Tag:Toronto Maple Leafs
Posted on: March 31, 2011 2:08 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2011 2:17 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Leafs face another must-win game

WHO CAN CLINCH: The Boston Bruins can clinch the Northeast Division if they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Tampa Bay Lightning will secure a playoff berth if they beat the Pittsburg Penguins. The Canucks will seize the Presidents’ Trophy with a victory over the Los Angeles Kings combined with a regulation loss by the Philadelphia Flyers, who face the Atlanta Thrashers. The San Jose Sharks are in with regulation win over the Dallas Stars.

ALREADY IN:  Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.   

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Toronto Maple Leafs (35-32-10) at Boston Bruins (43-23-10), 7 p.m. ET

Toronto won the last two meetings of these Original Six franchises and it probably needs to make it three in a row to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. The Leafs enter the night seven points behind both the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers, who each have 87 points and occupy seventh and eighth place, respectively.

The task is not an easy one tonight for the Leafs, who will need to get the puck past Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. Thomas has won his last four starts and has a 0.50 goals-against average during that stretch, which includes a 3-0 shutout of the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday. He has nine shutouts this season, the most for a Bruin since Byron Dafoe (10) in 1998-99. The Leafs’ young goalie, James Reimer, has also kept them competitive for weeks. He leads all rookies in save percentage (.922) and is 13-4-4 in his last 21 decisions. 

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Los Angeles Kings (44-26-6) at Vancouver Canucks (51-17-9), 10 p.m. ET
The Kings have so far have not felt the absences of their top two scorers. The Kings have won all three games minus Justin Williams (out at least another three weeks with a separated shoulder suffered March 21) and their victory Tuesday over the Edmonton Oilers came without Anze Kopitar (out indefinitely with torn ligaments in his ankle). Los Angeles enters on a four-game winning streak overall, but the biggest test comes tonight against a team that can clinch the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time in franchise history. 

GOLF WATCH: The Columbus Blue Jackets need to win tonight to remain in the mix. The Atlanta Thrashers need to get at least one point tonight. Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Colorado and Edmonton have already mathematically out of it.

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: March 31, 2011 1:37 am
Edited on: March 31, 2011 1:48 am
 

Morning Skate: Does that seat feel a bit warm?

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke declared Wednesday that Ron Wilson would back next season, even if the club falls short of the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season.

“I said back in the fall, we would not consider a change, even when all the hounds were baying,” Burke told The Globe and Mail. “I feel the same way now. Ron is coaching this team next year.”

It's hardly a surprise. Burke and Wilson were teammates back at Providence College and their friendship extends decades. Even if Wilson was already coaching in Toronto when Burke was hired as GM in November 2008, Burke wouldn't have wanted anybody else for the job.

Other coaches around the NHL may not be so lucky come season's end. Here's a roundup of coaches that may find themselves out of work not long after April 10, the final day of the regular season.

Cory Clouston, Ottawa Senators: It's not only his position that is shaky. There are no guarantees GM Bryan Murray will back next season. The Sens, who surged into the playoffs and entered as the fifth seed a season ago, never found a rhythm this season -- and that's being charitable. Ottawa is in the basement in the East, so it's fair to say some changes are coming.

"A lot of things happened this year that put us in a situation where it didn't allow us to get into the playoffs,” Clouston told the Ottawa Citizen last week. "No one feels worse about that than I do, or more responsible for it than I do."

Pete DeBoer, Florida Panthers: He told reporters that he doesn't know if he'll be back. At least, he's honest. This is his third full season behind the bench in Florida and he has a 102-108-34 record through Wednesday. Dale Tallon, in his first full season as GM ,may have seen enough.

“I don't worry about next year. I sleep easy at night. I know how hard we have worked as a staff,'' DeBoer told The Miami Herald recently. “I think our team plays with structure and plays hard every night. They have all year. If that's not good enough, that's for other people to decide.’’

Line Changes

Todd Richards, Minnesota Wild: This seat got hot in a mere few weeks. The Wild were up to fifth in the West just a month ago before dropping to 11th and all but mathematically out of the playoff contention. (Minnesota also missed the playoffs last season, the first season with Richards was at the helm.)

