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This past week, Bob Mackenzie indicated on TSN Radio that the Maple Leafs would not be interested in goaltender Roberto Luongo. This seems to be a sentiment echoed throughout the media and I happen to agree with it. Don’t get me wrong, I think Luongo is a great goalie and will be good for the next five years at least, I just don’t think the Maple Leafs are interested in someone of his age with that type of contract.
About a month ago I posted an article suggesting that the Maple Leafs target two goalies in free agency: Josh Harding and Scott Clemmensen.
I still hold the same opinion as I did then; the Maple Leafs need to give James Reimer a chance to be the starting goalie they think he is, but if he falters they need a proven veteran backup that can carry the load. Harding and Clemmensen both fit the bill and they should be had with short term, low cost contracts. The Leafs must also consider how well Ben Scrivens has developed at the AHL level. And although they will not go into the season with only Reimer and Scrivens as the only two goalies on the roster, he just might be the starting goalie at some point next year.
On the one hand, the Phoenix Coyotes should be thrilled that they made it to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history. On the other, they should be disappointed that they were dismissed in five games by a team that finished two points behind them in the Pacific Division during the regular season.
But the biggest regret for the Coyotes should be the fact that everything that worked during series victories against the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators failed against the L.A. Kings. (More on the royal juggernaut during previews for the Stanley Cup finals.) In 11 games against the Hawks and Preds, the Coyotes allowed 21 goals (1.9 goals per game); in five games against the Kings, they allowed 14 (2.8 goals per game). Consider the flip side to that equation: they only scored eight goals in five games against the Kings (1.6 goals per game) compared to 29 goals in the first 11 games of the playoffs (2.63 goals per game). So they scored 1.3 fewer goals per game and allowed 0.7 more goals per game. Not a recipe for success.
This is the fourth article in a series looking at the Toronto Maple Leafs organizational depth by position. Thus far I have completed my review of goalies, defensemen and center icemen in the organization and that leaves us with wingers to round things out. As I stated in my previous article, most forwards can play multiple positions and often do throughout a season, I will do my best to categorize players as centers, left wingers or right wingers. For example, I am including Nazem Kadri in the right winger evaluation. Although Kadri plays center with the AHL Toronto Marlies, he has almost been exclusively a right winger in his stints with the Maple Leafs which suggests that he will be a winger at the NHL level.
Left Wingers on 2011-12 roster:
Last year at this time, the Washington Capitals were contemplating what went wrong after the Tampa Bay Lightning swept them right out of the conference semifinals. They vowed to get better, be more responsible, and play a better two-way system.
Here we are a year later, and the Caps lost (again) in the conference semifinals. They played better defense, but their offense was clearly weakened. Last year, they averaged 2.56 goals per game over nine playoff games, slightly better than the 2.07 goals per game they averaged in 14 games this postseason. Additionally, they gave up 2.67 goals per game in the playoffs last year, and that number dropped to 2.14 goals per game this time around. (This, of course, was a huge drop from the 3.14 goals per game they averaged during the 2010 playoffs, but then again, they lost in the first round that year.)
This is the third article in a series looking at the Toronto Maple Leafs organizational depth by position. Thus far I have completed my review of goalies and defensemen and next up will be a look at the organizational depth at the center ice position. Since most forwards can play multiple positions and often do throughout a season, I will do my best to categorize players as center, right wing or left wing. For example, I am not including Nazem Kadri in the center evaluation. Although Kadri plays center with the AHL Toronto Marlies, he has almost been exclusively a winger in his stints with the Maple Leafs which suggests that he will be a winger at the NHL level.
Center’s on 2011-12 roster:
What an up-and-down season for the Washington Capitals. After changing coaches, not making moves at the trading deadline, pretty much (unofficially) putting a freeze on contract extensions and barely making the playoffs, the Caps eliminated the defending champion Boston Bruins in the first round before bowing out to the New York Rangers in last night’s game seven of the conference semifinals.
After undergoing an identity transplant this season, the team managed to right the ship for the playoffs. — sorta. Their biggest find was Braden Holtby, who entered the playoffs with no postseason experience and only 21 regular-season games played, but ended with a 1.95 goals against average (sixth-best in the league), a .935 save percentage (also sixth) and all seven of the Caps’ wins, not to mention constant lauding by myriad members of the national media.
Although the Eastern Conference Finals match-up hasn’t been set yet, it’s time to say goodbye (belatedly) to the Philadelphia Flyers, who proved that match-ups mean everything. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Flyers scored a league-high 30 goals and averaged 27.5 shots per game. But, in five games against the Devils, they scored just 11 goals, and after getting 36 shots in winning Game 1, they averaged just 24.5 shots per game over the final four games. (S/t NHL.com for the stats.)
Overall, the Flyers averaged 3.73 goals per game during the playoffs, but just 2.2 against the Devils (after averaging five per game against the Penguins) — and scored fewer goals (seven) combined over the course of the series’ final four games (all losses) than they did in both game two and three against the Penguins, when they scored eight goals per game.
The Ottawa Senators ended the 2010-11 season in 13th place in the Eastern Conference and 26th place overall in the NHL and looked to be on track for a painful rebuild. As they entered this past season they were picked by many analysts to be battling for the first overall pick, not the playoffs. Well Brian Murray, Eugene Melnyk and the rest of the Senators organization proved everyone wrong by making the playoffs and they were one win away from eliminating the first place NY Rangers in their first round playoff series.
Now that the Toronto Marlies are one win away from the Western Conference Finals in the Calder Cup playoffs, many people are beginning to draw comparisons between last season’s Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs. But is this a fair comparison?
The theme of the 2012 Western Conference finals has to be “out with the old; in with the new.” Anybody who questions that mantra need only to look up the combined conference finals berths in the (relatively short) histories of the Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings. That total would be one — achieved by the 1993 Kings starring Wayne Gretzky. But that was so long ago that the team the Kings defeated in the conference finals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, are now in the Eastern Conference. (The Kings lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the great Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens in five games.) This year, in fact, marks the first time in the 15 seasons the Coyotes have spent in Phoenix that they actually won a playoff series. (As the Winnipeg Jets, the franchise won three World Hockey Association titles but, since joining the NHL for the 1979-80 season, only won two playoff series before moving to Phoenix — and never reached the Campbell/Western Conference finals.
OK, enough history… these two teams are really good. They’re the top two defensive teams in the playoffs (in terms of goals allowed per game) and two of the best on the penalty kill. The Kings are slightly better offensively (averaging three goals per game, compared to the Coyotes’ 2.64), but have a much worse power play (8.5 percent effective, compared to 16.1 percent for Phoenix).
In 12 postseason games — and most likely throughout the entire 2011-12 season — the Washington Capitals have swayed between playing brilliantly and being mistake-prone. These emotional and physical swings can happen from one period to the next, or even in the bat of an eyelash.
Last night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers brought the Caps’ postseason record to 6-6. They’ve scored 26 goals and allowed 27. They eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in seven games and were this close to being up three games to two on the top-seeded Rangers. In a flash, New York received a four-minute power play (on a double-minor to Joel Ward), scored two goals in less than two minutes of elapsed game time (over the end of regulation and the start of overtime) and snatched a victory away from the Caps.
Even so, many would argue that the Caps had no business even being that close. The Rangers out shot them, 38-18 overall and 17-4 in the first period. New York dominated play for most of the game and, even though they failed to unleash a shot on three power plays, the Rangers still converted when it mattered most. The Caps’ offense seems to be improving, but they still couldn’t get a shot on goal during several odd-man rushes last night.
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