INSIDE HOCKEY » Toronto Maple Leafs http://insidehockey.com Get Inside! Mon, 15 Sep 2014 16:37:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Photo Gallery: Maple Leafs vs Flyers (03/28/14) http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-maple-leafs-vs-flyers-032814 http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-maple-leafs-vs-flyers-032814#comments Sat, 29 Mar 2014 12:36:13 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=57860

The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 4-2.

Three Star Selections
1st Claude Giroux (#28 PHI)
2nd Scott Hartnell (#19 PHI)
3rd James van Riemsdyk (#21 TOR)

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Caps Top Leafs, Continue Playoff Press http://insidehockey.com/caps-top-leafs-continue-playoff-press http://insidehockey.com/caps-top-leafs-continue-playoff-press#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 14:48:18 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=57499

With 13 games left in the Capitals schedule, the Washington Capitals are two points behind the New Rangers and one point ahead of the Detroit Red Wings (who have two games in hand) for the final wild card spot in the East. After a strong 4 to 2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs last night and a 4-3 home victory over the Vancouver Canucks Friday night, the team seems happy with their play and ready for the challenge ahead.

These were “game we knew we needed to win,” said Karl Alzner. Now, our team has “confidence” and “momentum” going into the next series of games on the road against the three top teams in the Pacific Division (Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose), explained John Carlson.

Last night’s game began with a dominant first period in all aspects of the game. The Capitals outscored Toronto 3-1, outshot Toronto 14-2, out-hit Toronto 9-7 and won 12 of the 22 faceoffs. Toronto went over 16 minutes without a shot.

Joel Ward made the best “assist” of the night. At seven minutes at even strength, Toronto was playing two men to the strong side. Ward went back door and took a pass from Karl Alzner in front of the net. Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf knocked Ward down. While falling, Ward shot the puck passed the goalie and off of the skate of teammate Jason Chimera for the goal.

The Ward—Chimera—Eric Fehr line has been the most consistent line of late. In March, they have scored 19 points in nine games (Ward three goals, four assists; Chimera one goal, six assists; Fehr two goals, three assists). Ward’s power play goal later in the first period was his 20th goal of the season, a career high.

The second period may have been the most impressive period, however. In the first eight and one half minutes of play, Toronto outshot the Capitals 5-1, but scored no goals. And then, three power plays were called against the Capitals in a five minute span. Toronto patiently waited for their shots, but Goalie Jaroslav Halak made eight saves on those power plays. The period ended 3 to 2.

Troy Brouwer, who at times has been critical of his team’s concentration, said “we kept our composure for once.”

In the third period, the Capitals largely played to preserve a 3-2 lead. “We made it difficult for them to come down the ice,” according to Coach Adam Oates. “We made [Toronto] work hard.” The Capitals committed no penalties in the third, and only allowed seven shots.

The Capitals realize the importance of the next three West Coast games. “We got to win all,” said Oates. Other players wanted to tamper expectations, however. We need “at least four points” to be in the “playoff picture,” according to Brouwer. Maybe Alzner explained it best. “In the beginning of the season, I’d say only one win. Now, at least two wins.” We will know soon whether the Capitals are up for the challenge.

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Reimer, Rung Up, Reignites Leafs http://insidehockey.com/reimer-rung-up-reignites-leafs http://insidehockey.com/reimer-rung-up-reignites-leafs#comments Sat, 15 Mar 2014 13:17:12 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=57284

I don’t know if James Reimer ever had a birthday party as a kid, but if he did, I’ll bet he was mad if his mom invited people who asked him questions like, “Are you surprised it took this long to blow out the candles?” and “While you don’t wish the donkey any ill will, did you pin the tail on really, really hard, so that he’s out for a while?” Certain people who, it seems, grew up to be media people in Toronto, who peppered the guy with questions about how resentful he was that it took a Jonathan Bernier injury for him to get back in against the Kings Thursday night. People who also asked him what would have happened had an apparent hit to the head knocked him out of the game, rather than asking him about his stellar relief performance and first win since January.

