Sunday, January 10, 2010

Leafs this week [happy new year]

Man - the Leafs have not played well this week, right? This was one of their busiest weeks of the year, and they lost way too many games to remain competitive in the conference and the league. They lost to Calgary, then beat Florida, and have been on a three-game losing streak to finish the week. Dropping that many points all at once really hurts their chances (but, frankly, their entire season has been hurting their chances).

Weekly scoring statistics

When the entire team struggles this much, there's not much to find that's positive. This is especially hard to swallow, considering how poor their week was the week before, as well. very disparaging.

Top Leafs this week:

1) Matt Stajan gets ranked No. 1 for playing at a point-per-game level and a plus two rating, even though he only managed four shots on goal in those four games. Though he only had one goal, he had three assists. And a plus-two rating while the Leafs lost four games is pretty good.

2) Nik Kulemin last week I said I didn't see what the big fuss over Kulemin was - this week, he was up on the first line and fared very well. A goal and two assists, a plus-four rating (highest on the team) and 12 shots on goal. Pretty good. He even got his bell wrung real good against Philadelphia but stuck in there. Whether he's a first-liner on any other team in the league doesn't matter too much. He did well with what he was given and played well for a rookie.

3) Lee Stempniak had a goal and two assists, an even plus/minus rating and 10 shots on net, which made for a good week for him, as well.

Notable(s) - good: I want to give honorable mention to Tomas Kaberle and Luke Schenn, who both made offensive contributions, were reliable defensivly and kept their acts together.

Bad: First off, Phil Kessel fired 24 shots over the week, way ahead of everyone else on the team, but was absolutely pointless and rated at a minus-two. He's streaking in the worst way possible - and even the head coach is looking for him to rebound so the team can gain inspiration from his play. The goaltending was hung out to dry and they struggled. It would appear that Coach Wilson still doesn't really trust Toskala in net anymore - too bad for Vesa. It seems that Wilson only wants to use Vesa when there are back-to-back games so Jonas Gustavsson doesn't get worn out.

Where do they stand now?

As of today (January 10) they are last in their division still, now 9 points behind the Canadiens (they lost another point this week, even though they have a game at hand over the Habs). Over the past 10 games the Leafs are 2-6-2, indicative of their weak week. They're still in second-last place in the conference, three points behind Tampa, four points behind Florida and five points behind Atlanta - yet are still 8 points up on Carolina (who is really struggling this year). Past the half-way point in the season, nine points back of a playoff spot with six teams between them and 8th place, means they're positively unable to climb back into the playoff picture, unfortunately. In fact, there was only a brief glimpse of them being able to get in, but now that glimpse has faded. They are only one point between the Leafs and the Oilers, and they're fighting it out for the bottom three spots of the entire NHL. The Leafs haven't been this bad in a long, long time. It's remarkable after all the changes that Burke made over the summer that they are as weak as they are.

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Leafs vs. Flames (lose 3-1)

The whole tough week for the Leafs started against the Flames on Hockey Night in Canada. One of the Leafs' signature moves this year has been getting scored on repeatedly, very fast. Once one goal goes in, pay close attention, 'cause they're more apt to suddenly score again, than at any other point in a game.

The Flames scored twice in 52 seconds midway through the second period to overcome an early deficit on the way to a 3-1 win over the Leafs before the usual sellout crowd of 19,289 at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

The Flames (24-12-5) have won four straight, including three in a row at the Saddledome, where they're now 12-7-2. The Leafs (14-19-9), meanwhile, have dropped five of six and seven of their past nine.

"Yeah, that's what our game plan was. I think we got off to a pretty good start, and I think defensively in the first, we didn't give up too much. We played solid, we were physical, we got in on the forecheck," Toronto defenseman Francois Beauchemin said.

"(Calgary's) two quick goals changed things really fast. We tried to stay with it, but we couldn't really generate much offense. You've got to give them credit too. They were getting in the shooting lanes a lot, putting sticks on pucks, and (Miikka) Kiprusoff made some key saves at the end there."

"Those things happen. You've got to give credit to the Flames. They played pretty well," said Wilson, whose team remains mired in 14th place in the Eastern Conference. "We had some great scoring opportunities, we just didn't find the net. And Kipper made a lot of good saves when he needed to."

Leafs vs. Penguins (lose 4-1)

Sergei Gonchar scored two goals during a strange 3-minute sequence that also saw a Maple Leafs penalty shot wiped out as the Penguins beat Toronto 4-1 on Saturday night. It was just the second victory in eight games for the Stanley Cup champions.

"That was kind of a game-changer for sure with the way things happened," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "We certainly built off that and from there on in, I thought we carried the play."

