Thursday, April 28, 2011

More Playoff Tidbits

  • Dwayne Roloson at age 41 is only the second goaltender that old to play in the post-season in last 34 years. Dominik Hasek was 43 when he last appeared with Detroit three years ago. Before that it was Eddie Johnston of St.Louis who played 3 games in 1977 at age 41. The rest of the 41 or older 'tenders make quite a distinguished list (all in the Hall of Fame as well); Jacques Plante, Gump Worsley, Johnny Bower, Lester Patrick and Hugh Lehman.

  • On the topic of the elderly, 42 year old Mark Recchi with his next goal will become the oldest ever to score at least two goals in a playoff season. He scored 6 last year. In 1980, the 52 year old Gordie Howe played 3 games for Hartford and scored a goal and an assist.

  • On the other end of the scale is Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson of Los Angeles. With 12 points in 12 career playoff games, Johnson is one of only five defensemen ever to average at least a point per game over their career (min. 10 games). Bobby Orr is tops at 1.24, Brian Leetch and Paul Coffey are at 1.02 and 1.01 respectively. A surprising number two on the list is Joe Micheletti of St.Louis in 1981, he had 12 points over his only 11 career playoff games. For his part, Doughty is second all-time among defensemen in career Goals/Game (min. 10 games). His 0.42 is behind only Hall of Famer, Harry Cameron at 0.45.

  • Speaking of young defensemen, Cam Fowler is only the 12th teenage defender to score at least 4 points in a playoff season. The most points ever for a teen d-man was Glen Wesley's 14 points in 1988 with Boston and Ray Bourque with 11 for Boston in 1980. The rest of the very eclectic list is Phil Housley, Gord Kluzak, Ed Jovanovski, Scott Stevens, Paul Coffey, Erik Karlsson, Bruce Bell, Bob Goldham and Wade Redden.

  • One interesting stat from the epic Montreal/Boston seven game series, although the teams tied with 17 goals in the series, Montreal's players had an overall Plus/Minus rating of -31 while Boston's was +29. The main reason for this would be Montreal's six to nothing advantage in powerplay goals.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rare Original Six Playoff Photos

I recently found on eBay some listings of old press photos. Lots of great images from the Detroit Press as well as United Press International, most of which I've never seen before. ( )

Below are a few of the better images from various NHL playoffs between 1940 and 1955.

April 7, 1955. Game Three Stanley Cup Finals, Montreal 4 - Detroit 2
Jacques Plante battling to find the puck through Ted Lindsay and Butch Bouchard. Plante stopped 35 of 37 shots, Bernie Geoffrion scores three as Montreal wins 4-2. Detroit was still up 2 games to 1 and would go on to win in seven.

April 22, 1945. Game 7 Stanley Cup Finals, Toronto 2 - Detroit 1

Mel Hill scores on Harry Lumley, first goal of the game in the first period. Jud McAtee and Earl Seibert look on. This would prove to be the last ever NHL game for Jud McAtee. He had played one game each in 42/43 and 43/44 before scoring 15 goals in 4 games this season as a 24 year old. He added 2 goals and an assist while playing all 14 playoff matches. He would play the remainder of his career in the AHL and USHL before retiring in 1950.

March 19, 1940. Game One Semi-Finals, New York Rangers 4 - Boston 0.

Pictured Left to Right; Art Jackson, Ott Heller, Frank Brimsek, Bryan Hextall, Jack Crawford
Dave Kerr earned the shutout as the Rangers started their road to winning the Stanley Cup.

April 18, 1950 Fourth Game of Finals, New York Rangers 4 - Detroit 3 OT
Red Wing George Gee battling Ranger Pat Egan as goalie Chuck Rayner looks on. New York took the next game as well to go up 3 games to 2, but the Wings won games 6 and 7 to take the Cup.

