In a lost season for the Maple Leafs, Toronto fans can at least take solace in the fact that at the most important time of the year for the provincial rival Ottawa Senators, the Leafs have put up two victories and hurt the Sens’ playoff chances.
Ottawa went into Sunday night’s game in a must-win situation. With the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins both three points up on the Senators, a victory would have pulled them within a single point and made for a furious fight to the finish. Instead, the Leafs came together to pull off a shootout win, aided in the first period by one of the best stops Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier has made all season.
With Toronto up 1-0 less than four minutes into the game, Ottawa broke down ice with Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur driving toward the net. Rookie Mark Stone stopped up at the top of the Toronto zone, spun and fired a puck on net, which ended up on the tape of MacArthur following a Bernier rebound. With Bernier down, MacArthur simply had to elevate the puck to tie the game for the Senators, but Bernier reached back with his trapper and pulled the puck out of harm’s way: Read more
Sunday’s NHL action featured five games, all of which had implications on the playoff race. But of those five, three had a little extra depth to them. The Blackhawks/Blues, Senators/Leafs and Flyers/Penguins games weren’t necessarily more exciting than the Capitals’ win over Detroit or Montreal’s 4-1 victory against Florida, but the regional rivalries always have a discernible zest to them that sets them apart – and that comprises the financial backbone of the league’s most profitable teams.
The Leafs’ season has been abysmal and both their players and fans have looked like they’d checked out of things weeks ago, but Toronto’s players and fans got an emotional jolt in a 2-1 shootout win that dealt Ottawa’s playoff hopes a serious blow. The Flyers did more or less the same thing to the Penguins, only Philadelphia needed just three periods to squash the Pens 4-1 and jeopardize Pittsburgh’s post-season hopes. And the Blues and Hawks have the best kind of rivalry – one in which both teams are headed to the playoffs this year and are jousting for top spot in their division.
Sorry, Detroit vs. Washington and Montreal vs. Florida, but you’re going to have an uphill battle trying to replicate the emotion seen in those type of games. Read more
Sorry, hockey world. Rob Ford is your problem now.
The controversial former mayor of Toronto was elected to the Hall of Fame’s board of directors late last month, a Hall spokesperson confirmed this weekend.
Ford, who now serves as a Toronto city councillor, will hold a non-voting position on the board alongside two other city councillors. That means he’ll have no say in who is inducted.
Ford bowed out of Toronto’s last mayor election after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He ran for a council seat instead, and has settled into a quieter role at Toronto City Hall since winning that seat on council.
But the man’s pop culture legacy remains, and it’s going to be hard to ignore as he joins the Hall of Fame board.
News Wednesday that actor and famous hockey/Boston Bruins fan Denis Leary was producing for IFC a new series centered around an amateur hockey team should inspire puck fans to pitch more hockey-themed shows to TV networks in the hope they might get picked up and put on air. Here, I’ll show you what I mean, using titles of TV series as examples:
The Walking Dead An outbreak of a mysterious virus ravages the Sabres, Coyotes and Maple Leafs and leads to locals staggering aimlessly and dead-eyed in the streets in Buffalo, Arizona and Toronto. While death sometimes seems to be a merciful option for our heroes during such a bleak time, they bravely continue to search and hope for a place to settle and grow. Read more
When the Sabres and Maple Leafs clashed Wednesday night – OK, “clash” is probably too strong a word, as it’s commonly associated with the word “titans” and an excellent band you young punks should get into if you haven’t already, and we don’t want to sully either of those things by linking them to these two teams – we saw another instance of the Bizarro World phenomenon that occurs when fans obsessed with winning the upcoming NHL entry draft lottery cheer for the opposing team to beat their own organization.
Some NHLers have all but dry-heaved after the indignity of performing in front of their hometown fans and being subjected to cheers for the visitors. That’s certainly understandable, as it runs contrary to every instinct we have about pro sports. Playing on the road should put the fear of the hockey gods into players, not wrap them in blankets and give them a nice hug and a cookie. But players and team executives shouldn’t see this as the fault of fans. To the contrary: they should appreciate a fan base that recognizes the best way to build a Stanley Cup contender under the league’s current collective bargaining agreement is to do what teams like Toronto and Buffalo are doing: by tearing it all down, taking your lumps like a grownup and building slowly. Read more
By Melissa Wronzberg
While it’s been a rough season on the ice for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the organization deserves a lot of credit for a pair of recent heart-warming gestures.
For Saturday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators the Leafs hosted Garrett ‘G-man’ Gamble. The 11-year-old boy suffers from Moriquio Syndrome (a rare birth defect that impacts metabolism), which has left him restricted to a wheelchair. The Leafs signed him to a one-day contract, and gave him a dressing room stall beside captain Dion Phaneuf. At the end of the night, he was named first star in the Leafs overtime win. Read more
With this NHL off-season having the weakest class of unrestricted free agents in recent memory, the biggest names that change teams more than likely are going to be behind the bench. Some of the potential coaching free agents will depend on the regular-season and playoff games to come this spring and summer, but there’s no doubt new salary benchmarks will be set for a profession that hasn’t been flush with money (at least, as compared to NHL coaches’ counterparts in other sports). Here are the top five potential free agent coaches in the 2015 off-season:
5. Dan Bylsma. The former Penguins coach and Stanley Cup-winner has been waiting quietly on the sidelines for the opportune moment to restart his NHL coaching career, and although he has another year remaining on his contract with Pittsburgh, few think he’ll stay there for much longer. He’s not an authoritarian figure in the dressing room and showed during his time with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin he understands how to handle the league’s top young talent. Bylsma’s pedigree and young age – he’s still only 44 years old – will have him on the list of interviewees for a number of job openings. Read more
Before any Pittsburgh fans go and get their jerseys in a jumble, just pause for a second, take a deep breath and think about it: if the Penguins fail to get back to the Stanley Cup final for the sixth straight season, what else is left for the franchise to do but blow up the core?
After an off-season of upheaval in which Pittsburgh brought in a new coach, a new GM and a new supporting cast for Sidney Crosby, there would be few options left but to raze the roster to the ground and begin anew. Sure, the Penguins could use Marc-Andre Fleury as a scapegoat and try using the same roster again next season with a different goalie, but that would only be putting off the inevitable. (Just ask the San Jose Sharks, who are years behind on the rebuilding schedule after sticking with their core despite perennial playoff failures, including their first-round faceplant last year.)
The best thing for the Penguins to do would be to try to trade Crosby for the next Crosby.