February 10, 2013
Maple Leafs 5, Flyers 2; Kings 4 @ Blues 1
What can I say, the Maple Leafs are on fire right now! And the Kings actually looked like a championship caliber team.
First, let's begin with the Kings who needed a good performance after yesterday's killer defeat.
Darryl Sutter finally played Jonathan Bernier, who helped give incumbent starter Jonathan Quick a rare night off. It could not come at a better time, as the Kings have until Friday to get back home, recharge, and then host the weakest team in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets. Somehow, they were able to have their way with the San Jose Sharks tonight in a 6-2 triumph. I guess the mighty Sharks overlooked them a bit?
By the way, after the Kings visited Columbus this past week, I hope they were kind enough to give one of the championship rings to Jack Johnson. JJ had been a big part of the Kings rebuild and structure that finally became a Stanley Cup team. Unfortunately for him, his trade to Columbus was the last piece (Jeff Carter) that the Kings needed to get it done. If not, perhaps they will be able to do something of the kind when Johnson returns to Staples Center on Friday.
Upon returning home, the Kings should be well rested along with Quick back in net ready to light up the Jackets and get back to the .500 mark before heading to Chicago on Sunday.
I was expecting the Blues to come out ready to go tonight, having lost four straight and then facing a team who swept their butts out of the 2nd round in the spring. Whatever happened to that early energy, we'll never know. Bernier was sharp when he had to be, although he was rarely tested. His biggest save of the evening came soon after the Blues got on the board thanks to another successive boarding call to Rob Scuderi for his hit from behind on St. Louis captain David Backes. It was Backes who broke free into the slot, but Bernier was quicker beating a tough shot with his blocker arm.
Los Angeles also may have caught a much needed break when the original Blues starter in goal Jaroslav Halak was scratched due to re-aggravating his groin injury during warm ups. This threw in Brian Elliot into the game who is beginning to return to his inconsistent play in Ottawa. Either way, the Kings were finally able to pot some goals and earn a much needed victory.
At the moment, only the Chicago Blackhawks are as dangerous as the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite coming out flat in the first ten minutes of the opening period, the Leafs were able to finally get their road game confidence back and dominate the rest of the game.
It is hard to find a team right now who has a fourth line as dominate and more confident than Toronto's, and it is a line that has just come together recently. Frazer McLaren has fit in very nicely with Colton Orr and Leo Komarov. At first, I thought that a line full of "goons" would not work so well, but they are all cashing in quality ice time and are also producing some offensive punch. Personally, I have never quite gone for the 3rd or 4th line goonery in the past, especially if those guys have no skill. One player comes to mind who was just sent from LA to Carolina was Kevin Westgarth. If he ever contributed on a goal, call the press! But this line of tough rollers have gone beyond the call of duty, and I am sure no one could be more happy than Randy Carlyle and Brian Burke.
Matt Frattin also deserves some praise. Every time he takes the ice, his confidence has doubled. Once again, Frattin flew in from nowhere to help tip home a shot from outside the circle. This kid is a playmaker, and similar to Nazem Kadri last year, the Leafs were not sure what to do with either of them. The club continued to award ice time to non-contributors like Colby Armstrong and Philipe Dupuis. Now it is their time to shine and become permanent fixtures in the lineup and are taking every advantage of it. It is safe to say that both Kadri and Frattin have graduated from the Marlies.
Injury to James Reimer Opens Door for Ben Scrivens:
The injury to James Reimer could not have come at a worse time. Toronto has seemed to put it all together recently, and now it must try to continue the success without its #1 option in net. Ben Scrivens came in and helped slam the door on the Flyers making 32 saves, but allowed a late goal when the game was already well in hand. Scrivens passed the test tonight, but will he be able to carry the torch into Carolina on Thursday and then into the weekend against Ottawa on Saturday?
Last October, Reimer's concussion problems were caused by a cheap elbow shot to the head by Canadiens captain Brian Gionta. But this latest injury is puzzling and makes anyone wonder if Reimer can be counted on at all in the future. It seemed like a tweak of a knee muscle of ligament or even a groin issue.
However, just reading up again on what may have actually happened, it does not seem all too serious at the moment (courtesy of TSN):
After the game, Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle said he doesn't think the injury is serious, adding Reimer shouldn't "miss any extended period of time."
This brings some bright news for the Leafs, especially when it looked as if Reimer's season could have been done as he was gingerly helped off the ice. Perhaps we will know more in the morning. However, this still means that some time off will be needed for Reimer to regain his strength and timing. In the meantime, we will be able to see what Scrivens can bring to the table, as he will have some time to prepare for Thursday's start in Carolina.
If Reimer does in fact miss significant time, there is no question that Toronto will need to find someone to bring in. His untimely injury tonight has Toronto's brass wondering if Reimer can really be relied upon on in the future. It is a shame that his health is in question again after taking over the starter's role over past two weeks.
With Jonathan Bernier finally getting a start tonight and looking solid in net in LA's 4-1 win in St. Louis, would it make sense for the Leafs to make an effort to pry him for another defenseman that the Kings need? It seems as if the Kings are looking to sell Bernier for not as such a high price as I would expect. Perhaps a 3rd or 4th rounder and Mike Komisarek would get the job done? Or maybe someone like Carl Gunnarsson and a lower draft pick? Mark Fraser has been playing well enough to solidify his spot, and the impending return of Jake Gardiner will create another logjam on the Toronto blueline.
Despite the fact that LA just acquired Keaton Ellerby, the Kings are probably still looking to add some defensive corp reinforcments. Matt Greene (out for season with back issues) and Willie Mitchell (?) are two big shoes to fill. Ellerby, wearing #5 dressed tonight in St. Louis and played a very strong game, including some time on the power play and penalty kill as well in a winning effort.
The only problem I see at this point, is if the Kings would be willing to deal Bernier when the Kings really do need him, even if Sutter thinks otherwise. The Kings have Martin Jones in Manchester, who seems to have gotten his game back posting a 2.40 GAA and a save percentage of .920. Since Quick will get most if not all the starts the rest of the way, then why not make a deal that will help both teams.
If Bernier had not gotten the start tonight, I would have driven down to St. Louis from my Chicago area home, thrown a noose around his neck and forced him to play Bernier...LOL. Just kidding, obviously, but that is how ticked off I am at how Sutter has handled his goaltenders this season. A season in which teams really do need two strong goalies ready to go.
I know you Leaf fans hate the idea of trading away draft picks, but would you really want to get rid of anyone in the lineup as of right now?
Let's just hope that about a week off will give Reimer enough time to be ready for a game next week. And also hope that Scrivens can carry the load until then.