LEAFS LOSE TO LAST PLACE COYOTES

ARI@TOR L 4-1

100 games in the NHL is a milestone and although it might not be viewed as a huge milestone. It actually is. To play 100 games in the best league in the world is no small feat. It’ s is actually something pretty special. To do it when your 20 years is also special and to do it against your hometown team, the team that is the reason you play hockey. Well thats just cool. Thats what Auston Matthews did on Monday night. The Toronto Maple Leafs were at home to the last place team in the league, the Arizona Coyotes. Entering play the Coyotes only had 11 points on the season (4points coming in the last two games). Toronto on the other hand had 12 points in their last six games.

But thats why the games are played on ice and not paper.

The Coyotes record may not be an accurate reflection of this club and if the goaltending was better they might be a lot higher up in the standings.

The Coyotes got the first goal and it was a beauty. Auston Matthews good friend, Clayton Keller, the 7th overall pick in last years draft made a pass across the crease that ended up on his teammates stick and then past a sprawling Freddy Andersen. After an even first period, The Leafs were down a goal.

Thirty three seconds into the 2nd frame JVR scored his 11th goal of the season and he will be looking for some big dollars as a free agent at the end of the year. Big dollars that wont be available in Toronto because of the youth movement here and the money that will be doled out by the millions to keep the core of Matthews, Nylander, Brown, Hyman, Marner, who all need long term deals to avoid restricted free agency (RFA) in the coming years. After that goal the teams played some boring almost “trap”style hockey. With under two minutes left in the 2nd the Coyotes struck again and took a 2-1 lead into the dressing room.

Late in the 3rd period it looked like the Leafs tied it on a gorgeous goal by Matthews but the goal was called back for goalie interference. Zack Hyman poked the goalies pads and the refs said the goalie couldn’t get back into position which is untrue because the goalie was in position or he didn’t even try to get back in position(depends how you see it) and NO goalie would have saved that rocket from Matthews that fit in the very top right corner. The Buds kept pressing and pulled the goalie and again it was Matthews but this time he hit the near post during a crazy flurry with the extra man. Unfortunately they couldn’t convert and Arizona’s Max Domi, son of former Leaf tough guy Tie Domi, added an empty netter. The Coyotes put in a second empty net goal making the final 4-1.

It’ s not good to lose to the last place team but the Coyotes got excellent goaltending and the Leafs looked rather lacklustre on the night. Matthews and Marner got a couple of shifts together and they looked brilliant again. Penalties killed the Maple Leafs in this game and the two goals that won the game for Arizona were both Power-play markers.

Toronto has day off before playing 3 games in 4 days and they training staff will look to do treatment on Auston Matthews who looks like he is still dealing with that mysterious upper bodying injury. After winning six in a row the Leafs comeback down to earth and will look to start a new streak against Florida on Wednesday night.

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Matthews scored 2 in his return in a 6-0 Romp

TOR@MTL W 6-0

At the quarter mark of the season the Maple Leafs have impressed. They got off to that amazing start followed by a hiccup and are now back on track, winners of 5 straight. Their defence of late is better and the team is learning how to win close and low scoring games. Freddy Andersen has been the best goalie in the NHL over the last couple of weeks and entered this one coming Friday a shut out last time out.

Saturday night Toronto was in Montreal for a classic original six matchup. The Canadiens organization put on a great ceremony honouring the original six and some of its retired legends. The Habs and the Leafs are by far the best at these ceremonies and this was no exception.

Then the puck dropped and the first period was dominated by Montreal who outshot Toronto 16-7 but there was no scoring.

The 2nd period looked like there would be no goals until 12:07 when Bozak from the corner passed it out to the point and Ron Hainsey who started his career as a Hab stepped into a shot and got his first goal as a Maple leaf. Thirty seven seconds later it was a goal by Nazem Kadri . As Naz skated down the left wing he shot a wrister short-side in the top corner where there wasn’t much space. After two the Leafs were up by two.

In the third period everything fell apart for the Canadiens in a hurry. Connor Brown scored off a Zaitsev point shot. Brown got the rebound in front and chipped it over a young Canadiens goaltender. Then JVR scored his 10th at 8:11. It was from the slot as a pass dropped in front of him and he lifted it into the net. Forty eight seconds later Auston Matthews got on the board after Matt Martin made a skillful 2 ft back pass in between his legs as he was getting crunched face first into the glass. Mitch Marner picked up the pass on the sideboards and skated down low before making a beautiful pass out front that went past a defender to an almost wide open Matthews for the 5 ft wrist shot. The Habs then changed their Goalie but not because it was his fault.

