By: Adam Basciano
Going into the game against the Maple Leafs, the Anaheim Ducks were riding a seven game winning streak. Up until around the middle portion of the second period it looked like the Ducks were on their way to win #8 in succession. That was until the Dynamic Duo of Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk took over the game. I could describe all the goals to you, but my descriptions wouldn’t do them justice., so let’s just watch the magic again shall we!? Before we do, it’s worth pointing out that, Dion Phaneuf got the game tying goal, and this was the first game the Leafs allowed less than 30 shots on goal! Jonathan Bernier made 23 saves en route to the 4-2 win.
Then came the weekend double-header against the Columbus Bluejacket and Pittsburgh Penguins respectfully. I had expected a win against Columbus and a loss against the Penguins. Well, leave it to the Leafs to flip the script. They go into Columbus and get outshot…again. They had a chance to tie the game when they trailed by a goal and had a 4 on 3 power-play. Instead of capitalizing on their chance, sloppy play led to a short-handed goal, solidifying the win for Columbus. Phil Kessel (surprise, surprise) and Dave Bolland provided goals for the Blue & White, and if it weren’t for Jonathan Bernier’s goaltending, the game could’ve easily ended much worse.
The next night at home, the Maple Leafs played one of their best opening periods of the season and were rewarded with a tie score after 20 minutes. The Leaf goal was short-handed from Dave Bolland, thanks to a great pass from Dion Phaneuf. The Leafs went into survival mode in the second period. After being outshot 16-4 in the middle frame, the score remained tied thanks to stellar goaltending from James Reimer. Nazem Kadri scored early in the third period, finishing off a nice passing play from Phil Kessel and JvR. JvR would once again supply Kessel with a tap in goal on the power play, before Dave Bolland would score his second of the game into the empty net. The Maple Leafs would win by a score of 4-1. More impressive, was holding Sidney Crosby pointless. That was truly a team effort, but special mention must go to Dave Bolland, Dion Phaneuf, David Clarkson, and as previously mentioned, James Reimer who made 37 saves in total.
The Maple Leafs now have a record of 8-4-0 and head out on a Western Canadian road trip with stops in Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver.
By: Adam Basciano
Toronto Maple Leaf Fans who attended the home opener last weekend definitely got their money’s worth, as it took a shootout to find a winner. The game started off great for the home team as Mason Raymond scored a beautiful goal, off of an equally beautiful pass from fellow new Leaf Dave Bolland. The guys with the Trojan Condom logo on their chest scored two goals in just over three minutes time to take the lead. Nazem Kadri would tie the game at 2, late in the first period on a powerplay. His goal was almost a carbon copy of the first Leafs goal. He was even set up by Mason Raymond. Ottawa would take a two goal lead in the second period, with two goals in short order. True, the Leafs play wasn’t great during this stretch, but some of Reimer’s bad habits were creeping back into his game. His rebounds were gargantuan, he didn’t look composed throughout the game, and was far too deep in his net at times. As a result, in came Jonathan Bernier. In short order, he made several big time saves, which seemed to settle down his team. Late in the middle frame, Joffrey Lupul got the Leafs within one on the powerplay, with assists going to previous goal scorers Mason Raymond and Nazem Kadri. Early in the third period, Leaf fans would see a familiar two on one rush with Kessel and van Riemsdyk, resulting in a tap in goal for the man also known as JvR. Overtime would ultimately solve nothing. In the shootout, goals by Raymond and Bozak coupled by a save by Bernier, would lead the Leafs to a come from behind 5-4 win on home ice over their provincial rivals.
