Fighting for Stanley http://www.fightingforstanley.ca Canada's unofficial hockey blog Sun, 11 May 2014 20:07:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.4 Rangers Survive But Face An Uphill Battlehttp://www.fightingforstanley.ca/features/rangers-survive-face-uphill-battle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rangers-survive-face-uphill-battle http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/features/rangers-survive-face-uphill-battle/#comments Sun, 11 May 2014 19:55:23 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=16123 Fighting for Stanley

rangers-pensJustin K. Aller/Getty Images The New York Rangers looked like a beaten team heading in to Friday night’s Game 5 against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.  They hadn’t played badly in the series to that point but were struggling to put the puck in the net.  They were shut out in Games 2 and 3 despite [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

rangers-pens
rangers-pensJustin K. Aller/Getty Images

The New York Rangers looked like a beaten team heading in to Friday night’s Game 5 against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.  They hadn’t played badly in the series to that point but were struggling to put the puck in the net.  They were shut out in Games 2 and 3 despite getting over 70 shots on goal.  They finally put a couple in the net in Game 4, ironically getting two goals from only 15 shots.  Pittsburgh wasn’t dominating but they were doing what they had to do to win putting themselves in a position where they just needed a win on home ice to advance.

A sports betting site gave an insight into this battle by looking at the odds provided by one of the online sportsbooks listed at TopBettingReviews.com. Their spokesperson said, “Despite overwhelming odds of coming back in the series (teams up 3-1 with a Game 5 on home ice go on to win the series over 90% of the time in the NHL) the Rangers prevailed.  For the first time since their Game 1 overtime win they looked like the team that wanted it more.  Henrick Lundqvist outplayed Marc Andre Fleury and the Rangers kept pressure on the Penguins throughout the game en route to a 5-1 victory.”  They now head home to Madison Square Garden with a more manageable 3-2 series deficit and some degree of renewed confidence.

It would be incorrect, however, to think that the ‘momentum has shifted’.  Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi observed that his team played ‘like they thought they had an automatic bid to the next round’.  That was in contrast with a gritty, determined effort from the Rangers who might get their own false sense of confidence as they head back to New York for Game 6.   The Penguins should be significantly more focused playing on enemy ice trying to avoid a Game 7 scenario.

Historically,  this type of Game 6 situation is a near toss up in the NHL.  The road team wins in this scenario 52.7% of the time and goes on to win the series 80.1% of the time.  The Rangers managed to put up a resolute Game 5 effort against a complacent opponent but still face an uphill battle to survive, let alone win this series.  The Penguins have demonstrated cool confidence in their three wins and that mojo should be back for Game 5.

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Difficult mission for the Canadienshttp://www.fightingforstanley.ca/montreal/difficult-mission-canadiens/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=difficult-mission-canadiens http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/montreal/difficult-mission-canadiens/#comments Sat, 03 May 2014 03:06:17 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=16110 Fighting for Stanley

050114_bruinshabsGetty Images It’s been 21 years since the last time the Stanley Cup was won by a Canadian team and this season the responsibility to end that streak is in the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. According to the online website SportsBettingDime.com, the Boston Bruins are leading the odds to win the title, followed by [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

050114_bruinshabs
050114_bruinshabsGetty Images

It’s been 21 years since the last time the Stanley Cup was won by a Canadian team and this season the responsibility to end that streak is in the hands of the Montreal Canadiens.

According to the online website SportsBettingDime.com, the Boston Bruins are leading the odds to win the title, followed by defending champions Chicago Blackhawks. The Canadiens are fifth on the list.

Montreal was the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup in the 1993 season, defeating Los Angeles Kings, who had the legendary Wayne Gretzky.

Since that year, only four teams of the maple leaf country were able to return to fight for the Stanley Cup. The most recent was in 2001, when the Vancouver Canucks fell 4-3 against the Bruins. Calgary (2004), Edmonton (2006) and Ottawa (2007) are the other teams that have been close to the championship.

The team led by Michel Therrien was the only Canadian who advanced to the playoffs this season and had a very good start sweeping the series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, scoring 16 goals and allowing 10. But their next opponent will be the Boston Bruins, who eliminated the Detroit Red Wings and are the defending Eastern Conference champions.

In the regular season these teams met four times and the Canadiens won three, including two on the road at the TD Garden. The biggest challenge they face is beating goalie Tuukka Rask, who led the league with seven shutouts. Montreal’s offense finished as number 21 of the league, averaging 2.5 goals per game.

Max Pacioretty was the leader of the Canadiens this season to rank among the top 50 with 60 points, thanks to 39 goals and 21 assists.

Montreal is the team with the most Stanley Cup titles (34) in history, but they must beat Boston to start dreaming about one more. The Bruins are favorites to become the first to win in consecutive years the Eastern Conference title since the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

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Toronto Maple Leafs – Joffrey Lupul is Done for the Seasonhttp://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-joffrey-lupul-done-season/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=toronto-maple-leafs-joffrey-lupul-done-season http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-joffrey-lupul-done-season/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 22:43:14 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=16094 Fighting for Stanley

Joffrey Lupul dressed for the Toronto Maple LeafsSurprise! Joffrey Lupul is done for the season. This time knee surgery is the culprit. In the past, Lupul has missed time to a major back injury (and subsequent infection), a broken forearm (thanks to captain Dion Phaneuf) and a concussion (delivered by two Philadelphia Flyers). Lupul’s penchant for getting injured has quickly become the subject [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

Joffrey Lupul dressed for the Toronto Maple Leafs
Joffrey Lupul dressed for the Toronto Maple LeafsToronto Maple Leafs

Surprise!

Joffrey Lupul is done for the season.

This time knee surgery is the culprit. In the past, Lupul has missed time to a major back injury (and subsequent infection), a broken forearm (thanks to captain Dion Phaneuf) and a concussion (delivered by two Philadelphia Flyers).

Lupul’s penchant for getting injured has quickly become the subject of ridicule in Toronto. Fans often derisively refer to Lupul as “The Glass Man” and while it’s certainly not his fault that back luck seems to follow him, the frustration of the fans can be understood. The injury simply puts a cap on a horrible season for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Lupul joined the team in 2010-2011 and his arrival seemed full of promise. He recorded a career-high 67 points (25 goals, 42 assists) in 66 games the following season, which earned him extra time in Toronto. He was promptly singed to a five-year, $26.25 million US contract extension, rewarding him as part of the team’s core.

