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.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Leafs Win Third Straight With Gustavsson in Goal

Kessel scores on a penalty shot in the first period
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
Say what you want about Jonas Gustavsson... He's too awkward in net. He always lets in the easy goals. He's flopping around everywhere... At the end of the day all that matters is whether or not he gets the win and he's riding a three game winning streak. The most recent win being tonight's game against the Detroit Red Wings, one of the best teams in the league.

The Leafs started off strong in the first period scoring three unanswered goals. Phil Kessel was hooked on a breakaway and scored on the resulting penalty shot. Dion Phaneuf scored a powerplay goal a few minutes later and Joffrey Lupul would set up David Steckel for the third Leafs goal. At the end of one period not too many people would have expected the Leafs to be sporting a three goal lead, but things would change in the second period.

The second period was all Red Wings. The Leafs could not get the puck out of the defensive zone as the Wings worked the puck down low shift after shift. The Leafs did manage to insulate Jonas Gustavsson for the majority of the first period and early into the second but things came apart when Todd Bertuzzi tipped in a shot for the Red Wings first goal. The ref ruled it a goal on the ice but his stick was at one point a foot above the crossbar so the goal was reviewed. Upon review the goal counted due to there not being sufficient evidence to overturn the ruling by the referee on the ice. Apparently the only angle CBC wanted to show the fans at home was from 20 feet above ice level behind the net. It's impossible to tell if a play is a high stick from that angle. You would think that in a sport where goals are reviewed for possible high sticks there would be a camera angle at the same height as the crossbar to have an accurate view of what's a goal and what isn't... Apparently that's not the case. So the Wings are on the board with a rather questionable goal in my opinion. Just a few minutes later, with Detriot carrying all the momentum, Jonas Gustavsson makes a big diving pokecheck to prevent a partial breakaway from materializing. The Leafs didn't get their first shot of the second period until over 13 minutes into the period. Detroit would score again in the second on a miscue of defensive zone coverage between the Leafs players.

Friday, 6 January 2012

NEW VIDEO - How the 2012 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft Should Have Been

In a late surge of votes Ottawa fans managed to stack the starting line-up with Senators players. Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Speeza, Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson were all voted in as starters for the 2012 NHL All-Star Game. They even managed to out-vote Phil Kessel who led the race for the majority of the voting period. Had this not occurred, here's my take on how the all-star game player fantasy draft would have gone. Hosted by none other than... Darryl Sutter!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Gustavsson Posts Shutout in Leafs Second Win in a Row

Leafs win 4-0 but Dion Phaneuf leave the game
after taking a puck to the face
PHOTO: mapleleafs.com
The Leafs climb back into a playoff spot with a convincing 4-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Winnipeg, who lost last night to Montreal, were no match for the Leafs. Jonas Gustavsson earned his first shutout since December 19, 2009. Gustavsson didn't have to make very many saves, but when he was called upon, he was perfect on all of the 24 shots the Jets put at Toronto's net.

The biggest improvement about Jonas Gustavsson's game is that he looked confident. There have been far too many games this year where he looked really shaky and lacked the confidence that a good NHL goaltender needs, but after tonight I am pretty optimistic to see what he can do on Saturday nights game against the Red Wings (I would assume he would be the starting goaltender). James Reimer sits at the end of the bench, on the outside looking in. It's not that he has played really bad, the results are what matters and with Gustavsson earning two wins in as many games in the new year, how do you justify starting Reimer? The Monster will really press Reimer and it will be nice to see some improved goaltending, from both goalies, knowing that one bad game could have you on the bench for a week or two.

Just five minutes into the first period the Leafs opened the scoring. Phil Kessel tucked the puck in for his 23rd goal of the season. In the second period Tim Connolly had the lone goal for the Maple Leafs and Grabovski and MacArthur each scored in the third. The win tonight puts the Leafs back into a playoff spot just one game away from the half way point of the season.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Maple Leafs Thrash T-Bay In First Game of the New Year

Phaneuf battles with Downie. The first of many
battles between Downie and the Leafs.
Photo: MapleLeafs.com

After 2011 ended on a sour note for the Leafs there was a lot of time spent discussing the teams penalty kill strategies. The penalty kill, which is the worst in the league, has cost them more than a handful of points and is arguable the main reason the Leafs ended the year tenth in the Eastern conference. Toronto needs to fix the problem and fix it fast if they want to get back in the playoffs.

The pressure was on and Toronto needed to come out hard against Tampa Bay... It didn't help that Lecavalier scored in the first minute of the game. That would be the first of ten goals on what would turn out to be a very entertaining hockey game. Later in the first period Lupul would answer for the Maple Leafs and a few minutes later Carl Gunnarson would give Toronto the lead heading into the second period.

The second period was one of the more entertaining periods of hockey I've seen this season. There was rough stuff between Downie and several of the Leafs players. There was also a ton of back and forth hockey where we saw four goals in under two minutes... I'm sure all of Leafs Nation were biting their nails through the period. The Leafs would hold a 4-3 lead until the final minute of the second period where Matt Frattin scored the fifth goal for the Maple Leafs. Phaneuf and Kessel would score in the third period for a 7-3 final as the Leafs won in their first game of the new year.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

The Leafs Have Messed Up Drafting For Twenty Years

This is part two of my analysis of the NHL Entry Draft and how the Leafs have managed to shoot themselves in the foot year after year. This will be strictly a statistic post. Read it and enjoy (or cry into your pillow)...

1991 - Leafs to pick 3rd overall
No picks

Back in 1989 the Leafs traded their first round pick in 1991 to the New Jersey Devils for Tom Kurvers. That pick would end up being the third overall pick in the draft.
The Devils would use that pick to draft Scott Niedermeyer.

NOTE: The Leafs first pick in the 1991 draft was the third pick of the third round. They drafted Yanic Perrault

1992 - Leafs to pick 5th overall

8- Brandon Convery
23 Grant Marshall

Leafs traded the 5th pick to the Islanders for the 8th overall and the 32nd overall picks.
That 5th overall pick would become Darius Kasparitis.
Leafs would package that 32nd overall pick with the 53rd and 97th overall picks in a trade to Washington for the 23rd overall pick and the 95th overall pick.

1993 - Leafs to pick 19th overall

12-Kenny Jonsson
19- Landon Wilson

Leafs traded Grant Fuhr, and a fifth round pick in 1995 to Buffalo for Dave Andreychuk, Darren Puppa, and the 12th overall pick in the 1993 draft.

NOTE: The Leafs drafted twice in the first round and didn't draft again until the 5th round 19th pick.