Archive for December, 2011
Friday, December 30th, 2011
By: David Alter
WINNIPEG — Despite coming off a couple of mediocre performances, James Reimer will be back between the pipes for the Maple Leafs when they take on the Jets in Winnipeg for the first time since 1996.
Reimer is coming off a pair of games in which he was pulled after allowing three goals on eight shots against the Panthers. That effort was followed up with a four goal performance against the Carolina Hurricanes, the worst team in the Eastern Conference.
“I thought about but it wouldn’t be fair to him, the player would always take that the wrong way” says Wilson when talking about if there was a chance he would start Jonas Gustavsson in goal. “He wants to play in this game, he’s probably marked that game himself at the beginning of the season, it’s important and I’ve always felt that way, I’m not going to take that opportunity away from just about any player.”
Following Thursday’s game, Wilson was critical of Reimer’s play saying he should have been able to make a save on the goal that ultimately won it for Carolina.
“I take it as what he (Wilson) says. I don’t disagree with him, if someone states the obvious” says Reimer. “He has every right to pump my tires or deflate them. I’m not going to sit there and pout about it and I’m not going sit thereto be on top of the world if he says I’ve played a great game.”
Midway through practise, Tyler Bozak was racing to the boards where he went off his skates and hit the corner hard shoulder first. Bozak tried to tough it out but eventually came off the ice and wouldn’t return.
Matthew Lombardi is possibly near a return and a roster spot will have to be cleared up for him once he’s activated.
“We’d have to figure that out because we don’t have room unless we find out Bozie is hurt bad enough and could go on IR” says Wilson. “But if it’s just for a day or so if at all, than that’s something we have to discuss.”
Tuesday, December 27th, 2011
By: David Alter
Perhaps it was the hangover of the mini two-day holiday break. Whatever it was, the Leafs got off to a slow start and then had a nightmare of a second period en route to a 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers.
It all went wrong from the beginning when the Leafs failed to get any jump off the first faceoff. The Leafs top line was on the ice for the first couple of minutes and failed to get the puck out of their own zone. Phil Kessel would ultimately give the puck away in his own zone, allowing Erik Gudbranson to score the game’s opening goal just 1:57 in.
The Leafs would manage to get things going towards the end of the period, firing a lot of shots and generating several scoring opportunities. They would carry that over into the second period when Mikhail Grabovski would tie things up early in the second period, a celebration that would be short-lived.
Bill Thomas would score for the Panthers only 29 seconds after the Leafs tying goal, a weird one as he beat Reimer who was following the player and not the puck. Thomas actually fanned on the shot as the puck would slide into the goal. The play breaking down in their own end and led by Jake Gardiner being out of position. “Your defenseman should not be in the deep-slot covering the centreman I’m not sure what he was thinking there” Wilson said of Gardiner.
Less than two minutes later, a power-play opportunity for the Panthers and Jason Garrison would score his 11th of the season. That would spell the end to James Reimer’s night, as he would be pulled after letting in three goals on just eight shots.
“To be honest with you I think on a good night he stops all three shots” Wilson said of Reimer’s play. “I wanted to change things up.”
Jonas Gustavsson would be thrown to the wolves as he’d give up a goal on his first shot. Hard to fault the ‘Monster’ though when it’s a 5-on-3 situation that caps a Panthers fleury of three goals in the span of 4:35.
The Leafs would get a goal back when Dion Phaneuf’s slapper would beat Theodore as the Leafs trailed by a pair after two periods.
In the third period the Leafs would inch closer and get their only power-play goal as Grabovski would score his second of the game to make it a one goal affair with more than ten minutes to go.
While continuing to apply pressure the Leafs made a costly mistake, when Luke Schenn would take the puck up the ice to the opposing blue-line, only to be stripped allowing Tomas Fleischmann to come back and score, deflating the Leafs chances at a third period comeback.
“We shouldn’t have a defenseman who normally doesn’t lead attacks trying to stick-handle through their whole team” said Wilson of Schenn. “They counter-attacked and finished us off right there.”
