Marleau’s return to S.J. Overshadowed by 3rdstraight loss

TOR@S.J. L 3-2

Toronto opened a four game road trip Monday night starting in San Jose. The first thee games are in California, while the fourth game this coming Saturday is in St.Louis.

Patrick Marleau was back to face the franchise he spent twenty years with, more than half his life. Before the game the National Anthems were played, the San Jose Sharks Organization showed a special tribute video for longtime Shark. The standing Ovation lasted for minutes and the crowd was as loud as they were during their Stanley Cup run two years ago. After the whistling came the chants of PADDY PADDY. All the players on both teams were enjoying the ceremony and banged their $250 sticks along with the crowd.

Then it was game time as the Leafs begun three games in four nights and nine in fifteen.

 The opening goal came at 12:14 of the first period after William Nylander did all the work skating across the wing ad down behind the net before passing it to the point. A point shot was blocked but the puck dropped at Auston Matthew’s feet. The big twenty year old showed some grace by kicking the puck out to his stick and let go a laser wrister that went “Bar Down” in the top left corner. After being outplayed the Leafs had a 1-0 Leaf heading to the dressing room.

 The only scoring in the middle period was a San Jose goal at 7:58 by their Captain, Joe Pavelski. The Buds were horribly outshot in the second stanza 11-2 and after forty minutes they were being outshot 25-11. Needless to say Freddy Andersen was the reason the game was tied.

 Things got worse for Toronto early in the final frame. At 2:58, after Dominic Moore got crunched from behind into the boards. The Leaf player got up and retaliated getting a penalty. San Jose took the lead on the power-play with a rocket slap shot into the top left corner and the Leaf goaltender didn’t even see it. Toronto native Joel Ward added an empty netter for the Sharks at 17:47. It was t over yet though. After that Toronto scored on an Andreas Borgman slapshot making it 3-2 but that’s as close as they puke get and have one dropped four of their lasts five.

    It doesn’t get any easier for the down trending Maple Leafs. After a day off on Halloween they play Anaheim and L.A. on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Aside from Matthews, Nylander and, Freddy Andersen the Buds looked very average against S.J. Something that will not even get them on the playoffs, but like I always say; you can’t judge any team until the 20 game mark. So far there has been 12 games.

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Orange and Black take over the ACC as the Leafs get tricked , no treats

PHI@TOR L6-3

Orange and Black was on display at the ACC on Saturday night but it wasn’t because of Halloween. It was because Toronto native Wayne Simmonds and The Philadelphia Flyers were in town to play the Maple Leafs. The Leafs came into this game one goal behind Tampa for most goals in the NHL and Philly came in allowing the most shots. So that would suggest that Toronto should get lots of shots and have a fun night in the scoring department. That’s not exactly how it played out though.

  Toronto got on the scoreboard first with Auston Matthews and his dangerous stick handling. He came down the wing and as Kadri came off the bench and skated hard to the net, the pass from the future Captain came right to Kadri for a one timer from five feet away on the goalies right side.

Three minutes and one second later Philly tied it up. The Flyer’s then took the lead on a beautiful goal as the forward in Orange rushed down the wing and cut in to the front of the net sliding it in through the five hole of the Leaf goalie who had no real chance of saving it.

 The second period was all Philly as they doubled up Toronto in shots by a margin of 16-8. Flyer’s forward, Valtteri Filppula must’ve watched some video on Andersen and came down the left wing around the face-off circle and let go a rocket aimed at the top right corner over the goalies shoulder. Thus making the score 3-1. Nazem Kadri’s second goal of the game came just under two minutes later cutting the lead to one. He scored from the same distance out as his first goal but this time from the opposite side. A rebound came out to him and he made a diving poke at the puck for the goal and gave the Leafs some hope on a tough night for Leaf forwards. Unfortunately for Leaf fans, Philadelphia regained the two goal lead just over three minutes later when Claude Giroux, the nine million dollar man sealed the deal with a carbon copy of Filppula’s goal and I fear the book on Freddy might be out (over the shoulder top right). It will be up to the Buds defender’s to not allow shots from that angle going forward.

