minutes remaining, almost sure they'd had a victory. Two minutes later Jake Gardiner fell at the blue line and Steve Sullivan came roaring down the wing and beat Gustavsson with a slapshot over the glove. Then with five minutes left in regulation, Gustavsson tried smothering a loose puck, missed it, and Vitale put it into the net and the Pens were back within one. With just twenty seconds left Grabovski frantically worked the puck to the center ice where it was thrown back towards the blue line by the Penguins. The pass was taken inside the blue line while Pittsburgh players were off-side and the play should have been blown, but wasn't. The play would continue and James Neal would shoot one on net which hit Malkin in the leg before going in with just six seconds left in the third period.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Is it time to get rid of the All-Star weekend?

So we all watch the All-Star weekend, but if you're like me, chances are you walk away from it asking yourself why you wasted all that time. I say that to myself year after year and yet I still get sucked into watching everything, from the fantasy draft all the way to the All-Star game, which looks like a game of gym hockey sometimes. I'm not completely ripping the All-Star weekend, but someone definitely needs to cut the fat.

The All-Star fantasy draft was a decent idea, but the execution of it is terrible. First off we have James Duthie hosting the show and attempting to make jokes that aren't remotely funny for an hour and a half. I have nothing against James Duthie, I think he's done well for TSN, but the only time I laughed all night was when he said the giant key could be for Chara's car, and even then it wasn't much of a laugh. The fantasy draft also didn't begin for about 20 minutes. In that time we saw a few clips of James Duthie and what seemed like a million commercial breaks. We get it, the entire all-star weekend is a cash grab, just please don't throw it in our faces. By about the third round of draft pics I was completely out of the loop. I have no idea who was drafted or when, I spent all my energy waiting for a decent camera angle of those two blonde girls bringing out the jerseys. Don't get me started on all the boring player interviews, I don't think there's ever been a room of people that shy with a microphone being forced into one face after another. James Duthie asking Tim Thomas about the Obama stuff was really not the brightest thing to do either.

They should cut the length of the program to 30 minutes instead of 90 minutes. Nobody wants to sit through the entire thing. Either that or replace some of the commercial breaks with decent camera shots of the jersey girls. I mean it's all about trying to make extra money anyways, right? A little sex appeal never hurt anyone.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

John-Michael Liles re-signs for 4 years in Toronto

Liles defending against the Capitals
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
John-Michael Liles signed a deal with the Maple Leafs where he would make 3.875M per year for the next four seasons. Shortly after hearing the news today, I learned something new. Apparently 30 is the new 50 and somehow I never noticed. There's a lot of backlash with Leafs fans about signing Liles to a four-year extension. Liles is 31 years old and so when his contract ends he will be 35. Apparently that's far too old for many Leafs fans (yeah, cause you wouldn't all kill to have Lidstrom in a Leafs uniform). Not to say that's a fair comparison, but that's why Liles signed to under 4 million dollars.

The Leafs are one of the youngest teams in the NHL, with an average age of about 26 years. Contrast that with the model hockey franchise, the Detroit Red Wings, who are over 29 years. Why so many fans are upset about signing a player in his 30's to less money than he made this year, when he was already being underpaid in my opinion, is beyond me. Great signing on Brian Burke's part as well as the rest of the Leafs management.

I gathered a list of NHL players who are older than Liles and would have a larger cap hit next season. Those players include:

Brian Campbell - 32 years old - 7.14M until 2016
Zdeno Chara - 34 years old - 6.91M until 2017, 4M cap hit in 2018
Dan Boyle - 35 years old - 6.66M until 2014
Wade Redden - 34 years old - 6.5M until 2014
Kimmo Timonen - 36 years old - 6.33M until 2013
Andrei Markov - 33 years old - 5.75M until 2014
Lubomir Visnovski - 35 years old - 5.6M until 2013
Sergei Gonchar - 37 years old - 5.5M until 2013
Tomas Kaberle - 33 years old - 4.25M until 2014
Ed Jovanovski - 35 years old - 4.125M until 2015
Mark Streit - 34 years old - 4.1M until 2013
Robyn Regehr - 31 years old - 4.02M until 2013
Marek Zidlicky - 34 years old - 4M until 2013

There are only a couple of these players I'd rather have on my team and they have twice the cap hit Liles will have next season.

