In Dallas loss, Stars’ Jamie Benn speared Maple Leafs’ Nazem Kadri in groin

Jared Clinton
Jamie Benn and Nazem Kadri get tangled up. (via Streamable)

Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn is the prototypical hockey player. He’s big and strong with a great shot and good hands, and he also can have an aggressive side. Monday evening against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Benn’s temper boiled over late in the third period.

With the Stars trailing the Maple Leafs 3-1 with two minutes remaining in the tilt, Benn set up for an offensive-zone faceoff against Toronto pivot Nazem Kadri. Immediately after the puck was dropped for a faceoff that Kadri won, linesmen began to blow their whistles to retake the draw. That’s when Benn lifted his stick right into Kadri’s groin, drawing the ire of the Maple Leafs center: Read more

James Reimer opens door to No. 1 job – now he has to kick it down

Ken Campbell
James Reimer (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock seemed a little wary about heaping too much credit upon his goaltender after watching his team give up a season-high 44 shots and still win the game Monday night. Babcock has not been around long, but he appears to have fully bought into the notion that Blue & White Disease is still very alive and well and probably doesn’t want James Reimer coming down with a case of it when he faces the Winnipeg Jets Wednesday night.

But sometimes there are enormous things in the tiniest sound bites and snippets of information. And Babcock let out a doozy when he talked about the goaltending his team received from Jonathan Bernier, to whom we’ll refer as the understudy for the moment, in a loss to Pittsburgh Saturday night.

“I thought we started well against Pittsburgh the other night,” Babcock said, “and then, boom, we give up a goal and suddenly we get deflated way easier than we should.”

The Leafs were so shaky, so fragile and so riddled with a lack of self-esteem going into the game that they simply could not afford more sub-par goaltending, regardless of who was occupying the net. Some teams can get away with just good goaltending. But the Leafs require superhuman goaltending to even be competitive in this league. And when they get the kind of goaltending that had been getting of late, they simply do not stand a chance.

But then in comes Reimer and, against one of the league’s most potent offensive teams, stops 43 shots, including five off the stick of the NHL’s leading goalscorer, Jamie Benn, and eight from Tyler Seguin. There were some who made quite a big deal out of the fact that the Leafs managed to hold the Stars big line of Seguin between Benn and Patrick Sharp to just one goal, but it should be noted that the trio combined for a mind-boggling 18 shots on the evening.

“Obviously, goaltending is a huge part of our sport and it’s no different than pitching or a quarterback,” Babcock said. “It’s huge. They give you confidence.”

The Leafs entered the game as the best possession team in the league and had a 1-7-2 record to show for that. In the game against the Stars, the Leafs got killed on possession, 76-54 in the Corsi department and gave up 19 shots in the second period, but won the game. This was a team that needed an outstanding goaltending performance in the worst way and finally got it.

But Reimer has been here before. There have been so many stops and starts to his career that he’s probably lost count. One of the Maple Leafs problems at the moment is that they appear to have two backup goalies and no No. 1 man. Can Reimer change that? Well, Babcock basically said after the Dallas game that the net is now Reimer’s until he falters. “If you’re him, you want to play every night,” Babcock said. “To me, just play good and you get to start the next game and just make sure you play good again and you get to start after that and you just keep going that way.”

This is the opportunity for Reimer to grab the brass ring, with Bernier a little banged up and relegated to the end of the bench, at least for the time being. But this is also the opportunity Reimer has had countless times before and has been unable to take full advantage of it. He has been brilliant for stretches, but never seems to be able to sustain it.

“Honestly, I feel like I’ve been playing well this season,” said Reimer, who has accounted for both Leaf wins this season. “I’m not getting a couple of bounces and (Monday night) I got a couple of bounces, a couple of posts and a couple that managed to hit me when I was sprawling. It was one of those nights when you worked hard and you got rewarded.”

The job for No. 1 has never been as wide open since Bernier arrived as it is right at this moment. Since coming to Toronto, Bernier has done little to prove he is a day-in, day-out No. 1 goalie in the NHL. And it’s up to Reimer, who is due to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, to prove that he can be the one to fill the vacuum. And he’ll have a chance to prove himself all over again two nights from now.

Tie Domi autobiography sheds light on life of an enforcer, but doesn’t name names

Ken Campbell
Tie Domi (left) and his son, Max  (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

One of the most ironic things about the fact that Tie Domi authored an autobiography is that he’d have a very difficult time reading it. As a former beat writer for The Toronto Star, I covered Domi’s career for eight years and I never knew he was dyslexic. I also didn’t know that he was also a celiac with a gluten allergy. Of course, at the time, neither did he.

There are some fairly startling revelations in Shift Work, which was co-written by Jim Lang and is available now. If you liked Domi before this book, you’ll probably like him more now. Written from a personal perspective, of course some of the history is revisionist, but all in all, the book is an entertaining, fast-paced read that has some nuggets of information that pull back the curtain on his career. Domi goes to great lengths to point out how he might not have had book smarts, but he worked harder and had more mental toughness than almost anyone ever in the history of the world. He makes the point early and often, but if Manny can be Manny, then we’ll give some latitude for Tie being Tie.

