AVALANCHE (7-9-1) at MAPLE LEAFS (5-9-4)
7:30pm – ACC (TSN 4)
Life is a little less difficult when you are getting along with your family, isn’t it? Whether it’s your wife, teenage kids, or even close friends, when there is a strain on those relationships it can wear on you. It’s not always easy. For many of us, the Maple Leafs are a part of our everyday lives. We’ve all gone through tough times together, though last season was unique. Without being overly dramatic in assessing the role of sport, the year 2014/15 and the horseshit we encountered in Toronto could be considered a tragedy. Like any strong family though, we found a way to soldier on. And here we are Leafs fans, revived and focused. Focused on words that certainly weren’t uttered just a few short months ago. Words like process, future, effort, and commitment. It’s almost unimaginable, the shift we’ve seen. So what has changed, exactly? In a word…everything.
Let’s slide off the NHL and the Leafs 23 man roster for a moment with in my opinion the two top development leagues in hockey, the OHL and AHL. William Nylander has 19 pts in 14 gms and sits 2nd in AHL scoring. He also sits 3rd in another important category. He’s the 3rd youngest player in the entire league. I am guessing that most of watched the Canada/Russia game last night. I would bet a few of you watched solely to get a look at first round pick, Mitch Marner. Do I really need to say anything about it? I mean seriously, what’s there to say. Anyone who knows me or has read anything I’ve written knows my feelings on the London forward, so it’s time for me to let him do the talking. Last night his game spoke very loudly, deafening even. When’s the last time you couldn’t wait for a Leaf to take his next shift? I know, it’s been far too long, but we won’t have to wait much longer. We’ll get a reminder of that feeling at the World Juniors this Christmas.
I bring these guys up now to show how far we’ve come in a short period as far as what the team will look like down the road. No slight on him at all, but before Nylander was drafted, Josh Leivo was maybe our top forward prospect. Today we have the best player/prospects in the next tier below the NHL. That’s….yeah. This is supposed to be a Game Day Thread though, not a another of my speeches about hope. The purpose here is to prep you for the Av’s game. I just wanted to keep us zeroed in on the area we should be, the end game, before we get going on COL/TOR. I need about 1000 words, eh…Hmm. Okay, here goes.
I said at the top of the page that everything has changed. Well what’s really “changed”, Jude? Same core players for the most part and the team is near the bottom of the standings, how is anything different at all? Is this just another master manipulation we are being subjected to? No way. Sure, there are some who feel this is the same old Leafs and nothing has changed but spin doctoring. I understand that, the cuts run deep. Myself, I don’t subscribe to that ideology for a single second Thing is, I am fairly certain the Maple Leafs will work hard tonight. I am equally certain they will play with structure and commitment to defense. When is the last time you have been able to say that? I have loved the Leafs my whole life, thick and thin. As I said, they are family. Right now, they are earning my respect. Hell, I even like them. That makes for a happy family here at LeafsHub.com and throughout Leafs Nation.
Although coming of a 6-1 win in Montreal on Saturday, Colorado comes into this game a team in some degree of trouble with a record of 7-9-1. Good for last place in the Central Division. With turmoil developing even further than the win/loss record, amongst rumors of a Matt Duchene deal. I’ve heard whispers of Toronto being close to a deal, though it’s unclear if Duchene is a target. There have been names come up out of Toronto, but with the fortress of solitude Lou and Shanahan have put up, I wouldn’t put much stock into anything out on the street I’m hearing. All I will say is that the Maple Leafs are completely open to anything that fits the plan going forward and will not be hesitant to move personnel. The Avalanche are in a similar situation, except they have an eye on the now.