MacArthur Trade? - Leafs Win Again Heading Into All-Star Weekend

MacArthur celebrates after scoring on Montoya
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
After a tough couple of weeks and some brief time on the fourth line last game, Clarke MacArthur was told by coach Ron Wilson that if he moved his feet and played hard he would be rewarded. After the Islanders scored two goals through the first 30 minutes of the game, Wilson put MacArthur back on a line with Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski. MacArthur would score late in the second period to cut the Islanders lead in half before eventually scoring the game winning goal in overtime.

Shortly after the rumours swirled about MacArthur likely being traded from Toronto in the near future, he comes out and plays a hard game, and wins it for the Leafs. There's no question that he has a ton of chemistry with Grabovski and Kulemin, but sometimes his effort on the ice, or lack thereof, has led to a demotion to the third of fourth line. That second line was very effective for the Maple Leafs last season, the trio 177 points for the Leafs in the 2010-2011 season. If they can get back to that type of production, the Leafs would have quality secondary scoring that would open up some ice for the top line, who've noticed their stats decline as they have faced opposing teams top D-men shift after shift, game after game.

Any thoughts Leafs management had towards trading MacArthur will likely be put on hold for a short while. With the trade deadline about a month away, the Leafs still have time to decide if MacArthur fits with the team or not. Either way MacArthur's value is going up with games like these. If Brian Burke does in fact decide to trade him, a few good games on the second line are sure to get a better return for the Leafs. The 26 year old has 14 goals and 10 assists in 42 games this season.

Monday, 23 January 2012

One Down, One To Go - Leafs Beat Islanders 3-0

Gustavsson makes 25 saves for his fourth career shutout
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
The Toronto Maple Leafs have only won one game of their last five, and their playoff aspirations were slowly slipping away. Monday night marked the first of their last two games before the all star break, a home at home series with the New York Islanders. The Leafs came out with lost of speed and energy in the first period, something that has been lacking in recent games. Matthew Lombardi got the Leafs to a 1-0 lead in the first, but the next period and half would be sloppy for both teams. The Islanders really picked up their game in the third period but Phil Kessel scored for the Leafs to give them the two goal lead. Matthew Lombardi would add his second goal of the game late in the third period. Toronto would win the game by a final score of 3-0, and Jonas Gustavsson picked up another shutout.

Gustavsson, who didn't have much work in the first two periods, ended the game with 25 saves and his third shutout of the month. Toronto once again insulated the Maple Leafs netminder well throughout the game. They kept the Islanders to the outside, blocked shots and boxed out the front of the net. Also, the Leafs penalty kill is still perfect in the new year as they went a full sixty minutes without taking a penalty tonight.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Leafs lack urgency against the Canadiens

Montreal wins in Kaberle's return to Toronto
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
Leafs playoff hopes here high approaching the puck drop at the ACC on Saturday night. Both the New Jersey Devils and the Ottawa Senators lost their respective games in regulation earlier today. The bad news is that the Panthers play the Jets. Going into tonight Winnipeg sits two points behind the Leafs and the Panthers are one point ahead. A win for the Leafs tonight will put them back into the top eight. If the Panthers win they will jump back to third and a Leafs win will knock Washington to the ninth spot.

The first eight minutes of the period went by quickly without much action until P.K. Subban took a bad roughing penalty as he punched Tyler Bozak in the head. On the Leafs powerplay Clarke MacArthur would cough up the puck to Lars Eller who came in on a breakaway but was stopped by Gustavsson, his first save of the game. Through the first period the Leafs weren't using their speed and seemed to be playing down the the level of the Habs. After some awful turnovers by the Habs, the Leafs were gaining momentum until Montreal came in on a 3-on-1 and scored. The original shot deflected awkwardly off the boards behind Gustavsson and bounced over the net and landed at the top of the crease on Bourque's stick, who scored his first as a Canadien. The Leafs would answer back quickly though. Tyler Bozak lobbed a great pass to Matthew Lombardi who scored on a breakaway to tie the game.