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Remembering Phil Kessel as a Leaf

Daniel Nugent-Bowman
Phil Kessel (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

The end of the 2014-15 NHL season was anything but sunshine and roses for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Leafs went from being in a playoff position before the new year to winning just nine of 44 games over the final four months of the season. They plummeted to the fourth-worst in the standings.

The team’s stars were bound to come under fire with a winning percentage like that poor and right winger Phil Kessel was front and centre.

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Zuccarello, Weise have big offensive nights

Mats Zuccarello (Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The hats were flying last night and it was as a result of two unlikely marksmen.

New York Rangers right winger Mats Zuccarello and Montreal Canadiens right winger Dale Weise recorded their first career hat tricks in separate victories.

The Rangers defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 on the strength of three Zuccarello goals, the final one into an empty net.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault reunited Zuccarello with linemates Rick Nash and Derick Brassard for the first time in five games and the move paid off handsomely. The trio combined for nine points as Nash and Brassard each had three assists.

As a result, it marked the first time since March 30, 1975 that a Ranger scored at least three goals that were assisted by the same two players, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Steve Vickers scored four with help from Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert.

Zuccarello’s hat trick was also the second in the NHL by a Norwegian player, according to Sportsnet. Espen Knutsen of the Columbus Blue Jackets was the first do in 2002.
Zuccarello now has seven goals this season and 52 in 233 career regular season games.

With the win, the Rangers improved their record to 7-2-2 and sit atop the Metropolitan Division, two points clear of the Washington Capitals.

Weise’s goals helped the Canadiens paste the Calgary Flames 6-2 and improve their NHL-best record to 10-2-0.

Dale Weise (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

Dale Weise (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

Weise opened the scoring in the first period and closed out the scoring in the third, both times receiving assists from linemates Tomas Fleischmann and David Desharnais.

He netted his other goal in the second period when he beat Flames goalie Joni Ortio after he forced a turnover in the Calgary zone.

The goals gave Weise six on the season and 29 in 270 career games.

Zuccarello and Weise became the eighth and ninth players to record hat tricks this season. They joined Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington), Jason Spezza (Dallas), Zach Parise (Minnesota), Joel Ward (San Jose), Mikkel Boedker (Arizona), Anthony Duclair (Arizona) and Justin Abdelkader (Detroit).

Exclusive: Leafs pick Jeremy Bracco on leaving Boston College

Ryan Kennedy
Brendan Shananan welcomes Jeremy Bracco (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The talent battle between the NCAA and CHL has another lightning rod, as right winger Jeremy Bracco has left Boston College to play for the Ontario League’s Kitchener Rangers. Bracco, a small but ultra-skilled Toronto Maple Leafs prospect, was drafted in the second round this summer by the Buds and had just begun his freshman campaign with the NCAA’s Eagles.

So why did he jump to the Rangers?

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Domi heads impressive and productive rookie class for Coyotes

Ken Campbell
Max Domi against Byron Froese (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Seven years ago, almost to the night, Mike Smith held his teammates back while an 18-year-old Steven Stamkos skated out alone for his first warm-up at the Air Canada Centre. Turned out pretty well, we’d say. That night, Oct. 28, 2008, Stamkos registered the first of his 505 career points with an assist.

Monday night was Max Domi’s turn. Now a seasoned veteran goaltender with the Arizona Coyotes, Smith instructed Domi to lead the team out onto the ice, then stood back as Domi whirled around the ice all alone. Like Stamkos, Domi then proceeded to hit the scoreboard, opening the scoring with a power-play goal in the Coyotes 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Max Domi scores in Toronto homecoming, gets pranked by teammates

Ian Denomme
Max Domi. (Getty Images)

Max Domi’s rookie NHL season with the Arizona Coyotes is off to a fantastic start, and on Monday night he kept the good times rolling with a nice personal moment for himself and his family.

Just over six minutes into his first professional game in Toronto, Domi scored a goal on the very ice his dad, Tie, used to patrol for the Maple Leafs. Domi opened the scoring on a power play and the excitement was evident on his face, and Tie’s.

Earlier in the day Domi told Sportsnet it was “pretty awesome” to be back in Toronto for an NHL game, and obviously aware of the moment, his teammates pranked him by having him do a few laps during warmup by himself.

“It’s been really fun to watch him, and as a family we’re really proud of him,” Tie said in a mid-game interview, before going into hockey-dad mode and talking about the goal itself. “He can shoot, believe it or not, he just doesn’t shoot enough.”

Domi grew up in Toronto while Tie was playing the final 11 years of his NHL career with the Maple Leafs. Tie Domi scored 196 points in 777 games with the Maple Leafs before retiring in 2006. Max, the 12th overall draft pick in 2013, now has 10 points in his first nine NHL games.