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.
Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)
March 27 2013 09:52PM
The Toronto Marlies have been an impressive team of late. After falling out of the North Division lead, their ten game homestead gave the team time to re-evaluate and build chemistry, and did so in spectacular fashion, winning seven of them. The momentum continued as the team left town, leading to eight straight games without a regulation loss. However, all good things must come to an end at some point, and that was the case tonight, as the blue and white fell 4-1 to the Rockford IceHogs.
March 27 2013 04:23PM
We're a week away from the 2013 trade deadline and the Leafs are in the un-enviable position of having to choose between "buy" and "sell" mode. Whether you watch this team live or through spreadsheet goggles, the problems the team faces are pretty clear. They give up too many shots, their first line can't generate any pressure and the productive players are the ones who seem to be playing with the young Nazem Kadri.
Our pals around the Nations Network have offered their own individual takes for what their teams should do going into the deadline. The Leafs haven't been in a position to buy "or" sell at the deadline in recent years, although they did negotiate a good return for François Beauchemin and Tomas Kaberle in the 2011 season. Thanks to Brian Burke's efforts those years, the Leafs have pieces like Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner and Joe Colborne plus a glut of conditional picks that have yet to become NHLers, but maybe they will some day.
Last season was a little toned down, however. The team re-signed Mikhail Grabovski and John-Michael Liles long-term. Burke traded Keith Aulie for Carter Ashton and Dale Mitchell for Mark Fraser. There weren't a lot of trade chips last season.
This year though, the Leafs have some interesting trade bait, and it will be interesting to see what Dave Nonis does to both maximize his team's shot at a playoff run this season.