Toronto Maple Leafs 2010-11: Week 13

Published by Mark on Tuesday, January 4, 2011 — View Comments

I have decided to make some minor tweeks to the format I have been using. I hope it makes for better reading.

The Leafs emerge to play a Boxing Day match-up in New Jersey. The combination of 2 of the Eastern Conference’s worst teams and a huge snowstorm meant a crowd of maybe not more than 3000 turned out to see the game. That certainly did not bother the Leafs though, as they cruised to a 4-1 victory. With almost no crowd, the game seemed a bit sluggish, not much spark. Colby Armstrong was able to snag a giveaway from Brian Rolston and snap it past Martin Brodeur. In the second period, John Mitchell atoned for 2 first period penalties by scoring his second of the year, and Nik Kulemin popped one for his 12th and a 3-0 Leafs lead. Brodeur is having possibly the worst season of his career, and new-old coach Jacques Lemaire pulled him in favor of Johan Hedberg for the 3rd period. The Leafs had scored 3 on just 14 shots. Jonas Gustavsson had a strong night in net, stopping 29 of 30 shots, and holding the fort as the Devils pressed in the second. Rod Pelley was able to snap the shutout, but the Devils could come no closer, and Armstrong got his second of the game late in the 3rd. Leafs were 0 for 5 on the powerplay, which continues to be a concern. Also notable in this game, Ilya Kovalchuk seemed to lose his temper during the second period, and engaged Dion Phaneuf in a scrap that ultimately has to be scored a win for the Leaf captain. The storm forced the Leafs to remain in Jersey, between being stuck on buses or back to the hotel. In the end, the Leafs did not get back into Toronto until early Tuesday, the day of the next home game.

Returning home, the Leafs prepared to meet Carolina. The ‘Canes have slid some in the standings, and are a team the Leafs have to catch and pass. Carolina also has been quite successful against Toronto, going 9-3-0 in recent times. In the end, the Leafs deserved much better than a 4-3 loss. The Leafs had lots of jump, outchanced the ‘Canes by a wide margin, and some stellar saves by Cam Ward kept Carolina in the game, especially in the second period. Carolina was able to get out front on a Jeff Skinner goal. Kessel tied it on a 5-on-3. Eric Staal managed to turn a puck over and break down the wing, lofting a shot over Gustavsson to go up 2-1. Kessel got his second of the game to even it up before Staal hit on a powerplay. Gustavsson allowed 3 goals on 8 shots in the first period. Grabovski continues to be hot, scoring to tie it at 3 in the second. The Leafs got some calls, getting 8 powerplays to Carolina’s 3, but just could not break things open. With about 5 minutes left in the game, Patrick Dwyer fired the 4th past Gustavsson, and the Leafs could not come back this time. A tough loss for the Leafs as they battled all game but could not break Ward.

Late Wednesday came word that the Leafs had decided to send Nazem Kadri back to the AHL Marlies. Kadri had recently been a press box fixture, sitting 3 of the last 4 games. Kadri played 17 games, notching 6 assists (though only 2 in the last 12 games). He showed a few flashes of what might be. However, he is still simply too small and not polished enough in terms of faceoffs or defensive play to be taking a regular NHL shift. Wilson moved him around, eventually to the 3rd line, but it is evident the kid should be spending more time in the A, bulking up and learning how to be a more complete hockey player. I’m not entirely sure why Burke waited so long to send him back once it was apparent that Kadri was contributing little.

Thursday the Leafs welcomed a struggling Columbus team. And as has been typical of the Leafs in recent times, they giftwrapped Columbus’ first ever win in Toronto. Note the Leafs were without Grabovski, with his girlfriend as their daughter was born. Kulemin did score with about 5 minutes left in the first, answered by a Kristian Huselius goal. However Bozak got his 5th on a powerplay to have the Leafs lead going into the second. It was to be short-lived though. The Leafs, specifically the defence, but forwards also, were guilty of a number of horrific giveaways, misreads and general poor play throughout the game. Huselius snagged a Phil Kessel giveaway and went 5-hole on Gustavsson. Then RJ Umberger scored in the third to seal a 3-2 Columbus win. The game as a complete contrast to the effort against Carolina. Either way, the Leafs drop 4 points against teams they might have beaten.

New Year’s Day, and HNIC presents another installment in the Battle of Ontario. Marlie call-up James Reimer got his first NHL start. Just under 2 minutes in and MacArthur scored to put Leafs up 1-0. Ottawa really had nothing for the Leafs this game, and by period end, Kessel and call-up Crabb had set Bozak up for his first 2-goal game and a 3-0 lead. Marlie Darryl Boyce got his first of the year, and Schenn got one by Mike Brodeur who replaced Brian Elliott in the Ottawa net. Sergei Gonchar broke the shutout late in the second on a powerplay. Except for a 90 second fight between Orr and Neil, the game remained fairly uneventful. The Senators kind of sleepwalked through it and Leafs end the week with an impressive 5-1 win.

Hot Leafs this week: Kessel 2G 3A, Kaberle 5A, Bozak 3G 1A, Versteeg 4A

Record: 14-19-4, 32 points (13th, Eastern Conference)

Season Leaders:
Goals – Kessel (14)
Assists – Kaberle (23)
Points – MacArthur (29)
PIM – Orr (97)

Wins – Giguere (8)
GAA – Reimer (0.81)
Sv% – Reimer (0.973)
note: Reimer has appeared in only 2 games. However as he now has a decision, I have included his numbers, as opposed to setting a ‘minimum’ for appearances.