October 29, 2011

Leafs Continue To Roll As They Beat League Leading Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (8-3-2) @ Toronto Maple Leafs (7-2-1)

The Penguins dominated from the beginning of the game as they outshot the Leafs 11-6 during the first period. Scoring was started on the power play as the Leafs were given energy when Mikhail Grabovski redirected a Phaneuf point shot.

Halfway into the second Matt Cooke finished off front in front beating Gustavsson to make it a 1-1 game. Connolly, in his second game back from injury, got his first as a Leaf with a right time right place clean up goal to regain the lead for the Leafs. This was the second powerplay goal with Malkin in the box as the Leafs seem to have an answer for the number one penalty killing unit in the league. Kunitz tied the game on the power play as he buried a rebound given as a gift by a Gustavsson pad save.

MacArthur added his second of the year pushing the Leafs ahead once again. Less than five minutes later Malkin tied the game on a five on three powerplay as he let a laser go from the point beating Gustavsson five hole as he had no chance due to a Komisarek screen. Right before the goal Gustavsson made multiple outstanding saves on the 2 man disadvantage.  The action was not over as we saw lead leaguing 10th goal of the year by Phil Kessel set up from a nice pass by Connolly as there appears to be some chemistry forming between the two Leafs. The Leafs battled intense fore checking from the Pens in the final minutes but were able to hold on which is becoming a positive early season trend for the Buds. 

Clearly an improved team from last season but this pace will be hard to keep up.  Reimer is expected to be back next game but overall Gustavsson has done well filling in.  This will be Reimers team regardless that is until he starts playing like a Vesa Toskala.

By: Liam Niven

Kessel Nets the Winner for the Maple Leafs

Phil Kessel scored halfway through the 3rd period tonight to put the Toronto Maple Leafs ahead 4-3 over the Pittsburgh Penguins. It is Kessel's  league leading 10th goal of the season and was also the game winner. Just 9 months ago in Raleigh, North Carolina Phil Kessel was picked last overall in the 36 player NHL all star draft. At that time he had 19 goals and 15 assists for 34 points in 49 games, but the statistic that stood out most was is +/- rating of -19. Some people argued that Phil Kessel didn't deserve to even be at the all star game or that he wasn't even the best player on the Leafs, Mikhail Grabovsky was and he was sitting at home watching the game on tv. Some other people argued that it was because he played in Toronto and that was the reason for being selected last.

I don't know why Kessel went last but I do know that since that day Phil Kessel has been a different hockey player, a better hockey player and that the Maple Leafs have been a better team. After the all star break last season the Maple leafs went on a tear and almost made the playoffs. In those last 33 games Kessel had 13 goals and 30 points. More importantly his +/- improved as he was -1 during that stretch. People say James Reimer was the reason for the Leafs turnaround last year, I am not so sure.

This season, Toronto is among the Eastern Conferences best teams and they lead the Northeast Division. They have still been winning games even with Reimer on the sidelines with a head injury. The one constant is Phil Kessel. With his 1 goal and 1 assist performance against the East leading Penguins tonight Kessel's totals improved to 10 goals and 18 points, good enough to lead the NHL in both categories. Kessel is getting it done defensively as well with his +6 rating. Coach Ron Wilson has even been using Kessel to defend 1 goal leads during the last minute of play. This time last year he would have been on the bench.

I don't know if the Maple Leafs will make the playoffs or not this year, but I do know one thing, if Phil Kessel continues to play this way he won't be the last guy picked at the all star game this year.

Mike Lord

Rangers suffer stunning shootout loss to Senators: 5-4

The New York Rangers (3-4-2) were unable to tip the scales in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators (6-5-0) in Saturday hockey action. New York had a 4-1 lead going into the later part of the third period of play, before the Senators made a stunning comeback.

New York started to take the momentum of the game in the second period of play, when power play goals by Ryan Callahan (3) and Brad Richards (2) gave the Blueshirts the 2-1 lead.

Marian Gaborik (5) added to that lead at the 4:53 mark of the third period, before Richards tallied his second goal of the game at the 8:05 mark to make the Rangers lead 4-1.

Ottawa started their comeback effort thanks to a pair of goals from Jason Spezza (7) to cut the Blueshirts lead to 4-3. The Senators tied the game up at the 17:10 mark when Milan Michalek found the back of the net at the 17:10 mark.

Michalek scored the game-winner in the shootout frame to hand the Rangers.  In the cage for New York Henrik Lundqvist finished the game with 36 saves.