Wilson ripped into his team earlier this week, but had no complaints after this one.

"It was our fourth game in five nights, and they came in rested," he said. "There was nothing wrong with our effort, I was happy with our energy level. The players emptied the tank, they gave it all they had on the ice."

NOTES: Toronto defenseman Mike Komisarek missed his third straight game because of an upper-body injury. ... Pittsburgh defesceman Brooks Orpik left midway through the game with an undisclosed injury. ... Crosby has 12 goals and 30 points in 19 career games against the Maple Leafs.

Leafs vs. Sabres (lose 3-2)

The Sabres's goalie, Ryan Miller, is an all-star goalie all of the time, but he never looks better than when he's playing against the Maple Leafs. Add the outstanding play of the Sabre's rookie, Tyler Meyers, and they're on their way to beating the Leafs over and over and over.

The 19-year old defenseman scored two of Buffalo's three power-play goals and assisted on the other in the Sabres' 3-2 victory over Toronto on Friday night -- their sixth win in a row overall and 10th consecutive victory over the Leafs.
Tim Kennedy had the Sabres' other goal and Ryan Miller made an early three-goal lead stand up with a career-high 48 saves.

Miller has been in goal for all 10 wins over the Leafs.

"I really don't like them. They're a rival and they're in our division," he said. "They constantly talk about how they're going to rough me up every night. I love nothing more than to get a win against them and send them an hour-and-a-half on their way."

In the season series, which only has an April 1 meeting in Toronto remaining, Miller has a goals-against average of 1.58 and a .960 save percentage.

Leafs get whipped by Philadelphia (lose 6-2)

Low-light of the week was the awful effort against the Flyers - when the Leafs got beat on the field and in the alley. Yeah, they might have had some takedowns, but basically, if you're beaten 6-2, get in a bunch of fights, and have the league's worst penalty kill, this really isn't an achievement to be proud of. Nothing good came of this game - even Kaberle's lucky effortless goal from the blue-line. And Philly was one of the worst teams heading into the New Year - they sure turned their game around (just in time to play Toronto).
Philadelphia improved to 5-1-1 in its lasts seven games with a 6-2 victory over the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. It was the Flyers' first home game since a 4-1 loss to Florida on Dec. 21 -- a defeat that dropped them to 2-10-1 in a 13-game slide that included the firing of coach John Stevens and the hiring of Peter Laviolette.

The Leafs came into the game with the NHL's poorest penalty-killing unit, and the Flyers made them pay with three goals in six tries during a game that featured 15:23 of power-play time, eight fighting majors and a pair of misconducts.

The Flyers scored on their first shot when Briere lifted a power-play goal over Jonas Gustavsson's right arm at 4:11 of the first period after Alexei Ponikarovsky was penalized for tripping Claude Giroux in Toronto's offensive zone. The goal came on the Flyers' first shot of the game after Toronto had outshot the Flyers 4-0 to that point.

Toronto coach Ron Wilson was upset with his team, which was unable to build on Tuesday's 3-2 win over Florida.

"I'm sure they'll say that but there's no excuse," he said when asked if his players might have been tired. "You come out, shot out of a cannon and they're on their heels and then we had a few guys didn't compete at the level that we need and the next thing you know it's 2-0.

Leafs vs. Panthers (win 3-2)

TORONTO (AP) -The busy Maple Leafs had very little time to celebrate a stirring comeback victory.

Alexei Ponikarovsky scored the winning goal and Jonas Gustavsson made 29 saves as Toronto rallied to beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Tuesday night.

Lee Stempniak and Tomas Kaberle also scored for the Maple Leafs, who have won only three of 10. Toronto began a stretch of four games in five days, and less than an hour after the win, the Maple Leafs headed to the airport.

Gustavsson was instrumental in preserving the victory. He turned aside a dangerous chance from Michael Frolik early in the third period and got his glove on Dennis Seidenberg's hard point shot that came through traffic.

"These are the games you want to play," Gustavsson said. "Tight games when everything can happen. I didn't know that we were going to win until the last second. It was a great relief."

The rookie goalie also got help as defenseman Francois Beauchemin dived to break up a 3-on-1 rush with under 3 minutes remaining.
NOTES: Toronto is 7-1-2 against Southeast Division teams. ... Maple Leafs D Mike Komisarek sat out due to an undisclosed upper body injury. ... Leafs forward Phil Kessel just one goal in nine games, and no assists in 11. ... The Panthers recalled tough guy Steve MacIntyre and put him in the lineup in place of Nick Tarnasky. ... Toronto's Jamal Mayers recorded his 100th NHL assist.

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