The second period was a pretty quiet one, there was no change in the scoreboard. There was a ridiculous dive by Montreal's Kostitsyn. The ref that was ten feet away watching the play didn't call a penalty on the Leafs because he saw that Kostitsyn dove. The ref at center ice called a penalty and the Leafs had to kill another penalty. What makes the ref at center ice think the ref ten feet away missed the call and he should make it from 100 feet away? Also, once the ref at center calls the penalty can't the other ref say it was a dive and at least even up the calls? There's no reason the Leafs should have ever been short-handed on that play. We should've been on a powerplay because as far as I know there is no rule against calling a stand-alone diving penalty. I've said it before, and I'll say it until somebody actually happens, players will continue to dive because they know there is no consequences. They know that worst case the referees will only call even-up penalties, one penalty for a hook or trip and one for the dive. Apparently, you can't lose if you dive. Let's get some refs out here that actually call players on diving before hockey turns into a game of soccer.

Friday, 20 January 2012

NEW VIDEO: Glenn Healy vs. Monkey

New video is up. I'll admit, it's not my best work... I've been getting a little lazy lately.

Minnesota Wild Dominated by the Toronto Maple Leafs

Joey Crabb celebrates after scoring a high-light
reel goal in the first period
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com

The Leafs brush off a tough three game losing skid as they beat the Wild 4-1. Nazem Kadri scored early as he spin around and smacked the puck out of the air and into the back of the net just 50 seconds into the opening frame. Joey Crabb would also score in the first for a two goal lead. Phil Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski would also score for Toronto. Jonas Gustavsson didn't have much work, but was solid when he needed to be. He had the shutout going until the last few minutes of the game when he let in a goal from the icing line.

It looks like the line juggling coach Ron Wilson made prior to the game worked out well for the Maple Leafs. Joffrey Lupul was moved to a line with Tim Connolly and Nazem Kadri, and they worked well throughout the game including scoring early into the game. Matthew Lombardi was moved up with Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak and the second line of MacArthur, Kulemin, and Grabovski, that played so well last season, was reunited. At first I wasn't too sure about having Lombardi on the top line with Bozak and Kessel because I don't think Lombardi is capable of filling the offensive role that Joffrey Lupul occupied. Although it's true, Lombardi wasn't the offensive player that Lupul has been on that line, he helps out in the defensive zone and should keep some of those dreaded minuses off the stat sheet beside numbers 81 and 42.

Though it didn't really make a difference on the scoreboard or in the points column, the bad goal that Jonas Gustavsson let in reminds the Maple Leafs of their goaltending struggles. Neither Reimer nor Gustavsson have really taken the opportunity to become the starting goaltender with stellar play. They both have a bad habit of letting in a bad goal in almost every game. It's not a big deal when your team is winning 4-0, but in closer games, such as Tuesday night, that soft goal can cost you the game. That being said, Jonas Gustavsson played well overall tonight and I would expect him to get the start Saturday night against the slumping Canadiens.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Why is Rosehill dressed? - Refs help Sens to a 3-2 win over the Leafs

Rosehill err... Mike Brown fighting
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
I'm still very angry about the game, so this recap will have quite a bit of flare... Just a heads up.

The Senators played last night and have to come into Toronto to play the Leafs. They obviously must be tired. The Leafs need to take advantage of that. They started off strong but as the third period came around the Leafs were exhausted. Why? Because Jay Rosehill gets to play. So that he can watch Mike Brown and Dion Phaneuf fight. That's some great coaching! Sorry Wilson, but he's a useless player and should never play a game in the NHL!

Lombardi got the Leafs to a 1-0 lead after his shot deflected off the defender. Then on an awful giveaway by Cowan the leafs scored on a two-on-one, Lupul put it away on a pass from Kessel. The Leafs were all over the Senators, but the defensive mistakes began. With 10 seconds left in the period Keith Aulie chases a man behind the net with no chance of catching him. Stupid, stupid, stupid... I can't figure out how someone decides to do that. A professional NHL hockey player. So the pass goes in front and Lupul, the back-checking Leaf, takes down a player wide open in front of Reimer. As the player goes down he hits Reimer, throws him off position and the Sens score in the dying seconds of the period.

In the second period all goes to hell... The Leafs still have tons of energy, and are all over the Senators. Anderson made some huge saves, and gets some lucky bounces and the Leafs are unable to get their third goal of the game. As the second period goes on Jason Spezza, who apparently bribed the referee in the first intermission, decides to go to the net, bump into Reimer, and then stand on his left pad for about 10 seconds. The puck then deflects wide to Daugavins who whiffs on it and kicks it towards the net. The puck is about an inch or two from the goal-line and Spezza, who is STILL standing on Reimer's pad, reaches over top of Toronto's goaltender and pokes the puck into the net. The ref on the ice called it a goal cause apparently he's smoking rocks. They would go upstairs to review if it was kicked it but because Spezza touched it just before it went it the goal counts... So now we have a tie game...

