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Leafs' Cheap UFA Gambit Already Paying Off

From Pension Puppets

What the market will pay for the Leafs’ expiring free agents is tough to gauge, but they’re a win for the Leafs regardless.

For many years, we here at PPP called for the Leafs to identify undervalued UFAs and sign them to cheap, short-term deals. We reasoned that if the player rebounded, he would either be re-signed as a useful player or dealt for assets at the trade deadline. If the player failed to produce the results desired, the team wouldn’t have wasted much in the way of money or long-term cap space, and in the meantime, would have sheltered prospects.

Instead, because the Leafs fixated for so many years on more expensive “blue-collar” players such as Mike Komisarek, David Clarkson and Dave Bolland, the team wound up spending extra money on an area of market inefficiency. While the Leafs slowly figured out that they could pay 3rd and 4th line players peanuts every year, other teams noticed as well, and started to pay less and less for their own bottom-six and bottom-pairing talent.

With the market bottoming out for short-term UFA help, there has been some consternation that the Leafs’ “pump’n dump” contracts won’t yield much of anything at the deadline, which is to say that most teams have a bunch of cheap, short-term contracts they can use to plug holes in their lineup already. The fact that a number of well-known NHL veterans have hit the waiver wire recently and gone unclaimed seems to add further credence to the idea that what the Leafs currently have on offer isn’t worth beans on the trade block.

Here’s the thing though: that’s fine. The Leafs’ cheap, short-term UFA deals are already paying dividends.

Even if the team gets nothing for any of the players signed/acquired this summer, they will have already had the benefit of three advantages: 1) the team got to take a chance on their bouncing back at next to no cost, 2) they didn’t plug up their cap situation with bad, long-term deals that will impede the Leafs’ ability to re-sign the likes of Mitch Marner or William Nylander, and 3) they got to keep prospects in their farm system for longer, instead of leaning heavily on young players in a hopeless losing season.

But what about their trade value, though?

Within the context that these pump’n dump deals are already a success, it doesn’t make too much sense to worry about the returns that these players yield for the Leafs – anything, absolutely anything they get in return is gravy. Having said that, it’s all but guaranteed that the Leafs will be able to get a pick or two out of the mix.

Certain contracts, like those of Roman Polak or Tyler Bozak each stand a realistic chance of netting the Leafs a tidy return before the trade deadline, so it’s not as though the Leafs are unable to acquire more assets without their pump’n dump deals, but let’s look at the list of players signed/acquired in this past off-season who are on the trading block:

Player Cap hit
Michael Grabner $3,000,000
Shawn Matthias $2,300,000
Daniel Winnik $2,250,000
Nick Spaling $2,200,000
P.A. Parenteau $1,500,000
Mark Arcobello $1,100,000
Brad Boyes $700,000
Rich Clune $575,000
Matt Hunwick $1,200,000
Martin Marincin $700,000
Frank Corrado $632,500

There are a few players on the above list that don’t strictly meet the pump’n dump criteria, but I thought I would include them for the sake of discussion. Grabner, for instance, cost the Leafs 5 middling prospects to acquire (don’t trade young goaltenders!), Spaling came over in the Kessel deal, Marcin cost Brad Ross and the 107th pick (not to mention the fact that Marincin is still young), and while Corrado was a waiver wire pickup, he is still young enough to have some limited upside. Nevertheless, the Leafs would probably love to flip and and all of them (with the possible exceptions of Marincin and Corrado) for other assets, particularly draft picks.

The most likely to go are Parenteau, Arcobello, Boyes, and to a lesser extent Matthias, since all of their contracts are quite reasonable given their production. Hunwick also stands a decent chance of being moved, since his usage has quite outstripped his income, even if it has also exceeded his abilities. For any of these players, the Leafs might expect in return draft picks in the later rounds or maybe even just a body back in exchange that has a lower cap hit – the Leafs are going to have to manage their cap carefully so as not to go over and be penalized for next season.

Several of the other players look less likely to be traded, though the reasons vary. Corrado and Marincin, for example, are still young and have looked good in their limited showing with the Leafs so far, and so one would think that the Leafs would hang on to them for next season. Meanwhile, Grabner, Winnik, and Matthias all have box score numbers that make their cap hits more difficult to rationalize, especially given that they’ve played on a weak offensive team all year and have been handed plenty of opportunity to score. Clune and Spaling, on the other hand, cost virtually nothing but also add very little in the way of scoring help that most teams will be looking for at the deadline.

As for concerns about the NHL’s waiver wire setting the tone of the market, it’s true that it does, but not in the way you would think. Yes, there have been veterans let go, and it is true that they have gone unclaimed. But rather than indicate that teams don’t need help, it instead signals that teams are looking for greater cap efficiency from their bottom-six forwards and bottom-pairing defencemen, and several of the Leafs’ players mentioned above have that in spades.

Brandon Prust and Mason Raymond? They both cost too much for playoff teams to bother claiming them. Same for Sam Gagner. Scott Gomez doesn’t cost much, but then, he’s old as dust anyway. None of Parenteau, Arcobello, Boyes, or Hunwick are prohibitively expensive or old, and so it is possible that a market exists for their services. These waiver wire snubs don’t mean that playoff teams aren’t looking for rental help, it’s just that the help has to be cheaper.

With the sudden “injuries” to Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak and the trading of Dion Phaneuf, the Leafs have the perfect opportunity to showcase their inexpensive wares, and other teams have undoubtedly taken notice. It’s a matter of time before the Leafs begin converting them into later-round picks that will only help the rebuild.

Source: Leafs' Cheap UFA Gambit Already Paying Off

Leafs Fall Behind in Ottawa, Lose 6-1

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators needed desperately for something to go right. Pretty much everything did Saturday.