Enter Antti Niemi, the Habs back up now that CareyPrice is shelved. He already played for Pittsburgh and then Florida this season before Price got injured and the Habs needed an established back up. The first save he made as a Canadien was a shot that came from beside the Leafs net. The Habs faithful cheered and jeered the save. The Leafs added one goal by Matthews and it was tied with Kadri’s for goal of the game. He picked up the puck at centre and skated across ice and over the blue line. He then allowed his own player too skate on front f him towards the net. Then he used his player and the Montreal defender as a screen and let go what is becoming a patented Matthews goal as a rocket wrist shot found the top right corner. The Leafs fans started singing “OLE OLE OLE OLE”. The chant of course is used by Habs fans for visiting teams and goalies when Montreal has a big lead in the 3rd period. So Toronto has got back their star in Matthews and with a 6-0 victory, have now won six in a row since that west coast road trip that questioned their defensive zone work ethic. Toronto now has 28 points, only two wins behind Tampa who sit on top of the NHL with 32

Nylander wins it with 3 seconds left in OT

N.J.@TOR W 1-0

The Toronto Maple leafs hosted the New jersey Devils on Thursday night still without Auston Matthews in their lineup.

Is it because he is still hurt? Possibly. Or maybe its because the Buds have won three in a row without him. Or it could be because of Nikita Soshnikov. The young Russian had a clause in his contract that stated if he wasn’t called up to the big club by TuesdayNov 15 then he could go back to the KHL. Now I’m not suggesting that Soshnikov is better then Matthews however, it makes sense to get Soshnikov in the mix and showcase his talents for a possible trade. One thing that is for sure is that the feisty Russian is an NHL player and if the coaching staff didn’t insert him in the lineup for Thursday nights game then it is not known when he could get another shot. Another point that would help the coaches decision to do this is the teams play without Matthews. We all know the Leafs break down the season into five game segments. By my count the Leafs have already taken enough points in this five game segment to allow wiggle room for a minor league player to come up to the big club. Its not that far fetched to think, all you have to do is look at how we got Matthews in the first place. By having almost our entire team on injure reserve and falling to the bottom of the standings.

To the game at hand. It pitted the leagues 2nd best offence against the leagues 4th top offence . So that means a full on barnburner, right. Wrong.

This game had tons of scoring chances but both goalies were unreal making save after save. Freddy Andersen made 42 saves for the shutout. After sixty minutes there was no scoring. The three on three overtime was back and forth, end to end. Taylor Hall who was the best player on the ice all night almost ended it in overtime but Freddy Andersen, as he did all night, shut the door. As the clock was winding down towards a shootout, William Nylander circled the back of net. With three seconds left he came out front around the hash marks and let a shot go that Went in the bottom right corner for the Only goal and the game winner. Toronto has now won five in a row. Next up the Montreal Canadiens on a Saturday night in La Belle Province.

Leafs win four straight as McElhinney Shines in Beantown

TOR@BOS W 4-1

  The Maple leafs were in Beantown Saturday night to play the return leg of a home and home with the Bruins. its was the third game in a row that they had to play without the franchise, Auston Matthews and their fourth game in six days. Both teams switched goalies from the previous game meaning Curtis McElhinney was in net for the Leafs.

 Toronto got out to a great start at 8:52 of the first as Marner scored his second goal of the season(his only other goal came in the first game). The goal was produced on a errant pass that came to Marner right in the slot and Mitchell made no mistake on the wrist shot. 

  Then at 14:16 JVR tied Matthews for the team lead in goals. The goal came on the Power-play and it was a tip in that is becoming a normal feature of how the Leafs have played of late. Boston added a goal and after one period of feisty hockey it was 2-1 to the good.

 The 2nd period produced no scoring but it was entertaining none the less. With a lot of little battles especially between the to players wearing #47. Tory Krug and Leo Komarov. 

  Matt Martin tried to lay a perfect open ice hit but a Bruin player but the Boston player ducked and got crunched hard, also hurting Martin on the play. Every shift after that the Bruins players were all trying to fight Matt Martin who finally obliged. It wasn’t much of a fight and it was obvious that Martin didn’t want to fight but felt he had no other option.

  In the third period it seemed like the referees were trying to let the Bruins back into it. The Leafs got called for 3 cheese penalty’s including a 5-on-3 for Boston for over a minute. Boston didn’t get called for the same calls that Toronto was going to the box for. Toronto did however add a goal after killing the 5-on-3. It was off a bad Boston line change where only four Bruins were on the ice. By the time they realized and added a player, the puck was already coming off Morgan Reilly’s stick and into the net. Patrick Marleau added an empty net goal after Komarov did a lot of great defensive zone work and finally chipped it ahead to Connor Brown who skated along the boards and passed it to the empty net were Marleau tipped it in.