Except for the Matthews line, The Leafs were heavily outplayed for most of this resulting in their third loss in four games and although the other teams have been feasting on Toronto’s lack of defensive minded hockey, proven by the 16 goals against in the 3 losses, Toronto has managed only 8 goals in the same time.

 Matt Martin and JVR did not play as both guys are banged up. In their place was Josh Leivo and Kasperi Kappanen. Both god replacements but not as good as the the two injured players.

 

 If the Buds don’t sharpen up defensively then Coach Babcock will be forced to play a style like he did with Canada in the Olympics. In 2014 at the games in Sochi Russia, Babcock had the most talented collection of goal scoring forwards ever assembled on one team and told them he didn’t want them scoring. Every player bought in and Canada retrained their gold medal by winning games 1-0 and 2-1. Only playing offence if the other team made a mistake. It’s winning formula and also very boring. The skilled forwards on the Maple Leafs better buy in to playing defence or Leaf fans could be lulled to sleep by a super trap style. Something the fans don’t want to see but also something these fast skilled young players don’t want even more.

Maple Leafs swept up by a Hurricane

CAR@TOR L 6-3

Freddy Andersen was playing in his 200th career game Thursday night at the ACC. So far he has 116 wins and was looking for 117 against the Hurricanes. Carolina has a young team and play a similar style to Ottawa and L.A., the two teams the Leafs faced last. So it was going to be a long night of grinding and not as many chances as normal. Carolina lost 5-1 in their last game although it was 2-1 with three minutes left so it is not a fair reflection of the Hurricanes who do have trouble scoring though.
Toronto spotted the ‘Canes a 2-0 lead before the three minute mark of the opening frame, giving up two goals in thirty three seconds. At 9:19 Auston Matthews cut the lead in half on a pass from Marleau that somehow left Matthews ten feet out with no one around to defend. The play was started down low when Komarov finished his check and forced a Carolina turnover. The ‘Canes however scored another at 16:08 to make it 3-1.
The Buds got the start they wanted in the second scoring two goals in under a minute and a half starting at 5:47. First Moore banged home a juicy rebound from a Matt Martin shot. The second goal was from Zack Hyman the former Hobey Baker award winner (the Heisman for Hockey), scoring on a backhand after the puck dropped in front of him right in the slot and he spun around depositing it into the net as the goalie was waiting for the puck to come from the other side. Just over five minutes later Carolina got the go ahead goal and it was 4-3 after forty minutes of play.
It looked like the Leafs were going to comeback in the third because they can score at will. Right.
Well it didn’t happen on this night as the ‘Canes delivered two more goals in the third handing Toronto their second loss in three games and it must be said that those two losses (both 6-3) were the worst two games this season with the Carolina game being the absolute the worst.
Although he didn’t get the start he hoped for, Freddy Andersen still made 32 saves. One save in particular was the save of the season so far. He was out of position with two guys crashing into him towards the side of the net. Somehow he managed to see around them and throw his glove up to make the save that will be on highlight reels for years to come.usa_today_10370961.0

Hollywood North beats Hollywood 3-2 on the backs of Marner and Martin

LAK@TOR
W 3-2

   The Maple Leafs returned home after a 6-3 loss on Saturday in the Nations capital. They are starting a three game home stand Monday night against L.A., a team they will play again in ten days when they go on the American West coast road trip. Both teams had six wins and two losses coming into action

   Jonathan Quick is playing his 10th season and after playing only 17 games last season is off to a great start and has a goals against average of 1.99 along with a 938 save %. To contrast that Freddy Andersen has a Gaa of 3.42 and a save % of 892.  

   Roman Polak was signed by the Leafs on Sunday and was in the line up Monday. Calle Rosen was sent down to make room Polak and Eric Fehr was put on waivers. Former Leaf and Marlie’s, Brooks Laich just signed an NHL Contract On October 19th, ironically for L.a. 