Curtis Lazar had the first two-goal game of his career and Erik Karlsson had four assists as the Ottawa Senators embarrassed the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-1.

Lazar’s second goal of the night came at 2:27 of the third period and gave Ottawa a 6-0 lead. A little less than two minutes earlier Mark Stone had given them a 5-0 lead when he beat Jonathan Bernier high on the short side.

Zach Smith, Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan also scored for the Senators (24-23-6), who got a 26-save performance from Craig Anderson.

“It was good for us from start to finish,” said Anderson. “A full 60 minutes and it was great to see and a great atmosphere to do it in.”

P.A. Parenteau scored at 3:25 of the third to break the shutout and account for the only goal from the Maple Leafs (19-23-9). Bernier finished with 14 saves after taking over from starter James Reimer, who was beaten three times on eight shots and was pulled 7:38 into the game.

A quick start and some good fortune propelled the Senators to a first-period lead, but more importantly a much needed win as the they snapped a three-game losing streak and collected just their second victory in their past seven outings.

They had been outscored 13-7 in two losses since the All-Star break.

“It was a different mindset,” said Anderson. “I think we’ve had enough of the (losses) and we were sick and tired of it and our mindset tonight was a complete 180.”

Smith opened the scoring just 19 seconds into the game when he completed a two-on-one rush with Marc Methot.

Just over four minutes later Zibanejad scored on a two-on-one with Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who took a pass from Erik Karlsson as he was leaving the penalty box following a minor penalty for boarding.

Ryan gave the Senators a 3-0 lead on a routine shot attempt from the face-off circle that completely eluded Reimer and ended his night.

“I don’t know how that squeaked in, but if I stop that maybe it’s a different game,” Reimer said. “I don’t think tonight was our best. Your job as the last line of defence is to stop the puck. The guys are trying and working their butts off and sometimes they make mistakes and that’s what your goalie is for. It’s too bad I couldn’t come up with a couple of big saves.”

“The third goal was a tough goal on (Reimer) but the reality is we left him hung out to dry and then Bernie came in and we did the same thing for Bernie,” said Leafs coach Mike Babcock.

Bernier took over and made a huge stop on Kyle Turris, who was making his return to the Ottawa lineup after missing six games with a lower-body injury.

Bernier made the original stop off Karlsson but was unable to stop the rebound as Lazar gave the Senators a 4-0 lead seven minutes into the second period.

“It wasn’t good from anyone tonight,” said Jake Gardiner. “We left (Reimer) out to dry in the first period and then Bernier the rest of the night.

“It just wasn’t a good game overall. It was everyone’s fault. We weren’t ready to play.”

While it was a good win, Karlsson said they have to take it in stride.

“We can’t get too high when we win one game just like we can’t get too low when we lose one. For us it was about hitting that reset button.”

Ottawa will conclude its three-game home stand Monday when it hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Leafs will play the second of a five-game road trip when they visit the Calgary Flames Tuesday.

Notes: Toronto forward Tyler Bozak left in the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return… Defenceman Jared Cowen and Forward Nick Paul were scratches for the Senators while defenceman Martin Marincin was a scratch for the Maple Leafs… Paul and forward Ryan Dzingel were both recalled Saturday from Binghamton of the AHL… Reimer entered the game tied for second in the league with a .932 save percentage.

Source: Leafs Fall Behind in Ottawa, Lose 6-1

Leafs barely visible while digging early hole against Ottawa

From The Star

OTTAWA—By 7:38 of the first period, the Maple Leafs were down three goals and coach Mike Babcock had replaced James Reimer with Jonathan Bernier.

Now, if he could only have replaced the rest of the team.

That, perhaps, is a harsh assessment of the Maple Leafs’ effort Saturday night, a 6-1 loss to their provincial rival. But not by much.

“It was the most embarrassing game of the year,” said forward P.A. Parenteau, the Leafs’ lone scorer.

“The bottom line is we got beat and we got beat bad,” captain Dion Phaneuf said. “We got beat in every aspect of the game by a team that played harder than us.”

The Leafs’ forwards and defencemen left their goalies to their own devices, dug a hole and never got out. It was Toronto’s worst lost since falling 7-0 to the Sharks in San Jose on Jan. 9. And it was the sixth time this season the Leafs lost by at least four goals.

“It was probably one of our worst efforts of the year,” Parenteau said. “Worse than San Jose. We were never in it. The effort in general, it wasn’t there.”

Now, depending on your view, the glass is either half empty or half full. The many Leaf fans in attendance at the Canadian Tire Centre were boisterous in their early cheering for Toronto because beating Ottawa in Ottawa is always fun. But by the end, they were chanting “Let’s Go, Blue Jays.”

“We’re in a building with tons of Toronto fans. They paid to see us play and the didn’t get to see us play,” head coach Mike Babcock said. “This is unacceptable. I usually tell people: ‘We compete hard and the game is tight.’ That wasn’t the case.

“It was really disappointing. We had a day-and-a-half to prepare. No excuses. I thought our team was playing better, getting confidence. I thought we were going to play great. I really did. I thought we were prepared. We deserve to feel the way we feel right now.”

No one associated with Toronto would ever advocate losing to the Senators, who believe they can rejoin the playoff race if they can just string a few wins together. This might help kick-start that.

For Toronto, at least in the grand scheme of things, a loss is better. A finish at the bottom of the standings — and the fire-sale trades sure to come between now and then — will go further to actually replacing these players with better ones. These ones usually try hard, bless them, but they just aren’t good enough.

After two wins in a row, the Leafs were in danger of pulling out of a massive tie for last overall in the NHL. The Sabres picked up a point Saturday night, leaving five teams (with a couple of Western games still going on) in last with 47 points. The race to the bottom, it would appear, is on.

