Toronto Maple Leafs: Week Recap – November 17-24, 2015
By: Aaron Greenfield
This week we’re going to be doing something a little different. Being a podcast consisting of university students has its downfalls, mainly being that as the semester winds down, the workload increases. Since none of us had time to record this week, I thought I’d write a blog recapping the top stories of the past week. Think of it as this week’s podcast in written form. So without further delay, let’s see what happened:
Tuesday vs. Avalanche
The Leafs first game since our last show was a 5-1 throbbing of the Colorado Avalanche. While the Avalanche have their problems, the Leafs still played pretty well in this one. Not great, but a solid effort to build off of. From early on, it was evident that it would be a battle of special teams all night. The Leafs took the early lead in that battle, as Leo Komarov fired off a perfect shot for a shorthanded goal, and a lead for Toronto. This was followed up by P.A. Parenteau scoring a special teams goal of his own, this one on the powerplay late in the first. Three powerplay goals later and the game was completely out of reach. Players who stood out include Parenteau, Bozak and Kadri, for doing what he does best and drawing a couple calls. And finally, what more can be said about the man behind the pipes. It seems goaltending is a topic every week on our podcast, and now it’s for all the right reasons as James Reimer has grabbed the starting job by the horns and has no plans on giving it up. Aside from an Erik Johnson point shot, Reimer was perfect on this night stopping 34 of 35 shots. Though some still wondered if Mike Babcock would start Bernier at least once in the upcoming back-to-back games Friday and Saturday.
Friday vs. Hurricanes
Those who thought Bernier might get crease time don’t know Mike Babcock. In a post I made earlier this month, I included a quote from the Leafs head coach citing his preference to run with one goalie, as opposed to trying a 1A, 1B scenario, such as the one that was seen here in past years. In a recent press conference, Babcock hinted that Bernier was “his guy” but Reimer played his way into the starting role (not to mention Bernier also played his way out of the role). With Bernier looking on from the bench, he watched the Leafs get outplayed by a sub-.500 team, one of their Achilles heels, in Carolina. The Canes dominated possession from the outset but goaltending would be the story for both teams. Reimer kept the Leafs in the game, while Ward on the other end frustrated Leafs shooters, who struggled to muster up grade A scoring chances. It took a bad goal from a near-impossible angle by Brad Malone in the 3rd period to break the 0-0 deadlock. But the Leafs battled and Nazem Kadri on a late powerplay got the monkey off his back to tie the game and send it to overtime, breaking a 15 game scoreless streak. Kadri also picked up the understatement of the year award by describing the goal that snapped the drought as “a relief”. In the shootout, Reimer shined and Joffrey Lupul scored the winner. The Leafs took the two points and moved from one Achilles heel to the other the next night against Boston.
Saturday vs. Bruins
Much like the previous night, the Leafs struggled to create scoring chances and the Bruins dominated in possession. As I was watching the game, I couldn’t help but realize these two teams suck! Like, these teams are REALLY bad. With no disrespect to the league, it felt like I was watching an American Hockey League game. There were sloppy passes, poor shot selections and a lot more chippy plays than usual. It was nice, however, to be reminded that actual rivalries can still exist involving the Leafs. I was unfortunately also reminded that watching the Leafs play the Bruins in Boston is just setting you up to be disappointed.
With this game seemingly bound for overtime, the Leafs allowed Zdeno Chara the ability to wind up for a slapshot with just over three minutes left, and with traffic in front of Reimer there was no chance he was going to stop it. Reimer played his heart out, much like how he did in their playoff series, but there was only so much he was able to stop. Brad Marchand scored the empty net goal (of course he did!), and the Leafs left TD Garden without a goal scored. The Leafs didn’t deserve a point in either game of the back-to-back and they left with 2/4 points. It was a gritty road effort but definitely not enough effort Mike Babcock would like to see.
Monday vs. Bruins
Aside from the final result, this game was a polar opposite from that on Saturday night. The Leafs completely dominated the control and pace of the game, a lot more goals were scored and this time both teams were rewarded for their play. It appeared early on that it would be another long game against the B’s with a shorthanded 1st period goal by Marchand (who else?) followed by a soft goal by enforcer Zac Rinaldo. However, the Leafs responded in the second and finally were able to get one past their former draft pick, Tuukka Rask, as Lupul and Komarov scored just over a minute apart. The teams traded goals and the game headed to overtime. In OT, the Leafs had a man-advantage but weren’t able to capitalize on the 4 on 3 powerplay and ultimately fell in the shootout. This was a game the Leafs probably deserved to win, but they will have to take the small positives and single point, and move on.