   The Leafs fourth line was by far their best line on the night and started the scoring five and a half minutes into the game when Mitch Marner tried a wraparound but passed it out front at the last second when he realized he wasn’t going to score. That pass went to the point where newly signed Leaf Roman Polak leaned into a slap shot that was redirected in front by Matt Martin for the goal.  

   The 1st period was dominated by the Kings however, who showed why they are 1st place in the Western Conference. Freddy Andersen bailed the Leafs out making huge saves at critical times along 37 saves in all. 

   If the opening frame was all L.A. , then the second was all Toronto . With just under five minutes left in the middle period and on the power play, Marner again starting the play off before Bozak scored. As they were announcing that goal the Kings finally got on the board making it a 2-1 game, where it stayed heading into the third. 

   Marleau made it 3-1 at 2:43 often third. It was a point shot that was tipped out of the air. The play was reviewed for a high stick and it was close. The kind of play that whatever the call was on the ice, it would stand because there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn it. Thankfully the call on the ice was Goal. 

   The Kings made it interesting late scoring shorthanded at 12:19 making it a one goal game. That’s as close as they would get as the Leafs rebound from the loss to Ottawa on Saturday to beat the high flying King’s 

   With all the off ice movement over the past couple of days it would appear that Mike Babcock Has the line up he wants. He added Polak mainly for a 2nd penalty kill unit and the work ethic he brings. Management and the coaching staff also decided that Dominic Moore was the guy over Eric Fehr and, as well they came to the conclusion that although Calle Rosen is good, there just isn’t enough room. The Leafs are trying to win Now as crazy as that sounds. It seems Shanahan’s plan is a couple of years ahead of Schedule. 

Battle of Ontario round 1 goes to Ottawa

TOR@OTT L 6-3

    The first instalment of the Battle of Ontario was played in Kanata on Saturday night where Leafs Nation took over the Arena with round one going to the Senators. These two teams along with the Tampa Bay lighting will all be fighting for 1st place in the Atlantic division probably until the last day of the season. 
  Heading into play Saturday night Toronto led the NHL with 34 goals. Ottawa scored six goals in two of their three wins this season. So there was no doubt that both these teams can put the puck in the net. It’s how they did it on Saturday night that was a little different. 

  During the first two periods Ottawa had a 3-0 lead and Toronto, although they tried could hardly get across the blue line and when they did the Senators used the approach that the Leafs implore. Aggressive D-zone play and setting up five guys at the blue line were just a few of those tactics.

The third period was Quirky, Crazy, Exciting and a Roller Coaster ride.

 It started with a goal by JVR at the six minute mark. Then 2:34 later Auston Matthews scored with a laser wrist shot beat Craig Anderson who probably didn’t even see it.

At that point with a 3-2 scoreline and the Leafs smelling blood in the water the play of the game was made. It wasn’t on the ice though. It was a timeout called by the Ottawa coach, Guy Boucher. He wanted to settle his troops. Well it worked because seven seconds later the Senators scored to regain a two goal lead.

 At 12:52 William Nylander scored on another beautiful wrist shot from the Maple leafs to make it 4-3.
 Leaf fans were feeling a comeback.

   With 3:38 the Leafs almost tied it as the Senator’s Defence man , Johnny Oduya under no pressure fanned on a pass across to his partner and it came right to an surprised Mitch Marner who had a chance from point blank between the hash marks but missed the net. As Marner was getting up the play went down the other end on one of those forty feet flip passes that Ottawa is so good at and scored to make it 5-3. 

  Toronto pulled the goalie to get an extra attacker but to no avail as the Sen’s added an empty better to double up the Buds 6-3.

 The most interesting thing about this game was how close these teams are in style. Ottawa is a little tighter in their own zone but the Leafs will get there. By the time the playoffs roll around both these teams will be atop the standings and have an almost identical style of play. Wouldn’t it be something to have a Eastern Conference final with the Battle of Ontario. 

