March 16 2013 04:21PM
The Leafs get Joffrey Lupul back, but since scoring hasn't been Toronto's issue in his absence, the bigger story to tonight's game is that Toronto gets to set the line matchups in contrast to their two earlier games this season against Winnipeg in Winnipeg. Other than that, not a whole heck of a lot else changes, even if this game is stepped up in importance due to Winnipeg being a team competing for a playoff spot with Toronto, and that fact is a little more apparent:
*3rd - Carolina - 31 pts / 22 games remaining
5th - Ottawa 34 pts / 21 games remaining
6th - New Jersey 32 pts / 20 games remaining
7th - Toronto 31 pts / 20 games remaining
8th - Winnipeg 30 pts / 21 games remaining
9th - NY Rangers 28 pts / 21 games remaining
10th - NY Islanders 27 pts / 21 games remaining
11th - Philadelphia 27 pts / 19 games remaining
I'll get into more detail in all of those team's chances later this week, but those are the eight teams realistically competing for the final five spots barring a crazy run from the Lightning or Capitals. As much grief as the hockey blogosphere gives Winnipeg, they're a pretty good team, and I gave them a good shot to make the playoffs last season. Their issue was goaltending, but they're a very well-coached, even-possession team with two good lines.
March 15 2013 12:45PM
The bad news, as pointed out by James Mirtle, is that Tyler Bozak is averaging more than three minutes a game more than Mikhail Grabovski this season. That can mean that Randy Carlyle actually-factually thinks Bozak is a better player than Grabovski.
Worse, as I've seemed to notice, it seems as if Grabovski has been held to such a low number based on a statistic. Like has been pointed out to me many times before in comment sections, you can't build a team based on a spreadsheet, whether it's Corsi, Offensive Zone Start %… or face-off percentage.
March 15 2013 12:28PM
Leafs lose a 3-1 heartbreaker...
March 15 2013 12:05PM
With Joffrey Lupul set to return to lineup, TOR opens up spot by trading David Steckel to ANA for minor leaguer Ryan Lasch and 7th rd pick.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 15, 2013
Not a huge shock. Toronto needed to open up a roster spot for the impending return of Joffrey Lupul, and the success of Jay McClement made Dave Steckel a redundancy.
In return the Leafs get a minor leaguer and a low pick. The good news is that Toronto get Lupul back and everybody else is shoved down the depth chart. The bad news is that the organization is committed to bad hockey players playing on the fourth line wing. Steckel had filled in on the fourth line when injuries forced Jay McClement to play on Mikhail Grabovski's wing, but never played the wing position himself alongside McClement.
March 14 2013 08:36PM
Excellent photo via Abelimages and NHL Interactive via Getty
Most of the times I've written a game recap this season, I've taken to this space to write how, despite the victory, the Leafs played the game with underlying problems. Those don't go over well.
Nobody, when the team is winning, wants to read about the team not doing enough to win, or not winning the right way, or winning in a way that they shouldn't keep winning.
Thursday night it was the reverse. The Toronto Maple Leafs played well enough to win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Their first two periods, they played the best game defensively I've seen all season, limiting the Penguins shots, scoring chances, and preventing every Penguins line that didn't have Sidney Crosby on it from establishing itself in the offensive zone. Tyler Bozak put the Leafs ahead on a pretty goal set up by a pretty pass from Cody Franson who got the puck on a pretty bit of patience from Phil Kessel. That wasn't enough. For the second straight game, the Penguins scored three goals in the final 8 minutes, and won the game 3-1.