The Senators, reeling with losses in 11 of their last 16, came out flying in the first period. The first half-dozen or so shifts featured 2-on-1s or breakaways as the Leafs left Reimer high and dry.

“Your job (as a goalie) is last line of defence, whether there’s five guys in front of you or no guys in front of you,” Reimer said. “It’s my job to find a way to stop it. The guys are trying. Working their butts off. Sometimes you make mistakes. That’s what your goalie is for.”

Curtis Lazar led the Senators’ attack with two goals, and Erik Karlsson — under fire of late in Ottawa — had four assists. Mark Stone, Zach Smith, Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan also scored for Ottawa. The Leafs’ power play, which came into the game on a 1-for-33 funk, went 0-for-4.

It was clear before the game that GM Lou Lamoriello has already begun to tinker with the lineup, gearing it more toward trades than wins. The team sent forward Rich Clune back to the Marlies on Saturday.

Clune had been playing well, praised regularly by Babcock.

“Business,” Babcock said. “I’m not going there.”

The move meant the Leafs had only 12 forwards, and Brad Boyes got back into the lineup after five straight games as a healthy scratch.

That’s the difference between the coach’s role and that of the general manager. Babcock wants to win. Lamoriello wants to build a winner.

And Lamoriello needs Boyes playing, being showcased, if you will, as the Leafs head toward the trade deadline. Boyes is one of the team’s many pending unrestricted free agents, and having him sit game after game does nothing for his trade value.

“I’m not looking at it like that at all,” Boyes said. “It’s been a while since I played. I’m really looking at playing, having fun, just help out.”

Leafs centre Tyler Bozak was hit in the head in the first period, left the game and did not return.

“The doctor made the decision,” Babcock said. “I wanted him to stay and play on the power play. But that’s why they have other people making the decision, not the coach.”

NOTES: Leafs defenceman Frank Corrado got into his fourth game in a row after having been a healthy scratch most of the season . . . Martin Marincin was the only healthy scratch . . . The Leafs will practise at home Monday, then resume the road trip Tuesday in Calgary.

Source: Leafs barely visible while digging early hole against Ottawa

Maple Leafs shut out by Lightning in Tampa

From The Star

TAMPA, FLA.—The all-star break. If there’s one team that could us a break, it’s the Maple Leafs, because the on-ice breaks have been few and far between.

Tampa sniper Steve Stamkos scored in the first period on the power play and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stonewalled Toronto for his second career shutout. That combination was enough for the Tampa Bay Lightning to defeat the Leafs 1-0 Wednesday night, the final game before all-star festivities commence in Nashville this weekend.

But as the game wore on, the Leafs got into it. By the midway point of the third, the Leafs had a 24-22 shots advantage. But they’d also hit two posts and ran into a hot Vasilevskiy, who made point-blank saves in the third period on Tyler Bozak, Dion Phaneuf and Morgan Rielly in stopping all 30 shots faced.

Jonathan Bernier didn’t have much of a chance on the Stamkos goal and matched Vasilevskiy nearly save-for-save in stopping 28 of 29 shots.

The loss means the Leafs head into the all-star break 17-22-9 for 43 points and tied for last in the NHL (they sit 28th overall thanks to games in hand on both Edmonton and Buffalo.)

They’ve hit a massive skid, going 1-7-2 in which goal scoring has all but disappeared. They have 11 goals in those 10 games — the greatest goaltending in the world can’t win with that goal-scoring rate.

“That’s the tough part about being a goalie,” said Bernier. “You can’t control whether your team will score or not. You just have to make sure you’re doing your job.”

Bernier had a solid night in what might have felt like an audition with 13 scouts from around the league in attendance.

The game might have felt like a bit of an audition for two of the Maple Leafs: Bernier and Frank Corrado.

Bernier was getting his first start since Jan. 16, having watched James Reimer reclaim the No. 1 job.

“I’ve been in that situation a lot, so I just have to do the same thing I’ve been doing lately, even if I haven’t played that much in the past couple of weeks,” said Bernier.

“I feel good about my game lately.”

Corrado played his fifth game of the season in his first action since Jan. 9.

The two have gotten to know each other well with all the extra conditioning they’re called upon to do together.

“He’s been a hell of a guy,” Bernier said of Corrado. “He’s been positive. I’ve seen guys like that that don’t play a lot and it gets to them mentally. He’s been putting a smile on every day. He’s been a really good teammate.”

Corrado was happy to see some action with his father on the father-son trip.

“You have to be ready for when your number is called,” said Corrado. “Play your game and don’t change too much. I always like to be better. It’s exciting to get in a game, especially with my dad here.”

If any team has done a good job of drowning out the white noise around them, it’s the Lightning.

The constant talk of Stamkos’ impending free agency or what to do with suspended winger Jonathan Drouin has not diverted the team from their mission to get back to the kind of hockey that brought them to the Stanley Cup final last season.

“As soon as the guys walk into the room, it’s not something we talk about,” said Bolts coach Jon Cooper. “This is a team sport but it’s a business. It was business for Ryan Callahan or Anton Stralman. Everyone at some point reaches that in their career. It’s not new.”

Stamkos avoided the media and declined pre-game interview requests.

Understandable, because so many in the Toronto media would ask him about his contract status — he’s a free agent July 1 and a contract extension is on the table — and wouldn’t it be nice to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs?

It’s the kind of pre-game distraction teams can do without.

“We can’t let outside stuff filter in,” said Cooper. “It’s definitely not an excuse if you’re not paying well and say: ‘Oh well, it’s contract negotiations.’ That’s nonsense. We’re pros . . . go out there and play.”

NOTES: With players scattering for the all-star break, Leafs coach Mike Babcock heads to Boston to see his son. “It’s going to be my father’s trip,” said Babcock . . . Forwards Brad Boyes and Josh Leivo were healthy scratches, as was defenceman Martin Marincin, who missed his first game since Jan. 9. Leivo has missed four of the last five games. Boyes has missed the last three games . . . The Leafs resume play Tuesday in Boston.