That night in Toronto 

DET@TOR W 6-3 
The Toronto Maple Leafs like all Canadians, honoured the courage and memory of Gord Downie, a true Canadian icon on Wednesday night, less than 24 hours after the passing of a Man who was more than rock legend. Before the game a spotlight was shining on the number five banner of Bill Barilko, made famous by the tragically hip song 50 Mission cap which talks about the Leafs winning the Stanley cup on his last goal along with the video montage of the historian poet who was the front man of our Country.

     

    With Wednesday night’s game against the Detroit Redwings at the ACC, just down the street from the Hockey hall of fame , Patrick Marleau has become only the 18th player in NHL History to play 1500 games. Ironically eight of those eighteen players have played for Detroit. It’s amazing that Marleau is still playing at such a high level and would be on team Canada if the NHL players were at the Olympics this winter, this late in his career. It has a lot to do with how he takes care of his body. Marleau has not missed a game since April 7th 2009. This will be his 630th consecutive game and he has only missed twenty games in his hall of fame career.

   It was the first time the Maple Leafs have played back to back this season and so it was no surprise that Curtis McElhinney was in goal for the Buds.

What was a surprise however, was how good McElhinney was considering it was his first game action this season. The London, Ontario native saved 33 of 35 shots including some hi-light reel goals. The Detroit Goalie Jimmy Howard was at the lonely end of the rink as he let in 3 goals on 4 shots giving a veritable gift shop to the Buds and got yanked in favour of Peter Mrazek who didn’t fair much better. It is the third time this young season that Toronto has chased the other teams goalie and it won’t be the last.

   In all the Maple Leafs scores four goals in the opening frame. The first two were scored by Kadri and Hyman Forty three seconds apart. Detroit then made it 2-1 although Toronto responded fast. The third and fourth Leaf goals were scored on two different goalies but were even quicker, only forty seconds apart by Matthews and Brown.

   The Redwings scored at 7:02 and 8:36 of the 2nd to close the gap to 4-3 but a Morgan Reilly power play goal less then five minutes later gave the Buds a two goal cushion once again.

  William Nylander added an empty netter for his 2nd goal of the year. Nylander, Matthews and, Zaitsev are all tied for 1st in the NHL for plus-minus with a plus 10 rating. The Leafs showed once again how fast they can explode for goals scoring twice in under a minute during this game. It’s something we have scene a lot already and we should expect to see more. Toronto has won three games in a row.


 

LEAFS BLANK ‘CAPS 2-0

TOR@WAS W 2-0

     Sunday April 23rd. That was the day that the MapleLeafs bowed out of a fantastic first round series against the NHL’s top regular season team, the Washington Capital’s. All games were decided by one goal and five of the six went to overtime. The final two games were a 2-1 score. So it was not surprising that these teams would play a tight low scoring game even though both teams have a high power offence. The goalies stood on their heads but it was Washington’s Braydon Holtby in the first three and a half minutes who saved a flurry of goals, 6-1 were the scoring chances for Toronto during that time. 

    The Maple Leafs strive to be like the Capitals who since 2009-10 have won presidents trophy three times with three of the four highest point totals since the trophy’s inception in 1985-86. The highest ever was the 2005-06 Redwings (124). Although Washington has that high powered offence they also have a world class goalie. Hopes in the Hockey Mecca are that Freddy Andersen is that guy. After Mondays tilt in Washington, Andersen is stepping closer to the status of an elite goalie. Both teams had identical shots by period and thirty in total however, the Leafs netminder turned away all thirty shots and Holtby was beat early in the third by a Connor Brown tip in from three feet away. Andersen not only stopped all rubber he faced but he also is better this year at controlling his rebounds. He isn’t giving up big rebounds unless it’s done purposefully as evidenced with four minutes left when he kicked one out to the blue line where there was no Capitals players in the area.

 Nazim Kadri scored an empty netter for the 2-0 Win. That’s two wins in a row for the Buds after winning Saturday in Montreal in what was Coach Babcocks 600th win as a head coach.

