Archive for October, 2011
Monday, October 31st, 2011
By: David Alter
It’s kind of hard to argue against a 7-3-1 month of October for the Maple Leafs . At the writing of this, they stand first in their division and second in the Eastern Conference. Going forward there are serious issues that need to be addressed if they have any hopes of keeping up this pace.
First The Positives:
1. Phil Kessel
He leads the league in both goals and points with 10 and 18 respectively in 11 games. This means Kessel has had a hand in 18 of the Leafs 36 goals scored this month. Last year, Kessel’s October saw him at a decent nine points, but he would struggle in November managing just five points in 13 games.
2. Team Scoring
While Kessel’s production is the main reason for the improvement in this category, the support staff has managed help out too. Kessel has only scored three more goals this month than he did at this time last year. The Leafs have scored 36 times this month compared to just 23 at this point last year. Joffrey Lupul has 11 points, his most productive month of hockey since December of 2008. Despite a bit of a slow start, Clarke MacArthur has found his form grabbing four goals and an asisst in his last three games. Mikhail Gravovski has four goals and four assists this year compared to just four points this time last year. While Nik Kulemin’s two goals this month could appear to be disappointing, it’s still one better than he had last year in October before he’d go on to score 30 total.
3. Power Play
New additions like John-Michael Liles have helped the Maple Leafs improve in this category where they are on the cusp of being in the top-10 (13th at 17.6% proficiency.) With nine goals, surprisingly, there isn’t a single Leaf in the top-30 in terms of power-play points. Joffrey Lupul has two PPG’s, and four points. Liles, Kessel and Dion Phaneuf have four power-play points as well. Grabovski has two assists, as does Kulemin. Clarke MacArthur has a goal and assist. The Maple Leafs had just five power-play goals last year at this time. Their proficiency then was 11.9%. That would have put them at 27th in the league right now.
4. The Transition
The Leafs have done an excellent job of creating scoring chances by catching the opposing team off guard after a takeaway. They are moving the puck faster up the ice and the increase in speed from better depth players have allowed the Leafs to roll a better balance of their lines. In situations where they find themselves down in a game, they have been able to double shift top-players more effectively as a result of this.
Areas needed for improvement:
The amount of goals the Maple Leafs have given up compared to the amount they have let in is somewhat astonishing given their record. The Leafs are still getting caught in their own end leaving their goaltender helpless in certain situations. Opposing forwards are still allowed to crash the blue ice with reckless abandon, generating a bulk of the opposition goals.
James Reimer has been solid for the Maple leafs in goal, but he can be a little bit better in terms of his rebound control. Jonas Gustavsson has been a real case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There are times where he looks like he has completely lost has confidence, other times he has been able to regain it with big saves, only to let in bad goal later and appear to be set back to square one. A healthy James Reimer has grabbed nine out of a possible 10 points and his return can’t come soon enough. But the team’s goaltending as a whole can still use a bit of a boost.
3. Penalty Kill
The Penalty Kill continues to kill the Maple leafs (currently ranked 27th in the league.) A key positive for the Leafs in this category is David Steckel who has helped the team win a lot more faceoffs in their their own end, begging the question of how much worse the PK would be without him? A lot of the problems the team has on the PK are similar to how they look during even-strength situations. They are getting caught pinching a little too deep in situations where they should be and allowing the oppositions extra man to get to the net with ease.
A pleasant start for the Maple Leafs, but much to improve on going into November.
Saturday, October 29th, 2011
By: David Alter.
James Reimer is eligible to come off the injured reserve list after tonight’s game against the Penguins. “He hasn’t really practice so doubtful for tomorrow” says Wilson. “I think the Monster has shown big strides in terms of his confidence so if he plays as well as I think he can tonight he’ll probably go tomorrow as well.”
Reimer was on the ice with the team during today’s morning skate, and took some shots.
Other than that no lineup changes for tonight. The Leafs will go with the same 20 players that beat the Rangers 4-2 in New York City.
If the Monster doesn’t have as strong of a game as he had on Thursday in New York, you have to wonder if that mindset by Wilson changes.
Thursday, October 27th, 2011
By: David Alter
Jonas Gustavsson made 28 saves as the Maple Leafs capped off their four-game road trip with a 4-2 win over the Rangers in New York City.
The ‘Monster’ survived a nightmare of a first period, giving up the game’s opening goal to Dan Girardi just over six minutes in.
It looked like it was going to be a night all to familiar for Gustavsson at the newly renovated Madison Square Garden.
