James Reimer

Could the Maple Leafs actually be a playoff team this year?


In most NHL cities they ask, “Is this the year?” That question usually means if this is the year their team will win the Stanley Cup. The bar has been set a bit lower in Toronto lately though and now the fans wonder if this is the year the team will get back to the postseason. The Maple Leafs haven’t seen the NHL’s second season since the 2003-2004 campaign, the season before the lockout nearly killed the NHL.

This season, the Leafs are off to a 3-0-0 start heading into tonight’s game against Colorado (7 p.m. ET on Versus) and while it’s a position the Leafs have been in before (they started last season 4-0 before losing eight of their next nine), their first goal is making sure it doesn’t get to their heads. With all that potential doom and gloom aside, however, is this a team that can crack the top eight in the Eastern Conference? Why not?

The Leafs are being keyed by their biggest stars and for them that means one player at each key position. Phil Kessel is their best forward and he’s proving it with five goals and eight points so far. Dion Phaneuf is the team captain and top defenseman and his physical play as well as offensive contributions have the team rolling along.

Perhaps most importantly, rising star goalie James Reimer picked up where he left off last season and is doing well to help bail out the Leafs defense when needed. His solid numbers compare better than what he put up last season and gives the Leafs a reason to have faith when he’s in goal. That’s something they haven’t been able to do since guys like Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour were in goal.

If the Leafs can keep up this level of great play and get bigger contributions from Tim Connolly (who has yet to play) as well as Tyler Bozak and Matt Lombardi, there’s no reason the Leafs can’t get to the playoffs. With GM Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson steering the ship, the experience is there – now they just need the results to match up.

After nearly being a healthy scratch, Matt Dumba has found his game

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Matt Dumba #24 of the Minnesota Wild lines up for a faceoff against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on October 16, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Wild defenseman Matt Dumba was supposed to be a healthy scratch in last Thursday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that never happened.

He ended up playing in that game because Marco Scandella (illness) couldn’t suit up.

Going into that tilt, Dumba had one goal and a minus-2 rating in three contests and just hadn’t been playing well enough in head coach Bruce Boudreau’s eyes.

Since the near scratching, Dumba has turned things around significantly. Boudreau has trusted him to take injured defenseman Jared Spurgeon‘s spot on the top pairing with Ryan Suter and that has resulted in a serious boost in ice time (he’s played 23, 26 and 26 minutes in the last three games).

“I didn’t like it,” said the 22-year-old, per the Minneapolis StarTribune. “I took it in a way that if I got back in the lineup I was never going to let that happen again. That’s the kind of motivation that I have. Just pride as a player. I hold myself to a higher standard.”

Dumba, who was the seventh overall pick in 2012, has contributed at the NHL level over the last couple of seasons, but he’s yet to take that next step as a big-minute, top pairing defenseman. Maybe his new head coach will be the one to get the most out of him.

PHT Morning Skate: This artist paints a picture while singing the national anthem

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–Artist Joe Everson  paints an amazing picture while singing the national anthem prior to an ECHL game. (Top)

–Is Patrice Bergeron the greatest defensive forward of all-time? (The Hockey News)

–Caps rookie Zach Sanford sang “Sweet Caroline” during the team’s Halloween party. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

–This goalie makes his AHL debut and he was backed up by…his father! (NHL)

Auston Matthews‘ Halloween costume had a political twist. (The Score)

–10 NHL players that still don’t look right in their new uniforms. (Bardown)

Report: Ducks put Despres on long-term injured reserve

FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2015, file photo, Anaheim Ducks defenseman Simon Despres skates before an NHL preseason hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver. Despres has agreed to a five-year contract extension with the Ducks on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, solidifying his role in Anaheim after joining the club in a trade last season. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)
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Simon Despres has played only once this season, back on Oct. 13, due to injury.

It now appears the Anaheim Ducks don’t see the 25-year-old defenseman returning to their lineup any time soon.

On Sunday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported on Twitter that the Ducks placed Despres, who carries an average annual value of $3.7 million, on long-term injured reserve, providing Anaheim with some flexibility in the salary cap situation.

By placing Despres on LTIR, it’s been suggested this could possibly allow the Ducks to sign restricted free agent defenseman Hampus Lindholm.

Lindholm, 22, missed training camp, instead deciding to stay in Sweden while he awaits a deal with the Ducks. Six games into Anaheim’s season, and still no deal.

It was reported last month that Lindholm was seeking a deal of eight years, and at least $6 million per season.

Last week, on TSN’s Insider Trading, McKenzie suggested the two sides could be about $250,000, annually, apart. He also added that there is a “cap hit penalty” when restricted free agents don’t get signed before the season begins.

“For every day that (Lindholm) is not signed in this season, the cap hit for the team will increase by about $30,000 if he were to agree to a $5.5 million deal,” McKenzie reported.

“Let’s say he agrees to a deal that’s $5.5 million AAV, well the cap hit’s going to be up around $5.8 (million) as of now, for each day that goes on.”

Comeback Canucks? Not against the Ducks

ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Alexander Edler #23 and Philip Larsen #63 of the Vancouver Canucks look on after Corey Perry #10 of the Anaheim Ducks reacts to scoring a goal during the third  period of a game at Honda Center on October 23, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The Vancouver Canucks have made a habit of third-period comebacks early this season. Playing with the lead, though? Not so much.

Despite their early penchant for late-game magic — certainly not a sustainable method of winning in the long-term — the Canucks were unable to score a come-from-behind win against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.

Instead, they lost 4-2, as Nick Ritchie and Corey Perry scored late in the third period to nullify any chance of a Vancouver comeback.

Henrik Sedin had gotten the Canucks back into a tied game early in the final period, before the Ducks killed off a Vancouver power play and then surged ahead for good.

It’s Vancouver’s first regulation loss of the season. In six games, the Canucks have played with the lead only once.

Really, the score flattered the Canucks, playing the second half of a back-to-back set in California. The Ducks dominated possession, but goalie Ryan Miller kept the Canucks in it until late in regulation.

The Canucks are now 4-1-1. That’s still a good start, but there have been signs lately that they could soon be served a reality check.


Meanwhile, the Ducks have won two in a row after losing their first four games to start the season.

It was promising that their best players were their best players in Anaheim’s home opener.

Ryan Getzlaf had three assists. Corey Perry had an assist on the winner and scored to put this one away. Defenseman Cam Fowler, who has been at the center of trade speculation in the past few months, scored Sunday and is now up to three goals, with points in four of six games.

“He’s played great,” Getzlaf recently told the Orange County Register. “Cam put a lot on his shoulders last year. He had a great year for us last year and it gets overlooked a little bit because he does it in a little bit quieter way. He’s not flashy.

“I thought his play has carried over from last year. He’s continued to play the same way and at a high level.”

This win puts the Ducks within a point of the San Jose Sharks. The two California rivals face each other Tuesday in San Jose.