The Maple Leafs 30th ranked PK got worse tonight as they gave up two power-play goals on just three opportunities for the opposition. I can’t stress this enough, but no team has EVER made the playoffs with a 30th ranked PK. If they don’t get this fixed the teams they are lumped with for a playoff spot will catch up.
After taking a hard hit against the Sabres, John-Michael Liles was moved to the IR with a concussion bringing the team’s IR list to six players. Korbinian Holzer has been brought up to full the vacated roster spot.
Sunday, December 25th, 2011
By: David Alter
The Toronto Maple Leafs have rewarded Head Coach Ron Wilson with a contract extension.
Terms of the deal are not immediately known.
Wilson hinted that something could be coming when he took to his twitter account (@coachrw63) that he was hoping for a “piece of paper” in his stocking.
This morning, Wilson tweeted: “He Came! He Came!” Remember saying that as a little kid? Well he did: I got a new Red Ryder BB gun and a contract extension!
Wilson signed on to be the Maple Leafs coach back in June of 2008, agreeing to a four-year contract believed to be worth $5.6 million dollars.
Wilson has a coaching record of 119-120-42 in his time as Leafs Head Coach, finishing out of the playoffs in all three full-seasons behind the bench.
Leafs President and GM Brian Burke addressed Wilson’s contract situation, saying it wasn’t ideal for your coach to be going into the final year without some security.
“I can look in the mirror and say I’ve stood by Ron Wilson,” Burke said this past off-season. “I told him if we have a good start that’s something we can address early on.”
The Leafs got off to a hot start this season going 9-3-1 in their first 13 games and negotiations for a new deal began approximately seven-ten days ago.
They have managed to keep pace, currently sitting sixth in the Eastern Conference at 18-13-4. The team has shown tremendous depth playing well in the absence of their starting goalie for much of the season, while the career years both Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul have managed to provide enough offence.
Of course, the Leafs are only three points ahead of ninth and things can change in any direction from now until the end of the season.
Coaches salaries aren’t effected in the cap, so this won’t have any impact on the Leafs ability to be competitive from a financial standpoint. What this does do is put Burke in a vulnerable state should the Leafs slide and miss out on the post-season birth.
The Leafs have looked better than they have over the last several seasons. But by no means is a playoff spot considered a lock at this point.
Should be an interesting day at practice before the Leafs embark on a three-game road trip to end 2011.
Thursday, December 22nd, 2011
By: David Alter
The Maple Leafs look to avenge a road loss against the Sabres tonight.
David Steckel should return to the lineup after missing the past two games with an illness. He’ll be flanked on the team’s 4th line.
Nazem Kadri will play right-wing alongside Clarke MacArthur and Tim Connolly.
The only thing unclear as of now is who comes out on defense. Head Coach Ron Wilson told reporters that Keith Aulie will suit up tonight, but didn’t say who would come out. Jake Gardiner’s ice-time has come down considerably over the past two games. He logged 16:39, his lowest time-on-ice in a month and lowest among defensemen in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Kings. Gardiner is the likely candidate to come out while there is an outside chance it could be Cody Franson.
The Maple Leafs have 36 points and sit in a two-way tie for seventh in the Eastern conference. The Sabres are just 1 point back and sit in a three-way tie for ninth.
James Reimer gets the nod in goal tonight for the Leafs.
A few Maple Leafs spent time with Justin Bieber yesterday on the ice at ACC, while the singer was filming a TV special and granting a wish for Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada. Beiber skated with Dion Phaneuf, Tyler Bozak and Jake Gardiner, while taking shots on Jonas Gustavsson.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, it was fun to meet a guy like that. You could tell that he could skate and puck-handling” said Gustavsson. “He scored a few goals on me, I don’t know if I was tired or if it was moves but we had a lot of fun.”