Source: Maple Leafs shut out by Lightning in Tampa

Recap: Panthers 5, Leafs 1

From Pension Puppets

The Leafs’ penalty kill sunk the ship tonight.

Box ScoreWar On Ice

The Leafs began this game looking to avoid the slow starts that have characterized their last half a dozen games, but instead, the first shift of the game saw Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, and Michael Grabner run around in their own end only to yield a dangerous chance on their own net from the slot that James Reimer had to be sharp on. From there, Florida continued to control play for the first half of the opening period, with the Leafs unable to mount any sustained attack or maintain possession of the puck.

Although the Kadri line had a couple shot attempts, the Leafs failed to actually put the puck on net through the first ten minutes of the game, at which point the shot count was 7-0 Florida and the Leafs’ and Nick Spaling went to the box for interference.

It took until just past the 13 minute-mark in the first period for Peter Holland to wrist a weak shot on Roberto Luongo from a bad angle. The 5v5 Corsi numbers looked just as bad, at 12-2 for the Panthers.

In a sequence reminiscent of Randy Carlyle’s tenure with the Leafs, the Leafs scored first despite being totally outplayed, as Kadri waltzed by a fallen Erik Gudbrandson and hung on to the puck as he moved laterally around a floundering Luongo.

Oddly, Holland decided to fight Aaron Ekblad after a relatively innocuous play with under a minute remaining in the first. It appeared to be a bit of a puzzling decision on Holland’s part in that he and Ekblad had no noticeable altercations leading up to it, but in any event, Holland hung in there and sat for 5.

Dion Phaneuf took a boarding call just 2:46 into the second period on Quinton Howden, and then had to fight Dmitry Kulikov for his indiscretion. On the ensuing power play, it was Alexander Barkov who took a great pass from Brian Campbell to walk in alone and throw a backhand top shelf over a sprawling Reimer. Matt Hunwick appeared to be interfered with on the play, but Babcock’s protests to referee Dan O’Rourke went unheeded.

On the Leafs’ third penalty kill of the game, the Panthers struck again. Vincent Trochek snuck in behind Hunwick as the Panthers came through the neutral zone with a lot of speed, and took a great pass from Jussi Jokinen that left Reimer helpless.

Rielly took just his fourth minor penalty of the season to put the Leafs on the penalty kill – their fourth of the night – and although the Leafs managed to kill it off, the 29th-ranked Florida power play looked dangerous, and Reimer again had to make a great save on a shot from in close to keep the game at 2-1.

Immediately following a great shift from the line of Tyler Bozak, Shawn Matthias and P.A. Parenteau, it was Jussi Jokinen who made it 3-1 for Florida after Spaling made a horrible giveaway in the neutral zone. Jokinen took a pass on a 2-on-1 while Reimer moved laterally and the Leafs’ goaltender had no chance on the play.

The Leafs would take another penalty before the period was over but somehow managed not to be scored on. The shots were 22-15 in favour of Florida, though the 5v5 Corsi attempts were 25-24 in favour of the Leafs.

The third period started with the teams exchanging chances, as Campbell hit the post behind Reimer and then Joffrey Lupul was stopped on a 2-on-1 going the other direction immediately after.

Then, following three consecutive saves, Reilly Smith was left alone in front of the Leafs’ net by Martin Marincin, and Smith buried a rebound to make the game 4-1 Panthers, effectively icing the game just five minutes into the third.

Things went from bad to ugly around the 8-minute mark as a long lob from Alex Petrovic at the blue line eluded Reimer, who appeared not to see the puck at all, despite a lack of screen.

Ultimately, the Leafs won the 5v5 Corsi battle 39-32, but you would also expect them to, given that they trailed for most of the game. Special teams were the Leafs’ downfall again tonight, as they got lit up by the 29th-ranked power play in the league, and also failed to score when they had the man advantage once again.

The Leafs have one more game tomorrow against Tampa Bay before the All-Star break.

Notes on individual players:

– James Reimer allowed more than 3 goals for the first time in 19 games played. We’ll cut him some slack.

– Michael Grabner left the game after taking a puck to the mouth in the second period and did not return. He was visibly bleeding as he left the ice. Peter Holland took his place on the Kadri line for the remainder of the game.

Roman Polak played a lot tonight with the Leafs so often on the penalty kill and with Phaneuf out for 7 minutes of the second period for his boarding/fighting.

– Nazem Kadri had the Leafs’ only goal and was probably also the Leafs’ best player tonight, despite his finish in the middle of the pile of Leafs’ 5v5 CF numbers. He was up against the Panthers’ top line and kept them off the scoresheet until they notched a couple on the power play, when Kadri wasn’t on the ice anyway.

– The other Leaf that deserves an honourable mention tonight is Morgan Rielly. He looked good all evening, and lead the team in the 5v5 CF department.

Source: Recap: Panthers 5, Leafs 1

Leafs Can't Solve Lack In OT Loss

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

Thursday, 01.21.2016 / 10:22 PM ET / News

The Canadian Press

Jordan Staal scored in overtime as the Carolina Hurricanes downed the Toronto Maple Leafs 1-0 on Thursday.

Staal started the play with a rush up the ice and beat his man to the net to chip in a rebound off a shot from Justin Faulk at 2:54 of the extra period.

Eddie Lack made 31 saves for the Hurricanes (21-19-8).

James Reimer stopped 39 shots for the Maple Leafs (17-20-8)

Carolina got out to a quick start and had its first scoring chance just a minute into the game off the stick of Eric Staal.