Reimer took it with equanimity, smiling a pleasant grin. Perhaps he doesn’t hear the undertone, or he’s just able to ignore it. Or maybe he really did have a concussion, as was speculated after he and Jarrett Stoll collided. The story has been spun since, and the video does seem inconclusive as to where contact occurred, but the fact is, it’s possible to get a concussion without being hit in the head. Ask anyone who’s taken a body check and had the head whip violently forward or backward—it’s about the brain sloshing around, not where the initial hit was.

And the gentleman that he apparently is allowed the netminder, who came in to start the second period, his 27th appearance of the year, and, ultimately, his 11th win, to say all the right things. A sampling of them includes, “I always try to prepare as if I’m coming in to play.” “I got a little more work this morning than I would have, but I wouldn’t blow it up too big.” “I came in and did my job.” “I took care of business. I didn’t think of the future or the past. I just focused on the technical.” “I saw every puck. The defense was very diligent at clearing guys out from in front.”

And the reasoning for the questions in the first place? Reimer has not played, essentially, since Bernier became the main man back in late January. He has appeared in two games since then, spaced widely apart, the latest being two nights ago in San Jose. It was a drubbing, 6-2, though in his favor, he did face 48 shots, which tells you that the team was all but asleep in front of him.

And of further concern—he took a blow to the head by Stoll of the Kings, which, in his words, “rung my bell.” Yet his coach said after that it was not something that he would go to the NHL-mandated “quiet room” for, in part because the blow he took was to the shoulder. But you judge, and if you’re an MD, so much the better. I heard Reimer say after the game that he was hit in the head and that “anytime you get your bell rung, you’re going to have a headache.” Hmm. That sounds pretty much like a concussion, and you can take that from a guy who’s had a couple in his life.

When it happened, he stayed down for a while, and the trainer came out. He was on his knees at that point, not unconscious and, as far as it appeared from the press box, hadn’t been. So likely, there was nothing to be all that concerned about. But then again, a head injury is a head injury, and it shouldn’t really be up to the player to decide what to do about that.

The problem, of course, is that while Bernier was sitting on the bench in a backup role, he was in no fit shape to go in. He was suffering from what the team would describe only as a “lower body” problem and would only say was something that they would evaluate in the morning. That, of course, was BS. On the way down in the elevator, I heard a TML exec say very plainly, “Groin strain. He’s going to be out a while.”

Obviously, then, they didn’t have the option of going back to Bernier. What would the Leafs have done? Reimer was asked that question, too. Which again, is something like the equivalent of asking, “So, Doc, if you have to go on disability for your diabetes, what will I do for another physician?”

The answer is, “Learn some manners and stop asking stupid questions.” But what came out was, “I don’t know. Someone would have to do it. Perhaps Gunnarsson, since his father was a goalie.” When that player himself was asked about this, he said that he figured if no one else wanted the job, he would have taken it.

What they don’t know is that the job falls to me, at least in the case of the Kings. You can read about it in my book, Living the Hockey Dream. But that’s beside the point. What we know now is that Bernier is out, Reimer came in in relief and was superb, and that somewhere, the Leafs have to find a third goalie, or a second one, to back up Reimer, before they play their next road game, which is in three days, versus Washington.

And oh, to revert to the above paragraph’s middle point, was Reimer ever amazing. The greatest save he made, but not the only spectacular one, was against Kopitar in period three. The Leafs were shorthanded, and the puck came from the point to the net and out on a rebound. Kopitar got it at the left side and slammed a shot, and Reimer’s leg somehow made it over in time and saved it. The net was halfway open when the puck went to Kopitar. Halfway. It was 2-2 at the time.

The problem was, Kopitar looked skyward after the chance, stopping and waiting while the play turned back the other way. It went to the Kings’ net, and the puck went in off of the stick of Mason Raymond. Afterwards, Darryl Sutter was in a more surly mood than is common, and he said, in answer to almost every question asked of him, “We let in a shorthanded goal in the third period.” And that’s what cost the Kings the win. That, and the fact that Reimer and Bernier combined to face 41 shots and stop all but two.

Kings Notes

The team honored long-time player and broadcaster Jim Fox, including giving out bobble heads of his likeness. Good for you, Jimmy. You’ve helped me out in a million ways.