The Maple Leafs have only won two games in their last nine and part of the problem has been their play at ACC. They are 1-2-2 in their last five home games and will aim to try and look to avoid a a four-game losing streak, which would be their longest of the season.
The Sabres have dropped four out of their last five games, with the only win in that stretch coming against the Leafs.
Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
By: David Alter.
Nazem Kadri is the latest of the Marlies to be called up to the Maple Leafs, a move made possible thanks to an upper-body injury suffered by Philippe Dupuis early in Monday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the L.A. Kings.
Kadri has scored eight goals and 14 assists in 22 games with the Marlies this season. He was the AHL’s player of the month in November.
Kadri skated on the team’s third line alongside Tim Connolly and Clarke MacArthur. While the Leafs never had a problem with his offensive capability, the issues with Kadri have always been his two-way play. The hope is playing alongside a veteran centre like Connolly will help Kadri with that aspect of his game.
Matthew Lombardi continues to skate hard at practice. “He’s been pretty much given a full go to work on everything at practice so now it’s just a matter of working on everything from timing to conditioning” says Head Coach Ron Wilson. “He probably will be ready to return after the break, Winnipeg, Florida Carolina, not sure which but he’ll return during the trip.”
David Steckel took part in a full practice for the first time since suffering from Bronchitis. Wilson hopes that he’ll be ready for tomorrow’s game but wasn’t sure. “He lost about eight or nine pounds, hopefully he eats a lot” said Wilson. Steckel first started getting sick in Buffalo and felt awful during the game. “I didn’t sweat at all in the game against Buffalo” Steckel says. “I had a fever and at that point I was just trying to stay away from everyone but I feel better now.”
James Reimer will get the start against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night. It is expected that Jonas Gustavsson will then go for the Maple Leafs against the Islanders the following night.
Lines at Practice
Tuesday, December 20th, 2011
By: David Alter
The fact that Colby Armstrong didn’t disclose the full severity of his shot to the head comes as no surprise to his teammates.
“Not at all. Army hates being out and it kills him more than anything to be out so that doesn’t surprise me at all” said James Reimer who went through the same injury earlier in the season. “Some people may say it wasn’t the smartest thing but he has a huge heart and he just wanted to play for the team.”
Tyler Bozak felt the same way.
“He battles hard and I think he’s been out for a little while and he didn’t want to get hurt again so he battled through it. In the heat of the moment you can get bumped in the head and you don’t even know it.”
Do you feel Armstrong is justified in hiding the severity of his injury? The warrior in a player wants you to fight through it but where’s the line?
Armstrong was moved the injured reserve while Darryl Boyce gets called-up for the first time this season.
Boyce, himself no stranger to injury, ended last season with the Maple Leafs in which he played 46 games, scoring five goals and eight assists.
“I think it was more reward basis” said Boyce of why he may have been passed on for call-ups earlier in the season. “I just had to be patient to wait for my chance now
The Maple Leafs have placed forward Philippe Dupuis on the Injured Reserve, a discovery learned once Dupuis was announced to the crowd in attendance for the first ever Leafs Nation Fan Appreciation Night. He never came out on to the ice.
It’s not immediately clear what ailment Dupuis suffered in the Leafs 3-2 shootout loss to the Kings at Air Canada Centre, but whatever it is warranted a move to the IR, which means the soonest he can return to the lineup would be after the Christmas break on the 27th against the Panthers.
Dupuis has 0 points in 30 games this season with the Maple Leafs. He was primarily used on the Penalty Kill, but didn’t see anytime in that spot in the previous two games where he logged season lows in ice-time with a little over four and-a-half minutes.
This will leave another roster spot open for someone to perhaps be called up, and appear for Wednesday’s practice.
The Maple Leafs had a not-so-formal practice in front of about 10,000 fans. Among the highlights were Keith Aulie scoring a pair of goals, and Colton Orr scoring in a shootout on James Reimer, and celebrated in Tebow-like fashion crouching down to pray.
“It was pretty funny, I’ll get him next time, in practice he always snipes on me, it’s just fitting that he scored in the shootout” said Reimer.