Martin Marincin got his stick up high and clipped Jeff Skinner in the face, leading to the game’s first power play, and the Hurricanes kept up their pressure, with Staal coming close to a goal after putting the puck just wide of Reimer from his off wing.

Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau had Toronto’s first real chance to score on a goal-mouth scramble while on the power play midway through the period, but couldn’t get good wood on a Lack rebound.

Shots were 8-1 Hurricanes six minutes into the contest, but the Leafs picked up their play and led 12-10 after a scoreless first period.

Toronto started the second period the same way it ended the first by controlling much of the possession and limited the Hurricanes from any sort of set up in the offensive zone.

Tyler Bozak made an inside-out move to get around Faulk for a partial breakaway four minutes into the second, but Lack was there to keep the game scoreless. And Michael Grabner was turned away by Lack on a short-handed breakaway a few minutes later.

Reimer went 11 minutes without facing a shot in the second, but had to be sharp when Dion Phaneuf went to the box for delay of game – making three saves including one on a re-direct to keep it 0-0.

Shots were 25-22 Toronto through 40 minutes but both clubs were still searching for a goal.

The third period lacked any real danger or scoring threats, with both teams waiting for the other to make a mistake to pounce on. Carolina, though held a 14-3 edge in shots and took a 37-27 shot lead into overtime.

Notes: Forward Brad Boyes was skating in his 800th career NHL game… Forward Josh Leivo and defenceman Frank Corrado were healthy scratches for the Leafs… Carolina centre Eric Staal entered the night with 20 goals and 43 points in 38 career games against Toronto.

Source: Leafs Can't Solve Lack In OT Loss

Recap: Canes 1, Reimer 0 (OT)

From Pension Puppets

Reimer did everything but score.

Box ScoreWar On Ice

James Reimer got the start tonight and Mark Masters had an interesting tidbit on that front:

Other small lineup changes were made, including fully reinstating the line of Leo Komarov, Nazem Kadri, and Michael Grabner, which in turn meant that Tyler Bozak, Shawn Matthias, and P.A. Parenteau. Josh Leivo and Frank Corrado continued to sit as healthy scratches.

The Canes got out to a hot start, peppering Reimer with several good tipped shots, but the Leafs’ goaltender’s positioning was great. Martin Marincin took the game’s first penalty at 4:32 and although the Leafs were able to kill it off, Jordan Staal absolutely blew by Morgan Rielly for a great chance on net and fortunately missed.

Carolina had opened a 9-1 lead in shots by roughly the halfway mark of the period, which marked the second consecutive game the Leafs accorded so many extra chances to their opponents.

The Leafs were gifted a soft call and picked up a power play which helped them get a few shots on net, but the Leafs, who were 0-for-17 on the power play in their previous 5 games, were again unable to cash in.

Gradually, Toronto regained control of the game, putting more of their own shots on net, several coming from the Kadri line, which was all the more impressive, as they again drew the top defensive assignment of the evening, going head-to-head with the Staal line.

The Leafs went back to the power play with just over 3 minutes left, as Marincin drew a holding-the-stick penalty on Jeff Skinner, who he had already had a couple run-ins with. The Leafs were again unable to generate anything in the way of good chances.

By the end of one, the Leafs lead the Canes in shots 12-11, and the 5v5 Corsi For was 12-11 as well.

Early in the second period, Dion Phaneuf and Jordan Staal exchanged penalties and the teams went 4-on-4 for two minutes, during which Bozak made an absolutely brilliant rush past three different Carolina players for a great chance in tight on net, but Eddie Lack made his first big save of the night.

The Buds gradually took control of the game over the course of the second period, even if they wound up missing the net more than they probably should have. They hemmed the Hurricanes in for multiple shifts, jumping out to a 7-0 lead on the shot clock and forcing the Canes to cough up the puck repeatedly at their own blue line.

Reimer had basically nothing to do all period until with just over 6 minutes left, the Staal line got running around on the Kadri line, and just as Staal came out from behind the net for a dangerous wraparound, Kadri was forced to take a penalty.

Grabner jumped all over a giveaway by Carolina rookie defenceman Brett Pesce to go in all alone on a shorthanded breakaway, but Lack was again up to the task.

Phaneuf took a delay of game penalty shortly thereafter, and Reimer was forced to make several great saves, including a tipped point shot that changed direction entirely. The Canes’ power play looked dangerous all night, generating a good number of shots and several good chances with quick puck movement around the perimeter.

Through two the shots were 25-22 Toronto, but a better indication of the flow of 5v5 play is the corresponding Corsi numbers at 27-19 for the Leafs.

The Staal line and the Skinner line both started the third period with jump and hemmed the Leafs in for a couple of minutes, and Skinner tipped a dangerous shot on goal to Reimer, who came up with the save. It was Skinner’s 6th shot of the contest.

The Canes began to press as the 3rd period wore on, and with the shots 9-2 for the Canes and the Bozak line unable to regain control of the puck in the Leafs’ zone, Bozak was forced to take a tripping penalty. Victor Rask hit the post, but in the end, the Canes remained unable to solve Reimer.

At the end of the third, still no one was able to score, but Carolina had out-shot the Leafs 14-3 and 37-27 overall, Reimer being the big difference in the third. It was on to OT.

Komarov set Kadri up beautifully on a 2-on-1 and then Rielly set up Parenteau for two good chances in extra time, but Lack came up big on both.

Finally, it was Jordan Staal who blew by Bozak in the neutral zone who started a Carolina rush, and then followed up his own play, chipping home a rebound over a sprawling Reimer to end the game.

Notes on individual players:

– James Reimer was easily the Leafs’ best player tonight. He stopped 39 of 40 shots and had no hope on the winner.

Tyler Bozak’s game tonight was one of contrasts. He covered for defencemen well, used a quick stick to break up several plays while playing defensively in the neutral zone, and had a couple beautiful offensive chances. On the other hand, his 5v5 Corsi numbers weren’t great, and he was forced to take a penalty for tripping late in the third.