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Ducks in a Funk http://insidehockey.com/ducks-in-a-funk http://insidehockey.com/ducks-in-a-funk#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 14:01:24 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=57236

The Leafs are in tough, that’s for sure. Who would have imagined, looking ahead in the schedule from the point of view of October 22nd, when Toronto beat Anaheim 4-2 in the Great White North, that their road trip in March would see them playing three teams—the Ducks, Sharks, and Kings—who are in turn second, fourth, and sixth in the West? Tough go. And if that’s not enough, as soon as they fly back East, they’ve got the always-erratic Washington, then Detroit, and at home, Tampa Bay and Montreal. It’s not possible anymore to cruise through a week of the schedule and face also-rans.

But whatever fear they might have had coming into their first California game Monday in Anaheim was quickly put aside as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the Ducks in period one. It was a frame filled with interesting moments, and more fighting than you normally get in a month out West these days. Well, that’s a slight exaggeration, but there were two tilts. Clarkson-Lovejoy after they had exchanged cross-checks, for which they also got two minutes, and Gleason-Maroon after the former pushed the other down in the crease and they each spent two minutes working up a hate in the penalty box.

But back to characterizing the game. There might have been a little nervousness, but no fear on Toronto’s part. The former exhibited itself in the form of a penalty taken just a minute and a half in, in the offensive zone, by Nazim Kadri. It allowed the Ducks a power play on which they showed all kinds of passing skills but no ability to shoot. Or at least, not to shoot fast enough. It would be a theme that they would carry through the period. Every time someone got a puck in the slot—Bryan Allen comes to mind in the middle of the go—he would hold it just long enough to get the goalie set and make the save less than difficult.

The shots in period one ended 11-9 in favor of Toronto, with, obviously, each goalie stopping nine pucks. But while the Ducks seemed to control play, they also showed that their fast-and-loose style can be dangerous. The Leafs’ second goal, scored in the dreaded last minute of the period, was a puck knocked loose of Getzlaf’s stick near the blueline. (Where was the defense? Heck, I don’t know. In near the net somewhere.) Kessel took it down, through the two defenders who were converging, and flipped a weak shot that was partially saved by Freddie Andersen and then rolled up his stick’s shaft and in behind him.

The assist on that one was to Tyler Bozek, complementing his goal scored just seven seconds into the power play at 16:51 on a flip shot that he redirected off the stick of Dion Phaneuf.

Periods two and three were no more kind to the Ducks, though they outplayed the Leafs, arguably, in period three. If you judge it by shots on goal, that’s an easy case to make. The Leafs shots went from 11 to 7 to 5 over the three periods. The Ducks, on the contrary, were at 9, then 19, then 16 in the final frame.

There was another fight, and a lot of Leafs’ minor penalties. On the evening, they had six. The Ducks had four. The home team’s failure to capitalize was perhaps summed up by Coach Boudreau after. “We’re not getting to the front of the net, and when we do, we’re not shooting.” The goalie, who was Kings’ castoff Bernier, was seeing everything, according to the coach.

The exception to that was Corey Perry, who was all over the ice. He scored the Ducks’ only goal, after the Leafs had been up 3-0, with assists to his linemates in the later going, Getzlaf and Patrick Maroon.

Boudreau rode his big horses hard as the second period turned into the third. The icetime of Perry was 24:21. Getzlaf was nearly 27 minutes at the end of the game. Most of the rest of the forwards trailed by a long shot. On D, Fowler played nearly half the game, Beauchemin 26 minutes exactly. Of course, this was partly influenced by the power plays the Ducks enjoyed. But mostly, it was Boudreau trying desperately to find something.

This is perhaps why you also saw these players together as the clock waned: Selanne, Koivu, and Beleskey; Bonino, Cogliano, and Palmieri; Cogliano, Koivu, and Palmieri; Beleskey, Koivu, and Silfverberg. If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice one name not accounted for: Winnick. In fact, he started the game with his usual mates Cogliano and Koivu, but he ended up playing the fewest minutes of any forward, at 9:43. Make that the fewest on the squad.

Wait, you’re saying. What about Teemu? Selanne was with Maroon and Rakell to start. Then he lost Maroon to the top line. After that, he kind of disappeared, except for a couple of highly effective shifts in period two. Plus, he was on the power play. His evening saw him net 14:11, 3:36 of which was on the PP. He had a couple of shots. He also took four faceoffs, but lost three of them. Of the seven Ducks who took draws, just one, Getzlaf, was on the plus side. Bonino was an even 9-9, and the others were in the losing bracket. The team won 46% of the draws during the game.

