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Leafs aim to build on structure

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

After finishing a five-game road trip that took them through Western Canada last week, the Maple Leafs get to enjoy the comforts of Toronto and the full support of the Air Canada Centre crowd during a four-game homestand that begins Thursday against the New York Rangers. And although the road trip couldn’t be deemed a success and the Buds aren’t where they’d prefer to be in the standings, the mood in the dressing room remains upbeat as the players focus on building for the future.

“I think we’re trending in the right direction,” said centre Nazem Kadri. “Some games we have a hard time staying consistent, but that’s standard for a young team, having those growing pains. It’s adversity, and you can’t just lie down and quit. And that’s something I feel like we’ve really been good at this year. But it seems like we’ll have a few good games, we’ll string them together, then we’ll kind of just lay an egg in the third or fourth game.

“Our work ethic’s there, but we’ve got to stick to the structure, because that’s our safety valve, and that’s the way we’re going to have to win games.”

“We’re getting better,” added goaltender James Reimer. “Obviously, we’d all like to be winning a lot more games, but at the end of the day, you want to do things right. And I think for the majority of the year, that’s what we’ve done. You’re going to have off games and go through tough times here and there, but when you’re playing honest, you feel good about yourself.”

Now, don’t take that to mean the Leafs are in any way satisfied with the way things have gone this year. Players live to put themselves in the most competitive situations, and when the playoffs aren’t a possibility, it can wear on them. That’s certainly true of blueliner Morgan Rielly, who made it clear Toronto’s season – and, more recently, a blowout 7-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks Monday – didn’t sit well with him.

“We’re not happy – we don’t want to be where we are, and we’re coming off a game against Chicago that we’re not happy with,” Rielly said. “You want to win games, you want to be in the mix, you don’t want to be at the bottom. Have we made moves forward (this season)? Yeah, probably, but as players, we want to win.”

After the Buds take on the Blueshirts Thursday, they face the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday, the Nashville Predators Tuesday and the Carolina Hurricanes next Thursday to close out the homestand. All four of those franchises have post-season aspirations, and the opportunity to play spoiler will be prominent in the Leafs’ minds.

“That’s something we can look forward to for sure,” Kadri said. “Teams are going to be desperate to get points, especially now with the playoff run, and points being so valuable. Anytime we can steal one or two is going to be helpful for us and from a confidence standpoint as well, just to keep building in the right direction.”

As Kadri noted, consistency – be it game-to-game, or even period-to-period – has been an issue for the Leafs this year. But in their first season under head coach Mike Babcock, Toronto’s players have recognized the growth they’ve experienced both as individuals and as a unit. It’s a relatively small consolation compared to a Stanley Cup championship, but it’s not something to be discounted, either.

“We’ve had times where we’ve had some pretty good stretches,” Rielly said. “We know we can play with teams in this league, we know that we can win games against good teams. It’s just a matter of doing it every night.”

“I feel like we’ve been more consistent than in the past,” added Reimer. “But we’re learning, we’re getting better. Maybe it’s a process we’re going through, but it’s a good process.”

Source: Leafs aim to build on structure

Postgame Quotes: Feb. 15, 2016

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

Tuesday, 02.16.2016 / 12:30 AM ET / News

Toronto Maple Leafs

Here’s a sampling of what the Maple Leafs had to say following a 7-2 loss in Chicago.

P-A Parenteau

They’re a really good team, but there’s no excuses for our team to lose that bad like that. I think we’ve got to come out harder than that and if you play a better team you can’t use that as an excuse every night.

Matt Hunwick

Most of our penalty killers have been with us all year, so it’s our responsibility to know our assignments and know what we’re doing. We got beat in a number of different ways tonight – whether it’s off the rush, in the zone, 5 on 3 – you name it, we got beat tonight. It was a difficult night for our penalty kill and we have to be a lot better.

James Reimer

It just wasn’t our night. We just didn’t have it tonight and they were coming. They got a couple of opportunities and they buried on them. They’ve got some good players so that’s what happens sometimes.

Mike Babcock

Well obviously our penalty kill wasn’t near good enough and we took too many penalties, so we weren’t in the game basically from the start tonight. I thought we played a much better second, an even game but we were down three and they just buried us on the powerplay.

Source: Postgame Quotes: Feb. 15, 2016

Leafs Fall to Blackhawks

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

CHICAGO – The sellout crowd chanted “M-V-P! M-V-P!” and Patrick Kane cracked a wry grin.

It was a sweet ending to a difficult homestand for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Kane had a goal and three assists, and the Blackhawks stopped a three-game slide with a dominant 7-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.

“We’ve been, I don’t want to say struggling offensively, but we’ve been waiting for a game like this,” Kane said.