As for the game itself, I see an Avs team that will try and utilize it’s speed, and a Leafs team that will try and neutralize it. Nathan MacKinnon leads the Avalanche with 19 points and will be a handful, no doubt. The assignment of keeping him in check will likely fall to Morgan Rielly, who has stepped up to be Toronto’s top defenseman. His step forward has allowed Dion Phaneuf to settle into a cushier role alongside Jake Gardiner, where the pair are counted on more offensively than anything else. In New York, Phaneuf had his best game of the year and even if possibly the damage has been done and the captain will never find himself in the favor of Leafs fans, his play is still a positive development. The same can be said for Joffrey Lupul, now leading the team in goals and working hard for his chances. Kadri, JVR, Bozak, all playing a good brand of hockey and all representing acore who have failed in the past. But that’s all history. And though the past is something we should learn from, we shouldn’t live in it. Lamoriello said this week once again it’s about the crest on the front and not the name on the back. Call me naive, but I hit reset with all the Maple Leafs, even the “rotten core”. The players were given a chance to show they could be a part of the team and do what was asked from Coach Babcock and so far, so good. Will they wilt? Possibly, and possibly they are showing other teams what they can do and will find a home elsewhere. All I know is that in the present, the Leafs are performing just fine in my books.
The tests never end in the NHL, and tonight Toronto faces yet another. Coming off a heart-wrenching loss versus the Rangers that falls entirely at the feet of Jonathan Bernier (who owned it), this team will be asked to put it in the rearview. The Maple Leafs have to put their work-boots on and play smart hockey. They can’t be lured into the firewagon hockey of old, and luckily we have the best coach in the league to monitor the situation. That’s why I don’t get bent up about who is on the current roster, or who is in net, or who should be called up. There’s something so much bigger at play here now. Culture gets used a lot and I believe it’s being moulded, but I choose another term. Process. It’s all about following a plan and that’s why I’m enjoying this season so much. The plan involves doing things right, every day. If you don’t or simply can’t, controls are in place (Mike and Lou) to weed you out. If you can, you will flourish as the franchise does. Because that’s where we are headed, folks. This team, this management, they have the direction plotted and know how to get us to the destination.
The end result of proper procedures in the case of the Maple Leafs is success. Reto Berra the likely starter for Colorado and Reimer is back in between the pipes for Toronto. When he’s on his game like he is now I find myself calling him Jimmy Reimer. Everyone cool with that? Good. Jimmy gets the start.
So let’s go snag a W. And if not, don’t fret for a second. It’s all part of the process.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Gdiff (5v5) — -1
Gdiff (All) — -11
CF% (5v5) – 49.4
PP% – 15.1
PK% – 78.7
Gdiff (5v5) — +2
Gdiff (All) — +4
CF% (5v5) – 43.3
PP% – 19.7
PK% – 82.1
Toronto Maple Leafs
JVR – Kadri – Komarov.
Mathias – Bozak – Parenteau
Winnik – Holland – Lupul
Grabner – Froese – Boyes
Gardiner – Phaneuf
Hunwick – Rielly
Marincinin – Polak
Grigorenko – Mackinnon – Duchene
Comeau – Soderberg – Iginla
McLeod – Wagner – Martinsen
Everberg – Street – Skille
Beauchemin – Johnson
Holden – Barrie
Gormley – Guenin
Today in Leafs History….
Today in Leafs history brought to you by …… @DoctorRobert
- 1926 – St. Pats open the season with a 4-1 loss to the newly established Chicago Black Hawks. This would be the Black Hawks first victory in franchise history.
- 1990 – Leafs acquire Aaron Broten, Lucien DuBlois, and Michel Petit from the Quebec Nordiques in exchange for Scott Pearson and two 2nd round picks (Eric Lavigne and Tuomas Gronman).
- 1992 – Leafs fall 3-1 to the Quebec Nordiques in Hamilton, Ontario. Nikolai Borschevsky scored the lone Leaf goal while Steve Duchesne powered the Nordique offense with three points.
- 2000 – Former Leaf Mike Johnson nets a goal and an assist against his old club as the Leafs and Lightning battle to a 2-2 tie.
- 2005 – Leafs pick up their third straight victory as they beat the Bruins 4-1 in Boston. Lindros, Antropov, Sundin and Tucker scored the Leaf goals.
- 2007 – Vesa Toskala and the Leafs blank the Sens 3-0 in Toronto. Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberla had two powerplay assists each!
GO LEAFS GO