New York will have a day off before getting back to action on Monday night, as the team is scheduled to take on the San Jose Sharks. The game  is scheduled to air on the MSG network, with the face-off slated for 7:00 p.m.

Stacy Podelski

Re-Learning Defensive Play - Buffalo Sabres Under the Gun Tonight

The Buffalo Sabres look to be able to keep on winning tonight as they face off against the Florida Panthers on home ice. They've had a great season so far: a record of 6-3 puts them in 4th place in the Eastern Conference. But in those 9 games, the Sabres have been out-shot 6 times by their opponents. That's 2/3 of their games so far.

Normally, a team being out-shot that often would be pretty low in the standings. But the Sabres have managed to pull out wins where most teams would have endless difficulties: 5 of those 6 games in which they were out-shot, they emerged victorious. That statistic leads the league.

But how much longer can the team coast on abilities of their goaltenders and their forwards? The defense needs to wake up and play stronger. Often times this season we've seen defenders jump up and join the rush, without anyone covering for them so that when the save is made Ryan Miller (or Jhonas Enroth) sees a 3-on-1 headed back in his direction.

I know that this is a part of hockey, but so is good communication between players. Talk to each other so we don't see odd man rushes headed back our way with nobody having any intention of getting back to help.

Andrej Sekera has been especially at fault in this area. He looks like he belongs one of the wings instead of the blue line, with the way he gets involved when he sees a rush develop. While I love having him on the team because we can switch him to play a forward line if necessary, right now that's not where our issues lie.

We have a goal differential of +8; goals aren't hard to come by this year. What we need is a defensive defenseman. Not an offensive defenseman. Give Mike Weber a chance this year, preferably sooner rather than later. Maybe that's the change that will keep another team from duplicating the Blue Jackets' results: getting 43 shots in one game against Buffalo.

Less shots on goal means less pucks finding the back of the net. It's a pretty simple formula, Buffalo, so use it to your advantage.

~Adam Singh


During the last two years, many NHL teams thought a game in Edmonton was a guaranteed victory.  The Oilers were so bad that they finished in last place during those two years and the Edmonton faithful suffered through many lopsided losses.  It looks like the suffering and waiting has paid off for Oiler fans as this year's team seems to have turned the tide.  The Oilers have a young team which is loaded with prospects and anchored by veterans and this group is challenging all comers.  We think something special is happening in Alberta's capital and all the other NHL teams need to pay attention.

The NHL likes the flash of excitement from young snipers.  The league likes to see flash players score a ton of goals and the fans love it even more. Every NHL team that has won or challenged for the Cup in the last few years has had the help of some serious scoring punch. The Penguins have Crosby, the Capitals have Ovechkin and the Oilers have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  On top of Nugent-Hopkins; Edmonton has Eberle and Hall.  Smart drafting is threatening to turn the Oilers into a powerhouse.  It is isn't going to happen overnight but Oilers' management is off to a great start with the Nugent-Hopkins, Hall, and Eberle line.

Last night, the Oilers won again by a score of 3-1 over the Colorado Avalanche.   This victory came on the heels of a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals. Until they played the Oilers, the red hot Capitals were undefeated.  We expect that these boys will make the playoffs this year and surprise everyone with a strong showing.  Lock and load Oilers fans; you are set for an exciting season and soon enough the Cup will make its return to the Edmonton area.


The clash at the Bell Center tonight will see the Habs and Bruins face off for the last spot in the NorthEast Division.  Fighting for last place is an unusual spot for these two storied franchises.  The rabid fans at the Bell Center will not make it easy for the Bruins and we expect a good game despite the fact that both teams are having such a hard time.

The Bruins have had a very public fall from grace so far this year.  The offense which won them the Stanley Cup has evaporated and the Bs which started the new season with high hopes now look weak and disoriented.  Chara and Thomas are not playing to last year's level and we think that the malaise will continue.  Letting solid players like Ryder and Sturm walk away has proven to be a costly mistake by Bruins management.  The old adage that you are never most at risk until you are convinced you have arrived applies readily to the Bruins.

Montreal has not been much better than Boston this year.  There is a hint of a turnaround in the air for the Habs with them coming off consecutive victories against the Flyers and the Bruins.  Carey Price is showing signs of last year's heroics and it looks like this hot streak could have some staying power.  The last two victories saw the Habs come from behind which was something they were unable to do in the pre-season and the start of the season.  We expect Montreal to beat Boston in tonight's game and leave Boston at the bottom of the division; all alone.