David Steckel returned from his bout with an illness.
Lines at practise.
Extras: Steckel (illness) Lombardi (shoulder)
Tuesday, December 20th, 2011
By: David Alter
The Maple Leafs fell to the Kings 2-1 in a shootout at Air Canada Centre. But the story of the night emanates from the warmup leading to the game, when Colby Armstrong was a surprise no-show, after telling reporters at the morning skate that he was fine. Turns out that we the media weren’t the only ones kept in the dark.
“In the game the other night (against the Vancouver Canucks) he hit Ryan Kessler, he cracked his toe but that wasn’t an issue. Later on this afternoon he didn’t tell the trainers or the doctors yesterday that he had his bell rung. At 2:30-3 (in the afternoon) somewhere there he was nauseated, blurry vision so he’s got a concussion” said Head Coach Ron Wilson. “We didn’t know that until later in the afternoon, so he’s going to be out however long he’s going to be out now. It took us all by complete shock because we had no idea he had his bell rung the other night, he kind of kept that from us” says Wilson.
This is now Armstrong’s fifth injury in less than 1.5 seasons with the Maple Leafs. Armstrong was sidelined for 23 games earlier this season, after suffering a high-ankle sprain against the Jets back in October.
“He skated today and felt ok but was nauseous afterwards, but he was also nauseated yesterday and didn’t tell us after he rode a bike.”
The Leafs will call someone up from the Marlies and put Armstrong back on the injured reserve…likely Joe Colborne.
Reimer made 40 saves in a losing cause, easily his best performance since returning from a concussion. Reimer was able to see pucks through traffic and continued to make timely saves when it looked like the defense in front of him was dissolving in the second period. The Leafs were outshot by Los Angeles 16-4 in the middle frame.
The main storyline going in for the Leafs was a reshaping of their forward lines, but it seemed to do nothing for them in the second period. Wilson decided to go back to the lines he had prior to practice on Sunday to begin the third. That allowed Matt Frattin to score the equalizer on a beautiful setup from Mikhail Grabovski and Nik Kulemin.
For the last three games, Jake Gardiner’s production has appeared to drop off. So much so, that Wilson used Gardiner for only 2:47 in the third period. His 16:39 TOI is the lowest he’s had since November 17th over in Nashville. “He’s slowing a little bit, we’ve got to find a way to charge his batteries” says Wilson.
With the emphasis on better defensive play, Tim Connolly logged 23:14 TOI, his longest of any game this season. 4:19 of that was spent on the PK and another 3:04 on the PP. It should be interesting to see if that continues.
For a player who has zero points and plays almost every game, Dupuis managed to stick around by being used as a go-to player on the penalty-kill. He logged no time on the PK tonight begging the question of what exactly his role will be now? The injury to Armstrong makes him a necessity it appears, but he could always be sent down.
Monday, December 19th, 2011
By: David Alter
The Maple Leafs have shuffled up their lines tonight as they get ready to host the struggling L.A. Kings tonight at Air Canada Centre.
Tim Connolly moves back to the team’s top line. He will centre alongside Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel.
Tyler Bozak moves down to the third line and will play alongside Matt Frattin and either Colby Armstrong or Joey Crabb.
Bozak, Kessel and Lupul were a combined -6 in a 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night. Because there has been nothing wrong with the line offensively, Maple Leafs Head Coach Ron Wilson will still use Bozak alongside Kessel and Lupul during the power-play.
Reimer Between the Pipes
James Reimer will look to bounce back from perhaps his worst start this season on Friday night in Buffalo. Reimer surrendered five goals in his last start, including a pair he’d like to have back. Reimer has a 3.39 GAA and and .868 Sv % in his five starts since returning from concussion-like symptoms.
David Steckel will miss his second straight game as he continues to battle a case of bronchitis. Jay Rosehill will enter the spot as Wilson has elected to not use seven defenseman tonight. Keith Aulie will serve as the healthy scratch on defence.