Andrew Shaw, Brent Seabrook, Artemi Panarin and Teuvo Teravainen each had a power-play goal, helping Chicago salvage the finale of a lacklustre four-game homestand. It was the Blackhawks’ first game since they lost Marian Hossa to a left leg injury, likely sidelining the veteran forward for a couple of weeks.

“It was good that we got something positive leaving here,” coach Joel Quenneville said.

Scott Darling got the start in place of a resting Corey Crawford and made 35 saves, including an outstanding sprawling stop on Nick Spaling in the second period. Two of Darling’s six wins this season have come against lowly Toronto.

Mark Arcobello broke up Darling’s bid for his second career shutout with a rebound goal with 8:54 remaining. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau added a power-play goal and James Reimer had 25 saves for the Maple Leafs, who closed out a 1-4 road trip.

“Just forget it. We got tattooed, that’s the bottom line,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said.

Goals by Brandon Mashinter, Shaw and Seabrook staked Chicago to a 3-0 lead through two periods, and the Blackhawks blew it open with an impressive flurry in the third. Beginning with Panarin’s 19th goal of the season, the defending Stanley Cup champions scored on four of six shots.

Kane made it 5-0 with his 34th of the season, sending a wrist shot past Reimer on the stick side. Teravainen then stopped a 17-game scoring drought with his 10th of the season, and defenceman Viktor Svedberg converted a big slap shot from the low slot at 10:20.

“We had a lot of guys score tonight,” Kane said. “Maybe it gives them some confidence, maybe the whole team confidence offensively. It’s always important in here not to really worry about the offence. We know the goals are going to come.”

The four points matched a career high for Kane, accomplished three times just this season. He had three goals and an assist in a 4-1 victory at Toronto on Jan. 15 and leads the NHL with 82 points.

Duncan Keith added three assists for Chicago, which improved to 22-7-2 at home. Shaw finished with a goal and two assists, and Panarin also assisted on Kane’s goal.

“We haven’t played great,” said Shaw, who played with a cut near his right eye after a mishap during the morning skate. “We weren’t doing the little things right. We weren’t winning those 1-on-1 battles. We came out of that tonight and came out here and had a good first and built on it.”

Chicago was leading 3-0 in the second when Darling dove to grab Spaling’s shot, drawing a big ovation from the crowd of 21,767.

“A lot of things needed to go right,” Darling said. “I went to push (to the side), and my skate just didn’t grip the ice. You’ve just got to do whatever you can to go across the crease.”

Reimer had his own great sequence in the first, getting over to stop a shot by Panarin, and then denying Artem Anisimov in front.

“We probably took too many penalties, but it wasn’t our night, me included,” Reimer said. “We just didn’t have it tonight and they were coming. And they got a couple of good opportunities and they buried them.”

NOTES: Kane, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, became the first member of his draft class to reach 400 assists… Hossa was placed on injured reserve on Sunday. “Hopefully two weeks is probably what we’re looking at,” Quenneville said after Monday morning’s skate… The Blackhawks matched a season high for goals scored, and the Maple Leafs equaled their most goals allowed… Blackhawks D Erik Gustafsson was a healthy scratch for the second straight game.

Source: Leafs Fall to Blackhawks

Yea, Phaneuf sucks… Right.

I’m just going to leave this here.

While Phaneuf was in Toronto for this season, James Reimer had a save percentage of 0.9293. Not bad.

Since his departure, which accounts for only three games, James Reimer has a save percentage of 0.8215. That may not sound so bad after that whomping in Chicago, but that save percentage would put him 81st in the league this season. I didn’t even know that many goalies played this year.

I expect the latter number to increase before the end of the season, but it will probably hover around 0.84-0.85 from here on out, maybe less depending on who gets ships. Either way, it’s interesting how black and blue the Leafs starting goalie has been since Phaneuf left town.

While I’m drawing from a small sample size I think it’s safe to say Phaneuf had an impact while he was here.

Shut up haters.

Game Journal: Game 55 – Maple Leafs vs. Blackhawks

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

5:00 PM: Paul Hendrick gets you set for tonight’s game with his Maple Leafs Game Preview.

3:40 PM: Tonight’s officials will be Tim Peel and Brad Watson. Vaughan Rody and Greg Devorski will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in to the game can watch on TSN 4, listen on TSN 1050 and follow the Leafs on Twitter.