"I knew this coming in when I took the job," Richards told the Minnesota Star-Tribune last week. "Are there some things that I would change? Maybe. That's all in hindsight. For the most part, I'm comfortable and happy with the job I've done. It's not the results I want, by any means. It's not the way I want the team playing, by any means. But the opinions, the (hot seat), it goes with the job."

Then there's probably the only coach among the 16 playoff teams on the hot seat: Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau.

Back at my previous stop, I piped up and asked questions to Boudreau and principal owner Ted Leonsis if a coaching change was afoot as the Caps were on an eight-game skid before Christmas. Boudreau bristled and said in so many words he doesn't worry about it and Leonsis preached patience.

That patience may have a limit and we'll put that at an entry into the second round -- and that could be generous. Boudreau could be let go if the Caps don't make it to the conference finals. They have made it past the first round only once in since Boudreau took over in Nov. 2007, including last year's first round exit after the Caps won the Presidents' Trophy. His departure would be a downer for local advertisers in the Washington area since Boudreau pitches everything from rug cleaning services to cars. 

The hot seat that isn't: Jacques LeMaire, New Jersey Devils. LeMaire's impressive turnaround of the Devils should result in some Jack Adams Award talk. Still, he had to be persuaded out of retirement and was non-committal last week about a return.

“No. I don't think so. Why not? Because it's not how the team is, how the team plays. It's not about the players, not about the organization. It will be only about myself at that point," Lemaire told The Star Ledger. "What will be good for me."

Finally, there’s the lukewarm sect. These coaches will likely be back next season, although they may not have much room to do wrong in 2011-12: Joe Sacco (Colorado Avalanche), Scott Arniel (Columbus Blue Jackets), Brent Sutter (Calgary Flames)  Davis Payne (St. Louis Blues) and Jack Capuano (New York Islanders ). 

Is there anybody else you’d want to nominate?

DETROIT LOSES BIG: A couple guys named Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier were teammates on the Edmonton Oilers that last time the Detroit Red Wings allowed eight goals in two periods. 

Vladimir Sobotka and Chris Stewart don’t quite have the cachet, but they were part of St. Louis Blues team that accomplished the same thing in a 10-3 victory over Detroit on Wednesday. 

“Thank God it’s over,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock told The Detroit Free Press. “It looked like it was never going to end there for a while. It was unacceptable. Any way you look at it — more than a touchdown — it’s ugly.”

Ugly and historic. The Red Wings lost 12-3 to the Oilers in March 14, 1986, the game they allowed those eight goals in two periods. The last time they allowed 10 goals in a game was also via a Gretzky-led team, the Los Angeles Kings who won 10-3 in Oct. 9, 1993. 

WEDNESDAY'S RESULTS
New Jersey 3, NY Islanders 2
Buffalo 1, NY Rangers 0
Carolina 6, Montreal 2
St. Louis 10, Detroit 3
Anaheim 4, Calgary 2

-- A.J. Perez
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 30, 2011 2:38 am
 

Morning Skate: 'Canes gain ground in East

WASHINGTON -- Eric Staal let himself have a little glance at the out-of-town scoreboard after overtime Tuesday. 

“I didn’t want to look until the shootout started,” the Hurricanes captain said. “It was a 4-3 final, so I knew the shootout was going to be huge. Then those guys came through with those huge goals.”

Rookie Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu scored in the shootout as the Carolina beat the Washington Capitals, 3-2, at Verizon Center. The score Staal mentioned came from the only other game the ‘Canes had to concern themselves with Tuesday, a contest where the Maple Leafs squaked out win over the Buffalo Sabres.

“We got a little bit of help,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “Now we have to go back at it. That’s our fate with the schedule we have this year.”

The Sabres hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East and things just got a little tighter. Carolina moved to within three points of the Sabres and both teams have six games left on the schedule – including a head-to-head matchup on Sunday. The Leafs finished Tuesday five points behind the Sabres. 

Carolina’s playoff hopes appeared slightly dim in the second period. Referees missed a high stick by Caps defenseman Karl Alzner that resulted in a gash in Staal’s forehead, a cut which required seven stitches to close. Maurice took issue with a couple other calls, including a too many men on the ice call just before the Caps pulled ahead 2-1 on a Marcus Johansson tally late in the period. 