– Martin Marincin stepped forward to pinch on a few plays, intercepting Carolina breakout passes well. He also gave Jeff Skinner a hard time on repeated occasions, which Leafs fans should appreciate. It would be good to see him get more ice, but then, when a game goes more than halfway through the third without a goal, you probably want to give your offensively gifted players some ice.

– P.A. Parenteau had 5 shots to lead the team in that regard.

– The Kadri line started the game out as the Leafs’ strongest line but struggled more against the Staal line as the game wore on.

– Leo Komarov made several strong defensive plays, reading Carolina breakouts well and disrupting them, blocking several big shots while on the penalty kill, and putting several shots on net himself.

– Morgan Rielly had a quietly effective night, notwithstanding getting burned by Staal, racking up the best 5v5 Corsi +/- on the team on the evening.

Source: Recap: Canes 1, Reimer 0 (OT)

Recap: Leafs 3, Flyers 2

From Pension Puppets

The Leafs snapped a five-game losing streak by topping the Flyers late in the third.

Box ScoreWar On Ice

The Leafs headed into Philadelphia in the hopes of avoiding a sixth straight loss, and called upon James Reimer to make his 21st start of the season. They scratched Josh Leivo despite his good work in front of the opposition’s net in the past two games, and played Tyler Bozak between Michael Grabner and Leo Komarov, leaving Nazem Kadri to play with P.A. Parenteau and Shawn Matthias.

The Leafs began the game with some sloppy play in their own end and the neutral zone, allowing the Flyers the first few shots of the game, forcing Reimer to come up with several good saves to keep his team in the game early. For their part, the Leafs had a couple of looks on net, but the Flyers jumped out to a 7-1 lead in shots in the opening frame.

Dion Phaneuf took a rare fighting major, going toe-to-toe with Brayden Schenn just under 11 minutes into the game, but neither player took an additional minor. The first power play of the game went just two minutes later to the Flyers, as Lupul was called for holding, and the Flyers’ 29th-ranked power play seized the opportunity.

Matt Read took a great pass from Evgeny Medvedev, and waltzed in alone on Reimer, and flipped a backhand past the Leafs’ goalie, who was forced to move laterally on the play. The shots at that point were 11-1 Philly.

Fortunately for the Leafs, retribution came swiftly, as Roman Polak followed a rush by Peter Holland and Joffrey Lupul, sweeping home a rebound as he went hard to the net. Really, it was a good play by Polak, who picked up his first goal in 63 games. Holland made a great backhand spin pass to Lupul, who tipped the puck on net, and although the puck was no longer visible to the cameras in the stadium, Polak stayed with the play and prevented Michael Neuvirth from freezing the puck.

The Bozak line came very close to taking the lead with just under 4 minutes left in the first, totally hemming in the Flyers and getting several good chances, capping a comeback in the shot totals at 11 for each team. At that point, the Leafs had 10 straight.

Shortly thereafter, Kadri was rejoined with his former linemates (why, I’m not sure) and had another good shift in the Flyers’ zone, where he managed to draw a penalty. The Flyers actually managed a good 2-on-1 chance while on the penalty kill once the Kadri power play unit was off the ice.

The shots at the end of one were 13-12 in Philadelphia’s favour.

The Flyers came close to regaining the lead just 3 minutes into the second, as Phaneuf missed on an open ice hit, giving up a 2-on-1 that the Flyers sent just wide. Reimer was caught moving laterally on the one-timer, but fortunately didn’t have to make a save.

Phaneuf was totally danced again later in the period by Shayne Gostisbehere, who cut around Phaneuf for a great chance on Reimer while in alone, but again Reimer was up to the task.

The Leafs appeared to have taken the lead with 11 minutes left in the second on a bit of great forechecking by Boyes, who fed Peter Holland for a nice goal, but the Flyers challenged the play on the basis of an offside, and it was determined that Boyes entered the zone before the puck, and the game remained tied at 1.

By the halfway point in the game, Kadri seemed to be reunited with his former linesmates Komarov and Grabner, and Bozak back with Matthias and Parenteau, though it was less than obvious why the change had been made.

With just under 9 minutes left in the second, Pierre-Eduard Bellemare totally ran into Reimer after the Leafs’ goalie made a save, and although there were a number of roughing minors handed out in the ensuing scrum, Reimer actualyl didn’t get a penalty for the several punches he got in on Bellemare. It was good to see Reimer stand up for himself, since this was the second time in the game that a Flyer had bumped into him, with Wayne Simmons getting a bump in during the first period.

On the power play that followed Parenteau appeared to have a sure goal on an empty net, but his shot was swept away at the last second out of mid-air by the defender Medvedev.

The Leafs’ forecheck picked up as time ran down on the second period, giving the Flyers’ D more and more trouble. Eventually, on a delayed penalty, Lupul stuffed home a rebound on a Phaneuf shot to put the Leafs up 2-1. Kadri picked up the second assist.

The Leafs had to kill off a penalty to Holland to finish off the period, but by the end of 40 minutes, the shots were 26-21 Leafs, and it would be fair to say that the shots were a good indication of how the game had progressed. The Leafs had more than overcome their rockey start to take control of the game.

Toronto was 9-0-3 when leading after two periods.

To start the third period, the Flyers tried to play with their lines to get things going:

The Leafs did some line juggling of their own, with Kadri again playing with Parenteau and Matthias, and then Komarov and Grabner on almost consecutive shifts. It was unclear why Bozak and Kadri kept switching wingers.