3:35 PM: Here are tonight’s projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Blackhawks.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

40 Grabner – 43 Kadri – 47 Komarov

24 Holland – 33 Arcobello – 15 Parenteau

26 Winnik – 16 Spaling – 28 Boyes

38 Greening – 56 Froese – 25 Clune

Defence

2 Hunwick – 44 Rielly

51 Gardiner – 46 Polak

52 Marincin – 20 Corrado

Goaltenders

34 Reimer

45 Bernier

Chicago Blackhawks

Forwards

65 Shaw – 19 Toews – 14 Panik

72 Panarin – 15 Anisimov – 88 Kane

11 Desjardins – 24 Danault – 86 Teravainen

53 Mashinter – 70 Rasmussen – 48 Hinostroza

Defence

2 Keith – 4 Hjlamarsson

57 van Riemsdyk – 7 Seabrook

43 Svedberg – 32 Rozsival

Goaltenders

33 Darling

50 Crawford


3:30 PM: James Reimer gets the start on Monday in Chicago. Here’s what he had to say ahead of the game…

Leafs TV

On the Blackhawks:

They’re a good squad, obviously they’ve got a lot of talent and I think it’s just a case where you play them honest. I think in here the way we’ve been playing the last couple of games, we’ve been playing real solid, real honest hockey. We just need another game like that. They’re a good team over there and we need to be at our best.

What do you remember about Richard Panik?

Real good player, a real good player. He’s a good friend of mine too and so obviously it was sad to him get traded. At the same time you’re happy for him and you want the best for him. He’s got a ton of skill, he’s got a great shot so you’ve just got to be aware of him when he’s out there.

Is there an emphasis on peripheral vision for you tonight against a player like Kane?

Yeah, you always have to be aware of who is out there and what they’re capable of. At the end of the day though, you’re playing against the puck. You always want to let it tell you what it wants you to do and so in any case with skilled players, you’ve got to be sharp and focused and be on your toes.

What’s it like to face 19 shots in Vancouver when you normally see double that?

It’s different, it’s just a different game. You’ve got to make sure you’re always ready. When your team is playing that well you just want to make sure that when they do get their chance that you’re good to go. It’s just a matter of staying in it and watching your team do their thing.

On Leipsic’s deut:

It’s awesome, obviously you’re homers in that sense, you always want the best for people coming out of your province or where you’re from. Any time there’s a Manitoban in the League you’re excited about it and when he’s on your team you’re even more pumped. I hope he can keep it going here and keep his bat ready and hot.

Did you know him at all before he got here?

No, not really. Obviously I knew him when he came to our team and skated with him this summer a little bit in Toronto but I never knew him before that, no.


3:15 PM: Colin Greening gets set for his third game in a Leafs sweater on Monday. Here’s what he had to say following the morning skate…

Leafs TV

Is being a physical player important to your success right now?

I think so, especially when you’re on the forecheck. If you look at the game now it’s very fast-moving and in order to keep the puck in the corner and not allow the defensive team to break out quickly you have to stop the puck and a lot of times it’s being physical on the forecheck. That’s a big thing and part of my game is making sure I’m on the forecheck and finishing my hits.

On the team effort to limit Vancouver in the offensive zone:

When you think about it, especially when you think about the Sedins, you have to make sure you can hem the puck in their zone. If they don’t have the puck that bodes well for the team. They have a lot of firepower in Vancouver and it’s going to be the same thing for Chicago. It’s going to be a good challenge tonight but we’re excited.

What’s the fine line with putting pucks in the net on the power play given the chances?

Given that I’ve only been here for two games I don’t really know the difference, I know that I can only speak for my unit. I think that Arcobello and P-A and Morgan and Froese and Boyes have been moving the puck really well. I think we’ve been reading off each other pretty well. We haven’t been holding on to it, getting a lot of shots. I think that’s important too because once you get shots on net it spreads out the PK a little bit. I guess from the limited time I’ve been here that’s what I’ve seen.


3:00 PM: Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner has four points in three games on this road trip. Here’s what he had to say ahead of Monday’s game in Chicago…

Leafs TV

On his recent offensive output:

I’m not sure, some of the points were a little lucky but I feel pretty confident on the ice now, moving the puck well. It’s kind of weird how that happens, sometimes you lose it for a few games and get it back and I think that’s kind of what happened.

On the keys to jumping into the rush:

Yeah, you’ve just got to pick your spots. A guy like Kane, Panarin, Toews, guys like that, sometimes you’ve got to be a little bit more cautious and if it’s a riskier play, choose your spots.

On duplicating the effort in Vancouver to earn a win tonight:

Yeah, for sure. Just the way our whole team has been played the last three games has been pretty cool, especially with the guys out of the lineup and younger guys stepping up. It has been good for our group.

What’s the key to turning around the power play?

I think we had probably 10 or 12 chances [against Vancouver] and nothing went in. The goalie has been playing well for the other team, I guess. We just haven’t been getting many bounces. We’re happy with the production we’ve had and just hopefully we can get some goals here.

What are you seeing as you finish off that goal in Edmonton?

I don’t know if I ended up hitting that in the end there, I couldn’t really tell because I hit the post with it too. I just saw it going in and thought I’d give it a chance.


