Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Toronto Maple Leafs.
For better or worse, the Toronto Maple Leafs rarely have been boring.
The short version of the 2013-14 season was a lot like the last: what started with promise (and maybe a few rather lucky breaks) ended in a stunning collapse. This time around, they didn’t even make the playoffs, as the Maple Leafs lost 12 of their last 14 games as they spiraled out of the playoff picture.
One might say that the advanced stats community laughed the Maple Leafs’ way out of the postseason – at least the more vindictive among that community – but the narrative took a surprise twist as Toronto eventually hired some of those howling critics.
While the executive structure of the franchise remains in flux, the Brendan Shanahan era seems to have begun with some surprising changes, even if head coach Randy Carlyle remains … at least for now.
Last season, it seemed like the onus was on Toronto’s two stars who were seemingly about to enter contract years in Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf. Those two are back and will remain on the hot seat like usual, yet the people who run the team will likely feel the heat more than anyone in 2014-15.
That’s not to say there aren’t quite a few players with quite a lot on the line next season, though. James Reimer may very well push Jonathan Bernier for starts even after he seemed like he was out the door. Players like Bernier, Nazem Kadri, Cody Franson and even new additions like David Booth have a chance to earn (or lose) a lot of money this season.
It’s a stretch to say that the “nerds won” in Toronto, but a transition seems to be happening — or at least is being considered. That’s a big reason why the Leafs should be fascinating to watch next season. As usual.
So overtime against the New York Islanders seemed like a perfect time for captain Claude Giroux to bust his scoring slump.
Without a goal in his last 12 games, or since Dec. 21 before the holiday break, Giroux finished the Flyers comeback with an overtime goal to give Philly a 3-2 victory on Sunday. Jakub Voracek did great work along the boards to force a turnover from John Tavares, and Shayne Gostisbehere followed up his chance with a quick pass to a wide-open Giroux at the top of the crease.
That comeback win — Philly trailed by two goals early in the second period — bumps the Flyers back into a wild card spot.
Steve Mason had a big game in net for Philly, with 36 saves, while the Flyers fired 47 shots on goal toward Thomas Greiss, although it’s a difficult task trying to re-set and stop Giroux — an accomplished scorer in the NHL — on the doorstep.
Goals, goals and more goals! Blue Jackets outlast Senators for overtime win
Plenty of goals. A little three-on-three overtime. Seemed like an enjoyable afternoon of hockey between the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Well, maybe the goalies, Mike Condon and Joonas Korpisalo, didn’t enjoy it as much.
The Blue Jackets prevailed for a 7-6 overtime win, with Cam Atkinson scoring just 1:09 into the extra period. That’s his 23rd goal of the season. Only two players — Jeff Carter (24) and Sidney Crosby (28) — have scored more goals than Atkinson this season.
With the win, and the Capitals sitting idle today, the Blue Jackets move back into a tie with Washington at 68 points in the fight for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
There were some anxious moments for Columbus.
Rookie defenseman Zach Werenski was hurt blocking a shot in the third period. He briefly left the game, unable to put any pressure on his right leg as he was helped off.
The good news: He only missed a few minutes, returning late in regulation and for the overtime as well, which is important for the Blue Jackets.
#CBJ Zach Werenski said on @FOXSportsOH post-game he "thought it was broken" and "long term" injury when he blocked the shot.
“He’s made a couple of huge mistakes in a game and he comes to the bench, shakes it off and then goes out and makes a great play. For a 19-year-old playing that position and the amount of time he’s getting in key situations with this organization, it’s pretty impressive.”
Julien: ‘We don’t have enough talent to … get away with a mediocre game’
On Saturday, Julien said he wasn’t quitting on his team. On Sunday, after another frustrating defeat, in which Boston carried the play, particularly in the second period, Julien offered a pretty frank assessment of his team and its current make up.
Scoring is a major issue for the Bruins. They’ve been terrific with puck possession, the best team in the league in that category at even strength, but they’re in the bottom third of the league when it comes to goals-for. Against the Penguins, they tested Matt Murray with 45 shots, including 22 in the second period, and could only manufacture one goal.
It didn’t help Boston’s cause that their starting goalie Tuukka Rask left the game due to migraines and didn’t return. Zane McIntyre entered the game and was ventilated for three goals in under three minutes in the third period. Game over.
And that just adds more scrutiny on the Bruins and Julien’s job security.
“Right now we’re all confident in Claude, and we all want to be here and play for him. If [saving Julien’s job] is the extra motivation you need for the games then so be it,” said Patrice Bergeron, per CSNNE.com.
“But we’re all professionals and we’re here to win hockey games. I’ve said this before that I’ve been with Claude for 10 years, and he’s the guy that I believe in and that I want to play for.”
With head coach Claude Julien on the hot seat — he didn’t wish to discuss his future following Friday’s heartbreaking defeat to Chicago but spoke at length on Saturday about how he’s “not quitting on the team” — the Bruins came unraveled over a three-minute stretch in the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.
That’s the wrong team to come unraveled against.
The Penguins scored three times in just under three minutes early in the third, and suddenly the Bruins went from being in a close game, albeit in a trailing position, to a rout. When you have as dangerous a lineup as the Penguins do, led by Sidney Crosby, who had three points today, a game can quickly get way from the opposition.
Boston lost 5-1, despite another decided edge in puck possession — the Bruins lead the league in that category at even strength — and on the shot clock. They peppered Matt Murray with 45 shots, including 22 shots in the middle period and still emerged down a goal.
Per the Bruins at the beginning of the third period: Rask was not feeling well and would not return. Enter Zane McIntyre off the bench and the Penguins went on a scoring frenzy that ultimately ruined any chance of a Boston comeback.
Murray provided a little added salt in the wound, as he robbed Brad Marchand with the glove in close. That would not have had an impact on the end result. The Bruins were down four at the time, late in the period. That would’ve made the final score seem a tad more respectable. That’s it. But that missed opportunity seemed symbolic of their struggles to score.
They have lost four straight, although they remain third in the Atlantic Division.