Predators blowout of Maple Leafs makes for night of firsts

Taylor Beck (Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Craig Hagerman

The 9-2 shelling of the Toronto Maple Leafs by the Nashville Predators Tuesday night crushed fans of the blue and white, shocked hockey fans around the league, and provided a lot of firsts in the process.

For the Leafs, Tuesday’s embarrassing loss on home ice was the first time in the team’s history that they had allowed more than eight goals against at the Air Canada Centre. The game was also the first time since 1991 that the Buds have allowed nine goals in a single game. Read more

Are Leafs fans crazy? Sure – and they have every reason to be

Adam Proteau
Maple Leafs fan Kyle Larkin watches Toronto lose to Nashville 9-2 Tuesday. (Steve Russell, Toronto Star )

On the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live, cast member Leslie Jones was on the Weekend Update segment of the show essentially arguing that women are crazy because they have to be in order to deal with crazy men. And I couldn’t stop thinking of that dynamic Tuesday night as I watched the outpouring of anger, frustration, confusion, and resentment from Toronto Maple Leafs fans during and after their team put in a thoroughly embarrassing effort in a 9-2 drubbing by Nashville at Air Canada Centre.

People outside of Toronto can make jokes about Leafs fans all they want – and believe you me, they want – but the truth is, if you’d lived in this city (as I have) for the past four-plus decades (as I mostly have), you’d understand why they’re beside themselves on a far-too-regular basis. If Leafs fans are crazy to keep subjecting themselves to this show of gongs – and to offer unrelenting support for a perennial disappointment year-in and year-out as they have is at the very least 1% crazy – they’ve got damned good reason to be. If you grew up having either had a small taste of the Leafs’ last Stanley Cup – or, like a growing number of Buds fans, were born after 1967 and thus had never seen a Toronto team win an NHL championship – you’d be a little sensitive to begin with. But it’s not just the volume of losing that’s made Leafs fans so tender to the touch. It’s the way the franchise has lost over the years that’s so maddening.
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Preds’ Taylor Beck scores from between his legs – and with his back to the net

Adam Proteau
Taylor Beck (Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

As a winger for the Nashville Predators, Taylor Beck doesn’t get to play close to his hometown of St. Catherines, Ont., all that often. So it must have been a thrill and then some for him to score twice and add an assist in Nashville’s 9-2 thumping of the host Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night. And it may have been an even bigger thrill for Beck to have scored one of those goals the way he did – with his back to the Leafs net and from between his legs.

With the Preds already up 2-0 late in the first period, Beck went to the front of the Leafs net and turned his back to goalie Jonathan Bernier to screen him; Nashville teammate Filip Forsberg‘s shot hit him in the mid-section, and the puck had barely fallen to the ice when Beck batted it through Bernier to score his second of the night: Read more

Maple Leaf prospect Willie Nylander on pace to destroy Swedish League record books at 18

William Nylander (Hakan Nordstrom/Modo Hockey)

William ‘Willie’ Nylander was a polarizing draft choice for the Toronto Maple Leafs at No. 8 overall last June. Some, myself included, praised the pick because of Nylander’s high ceiling. Others slammed the Leafs for grabbing King Joffrey on skates, a slick-stickhandling boy-man whose body would not hold up the NHL level. That latter group likely wanted a Nick Ritchie type at No. 8.

So far, score one for the Nylander backers.

Yes, the fact he returned to the Swedish League to re-sign with Modo suggested he was far from NHL-ready. He flashed skill but didn’t show enough strength to play for the Leafs, and they didn’t want to tempt themselves by keeping him with the American League’s Marlies, from which they could easily rush him to the big club. But he’s been nothing short of spectacular in the SHL, where his primary goal was to bulk up. A tweet from Domenic Galamini suggested Nylander’s 14 points through 10 games as an 18-year-old put him in elite company. Digging through the SHL’s complete records reveals that Nylander averages more points per game than anyone in Swedish League history during an age-18 season. He’s at 1.4, and the next closest finished at 1.00, meaning he’ll challenge for the record even if he regresses.

