Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun,
Three games without a point - his worst stretch as Leaf - doesn’t mean a Kessel benching is imminent, but Leafs coach Ron Wilson would like to see more soon from the team’s designated sniper.
“I agree he’s a little off,” Wilson said following Tuesday’s practice at the Mastercard Centre. “He’s not skating, he looks like he’s a little tired. He’s played a lot of games ... that’s as far as I will go.”
Kessel was willing to take it a little further while trying to shake off one of his least memorable nights with his new team. A mediocre minus-four in his past four games, Kessel was held to just four non-threatening shots on goal in Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Sabres.
To add misery to the miserly attack, the winger was on the ice for Derek Roy’s game winner in overtime. Rather than help earn the valuable extra point, Kessel contributed to it going the other way.
“I just haven’t been playing as well as before,” Kessel said bluntly before the team hopped a flight to New York for Wednesday’s game against the Islanders.
“Lately, I just haven’t been the best. I haven’t been terrible, but I know I have a lot better in me. I have to pick it up.
No penalty on the hit.
added 10:39pm, better quality video of the hit is below…
from Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun,
The Maple Leafs netminder offered little resistance as four goals flowed past him in a span of 11 minutes, 16 seconds in the second period, giving the Buffalo Sabres all they required for a 5-2 win over Toronto at the HSBC Arena.
The outburst came on just six shots, drowned a 1-0 Leafs lead thanks to Viktor Stalberg’s first NHL goal and led to the yanking of Toskala in favour of Jonas Gustavsson, who made his first appearance since leaving a game on Dec. 1 with heart problems.
“We’re not getting any saves, everybody gets shaky and you suffer breakdowns trying to run around,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “If you make mistakes, you have to buckle down and get the job done. Unfortunately, (Toskala) did not and I had to get him out of there.”
Remember the embarrassing goal Toskala allowed to New York Islanders defenceman Rob Davison in March 2008? Davison’s shot from 197 feet skipped past Toskala one night on Long Island, making the goalie the butt of jokes and giving him a spot on highlight reels.
Well, Toskala came close to outdoing himself.
read on and watch a goal Toskala wish he had back during the Leafs loss to the Sabres Friday night.
from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,
Wilson isn’t issuing a bold prediction to order tickets for April to beat the rush, but if the Leafs can overcome some Northeast Division demons this week and continue a string of home success, the Eastern Conference standings will start to speak for itself.
From an 0-7-1 start and national scorn, the Leafs began last night just four points back of a post-season berth as they began their final 50 games of the NHL schedule.
“We’re getting close enough to that eighth-place line to realize where we’ve come from,” coach Wilson said before taking on the Senators. “We do want to make the playoffs this year and to take our foot off of the gas right now would not be a wise choice.”
from Damien Cox of The Spin,
So what now, now that Schenn has tumbled to the bottom of the Leafs blueline depth chart? As hard as it might be for all concerned, Schenn needs to go to the AHL to begin to serve the apprenticeship he should have served before he played his first NHL game. It might take the rest of this season. Maybe next year as well. That’s what the minors are there for. What is it about this Leaf organization that forever makes it treat the farm like a punishment or a form of menial labour rather than a useful development tool?
from Ted Leonsis of Ted’s Take,
Maybe we were tired. Maybe we were rattled with the change in routine. Maybe our defense broke down. Maybe our young goaltender had a truly sub par performance. Maybe their goaltender stole a game after a shaky start.
Maybe all teams in the NHL are good to very good and they just beat us - at home - after we played back to back. It is a big game for the other side, Hockey Night in Canada and all. I think we lead the NHL now in Saturday night games on Hockey Night in Canada now. Everyone gets up for us. We have no easy games to play any more.
They won. We lost. We get no points.
a bit more...
from Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun,
Alexander Ovechkin, who leads the Caps into the Air Canada Centre tonight, has been coming under fire recently for his at-times careless play—an approach that found the talented Russian suspended for two games last week when he hit Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Tim Gleason knee-on-knee. Wilson, however, loves Ovechkin’s style.
“He plays hard and reckless,” the coach said. “He has done a few things. He slew-foots people, stuck his knee out on a bunch of people, so there is a body of evidence that indicates he does play reckless. But that is what makes him a great hockey player.
“He is fearless. I think it’s great he plays the game hard at both ends. He is physical and he is incredibly gifted offensively. I would say he is easily the most dominant player in our game.”
from Michael Traikos of the National Post,
Of course, a lot has changed in the last three weeks, where the Leafs have picked up 14 of a possible 20 points. So much so that general manager Brian Burke, whose self-imposed holiday trade freeze begins Wednesday, is having difficulty deciding what to do with the team’s many soon-to-be free agents.
Does he shop them around for draft picks? Does he try to sign them to new contracts? Or does he simply allow their current deals to expire?
“Obviously, the answer I give you Wednesday is different than after our 0-8 start,” said Burke. “So we’re in the process of finishing that evaluation, which of those guys we would like to extend and which we are going to cut loose at the deadline. And then the second thing will be what is a reasonable price for extending a certain player. If the price tag is not reasonable, then we’ll unload him at the deadline.”
from David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail,
Thanks to The Gap, life is better these days for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
No, they have not landed new wardrobes thanks to a sponsorship deal with the clothing retailer, but they have, as Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock pointed out about the Leafs last week, “found the right balance between offence and defence.” To mix coaching and transit metaphors, that is known as minding the gap.
Hockey coaches love to go on about the gap – the distance between the forwards and the defencemen. Keep the gap at the right distance at both ends of the ice, coaches say, and keep the distance constant as you move up and down the ice, and success will follow.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Good thing for Phil Kessel that Boston sports fans don’t hold a grudge. Just ask Bill Buckner. Or Roger Clemens. Or Johnny Damon.
That Kessel will be booed Saturday night when the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Bruins is a fait accompli. The question is, how many years will fans view him as Public Enemy No. 1.
His exit from Boston was a fascinating one, to be sure.
There have been different tales spun from different camps. No matter whom you believe, it’s hard to know for sure exactly what happened.
For example, one side will insist Kessel essentially asked for a trade during the summer, something the kid himself denied upon his arrival in Toronto. His agent, Wade Arnott of Newport Sports, also said a trade was never demanded.
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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