    William Nylander was the best player in the ice and before all is said and done he might be getting the same money as his line mate, Auston Matthews. Hey, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane took matching contracts in Chicago and all they did was win three Stanley Cups this decade.
Toronto gets right back at it Tuesday as they host Detroit. Look for Curtis McElhinney to get his first action of the season.



 

Déjà vu for Matthews and Leafs in overtime

TOR@MTL   W 4-3 (OT)

The Toronto Maple Leafs were in the Bell Centre in Montreal to play the Habs on a Saturday night. One of the most Canadian things that one could possibly do on a Saturday night at 7pm.

    These two teams have swapped fortunes during this decade as the Habs who went to the conference finals in 2010 and 2014 have now declined to a point were most analysts predict Montreal will miss the playoffs. Toronto however is trending up and are looking to make a splash in the playoffs, eyeing a Conference final or Stanley Cup finals appearance. No matter what team is better in a particular season, this original six matchup is almost always decide by a goal. Of late however the Buds have not beat the Habs in three and a half years.

   This game was no different as the teams traded goals for the first half of the game then the goalies stood on their heads the second half.

    Montreal got out to a lead on a harmless looking point shot by Jeff Petry just 2:18 after puck drop.

Toronto then did something that is becoming a habit; they scored two quick goals. This time the goals were forty four seconds apart. First was JVR at 7:32. He fired a quick shot off the draw to beat Carey Price. The second was a beautiful individual effort by Matthews who tapped a Montreal pass out of the Air at the blue line and used the defender a screen ; beating Price in the process.

   Twenty three year old Alex Galchenyuk who is the talk of a lot of trade rumours in Montreal got a monkey off his back by scoring his first of the season with 3:11 left in the opening frame to lock the score at two each.

  Just passed the midway mark off the second period it appeared that Auston Matthews put the Leafs ahead but the goal was waved off right away for a high stick. Upon review Matthews hit the puck just above the cross bar, No goal.

  Nineteen seconds after that play Montreal’s KarlAlzner made a beautiful pass that was tipped in by hometown favourite and former 3rd overall pick, Jonathan Drouin. For Drouin who was brought in this off season to be some kind of saviour for the Habs it was his first as a Canadien.

 Something I’m sure he dreamt about as a kid growing up in Quebec.

 The Leafs responded quickly and scored a minute and seven seconds later when Patrick Marleau fished out a lose puck in the goal crease and jammed it home. At first it was called no goal but “upon further review the entire puck crossed the goal line before the whistle” as the referee said. With a three to three scorer line just passed the halfway mark of the game it looked like it was going to be a barn burner but that was all the scoring for the rest of regulation time as the goalies played there parts well for the final half of the game.

 Earlier this week Toronto came back on Monday to win 4-3 in overtime against a Chicago with the winner coming from Matthews.

This game was similar in that respect as it was Auston Matthews scoring his second overtime winner this week. That’s what leaders do. When the game is on the line they want the puck and they get better with pressure. Leaf fans will be thrilled with that part of the future Leaf Captain’s game. Matthews now has two game winning goals in four of the team’s wins.

 

   One other note was the switch again between Dominic Moore and Eric Fehr. Both players belong but there’s not enough room for both. It’s unclear how long the two veterans are going to keep switching however Moore has two goals in the two games he has played this year.

DEVIL’S DOUBLE UP THE MAPLE LEAFS 

DEVIL’S DOUBLE UP THE BUDS

GAME #4 N.J.@TOR
6-3

Out of all the surprises in this young NHL season,The New Jersey Devils are there with the Las Vegas Golden Knights right at the top. New Jersey like Toronto the year before, got to draft the 1st overall pick. With the pick they took Nico Hischier, the first Swiss player ever to be top of his draft class. Hischeir along with six other rookies Are the talk of the NHL with there speed and odd man rushes. 