Shortly after the Rangers goal, New York appeared to score twice. Both goals were called of immediately as Ryan Callahan was ruled to have interfered with Gustavsson’s ability to make the save.
Oddly, Callahan was not given minor penalties for either situation (he did initially get sent to the box on the second occurrence, but after officials discussed it the penalty was cancelled.)
Gustavsson grabbed his first win as a starter since January 6th, and his first victory at MSG.
The Rangers out-shot the Maple Leafs 16-7 in the opening frame but momentum swung Toronto’s way thanks to a Matthew Lombardi goal that went above Henrik Lundqvist’s blocker. The Leafs then took over control of the game but the game was still even at 1′s after two periods.
Early in the third, Joffrey Lupul gave the Leafs their first lead. Clarke MacArthur then gave Toronto the eventual game winner off an excellent takeaway from Mike Komisarek, whom Ron Wilson said had his best game this season.
Mike Brown capped the Leafs scoring his 1st of the season.
Note: Tyler Bozak was walking with a limp in pain following the game. Clearly his foot was sore having just returned to the lineup since injuring it. Phil Kessel grabbed an assist off Joffrey Lupul’s third period goal to give him points in every game this season, with the exception of the Leafs game in Boston. Tim Connolly played 15:13 and was an even +/- in his debut.
Thursday, October 27th, 2011
By: David Alter
NEW YORK — The Maple Leafs have placed goaltender James Reimer on the injured reserve, retro-active to Saturday’s game in Montreal.
Reimer will not be available until Sunday at the earliest, meaning he will not be available to the Maple Leafs for their upcoming game at home on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Reimer was elbowed in the head by Canadiens captain Brian Gionta early in the first period of their 5-4 OT win in Montreal. Jonas Gustavsson played 40 minutes of relief to pick up his first win of the season.
Ben Scrivens was called up earlier this morning on emergency conditions. Following an examination, the Maple Leafs elected to place Reimer on IR with conflicting reports about his health.
Originally diagnosed as whiplash-like symptoms, Reimer began to suffer headaches while Gustavsson used the term “concussion” when describing Reimer’s injury.
“No change” said Sr. VP of Hockey Operations Dave Nonis. “Reims didn’t feel himself -low level headache etc which could be the result of several things. Treating his symptoms as if its a neck and or head injury.”
Scrivens will be with the team until at least Saturday. By making Scrivens an official call-up and moving Reimer to IR, the Leafs are given the flexibility to use emergency conditions one more time this season.
Thursday, October 27th, 2011
By: David Alter.
NEW YORK, NY — When the cameras went off after speaking with reporters, Jonas Gustavsson (who will make his second straight start in goal tonight for the Leafs) used the word “concussion” when referring to Reimer’s injury.
This prompted Head Coach Ron Wilson to refute those comments saying that he hadn’t been told that Reimer’s injury was of the concussion sort.
Jonas Gustavsson has not faired well at Madison Square Garden. His last start last season was back on January 19th in New York where he gave up six goals in a 7-0 loss. His only other start at MSG was back on April 27th, 2010 where he gave up five goals in a 5-1 loss. In his combined two starts in New York, Gustavsson is a career 6.37 GAA and 0.823 Save percentage.
Ben Scrivens was called up under emergency conditions for the second week in a row. The Maple Leafs have now exhausted both times they can do this without affecting the 23-man roster.
Reimer is now considered day-to-day. He is two days away from being eligible for the injured reserve. Scrivens will be kept up with the club as Reimer is evaluated on a daily basis. Should Reimer not be ready to go Saturday, he will be placed on the IR and Scrivens will be with the Maple Leafs until Reimer is ready to make his return.
Tim Connolly and Tyler Bozak both enter the lineup today as expected. With Connolly being activated, Nazem Kadri was sent down to the Toronto Marlies.
Lines for Tonight
Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
By: David Alter
NEW YORK — Tim Connolly took part in another full practice session and was on the Maple Leafs top unit ahead of their final game of a four-game road trip. Head Coach Ron Wilson said that Connolly is “very very very very” close to making his Leafs debut
Connolly practiced with Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel. Connolly has yet to play this season since crashing into the boards hard during the pre-season.
Tyler Bozak had been playing centre on that line before he suffered a foot injury taking a shot off the foot in Boston. He missed the previous two games, but is also feeling like he could be ready to go against the Rangers.
Matthew Lombardi moved over from being the top line centre to playing on the third line wing alongside Bozak and Matt Frattin. Kadri was moved off the third line, and played on the extras line meaning his time could be coming to an end.
The activation of Tim Connolly would force the Leafs to send someone down, making Kadri the likely candidate.