  The Leafs allowed 40 shots on goal. Although they were not all quality it is still concerning. If Curtis McElhinney didn’t shine and steal the two points the Leafs could be headed to their mini four day break with a loss under their belt. Instead they are now winners of four straight and three without their best player. Hopefully a couple of days off will allow Auston Matthews time to get fit enough to return. It’s difficult too say since we don’t know exactly what’s wrong.

Marleau scores OT Winner in Hall of fame game

BOS@TOR W 3-2 (OT)

The Annual “hall of fame game” took place on Friday at the ACC. In the players category for the class of 2017 there was Some big names being inducted. Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne. , Mark Recchi, Dave Anderychuk and, Danielle Goyette. After a first class ceremony for the indictees and also veterans for remembrance day it was time for puck drop. Any original six matchup is special. This head to head is even more special because of the hall of fame glitz surrounding it and the superstars in attendance and because the two teams will play again Saturday night in Boston.

  The Maple Leafs did not have Auston Matthews in the line up as the Franchise missed the second game of his career. Toronto was looking to see who would step up in his absence. It was JVR And Mitch Marner. JVR had two goals and although Marner has two assists, he had a hand in setting up all three goals.

  The goalies stole the show in this one combining for 63 saves between them with Andersen stopping 33. With sixteen seconds left in the 2nd period and with Toronto on the power play, down 1-0, JVR got a rebound off a Morgan Rielly point shot and skated right around the goalie depositing the puck into an empty net. After forty minutes it was 1-1.

 

  In the third period Boston regained the lead on the power-play with just over five minutes left to play. Then Toronto pulled their goalie for the extra man and it worked as they scored with exactly one minute left and for a team who has trouble at the beginning and end of each period this was a revelation. JVR tipped in a slap pass by MitchMarner into the back of the net for his second of the game. After regulation time the teams were deadlocked. In the Overtime it was Marner again. First he stripped the Boston player of the puck inside his own blue line. Then Marner skated up ice with a 3-2 attack. He crossed the blue line and passed to his right where Jake Gardiner slap passed it to Patrick Marleau who tipped it in for his second game winner in six games. Patrick Marleau showing the huge group of hall of farmers that he will soon walk among them.

The Leafs swept the three game home stand collecting all six points available. They now fly to Boston for a rematch Saturday night. I expect Curtis McElhinney to start but Toronto doesn’t play again until Thursday so Babcock might elect for Andersen again.

Andersen shines as Buds double up the Wild 4-2

MIN@TOR W 4-2

   The beaten up Minnesota Wild were in Toronto to take on a Leaf team that was also missing a big name player. Minnesota’s last game was a 4-3 loss against Boston in which the Wild gave up a pair of goals, 2:09 apart in the first period and in the second allowed another pair of goals 2:09 apart. They scored twice in the third but it was too little too late for A Bruce Boudreau squad that was designated as Stanley Cup favourites before the season started. Before that game in Boston they went 3-3 during a six game home stand. 
 Unless you live under a rock then you know the injured Maple Leaf player was Auston Matthews who missed the first game of his young NHL Career on Wednesday night at the Acc. He has an undisclosed injury that appears to be upper body.

  Despite not having their best player, Toronto came out flying in the first period and got on the scoreboard first. For the second game in a row, Nazem Kadri opened the scoring and for the second game in a row it was off a Morgan Reilly point-shot. This goal however was a tip that rebounded off the end boards and hit the back of the goalie’s skate before trickling in the net. The Wild however tied it up at 18:15 and for Toronto, the first and last two minutes of the period are becoming an issue.

The 2nd period saw a beauty by Patrick Marleau who was flying to the net and put the brakes on in the slot. The pass came to him and he rifled a one timer in the back of the net to regain the one goal lead. Other then that goal, Minnesota dominated thanks in part to three straight power plays that produced no scoring.

Freddy Andersen kept his team in the game making big save after big save all night. In all he made 35 saves. In the final two periods the shots were 28-13 for the Wild.

   Early in the 3rd period at 3:40, Connor Carrick scored what would turn out to be the game winner. The Wild made it interesting with five minutes left when they made it 3-2 but again Freddy Andersen was awesome in this one.Connor Brown added an empty netter to cap off a good game for him and all around for the team.