Monday, 16 January 2012

Concussion Prevention: 10 Questions Every Player Should Ask Themselves

Every player should ask themselves these ten questions when on the ice. Being aware of your surroundings can help you prevent a concussion.

So here, in no apparent order, are the questions:

  1. Is Matt Cooke on the ice? - Video link
  2. Is Chara angling me into the ... ? (CRASH) ... Oh God - Video link
  3. Has Chris Neil sucker-punched you in the face yet? (Watch him pretend he got hit in the face too... what a tool) - Video link
  4. Did you recently take part in the Sports Illustrated "Most Over-rated NHL player" poll and are Dion Phaneuf and Chris Pronger standing on your porch? - SI.com link
  5. Wendel Clark doesn't still play hockey, does he? - Video link
  6. Is David Steckel skating near you and pretending not to see you? - Video link
  7. Did Milan Lucic just run over my goaltender? Should I jump in there and show him that here in Buffalo we don't roll over to physical contact? ... Whats that?... We do roll over? ... Good, I'll stay here then. - Video link
  8. Is that Glenn Healy between the benches? Damn you Hockey Night in Canada! (beats head repeatedly on the boards.) - Video link
  9. If I attempt to settle this bouncing pass with my head down, will I be crippled? - Video link
  10. Wayne Simmonds has the perfect NBA body type, he should be able to jump over me, right? - Video link ... I guess that's why he's playing hockey and not basketball... I'll show him, I'll get some dumbass to throw a banana at him! - Video link ... What's that ref? No, that wasn't a racist comment... I can't say "banana"? Barch article link ... Wait what? ... Wayne Simmonds is black? I never noticed... (the ref must be the racist one... tsk tsk...)

Saturday, 14 January 2012

New York Rangers Beat Down The Maple Leafs

They may all look different and wear different numbers
and names on their jerseys, but the Leafs came out
as a eighteen Alex Kovalevs
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
After a frustrating 3-2 loss last night against the Buffalo Sabres, the Maple Leafs were back at home in the ACC hosting the New York Rangers. Another loss tonight would put the Leafs back on the rim, fighting for a playoff spot. So the Leafs had to come out with some energy, but instead they came out flat. The Rangers also didn't have a great start but instead of the Leafs taking it to them early, they were content playing at the same slow pace. The difference is that for the last 40 minutes of the game the Rangers stepped it up and the Leafs fell apart. They were unable to make the simplest of plays such as getting the puck out of the defensive zone on many opportunities.

The Rangers scored a pretty goal on a 3-on-1 tic tac toe play where Gustavsson had no chance to make the save. The second Rangers goal came off a shot where Franson unnecessarily screened Gustavsson and then jumped out of the way as the shot came. The third goal was once again off a partial breakaway, another one Gustavsson didn't have a chance to make the save on.

I'm wondering though, why did Gustavsson start this game? I thought the Leafs were using a "win and you're in" philosophy, so why didn't we see James Reimer in goal tonight? Especially after the second goal Gustavsson let in against Buffalo, that was a pretty awful goal to let in. That being said, It didn't matter who the Leafs playing in goal tonight because there was nothing in front of the goalie. It was an all-around disaster. Jonas Gustavsson did play well tonight, I won't knock his performance, but I hoped and expected to see Reimer in the net. I would assume he starts next game.

Leafs Lose First Game of 2012 in Buffalo

Gustavsson in net for the Leafs
PHOTO: TMLsHockeyBlog

The Sabres started off with a quick goal against the Leafs. The puck was centered from behind the net and it deflected into the back of the net for a 1-0 Sabres lead. The Sabres would add another one just a few minutes later and suddenly the Leafs found themselves down 2-0 just five minutes into the game. Toronto would answer with two goals in the first to take a tie game into the second period but would ultimately lose the game by a score of 3-2.