2:45 PM: Here’s what Mike Babcock had to say following Monday’s morning skate…

Leafs TV

On discipline as a key vs. Chicago:

We’re going to need it obviously. Last time we played them we took six minors, they got two on the power play, but really they got three when the guy just got out. We’ve got to figure that out and we’ve got to play real well. They’ve got a lot of skill in their lineup, they’re a fun team to play against because you find out what the standard is and you’ve got to play well without the puck. It should be a lot of fun for us tonight.

How is Grabner?

Good, he’s playing tonight.

Is Kadri back?

Don’t know, we’ll see tonight.

Was it all hands on deck to keep Vancouver below 20 shots?

I thought we played well and we executed in our own zone so we got to roll around in their zone. That’s what the game is supposed to be about, it’s supposed to be about offence, it’s more fun that way. I thought we were prepared and we executed and we have to do the same here tonight.

Did Leipsic respond the way you like from a player in his first game?

As much as you watch him in the American League — and I watch those guys on TV quite a bit — you don’t know until they get here. Can they handle the pace? Do they have skill? Are they going to be afraid? You don’t really know those things. I thought he was real good in the game he got to play.

Do you get excited or nervous for guys playing their first game?

I get excited for them. The kid scored, I saw it on the replay when I was watching the game. First they made him go out for warmup by himself, which I thought was kind of cool. The second thing is you score and your Mom and Dad and Billets are there so that’s pretty special. The whole thing has to be a real good experience. You work hard to get here and now once you get here and get a taste, you know how hard you have to work to keep staying here and ideally you get here and stay here a long time.

What did Panik lack to make the team?

I don’t think he lacked anything. I think he’s a big guy who skates real good, he’s heavy and is playing well right now for these guys. He played well for us with the Marlies and obviously when he was with the Marlies they decided they wanted to try something else so that’s what they did.

What has the consistent effort of Hunwick meant to the team this season?

I think when you look at guys and good pros who do it right every day it has been a positive thing for us. Obviously him and Polie have been excellent that way, Leo, Grabner. When you look at those guys they play hard every day and they do it right and they’ve been good support for our young people.

How challenging has this trip been with the length and all the injuries and changes?

I don’t know, it’s been a good trip. I got to see one daughter in Calgary, one in Vancouver. To me it doesn’t much matter, we play games and you’ve got to get ready for those games. I think the trip has been spread out, we haven’t had to play back-to-back. We had a travel day yesterday and an off-day, we should be fresh for tonight, there’s no reason — we’ve got an off-day when we get home. Let’s just play.

Is Morin in tonight?

No.

What has been the process been like in Toronto thus far?

Well, I didn’t say I was looking forward to the pain so let’s get that straight. I was looking forward to the challenge and it’s been exactly what you expected. I think the thing that has been real good is Lou and Shanny have been real patient and we all know what the plan is on game day, you expect to win, you expect to prepare to win and you expect to win. The rest of the days you follow your plan and what your plan is and do it long term. All you’ve got to do is look at the Hawks. To build up a 10-year run, you went through some tough times for a long time to get the skillset where you need it. That’s what we have to do right now. We’re in the process of doing it.

2:30 PM: The Maple Leafs wrap up their four-game road trip on Monday night when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.

The Leafs are coming off of a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night. Brendan Leipsic had his first NHL goal and Mark Arcobello scored his first two goals as a Leaf while Brad Boyes and Leo Komarov added solo tallies. James Reimer stopped 17 shots to earn the victory. He starts again in Chicago.

The Blackhawks last played on Saturday night and took a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Brent Seabrook had both goals for Chicago while Corey Crawford made 41 saves in the loss. Scott Darling is slated to get the start in goal against Toronto.

Stay tuned for updates from Coach Babcock, the Leafs, projected lineups and more.

Source: Game Journal: Game 55 – Maple Leafs vs. Blackhawks

Postgame Quotes: Feb. 13, 2016

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

Saturday, 02.13.2016 / 11:00 PM ET / News

Toronto Maple Leafs

Here’s a sampling of what the Leafs had to say following a 5-2 win in Vancouver over the Canucks.

Mike Babcock

I think we’ve worked real hard on the trip. We could’ve had better success than we’ve had, but tonight we were rewarded. We scored a few goals and were able to keep it out, had good goaltending and we played real hard. Give the guys a lot of credit.

James Reimer

I think that’s got to be one of our best defensive games of the year. We’ve had some good games this year, but as far as shutting them down, they only had a couple chances and they were fortunate enough to bury on a few. But I thought our guys played one of the best games I’ve seen them play.

Brendan Leipsic

On his NHL debut:

It feels amazing. You work this hard all of your life to get to this point, it was a pretty cool experience.