Monday, April 25, 2011

April 25 in Playoff History

April 25, 1985 Chicago 7, Minnesota 6 2OT

This is the second time in a week that I harken back to this very series as a point of comparison for this years playoffs. In a situation eerily similar to what happened 26 years later, the Minnesota North Stars faced a goaltender dilemma. Watching last night's Game Six of Vancouver vs Chicago and seeing the youngster Corey Schneider start over veteran Roberto Luongo, could very well have brought flash backs for long time Chicago fans. The veteran goalie being forced to return in the third period, and then losing the game in overtime, this is exactly what happened 26 years ago today against Minnesota.

In 1984/85 the Minnesota North Stars faced the Blackhawks in the Norris Division Final after knocking off St.Louis by scores of 3-2, 4-3 and 2-0 on the strength of Gilles Meloche's fine goaltending. Chicago had swept Detroit behind Murray Bannerman and a powerful offense that produced scores of 9-5, 6-1 and 8-2 over the Wings. The North Stars won their fourth in a row in beating the Hawks 8-5 in the opener before falling 6-2 and 5-3 back to back.

In the third game 5-3 loss, 23 year old Don Beaupre replaced 34 year old Gilles Meloche late in the second after the vet allowed 4 goals on 24 shots. North Star coach Glen Sonmor elected to start the youngster in the pivotal fourth game. He regrettably pulled the youngster at the 12:32 mark of the third after Denis Savard tied the game 6-6. Meloche stopped 3 more shots in the third and 8 in the first OT before getting beaten by Darryl Sutter early in the second extra frame.

Sonmor's problems continued in game five as this time starter Meloche was yanked halfway through the game after surrendering 4 goals on 17 shots (see last weeks post ). In this case the youngster bailed out the vet and stopped all 18 shots in Minnesota's historical comeback. It was all for not however as Chicago beat Beaupre and Minny 6-5 in game 6 to take the series 4-2.

April 25, 1985 Edmonton 8, Winnipeg 3

On the same day that Beaupre first started over Meloche, the Oilers easily dispatched of Winnipeg 8-3 to sweep their Smythe Division Final. After Randy Carlyle gave the hometown crowd hope by scoring 53 seconds into the game, Wayne Gretzky took matters into his own hands. He scored two in the first to make it 2-1 Oilers after one and assisted on the next three before the second period was halfway through.

The Jets made it interesting on goals by Robert Picard and Ron Wilson late in the second to close it to 5-3. Wilson, somewhat surprisingly was tops on the Jets that spring with 4 goals in 8 playoff matches as he filled the void of an injured Dale Hawerchuk. Oilers made it 8-3 in the third, the last one on Gretzky's rare Shorthanded/Empty-Net goal at 10:31 of the period as Winnipeg fruitlessly attempted a comeback. The Great One's 7 points are his most in a playoff game and second most all-time. He scored a record 47 points over the 17 playoff games in 1985 and won his first Conn Smythe Trophy.

April 25, 1976 Philadelphia 7, Toronto 3

Exactly 35 years ago today, the two-time defending Cup champ Flyers beat up the Leafs in their quarterfinal seventh game. The Leafs actually held 2-1 lead after one on the highly favoured Flyers. Philly finished second in the NHL with 118 points and the Leafs were barely over .500 with 83 points. Flyers dashed any hope Toronto had as they pumped five goals behind Wayne Thomas in a just over three minute span in the middle of the second. Darryl Sittler, who the game before had 5 goals and an assist was held in check in game seven.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bill Barilko, 60 Years Ago

Toronto Wins Cup Fourth Time In Five Years- Primeau Completes Grand Slam, Richard Individual Playoff Star

Bashing Bill Barilko's swashbuckling hockey play produces far more penalties than goals. It ran true to form Saturday night when the blond defenceman got the referee's thumb twice and scored once.

But that one goal was the big one of the 1951 Stanley Cup final. Tallied after two minutes and 53 seconds of sudden-death overtime, it sank Montreal Canadiens 3-2 and won for Toronto Maple Leafs their fourth cup title in five seasons and their sixth in 10.

IT FINISHED off a spine-tingling hockey gameand a record-breaking series for extra play-each of the five games being settled in overtime. Leafs captured four, Canadiens one.

