Toronto Maple Leafs 2010-11: Week 11

Published by Mark on Tuesday, December 21, 2010 — View Comments

Defenceman Dion Phaneuf warming up prior to a ...
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Sunday, December 12, 2010.

Maple Leafs record: 11-14-4, 26 points

Leading scorer: Clarke MacArthur, 29 games, 9G, 13A, 22 pts

Bozak, MacArthur, Rosehill, Armstrong, Orr, Versteeg, Aulie, Phaneuf, Schenn. The Leafs are currently carrying 9 players born on the Prairies who were looking forward to their chance to play what for most, would be their first games in Calgary and Edmonton as Maple Leafs. Since an embarrassing 5-0 loss to Edmonton on home ice, the Leafs went 3-2-0 against the top 5 Eastern Conference teams, and hope for revenge going in to Edmonton.

With 2 young teams, the game started fast, with lots of skating, lots of turnovers, and a few chances. Edmonton came off a couple tough games where they really could not muster much in the way of shots at the opposition goalie. On this night though, JS Giguere had to be sharp early, as young stars Hall and Eberle managed to create some offensive chances. The Leafs also got a few decent shots at Nik Khabibulin, who’d stoned them in the previous game. Captain Dion Phaneuf finally shrugged off his slump, firing a slap shot past the Bulin Wall almost 6 minutes in for his first of the year. A few minutes later though, as the Oil pushed on, Jordan Eberle tied it up with a stellar flip into the top of the net. In the second period, it seemed the Leafs were able to minimize their mistakes, while the Oilers got into penalty trouble, allowing the Leafs to take over the tempo of the game. MacArthur hit Grabovski with a slap pass on the powerplay, and Grabbo notched his 4th in 5 games. Zack Stortini and Colton Orr staged a minute long scrap, with Orr getting the better of Stortini. Things bounced the right way late, as a lost puck went off Versteeg and was eventually knocked in by Jason Strudwick’s skate. Versteeg’s 2nd in as many games built a 3-1 lead. In the 3rd, Phil Kessel was able to score on the powerplay, his 2nd in 2 games, giving him 5 points in the last 5 games. It was one of the best games of the season for the Leafs, as the defense corps avoided many of the errors that had cost games in the past. The young guns of the Oilers did certainly get their chances, including some odd-man rushes, but Giguere made some great saves. And it would seem that maybe the Leafs might have found some offense, with the first and second lines contributing goals, and the defensemen chipping in one or two along the way.

With all the hype, Thursday’s game versus Calgary held a lot of promise. Somewhat like the Edmonton game, Calgary looked fast, had some great chances and Giggy needed to make some really good saves. Nik Kulemin returned to the scoresheet to open the scoring, though Michael Backlund pulled Calgary even shortly after. Flames held a large advantage in shots, though the play was somewhat even. Ultimately, a mid second period implosion undid the Leafs, as Calgary got goals from Tanguay, Jokinen and Bourque in a 57 second span. Toronto was never able to get back into the game, despite Gustavsson coming in for Giguere, and Nik Hagman completed his revenge game against his old mates, adding a goal to his 2 assists before Grabovski was able to score to give him 5 in 6 games.

James Reimer was recalled to back up, as it seems JS Giguere’s groin injury has flared again. Giguere had actually been playing well, snagging wins against Montreal and Edmonton, and making some very good saves against Calgary before the 3-goal breakdown. Gustavsson has also played well, putting up better save percentages and goals against numbers, but not getting the wins Giguere has been. At this point, Giguere’s future is uncertain, as a recurring groin injury to a 30+ soon to be free agent goaltender will limit both his playing time and his value at the trade deadline, plus his potential contract in free agency. For the Leafs, the hope is not only that he can rehab and return, but that Gustavsson can elevate and grab some wins as the schedule before Christmas shows some winnable games.

Unfortunately, the Vancouver Canucks are that good a team that the Leafs are simply exposed. The Leafs attempted to get to the net to disrupt Roberto Luongo, a good strategy against one of the league’s best. However, the Leafs seemed to lack the knowledge of how to properly accomplish that, and took 2 goalie interference penalties in the first. On their own powerplay, including a 5 on 3, the Leafs were unable to capitalize. It wasn’t so much that the Leafs played poorly all game. It was more that after having the chances, after holding Vancouver shotless for 12 minutes in the first, it was the Canucks with a late goal from Alex Burrows leading 1-0. Similarly in the second, a late goal from Jannick Hansen made it 2-0. The Leaf on the hot streak, Grabovski, scored his 6th in 7 to spark the Leafs, but that was stalled out when Christian Ehrhoff slapped one past Gustavsson. An empty netter by Henrik Sedin sealed a 4-1 Canuck win. Noticeable in this game was that Kessel and Versteeg had some chances, but except for a very undisciplined 4 minute minor Versteeg took in the second, neither was able to generate much in the game. Notable also, Nazem Kadri was a healthy scratch, while Komisarek’s return meant Keith Aulie was sent back to the Marlies.

Just a single game this week, Monday against Atlanta as the leafs will be off for Christmas until a Boxing Day game against New Jersey.