On his first goal:

We were just in on the forecheck and Gards (Jake Gardiner) snapped one on net. For whatever reason it popped up in the air and nobody knew where it was. I just got an eye on it and was lucky to bat it out of the air.

Source: Postgame Quotes: Feb. 13, 2016

Leafs Win In Vancouver

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs


VANCOUVER _ Mark Arcobello scored his first two goals of the season 17 seconds apart and Brendan Leipsic added his first NHL goal in his first game as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 on Saturday night.

James Reimer made 17 stops and Jake Gardiner added two assists for Toronto (20-25-9), which entered play last in the overall standings and won in regulation for just the second time since Jan. 6. Brad Boyes and Leo Komarov added empty netters.

The Maple Leafs, who came in on a three-game slide and were just 3-10-2 over their last 15, stunned the hockey world by trading captain Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa earlier this week, and iced an injury-depleted lineup that included a number of youngsters and minor leaguers.

Daniel Sedin and Sven Baertschi scored for Vancouver (22-21-12), which had won two in a row to get back in the Western Conference playoff race after dropping four straight. Ryan Miller made 33 saves.

Up 2-1 after two periods and leading 31-13 on the shot clock, Toronto stretched its advantage to two at 3:54 of the third. Leipsic, an emergency injury callup from the AHL, batted the puck home in front of a helpless Miller after Rich Clune‘s initial shot bounced high off a Vancouver defender.

Baertschi buried a rebound with 1:47 left in regulation for his 11th, but Boyes, with his sixth, and Komarov, with his 18th, scored into empty nets as Toronto collected its first win in Vancouver since November 2003 to snap a seven-game losing streak.

Leafs fans decked out in blue and white chanted “Go Leafs Go” as the final seconds wound down before the Toronto players spilled over the boards to celebrate a complete victory.

After a scoreless first where Toronto held a 16-7 edge in shots, the Canucks grabbed the lead 3:18 into the second. Jannik Hansen stole the puck behind the Leafs net and fed it in front to Sedin, who buried his 22nd of the season and first in seven games.

Arcobello, who was pointless in 13 games before Saturday, got that one back 1:09 later when he jumped on a Canucks turnover and ripped a shot past Miller.

In the third game of his most recent callup, Arcobello then gave his team the lead just 17 seconds later when Gardiner drove past Radim Vrbata and Arcobello shovelled the loose puck past Miller.

Toronto had been outscored 15-6 in its last three games, and nearly went up 3-1 on an extended 5-on-3 power play, but Morgan Rielly saw one shot hit the post before Miller snagged another with his glove.

Reimer didn’t have a lot to do at the other end until Emerson Etem tested him with a one timer from the slot and Bo Horvat tried to beat him upstairs on a wraparound.

The period was accented by a tussle between a clearly frustrated Henrik Sedin and Komarov that had the Vancouver captain taking swings at the Leafs forward.

The Canucks, who have now failed to win three in a row six times this season, donned black throwback jerseys that featured the “flying skate” logo the club abandoned after the 1996-97 season as part of 20th anniversary celebrations for Rogers Arena.

Notes: The Canucks announced Friday that defenceman Alexander Edler and forward Brandon Sutter will miss at least six weeks each after suffering injuries in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Colorado. Edler was hurt blocking a shot with his foot, while Sutter broke his jaw after taking a puck to the face. … Leafs centre Nazem Kadri sat out for a second night in a row with a lower-body injury. … Henrik Sedin played his 1,141th game for the Canucks to pass team president Trevor Linden for the all-time record.

Source: Leafs Win In Vancouver

Five Takeaways from Maple Leafs vs. Canucks

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks Saturday at Rogers Arena:

Absence of regulars didn’t matter to their replacements.

Playing once again without injured veterans James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak, Shawn Matthias, Joffrey Lupul – as well as Josh Leivo, who’d scored two goals in the two games prior to Saturday night’s tilt against the Canucks, but was hurt Thursday against Edmonton – the Leafs recalled forwards Brendan Leipsic and Jeremy Morin from the American League Saturday. But it was another former Marlie in Mark Arcobello who stepped up in their absence, scoring his first two goals as a Leaf just 17 seconds apart (and 90 seconds after Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin opened the scoring) early in the second period. The 27-year-old Arcobello bounced between four NHL teams last season, but he did everything asked of him at the AHL level this year and now has his first points of the season in his 14th game with the Buds. Head coach Mike Babcock rewards players who take advantage of opportunity, and Arcobello has done enough on this Western Canadian road trip to get more of them in the near-future.

New face Leipsic has dream NHL debut.

