March 12 2013 10:12PM
"A possession black hole on every forward line, and an AHL defenceman on every pairing."
Not entirely sure if Randy Carlyle's rebuilding of the Maple Leafs locker room has that hung up on a sign somewhere, but the good fortune the Leafs got in the defensive zone of the first 10 or so games of the season has finally come to catch up with them.
The Toronto Maple Leafs stunk against Winnipeg, and there weren't very many bright spots. They were out-scored 5-2, out-chanced 17-12 and the Jets had 78 shot attempts to the Leafs' 46. This is all despite the game starting with two face-punching tilts with Colton Orr against Chris Thorburn, and then a well-advised Dion Phaneuf-Andrew Ladd scrap that wiped out a potential Blake Wheeler scoring chance.
March 12 2013 03:41PM
The last time the Leafs went into Winnipeg, it was my last game preview writing about a goal-less Phil Kessel. Kessel scored a late game winner for the Leafs who took a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets.
Last season, everything sort of crashed for the Leafs after their second visit to Winnipeg. Having taken 9 of 10 points in their last five games and a 28-20-6 record, the Leafs would go on to win just one of their next 11 games after suffering a 2-1 loss to the Jets. Chris Thorburn and Blake Wheeler scored the goals and Ondrej Pavelec, probably Winnipeg's shakiest player, stopped 17 of 18 shots. Really, he wasn't tested too much. I bring this up because an article in the Globe & Mail suggests a similar decline for Toronto this season, although with 22 games to go in the regular season rather than 28, the Leafs have a bit more breathing room.
March 12 2013 11:55AM
It's not exactly breaking news that Joffrey Lupul skated with his teammates yesterday for the first time since injury, wearing a no-contact jersey and taking shots and participating in passing drills. That's good news in his recovery, since the forearm is a necessary part of the body to take shots and pass well.
It does create a bit of a mess in Toronto's top nine as to what you do with Lupul when he comes back from injury. Michael Traikos notes that he's "six-and-a-half weeks into an injury that was expected to keep him out six-to-eight weeks". Lupul himself said he's day-to-day.
March 11 2013 03:25PM
For the second time, a Toronto Star writer has completely ignored the fact that Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin play on a checking line—and almost exclusively in a checking role—when trying to analyze the scoring of those two players. In Boston, Kevin McGran tweeted out a poorly-formed thought indicating that Grabovski was invisble, a period before Grabovski and Jay McClement hooked up for the 3-2 goal that brought the Maple Leafs back into the game.
Grabovski in that game took six of his 11 draws against Patrice Bergeron. Media members can accept that Randy Carlyle plays a hard matching style, where he likes to pair up a centreman against a centreman for the course of the game. Grabovski, Toronto's best two-way player, along with Nik Kulemin and Jay McClement frequently get the opposition's top line, even on the road.
March 11 2013 10:44AM
Phil Kessel sometimes does take shifts that go on a bit too long.
In the third period Saturday night, during a frantic bit of action, two Toronto Maple Leafs players were caught on the ice at the end of their shifts: Phil Kessel and Mark Fraser. Since the Leafs were skating broadcast right to left, Mark Fraser as a left side defenceman was slightly further away from the bench than his partner Mike Kostka, who got off for Dion Phaneuf. No excuse for Phil Kessel, who plays a bit of a rover position, but is generally expected to be a right winger for the Leafs.
Still, Kessel stayed on the ice even after Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk had gone off. Streaking through centre, he used his speed to get around Penguins forward Craig Adams and made a subtle outlet to Nazem Kadri who had come on the ice. Kadri moved the puck in over the line with possession, halted just enough to stall Penguins shutdown man Paul Martin and find Kessel, who had burst into the slot.