The second Buffalo goal was awful. It was definitely a save Gustavsson needs to make. Letting in one bad goal is what inevitably cost the Leafs the game tonight and has cost them too many already this season. The Monster did regain his composure as he made a few big saves to keep the Leafs in the game. The game winning goal was scored on a brutal defensive brain-fart as both Luke Schenn and Carl Gunnarsson were caught watching the puck instead of covering a man. The Sabres set up a cross-ice pass from the boards to the front of the net for an easy goal.

The Leafs controlled the play for good portions of the game, but their inability to capitalize or even generate quality chances on the power play killed their own momentum. On the plus side they only took two penalties and killed them both off. So the Leafs PK is still perfect in the new year through five games.

On the plus side, I really liked the Buffalo arena. This was my first Leaf game in Buffalo and I really enjoyed myself. The seats were great and the arena was packed with as many Leaf fans as Sabres fans. The constant struggle of cheers from opposing fans made the game much more entertaining. The atmosphere was amazing.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Is Dion Phaneuf the Most Overrated Player In the NHL?

PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
In a recent and anonymous poll by Sports Illustrated, Dion Phaneuf was voted the most overrated player in the Nation Hockey League. The poll was anonymous and was taken by 161 NHL players. Here's how the top fifteen rounded out:

  1. Dion Phaneuf
  2. Alex Ovechkin
  3. Scott Gomez
  4. Roberto Luongo
  5. Dany Heatley
  6. Ilya Kovalchuk
  7. Vincent Lecavalier
  8. Jay Bouwmeester
  9. Ryan Kesler
  10. Mike Komisarek
  11. Chris Pronger
  12. Jerome Iginla
  13. Alexander Semin
  14. Olli Jokinen
  15. Ed Jovanovski

Leafs General Manager Brian Burke summed up the poll nicely. He said "Yes, players dumb enough to participate in polls designed to crap on fellow NHLPA members are not very bright... I am thrilled to have both player (Phaneuf and Komisarek) on my team."

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Leafs Win Fourth Straight - Gustavsson With Another Shutout

Gustavsson celebrates his second shutout of the year
with Nikolai Kulemin
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
The Maple Leafs were host to the Buffalo Sabres tonight in an important game for both teams. Buffalo, who are struggling to keep their playoff hopes alive came out flat against the Maple Leafs. Nikolai Kulemin would open the scoring on the powerplay in the first period just over eight minutes into the game. Then, with just over two minutes left in the opening period, Mikhail Grabovski places a beautiful backhand over the glove of Ryan Miller to lift the Leafs to a 2-0 lead. That would be the final score in a game where Jonas Gustavsson really wasn't tested too much.

Buffalo's offense was almost non-existent in the game. This may be partly due to the fact that Vanek left the game after taking a hit from Dion Phaneuf. Derek Roy did not dress for the Sabres tonight, but it looks like he will make his way back into the line-up within the next couple of games.

Jonas Gustavsson was solid again in goal for the Leafs as he picked up 32 saves for his second shutout in 2012. He wasn't too much, but his streak in goal for the Maple Leafs has continued. He is undefeated thus far in the new year.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Maple Leafs Trade Talks - Are Kulemin and Gunnarsson On Their Way Out?

Gunnarsson is getting a lot of looks from around the league.
Could he be traded out of Toronto for an elite forward?
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
Toronto is one of the best places to play hockey. If you're a professional hockey player, how could you not want to play in Toronto? The city is always in a buzz about the Maple Leafs, whether they're doing well or struggling. Although sometimes playing in Toronto may bring a lot of heckling and grief your way (see Andrew Raycroft, Brian McCabe and many others) for the most part, this is the place to play.

Another good thing about Toronto from a management perspective is that players don't often step into their GM's office and demand a trade. In fact, it's the exact opposite. Back in the John Ferguson Jr. era, where he threw around no trade clauses like they were pieces of candy, we saw many players veto possible trades that were orchestrated by Toronto's GM. The only players that usually want out of Toronto are the ones that get boo-ed every night and endure months of heckling from Leafs Nation. Those players, like Andrew Raycroft, usually haven't played well in a while and likely wont be much help to the Maple Leafs going forward, so trading them isn't a bad idea.

So, we've established that most players would enjoy playing in Toronto. Since that is the case, Toronto always has the opportunity to hold on to players who's trade value may be lower at this time, because of their struggles on the ice. This affords the Leafs the opportunity to trade such a player at a different time when they are playing better and their trade value has increased.