What was it about the Leafs that confounded them so? For one thing, and several players mentioned this after, Carlyle was apparently super-motivated to beat the Ducks, having not been back since he was fired by the team. (In fact, that’s not true. I remember seeing him around, in the press room in some capacity or other, after being let go as coach. So revenge? Not sure that’s a motive.) He was, incidentally, honored by the Ducks with a video tribute to his 2007 Cup win. He said after that he was nervous about that, and on the win, he said, “There’s always satisfaction when you beat your former hockey club. I’m not going to hide that fact.”

For two, Bernier was as good as he needed to be. The Ducks, while they had a lot of shots, didn’t have a lot of terrific scoring chances. They were often on the outside. There really wasn’t one save where you said, “There it is. That’s a game-changer,” but he stopped more pucks than the guy at the other end, and that’s enough.

For three, the Ducks, it is increasingly clear that they may not have been as good a team as they looked to be early on. It was fun to say that they’d always find a way to win. And it was fun to watch them free-wheel their way past teams that probably shouldn’t have lost to them. But those days are gone, and the rest of the league has caught up to their speed, caught on to their tricks.

For four, and I’m quoting Boudreau now, this losing streak has officially become a “funk.” That’s right. An honest-to-goodness, no doubt about it, gotta get out of it, funk. What that means for the team’s upcoming road trip (Calgary, Colorado, Los Angeles) is either a giant anchor pulling them back into the thick of the Pacific, or a giant relief as the weight that seems to be on their backs is shucked off.

Notes
My new book is Pond Hockey, a novel, which apparently ain’t bad. Please read!!!

Twitter: @growinguphockey. I’d appreciate if you’d follow (so I know someone is reading this stuff).

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Rangers Shaken Up By A Shake Up http://insidehockey.com/rangers-shaken-up-by-a-shake-up http://insidehockey.com/rangers-shaken-up-by-a-shake-up#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 04:50:01 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=56989

NEW YORK – The news was met with silence and disbelief.

The Rangers locker room had been open to the media for about 20 minutes after the conclusion of the team’s morning skate, and most players had already spoken about their desire to see the team’s captain, Ryan Callahan, remain in New York with the only organization he’d ever known.

Instead, Callahan, who participated in the skate, never made it back into the locker room. He was pulled into an office, where general manager Glen Sather told him he had been jettisoned to Tampa Bay in exchange for 38-year-old forward Martin St. Louis.

“His work ethic is there every practice, and every game,” Derick Brassard said of Callahan just moments before the trade was finalized. “That’s why he’s our captain, hopefully after three o’clock he’s going to be one of ours, still.”

“We’re trying not to think about it right now,” said Brian Boyle before he learned of the trade. “We know how important he is. Anytime you lose someone that important, there’s definitely an adjustment. I hope he stays. We want him here, and we need him here.”

But he’s not here, anymore. With only a couple Rangers players still in the locker room, word started to spread that the deal was done. After some reporters shared the information with the remaining players, the room fell silent and was quickly closed to the media.

“We’re either going to come out and play really well tonight, because we’re excited to have a new guy in the lineup, or we’re going to play poorly because we’re upset, depressed,” said Rangers general manager Glen Sather in a pre-game press conference. “But these guys are all professionals, and they have to suck it up. It’s the way it is, the deal is done. It’s not going to change.”

“Everybody knew there was a possibility. He wasn’t signed waking up today,” said Brad Richards. “[With a] 3 o’clock deadline, you knew something might happen. It wasn’t like it was the middle of December and everybody was caught off-guard. Doesn’t make it any easier, but as we were in here this morning, everybody was prepared for a number of different things with Ryan. As was he.”

“He’s a great teammate and friend, you want him to continue playing with you,” Ryan McDonagh said later on Wednesday, after the Rangers lost to Toronto in overtime, 3-2. “In the back of your mind, you think it’s just going to get done and you move by it. It didn’t, and that’s the way hockey goes sometimes.”

