March 30 2013 09:22PM
Apparently, former No. 1 overall pick Chris Phillips couldn't contain Nazem Kadri tonight. But hold on to something, it gets weirder.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are now two points back of the Boston Bruins. They are five points back of the division lead. There are 12 games to go in the season. This season is nothing short of incredible so far, and the Leafs have quickly turned a five-game slide into "points in eight straight games" and have now won four of five, and two of those wins have come against likely playoff opponents.
Latest victim was the Ottawa Senators. The Leafs got a hat-trick from Nazem Kadri and another goal from Joffrey Lupul, who was dipped in the River Styx as a child and was made immune to shooter regression. Final score 4-0. James Reimer with the shutout and the Leafs clinch the season series against the Sens.
March 30 2013 11:42AM
The Ottawa Senators' season could be summed up as so: 'Still injured, still winning'. The losses of Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, Craig Anderson and a host of other useful Senators roster players has had many sports analysts ask the question "well how are they doing it?"
Generally the answer when confronted with a problem is not one singular piece. The Senators haven't had success this season because of Paul MacLean. They haven't had success this season thanks to the new shutdown pairing of Marc Methot and Eric Gryba. It's not Kyle Turris, it's not Mika Zibanejad and it's not Daniel Alfredsson. It's an awful lot of those things combined.
March 28 2013 09:26PM
Photo Greg Abel/Getty via NHLInteractive
Wait, let it sink in.
Carolina has been flat the last little while. I didn't think they were as flat as they came out tonight in Toronto, and a Toronto Maple Leafs team that entered the game with John-Michael Liles in place, surprisingly, for Jake Gardiner took a 2-0 lead, lost it, but re-gained a 4-3 lead on a spectacular goal by Joffrey Lupul in the dying minutes.
I don't think the term "statement win" ever applies because sometimes you can give maximum effort and get owned by a couple of bad bounces. That might have been the case if not for a late tying goal by Phaneuf and a late winning goal by Lupul that saved the Leafs hide after five lousy minutes of special teams by the Canes tied the game. More importantly, the Leafs dominated an opponent that's given them a tonne of trouble this season.
The Leafs got two empty netters from Jay "Meat" McClement and Nikolai "Potatoes" Kulemin each got their sixth. Final at the Air Canada Centre was 6-3 when the final buzzer sounded.
March 28 2013 03:51PM
So now that we've established that the Leafs need to buy a few pieces, and established that the Leafs have a few pieces to sell, all before becoming a true "playoff team" it's time to turn our attention to a playoff race. That is a stretch of games that typically comes at the end of March and beginning of April where teams that are in the top ten or so jockey for position and try and win games and hope opponents nearby in the standings lose games.
As it happens. the Leafs are playing Carolina, one of the many teams fighting for one of the few playoff spots available in the East. The Hurricanes have played very well against Toronto this season, although they have produced not very well lately, losing three straight and going 3-6-1 in their last ten. They have fallen three points out of the race, but may not be that bad.
I'll have a brief analysis of the Canes after the jump, and urge any of you on Twitter to follow @ShutdownLine, a Hurricanes blogger who does some very good microstatistical work. He'll have some interesting numbers throughout the game.
March 28 2013 01:32PM
I can assure you that teams that aren't the Pittsburgh Penguins are still allowed to make deals. The problem, as several people have noted, is that there's such a small gap between buyers and sellers this season and few clear impact players who are available.
This is a side-effect of those long-term deals signed by star players. There is simply less legitimate talent available at deadline time. It doesn't necessarily make it a bad thing, since teams are now far less likely to overpay for a rental player given roster turnarounds and an added focus on players under the age of 26.
The biggest deal made at the deadline last season involved Jack Johnson and Jeff Carter, two players on long-term deals, with the second most-talked about being Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian, two NHL prospects. Deadline time to me isn't the task of stocking up on rental players determined to make a run for a big payday, but the last chance you have to tweak the current roster after a long season of assessing the positives and negatives of the group.
So we'll go ahead and do that today, and see if there are some available names at the positions the Leafs could use an addition.