In the decisive game, a spectacular goaltending performance by little Gerry McNeil forced the Leafs to come from behind twice to tie the score. Both times Toronto's ace trigger-man, Tod Sloan, a 31-goal man during the regular season, pulled the string. His second came just in the nick of time-32 seconds before the end of regulation time.

THE 14,577 fans-some 2,000 of them standees-roared "we want the cup" after the overtime goal. In a minute or two it was at centre ice and President Clarence Campbell of the National Hockey League presented the shining 58-year old trophy to Ted Kennedy, Leaf captain.

Kennedy spoke a few words then introduced coach Joe Primeau, first mentor to lead teams to junior Memorial, senior Allan and professional Stanley Cup championships.

THE CROWD shouted for veteran Turl Broda, the greatest playoff goalie of them all, who played two games against Canadiens and all but one period of the six-game semi-final against Boston Bruins because of an injury to Al Rollins. But Broda was too shy and fought off teammates who tried to drag him to the microphone.

While the Leafs were jubilant, the Canadiens, who put up a valiant battle, were downcast. They congratulated the winners on the ice and then moved quickly to their dressing-room. There the 146-pound McNeil, smallest goalie in the NHL, burst into tears.

THE COOL ROOKIE gave an unbelievable display of puck stopping. Once the fans roared their applause when he snatched a rifle-like slap shot from Barilko's stick through a crowd of players. He had 41 shots to handle, 14 of them in the first period and 19 in the dazzling third session. His mates, a poor second when it came to territorial play, drove 19 at Rollins.

AND ALMOST until the third period ended Saturday night, it seemed almost certain that the final with the Leafs would go at least six games.

Rocket Richard had scored a brilliant goal on a typical Richard picture play in the second. Sloan replied with another sparkling tally scored with defenceman Bud MacPherson draped around him.

THE LEAFS hit a hot attacking pace in the overtime and they didn't get untracked until after the two-minute mark when wingers Howie Meeker and Harry Watson roared right in, only to have McNeil foil them. The puck bounded to Barilko and this time his 15-foot slap shot-his specialty whizzed into the net so quickly that McNeil hadn't a chance.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Biggest Comebacks in Playoff History

San Jose did the improbable last night and came back from a 4-0 defecit to win in overtime by a score of 6-5. Thanks to the great James Mirtle at The Globe and Mail, we find out this marks only the fourth time in NHL playoff history that a team has overcome at least a four goal defecit to win a game. It also hasn't been done in 26 years. The others were:

  • April 28, 1985 Minnesota North Stars 5, Chicago Blackhawks 4 The Hawks got out to a 4-0 lead on goals by Denis Savard and Darryl Sutter in the first period and Al Secord and Steve Larmer halfway through the second. North Stars goalie Gilles Meloche was then replaced by Don Beaupre and the comeback was on. Tony McKegney and Brian Bellows scored on Murray Bannerman before the period was over to make it 4-2. Dino Ciccarelli and McKegney again scored by the17:00 mark of the third to send it to overtime. 1:14 into the extra frame, Dennis Maruk won it for Minnesota. The North Stars went on to lose in overtime the next game and lost the series 4-2.

  • April 10, 1982 Los Angeles Kings 6, Edmonton Oilers 5 The 'Miracle on Manchester' saw the Oilers blow a 5-0 lead in the largest comeback in NHL playoff history. On two goals and two assists from Gretzky and goals from Mark Messier, Lee Fogolin and Risto Siltanen Edmonton led 5-0 at the 14:02 mark of the second. At 2:36 of the third Jay Wells finally beat Grant Fuhr and Doug Smith made it 5-2 at 5:58. Mario Lessard held the fort for the Kings until Charlie Simmer made it 5-3 at 14:38 and Mark Hardy brought them within one just over a minute later. With five seconds remaining, Steve Bozek tied it up. Rookie Daryl Evans won the game 2:35 into overtime to give the Kings a 2 games to 1 series lead. They went on to complete the upset winning 3 games to 2.