The Rangers sent a pair of draft picks to Tampa to finish the trade; a second-round pick in 2014, and a first-round pick in 2015. If the Rangers advance to the conference final this season, the second-round selection turns into a first-round pick.

“First time I’ve had a good friend coming and a good friend leaving, which is very bizarre,” said Richards, who played with St. Louis in Tampa for seven seasons. “It’s a weird feeling. You’re not really happy or sad, you’re sitting there wondering how to react and what to say to Cally. It’s a tough day for him. That’s all we can do, as a Rangers organization, we got a great human being, a great leader, and a great player. We move on, and he’ll add to this group nicely.”

“There’s no doubt taking a player of that magnitude from our dressing room is going to have an impact,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said of losing Callahan. “That being said, we’re also adding a player that’s got a great presence. He’s won a Cup, he’s just come back from winning a Gold Medal for Canada, so we’re bringing in a real solid player and a real solid individual.”

“It was a little bit shocking, even though there’s been a lot of talks about Cally,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “It’s tough to see him leave. He’s been a great teammate and friend, and a great player for this team for so many years. In the end, this is the way we decided to go.”

Callahan, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, had been in protracted contract negotiations with the Rangers. His final offer to the team was believed to be for six years and approximately $37.5 million, while the team was believed to have offered a final, take-it-or-leave-it offer of six years, $36 million. Ultimately, the gap of $250,000 per season was too much to bridge, leading to the trade that sent shockwaves through the locker room.

“At some point when you’re negotiating, you have to say no. Or, you say yes,” said Sather of his negotiations with Callahan’s agent, Steve Bartlett. “In this case, we had to say no because it just got too far down the line to come back. At some point when you negotiate a contract, you get to an end-point where you can’t go any further. We were there. That’s where it had to stop.”

“I truly thought we’d work something out that would work for both sides,” Callahan told TSN, hours after the trade was announced. “I said all along going through this that I wanted to stay [in New York], and I wanted to get a deal done. That was the truth. That’s part of the business that unfortunately you have to deal with. We couldn’t find a deal that worked for both sides, so I part ways with New York.”

INSIDE THE LOCKER ROOM:

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Photo Gallery: Leafs @ Isles (2/27/14) http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-leafs-isles-22714 http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-leafs-isles-22714#comments Sun, 02 Mar 2014 14:17:58 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=56735

For the full photo gallery click here

The first game back from the Olympic Break for both the New York Islanders and the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs ended in a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory in favor of the Islanders.

Thursday’s game marked the first competition for the team sporting a lineup without the teams points, goals and assists leader, Captain John Tavares, veteran leader, penalty killer and shootout specialist, Frans Nielsen and reigning NHL hits leader Matt Martin.  In their place, the Islanders decided to call up their AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ first line featuring AHL All-Star Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Mike Halmo to fill the gaps.

During the first period Halmo, playing in his first career NHL game was a spark plug on the energy line, delivering several bone crushing hits and knocking multiple Maple Leaf players to the ice on the night, much to the delight of Islander fans in the building.

The game was competitive and went back and forth, starting with Toronto’s Phil Kessel scoring first.  Teammate Tyler Bozak carried the puck in along the right side boards to the top of the circles, before passing to Kessel in the slot, Kessel managed to sneak a snap shot past both Brock Nelson and Evgeni Nabokov for the first Leaf goal.

Nine minutes later, on a penalty kill Michael Grabner changed the complexion of the game when he not only scored one short handed goal to tie the game, but he scored a second 48-seconds later.  Grabner’s first goal came as he intercepted a pass between Kessel and his teammate Morgan Reilly, after bringing the puck into the Toronto zone Cody Franson took the puck away from Grabner before attempting a pass to Bozak, that pass was picked off by Casey Cizikas who saucer passed to Grabner for the game tying goal.  On the very next shift, after an Andrew MacDonald clear, Grabner kept up his aggressive fore-check as the puck reached Goaltender Jonathan Bernier.  Bernier attempted to pass the puck to Reilly on the opposite side of Grabner, but the puck hit Reilly’s skate and bounced to Grabner for an easy goal to give the Islanders the lead heading into the first period

Later on in the game, after a scoreless second period, Toronto rallied back with consecutive goals from their Defensemen.  Paul Ranger jumped up on a play and buried a James Van Riemsdyk rebound to tie the game 2-2.  Then less than three minutes later, after an aggressive fore-check in the Islander zone by Van Riemsdyk, he dished the puck to Bozak, who found an uncovered Dion Phaneuf at the right face-off dot, Phaneuf delivered a snapshot past Nabokov that gave the Leafs the 3-2 lead.

