Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf

It’s Toronto Maple Leafs day on PHT


Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Toronto Maple Leafs.

After missing out of the playoffs for a franchise-worst seventh consecutive season, the Toronto Maple Leafs entered the 2013 campaign with a relatively new ownership group, a new GM in Dave Nonis, and the same starting goaltender.

Despite months of speculation that Roberto Luongo would come to Toronto, netminder James Reimer was given a chance at redemption after his rough sophomore campaign and he took advantage of it. With a 2.46 GAA and topnotch .924 save percentage, Reimer was one of the main reasons the Toronto Maple Leafs finally ended their playoff drought.

Of course, he didn’t do it alone. Even with Joffrey Lupul missing most of the season, the Maple Leafs still excelled offensively thanks to Phil Kessel, newcomer James van Riemsdyk, and the rise of 22-year-old forward Nazem Kadri.

Toronto faced off against the Bruins in the first round and fell behind 3-1 to Boston in the series. Still, they fought back to the point where they had a commanding 4-1 lead near the midway point of the third period in Game 7. Ultimately, they left the crowd at Boston’s TD Gardens ecstatic and Leafs fans in shock by allowing the lead to slip away.

That dramatic 5-4 overtime loss is how their season ended and it’s what hangs over their head as they prepare for the 2013-14 campaign.

Offseason recap

The Toronto Maple Leafs made use of their compliance buyouts by getting rid of Mike Komisarek and Mikhail Grabovski’s contracts. Grabovski took the news hard and reacted by calling Leafs coach Randy Carlyle an “[expletive] idiot.”

Despite those maneuvers, the Maple Leafs are in a tough cap position after acquiring Dave Bolland from the Chicago Blackhawks, re-signing Tyler Bozak to a five-year, $21 million contract, and inking unrestricted free agent David Clarkson to a seven-year, $36.75 million deal.

Additionally, Toronto traded for goaltender Jonathan Bernier to battle Reimer for the starting job. Bernier comes with a $2.9 million annual cap hit and the Maple Leafs agreed to retain $500,000 in cap space when they sent Ben Scrivens and Matt Frattin to Los Angeles in the same trade.

Toronto now has a little over $4 million in cap space left, according to Cap Geek, but they still need to re-sign restricted free agents Cody Franson and Kadri.


Introducing: PHT’s ‘Team of the Day’ summer series

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.