There was a scary moment for Polak, as he took a puck to the face, stayed down on the ice for an extended period, and struggled to re-join the play when referees refused to stop play:

With just 7:01 left in the third, Philadelphia defenceman Gostisbehere picked off a bad Morgan Rielly pass that sent the Flyers away 3-on-1 against Phaneuf, and Gostisbehere made no mistake taking the shot and going five-hole on Reimer.

Kadri took a penalty just a few seconds later to send the Leafs to the penalty kill, but the Leafs killed it off.

Schenn hit the post on a great chance with 2 1/2 minutes left in regulation, after starting to claw back on the shot clock:

Fortunately for the good guys, with just 12 seconds left in regulation, Bozak won an offensive zone draw back to Matt Hunwick, who hesitated, and then blasted a point shot past Neuvirth to put the Leafs ahead with just 7 seconds left.

Kadri was put out to seal the victory for Toronto against the Claude Giroux line, and did so effectively, and the Leafs went on to win this one 3-2. The final shot count was 35-33 for the Leafs, though the 5v5 raw Corsi battle was much closer, at just 45-44 in favour of Toronto. Still, the fact that they lead for longer than the Flyers did means that score effects didn’t dictate the flow of the game.

Notes on individual players:

– The fact that Kadri and Bozak kept switching linemates was a bit strange, though it may have been because Babcock didn’t want to change his special teams configurations, resulting in mixed pairings afterwards, but it happened all game long, and not always after penalties/power plays, so who knows.

– Shawn Matthias had a strong game, finishing the game with the best 5v5 Corsi numbers among forwards on the team.

– This was also a strong game for Roman Polak, who finished with the best 5v5 Corsi numbers of all Leafs’ players, not to mention the fact his strong play on the goal he scored. Let’s hope that he wasn’t too badly cut by the puck he took to the face.

– James Reimer finished the game with a .939, and added to his impressive totals this season.

– Dion Phaneuf got burned on multiple occasions, and I am starting to worry that he is losing more than a step as he ages. He also missed big on an open-ice hit, and that has been something of a rarity for him this season. Something to keep an eye on. He did, however, pick up an assist on Lupul’s goal.

– Speaking of Joffrey Lupul, he had a good game tonight, as he and Peter Holland fared well on the 5v5 Corsi stats sheet, getting several other good chances. A strong game from both players.

Martin Marincin played only 9:29. Why?

Source: Recap: Leafs 3, Flyers 2

Five Takeaways from Maple Leafs vs. Bruins

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

Saturday, 01.16.2016 / 10:15 PM ET / News

By Adam Proteau

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins Saturday at TD Garden:

Not an ideal start for Toronto.

One of the few bright spots in the Leafs’ 4-1 loss to Chicago at Air Canada Centre Friday was their solid start to the game – a key, head coach Mike Babcock said beforehand, to keeping the powerful Hawks in check. Unfortunately, the Buds didn’t replicate that the following night against Boston, as a poor line change resulted in a Patrice Bergeron breakaway and goal just 45 seconds into the first period that gave the home side a 1-0 lead. The Leafs evened the score three-and-a-half minutes later on Leo Komarov’s team-best 16th goal of the year, but a more focused effort when the game began would’ve prevented Toronto from having to dig itself out of a hole.

Jonathan Bernier’s stellar play keeps Bruins at bay.

After Bergeron’s first of two goals Saturday, Bernier stepped up in a big way in Toronto’s net, turning aside 17 Bruins shots in the period, stopping 29 of 31 shots through the first 40 minutes of play, and stopping 42 of 45 Boston shots in total. He had backed up teammate James Reimer for the Leafs’ previous two games, but Bernier showed no signs of rust or struggle and gave his team an opportunity to win late into the third period (the game-winning goal from Boston with 47 seconds left in regulation time came following a poor clearing attempt by blueliner Martin Marincin). The team and fans can’t ask more of Bernier than they got from him Saturday.

Coach’s challenge goes Leafs’ way for the second straight night – and for the same reason.

The Blackhawks had a goal disallowed Friday after a video replay challenge by head coach Mike Babcock ruled star winger Marian Hossa was offside. And another challenge by Babcock and the Buds Saturday ended with the same result: a marker from Marchand that would’ve broken a 2-2 tie early in the third period was disallowed due to Marchand being offside. The coach’s challenge hasn’t always worked in Toronto’s favour, but Babcock hasn’t been afraid to risk losing a timeout – and for the second consecutive night, he and his team were rewarded for it.

Shawn Matthias’ hard work yields results on the scoresheet.

He’s been one of the harder-luck Leafs forwards this season, but Matthias has only grown more determined to shake that off and pressure his opponents – and the 27-year-old finally saw some puck luck work to his benefit Saturday when he scored his fourth of the year (and first on the road) late in the middle frame to tie the game at two goals apiece. Now that he’s playing on a line with center Tyler Bozak and P-A Parenteau, Matthias could significantly increase his offensive production, and his results against the Bruins were a good sign.

Leafs’ losing streak made worse by the absence of any overtime or shootout play.

Toronto’s defeat at the hands of the Bruins extended their losing streak to five games. Although that doesn’t represent the Leafs’ worst skid of the 2015-16 season – they dropped six in a row at the end of October – Toronto’s five games without at least a standings point is their worst stretch of the year in that regard. The Buds still have games in hand on Buffalo and Columbus (the teams closest to them in the Eastern Conference standings), but the 16th-place Blue Jackets have won two straight and are now just a point behind the Leafs. Expect Toronto to be a desperate squad in their next game (Tuesday against the Flyers in Philadelphia).

Source: Five Takeaways from Maple Leafs vs. Bruins

Recap: Blue Jackets 3, Leafs 1

From Pension Puppets

The Blue Jackets’ young goaltender Korpisalo was the difference in this one as the Leafs peppered him with 42 pucks.

