Rob Longley - January 25th, 2013
Some morning-after thoughts on the Leafs latest effort, a 7-4 loss to the New York Islanders.
1. Not to get much into the goaltender controversy – it is a tad early for that – but the struggles of Ben Scrivens on Thursday and the lack of a clear No. 1 entering a season is the latest example of a lingering Leafs weakness: It’s much different going into a season “hoping” you have a No. 1 goaltender than “knowing” you have one.
2. When’s Phil going to blow? Kessel had his chances again but the frustration level is clearly ramping up for the team’s leading scorer from a year ago. Zero goals in four games.
3. Credit coach Randy Carlyle for not invoking it as an excuse, but back-to-backs are going to be tough, especially when the opponent is rested and in your city while the Leafs play a road game the previous night. The Leafs have several of those situations this season and can’t afford to squander opportunities like what they found themselves in Thursday, leading 3-1 after one.
4. With the condensed schedule, practice time is at a premium. One of the ways Carlyle and his staff will make up for it is in using game-day skates, usually a time to limber up in advance of that night’s game, as an opportunity to teach and coach. In Pittsburgh, Carlyle worked on a few areas and no doubt will continue to do so during the season.
5. The Leafs can’t afford to look behind, especially with the challenges that are ahead of them. Next up on the sked? A trip to New York where the Rangers are expected to have a huge season then off to Buffalo for another crack against goaltender Ryan Miller. And after that, a home date with the Washington Capitals who have to wake up at some point, don’t they?
6. Speaking of home games, Carlyle’s emphasis on getting some traction at home will be a big story if it doesn’t materialize. With the loss to the Isles, the Leafs are now 0-2 this season and have lost 13 of their past 15 at the Air Canada Centre.
Rob Longley - December 5th, 2012
NEW YORK – Who knows for sure what has been going on behind closed doors at the players-owners meetings here, but Toronto Maple Leafs co-owner Larry Tanenbaum is apparently a voice that’s being heard.
One of six owners on the panel that has been meeting with 18 players – for eight hours on Tuesday and a renewed session on Wednesday – said the talks are headed in the right direction.
And best of all, Tanenbaum senses a resolve for the two sides to continue the dialogue until they can hammer out a deal.
That more than anything else we’ve heard throughout the 12 weeks of the lockout is cause for optimism.
There have been suggestions that Tanenbaum was quite vocal on Tuesday night and that his opinions were generally respected by the players.
A couple of us caught up with Tanenbaum following Wednesday morning’s Board of Governors’ meeting and he made it clear he liked the tone of what went on the previous night.
“We’re going to continue to talk until we get a deal,” Tanenbaum said, while acknowledging a positive vibe surrounding the talks.
There are no Leafs players among the 18 NHLers at the table.
Rob Longley - March 30th, 2012
The Leafs really have nothing to play for down the stretch and the players are taking the concept far too literally.
As little heart and pride as they’ve shown the past week, it’s hard to imagine a shift in the remaining four games, but if they have anything in them, a home-and-home series against the Buffalo Sabres would be a good chance to show it.
The Sabres – who are at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday and play host to Toronto on Tuesday – are a division rival fighting for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Leafs, who have rolled over to too many teams, have a chance to show some competitive fire and at least made it difficult on the Sabres.
We said it in our recap of Thursday’s 7-1 loss to the Flyers, but the resistance the Leafs offered to a Philly team that has been a decent rival over the decades was embarrassing. Losing 11 in a row at home has no explanation and no excuses. The “Let’s Go Blue Jays” chants Thursday night were impossible to ignore, but will there be any response on Saturday?
A couple other morning-after thoughts:
* Defenceman Carl Gunnarsson said the Leafs troubles are mental. “It’s probably between our ears,” Gunnarsson said. “It’s just no confidence in ourselves, in each other. That’s what it feels like.”
* Coach Randy Carlyle was asked about captain Dion Phaneuf tussling with rookie Brayden Schenn late in the game. (No real punches were thrown so it was hardly a scrap.) Carlyle didn’t really address that incident, but took the Flyers Scott Hartnell to task for not scrapping Mike Brown.
* Interesting to see Phil Kessel a more regular participant in post-game scrums lately. We’re just guessing here, but it wouldn’t be a shock to learn that some one on the coaching staff or management team has strongly suggested that he become more accountable.
Rob Longley - February 7th, 2012
As if living and breathing with the Leafs involvement in the playoff race every night isn’t enough, following the progress of Phil Kessel on his way to 40 plus goals is another stat of regular interest for fans of the team.
With a little help from the empty netter Monday night against the Oilers, Kessel has three goals in his last two games and has 29 in 53. At that rate, Phil the Thrill is on pace for just shy of 44. While it is reasonable to expect that checking will tighten further down the stretch, Kessel has a small cushion on his drive for 40.
Here’s the most impressive stat of Kessel’s progress so far this season: In his 32-goal effort last season, Kessel didn’t get his 29th until Game 75 on March 24.
Kessel won’t often have two easier goals than he did against the Oilers (see the video of his first here) , but it’s part of the accumulation process for any elite scorer.
Rob Longley - December 30th, 2011
WINNIPEG – As if the first visit here by the Toronto Maple Leafs in more than a decade and a half wasn’t going to pump up the New Year’s Eve festivities, suddenly Saturday’s contest has huge Eastern Conference playoff implications.
With a 1-0 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings here at the MTS Centre on Thursday night while the Leafs were stumbling to an OT loss in Carolina, the surging Jets pulled even with the Leafs in a tie for seventh in the East.
In fact, the teams have identical records of 18-14-5 which will ups the ante Saturday as the struggling Leafs attempt to get their first win since Ron Wilson celebrated Christmas by announcing his new contract extension. While the Leafs have laboured, the Jets are nearing the end of a 13 of 15 games at home stretch that has seen them go 9-4-1 and right into the thick of the playoff race.
By all reports, the atmosphere at the MTS Centre has been beyond electric for almost every Jets game but observers tell us they nearly raised the roof with Evander Kane’s lone goal on Thursday. There will no doubt be hundreds (thousands?) of Leafs fans in the house on Saturday, but the way the Jets are going lately, they’ll have to holler to be heard.