The first loss of the season came on home ice, at the hands of the Patrick Roy coached Colorado Avalanche. This was a fairly boring game from a Leafs perspective. It seemed like the only ounce of hard work came on the penalty kill, as well as the Leafs lone goal courtesy of Joffrey Lupul. If it weren’t for the 31 save performance from Jonathan Bernier, the score would’ve been a lot worse as Colorado outplayed us during significant portions of the game. The theme of Jonathan Bernier saving the Leafs ass continued in Nashville, as the Leafs were outshot by a 36-26 count. Yet, Bernier managed to make save after save to keep the game scoreless until after the halfway point of the second period. At that point, the tandem of Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk took over. Kessel converted on a one-timer in front of the net, courtesy of a lovely feed from van Riemsdyk. JvR would then capitalize on a wrap around goal, off of a missed opportunity by Kessel. A check from behind by Mike Fisher on Cody Franson that was as dirty as Miley Cyrus’ twerking incident, put the Leafs on a five-minute powerplay in the third period. The Leafs would score twice, on goals by Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul. Morgan Rielly would get his first NHL point in his 3rd NHL game. Add to that his improved play over each game, his skill, and his speed…he’s making a case that he’s ready for the big leagues. This coupled with a shutout performance, which continues to solidify to me that Bernier is our #1 goalie, and the Maple Leafs register a 4-0 win.
With 4 wins in the bag and 8 out of a possible 10 points registered, the Toronto Maple Leafs face the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday in Toronto on Hockey Night in Canada.
By: Adam Basciano
Winning two games back to back is always difficult for any team, doing so in two opposing teams buildings during their home openers is even harder. However, that’s exactly what the Toronto Maple Leafs did in the self-proclaimed ” La belle province” and “The City of Brotherly Love.”
In Montreal, the Maple Leafs started off on the right foot with a power-play goal by James van Riemsdyk, with assists going to Cody Franson and Phil Kessel. Play on the ice would get extremely sloppy by both teams. Montreal would take advantage of some lackluster defensive play from the Leafs, and leave the period with a one goal lead. The Leafs would tie the game at two, courtesy of a beautifully placed shot by Captain Dion Phaneuf, with assists going to Nazem Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin. In my opinion, there are 3 main advantages to having resigned Tyler Bozak. He’s good on face-offs, he has great on ice chemistry with Phil Kessel, and he has an incredible knack for scoring shootout/short-handed goals. His first goal of the season came in the form of a great individual effort on a shorthanded breakaway. The lead would be expanded to two goals, as Mason Raymond used his speed to create an odd man rush and capitalized on an odd bounce. A series of fights in the third period would lead to Montreal tough guy George Parros accidentally falling and hitting his face on the ice, a scary incident that could have ended severely worse than a concussion. Montreal would eventual score a late goal, but the Maple Leafs hung on to a 4-3 victory thanks to strong timely goaltending from James Reimer.
The next night the Leafs found themselves in the aforementioned “City of Brotherly Love,” to play a team full of goons. For the first period and a half the Maple Leafs were dominated in every area on the ice by the Philadelphia Flyers! Jonathan Bernier’s out of this world goaltending kept the deficit at one goal, until birthday boy Phil Kessel capitalized on a rebound off of a Dion Phaneuf shot. I know, I know… I mentioned Dion Phaneuf in a positive light twice in one blog. No you’re not living in the Bizarro world, and no the world is not ending! The other reason for the Blue & White leaving Philadelphia with two points was their penalty killing. They killed 7/8 against the Flyers and 10/11 for the season. Securing the 3-1 win for Toronto, was Dave Bolland who with his two goal performance, redefined the phrase “Johnny on the spot.” One could make a case and say Jonathan Bernier stole the two points for the team on this night.
With two road games out-of-the-way, the Maple Leafs head back to Toronto for their home opener against provincial rivals, the Ottawa Senators.
By: Adam Basciano
The puck hasn’t even dropped yet but one thing is certain, Phil Kessel will be a Toronto Maple Leaf for a long time to come. The talented goal scorer today inked a contract extension over the next 8 years to the sum of $64 Million! That is quiet a hefty sum to be sure, but that’s what elite level players go for in the NHL. In my opinion, Phil Kessel is an elite level player in this league.