  • April 8, 1971 Montreal Canadiens 7, Boston Bruins 5 After Montreal's Cournoyer opened the scoring, Bobby Orr and Ted Green made it 2-1 within two minutes. Boston stretched the lead to 5-1 in the second on goals from John McKenzie, Wayne Cashman and Derek Sanderson before Henri Richard started the comeback with less than 5 minutes left in the middle frame. The Habs poured it on with five straight goals in the third on two from Jean Beliveau and one each from Jacques Lemaire, John Ferguson and Frank Mahovlich. Ken Dryden outlasted Eddie Johnston as the Habs tied the series at a game a piece. Montreal would go on to win in seven games and took the Cup one month later.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

60 Years Ago Today

Sixty years ago today, April 19, 1951. Harry Watson scored 5:15 into overtime as Toronto beat Montreal in Game four of the Stanley Cup finals. The Leafs went up 3 games to 1 as every game had been decided in extra time. This set up one of the more memorable goals in hockey history when in game five, Bill Barilko scored the Cup-winning overtime winner.

Montreal coach, Dick Irvin is quoted in the Montreal Gazette saying, "If I was lucky as the Maple Leafs, I'd be a millionaire," alluding to the breaks that were falling the Leafs way. Game four was played at the Montreal Forum in front of 14,452 spectators. Leafs, Sid Smith opened the scoring 38 seconds into the game and Maurice Richard tied it up 14 minutes later. Howie Meeker gave Toronto the lead early in the second period and Elmer Lach deflected in a Maurice Richard shot at 13:49 of the third.

Before Watson won it in extra time, Montreal's Billy Reay missed a break-away chance on Al Rollins. Dick Irvin commented afterwards,"I never did have any luck in the playoffs. The breaks always seem to go to the other team. Billy Reay was in all alone with Rollins and I thought we had it all wrapped up. So what does Billy do? He flips the puck instead of driving it in. Near the end of the third period Doug Harvey's shot hit the crossbar. Rollins never saw it...That's the unseen hand, it's working for Smythe and not for us." Irvin finished his sour grapes with, "We made two mistakes the last two games and each of them cost us a game. That's the unseen hand again."

The Leafs luck and Barilko's shot of course carried them to a Cup two days later. An interesting point about that one, there was an 11:45 PM curfew on Saturday night in Toronto. If the game had gone much longer it would have to have been replayed and Barilko's moment most likely may never have occurred. This actually happened just over two weeks prior when game two of the semi-final between Boston and Toronto had to be replayed the following day when a 1-1 tie went past curfew.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Playoff Tidbits

Some interesting playoff numbers, some expected and some unexpected.

  • Dany Heatley is an Assist Master? Known more as a goal scorer throughout his career, Heatley is a veritable playmaker in the post-season. His Points/Game is nearly identical in regular season and playoffs, he is pretty much 50/50 goals, assists is regular season. Over 50 career playoff games his Goal rate is just about cut in half but he collects an average of 0.72 Assists/Game. This ranks second among active players and 11th all-time, ahead of the likes of Peter Forsberg, Paul Coffey, Adam Oates and Doug Gilmour.

  • Ulf Nilsson, a better playmaker than Gretzky? Speaking of career Assists/Game in the post season, Wayne Gretzky of course is tops in NHL history with 1.25. He is well ahead of Mario Lemieux at 0.897 and Bobby Orr at 0.892. Amazingly, through the existence of the WHA Ulf Nilsson had more palyoff Assists/Game than the Great One. In three post seasons with Winnipeg, Nilsson collected 53 helpers in 42 games for an average of 1.262, just ahead of Gretzky.

  • Habs Goaltenders. Throughout their storied existance, Montreal have had twelve different goalies play at least 20 career playoff games for them. Collectively, Roy, Dryden and Plante have a won/loss mark of 209 and 102. In fact Gump Worsley's Canadiens playoff mark is 29 wins and 7 losses, a Win Pct of .805. Four Habs 'tenders have a sub .500 career record. Thanks to Bill Barilko, Gerry McNeil's record is 17-18, MVP Jose Theodore is at 11-15, Jaro Halak is 9-10 and Carey Price sits at 7-12. His Win Pct. of .368 is by far the franchise's worst. On a positive note for Price, his three career playoff shutouts is one more than Hall of Famer Bill Durnan in half as many games.