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Rumor Roundup: With current tandem struggling, Edmonton may look for help in goal

Ben Scrivens (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

When the Edmonton Oilers began this season it was believed the additions of Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth finally addressed their goaltending issues. Unfortunately, they’re struggling through the early going. The Oilers enter this week with a combined goals-against per game of 3.28. Scriven’s goals-against average is 2.94 with a save percentage of .899, while Fasth possesses a 3.63 GAA and .885 SP.

In the recent past the Oilers’ poor goaltending numbers could be explained away by their weak defensive game, but this season they’ve improved in that department, entering the week 18th in shots-against per game compared to last season’s 26th overall placement. Read more

Dear hockey fans: let’s do more to weed out internet trolls

James Reimer (Getty Images)

The emergence of social media has enhanced the hockey-watching experience for many fans and media, but it’s also spawned the worst element of the sports (and for that matter, the internet) world: namely, the anonymous cowards who get their pathetic kicks hurling abuse at those with whom they take issue.

For some – pro athletes, public figures, opinion columnists – harsh criticism is to be expected: people have every right to be passionate about something that piques their interest, and so long as they engage in a respectful, healthy debate, they should be engaged with. But there are still some boundaries you don’t get to cross just because you have an online connection and a rudimentary grasp of the written word. And we’re still seeing too many people cross it in the hockey community.

Last week, some drooling goober thought he was justified in sending a repugnant Tweet to former NHLer and current analyst Jeff O’Neill that mentioned O’Neill’s late brother, Donny. When he saw it, Jeff O’Neill openly pondered not returning to his Twitter account until January (although he’s since reconsidered). And Saturday night, after the Maple Leafs were humiliated by the Buffalo Sabres, the wife of Toronto goalie James Reimer was subjected to a number of reprehensible Tweets from stooges who know how a keyboard works, but not how basic human decency works. Worse still, this wasn’t the first time Reimer’s wife has had to deal with the yammering clods of the internet. In March, she was the target of invective because of her husband’s play on the ice. (I’m not linking to any of the abusive tweets, because the cretins behind them aren’t gaining any notoriety from one of my files.)

It shouldn’t have to be said, but apparently, it needs to be: there is no excuse for attacking a player’s wife, girlfriend or any family member. None. If you don’t know why this is inappropriate, go soak your head for a good, long while, and try figuring it out again on your own. The families of hockey players have no connection to your enjoyment of the game. Any rationalization you have to include them in your hate is fundamentally flawed, as are you as a human being if you’re stupid enough to do so. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Nervous GMs may make moves near American Thanksgiving

Tyler Myers

Since the implementation of the salary cap in 2005, early-season NHL trades have become rare. Even the ability for teams to absorb part of a player’s salary failed to spark an increase in player movement during a season’s opening weeks.

That partially explains why it took a month for this regular season’s first trade to occur, when the Dallas Stars shipped aging defenseman Sergei Gonchar to the Montreal Canadiens for forward Travis Moen. Since that deal there’s anticipation over when the next NHL trade will take place. Read more

Penguins winning with possession, penalty killing, goaltending. Who knew?

James van Riemsdyk (left) and Evgeni Malkin (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

As has been the case for the better part of the past decade, the proof will be in the playoffs for these Pittsburgh Penguins. They’re the No. 1 team in the NHL at this moment in terms of winning percentage, but we’ve seen this act before. Nobody will believe this team is for real until the players and their goalie prove they can excel in the post-season.

But there is a different feel around this team. With guys like Nick Spaling, Patric Hornqvist and Steve Downie in the lineup, they’re certainly a little more difficult to play against. Heck, even Evgeni Malkin got into a fight in the Penguins 2-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night after he responded to a perfectly clean hit by Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf. There is a sense that not only do these Penguins have more of an edge, they also have more of a team concept in their own end of the ice. Read more