Despite missing Sunday’s practice after taking a shot off the foot, Colby Armstrong will be in the lineup tonight and will play on either the third or fourth line.
The Maple Leafs look to avoid three-straight regulation losses for the first time this season. They are 2-5-1 in their past eight games, the worst of any stretch of games this season.
Saturday, December 17th, 2011
By: David Alter
BUFFALO — The Maple Leafs woes on the penalty kill reached an all-new low this season, as they gave up three power-play goals to the opposition in a 5-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
The Maple Leafs came out flying in the first period with several opportunities and all appeared to be going well. They would open the scoring in the second frame, when Joffrey Lupul burried his 14th from Phil Kessel. The lead was short-lived when Drew Stafford tied it up on a power-play, after Carl Gunnarsson was given two minutes for holding.
With the game tied up at two’s later in that frame, the Leafs took a pair of minor penalties (Clarke MacArthur tripping, and Philippe Dupuis Hi-Sticking) just 12 seconds apart. That allowed the Sabres to take over with Tyler Ennis giving Buffalo the go-ahead goal on the five-on-three.
Only down a goal, a busy second period winded down with Dion Phaneuf drilling Zack Kassian into the boards. Leading his team in ice-time at the point of the infraction, Phaneuf was given a five miniute major for boarding and a game-misconduct.
Still, with a two-goal deficit and without their top defenseman the Maple Leafs looked deflated until they were gifted a penalty shot opportunity when Nik Kulemin was taken down. Riding a streak of 23 games without a goal, Kulemin beat Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller to put the game within reach.
Back and forth the Sabres would restore a two-goal lead before the Leafs would cut it to one, and it would stay that way.
While there are several lapses that you can point to, this game was lost on the PK. Several penalties led to a lack of discipline and it’s starting to become a significant problem. The Leafs have gone a season-high five straight games while giving up at least one power-play goal. Their PK is ranked 30th in the league, and there has never been an NHL team in the 30-team era to ever make it to the post-season with the worst ranked PK.
The Leafs have the Canucks at the ACC, a team with the best PP in the league… This should be interesting.
Friday, December 16th, 2011
By: David Alter
BUFFALO — The QEW rivalry gets re-ignited tonight as Tim Connolly returns to Buffalo as the Maple Leafs visit the Sabres at First Niagara Center.
Connolly spent the previous eight seasons with Buffalo prior to signing with the Maple Leafs this off-season and he says he enjoyed his time here in Buffalo despite the heavy scrutiny by fans and media during his tenure.
“I don’t follow the media too closely, I stay away from that I kind of learned that at a young age the hard way” says Connolly. I just go out and enjoy myself and play day-to-day and enjoy the game, it’s kind of fun.”
Clarke MacArthur had a brief stint in Buffalo teaming with Connolly, and says some the criticism he got from fans was unwarranted.
“You’d see some of his highlight goals and the plays he would make were unbelievable. I think the fans expected him to do that every night and it’s not realistic” says MacArthur. “As far as consistency his numbers were always up there, I thought he did a good job here.”
Reimer in Goal
James Reimer will get the start in goal tonight for the Maple Leafs. Reimer enjoyed success against the Sabres where many before him have failed, going 3-1 in his rookie season. Reimer is battling a little bit of a cold that has been bothering him since the day of the Leafs 2-1 OT win over the Hurricanes. Head Coach Ron Wilson says Jonas Gustavsson would likely then start against the Canucks on Saturday.
One of the most entertaining Leafs on twitter is Joffrey Lupul. Last night Lupul got some pretty mixed reaction when he tweeted about the lack of good scenery asking if there are any windowless rooms.
“I didn’t mean to stir it up that much, just having a little bit of fun” says Lupul. “I mean, I’m from Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, I mean it makes Buffalo look like Rome. I was just trying to have some fun and it should make for an interesting environment tonight.”
The Leafs held an optional skate this morning, your projected lines.