  • Ovie and Mario. With 22 career playoff goals in 31 games, Alex Ovechkin has 0.7097 Goals/Game. He is an eyelash behind Mario Lemieux for the all-time top rate. Lemieux scored 76 in 107 games for a rate of 0.7103.

  • Lidstrom and Draper. Niklas Lidstrom, with 250 is 16 games behind Chris Chelios for most playoff games ever. Teammate Kris Draper is somewhat surprisingly in 12th place all-time with 217 career games. Another cool number, Gordie Howe played the most playoff games in WHA history with 78, second place is a tie between Mark and Marty Howe with 75 games.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The First Battle of California, 1969

This year's first-round matchup of San Jose versus Los Angeles marks only the third time ever that a playoff series involved two California based franchises. The last time was only two years ago when the Anaheim Ducks upset San Jose four games to two in a first round series. The first time two California teams met in the playoffs was way back in 1969 when the Oakland Seals met the L.A. Kings.
The 1968/69 season saw Oakland finish in second place in the NHL's West Division with a record of 29-36-11 and 69 points. They ended up 19 points behind first place St.Louis, yet were still 8 points up on Philadelphia in third. Los Angeles grabbed the final Western playoff spot with a measley 58 points. In the opening game, the Kings snuck out a victory a mere 19 seconds into overtime on Ted Irvine's first goal of the playoffs. Oakland had knocked King starter Gerry Desjardins out of the game with two goals on eight shots in the first period. Oakland fought to send the game to extra time on a goal by Gene Ubriaco with under three minutes remaining. Wayne Rutledge would get the victory over Seals Gary Smith before a "crowd" of 5,400.
Oakland bounced back in game two the very next night before an even slightly smaller crowd with a 4-2 (empty net) win. The favoured Seals won convincingly in Los Angeles, taking game three 5-2. On this occaison they knocked out starter Rutledge halfway through the third and Gary Smith stopped 31 of 33 shots. Just over 9,100 attended the Fabulous Forum for this match. The teams split the next two, as L.A. won 4-2 at home in front of 6,100 and Oakland went up three games to two winning back home 4-1.
Before the fifth game, Seals coach Fred Glover complained about his team's "spasmodic effort". In the fifth game Smith stopped 36 of 37 shots outduelling Desjardins and Bob Dillabough potted a pair in front of 7,700. Oakland's erratic play continued into game six as the first period saw the teams split six goals and the Seals collect 16 shots on goal. They would have only 9 shots over the final 40 minutes including 2 in the third. Bill Flett's goal with under five minutes left in the second stood up as the winner as this time Desjardins got the best of Smith. Hockey was still trying to take root on the West coast as evidenced by a half full Forum of 7,800 spectators.
Game seven back in Oakland a somewhat respectable 9,300 were in attendance. Los Angeles led 2-1 after one on a pair of goals from Ted Irvine and after two they held a 3-2 lead. Kings Howie Menard clinched the 5-3 L.A. victory with just over two minutes remaining. Irvine ended up with five goals in the series. Oakland outscored L.A. 25-23 overall and were led by veteran Earl Ingarfield who had 10 points in the series.
The Kings of course were swept by St.Louis in the semi-finals and Oakland would never again win an NHL playoff game. The following year they were swept in the first round by Pittsburgh and never made the post-season again.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Playoff Time!

I had my annual playoff draft last night. Myself and about 5 others of the 18 guys have been in this pool since 1994. 18 of us picking 9 players each. Consider there are 16 playoff teams and 208 total players on the combined top three lines and top two defense pairs among all the teams. We selected 162 of these guys, needless to say the pickings got slim at the end. Our top five went like this:

  1. D.Sedin VAN

  2. H.Sedin VAN

  3. Ovechkin WAS

  4. St.Louis TB

  5. Perry ANA

Even considering the fact that my pool is based in Vancouver, I'd say that's a pretty typical top five although I don't have as much faith in Tampa Bay to have picked St.Louis fourth. In fact I had the sixth pick and snagged Canuck, Ryan Kesler. As a Leaf fan (yeah, year) and self-professed Canuck-hater, it pained me somewhat to make this pick. As a poolie though I am happy to get Kesler at 6th and may have even picked him over the Sedins just on the grit factor alone. I predict he will end up with as many if not more points than the twins. I could very well have taken Toews or Kane as my first pick, but I just don't see Chicago beating the Canucks this year.