One minute later, Brock Nelson drew a tripping penalty against Carl Gunnarsson.  On the ensuing power-play, Calvin deHaan found Josh Bailey on the side of the net, Bailey waited to draw Bernier and the Toronto defenders to his side before passing to Anders Lee on the opposite side of the ice, with a wide-open net for an easy game-tying goal.

Toronto answered quickly, breaking out from their own zone with speed.   Gunnarsson started the play as he passed to Nazem Kadri, who carried the puck to the blue line before dishing the puck to Joffrey Lupul.  Lupul and Kadri did a “give and go” to get around Islanders Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky and then Lupul was one-on-one against Evgeni Nabokov.  Lupul went to his backhand and lifted the puck past Nabokov’s glove for the 4-3 lead.

Four Minutes later the Islanders managed to tie the game.  After a shot from the point by Travis Hamonic the puck deflected to the corner, Ryan Strome scooped up the puck, and shot it to Anders Lee’s stick in front of the net.  The puck went to Bernier’s five-hole, and after a few seconds slowly trickled out behind him, the play was whistled down, and reviewed and found to be a good-goal that beat the whistle, tying the game 4-4.  The game was scoreless in the final three minutes and went to overtime.

With both teams taking runs at each other four-on-four, the game was decided at the 1.55 mark of overtime.  Thomas Hickey carried the puck over the blue-line before dumping the puck into the corner, Brock Nelson skated to the puck and battled along the boards with Cody Franson, after a few seconds Mason Raymond and Jake Gardiner skated over to support Franson.  With 3 Leafs players in the corner, Nelson shoveled the puck to the slot area looking for a teammate.  Jame Van Riemsdyk picked up the puck, but upon pressure by Cal Clutterbuck had the puck jump over his stick.  The puck then found it’s way to Lubomir Visnovsky directly in the slot, Visnovsky shot the puck five-hole beating Bernier for the overtime game-winning goal.

Three Stars of the Game

1) Michael Grabner
2) Anders Lee
3) James Van Riemsdyk

Winning Goalie:
Evgeni Nabokov

Losing Goalie:
Jonathan Bernier

Notes:
1)The injured Captain John Tavares was on hand and was recognized on the Jumbo-Tron during the first period with his Team Canada Hockey Olympic Gold Medal.

2)Travis Hamonic returned to play in his first game back from a 12-game absence after suffering a concussion.

3)Anders Lee recorded his second and third career goals on the night, in his first game of the 2013-2014 season, the game was his third career NHL game.

4)Both Michael Grabner and Toronto’s Phil Kessel continue their “hot streak” after returning back from the Sochi Olympics.  Grabner had five-goals and one-assist, while Kessel had five-goals and three-assists during Olympic competition and was named “Best Forward at the 2014 Olympics”.

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Photo Gallery: Leafs at Bruins (1/14/14) http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-leafs-at-bruins-11414 http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-leafs-at-bruins-11414#comments Wed, 15 Jan 2014 03:18:36 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=55491

The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 Tuesday night in Boston.

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Capitals Top Maple Leafs in Neuvirth’s Return http://insidehockey.com/capitals-top-maple-leafs-in-neuvirths-return http://insidehockey.com/capitals-top-maple-leafs-in-neuvirths-return#comments Sat, 11 Jan 2014 15:44:30 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=55340

In his first game since November 22, goalie Michal Neuvirth made 32 saves in a 3-2 Capitals win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Neuvirth was tested early as he faced 7 shots in the first 7 minutes. He always seemed to be in the right place to make an easy save. “I thought he played a great game, I really did,” commented Coach Adam Oates. “Where we go from here I don’t know.”

The first period ended in a scoreless tie as the teams seemed sluggish. Each had played and traveled the night before.

