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Nazem Kadri and Keith Aulie have been called up. This is going to be interesting.
For the first time this season, The Leafs are below the 500 mark. The talk around the city is that scoring is the problem and that criticism is not without merit (especially after being shutout 3 times in the last 6 games).
When the Leafs began the season 4-0-0, goals were aplenty. In those first 4 games, the Leafs scored 16 goals. In the 10 games since, they have scored 15. So naturally, the criticism wanders towards the area that was present before but is absent now.
But let’s be honest here. Outside of Kessel, the Leafs’ top 6 isn’t actually a top 6. It’s a collection of forwards who would slot 4 through 9 on virtually every other team in the NHL. Bozak is a prime example of this phenomenon. The City of Toronto has been all over the Leafs’ Line 1 Center to start playing like one, when that is not what he is (not yet anyways <- that’s the fan in me talking). Versteeg, Kulemin, Grabovski and MacArthur are no different.
Round 2 – 43rd Overall
Ross is at it once again this season. After posting 68 points and 203 PIMs in 71 games last season, the Leafs’ first pick in the 2010 draft has 17 points and 44 PIMs in 16 games this season with the Portland Winterhawks. Not only that but he is +12 on the season thus far. He even has more points than teammate Ryan Johansen (15 points), who was taken 4th Overall this year.
Round 3 – 62nd Overall
McKegg had no business going in the 3rd Round, especially after putting up 85 points in 67 games last season. This season has been no different. McKegg leads the Erie Otters with 26 points in 19 games and sits 11th in OHL scoring.
Thing are quiet in Toronto today. 12 games in the Leafs are 5-5-2 and this city is fully aware of the fact that being at the 500-mark 82 games in will mean no playoffs once again. Some early season thoughts:
– The most dangerous player on the ice for the Leafs night-in and night-out.
– The only form of secondary scoring the Leafs have. He also leads the Leafs in points with 10.
– The Leafs’ best D-Man so far, no contest. Kaberle’s been solid offensively but Schenn has brought it at both ends of the ice. Not only that, he leads all Leafs’ D-men in +/- (4) and hits (42).
– Toronto’s goaltending tandem of Giguere and Gustavsson has been a major reason why Toronto has been in so many games this season. If they gave Gustavsson as much goal-support as they have Giguere, they’d be well above 500 right now. Want proof? The Leafs rank 12th in GA/G at 2.5.
Leafs (5-5-1) vs Capitals (7-4-1)
The Leafs will play their first game ever without Captain Dion Phaneuf tonight and as luck would have it, they play Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. Playing their second game in as many nights will not help their cause either, after losing 3-2 to the Ottawa Senators yesterday. The Leafs were on their way to being shutout for a third straight game until 5 minutes into the 3rd Period when Nikolai Kulemin scored. That ended the Leafs’ franchise-record goal-less streak at 167 minutes and 39 seconds. The Leafs’ secondary scoring has to show up for them to post a W against the Caps.
*Orr and Komi made those pink skates look more masculine than Clint Eastwood.
*The Leafs attempted 92 shots last night. Only 36 hit the net. The Leafs defense fired 17 shots from the point that were blocked. And even when they got through several of them missed the net. A lot of these missed shots came on the powerplay. The Leafs Powerplay percentage ranks 24th in the league at 11.9%. The Leafs need to hit the net if that number is to improve.
Versteeg in. He will slot in on the Leafs’2nd Line with Grabovski and MacArthur.
Christian Hanson gets the call to play on the 4th line between Orr and Brown.
Gunnarsson in. Lebda out.
Look for Orr to drop the gloves with Boogaard again.
Rangers (4-4-1) vs Leafs (5-3-1)
The Leafs need to get used to the fact that every game has critical implications for their playoff hopes.
Washington, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Boston have 4 seeds in the East almost locked in. Then there’s Tampa Bay, New Jersey, Montreal, Buffalo and Carolina. Ottawa, NYR, NYI and Atlanta aren’t too far behind. Let’s not kid ourselves. The only team in the East that the Leafs SHOULD be ahead of in the standings come April is Florida.
Come April, 6 to 8 points will separate seeds 7 through 11, as has been the case since the lockout. So when the Leafs take on the Rangers tonight at the Air Canada Centre, they need to remember one thing: every game they play is a 4-Point game.
If Steven Stamkos were a Maple Leaf, this wouldn’t be happening.
In 9 games this season, Stamkos has a stat line of 8 goals and 18 points. The next closest player is Ryan Getzlaf with 13 points in 10 games.
Yet somehow, if we polled the intelligent portion of the hockey universe today, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin would be the runaway favourites in a conversation about the best forwards in the game right now.
Yes, the season is young. And yes, Crosby and Ovechkin are off to “slower” starts than usual. But Stamkos is out-producing them nonetheless (by a sizable margin).
To put it into perspective, Leaf Nation is buzzing about Kessel’s 7 goals in the first 8 games of the season. Some say he is a legitimate contender for the Rocket. The more mentally unstable ones have even gone as far as to suggest the possibility of Kessel winning the Hart.
Can you imagine what would happen if Kessel had Stamkos’ stat line?
Let me be clear. I am not here saying that Stamkos is better than Crosby and Ovechkin. I am simply saying that Stamkos deserves to be in the conversation.
Leafs (5-2-1) vs Bruins (4-2-0)
The Toronto Maple Leafs are actually ahead of the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference standings. The Bruins do have 2 games in hand, however, making this the proverbial 4-point game in the battle for division rank.
The Leafs put an end to their 3-game skid on Tuesday against Florida, thanks to a missed Goalie Interference call on Colton Orr and yet another Phil Kessel goal. The Leafs hope to retain that top spot in the Northeast Division with a win against the same team who traded them Kessel a little more than a year ago.
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