Our first round was completed with:

  • 7. Stamkos TB

  • 8. Briere PHI

  • 9. Toews CHI

  • 10. Lucic BOS

  • 11. Giroux PHI

  • 12. Marleau SJ

  • 13. Getzlaf ANA

  • 14. Samuelsson VAN

  • 15. Datsyuk DET

  • 16. Carter PHI

  • 17. Thornton SJ

  • 18. Backstrom WAS

Can't argue with many of these picks other than the realtive lateness of Datsyuk (Zetterberg injury obviously factored here) and the somewhat early pick of Samuelsson.

By the time the picks snaked back to me, I had to take an Eastern conference player for balance. My main rules in playoff pool drafting are try to even out the conferences, pick as much as you can from your predicted final four teams, and never, ever pick players from opposing first round teams. I have Washington going to the final so I grabbed Mike Knuble. Last season he had 6 points in the 7 game upset loss to Montreal, I'll gladly take that rate this year if they go three or four rounds.

Third round, Sidney Crosby was picked. Not by me. I don't believe that he will play again this year, thats a huge gamble with a third round pick. I have Anaheim winning a couple rounds, so I gladly picked Lubomir Visnovsky. In the next round, I got my second Capital on a bit of a risky pick with Mike Green. Finding out today that he is indeed slated to play in the first game makes the pick that much better yet still a fragile one.

In the fifth round I picked Valtteri Filppula who has 36 playoff points over the last three seasons. Of course Detroit end up being my third Western Conference team, but decided to hedge my bets as I figure any one of Vancouver, San Jose, Detroit or Anaheim have a good shot of winning a few rounds.

I rounded out my squad with my second Eastern team, Buffalo. I got Pominville in the sixth and Nathan Gerbe with my ninth and last pick. Between them I picked Washington's Marco Sturm and Red Wing Justin Abdelkader. Slim pickings indeed, although Abdelkader could be one of those surprise points guys and perhaps chips in 6 or 8 points if the Wings go a few rounds.

With my team not making the playoffs since mid-last decade, I need the playoff draft to keep me rivetted to games. We'll see how it goes this year.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sedin or Perry. Who's your man?

Corey Perry will win the Hart Trophy this year as the NHL's most valuable player. Over the last month or so Perry has passed Sedin as the favourite and will win the Hart for a number of reasons.

When comparing players I like to use categories that put different players on an even playing field. Even Strength scoring, Scoring in Divisional games and Road Scoring are great ways to measure a player's impact and or superiority. In most of these categories, Perry has Sedin beat rather convincingly.

(League Ranking in Parentheses)

  • Even Strength Points: Perry 62 (1), Sedin 61 (2)

  • Even Strength Goals: Perry 31 (1), Sedin 23 (18)

  • Divisional Points: Perry 31 (1), Sedin 27 (3)

  • Divisional Goals: Perry 17 (1), Sedin 11 (13)

  • Road Points: Perry 50 (2), Sedin 55 (1)

  • Road Goals: Perry 28 (1), Sedin 24 (2)

As well, Perry has been by far the top scorer since the All-Star break and almost single-handedly kept Anaheim in the playoff hunt.

  • Points Since All-Star Game: Perry 46 (1), Sedin 38 (3)

  • Goals Since All-Star Game: Perry 25 (1), Sedin 14 (10)

When compared to their own teammates, Perry stands out even more. While Daniel Sedin has collected 9 more points and 1 more goal than the nearest Canuck, Perry has 19 more points and 16 more goals than the second place Duck.