 

 Toronto was 4 for 25 in defensive zone face-offs, hi-lighting another part of Auston Matthews game that was missing from this contest.

Toronto had a lacklustre showing without The Franchise in the line-up getting dominated in almost every category of the game. If not for Freddy playing the way he did this would not have been close and the Wild could’ve and should’ve took an easy two points. Up next is back to back, home and away with Boston on Friday and Saturday nights.
 

LEAFS WIN 1st EVER GAME AGAINST LAS VEGAS

LVK@TOR W 4-3(SO)

   After a woeful road trip that saw Toronto outplayed badly, The Leafs are home for three games. The first was against Las Vegas Golden Knights on Monday night at the ACC.Vegas is like no expansion team in the modern era. They have a 9 win and 4 loss record coming into play and they started 8-1. Golden Knights head coach says the expansion rules were good to his team. They came back to beat Ottawa on Saturday 5-4 and earn praises of Sen’s coach Guy Boucher who said “they are probably the hardest working team in the league”. A warning to those who think that they will roll over this “expansion” team.

Toronto faces Las Vegas, Minnesota and, Boston on Monday,Wednesday and, Friday respectively. The Leafs will be looking to right the ship and get a full 6 points from this home stand.

   The Buds started out great dominating in the first period, scoring three goals including two from Nazem Kadri. The first was a rebound from a Reilly point shot. Then the second was JVR who finished the magnificent work of Auston Matthews who came down the right wing and did a little spin-o-rama around the defender before heading to the net. The puck then dropped to JVR Who had a easy goal from 3 feet out. The third goal, Kadri’s second of the period was all possible because of Patrick Marleau.

The rush started with a beautiful 90 ft pass across from Marleau to Kadri. Then two more times Marleau kept the play alive and finally he made a cross ice, tape to tape pass to Kadri who spun around and finished a goal that the Vegas goalie should’ve had. Vegas did get a goal in the opening frame and it was 3-1 after 1.

  The second saw both teams with only six shots. Las Vegas scoring the lone goal from Toronto native Reilly Smith with 1:10 left in the period and after forty minutes it was a one goal game.

In the third as in the second, the Golden Knights got the only goal

and although the Buds had their chances, they just couldn’t score. At the end of regulation time it was 3-3, so the teams played three on three hockey themselves. For five minutes the teams traded chances with no winner so the Maple Leafs took part in their first shootout of the season. In the shootout Mitch Marner, who was the first Leaf skater scored the only goal. The Leafs hung on to win a very entertaining game. If you look at the stats of this game then it becomes clear how close this game was.

The biggest take away for Toronto is that they won the game and improve to two games over .500 with a record of 9-7.
 

Bozak’s 2 goals can’t lift the Leafs in St. Louis 

TOR@STL L 6-4

The Toronto Maple Leafs were in “The gateway city” on Saturday to finish a four game road trip that saw 1win and 2 losses so far, in the California leg. St.Louis is a very good team with a new coach in Mike Yeo who has his squad at the top of the Western Conference. In the last four years the Blues have finished the season with lots of points. 99, 107, 109, 111 are the point totals each year starting with last season and working back through history.

Toronto on the other hand can only dream of a 100 point season.

The Leafs woes through the neutral zone are being exposed on a nightly basis and the lack of protection for Freddy Andersen means he is being hung out to dry most nights.

  Just before the midway mark of the 1st period the Leafs scored on a beautiful shot to the opposite corner by Andreas Brogman. Matt Martin had the puck over centre ice and as he skated across the blue line he passed it cross ice to a rushing Brogman who made no mistake scoring his 2nd NHL goal. That was the only scoring of the opening frame.

  In the 2nd stanza it was all St.Louis. The Blues owned the Leafs and although the shots were 14-13 in the period it didn’t look that close. The Blues scored three goals in seven minutes to take a two goal lead into the third.

   The 3rd period got off to a crazy start with three goals in the first 2:24. Bozak took a pass from Marner who was behind the net and buried it into an empty net. Unfortunately two of the goals were scored by St. Louis, making it a 5-2 hockey game. At 7:52 of the 3rd period the St.Louis Captain Alex Pietrangelo scored his second of the game to give his team a 6-2 lead. The Leafs did not lie down though. They kept coming and at 10:10, Connor Brown cut the lead in half on a 2-on-1 tip in from a Zack Hyman pass. Tyler Bozak would score a tip in from the doorstep as Matt Martin found him from cross ice and put it on his stick for the easy play. That’s as close as the Buds would get as there top line was shutdown and there will need to be some soul searching done among the players. Is it possible expectations got too high too soon?

