Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun,
Perhaps it’s time to cut Maple Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf some slack instead of cutting him up all the time, as the media and Leafs fans tend to do in abundance. Myself included.
Guess what? Whipping boy Phaneuf is a plus-14 this season. The Leafs captain has also been on the ice for 54 goals for, tied (heading into Tuesday’s game against Anaheim) with Calgary’s TJ Brodie for the NHL lead. And playing along defensive partner Cody Franson, Phaneuf almost always plays against the opposition’s top line.
Everyone dumps on him when the Leafs are in the doldrums. But when things are going well (as they have since a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 20), the praise hasn’t come with the same frequency. Maybe it’s the having-a-Hollywood-wife thing. Who knows.
6.5 out of 10 for me.
from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,
Expectations are bound to be a challenge when William Nylander makes the transition to the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Just how much of a challenge could depend largely on how the next couple weeks unfold at the World Junior Championship. When Nylander stepped onto Canadian soil with the rest of his Swedish teammates Tuesday, he found himself in possession of a unique opportunity.
He is both the Leafs top prospect and Sweden’s top centre for a high-profile tournament being played at Air Canada Centre.
That means the spotlight from two continents will be pointed in his direction.
It will be the first time most hockey fans in Toronto see him compete against kids his own age. Having the opportunity to compare him to his peers should underscore why the 18-year-old was selected with the eighth overall pick in June.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Who knew Tuesday night's Ducks-Leafs game would bring together the two hottest teams in the NHL? Well, that the NHL-leading Ducks have won seven straight is no surprise at all, given that they were a popular preseason pick to contend after winning the Pacific Division in the regular season last year. But the Maple Leafs? They've gone 9-1-1 since being crushed 9-2 at home by Nashville back on Nov. 18.
They've had terrific special teams and solid goaltending, but what's really caught everyone's attention here is the depth of their balanced attack. That Joffrey Lupul is playing on the third line right now underscores that depth. The second line led by center Nazem Kadri, playing between Daniel Winnik and Mike Santorelli, has been sensational.
The Leafs are now right there with Tampa Bay, Detroit and Montreal in the fight for the Atlantic Division lead. Putting away points in the standings during this stretch might have saved their season, given that the Leafs depart for a seven-game road trip starting Sunday in Chicago as the world junior championships take over the Air Canada Centre.
read on for Burnside on the Lightning, Custance on the Oilers and Strang on Slava Voynov...
The Leafs are 9-1-1 since Nashville. They’re one win off first place in the Eastern Conference, with a game in hand. Aside from the reassuringly vicious presence of Richard Panik, nothing’s really changed. They just carry themselves differently. It’s all more purposeful. Randy Carlyle has gone from despair to acceptance to surprise to worry. If they keep winning, he’s going to round back to despair again – he’s learned not to trust anything in this city.
-Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail where you can read more on the Leafs.
George Stroumboulopoulos sits down with Toronto’s Larry Tanenbaum, Boston’s Jeremy Jacobs and Calgary’s Murray Edwards to discuss the perks and issues of owning a hockey franchise.
Part two and three of the video can be viewed at Sportsnet.
from Katie Strang of ESPN,
KATIE STRANG: We've seen some pretty drastic contrasts from the Leafs in terms of highs and lows. What do you make of how this season has gone?
CODY FRANSON: There were definitely areas of our game that we were trying to figure out early on, and I think we've done a good job of figuring those things out and continually improving on them. There's definitely games where we get away from what makes us successful and we get exposed a little bit, but I think we're maturing as a group in terms of rebounding from those and understanding what made us have trouble the night before.
STRANG: How much of that maturation is learning how to handle the type of scrutiny you endure in the Toronto market?
FRANSON: I think that's a big part. When things start going badly for us, we really feel it. I mean it's something that gets talked about a lot. It's tough to get away from it in Toronto, but we've got some older guys in our room now that are helping us out with that, and our group is continually getting better at it.
After practice today...
Re-live the madness as James Reimer single-handedly lifted a tired and slow-looking Toronto Maple Leafs squad to a 2-1 shootout win over the superior-looking Detroit Red Wings in a 41 save performance that dazzled.
How did Randy Carlyle feel about Reimer's performance? Watch below...
In cased you missed the hit.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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