The 21-year-old didn’t lead the team in ice time in his first game in hockey’s best league – in fact, he logged only 9:28 Saturday – but did have a couple solid scoring chances early on. And then, at the 3:54 mark of the third frame, he batted in a puck out of the air and past veteran netminder Ryan Miller for his first NHL goal. Leipsic also got the famous rookie treatment of skating on the ice all alone in the warmup, while his amused teammates looked on in the hallway to the dressing room. Leipsic has been one of the Marlies’ best players this year (14 goals and 34 points in 47 AHL games), and it’s safe to say (a) he’ll remember this game for the rest of his life, and (b) he’ll be getting another chance to show what he can do at the NHL level in the weeks and months ahead.

Jake Gardiner once again taking steps forward.

In the three games since losing former defensive partner Dion Phaneuf to a trade to the Senators, Gardiner’s game has grown in leaps and bounds on the offensive end: he had a goal against both Calgary and Edmonton, effortlessly moved the puck deep into Vancouver’s zone and toward Miller to help set up Arcobello’s second goal of the night, and grabbed his second assist of the night on Leipsic’s goal. The 25-year-old blueliner’s confidence is clearly on an upward trajectory, and Toronto’s offence is benefitting from it.

An all-around effort leads to first win of the road trip.

The Leafs hadn’t won in Vancouver since 2003, but despite surrendering the first goal of the game Saturday, Toronto out-shot the Canucks 31-13 through the first 40 minutes of play and made life much easier for netminder James Reimer, who picked up his 11th win of the season by turning aside all but two of the 19 total shots he saw. Babcock stresses that smart, sustained effort can make up for the absence of talent, and on this night, the Leafs in the lineup proved him right.

Savour the win, but not for too long.

The win over the Canucks snapped a three-game losing streak, but the Leafs can’t admire it for very long at all, because their next game is in Chicago against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. When last the Buds and Hawks played – Jan. 15 at Air Canada Centre – Toronto was steamrolled 4-1 by a visiting team that got a hat trick from Patrick Kane. And although the Blackhawks have cooled down since then, it will take nothing less than a virtually mistake-proof effort from the Leafs to remain in the win column for the second consecutive game.

Source: Five Takeaways from Maple Leafs vs. Canucks

Game Journal: Game 53 – Maple Leafs vs. Oilers

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

5:50 PM: Tonight’s officials will be Gord Dwyer and Brian Pochmara. Ryan Gibbons and Vaughan Rody will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in to the game can watch on TSN 4, listen on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

5:45 PM: Here are tonight’s projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Oilers.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

40 Grabner – 24 Holland – 47 Komarov

38 Greening – 33 Arcobello – 15 Parenteau

26 Winnik – 16 Spaling – 32 Leivo

25 Clune – 56 Froese – 28 Boyes

Defence

2 Hunwick – 44 Rielly

51 Gardiner – 46 Polak

52 Marincin – 20 Corrado

Goaltenders

45 Bernier

34 Reimer

Edmonton Oilers

Forwards

4 Hall – 29 Draisaitl – 16 Purcell

67 Pouliot – 97 McDavid – 14 Eberle

26 Pakarinen – 55 Letestu – 10 Yakupov

44 Kassian – 23 Hendricks – 28 Korpikoski

Defence

2 Sekera – 5 Fayne

25 Nurse – 19 Schultz

88 Davidson – 62 Gryba

Goaltenders

33 Talbot

1 Brossoit


5:40 PM: Peter Holland will skate between Michael Grabner and Leo Komarov tonight as Nazem Kadri is unavailable due to injury. Here’s what he had to say ahead of the game…

Leafs TV
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What are your thoughts on going up against Connor McDavid?

I better be ready to skate tonight, some of the highlights I’ve seen he just flies. He makes some great moves at full speed, some great passes and he sees the ice well. I’ve got to get my feet moving and make sure I’m on the defensive side of him most of the time.

Is there a curiosity in playing him?

It’s going to be fun. Obviously he was hurt for a while there but he’s been on a torrid pace before and after. He’s a great player, he’s come in with a lot of confidence and so it’s a good challenge tonight.

What stands out to you as a big challenge playing centre?

Just play a 200 foot game, continue the momentum I’m building in the offensive zone but be solid defensively. That’s how you earn [Babcock’s] trust and take some important faceoffs for him. Play all 200 feet.

On the shuffling of roles between players:

When you have three or four injuries and people coming in and out of the lineup, obviously it creates different opportunities for guys. Obviously I find myself on the top line tonight but I just have to take it and play with the confidence I’ve developed here and do my best to help this team win.

Do you get more comfortable as a winger or are you anxious to get back to the middle?

I’ve flip-flopped so much this year that I’m comfortable playing both positions at this point. It seems like every couple of games I witch back and forth so I’m just trying to find my centre game as quick as I can tonight.

Are you worried about being on a highlight reel when you play a player like McDavid?