That extension now looks like a mistake. Lupul was limited to 16 games of action last season. He’s been relatively healthy this season, playing in 69 games, but his production has dropped significantly. He has 44 points (22 goals, 22 assists) this season, which represents a 22-point drop from that magical campaign in 2011-2012.

It’s not entirely bad news for Lupul, however. His recovery should only take a month and he’ll get to miss the rest of this miserable season. On this last point, I’m sure all of his teammates are jealous.

Despite my implicit (and sometimes explicit) criticism of Lupul, he is a major leader on the team and this is where his absence may be felt the greatest.

Finding themselves in crisis mode, the Leafs could actually benefit from Lupul’s presence right now. Hopefully, he takes the bad luck with him.


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Edmonton Oilers – Viktor Fasth Shines Against Old Teamhttp://www.fightingforstanley.ca/edmonton/edmonton-oilers-viktor-fasth-shines-old-team/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=edmonton-oilers-viktor-fasth-shines-old-team http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/edmonton/edmonton-oilers-viktor-fasth-shines-old-team/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 12:13:44 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=16058 Fighting for Stanley

Viktor Fasth of the Edmonton Oilers stops Corey Perry of the Anaheim DucksThe Edmonton Oilers may not sit anywhere near the top of the Western Conference standings, but that didn’t stop them from beating one of the elite teams in the NHL last night. Edmonton earned an impressive 4-2 win over the visiting Anaheim Ducks at Rexall Place yesterday. Four different players provided the offence for Edmonton: [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

Viktor Fasth of the Edmonton Oilers stops Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks
Viktor Fasth of the Edmonton Oilers stops Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks David Bloom/Edmonton Sun/QMI Agency

The Edmonton Oilers may not sit anywhere near the top of the Western Conference standings, but that didn’t stop them from beating one of the elite teams in the NHL last night.

Edmonton earned an impressive 4-2 win over the visiting Anaheim Ducks at Rexall Place yesterday.

Four different players provided the offence for Edmonton: Taylor Hall, David Perron, Justin Schultz and Jordan Eberle. The Ducks got goals from Jakob Silverberg and Corey Perry.

Anaheim actually took an early lead in the game thanks to Silverberg’s goal, but Edmonton eventually responded in the second period and never looked back, scoring three straight goals in the frame.

Edmonton’s cause was helped by the superb play of goaltender Viktor Fasth. Facing his former team for the second time this season, Fasth turned aside 34 shots to secure the win. He lost his first matchup against the Ducks as a member of the Oilers earlier last week 3-2 in regulation.

This is the type of high-quality play that the Oilers were hoping to receive when they traded for Fasth, and they have a potential winning tandem in Ben Scrivens and Fasth. The team has been consistent in alternating between these two goalies (when both are healthy I should say) whenever one loses, providing balance in net.

(Head coach Randy Carlyle and the Toronto Maple Leafs failed to follow through on a similar arrangement in managing Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer, and the results speak for themselves: Bernier has been overworked while Reimer’s confidence has been completely destroyed.)

To date, Edmonton remains stuck in rebuild mode, but they’ve finally addressed the hole in net. They already have a crop of talented, young forwards so the focus should now switch to solidifying their defence.

If those efforts continue, I may soon be reporting that the Ducks pulled off a surprise upset against the league-leading Oilers.


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Toronto Maple Leafs – All Eyes on the Columbus Blue Jacketshttp://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-eyes-columbus-blue-jackets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=toronto-maple-leafs-eyes-columbus-blue-jackets http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-eyes-columbus-blue-jackets/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 11:14:52 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=16051 Fighting for Stanley

Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs battles Ryan Murray of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the puckThe Toronto Maple Leafs should be keeping an eye on the Columbus Blue Jackets these days for two reasons. First, they need to scoreboard watch and essentially wait for the moment until Columbus officially eliminates them from the playoff race. At this point, it would take a sudden collapse by the Blue Jackets in addition [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs battles Ryan Murray of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the puck
Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs battles Ryan Murray of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the puckAaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press

The Toronto Maple Leafs should be keeping an eye on the Columbus Blue Jackets these days for two reasons.

First, they need to scoreboard watch and essentially wait for the moment until Columbus officially eliminates them from the playoff race.

At this point, it would take a sudden collapse by the Blue Jackets in addition to the New Jersey Devils for the Leafs to leapfrog both teams and secure a playoff berth.

I don’t think that’ll happen.

However, in a more important sense, the Leafs should watch the Blue Jackets to see what it really requires to make the playoffs.

Columbus has shown tremendous determination and commitment in pushing for a playoff spot. They may lack the star power of the Leafs and they certainly don’t hold the same central presence in the league as the Leafs, but they’re better than Toronto in the area where it matters the greatest: the standings.

Watching Columbus, you see a team that wants to make the playoffs and one that takes nothing for granted. They’ve relied heavily on goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and he’s once again rewarded their show of confidence with terrific play.

(Why did the Philadelphia Flyers ever trade this guy? Impatience?)

Whereas Toronto cannot muster the strength or passion to beat the Winnipeg Jets of the hockey world, Columbus is coming off a recent stretch of games where they stole one point from the Colorado Avalanche, blanked the Flyers, lost a close one to the Chicago Blackhawks and pulverized the New York Islanders 4-0.

Those are the signs of a team that wants to compete for the Stanley Cup and one that deserves a shot in the playoffs. I cannot say the same for Toronto right now.

There was a point earlier in the season when we could have said this about the Leafs. Now we’re forced to watch as the Blue Jackets blow past them and secure the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

For Columbus, of course, this is good news. It’ll only be their second ever trip to the playoffs, but they look posed to make several more playoff appearances in the coming years.

(The Blue Jackets, by the way, swept the season series between Toronto and Columbus. Point taken?)


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Ottawa Senators – Ales Hemsky Finds a Home in Ottawahttp://www.fightingforstanley.ca/ottawa/ottawa-senators-ales-hemsky-finds-home-ottawa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ottawa-senators-ales-hemsky-finds-home-ottawa http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/ottawa/ottawa-senators-ales-hemsky-finds-home-ottawa/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 00:30:19 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=16044 Fighting for Stanley

Ales Hemsky dressed for the Ottawa SenatorsAles Hemsky has long been the subject of trade rumours so when he was finally moved this season, it didn’t catch anyone by surprise. If there was a surprise, it may have involved the destination. Hemsky found himself moved from one small-market Canadian team, i.e. the Edmonton Oilers, to another small-market Canadian team, i.e. the Ottawa [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

Ales Hemsky dressed for the Ottawa Senators
Ales Hemsky dressed for the Ottawa SenatorsJean Levac/Ottawa Citizen/Postmedia News

Ales Hemsky has long been the subject of trade rumours so when he was finally moved this season, it didn’t catch anyone by surprise.