Box ScoreWar On Ice

Tonight’s game saw two roster changes of note for the Leafs, the first and most-discussed being James van Riemsdyk’s injury, resulting in the calling up of Josh Leivo, who saw his first NHL action this season. Shawn Matthias filled in for JvR on the Bozak line, while the under-used Brad Boyes remained at his usual 4th line post. Boosting Matthias’ trade value, of course, isn’t a bad thing. The second saw Frank Corrado scratched again in favour of Martin Marincin, though it’s difficult to see why both couldn’t be included over oh, say, Roman Polak. Oh well.

The Leafs started out strong against Columbus, jumping out to a 6-0 lead in shots early on, and then went to a power play less than four minutes in, but were unable to generate much with the man advantage. Boyes had a good look on net with Leivo screening the Blue Jackets‘ Joonas Korpisale, but Boyes shot the puck wide.

The Jackets pushed back a bit, and James Reimer, playing just his second game of 2016, was up to the task. There were a couple scrambling plays, including a bit of a swim after a puck bounced off the back boards and in front of the net, but the puck stayed out.

As Scott Hartnell sat in the box for high-sticking Dion Phaneuf (suck it, Hartnell!) Nazem Kadri had a great chance to open the scoring, but Korpisale came up big, taking away the top half of the net as Kadri looked to put home a rebound following some great power play passing by the Leafs.

It was Boone Jenner who tipped home a Seth Jones shot to put Columbus up 1-0. Reimer made a pair of good stops in the sequence leading up to the goal, and really had no chance on the play, as the the puck went from being a low pad save to a top corner shot.

With 1:50 left in the first, it was Phaneuf who coughed up the puck, carrying it out of his own zone. The giveaway sent Jenner in all alone, but Reimer stayed with him, and the puck rolled off Jenner’s stick at the last second.

In a busy finish to the period, Hartnell was again called for a minor penalty, this time for getting his stick into the skates of Hunwick. The Leafs carried a 1:24 power play into the second.

After 20 minutes, it was the Leafs who carried the lead on the shot clock 10-8, as well as a 18-14 lead in 5v5 shot attempts.

The Blue Jackets killed off the penalty and the followed it up with several strong shifts, hemming in both the Bozak line and the Kadri line, as well as the Leafs’ fourth line. The Leafs’ defensive and neutral zone play looked somewhat disjointed to this point in the game, as those short passes that are usually cleanly completed by the Leafs looked panicked and often resulted in dump-outs.

The Leafs slowly turned the tide of play, with their third line leading the way. Joffrey Lupul had several great shifts, and Holland had several drives to the net that certainly never happened under Randy Carlyle. Next, it was the Kadri line spending a bit of time in the offensive zone, creating a couple good chances via their cycle game. Korpisalo, however, stood tall.

At 16:07 of the second, Columbus went ahead 2-0 as Alexander Wennberg swept home a rebound past a sprawling Reimer. Wennberg went to the net and P.A. Parenteau (who was the forward down low in the play) failed to notice him. Wennberg tipped a shot on net and Reimer made the save, but before Reimer could smother the rebound, Wennberg reached around him and tucked the puck home.

After two periods, the Leafs were up 25-17 on the shot clock and 46-36 in 5v5 Corsi For, but trailed 2-0 on the scoreboard.

The Leafs have yet to win a game this season when trailing after two periods.

Toronto controlled the play to start the third, but pucks seemed to dribble off sticks and between feet around the net, as they lacked the finish to solve the young Columbus netminder. Babcock shuffled a line or two, putting Boyes up on the Kadri line. This type of change has been uncommon for Babcock, but then, when your team can’t score through two games, something has to change.

As the Leafs continued to press the Jackets continued clogging up the middle of the ice, blocking all kinds of passes and shots. Finally, it was Brad Boyes who cashed in off a Leo Komarov tip at 17:33 of the third to bring the Leafs within one goal while Reimer was pulled for the extra attacker.

Just as things began to look interesting, Phaneuf took a penalty for hooking as he tried to prevent Columbus from scoring on the empty net. The Leafs managed to re-gain the Columbus zone briefly, allowing them to pull Reimer again, but Dubinsky managed to grab a loose puck and pick up and put this one away.

At the end of three, the shots were 42-22 for the Leafs, and honestly didn’t look bad tonight. Apart from a handful of turnovers and the wild tip play that opened the scoring for Columbus, the Leafs were the better team. Sometimes, you lose even when you’re better.

Notes on individual players

– Shawn Matthias was strong on the puck all game. He uses his lanky frame well to protect the puck and in that sense, helped fill the shoes of the injured JvR.

– Joffrey Lupul looked more dangerous than usual playing with Peter Holland. The two combined for several great chances, and it was unfortunate that they couldn’t cash in.

– Dion Phaneuf had a handful of nice plays to go with a few ugly ones. He levelled Brandon Dubinsky in the first with a very nice open-ice hit, but then also got danced by Brandon Saad later on, and also had that horrible giveaway to Jenner in the first. Oh right, and then the penalty at the end to negate the Leafs’ (already slim) chances of tying the game.

– Josh Leivo saw time with the top power play unit tonight, and looked good creating screens and causing trouble in front of the net.

– Nazem Kadri was good tonight, leading the Leafs with 6 shots on goal.

– It wasn’t a bad game for either of Jake Gardiner or Morgan Rielly – Rielly even managed an assist on the late goal – but I’d like to see each of them join the rush a bit more than they have been of late. Rielly in particular began this season with a lot of enthusiasm for that aspect of the game but has quieted down quite a bit in that regard. Also worthy of note is that Rielly lead the team in ice time with over 24 total minutes played.

– P.A. Parenteau looked good tonight. He had several good rushes and hung on to the puck well in the offensive zone, especially while creating movement by skating around the perimeter.

Source: Recap: Blue Jackets 3, Leafs 1