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.
Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing
The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?
Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.
Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.
A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:
Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”
He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.
Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.
"I don't think the Kings look at Doughty differently…Muzzin to back down from that fight on 1st shift is an embarrassment." – Keith Jones https://t.co/KI9dx8Rirx
For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.
Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.
OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.
It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.
Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.
In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.
It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.
The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?
“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”