If there was a surprise, it may have involved the destination. Hemsky found himself moved from one small-market Canadian team, i.e. the Edmonton Oilers, to another small-market Canadian team, i.e. the Ottawa Senators.

Ottawa was already fading from the playoff picture at the time of the trade so it was read by some as a last-ditch attempt to rejuvenate the Senators’ offence.

Did it work?

The Senators remain out of the playoff picture today, but it seems fair to say Hemsky has rediscovered his form in Ottawa. He has 13 points (3 goals, 10 assists) in 16 games since joining the club. Hemsky’s best season came in 2005-2006 when he recorded 77 points (19 goals, 58 assists) for the Oilers.

I’m sure the Senators would like to hang onto Hemsky, but he’s a free agent at the end of the season and eligible to leave. Budget considerations – Jason Spezza, Bobby Ryan, Clarke MacArthur and Craig Anderson all become free agents in 2015-2016 – might force them to pass on him.

Having said that, Hemsky may be cheap to resign. His current salary cap hit is $5 million, but he won’t be making that type of money again. He might be inclined to sign a short, inexpensive contract in the hope of proving his true value next season.

It’s hard to evaluate Hemsky’s current value based on a season split between Edmonton and Ottawa.

In my opinion, Hemsky has been a nice addition to Ottawa and he’s definitely played well there. It would be nice to see him return next season. After that, he might once again become the subject of constant trade talk.

Who knows?


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Toronto Maple Leafs – David Clarkson: The Contract from Hellhttp://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-david-clarkson-contract-hell/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=toronto-maple-leafs-david-clarkson-contract-hell http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-david-clarkson-contract-hell/#comments Sun, 06 Apr 2014 23:59:05 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=16039 Fighting for Stanley

David Clarkson dressed for the Toronto Maple LeafsThere was almost immediate outcry when the Toronto Maple Leafs signed veteran forward David Clarkson to a seven-year, $36.75 million US contract. For starters, Clarkson has never really been known as a points producer. He had a big season in 2011-2012, recording 46 points (30 goals, 16 assists) in 80 games, but that likely represents [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

David Clarkson dressed for the Toronto Maple Leafs
David Clarkson dressed for the Toronto Maple LeafsClaus Andersen/Getty Images

There was almost immediate outcry when the Toronto Maple Leafs signed veteran forward David Clarkson to a seven-year, $36.75 million US contract.

For starters, Clarkson has never really been known as a points producer. He had a big season in 2011-2012, recording 46 points (30 goals, 16 assists) in 80 games, but that likely represents his peak as a player. He’s never come close to producing similar numbers in the rest of his eight-season career.

The size and length of the deal also seemed odd.

Brian Burke spent the majority of his tenure as general manager of the Leafs trying to avoid such contracts because they limit the financial flexibility of the team moving forward. However, Dave Nonis wasted little time wasting money in his first full season as general manager.

This is actually one of those areas where Burke’s “principles” hold true. Why would you want to burden your team with such a big contract unless it was a surefire hit? No offence to Clarkson, but he’s not that type of player.

Was the outrage misplaced?

Let’s quickly review Clarkson’s debut season in Toronto. He missed the first ten games of the season due to suspension – an incredibly stupid suspension for a “veteran” player like him. I’m sure even rookies know not to leave the bench when there’s a fight on the ice.

Unfortunately, things haven’t gone any better for Clarkson since the suspension ended. He has an unimpressive 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) in 57 games so far this season. If you divide the number of goals he’s recorded by his pay for the season ($4.5 million US), that amounts to $900,000 per goal!

I’d offer my services to the Leafs for $20 a goal.

Now there’s talk the team might buy out Clarkson’s contract at the end of the season.

What will this accomplish? It’ll free up some salary cap space, but there’ll still be buyout costs moving forward. These costs will take up space of their own and essentially take the form of a “phantom” player on the team.

Think about it: we’re still paying out Darcy Tucker and Colby Armstrong for their buyouts. This locks-up valuable salary cap space and money that can be used on actual players.

Why did Toronto add Clarkson? We were supposedly one tough guy away from beating the Boston Bruins.

That was last spring. Now we cannot even beat the Winnipeg Jets.

It’ll be a hot day in July when Clarkson finally puts his contract money to effective use on the golf course, and it’ll be a hot day in hell until the Leafs can escape from his contract without any penalty.


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Vancouver Canucks – Playoff Hopes Slim but Still Alivehttp://www.fightingforstanley.ca/vancouver/vancouver-canucks-playoff-hopes-slim-still-alive/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=vancouver-canucks-playoff-hopes-slim-still-alive http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/vancouver/vancouver-canucks-playoff-hopes-slim-still-alive/#comments Sun, 06 Apr 2014 22:18:52 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=16025 Fighting for Stanley

Ryan Kesler dressed for the Vancouver CanucksAt this point in the season, the chances of the Vancouver Canucks making the playoffs are extremely remote, but the team has done everything possible to help its own cause. Unfortunately, they’re no longer masters of their own destiny, and it’ll likely require a sudden collapse by the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes for the Canucks [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

Ryan Kesler dressed for the Vancouver Canucks
Ryan Kesler dressed for the Vancouver CanucksCanucks Army

At this point in the season, the chances of the Vancouver Canucks making the playoffs are extremely remote, but the team has done everything possible to help its own cause.

Unfortunately, they’re no longer masters of their own destiny, and it’ll likely require a sudden collapse by the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes for the Canucks to sneak into the playoffs as the last seed in the Western Conference.

The Canucks earned a big victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, defeating them 2-1 in regulation. Vancouver was trailing Los Angeles for most of the game before Alexander Edler and Brad Richardson found the back of the net in the third period.

Once the dominant (by far) team in Canada, the Canucks have gradually fallen victim to old age, injuries and internal mismanagement.

Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin look a step slower this season; Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows have both missed time to injury; and neither Roberto Luongo nor Cory Schneider is a member of the Canucks today.

What fans of the Canucks may be witnessing is the close of an era. The window of opportunity for many of the team’s top players has passed. As a result, it might be time to finally admit the obvious and begin the “rebuild” project: this team is past its prime.

To this effect, there was a lot of talk that Kesler would be traded this season and although he remains part of the team today, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him moved in the offseason. It’ll probably prove more difficult to move the Sedin twins, but I’m sure management wouldn’t oppose the idea outright.

That’s what makes this last push by the Canucks both pleasant and sad to watch: it’s nice to see them enter the great unknown on a potentially winning note.

A bright future may greet Vancouver at the end of the tunnel – Edler is an excellent young defenceman and goaltender Eddie Lack has the skill to solve the goaltending question for the Canucks – but it’ll likely be a bumpy and dark ride getting there.


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Montreal Canadiens – Wild Weekend for Les Habshttp://www.fightingforstanley.ca/montreal/montreal-canadiens-wild-weekend-les-habs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=montreal-canadiens-wild-weekend-les-habs http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/montreal/montreal-canadiens-wild-weekend-les-habs/#comments Sun, 06 Apr 2014 19:42:10 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=16018 Fighting for Stanley

The Montreal Canadiens celebrate a goal against the Ottawa SenatorsFans of the Montreal Canadiens can sleep easily. Their favourite team has a four-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division and they’ve already punched their tickets for the playoffs. In fact, Montreal is heading into playoffs under generally good conditions: their offence has been firing on all cylinders [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

The Montreal Canadiens celebrate a goal against the Ottawa Senators
The Montreal Canadiens celebrate a goal against the Ottawa SenatorsJana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

Fans of the Montreal Canadiens can sleep easily.

Their favourite team has a four-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division and they’ve already punched their tickets for the playoffs.

In fact, Montreal is heading into playoffs under generally good conditions: their offence has been firing on all cylinders since Thomas Vanek joined the team and they enjoy the comfort of having Carey Price in net. If the offence ever falters, you know Price is capable of carrying the team all by himself.

That’s why the Canadiens’ last two games are such an aberration. Although Montreal pulled out convincing wins in both games – netting 12 goals in the process – they also surrendered 7 goals.

The goaltending duties for the back-to-back games were split between Peter Budaj and Price.

Budaj got the start on Friday against the lowly Ottawa Senators, surrendering three unanswered goals to start the game in an eventual 7-4 victory. I cannot say he looked sharp.

In turn, Price took over the net last night and delivered a temporary setback to the Detroit Red Wings’ playoff push. He surrendered three late goals, tying the game at 3-3, before Montreal rallied to win 5-3.

This wild pair of weekend games likely left Habs fans excited over the sudden explosion in offence, but somewhat alarmed about the equally sudden explosion in goals surrendered.

Ideally, the offence will stay hot while the defence will tighten up as the Canadiens head into the postseason.

On the season, Montreal has scored 212 goals while allowing 199 goals. This produces a goal differential of +13, which compares poorly against the goal differential of the division-leading Boston Bruins. They sit at an insane +84 – tops in the entire league.

There’s a good chance that Montreal will be the only Canadian team represented in the playoffs this season. As a Leafs fan, it’s hard to imagine myself cheering for them, but it would also be nice to see a Canadian team succeed.

I could support more of these high-offence games: they’d give me plenty of opportunity to cheer for and against the Habs!


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Toronto Maple Leafs – Do You Really Want Them to Make the Playoffs?http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-really-want-make-playoffs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=toronto-maple-leafs-really-want-make-playoffs http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-really-want-make-playoffs/#comments Sun, 06 Apr 2014 18:37:08 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=16013 Fighting for Stanley

James Reimer looks down in disappointmentHypothetically, let’s pretend that the Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs this season. What would this signify? Would it prove that they’re contenders? Would it mean that Leafs fans can expect a few more weeks of meaningful hockey? If you ask me, it would actually mean none of this. Instead, it would simply mean that [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

James Reimer looks down in disappointment
James Reimer looks down in disappointmentNathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Hypothetically, let’s pretend that the Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs this season.

What would this signify?

Would it prove that they’re contenders? Would it mean that Leafs fans can expect a few more weeks of meaningful hockey?

If you ask me, it would actually mean none of this. Instead, it would simply mean that the team’s luck finally returned and propelled them into a situation that otherwise shouldn’t have happened.

For the first part of the season, the Leafs were able to win despite battling several key injuries, suffering from questionable defence and showing early signs of strained player-coach relations. These problems have simply peaked in recent weeks.

You can add to this list the uneven goaltending arrangement between Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer that head coach Randy Carlyle put in place at the start of the season.

Initially, this arrangement produced positive results, but Reimer quickly faded in December after seeing himself fall behind Bernier on the team’s depth chart for no apparent reason.

Both goalies were playing good hockey up until this point (their stats were virtually identical), but Carlyle’s greater show of confidence in Bernier gradually ate away at Reimer’s confidence. Now the Leafs are left with an injured goalie in Bernier and an emotionally wounded goalie in Reimer, which is hardly the recipe for success.

Fans of the Leafs are well aware of the team’s faults: they concede too many shots; they’re prone to slow starts; their goaltending is inconsistent; and there’s no sign of leadership on the ice.

If the Leafs defied the odds and somehow found a way to make the playoffs, these faults would still exist; they’d simply be lost in all the excitement.

That would be regrettable.

A team suffering from such core faults isn’t a real contender – it’s a fluke and likely to disappoint at some later date.

Perhaps this is what happened last year – a surprise trip to the playoffs deluded us into thinking that the Leafs were contenders – and we’re just coming to realize the truth now.

Assuming this is the case, it might be best for the Leafs to lose their three remaining games on the season. This’ll leave us with no delusion about next year: they aren’t one or two pieces away from becoming contenders.

I mean, think about it. Do you really want them to make the playoffs? I’ll pass.

Let’s not celebrate mediocrity.