Moving on from the games, to an overall look at the Leafs play thus far, Craig Button, TSN’s Director of Scouting, published an article on Monday ranking all the Maple Leafs players on a scale of A+ to F.
LEAFS’ GRADES BY PLAYER
|James Reimer||A+||27||$2.3 m||7||3||3||0.936|
|Jonathan Bernier||F||27||$4.2 m||0||7||1||0.895|
|Morgan Rielly||B||21||$894 k||21||3||12||-8|
|Dion Phaneuf||B||30||$7.0 m||21||2||11||2|
|Matt Hunwick||B||30||$1.2 m||21||0||1||-6|
|Jake Gardiner||C||25||$4.1 m||18||2||5||-2|
|Roman Polak||C||29||$2.8 m||19||0||3||2|
|Scott Harrington||C||22||$589 k||14||0||1||1|
|Martin Marincin||D+||23||$700 k||12||0||0||-3|
|Tyler Bozak||B||29||$4.2 m||17||3||12||-2|
|Joffrey Lupul||B||32||$5.3 m||21||7||10||-2|
|Leo Komarov||B||28||$3.0 m||21||6||10||-3|
|James van Riemsdyk||C+||26||$4.3 m||21||7||11||-7|
|P.A. Parenteau||C+||32||$1.5 m||21||6||9||-4|
|Nazem Kadri||C+||25||$4.1 m||21||2||8||7|
|Daniel Winnik||C+||30||$2.3 m||20||2||7||4|
|Nick Spaling||C+||27||$2.2 m||15||0||2||-2|
|Peter Holland||C||24||$775 k||16||3||8||1|
|Shawn Matthias||C||27||$2.3 m||20||2||6||-2|
|Byron Froese||C||24||$575 k||15||0||3||-2|
|Brad Boyes||D+||33||$700 k||16||1||7||-3|
|Michael Grabner||D||28||$3.0 m||19||0||2||2|
While it’s hard to disagree with most of these rankings, I thought Kadri and Gardiner should’ve been at least a B-. Obviously you’d like more actual production from both, their overall play has drastically improved from last year. Morgan Rielly should probably be at an A- at least because without him, there would be at least one more goal against per night. He’s always the one player back on odd-man rushes. He’s looked a lot more confident on the offensive side as well. Nick Spaling has been invisible all season, leading to multiple trips to the press box on game nights, so I thought a C+ was pretty generous.
This segment of the podcast is a lot of your favourite and I completely understand why. This past week, Garret Sparks must have been watching James Reimer highlights because he has been following in the Leafs’ starter’s footsteps by playing the part of a human brick wall. The Marlies followed up their 9-8 gongshow with a 1-0 victory against Rochester. They followed that up a 5-1 win at Ricoh, also against the Amerks, then closed out the week with a 6-4 victory over Binghamton. William Nylander had points in all three games extending his point streak to 5 games, as he sets his sights on 100+ point season. Brendan Leipsic also had points in all three games and is one of the underdogs to make the Leafs out of camp next season. Kasperi Kapanen returned from injury to score a goal and add two assists against the B-Sens.
In the OHL, the Leafs prospects were in full force. Travis Dermott finally notched his first goal of the season, to go along with his 21 assists in the 23 games he’s played. Nikita Korostelev, the Leafs 7th round selection in 2015 has been hot and is at a point per game pace with the Sarnia Sting. Jeremy Bracco notched 2 assists as his Kitchener Rangers got the better of Mitch Marner’s London Knights 4-2, last Friday. Bracco also scored the following game against the Guelph Storm. Marner meanwhile has been his usual self, scoring 7 points in the three games last week; JJ Piccinich wasn’t far behind with 4 points in three games.
The Fall term is winding down for us and we’re reaching crunch time. Hopefully we’ll record a podcast next week, likely our final one before the end of our semester. When we return back in 2016, there will definitely be plenty to talk about including prospects, trade rumours and much more! Thanks for sticking with us despite not being able to record our shows live as we’ve done in the past and we’re excited to see how much Leafs Lounge has grown over the past few months!