Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Cautious Optimism in Late November!
Toronto Maple Leaf fans are showing great restraint at this point in the National Hockey league season. There have been moments to jump off the couch, scream madly, and fist pump all the way to the fridge for another cola. After all, it is now almost December, and the Leafs nation has yet to experience any kind of catastrophic slide.
The statistics speak for themselves: the Leafs have 28 points, just four shy of the Penguins who are first overall in the league. Mind you, the blue and white from Toronto have struggled lately, with four wins and six losses in their last ten games. They have not experienced a dreadful November drought, as has been the case in the past. Last year they won only three games in the month, whereas this year they have amassed fifteen points thus far. They do face the Bruins twice this week, with the potential to put even more points on the board.
Phil Kessel has put smiles on a lot of faces in Hogtown this fall. He is the scoring leader in the league with sixteen goals and thirty points. His teammate Joffrey Lupul is third with 27 points. If you run your finger down the list of other top scorers in the league, you will not find any other Leafs, unless you have a very long sheet of paper.
Personally, I enjoy the play of Mikhail Grabovski. His explosive speed gets him into situations where he can contribute offensively when he is on the ice. He easily swings past defencemen, and cuts to the net off the wing. Although he may not score on all of those occasions, the move usually results in fat rebounds for his linemates.
The Leafs’ goaltending situation has become most interesting in the last little while. Most hockey pundits had written off Jonas Gustavsson a couple of weeks ago. James Reimer had started the season brilliantly, but had been sidelined because of a nasty check to his head. Ben Scrivens has been a suitable replacement, but did not appear to have the stuff to take the Leafs to the Promised Land. (That would be the playoffs, which have eluded the Toronto team for more than a decade.)
For the last little while, Gastavsson, also known as “The Monster”, has performed brilliantly. Like so many of the other goalies in the NHL, he quickly swings from post to post, smothers rebounds, and gives his team a chance to win every game. Reports are now circulating that Reimer’s “upper body injury” has now healed sufficiently to allow him to stand in the blue ice again.
The Score hockey card company, under the direction of Panini America, has a full set of 2011-2012 cards on the market. There are 500 cards in the set, as well as 46 rookies. There are fourteen Maple Leaf players in the regular set, with three “Hot Rookies”: Scrivens, Joe Colborne, and Matt Frattin. In order to be included in the rookie section, one must have played last season, long enough for a cup of coffee.
With more than a quarter of the season now completed, things bode well for the Leafs. It looks as if Coach Wilson’s job is safe for the moment.
Not the case for Bruce Boudreau. He used to coach the Washington Capitals, the team that Alexander Ovechkin plays for. There has been a running battle between the two for some time. Apparently, Ovechkin won the war, at least for the moment.
Paul Maurice has also lost his coaching assignment in Nashville. Kingston’s Kirk Muller is taking over that position. There have been more than 160 coaching changes in the NHL since Lindy Ruff went behind the bench in Buffalo. His teams are always competitive, although they have yet to win the big one with Ruff as the head coach.
Congratulations are in store for the McMaster Marauders for winning the Vanier Cup, and the British Columbia Lions for their victory in the Grey Cup. Football fanatics can now turn their attention to the NFL.
Leaf fans? Baby steps first.
November 29, 2011