Toronto Maple Leafs 2010-11: Week 7
Sunday, November 14, 2010. Toronto Maple Leafs record 5-8-3, 13 points, 8 game losing streak
Leading scorer: Clarke Macarthur, 7G, 6A, 13 pts
Questions swirl around the Toronto team. How long will the losing continue? How long can the coach survive? After 2 seasons of Burke’s rebuilding, how can this team be in the same place it was when he took over? Is he out of options? What’s next?
It would be a bizarre, and perhaps controversial, game against Nashville that would see the Leafs finally break their losing streak. The first period saw the Leafs down early. It seemed more of the same recent play as Dumont scored, then Tootoo stole a puck and broke in to make it 2-0. Wilson called a time out, only to see Grabovski turn the puck over 10 seconds later to Erat and see him score. Giguere did make a great save on a Steve Sullivan breakaway to stop the bleeding. Luke Schenn got his first (and only the 3rd by a Leaf d-man this season) in the last minute of the period to show some sign of life. And that life looked dim as a shorthanded goal by Goc put the Leafs down 4-1. Predators though took 5 more penalties in the period and the Leafs were lucky to see 3 separate 5-on-3 situations. Kris Versteeg potted goals 59 seconds apart. Kadri recorded his first NHL point with an assist. Aulie had his first goal waved off by a call that Mike Brown had coincidental contact with Rinne in his net. Later, Grabovski atoned for his early gaffe with his 4th in 5 games, and Nik Kulemin scored on the 6th powerplay of the period. Giguere continued with some strong play, but had to be replaced by Gustavsson due to a possible groin injury. Coach Barry Trotz was not happy and made no excuses, saying his team had the Leafs down, and were not disciplined enough to avoid giving Toronto the means to take back the game. It goes in the books as a win, and some bright spots, including the play of Kadri and Aulie, are reason to be optimistic, but the Leafs should be thankful the way this one played out.
Injury updates came this week, as first it was Colby Armstrong resuming skating and hoping to be back in the lineup soon. Wednesday, JS Giguere was diagnosed with a groin strain, sidelined 1-2 weeks. Gustavsson will start against NJ, and James Reimer gets called up. Dion Phaneuf discussed his leg gash with the media, explaining he also had a reaction to some of the medication he was given. Reports are he could be back earlier than thought, as he is already off crutches.
The monkey off their backs and a favorable opponent and the Leafs managed to get a second consecutive win. After a scoreless first period, the Devils’ Martin Brodeur let out an uncharacteristically huge rebound that the suddenly hot Grabovski slapped into the net on a powerplay. Toronto played a relatively calm game, trading chances with the Devils, and Kessel eventually put another past Brodeur who looked uncomfortable in net. Zubrus got one through Gustavsson in the second, but another powerplay goal by Versteeg iced the win. Gustavsson played quite well, knowing he’ll get a number of starts with Giguere injured. Aulie also played a solid game again, while Kadri added 2 more assists. Cautious hope springs in Leaf Nation that maybe, just maybe, the scoring touch has returned.
Word came Friday that former Leaf Stanley Cup winner (1942, 1945) and Calder Cup winner Gaye Stewart had passed away at 87. I had the chance to meet Mr. Stewart briefly during the ‘Moving Day Parade’ as the Maple Leafs moved from Maple Leaf Gardens to the Air Canada Centre. He was gracious and signed an autograph for me. Time marches on, and another of the great tradition of the Toronto Maple Leafs has left us.
Late Friday came news that former Montreal, Toronto, Boston and New Jersey coach Pat Burns had finally lost his incredible fight with cancer. Burns will always be remembered specifically to Leaf fans as the coach of those teams that turned things around, with Dougie and Wendel and Andreychuk and the Cat. But, he was a great friend to hockey, a three-time Jack Adams winner, and Stanley Cup champion. He will be missed.
Two of Burns’ former teams met for a classic Saturday night tilt. After a tribute to Coach Burns was shown, the teams engaged in what shaped up into a goalie duel. Both Carey Price and Jonas Gustavsson put forth stellar efforts. Unfortunate for Gustavsson, the Leafs had a habit for turning the puck over. The result was that Price stoned the Leaf shooters all night, including an incredible save on Kadri, and preserved a 2-0 victory. Jeff Halpern had a shorthanded goal in the second period, and Mike Cammalleri sealed the win with an opportunistic powerplay goal in the third. It’s a tough loss for Toronto, who could not convert Gustavsson’s great play and recent momentum into a 3-game streak. Toronto actually leads the league in giveaways so far this season.
Leafs host Dallas Monday night, then go on the road to Buffalo on Friday night, and renew the Battle of Ontario in Ottawa on Hockey Night in Canada.