A bit disappointed today, due to the fact I had planned to be in Los Angeles tonight for the Maple Leafs-Kings game...thanks to the NHL and NHL PA, that game as well as all other inter-conference games were dashed due to the lockout!
But, back to business as usual...
After these next four to five games, we should get a good picture whether or not the Toronto Maple Leafs and the defending champion LA Kings are headed for the right to play in the playoffs in this shortened NHL season.
Easier said than done, but the Kings are in a much better position than the Leafs are at this point, despite the Leafs holding onto 6th position in the East with 13 victories to the Kings' 10 as of today.
Los Angeles controls its own destiny, as it will host five straight games against decent, yet inferior clubs starting tonight against the Nashville Predators. The Preds have not played well so far on their West coast swing, scoring just two goals in both losses to Anaheim and San Jose. Needless to say, the Kings need a win tonight after getting crushed Saturday in Vancouver.
More so, it was Jonathan Quick who was hammered, allowing four goals on just 23 Canuck shots. However, don't blame Quick so much for his mediocre season thus far. It was Darryl Sutter who overused him at the beginning of the season starting him in eight straight games after going the distance in the playoffs this past summer.
With back-to-back home games against the Preds and St. Louis Blues, you are more likely to see Jonathan Bernier back in goal tonight with Quick getting the start Tuesday against the Blues.
After Tuesday, the Kings will host Dallas (11-9-2) on Thursday then a two-game set against the Calgary Flames (8-8-4) over the weekend.
This is the time for the Kings to separate the men from the boys and climb back into the top five of the Western Conference standings where it belongs.
Now, moving over to the Toronto Maple Leafs who have not qualified for the playoffs since being ousted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the semifinals back in 2004.
Toronto faces a very tough task ahead this week, depending on how Reimer holds up and the return of Matt Frattin and Joffrey Lupul. If all goes well, then the Leafs could definitely help claim their spot as a playoff team.
However, this is a team that has known to get our hopes up and then destroy those hopes very quickly before it is all said and done. Just take the end of last season from February on, which provided a more recent, epic collapse that eventually led to Brian Burke's dismissal just before this season started in January.
Yet, three to four victories against the likes of the Devils, Senators, Bruins and/or Penguins before the end of this week should raise some eyebrows and proclaim that this team is for real. If not, then I guess nobody should be that surprised or disappointed.
The rest of the NHL and anti-Maple Leaf fans out there expect the Leafs to fall flat on their faces this week. I, however feel some confidence in this team as well as my renewed faith in coach Randy Carlyle. He has brought somewhat of a calming sense to this team as well as physical and mental toughness. The Leafs will need to embrace both of those aspects this week more than ever.
Earlier today, the Maple Leafs sent tough guy Mike Brown to the Edmonton Oilers for a 4th round conditional pick, one that could improve as GM Dave Nonis mentioned if the Oilers figured out how to win games instead of lose them.
I definitely would not depend on that. This move was because of depth and the fact that Frattin and Lupul are "close" to returning.
Judging from the response of some of the players, I get the sense that the trade was not welcomed.
Per captain Dion Phaneuf:
"It's a big loss for our team," said captain Dion Phaneuf. "Brownie's a great teammate. He competes every night, you know that night in, night out he's going to do whatever he can physically.
"Get to the net, fighting, hitting, whatever, blocking shots. He's just a complete competitor, great guy in the room and we're going to miss him."
And also goalie James Reimer on the move:
"Brownie was a great guy, an unbelievable teammate," said goaltender James Reimer, who will start in net against the Devils. "He's one of those guys who would stick up for you and do anything. Probably one of the best fighters I've ever seen, too.
"It's tough to see a guy like that go and we'll definitely miss him but that's part of the business and I'm sure he'll do great in Edmonton. They're lucky to have him."
- Courtesy of The Canadian Press
Yes, it always hurts to lose a teammate, one that has been a part of this rebuild for the last couple of years. But that is business, and the Leafs should not let that distract them. If it does, then shame on them. Hit the ice and take it out on the other team, starting with the Devils at the ACC tonight.
The contributions of both Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr were also a huge reason for Brown being the odd man out. Not only do they play a similar style, but are also adding some offensive punch and most importantly, do not commit dumb penalties.
Brown's ill-timed decision to shove Montreal's Josh Gorges into the boards head first last Wednesday probably also contributed to him beind the odd man out. Toronto just cannot afford silly penalties like that in the offensive zone. They especially cannot afford plays like that against teams like New Jersey, Boston and Pittsburgh who will burn them more so than Montreal did.
I did like Brown with the Maple Leafs, and he did add some hard-nosed hockey sense to a team in desperate need of it, but he really was expendable due to the play of McLaren and Orr. And if his departure paves the way for a healthy Frattin, then I do not mind him being gone.
I will be back with more after tonight's pivotal match ups for both the Kings and Leafs.
Patrick Kane's Sunday Shootout Winner
Did any of you happen to see Chicago's shootout win over the Red Wings on Sunday? If so, you were treated to another spectacular goal by Patrick Kane that ultimately proved to be the game winner.
Yet, how close was that to being an illegal shootout attempt? In my opinion, Kane came very close to a complete stop, basicially allowing his skates to continue gliding along the ice, but his forward movement ceased. In the meantime, Kane did a little doce-do stickhandling before picking his spot and hitting the top corner of the net past Jimmy Howard who had been the difference in the 65 minutes of play.
According to the NHL rules, the player taking the shot must be in continuous motion as is the puck. I am not so sure if Kane was in continuous motion, as he appeared to slow down to where he stopped skating, stickhandled, and shot.
I was shocked that Mike Babcock and the Red Wings did not at least question the play. Perhaps Babcock was ticked off that his team gave the lead away after committing a pair of careless penalties in the final minutes by twice flipping the puck over the boards into the stands.
I doubt that, but still amazed there was no argument from the Detroit bench.
Well hockey fans, what do you think?