“Kessel, 25, played 48 games for the Maple Leafs in 2012-13, leading the team in goals (20), assists (32), points (52), powerplay goals (5), game-winning goals (4) and shots (161). He ranked seventh in NHL points (tie) and ninth in shots. The native of Madison, Wisconsin also played seven playoff games for Toronto, posting team-highs in goals (4), powerplay goals (tie-1) and game-winning goals (2). Over the last two seasons, Kessel has accumulated 134 points (57 goals, 77 assists) in 130 games. Only Steve Stamkos (154), Evgeni Malkin (142) and Claude Giroux (141) have more points in that stretch. Only three players have more goals than Kessel’s 89 over the last three seasons: Stamkos (134), Corey Perry (102) and Alex Ovechkin (102).”
With business taken care of….LET’S DROP THE PUCK!
(Source: Toronto Maple Leafs)
By: Adam Basciano
It has been far too long since we’ve updated. First off, I apologize for that. Several things contributed to the hiatus. Firstly, this little thing called life sometime prevents you from keeping up with all your hobbies and creative outlets. Secondly, the lockout shortened season put a damper on my excitement a little. Then the shock and surprise of making the playoffs took over, and for a little over two weeks, I was in overdrive because of it and couldn’t possibly be coherent enough to put my emotions into word’s. That’s all behind us now. A brand new season is upon us, and we’re back and can’t wait for the regular season to get going!
The Maple Leafs making the playoffs after such a long drought, and pushing a team the quality of the Boston Bruins to the brink of elimination was definitely exhilarating and fun to watch. However, the disappointing, heartbreaking, and tear inducing collapse in the last half of the final period, suggested the team had room to improve. General Manager Dave Nonis took notice, and spent the off-season doing just that. One area the team needed an upgrade was at centre ice. Last season, only Tyler Bozak and Jay McClement had any success at taking and winning a faceoff. To that end, two time Stanley Cup winner Dave Bolland was brought into the fold. His addition not only gives us added strength down the middle, we’ve got a player who has been through the wars of the playoffs, faced every adversity that brings, and succeeded. He’s a smart two-way player who can add 10-15 goals to the offense as well. While we were a tough team last year, when it was all said and done, Boston did have their way with us when it came to puck battles and grittiness in the corners. Enter David Clarkson! He’s fearless, full of energy and as the pre-season showed won’t shy away from defending his teammates! Unfortunately, we’ll be without him for the first 10 games of the year due to suspension. Two season’s ago he had a career high 30 goal season. Can he duplicate that, not sure, but I can see him being in the range of 15-20 goals for sure. The other big off-season acquisition for the Leafs was goaltender Jonathan Bernier. While he played second fiddle in Los Angeles, his numbers were stellar. Everyone who speaks of him says he can be a bona fide #1 goaltender. However, judging by the pre-season, James Reimer isn’t going to roll over and give up the net. Nor should he. Having a healthy competition between two goalies makes both of them better. And it’s paramount to have two guys playing at the top of their game if the team hopes to make the playoffs come April.
Pre-Season is meaningless when it comes to wins and loses but several players used that opportunity to make this team on merit. 19-year-old defender Morgan Rielly showed incredible offensive awareness, good hockey sense, defensive composure and poise earning himself a roster spot. The team will likely use the 8 or 9 games to decide if he can handle the NHL full-time, or be sent back to his junior team. The other standout at training camp for me was Mason Raymond. The former Vancouver Canuck was signed to a professional tryout before playing so well that the team couldn’t afford not to sign him. A solid responsible two-way forward with immense speed and an offensive touch around the net. For the most part, he’ll be a great third line winger, but with the temporary absence of David Clarkson can be an adequate fill in on our top six set of forwards.
Have the Maple Leafs improved their team from last season. Yes, I think so. Making the playoffs will be a difficult task though thanks to divisional realignment, and nearly every team being improved as well. Can Nazem Kadri build on a strong performance in a shortened season? Can Joffrey Lupul stay healthy and continue to be a scoring force on the ice? Can both goalies perform at the level expected of them? Can Dion Phaneuf keep his boneheaded idiotic on ice decisions to a minimum? We know what Phil Kessel will bring. As for the rest, only time and the next 82 games will tell. Do you Be-Leaf? We do…