 Toronto started the season on fire with six wins and one loss. Since then the Blue and White have won two and lost seven. It’s a tale of two teams with the real team somewhere in the middle. One thing is clear, if they don’t right the ship soon then it might be too much to come back from later on. The Leafs are in 3rd place in their division thanks to that great start but they are only six points out of last place in the Conference.

2 Penalty shots wasn’t enough for a Leafs win in L.A.

TOR@L.A. L 5-3

Ten days ago the Maple Leafs beat the LA Kings to improve their record to seven wins and two losses. Since then and including the rematch against L.A. on Thursday night at the Staple centre they’ve lost four out of five and look like a totally different team.

   It’s a little difficult to score on a guy who had a .942 save% like Jonathan Quick. The Kings goalie played 17 games last year before getting injured and missing the rest of the season. It seems that the rest and time away made him even better and if the season ended right now he would no doubt win the Vezina for best goalie.

 The Maple Leafs were completely out worked in the first period sand trailed 3-0 after twenty minutes.

  Even though Toronto doubled the Kings up on shots, 14-7 in the middle frame, L.A. expanded on their lead making it 5-0. It must be said that back up Curtis McElhinney played pretty good and should not be faulted for all the goals. Toronto finally scored with 2:10 left in the 2nd period.

Auston Matthews scored a beautiful goal on a penalty shot on which he deked the goalie out before roofing the puck around the fallen net minder. For the Leafs it’s the first penalty shot attempt and goal this season. 

Then with three seconds left in the period, Morgan Reilly made it a 5-2 game.

 Exactly eight minutes into the 3rd period Connor Brown redirected a point shot to give the Leafs hope.

Things got interesting with 1:19 left in the game when the Kings defender purposely pushed the net off its moorings. In the last 2:00 of the game that’s an automatic penalty shot.

In my decades of watching the MapleLeafs I can’t remember Toronto getting two penalty shots in the same game.

 Auston Matthews tried for his 2nd penalty shot of the game to close the gap to a one goal deficit but unfortunately he rifled a wrister that was deflected away and that is how this game ended.

Toronto will now have to win Saturday in St.Louis just to get a split on this road trip. Kasperi Kappanen is looking better each game and is definitely ready for the NHL. The Maple Leafs stayed in the same hotel as the Houston Astros who just won the World Series. It’s not clear if that had any effect on this game. What it will effect is the young Leafs team who will see the joy of the World series champs and that winning feeling is contagious, a good lesson to take forward with them.

Marleau’s 100th career GWG gives Leafs much needed Win 

TOR@ANA W 3-1

  A couple of days after Patrick Marleau made his return to the only team he ever played for, it was Freddy Andersen’s turn. On Wednesday night Toronto continued their California + St. Louis, four game rad trip. Although Andersen only played 124 games as a Duck it is still difficult returning to the only NHL barn you’ve called home.

   Toronto scored first at 7:54 of the opening frame. JVR was coming down the left wing and flipped a saucer pass to a surging Connor Brown for the easy tip in. Anaheim tied it up a minute and thirteen seconds later. 

John Gibson was amazing for the Ducks in the first period making a montage of hi-light reel saves. If not for him it could have been 5-0 after one period instead of 1-1.

 In the second the tables turned as Anaheim outshot the Maple Leafs 17-6 and it was Andersen’s turn to steal the show. The. Buds weathered the storm thanks to their All-Star goalie who has been better than he has all season during these last two game against S.J. on Monday And Wednesday night against Anaheim.

   Just over a minute into the third period, Patrick Marleau was in the slot trying to screen the goalie when a Ron Hainsey point shot was blocked and the puck dropped in front of Marleau . As he disengaged the defender he was able to get a backhanded slap shot right in the back of the net. The Leafs would add a empty netter and for Marleau its his 100th career game winning goals. Can you say Hall of fame!

  The Buds finally played the way they will need to if they they wish to play hockey deep into May. A low scoring battle with a defence first strategy. Auston Matthews leads the NHL with a plus/minus rating of +12. His back checking ability as on display, particularly on one shift where he came back from the other end of the ice to break up a scoring play two times in thirty seconds.

Connor Carrick was back after missing four games in which the Leafs lost three. Roman Polak making room for his return.

 Toronto will make the thirty four minute drive from Honda centre in Anaheim to the Staples centre in L.A. to take on the Kings for the second time in ten days and you can look for Curtis McElhinney to make the start as is routine when the Maple Leafs play on back to back nights