Line Changes
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  • “This game was so much more important to us than what happened there in the second period,” Maurice said. “I didn’t know what was going on. At the same time, we had to refocus and get back to playing.”

    No matter. The Caps gave it all back when goalie Semyon Varlamov let in soft goal by Skinner that tied the game 1:46 left in regulation. Overall it wasn’t a bad way for the ‘Canes to avoid getting swept by the Caps in their six meeting this season. 

    “The biggest thing coming into the game was where we are in the standings,” Skinner said. “I don’t think you look back on a head-to-head. When you come this far, your focus is on the next game and the future and it was a big two points for us.”

    Maurice added that those points were bigger when you factor in the two players that returned to the lineup for the Caps. Captain and former MVP Alex Ovechkin (out three games with an undisclosed injury) and center Jason Arnott (out six games with an undisclosed injury) were both back in action. 

    “It was a little bit of curve ball when they got their players back,” Maurice said. “We handled that well, too. We wanted to beat at team with their best. Confidence is something that we’ve been searching for. We’ve played hard and played well. You should feel good about wins like this.”

    This victory can’t be savored long. The ‘Canes will host the Montreal Canadiens tonight, another team ahead of them in the East standings. 

    TUESDAY'S RESULTS
    Carolina 3, Washington 2 (SO)
    Toronto 4, Buffalo 3
    Philadelphia 5 Pittsburgh 2
    Columbus 3 Florida 2 (SO)
    Montreal 3, Atlanta 1
    Boston 3, Chicago 0
    Tampa Bay 5, Ottawa 2
    Minnesota 3, St. Louis 2 (SO)
    Vancouver 3, Nashville 1
    Los Angeles 2, Edmonton 0
    Phoenix 2 , Dallas 1 (SO)

    -- A.J Perez
    Posted on: March 23, 2011 1:36 am
    Edited on: March 23, 2011 1:54 am
     

    Morning Skate: Rookie Reimer keeps Leafs going



    Toronto Maples Leafs rookie goalie James Reimer must be doing something right if he's getting compared to a Transformer.

    A couple “Optimus Reim” posters were spotted Xcel Energy Center Tuesday night where Reimer turned in a 29-save performance in a 3-0 Leafs victory over the Minnesota Wild, the Toronto Star reports.

    The 23-year-old from Arborg, Manitoba, is the chief reason Toronto still has a shot at its first postseason berth since before the lockout. He had fair amount of admirers as friends and family members made the 540-mile trek from his hometown.

    “You always want to win and always want to put on a good show for family, especially when they drive a long way,” Reimer told the newspaper. “They’re the ones who put in the time and effort into my life and into my hockey career.”
    Line Changes

    Reimer is 11-3-4 over his last 18 decisions and his three shutouts have come since Feb. 3. Not bad for a guy who was sent down to the AHL three times this season.

    The Leafs finished the night in 10th place in the East, five points behind the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres. The Leafs have eight games remaining and it’s a safe bet Reimer will get a chance to start in each of those -- especially when you factor in the outrage when coach Ron Wilson started J.S. Giguere in a loss to Florida last Thursday.

    Beyond the playoff push, Reimer has also emerged as a candidate for the Calder Trophy. The discussion for the league's top rookie has been dominated by Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner, San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture, New York Islanders forward Michael Grabner and Sabres forward Tyler Ennis.

    Unlike those skaters who are on lines with talented teammates, Reimer is often on his own --- like when he turned away two shorthanded breakaway chances on Tuesday. But what'll hurt his Calder hopes is his short resume.

    He'll play at most 37 games, fewer than Chicago's Corey Crawford, Philly's Sergei Bobrovsky and Washington's Michal Neuvirth --- all rookie goalies with solid stats on playoff-bound teams.

    But if he gets the Leafs into the playoffs, that'll cover up his short job history and transfrorm him into Calder contender. 

    COOKE AFTERMATH: It appears New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh feels for Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke, who was suspended Monday for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs for an elbow he delivered last weekend to McDonagh’s head. 

    He spoke with Rangers broadcast outlet MSG before Tuesday’s game (Here’s the quote transcribed by TSN.ca): 

    “You're trying to get good momentum going into the playoffs or keep your playoff spot and that was a close game at the time and momentum could go the other way. I think he's trying to make a big hit and he just caught me wrong. I don't think it was his intent.