You know he has that skill. You don’t want to put yourself in a position where he can use his speed to burn you. You don’t play the puck, play the man against him. It goes back to the basics you learn in minor hockey. If you start watching the puck on a guy like that he’s going to make you look foolish. I’m just going to go out and play my game and hopefully I don’t end up on the wrong side of one of those.



5:30 PM:
Here’s what Matt Hunwick had to say following Thursday’s morning skate in Edmonton…

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What are the biggest challenges going up against a guy like Connor McDavid?

I haven’t really seen him play too much, obviously I’ve heard a lot of things. I think his speed is one of his biggest assets and obviously he can make plays at top speed. We’ll have to have a good gap tonight and he’s just a dynamic player that we haven’t had the chance to see this year. It’ll obviously be a great challenge for us.

Have you seen any of his highlights?

I don’t watch too much but I’ve seen the one, I think it was against Columbus. That’s the only one I’ve seen. Obviously he’s a special player and an unbelievable play there.

Is there a curiosity as a veteran to play a guy like him?

Yeah, I mean I always like to see the newest guys and he’s a generational type of player is what they’re touting him. I think he has lived up to that billing so far in the short time he has been in the League. It would be better watching him play other teams but tonight we’ll have a firsthand chance to see what he’s all about.



5:20 PM:
Jonathan Bernier is slated to get the start for the Maple Leafs in Edmonton tonight. Here’s what he had to say ahead of the game…

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What do you know about McDavid?

Obviously he’s very skilled and I’ve seen some goals that he’s scored, he’s got very high skills and I think he makes everyone around him a lot better. We all know as a team we’ve got to be on top of him all night long. It doesn’t change when you play against a guy like Crosby or Ovechkin or all those top guys in the League. You’ve got to make sure you’re on top of them all night.

When you see the highlights are you amazed he’s a teenager?

Yeah, I mean the League has changed. You see a lot more guys now 18, 19 and they come up and they’re more ready than 22, 23 when I started. It’s changed a lot but he’s amazing.

On stopping McDavid’s famous deke:

Well it depends. In a game it all depends on how much time he’s got, if he’s got a guy on his back. When he scored those goals it’s because he was alone with the goalie and I think he had a bit more time to stop and go the other way. I’ve seen that goal and obviously I’ll be expecting it I guess if he comes in on a 1-on-1.

How are you feeling about your game?

I feel good. Like I mentioned, I think since I came back from the [American League] and I’ve just got to — whenever I get the call to go in I’ve just got to make sure I go in and make sure I’m ready and give a good chance to my team to get a good W tonight and move on that long road trip. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready right from the start.

Do you feel you need to step up with a shorthanded lineup tonight?

I just think I’ve got to do my job. Once you start trying to do too much, that’s when you’re getting caught. You’ve got to make sure you’re doing your part and hopefully the guys in front of you are doing their part.



5:10 PM:
Here’s what Mike Babcock had to say following Thursday’s morning skate in Edmonton…

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On the lineup:

[Kadri is out] Everybody else that was in the game last game is going to play. Cowen is not going to play. When they did our scan of him or whatever our medical people do, they felt his hips were really tight. He’s not injured or nothing, he practiced today. We’re going to spend the next 10 days doing what we can to loosen his hips up so we can catch him being good when he starts.

What stands out about McDavid when you watch him on film?

He’s an elite player, he can really skate, great speed through the middle, good hockey sense. It looks like he’s going to develop into a real, real good player at the National Hockey League level. I’ve never seen him live so this will be my first chance. He’s a good kid, I met with him prior to the draft and he looks very exciting.

On injuries scrambling the lines:

I don’t think they’re scrambled, I think they’re beautiful, it’s just how you look at it. A new opportunity, an opportunity to get some momentum together. You do what you do. I never thought Holly would be our first line centre tonight but that’s just the way it goes. It’s an opportunity for everybody and the great thing about life is if you grab hold of something it’s amazing what you can do for yourself. Some guys that might not have thought they were playing yesterday are in. Play hard, play well and let’s find a way to get a win.

What would you like to see from Holland at centre?

I like him on the wing just because I think he’s more comfortable. The bottom line is when you play in the middle you’ve got to be real good down low or else you spend too much time down low in your own zone. If you’re good you spend a lot of time in the offensive zone. That’s going to be the challenge, the faceoff circle and playing well without the puck in your own zone so you can spend some time in offence.

How would you assess the team’s achievement in your system through 50 games?

I think a lot of guys are playing really well, it’s just their level of their capability. I think the big challenge for us as a group, and we knew that going in, is to keep improving our roster so that we can get to a spot that we can have a real good run. That’s our plan.

5:00 PM: The Leafs are continue their road trip on Thursday night when they visit the Edmonton Oilers.