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Toronto Maple Leafs – Killer Jetshttp://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-killer-jets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=toronto-maple-leafs-killer-jets http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-killer-jets/#comments Sun, 06 Apr 2014 11:45:37 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=16003 Fighting for Stanley

Nazem Kadri falls on the iceIf the Toronto Maple Leafs are desperate to make the playoffs, it certainly didn’t show last night. Instead, it was the visiting Winnipeg Jets who delivered a knockout performance at the Air Canada Centre, effectively ending the Leafs’ playoff hopes with a dominant 4-2 win. The game looked promising for the Leafs at the outset. [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

Nazem Kadri falls on the ice
Nazem Kadri falls on the iceNathan Denette/The Canadian Press

If the Toronto Maple Leafs are desperate to make the playoffs, it certainly didn’t show last night.

Instead, it was the visiting Winnipeg Jets who delivered a knockout performance at the Air Canada Centre, effectively ending the Leafs’ playoff hopes with a dominant 4-2 win.

The game looked promising for the Leafs at the outset. Tyler Bozak set-up Phil Kessel just minutes into the game to put the Leafs ahead 1-0. Winnipeg quickly responded, then Nazem Kadri regained the lead for Toronto with an unassisted power play goal mid-way through the first period.

That could have easily been the game winner – Winnipeg didn’t look good at this point, especially goaltender Ondrej Pavelec – but Jacob Trouba tied up the game at 2-2 in the dying seconds of the opening frame.

Trouba’s goal seemed to energize the Jets and leave the Leafs deflated. Moving from the second period forward, Winnipeg never took its foot off the gas medal while Toronto fell flat in arguably the biggest game of their season.

After this loss, it’s hard to imagine the Leafs making the playoffs. Although the Detroit Red Wings also lost last night, I cannot see Toronto catching them down the stretch. Detroit has a four-point lead on Toronto in the Eastern Conference standings right now.

Toronto’s best bet lies in catching the Columbus Blue Jackets, but they have two games-on-hand over the Leafs. It doesn’t help that the Blue Jackets swept the season series between Columbus and Toronto. These are lost points that are just now coming back to haunt the Leafs.

Could things possibly get any worse for the Leafs?

They now sit in tenth place after the New Jersey Devils – a team written out of the playoff race a long time ago – beat the Carolina Hurricanes. Both teams have 84 points, but the Devils have one extra game left to play, giving them the tie breaker.

Do you remember when the Leafs sat near the top of the standings? It was just last month.

I guess if a week can be a lot of time in politics, then a month can be deadly in hockey.


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Detroit Red Wings – Mike Babcock: The “Sixth Man”http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/features/detroit-red-wings-mike-babcock-sixth-man/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=detroit-red-wings-mike-babcock-sixth-man http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/features/detroit-red-wings-mike-babcock-sixth-man/#comments Sat, 05 Apr 2014 17:04:49 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=15996 Fighting for Stanley

Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike BabcockThe “sixth man” is a mythical figure in the world of hockey. He can take the form of the home crowd, equipment manager or biased official, but he’s generally seen to provide some extra advantage to his team. In the case of the Detroit Red Wings, that figure is undoubtedly Mike Babcock. This is Babcock’s [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock
Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike BabcockJulian H. Gonzalez/DFP

The “sixth man” is a mythical figure in the world of hockey.

He can take the form of the home crowd, equipment manager or biased official, but he’s generally seen to provide some extra advantage to his team.

In the case of the Detroit Red Wings, that figure is undoubtedly Mike Babcock.

This is Babcock’s ninth season as head coach of Detroit. He’s guided Detroit to the playoffs every season since joining the club and it appears that the current season will prove no different despite a rash of injuries to key players.

Detroit has been without star players likes Jimmy Howard, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson at several points over the course of the season. However, they’ve still found a way to succeed and they’ll likely make their 23rd consecutive appearance in the playoffs as a result.

Some of the credit must go to youngsters Gustav Nyquist and Darren Helm, who’ve excelled in the absence of their veteran counterparts, but credit must also be given to Babcock, who’s been able to effectively manage those injuries and keep Detroit in the playoff picture.

Fans of Team Canada are well aware of Babcock’s talent behind the bench as he’s led the team to two consecutive gold medal finishes in the Winter Olympics. As well, Detroit fans are well aware of his talent: he brought the Stanley Cup home in 2008.

Having said that, it might surprise the casual fan to learn that Babcock has never won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach. This is true despite the fact that Babcock recently passed Scotty Bowman (410) and is currently tied with Adams (413) for all-time wins by a Detroit coach. Babcock’s record stands at 413-199-90 heading into tonight’s matchup against the Montreal Canadiens.

It would be nice to see Babcock set that record tonight and beat the Canadiens in the process. He’s my pick to win the Jack Adams Award this year though he’ll probably get some competition from rookie head coach Patrick Roy from Colorado.

The big difference? Roy was handed a young team on the rise while Babcock was handed every single reason to write the current season off. That’s a true winner in my books.


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Toronto Maple Leafs – Is James Reimer the Guy?http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-james-reimer-guy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=toronto-maple-leafs-james-reimer-guy http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-james-reimer-guy/#comments Sat, 05 Apr 2014 12:09:51 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=15986 Fighting for Stanley

James Reimer dressed for the Toronto Maple LeafsAfter getting pushed behind Jonathan Bernier on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ depth chart this season, James Reimer has struggled mightily. Things got so bad at one point that some disgruntled fans began heckling his wife April on Twitter. There’s also been several signs of tension between Reimer and head coach Randy Carlyle. All of this [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

James Reimer dressed for the Toronto Maple Leafs
James Reimer dressed for the Toronto Maple LeafsMark Blinch/Reuters

After getting pushed behind Jonathan Bernier on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ depth chart this season, James Reimer has struggled mightily.

Things got so bad at one point that some disgruntled fans began heckling his wife April on Twitter. There’s also been several signs of tension between Reimer and head coach Randy Carlyle.

All of this has been read to suggest that Reimer may be playing his final season as a member of the Leafs.

Expectations were initially set very high for Reimer. He burst onto the scene in 2010-2011 and quickly captured the hearts of Leafs fans. Toronto almost made the playoffs that season due to Reimer’s heroics and it was generally assumed that he would carry them into the playoffs the following season.

That was before injuries became a factor in Reimer’s young career. A concussion at the start of the 2011-2012 campaign saw Reimer miss significant time and he never really recovered his form. The shortened 2013 season was a definite improvement, but we all know how that one ended.

Cue the arrival of Bernier.

Now it’s Bernier who finds himself out due to injury and the Leafs have been forced to once again call upon Reimer’s services. Their playoff hopes hang in the balance and anything short of perfection from Reimer will likely see the Leafs hit the golf course in early May.