Ben Scrivens was sent back down to the Marlies following his emergency call-up. Reimer won’t be given the full ok until Thursdsay But during practice everything appeared to be all systems go.
Monday, October 24th, 2011
By: David Alter
PHILADELPHIA – Jaromir Jagr scored a pair of breakaway goals as the Philadelphia Flyers doubled up the Maple Leafs 4-2.
Jagr caught the Maple Leafs pinching too deep on three different occasions.
“I’ve never had that” said Jagr when asked if he ever had three breakaways in a game before. “That’s the new NHL, lots of speed, now I just have to learn another move.”
Jagr used the same set of dekes on all three chances. The second opportunity, he was denied by Jonas Gustavsson, who made 26 saves in a losing cause.
Hard to fault the ‘Monster’ on a night like this where the defence played catchup all night. In the first 10 minutes of the second period, The Maple Leafs had swarmed Philly but they had a difficult time putting the puck on the net. At the 15:46 mark of the same frame, Scott Hartnell scored the first of his two goals to give the Flyers a lead they would never drop.
Gustavsson played well despite giving up four goals. He kept the team competitive and for the time being, should quiet some of his critics who didn’t feel he is an adequate back-up to James Reimer.
Matt Frattin is coming along nicely helping set-up the Maple Leafs second goal which was scored by David Steckel. He still has yet to score his first NHL goal (Shootouts don’t count.) Speaking of Steckel, his faceoff percentage tonight was 52% while his team averaged higher with 58%. The best in that category was Philippe Dupuis, who may sit out with some healthy bodies making a return.
Luke Schenn continues to receive minimal ice time (13:39) and it’s primarily because he isn’t used on the power-play at all (understandable) while virtually not used at all on the penalty kill either (A little surprising, given the Flyers were 2/5 on the PP so it may be time to use Schenn more in that spot.) Jake Gardiner was a minus-2 on the evening.
Bozak and Connolly in New York
Ron Wilson said after the game that he expects to have two centres back in the lineup on Thursday when the Maple Leafs visit the New York Rangers. If Tim Connolly takes part it will be his season debut after he injured what is believed to be his shoulder late in the preseason. Tyler Bozak has missed the last couple of games with a bruised foot. Dupuis would likely be one candidate to be taken out. The other could be one of Frattin or Kadri to allow for Steckel to stay in the lineup for key draws.
Pronger out around 2-3 weeks
In the first period, Mikhail Grabovski unintentionally high-sticked Chris Pronger in the eye area. It was legal as the stick hit Pronger on a follow through. Pronger left in a panic and did not return. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren says the initial prognosis is that he could be out at least 2-3 weeks.
Monday, October 24th, 2011
By: David Alter
PHILADELPHIA — Jonas Gustavsson makes his second start of the season tonight as the Maple Leafs visit the Flyers. The ‘Monster’ gets the nod after James Reimer suffered whiplash like symptoms stemming from an elbow to the head from Brian Gionta, in a 5-4 OT win over the Montreal Canadiens.
Ben Scrivens arrived from Toronto early this morning and will back-up Gustavsson on an emergency basis. Maple Leafs Head Coach Ron Wilson says Reimer is ‘close to 100%’ so they don’t have to make room for Scrivens on the active 23-man roster.
(Scrivens left, standing behind the ‘Monster, right in goal)
Tyler Bozak took part during the morning skate, although he’s still a game-time decision with a bruised foot. If the line rushes are any indication, I wouldn’t expect him to suit up tonight.
Schenn vs Schenn: and this time it matters
It’s Brayden vs Luke again but this time they’ll meet for the very first time during the regular season.
“This games obviously means a lot more than the two pre-season game played against each other” says Flyers forward Brayden Schenn. “I’m looking forward to tonight, and I’m pretty excited about it.
It looked like it would take a bit longer before both Schenns would meet each other in a regular season game. Brayden didn’t make the opening day roster in Philly and started it with the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL.
Schenn proved immediately that he belonged in Philly scoring four goals and four assists in four games.
“I went down there and for me I tried to make the stint as short as possible” says Brayden. “I’m still trying to make a good impression and I have an opportunity here so I’m going to try and capitalize on it.”
Schenn has no points and is a -3 in two games this season.
Jaromir Jagr has yet to score a goal through seven games. This is the longest drought he’s ever had to start an NHL season. His last game against the Maple Leafs was as a Ranger on December 29th, 2007. Jagr had a goal and three assists, a game where Andrew Raycroft was chased out in a 6-1 Rangers win.
