Things haven’t been going exactly as planned for the Toronto Maple Leafs lately. That carried into this past week, with two losses and just one victory in three games.
From December 4 to December 11, the Maple Leafs managed to accumulate just three points. This has put them well behind their pace from earlier in the season and they are beginning to drop in the Eastern Conference standings because of it.
Whether it be a struggling offence, poor penalty killing, power play woes or nasty defensive play, the Maple Leafs had a rather up and down week. Let’s take a look at what went down in this edition of Leafs’ Week in Review.
The return of James Reimer
Reimer officially returned to the lineup on December 3 when he got the nod against the Boston Bruins, but this past week was really his first full week of playing.
The 23-year-old got the night off on Monday against the New York Rangers. Jonas Gustavsson took over and he helped the Leafs to a 4-2 victory, which gave them 32 points on the season.
Reimer was back between the pipes the following night against the New Jersey Devils, though. In that game he managed to hold his ground for the most part, but wasn’t able to come through in overtime as David Clarkson beat him between the legs.
He was offered another chance on Friday night, but wasn’t given a chance at the same time. The Buds took six minor penalties that resulted in power plays for the Washington Capitals, who scored on four of them.
Despite an 0-3 record in his first three games back, Reimer is still an important part of this team. While Gustavsson has played very well lately, Reimer is the Leafs’ No. 1 goalie and is just waiting for some support from those standing in front of him.
Offence dried up
It was a nasty week for the Maple Leafs when it came to finding the back of the net. In three games, Toronto managed a total of just eight goals, which translated into an average of 2.6 goals per game. At that rate, it is generally pretty tough to win two or three times each week.
It remains to be seen exactly where the heart of the Leafs’ struggling on offence is located, although they are still waiting on any sort of a contribution from Philippe Dupuis. While he is a fourth line player, zero points in 26 games isn’t what you would call acceptable.
Tim Connolly had just one point, a goal, over the three-game span, Joey Crabb didn’t have any points after a hot start and Nikolai Kulemin doesn’t even have an assist in his last five.
Yet somehow the Leafs still own the league’s second best power play. This has worked to their advantage, obviously, especially while going through such a dry spell.
Kessel and Lupul not slowing down
In the midst of the Maple Leafs’ offence struggles, the NHL’s most dynamic duo has not slowed down one bit.
Phil Kessel is still tearing things up, just in a different way. Rather than scoring goal after goal, Kessel has been picking up assists like it’s nothing. He had four points (two assists) in three games this past week, and has five points (three assists) in his last five games.
Despite the fact that he is still picking up points at a fast rate, he has lost the league lead in this category. No wonder, though, as Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux has been on fire with 20 points in his last 12 games.
Joffrey Lupul, meanwhile, has been chugging along just as well as Kessel. He had three points and went plus-4 in three game last week. Lupul currently sits fourth in league scoring, just three points back of Kessel for second.
Grabovksi welcomes a child
Congratulations to Maple Leafs centre Mikhail Grabovski, who did not play in New York on Monday so he could be at the hospital for the birth if his second child.
Sale of MLSE
It was announced on Friday morning that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment had been sold to Bell Canada Enterprises and Rogers Communications. This deal came as a surprise to many based on the fact that Bell and Rogers are seen as competitors, although everyone was waiting for an announcement regarding the sale of MLSE to be made.
With the new deal, Bell and Rogers will own 37.5 percent each for a total of 75 percent. Larry Tanenbaum, who already held a 20 percent stake in the corporation, will now own 25 percent.
This deal is expected to have a large impact on television broadcast rights in the future, as Bell owns TSN and Rogers owns Sportsnet, although no changes will be made for a few years as the current contract isn’t up until 2015.
The Maple Leafs will play three more times this week, including a game against the Buffalo Sabres. Friday’s matchup in Buffalo will be the first meeting between the two teams this season, which is very strange considering that they play in the same division.
The Leafs will welcome Kirk Muller and the Carolina Hurricanes to the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night. Watch out for Alex Ponikarovsky, Tim Brent, Jiri Tulsty and Jay Harrison, all of whom played for the Leafs at one point in their NHL career.
The Buds will host the Vancouver Canucks to round out the week. Saturday nights against the Canucks are rare, but always make for a great, hard-fought game.
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Lukas, a student at the University of Ottawa, covers the Toronto Maple Leafs on a part-time basis for The Hockey Writers. Contact Lukas at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter, @LukasHardonk.