Oh, and Perry leads the NHL in Game Winning Goals with 11, one more than Daniel. In my mind there really is no contest in the Hart Trophy race Corey Perry is the man.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Five Games that blew it for the Leafs

Whether the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs by 2, 3 or 6 or 7 points they can point to five games that really cost them. These are games in which they blew a large lead or allowed an opponent to tie a game late and usually lost in overtime or a shootout. As well as they have played in the second half of the season, the ground to be made up was just too much. It certainly would have been helpful if they didn't fritter away points in teh manner they did in these five matches.

November 3, 2010 at Washington. Capitals 5, Leafs 4 in a shootout.

Toronto managed to tally three goals in a three minute span in the third to take a 4-3 lead. Alexander Semin tied it up at 14:22 of the final frame on a powerplay while Brett Lebda was serving a cross-checking minor. Johan Gustavsson lost the shootout battle with Michal Neuvirth.

November 6, 2010 at Toronto. Sabres 3, Leafs 2 in a shootout.

In their very next game, Toronto jumped out to a 2-0 lead until late in the second. Jochen Hecht tied the game at 19:46 of the third. Sabres backup Jhonas Enroth bested JS Giguere in the shootout for the extra point.

November 30, 2010 at Toronto. Lightning 4, Leafs 3 in OT.

Nikolai Kulemin put Toronto up 3-1 7:23 into the third only to have Martin St.Louis score a minute later. St.Louis tied the game with 9 seconds remaining to send it to overtime. Simon Gagne won the game 1:15 later beating Jonas Gustavsson.

February 27, 2011 at Atlanta. Thrashers 3, Leafs 2 in OT.

Taking a 2-0 lead into the third, Atlanta scored on a powerplay early in the third and Tim Stapleton tied it at 15:24 of the final frame. Ron Hainsey beat JS Giguere in OT. Giguere had replaced James Reimer just over halfway through the game and would allow 3 goals in 26 minutes of play.

March 17, 2011 at Florida. Panthers 4, Leafs 0.

Ron Wilson gives James Reimer an un-needed rest day after beating Carolina the day before.

Giggy obviously wasn't the only reason for this loss, but he sure didn't help much.

The one thread through these five games is the absence of James Reimer. Brian Burke could not have forseen what he had sitting down in the AHL in the person of James Reimer or else he would have been called up earlier. Although the fact remains, that is essentially the job of an NHL General Manager, assessing their organizational talent depth and using it properly. As many good things Burke has done over the last year or so, he could have done better in this case.

If he had called up Reimer slightly earlier, (or not sent him down for a brief spell in February) the Leafs may currently been on the good side of the playoff chase.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Jukka-Petteri Niinalaaman, The Next Leaf Saviour

The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Jukka-Petteri Niinalaaman, undrafted star of the Finnish Elite League. The 26 year old played for Ilves Tampere and scored an amazing 92 goals and 122 points in 60 games this season. Niinalaaman will be introduced to the media tomorrow and may be in the line up for at least one of Toronto ’s last four remaining games. The 6’5”, 240 pounder is blessed with blazing speed and a lightning quick release of the puck. His work ethic is second to none and his game is a feisty one as evidenced by his 12 fighting majors. The left winger is slated to skate with Phil Kessel next year and is expected to have an immediate impact. Niinalaaman’s breakout season came after a trying season in 2009/10. He suffered a concussion in the second game of the year and while recovering he ruptured an eardrum in an ice-fishing accident. Upon returning to the line-up Niinalaaman struggled to find his form. Then in February of last year, he was banished to semi-seclusion in northern Norway after the unfortunate Hakan Markkinson incident. Niinalaaman's shot on net accidentally struck teammate Markkinson resulting in the amputation of his left baby-toe. However once the playoffs began, Niinalaaman had returned to the lineup and erupted for 21 goals in 12 games. He quickly drew the attention of NHL front offices. Throughout the 2010/11 year, Niinalaaman was scouted and scrutinized by all 30 NHL squads. He finally agreed to Toronto ’s offer of $13 million over 4 years and figures to be a star for years to come.
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