    "The suspension … it is what it is. The league is really pushing to get these hits out of the game. If that's a statement, it's a pretty big statement, for sure."


    Earlier in the day, Pittsburgh's two newspapers (The Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review) reported Cooke expressed regret for the collision: 

    "I realize and understand, more so now than ever, that I need to change," Mr. Cooke said. "That's what I wanted my message to be."

    "I'm fortunate that Ryan McDonagh wasn't hurt," he said. "I don't want to hurt anybody. That's not my intention. I know that I can be better. ... I made a mistake, and I'm the one who's accountable for that. And I take full responsibility for it."


    WEST END: Four points separate the fourth-place Phoenix Coyotes and 10th-place Calgary Flames entering play Wednesday. At the same point last season, that margin between the same two places in the Western Conference was 19 points.


    TUESDAY'S RESULTS
    NY Rangers 1, Florida 0
    Boston 4, New Jersey 1
    Carolina 4, Ottawa 3
    Washington 5, Philadelphia 4 (SO)
    Buffalo 2, Montreal 0
    NY Islanders 5, Tampa Bay 2
    Nashville 3, Edmonton 1
    Toronto 3, Minnesota 0
    Colorado 5, Columbus 4 (SO)
    Phoenix 2, St. Louis 1

    -- A.J. Perez

    Photo: Getty Images
    Posted on: March 16, 2011 3:29 pm
    Edited on: March 16, 2011 3:30 pm
     

    Playoff Watch: Canucks can clinch berth tongiht



    WHO CAN CLINCH: The Vancouver Canucks will become the first team to clinch a playoff berth (via securing the Northwest Division title) by earning at least one point tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.

    GAME OF THE NIGHT: Toronto Maple Leafs (30-30-10) at the Carolina Hurricanes (32-28-10), 7 pm ET.

    The Maple Leafs could all but call off their bid to return to the postseason for the first time in since before the lockout with a loss tonight. Losers of four of their last five entering tonight’s contest at RBC Center, Toronto would slip to 12th in the Eastern Conference and fall to six points back of eighth-place Buffalo if they don't manage to secure at least a point. 

    The Hurricanes are coming off 1-0 victory over the Sabres, Carolina’s first road win in a month, and could pull even with Buffalo (76 points) with a victory. (Buffalo would remain in eighth since it has a game in hand, thus a better winning percentage.) Cam Ward made 44 saves against the Sabres on Tuesday as he made Brandon Sutter’s goal late in the first period hold up.

    ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Washington Capitals (41-20-10) at Detroit Red Wings (41-20-8), 7:30 pm, Versus.

    There are only four games on the schedule tonight, but Versus will broadcast what should be a high-powered contest against two of the best teams in NHL. The Caps enter on a nine-game winning streak and we’ll get to see two Russian buddies, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, go head to head.

    GOLF WATCH: Edmonton Oilers have been mathematically eliminated. 

    PLAYOFF TRACKER

    -- A.J. Perez

    Photo: Getty Images
    Posted on: March 14, 2011 4:29 pm
    Edited on: March 14, 2011 4:54 pm
     

    Playoff Watch: Toronto nearing must-win territory



    Tampa Bay Lightning (38-22-9) at Toronto Maple Leafs (30-29-10)


    Air Canada Centre, 7 pm ET 

    SERIES: Tampa 3-0-0; Toronto 0-2-1

    IMPLICATIONS: Tampa can pull within a point of fourth-place Pittsburgh in the conference standings and to within three points of Southeast Division-leading Washington. Toronto can climb back within fourth points of eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings. 

    BREAKDOWN: The Maple Leafs aren’t just looking to just avoid a season sweep by the Lightning. A victory is nearly a must to keep pace in the hyper-competitive East. There is currently one team (Carolina) between the Leafs and the eighth-place New York Rangers and there will only be a dozen games left on Toronto’s schedule after tonight. With the Atlanta Thrashers and a resurgent New Jersey Devils team on their tail, the Leafs might not to want to squander this home tilt.

    Tampa has shut out the Toronto in each of the last two meetings and the Lightning have outscored the Leafs 10-3 overall this season. Martin St. Louis, Simon Gagne and Steven Stamkos each have two goals and an assist versus Toronto this season. The Lightning enter on a two-game skid. 