With five minutes left in the second, and the score tied 1-1, Tom Wilson and Carter Ashton fought immediately after the face-off. Wilson easily won the fight landing several jabs to the face and a couple uppercuts to the head. Next faceoff, John Erskine and Colton Orr fought. Again, the Capitals won the fight as Erskine landed several hooks to the head and what appeared to be a knock-out punch at the end.

These fights elevated the physicality of the game. So what began as a sluggish hockey game in the first ended as a hard hitting, back and forth game in the third. According to Nicklas Backstrom, “after the fights, it was way better…Just my opinion.”

Oates had Alex Ovechkin play with Eric Fehr and Mikhail Grabovski, and Backstrom play with Troy Brouwer and Brookes Laich. The Ovechkin line had 1 goal (Ovechkin), 2 assists and 9 shots. The Backstrom line had 1 goal (Backstrom), 0 assists and 6 shots. Backstrom seemed uncertain but optimistic about the new lines after the game. “I think it will get better and better.”

Joel Ward scored the game winning goal for the Capitals with eight minutes to go in the third.

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‘Canes Win Fifth Straight, Dominate Leafs http://insidehockey.com/canes-win-fifth-straight-dominate-leafs http://insidehockey.com/canes-win-fifth-straight-dominate-leafs#comments Fri, 10 Jan 2014 12:13:25 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=55257

The Carolina Hurricanes came into Thursday night’s game riding a four-game winning streak, but a team affected by the winter weather that had crippled much of the country.  Their Tuesday night game against the Buffalo Sabres was cancelled due to a polar vortex. What that means is the team spent close to 48 hours cooped up in a hotel in Buffalo. There were questions as to which team would take the ice against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. The team that has caught fire since their come-back New Years Eve win against Montreal or the team that would show signs of rust and have to battle against a struggling Toronto club.

The question was answered early in the first period. Carolina forward Zach Boychuck slipped a back-hand past Leafs goalie James Reimer. Jeff Skinner, of the Hurricanes, continued his career high point streak to 6 games when he picked a clean rebound past Reimer on the power play. The goal was Skinner’s 21st of the season and his 17th in the last 17 games. Jordan Staal, playing without his brother and Carolina captain Eric in the line-up for the second straight game, earned his 300th NHL point with the assist.

Toronto left winger Joffrey Lupul tried keeping the game within reach for the visiting Maple Leafs, when he muscled the puck past Carolina goalie Anton Khubodin. Carolina, however, kept their foot on the gas pedal and got out of the first period maintaining a two-goal lead when, minutes before the period ended, Patrick Dwyer beat James Reimer with a wrist shot.

Eight days ago these same two teams worked out a trade. Carolina sent assistant captain and veteran locker-room presence Tim Gleason to Toronto for John-Michael Liles and the rights to defenseman Dennis Robertson.  Thursday nights game marked the return of the Hurricane fan favorite Gleason to Raleigh. Carolina got the better of the trade, as least as far as the game tonight went. Liles scored on a break-away for the only goal of the second period and lifted the Carolina lead to 4-1.

Toronto skated into the third period on a power play carried over from late in the second and desperate to play themselves back into the game. Assistant captain Jordan Staal ended that chance just 25 seconds into the period.  Staal stole the puck, drove up ice, and netted Carolina’s league-leading eighth short-handed goal of the season, the first however, at home.  Late in the period when Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf decided to take his frustrations out on Hurricane players, Carolina was on the power play again and again they took advantage of the extra skater. Elias Lindholm, in his first game back since being assigned to his native Sweden for the Word Juniors, picked up his fourth of the season.  Assisting on the play was Jeff Skinner and Jordan Staal. For Staal, the four points earned tonight matches his career high, the last coming while still with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Carolina left the arena and straight to the airport for a flight out to Columbus and a rematch with a Blue Jackets team they lost to on December 23rd.

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2013 Hockeytown Festival: Alumni Game 2 http://insidehockey.com/2013-hockeytown-festival-alumni-game-2 http://insidehockey.com/2013-hockeytown-festival-alumni-game-2#comments Sun, 05 Jan 2014 13:37:24 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=55048

DETROIT, MI – DECEMBER 31: The Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni Teams met up during the Hockeytown Winter Festival for an old fashioned outdoor game at Comerica Park on December 31, 2013. (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Inside Hockey)

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