     After Wednesday nights game at the Air Canada Centre was proof that it is not just an anomaly. The Devils are reminiscent of last year’s MapleLeafs. The pace was fast from the start and JVR scored his third goal of the season at 8:33 of the first period, 1-0 to the good. The Devils answered quickly though with a goal thirty four seconds later. NewJersey added another less than two minutes after that and the goals were flying. Exactly five minutes after the JVR goal, Dominic Moore made it a 2-2 just three seconds after the Leaf power play ended. The power play was given because the gristly vet Matt Martin was trying to spark his team and lay a massive body check on a Devil player. Then another NewJersey player took exception and after getting beat up he also got an instigator penalty. Those are the intangibles a Veteran Enforcer like Martin can still bring to a New Era NHL.

     After that goal the New Jersey, Cory Schneider stole the show and by the end made 47 saves. The Devils scored twice in the second period. The first was a power play and the second was a short handed 5-3 that Toronto had a full two minutes with. Three and half minutes into the third the Devils scored to earn a three goal lead. Auston Matthews scored but that was all the abuse could muster. The Devils added late one to win by a score of 6-3, thus handing the Leafs their first loss of the year. I guess we are now going to here how the Leafs suck and blah blah blah. Usually it takes 15-25 games into the season to really see what a team is made of. We already know this team, can shoot the lights out but it remains to be seen if they can stop other teams’s from doing the same.

   I think because of the four players rotating through the final defence pairing it will take a good 20 games to find out which two Babcock will stick with. Andrea Brogman will definitely be one of the two. The other spot will be a two month try out between Connor Carrick, Martin Marincin and, Calle Rosen. If Rosen plays the way he did last night then Carrick should get the job.

Leafs comeback to win in OT 

GAME #3 CHI@TOR W 4-3 OT
         During the 18 years that the Maple leafs have played at the Air Canada Centre we have never witnessed an atmosphere quite like we did for second home game of a Season.

     This year the buzz seems legit and the once seemingly corporate Air Canada Centre seems to be overrun by blue-collar fans. It was a loud playoff like feel with the crowd urging on there team, even after the Blue and White gave up two goals in the first eight minutes to start the game.

     Chicago had there backup goalie in, Anton Forsberg. The 6’3”Swedish Forsberg was unbelievable in turning away 38 pucks in the loss. He kept his team in it especially in the second period when the Leafs outshot the ‘Hawks 19-6 and the only goal was a beaut by Defence-man Nikita Zaitsev on a cross ice pass from Brown.

The Leafs continued to press in the third but just around the eight minute mark, former Leaf Richard Panik made it 3-1 on the power play. There should never have been a power play as Leaf defender Andreas Brogman lay a beautiful open ice, bodycheck on Chicago rookie Alex DeBrincat in the farthest corner from the benches. The referee right beside them watched it and even skated over to DeBrincat and told him to get up. Then three seconds later, from close to the Chicago bench the referee who was near center ice called a penalty.

     There were alto of cheap penalty calls due to the new rules but that horrible called could have cost the Leafs. There was also a lot of confusion in the face off circles as Toews was waved out seven times and Bozak and Kadri also were waved out multiple times.

   Even down 3-1 the Leafs just kept coming again and again. If not for Goalie Forsberg it could have been a lot higher scoring. Toronto managed to make it a one goal game at the thirteen minute mark of the final frame. Thanks to some neat footwork by Kadri to keep the puck in the zone before it was passed around and Toronto native Connor Brown finally slid it five hole from the slot.

    That goal gave the Buds the boost they needed and 2:42 later on the power play, JVR was setup in front and a Bozak pass skipped off his ankle and in to tie the game at three. The last four minutes shared chances by both teams and the overtime period was brilliant.

   During overtime there was a flurry of end to end action for 3:43 until Auston Matthews picked up the puck inside his own blue line and skated all the way down the ice stick-handling ten times before picking the top right corner and the only place the puck could fit. It was reminiscent of The way Mats Sundin would pick his team up in overtime and similarly skate down the wing and fire a shot top corner to win the game.

    Of note during the small sample size we have seen of Andreas Borgman and Calle Rosen. It doesn’t appear there will be any room for Martin Marincin. A player that Babcock does like and must be a hard worker to receive the praises of the Coach, will likely be traced by the deadline.