Even if Reimer grabs this opportunity and runs with it, I don’t know what the future in Toronto holds for him. The Leafs have already invested a fair amount of money and confidence into Bernier. Add to that Reimer’s awkward relationship with Carlyle and it seems Reimer is still destined to leave Toronto this offseason regardless of how he performs over the next four games.

Having said that, he’ll have another chance to capture our hearts and this may actually be his saving grace. Reimer has always been the favourite son in Leafs Nation and that fact alone might force the hand of management to resign him.

Good luck, Reimer! There’s an entire nation behind you tonight!


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Toronto Maple Leafs – Playoffs Suddenly Back in View?http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-playoffs-suddenly-back-view/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=toronto-maple-leafs-playoffs-suddenly-back-view http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-playoffs-suddenly-back-view/#comments Sat, 05 Apr 2014 10:59:34 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=15978 Fighting for Stanley

James Reimer and Evander Kane face-off against each otherThe Chicago Blackhawks did the Toronto Maple Leafs a tremendous favour last night: by beating the Columbus Blue Jackets in regulation, they eliminated one of the Blue Jackets’ critical games-at-hand over the Leafs. That advantage now stands at a single game. To seize the opportunity, the Leafs will still likely need to win every one [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

James Reimer and Evander Kane face-off against each other
James Reimer and Evander Kane face-off against each otherClaus Andersen/Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks did the Toronto Maple Leafs a tremendous favour last night: by beating the Columbus Blue Jackets in regulation, they eliminated one of the Blue Jackets’ critical games-at-hand over the Leafs.

That advantage now stands at a single game. To seize the opportunity, the Leafs will still likely need to win every one of their remaining games this season, but it does give them some room to close gap.

If the Chicago victory had come in overtime, it would have probably meant the end of Toronto’s season. Here some luck finally went the Leafs’ way: Chicago scored the game winner with four seconds left in regulation (talk about cutting it close!).

As it stands, Columbus currently has 85 points while Toronto currently has 84 points in the race for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto returns to action tonight as they host the Winnipeg Jets at the Air Canada Centre. After this, they hit the road for three games to close the regular season, visiting the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators. These are all teams that they can beat though the Lightning can be expected to put up a strong fight.

For Columbus, the close of the regular season seems a bit more difficult. They face the New York Islanders and Phoenix Coyotes at Nationwide Arena before hitting the road to visit the Dallas Stars, Lightning and Panthers. What makes this set of games potentially difficult is the fact that four of them will be played in back-to-back situations – Columbus has gone 12-14 so far this season in such situations.

Having swept their season series against Toronto, Columbus has some room for error, but they certainly cannot afford to go .500 down the stretch. Realistically, they must win at least three of their final five games (and hope that the Leafs don’t go on a perfect or near perfect run) to reach the playoffs.

On the other hand, Toronto essentially has to run the table if they want to avoid a tiebreaker situation with Columbus.

Nonetheless, as the old adage says, it’s best to focus on the task at hand and here Toronto will want to take Winnipeg seriously. None of this will matter if the Leafs fall tonight and Chicago’s last-minute heroics will go to waste.


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Toronto Maple Leafs – Meltdown Averted (for Now)http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-meltdown-averted-now/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=toronto-maple-leafs-meltdown-averted-now http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-meltdown-averted-now/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 09:56:12 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=15972 Fighting for Stanley

The Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate their victory over the Boston Bruins last nightLet me be completely honest at the outset: I didn’t expect the Toronto Maple Leafs to beat the Boston Bruins last night. Boston has been a tough matchup for the Leafs in recent years, and it would have been the perfect excuse to bail on the current season. The Bruins are also on one of [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

The Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate their victory over the Boston Bruins last night
The Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate their victory over the Boston Bruins last nightMichael Peake/Toronto Sun

Let me be completely honest at the outset: I didn’t expect the Toronto Maple Leafs to beat the Boston Bruins last night.

Boston has been a tough matchup for the Leafs in recent years, and it would have been the perfect excuse to bail on the current season.

The Bruins are also on one of those special runs that leave the opposition in shambles – they’ve secured at least one point in 16 of their last 17 games! – which certainly didn’t bode well for the Leafs. (Boston would ultimately escape Toronto with one point.)

When the Leafs took a 3-1 lead into the third period, I thought to myself, “Cue the collapse.”

I was semi-correct.

Toronto would allow two third-period goals, but this time they were able to rescue things in overtime.

From Toronto’s perspective, Nazem Kadri and James Reimer were the two heroes of the game.

Kadri netted the game winner – his first goal in six games – while Reimer kept the Bruins at bay after appearing in relief for injured starter Jonathan Bernier. Reimer did allow one shot to slip past him – the tying goal heading into overtime – but there was no epic collapse or obvious hole in his game on the night.

If Bernier misses the rest of the regular season as a result of the injury, it’ll be interesting to see how Reimer responds. Reimer excelled in his last relief appearance for Bernier against the Los Angeles Kings, but it was immediately afterwards that he and the Leafs hit a prolonged losing skid. The Leafs cannot afford for this to happen again.

David Clarkson deserves special mention as well. He tried to fight Milan Lucic. The effort is appreciated, but Lucic’s a pure beast so there’s little point in anyone trying to fight him.

In terms of the standings, Toronto remains stuck in ninth place. The Columbus Blue Jackets also won last night, keeping them ahead of the Leafs by one point. Columbus plays Chicago tonight so fix an eye (or two) on the scoreboard.

Realistically, the Blue Jackets must lose three of their remaining six games if the Leafs hope to pass them. Of course, this also involves the Leafs winning their last four games of the season.

That’s a tall task and depends on a lot of things going Toronto’s way. Last night was a good start.


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Toronto Maple Leafs – Deja Vuhttp://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-deja-vu/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=toronto-maple-leafs-deja-vu http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-deja-vu/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 12:46:59 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=15966 Fighting for Stanley

“The Collapse” as it has become known in Leafs NationIt seems that the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins share a destiny (or that the hockey gods seem to enjoy tormenting Leafs fans by constantly throwing bears in their way – in either case, it’s not good for the Leafs and Leafs Nation). The wounds from last season are still fresh. After securing [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

“The Collapse” as it has become known in Leafs Nation
“The Collapse” as it has become known in Leafs NationJared Wickerham/Getty Images

It seems that the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins share a destiny (or that the hockey gods seem to enjoy tormenting Leafs fans by constantly throwing bears in their way – in either case, it’s not good for the Leafs and Leafs Nation).