Sunday, October 23rd, 2011
By: David Alter
PHILADELPHIA — James Reimer will not take part in Monday night’s road game against the Flyers in Philadelphia.
“He’s probably not going to play tomorrow, but very likely be ready to play on Thursday in New York,” said Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson.
Reimer left Saturday’s game in Montreal after one period of play when receiving an elbow by Brian Gionta early in the first period.
“I feel a lot better today than I did yesterday,” said Reimer. “With a hit like that you never what it could mean, so the doctor’s took a look at me and erred on the side of caution, I’d be shocked if it’s anything more than a couple of days.”
There will be no further discipline handed down to Gionta as a result of the hit and that seems to fit both Reimer and Wilson.
“I don’t think he stuck out his elbow or anything like that, I think it was just contact in front of the net,” says Reimer.
When I looked at it there was no intent to hit him in the head and I don’t think Brian Gionta is that type of player,” added Wilson.
Jonas Gustavsson will now make his third straight appearance in goal. Through five periods of hockey, the ‘Monster’ has a G.A.A. of 5.35 and a Save % of .852. The performance of the Leafs as a whole in Boston was bad and Gustavsson (while ready to go at anytime) found out with just two minutes’ notice during the first intermission that he would be thrust into action.
“I felt bad for Gusty as a goalie, he’s always prepared to go in, but it’s always tough to get thrown into a game midway through, especially in an intense situation in Montreal,” says Reimer. “I thought he played really well and I probably going to have to buy him a dinner or something like that.”
Connolly and Bozak
Both players skated on the extra forwards line at practice. Tim Connolly took contact for the very first time so he could be on the mend soon, but ruled himself out for at least few more days. “I probably have to do a few more contact days, and after that I should be ready to go.” Bozak’s foot is still sore and he was restricted in what he could do, while his foot is getting better, it will really depend on how it feels in the morning.
Saturday, October 22nd, 2011
By: David Alter
MONTREAL — Mikhail Grabovski scored the OT winner early, as the Maple Leafs bounced back for a 5-4 road win over the Montreal Canadiens.
Early in the game, James Reimer was elbowed in the head by Canadiens Captain Brian Gionta. Here is Leafs Head Coach Ron Wilson talking about the aftermath:
So it looks like the Maple Leafs may have dodged a bullet. There is no timetable for his return at this point but it doesn’t appear to be serious. It’ll be interesting to check out the practice session in Philly on Sunday to see if Reimer is cleared to take part.
Gionta was assessed a penalty for goatender interference. Reimer played for the remainder of the period before he was evaluated during the intermission. At that point the decision was made to put in Jonas Gustavsson. The early word is that there will be no supplemental discipline handed out as a result of the elbow to the head.
‘The Monster’ made 15 saves on 18 shots in relief, letting one of those in just 1:27 into the second period, the very first shot he faced. “You can’t really think about a goal, of course you always want to do your best to prevent a score but if it happens you have to keep going” said Gustavsson. “I trust my teammates to get a couple for me too so I just have to focus on the next shot every time.”
Grabovski in the clutch.
With the Maple leafs down 4-3 in the third period, former Canadiens forward Mikhail Grabovski helped set up the tying goal scored by Nik Kulemin, before putting in the winner just 1:23 into OT. Long moved on from his checkered past in Montreal, Grabovski was happy to score a goal infront of family and friends who made the trip from Toronto. When asked if he gets fired up when he hears the fans booing him when he touches the puck Grabovski said he couldn’t hear anything. “I think I just hear (the crowd) when (Mike) Komisarek touches the puck.”
There were several lead changes in the game with neither team ever carrying a lead larger than one goal. David Steckel redeemed himself early when he scored on the power-play, just minutes after he couldn’t contain Travis Moen on a shorthanded opportunity.
Phil Kessel scored the Maple Leafs second goal which tied the game up at 2′s to give him his NHL leading eighth in seven games.
Dion Phaneuf had a power-play goal which gave the Leafs their first lead in the third period. The power-play was 2-for-7 on the night.
Spread Out Defence
Jake Gardiner continues to impress as he found himself at the right place at the right time. In the second period, Gardiner robbed Erik Cole of a scoring opportunity when Cole was coming out of the penalty box. Gardiner again denied Cole several times in the third period, a big reason the Maple Leafs were able to hang around. Even when getting caught out of position, Gardiner managed to find his way into the right spot with his speed.
The Maple Leafs used all six defenseman in the game virtually equally on the even strength. The Leafs again had Luke Schenn play the least amount of minutes, but that can be attributed to the Leafs playing with the man advantage where Schenn played only 14 seconds.