    MATCHUP TO WATCH: Tampa Bay D Eric Brewer vs. Toronto D Dion Phaneuf. Brewer played more than 25 minutes in Saturday’s loss to Florida and he can expect a heavy workload again tonight. This is the final game the Lightning will be without defenseman Pavel Kubina, who was suspended three games for his hit to the head of Chicago’s Dave Bolland. Phaneuf, Toronto’s captain, logs nearly 25 minutes a game himself has thrown 161 shots on net, but only has four goals to show for it -- only two more than a season ago when he was limited to 26 games due to injury. 

    KEY STAT: 26.4. The average age of Toronto’s roster, the third-youngest in the NHL. 

    Photo: Getty Images
    Posted on: March 12, 2011 4:03 pm
    Edited on: March 12, 2011 4:12 pm
     

    Playoff Watch: Leafs need to make a point (or 2)


    Buffalo Sabres (33-26-8) at Toronto Maples Leafs (29-29-10) 


    Air Canada Centre, 7 p.m. ET (NHL Network)
    SERIES: Buffalo 3-1-0; Toronto 1-2-1

    IMPLICATIONS: Buffalo, tied with the New York Rangers points-wise, can get a little breathing room in seventh with a victory. (The Rangers play San Jose tonight.) A victory in this division rivalry would be huge for the Leafs -- especially if it comes in regulation. Depending how things shake out, Toronto could finish the night two points out of eighth. 

    BREAKDOWN: This is one three games that will change how the the bottom of the East looks heading into daylight savings time. 

    The Leafs, 10-4-5 since the All-Star break, aren't in must-win territory, but they can't lose many of these tilts against teams in front of them in the standings. (They are already winless in their last three outings.) Much the the Leafs' recent success can directly be attributed to goalie James Reimer (above). He's been assigned to the  Toronto's AHL club on three occasions this season, but it's safe to say there won't be a fourth trip down to the Marlies. He enters 12-6-4 and one of his rare down games this rookie season came against Buffalo as he gave up five goals on 30 shots on Feb. 5.  He got the win the last time these two teams met (Feb. 19) in relief of Jean-Sebastien Giguere

    This game will be the final game on the road on this current seven-game, 12-day trip for Buffalo. The Sabres are 4-1-1 so far and are coming off a 4-3 OT victory over Boston on Thursday. 

    MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Buffalo F Thomas Vanek vs. Toronto F Phil Kessel. Vanek, who missed a game earlier this week with the flu, returned and had a goal and an assist against Boston. He leads the Sabres with 57 points (24 goals, 33 assists). Kessel, who has only one point over the last four games, leads all current Toronto players in goals (10) and points (14) in 30 games lifetime against Buffalo. 

    KEY STAT: 4-10-4. The Leafs' record in Saturday games. 
    Posted on: March 5, 2011 2:22 pm
    Edited on: March 5, 2011 3:08 pm
     

    Playoff watch: Chicago takes streak to Toronto



    Chicago Blackhawks. (36-23-6) at Toronto Maple Leafs (29-27-9) 
    Air Canada Centre, 7 pm ET


    SEASON SERIES: First (and only) meeting

    IMPLICATIONS: The Leafs can move within two points of idle Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Chicago, which was well out of the playoff picture six weeks ago, could move within five points of the Central Division lead with a victory and a Detroit Red Wings loss. 

    BREAKDOWN: Both Original Six franchises are surging. The Blackhawks enter on a seven-game win streak, while the Leafs are unbeaten in regulation over the last nine games. The Blackhawks have won each of the last five contests against the Leafs. 

    PLAYER Vs. PLAYER: Chicago's Marian Hossa vs. Toronto's Phil Kessel. Depending on how Leafs coach Ron Wilson matches lines with the last change, these right wingers could see each other a bit tonight. Kessel (above) has eight points over the last four games. Hossa, who has 36 points (14 goals and 22 assists) career against the Leafs, had his five-game goal streak snapped in Friday's victory over Carolina, but he still managed two assists. The 'Hawks are 20-4-2 this season when Hossa gets at least one point. 

    KEY STAT: 9. That's how many consecutive one-goal games the Maple Leafs have played in, going 6-0-3 during this stretch.
     
     
     
     
    The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com