The wounds from last season are still fresh. After securing a playoff berth for the first time in eight seasons, Toronto pushed Boston to the brink of defeat before collapsing itself in Game 7 of their first-round matchup.

That collapse would haunt the Leafs all summer heading into the current season where they promised not to repeat it. Instead, they apparently reserved the collapse for late in the regular season, ensuring that another playoff setback wouldn’t happen since they likely won’t make it to the big dance anyway.

Boston, by the way, eventually made it to the Stanley Cup Final that year, but they were beaten by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.

Both teams spent the offseason seeking improvements to their lineup. Toronto added Jonathan Bernier, Dave Bolland, David Clarkson and Mason Raymond while Boston added Jarome Iginla – the same Iginla who shunned the Bruins in favour of the Pittsburgh Penguins last season.

The results?

Toronto has actually slipped in the standings, moving from fifth place in the Eastern Conference at the close of last season to occupy ninth place at the present. In contrast, the reserve has happened for Boston: they’ve jumped three spots to land in first place and have a legitimate chance of winning the President’s Trophy this season.

While the Leafs have been on a tragic ride over their past ten games (2-8-0) – a slide that has essentially pushed them out of the playoff picture – the Bruins have been on one of those special rides (8-1-1) that make certain teams Stanley Cup favourites. If ever there was a clear comparison of contrasts in the hockey world, this is it.

What’s the significance of all this?

I’ve already suggested that the Leafs are predisposed to miss the playoffs this season, but if I’m wrong, they must beat Boston tonight to keep their increasingly faint playoff hopes alive. It appears that Detroit has now secured the first Wild Card spot and Columbus has a head start on the second one. In other words, the Leafs have no room for error.

At the start of the season, I would have said that the Leafs were finally ready to beat the Bruins. Now it appears that the Bruins are in position to end the Leafs’ season for the second year in a row.

(For the record, Iginla has flourished in Boston, collecting 61 points (30 goals, 31 assists) in 75 games. He made the right choice this time.)


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Toronto Maple Leafs – Surprise Offence Ends Losing Streakhttp://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-surprise-offence-ends-losing-streak/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=toronto-maple-leafs-surprise-offence-ends-losing-streak http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-surprise-offence-ends-losing-streak/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 22:10:13 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=15959 Fighting for Stanley

David Clarkson celebrates his first goal in 16 gamesQuestion: The Toronto Maple Leafs have lost eight games in row, Phil Kessel is nursing a bruised foot and the first line has been surprisingly quiet over the past few games. How do you stop the bleeding? Answer: Put your faith in Jay McClement, Dave Bolland and David Clarkson – they’ll provide the offence needed [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

David Clarkson celebrates his first goal in 16 games
David Clarkson celebrates his first goal in 16 gamesJohn E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports

Question: The Toronto Maple Leafs have lost eight games in row, Phil Kessel is nursing a bruised foot and the first line has been surprisingly quiet over the past few games. How do you stop the bleeding?

Answer: Put your faith in Jay McClement, Dave Bolland and David Clarkson – they’ll provide the offence needed to win.

This answer, of course, likely struck you by surprise, but it’s exactly what the Leafs did last night in beating the Calgary Flames 3-2 at the Air Canada Centre. Although unexpected, the timely offence provided by this trio of “role players” put an end to the Leafs’ miserable losing streak and helped keep their faint playoff hopes alive.

McClement has been mostly used as a defensive specialist by the team, killing penalties and winning key faceoffs. McClement’s tally, which opened the second period, stands as his fourth goal this season and the 75th goal in his ten-season, 677-game career. Thus, it’s an understatement to say the goal came as a complete, but pleasant surprise.

In contrast to McClement, Bolland and Clarkson were added this past offseason for their offensive capabilities and their physical presence. Neither player was ever expected to challenge for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, but they were expected to provide some much-needed secondary support.

Bolland has delivered on this promise when healthy, collecting 12 points (8 goals, 4 assists) in 21 games this season. These numbers are actually in line with his career average for points-per-game.

On the other hand, Clarkson has been a bone fide dud this season. He’s expected to post career-low numbers, and he’s often proven more of a liability than an asset for the Leafs. That’s why Clarkson’s goal, scored on a breakaway and ending a personal 16-game goalless drought, is especially important. Hopefully, it’s a sign of better things to come for Clarkson (and the Leafs) down the stretch.

The Leafs next play on Thursday against the Boston Bruins. This’ll be a tough matchup and they’ll need both their primary and secondary offence firing at 100% in order win. Unfortunately, we haven’t really seen them work in tandem so far this season.

Focussing on the positive, perhaps another pleasant surprise lies around the corner?


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Toronto Maple Leafs – Brian Burke Returns to Torontohttp://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-brian-burke-returns-toronto/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=toronto-maple-leafs-brian-burke-returns-toronto http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-brian-burke-returns-toronto/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 12:00:15 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=15953 Fighting for Stanley

Brian Burke was general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs for four seasonsToronto Maple Leafs fans will see a familiar face at the Air Canada Centre tonight as they watch their favourite team fight to keep its fading playoff hopes alive. Brian Burke will make his unceremonious return to Toronto as the new keeper of the Calgary Flames – his latest rebuild project. As Leafs fans know, [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

Brian Burke was general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs for four seasons
Brian Burke was general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs for four seasonsPuck Daddy/Yahoo! Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs fans will see a familiar face at the Air Canada Centre tonight as they watch their favourite team fight to keep its fading playoff hopes alive.

Brian Burke will make his unceremonious return to Toronto as the new keeper of the Calgary Flames – his latest rebuild project. As Leafs fans know, Burke was general manager of the team for four seasons before getting the axe just prior to the start of the shortened 2013 season.

Burke is largely responsible for the group of players who wear the Leafs jersey today, bringing cornerstones Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, Cody Franson, Jake Gardiner and James van Riemsdyk to town. He was also instrumental in drafting Nazem Kadri and Morgan Rielly.

Some of these moves proved controversial at the time (and some remain controversial today), but on the whole, it can be argued that Toronto came out on top in every one of them. The trades that saw Lupul, Gardiner and Franson join the Leafs standout as particularly one-sided.