The Leafs are coming off of a 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night. Peter Holland, Josh Leivo and Jake Gardiner recorded goals for the Maple Leafs while James Reimer stopped 18 shots in the loss. Jonathan Bernier will get the start in Edmonton. It’s his first start since Jan. 27 in Tampa Bay and first appearance since Feb. 6 in Ottawa.

The Oilers last played on Tuesday night and lost 2-1 to the New Jersey Devils. Jordan Eberle had the lone Edmonton goal while Cam Talbot stopped 24 shots in the loss. He will return to the crease against the Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Stay tuned for comments from Coach Babcock and the Leafs, projected lineups and more.

Source: Game Journal: Game 53 – Maple Leafs vs. Oilers

Dion Phaneuf has left Toronto. Who do the Leafs move next?

From The Globe and Mail – James Mirtle

Dion Phaneuf’s tenure with the Ottawa Senators began in Detroit on Wednesday night. On the second defence pair with youngster Cody Ceci, the former Toronto Maple Leafs captain had a different jersey, with a different number (2) and no letter on his chest.

After 423 games as a Leaf – the Senators’ most bitter rival – it was an odd visual.

Dion Phaneuf traded to Sens: A look at his hockey career in numbers (CP Video)

And the Phaneuf trade is only the beginning. More Leafs are likely to follow him out the door, with the majority of roster spots up for grabs in the 18 days left before the NHL’s trade deadline.

It’s expected Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello will be one of the NHL’s busiest executives the rest of the way. He has nine pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs) on the current roster, and it makes no sense to hold onto any of them if prospects and/or draft picks can be had in return.

The Leafs have also discussed moving winger Dan Winnik and goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who both have one year on their deals beyond this season, in talks with other teams.

Add in the veterans left from the former management’s core – Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak – and the three hefty contracts the Leafs just added from Ottawa on Tuesday and that is 16 players off the current 27-man roster (including injured reserve) who are undeniably available.

That’s a lot of trade calls.

Realistically, how many will be traded? And what can Toronto expect to get?

The unrestricted free agents

There are two groups of rental players the Leafs have to offer teams. The first – namely P.A. Parenteau and goaltender James Reimer – are players that have had good seasons and will be easy to move for something of value.

Reimer is a special case in that he is the only pending UFA who the team is still trying to re-sign. But he could be a valuable short-term option for a team such as Nashville, which is on the postseason bubble and having issues in goal. At the very least, Parenteau and Reimer should be able to garner second-round picks or solid prospects if they’re moved.

The second group comprises players with more limited value. Defenceman Roman Polak could be an exception given how many teams want big, physical-depth defencemen, but even then it’s hard to imagine he’d fetch much more than a third-round pick.

The Leafs other pending UFAs – Michael Grabner, Shawn Matthias, Nick Spaling, Mark Arcobello, Brad Boyes, Rich Clune – have had marginal production this year (or spent time in the minors) so they’ll be a tougher sell.

It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that the Leafs somehow found takers for players such as Olli Jokinen (sixth-round pick from St. Louis) and Korbinian Holzer (fifth-round pick from Anaheim) at last year’s deadline. Anything is possible. Especially if Toronto takes back bad money in a deal, as they did in accepting Eric Brewer in the Holzer trade.

The trade bait and vets with big contracts

After moving Phaneuf, the Leafs don’t have many “big” contracts left. Lupul is the team’s highest-paid player at $5.25-million a season, followed by James van Riemsdyk, Bozak and Bernier in the $4.2-million range. The only player on the team signed beyond 2017-18 is defenceman Jake Gardiner, who is 25 years old.

It’s difficult to imagine they could find a taker for Lupul, as he has only 14 points in 46 games and is again on injured reserve. Bozak and Bernier, however, should have some value and could possibly be moved for second- or third-round picks simply to shed more salary.

The Leafs moved Winnik to Pittsburgh before last year’s deadline for a second- and fourth-rounder, which isn’t going to happen again given the season he’s had. A mid-round pick would be a reasonable return this time. It’s also possible the Leafs move Ottawa transplants Milan Michalek, Colin Greening and Jared Cowen, who all have one year left on their deals. Cowen, in particular, could be intriguing for a contending team, as he can be bought out at a low cost in the summer in a transaction that will grant extra cap space in 2016-17.

Who is safe?

It’s unlikely the Leafs trade van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Morgan Rielly or Gardiner, who will form the nucleus of a roster that is going to get even younger with an influx of a half-dozen or so players from the AHL’s Marlies next season.

Everyone else is an option.

That said, someone has to play with the kids next season. The Leafs have to be careful not to go too scorched-earth by putting young players in over their heads – the way Edmonton did – and ending up mired in the NHL’s basement for several more years.

They’ll get a close-up view of that on Thursday against the Oilers, with something of note on the line: The losing team will claim last place in the NHL standings.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

Source: Dion Phaneuf has left Toronto. Who do the Leafs move next?