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.

Video: Evgeni Malkin leaves Oilers spinning

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Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.

It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.

His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:

These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”

Lightning’s first fight this season: Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo

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Fighting is down more or less across the board in the NHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning might be the franchise least interested in dropping the gloves.

Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo already has some name recognition to it, yet it gets some bonus points for being the Bolts’ first fighting major of 2015-16.

It … probably loses those bonus points in being run-of-the-mill.

Hey, be fair; the Lightning are clearly out of practice.

Oilers GM doesn’t want to force a trade for the sake of a trade

Peter Chiarelli

It must be a helpless feeling to sit idly by while your team continues to flail, but such emotions are what opposing GMs love to prey on.

Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli hasn’t been around through much of the suffering for this hapless franchise, yet that doesn’t mean he’s immune to the calls for improvement. To his credit, he’s not buckling under that pressure.

You can see and hear his full comments below:

If you don’t feel like playing the video, the message is simple enough.

Chiarelli isn’t happy with Edmonton’s record – he hasn’t “seen progression” in ways that he was expecting, but again … he doesn’t want to force moves.

Long story short, he can “sleep at night,” even if he’s disappointed.

Is he right to take a relaxed approach, though? Maybe it’s time to blow up a part of what isn’t working? Have some fun armchair GM’ing on this one.

Slump busters: Simmonds, Couturier end long scoring droughts in win over Rangers


It’s been a good few days to be a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers, as their team delivered not once, but twice during Thanksgiving weekend.

The Flyers picked up a 3-2 OT win over the Predators on Friday before shutting out the New York Rangers, 3-0, on Saturday.

It was a good afternoon for three players in particular.

Both Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier ended long scoring slumps.

Simmonds’ two goals were his first in seven games, while Couturier scored for the first time in his last 13 contests.

Goaltender Steve Mason also had a solid outing against the Rangers.

The 27-year-old turned aside all 24 shots he faced including this great save on Dominic Moore:

The Flyers lost defenseman Nick Schultz to an upper-body injury in the first period after he took a big hit from Dylan McIlrath.

Luke Schenn defended his fallen teammate by dropping the gloves with McIlrath, which didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.

The Rangers are now on a season-high three-game losing streak. Their lack of effort has to be concerning for their head coach Alain Vigneault.

The Flyers outshot the Rangers 30-14 over the final 40 minutes.