Despite his best intentions to improve the team, however, Burke’s bombastic personality gradually alienated fans and management. In other words, the more he promised Leafs fans, the less he delivered.

Dave Nonis – a Burke hire and friend – replaced him as general manager to start the 2013 season. Initially, there was a strong sense of continuity between the two general managers, but that changed after Nonis had a real opportunity to alter the face of the team at the start of this season. Under Nonis’ direction, the team added David Clarkson, Dave Bolland and Jonathan Bernier.

If there have been important changes to the Leafs since Burke left, the team’s penchant for late-season collapses continues. This is a problem that Nonis has not been able to escape.

We’ll see if the Leafs are able to disappoint Burke one more time by defeating the Flames. On the other hand, it’s easy to imagine them disappointing Nonis once again.

Who’s the biggest loser in all this? The fans.

Look at the mess these two suits have left at our feet.


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Toronto Maple Leafs – “Nail, meet Coffin”http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-nail-meet-coffin/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=toronto-maple-leafs-nail-meet-coffin http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-nail-meet-coffin/#comments Sun, 30 Mar 2014 11:45:34 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=15948 Fighting for Stanley

The Detroit Red Wings celebrate their latest victory over the Toronto Maple LeafsYou make a commitment to write about the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they make it so damn hard to write about them. What are you supposed to say? Fortunately, at this point in the season, there’s really nothing left to say anyway. I could state the obvious – the Leafs need to win every one [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

The Detroit Red Wings celebrate their latest victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs
The Detroit Red Wings celebrate their latest victory over the Toronto Maple LeafsFrank Gunn/The Canadian Press

You make a commitment to write about the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they make it so damn hard to write about them. What are you supposed to say?

Fortunately, at this point in the season, there’s really nothing left to say anyway.

I could state the obvious – the Leafs need to win every one of their remaining games if they hope to reach the playoffs – or I could state the ultra-obvious – they won’t be making the playoffs.

I could point to the simple mistakes that continue to plague this team – turnovers, poor defensive zone coverage, weak goals – and argue that head coach Randy Carlyle has failed to teach them anything.

I could add that all the hate directed towards James Reimer last week was completely misplaced. Jonathan Bernier has surrendered 12 goals in three games since returning from injury and the Leafs haven’t looked any better with him in net (though he continues to enjoy Carlyle’s confidence, which says what?).

I could say all of this, but none of it would matter. We already know the story on the Leafs: they’re a yearly disappointment. In fact, it would be oddly disappointing if they somehow failed to disappoint us.

I may not know what to say about the Leafs, but if I was the general manager of the team, here’s how I’d go about making my point that their performance this season has been completely unacceptable.

First, I’d call a general team meeting for some time early in the morning, but I’d never go to the meeting myself. Afterwards, I’d send the team a message: “Sorry, guys. I took one from your book: I failed to show up when it really mattered.”

If they need a message, that should deliver one.

Second, I’d take the captaincy away from Dion Phaneuf. I’m not opposed to him regaining the captaincy one day, but this is a special franchise so it naturally requires a special leader. Phaneuf’s not that guy (right now at least). Here I’m thinking of the Matt Sundins, Doug Gilmours, Wendel Clarks and Darryl Sittlers of the hockey world. (No, Phil Kessel isn’t the answer either.)

Finally, I’d heed Riddick Bowe’s advice and knock Carlyle out of the organization. No coach is perfect or can stay forever, but Carlyle has been especially effective at alienating players. Need proof? Look at Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur and James Reimer. Two have flourished outside Toronto, one has floundered in Toronto.

To put it in simple terms, Carlyle’s record speaks for itself.

I’m not sure how to address the David Clarkson situation – a situation that falls squarely on the general manager Dave Nonis – but something must be done here as well.

The Leafs haven’t been a truly competitive team since the heydays of the Sundin era and that’s not going to change anytime soon. It’s what we’ve come to expect from the Leafs in recent years. They’re simply not very good.

In other words, check out the Toronto Raptors if you want to see some playoff action this spring.


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Toronto Maple Leafs – A Missed Opportunityhttp://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-missed-opportunity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=toronto-maple-leafs-missed-opportunity http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/toronto/toronto-maple-leafs-missed-opportunity/#comments Sat, 29 Mar 2014 12:01:05 +0000 http://www.fightingforstanley.ca/?p=15935 Fighting for Stanley

The Philadelphia Flyers celebrate a goal against the Toronto Maple LeafsIn an ideal world, I’d be telling you right now that the Toronto Maple Leafs swept their season series against the Philadelphia Flyers last night and that they were now returning home in the hopes of winning back-to-back games for the first time in who knows how long. Instead, I can only report that the [&hellip

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Fighting for Stanley

The Philadelphia Flyers celebrate a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs
The Philadelphia Flyers celebrate a goal against the Toronto Maple LeafsMatt Slocum/Associated Press Photo

In an ideal world, I’d be telling you right now that the Toronto Maple Leafs swept their season series against the Philadelphia Flyers last night and that they were now returning home in the hopes of winning back-to-back games for the first time in who knows how long.

Instead, I can only report that the Leafs missed a golden opportunity yesterday to put themselves (temporarily anyway) ahead in the race for a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, who’ve played two fewer games than the Leafs, had a difficult matchup last night against the Pittsburgh Penguins and they lost as expected. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter since the Leafs lost as well. Toronto must be kicking itself right now because there are only so many tough matchups like this coming the Blue Jackets’ way.

(Columbus has been a complete and pleasant surprise this season, and it would be great to see them make the playoffs, but it shouldn’t be at the Leafs’ expense!

Toronto has little time left in the season to correct the course – they’ve now lost seven games in a row – and it’s hard to believe that they once (albeit temporarily – sense a theme?) sat above Montreal in the standings.

They draw a potentially favourable matchup tonight against the Detroit Red Wings – favourable in the sense that they can prevent Detroit from picking up any points in the Wild Card race – but the same scenario applies to the Red Wings.

It’s the mistakes that are hurting Toronto: untimely penalties, poor defensive decisions and play, weak goals, slow offence.

Unless these problems are miraculously fixed by the time the puck drops tonight, I have my money on Detroit to win. Yes, you heard that correctly, but it’s also the safe and easy bet.

(Go Red Wings?)


Follow me on Twitter for regular posts about sports (especially the Toronto Maple Leafs), politics and other news topics: @williamefwilson

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