Shockingly -- not really -- goaltending continues to be the focus of the Toronto Maple Leafs season.
It started with the acquisition of Jonathan Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings; continued with the Leafs insistence that incumbent James Reimer would be given every opportunity at maintaining the No. 1 job; furrowed in a Bernier-is-the-man theme and since, has been pretty much a shared duty.
It may continue that way for a while, but nevertheless, the results have been satisfactory. With a 4-2 win over the Flames
in Calgary Tuesday, the Maple Leafs remain atop the Eastern Conference standings with a 10-4-0 record.
On this night it was Bernier's turn to work his magic. Despite sitting back while Reimer played the last two games, he turned in a solid performance winning his sixth game in eight starts. The Maple Leafs were out-shot 43-22, but Bernier stood his ground earning first star honours.
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle hates being pushed on the subject of his goaltenders ranking and said what he has said all along, there is no No. 1 or No. 2.
"Again, yeah, you can't look past your goaltender no matter who we put in the net," Carlyle said. "The 1A and 1B theory, we're going to beat it to death, but hopefully you guys will let it sink in."Deck stacked
Coach Carlyle wasn't complaining, sort of, but he was proud of his team for overcoming the circumstances it faced.
"We faced a team that has not played since Saturday while we're playing back-to-back and we're coming in here off a short night and then they decide to move the game ahead one hour earlier," he said. "I'm not saying that is an excuse; it's the hand you were dealt and it's difficult. We will thank our players for their hard work and commitment. We got two points. No matter how you get them, that's two points in the standings." Ranger checks in
OK, so it was an empty-net goal. Not nearly as pretty as his first NHL goal in three seasons might have been had he connected rather than hit the post in overtime a few weeks, but he'll take it nonetheless. Rangers' first goal since Oct. 10, 2009, gave Toronto a little breathing room in a 4-2 win. Toronto fans have been impatient with a guy making a comeback after the better part of four seasons away from the NHL (and three out of hockey altogether), but bit by bit Ranger seems to be finding his game. He is big, tough and has an offensive upside. Yes, he makes mistakes in his own zone, but the Leafs are winning. It's what he does in the second half that will count most.Goaltending shuffle
The way Carlyle is alternating his goalies when they are healthy suggests he will wait until later in the season to identify which of the two he'll use in the playoffs ... assuming the Maple Leafs make the playoffs. After back-to-back victories in which he was the first and then second star, Reimer was given the night off in favour of Bernier. The former King has not been as sharp in recent outings, but still probably edges out Reimer ever so slightly on the depth chart.Can leopard change its spots?
Brian Burke has never been one to shy away from the spotlight and yet there he was -- or wasn't -- when his former team, the Maple Leafs, played his current team, the Flames, for the first time. He was nowhere to be found. Burke, the former president and GM of the Maple Leafs, is the president of hockey operations with the Flames, but did not attend Tuesday's home game against Toronto.No ordinary Joe
Ex-Leaf Joe Colborne is hoping to kick-start his career in Calgary, his hometown. Colborne entered the game with a goal and three points in 10 games. He was plus-3. He has steadily been getting more ice time despite being held to less than 10 minutes in four of the first five games. Colborne played a career-high 23:54 against his old team Tuesday, but didn't register a point and was minus-2.Life of a fighter, Part I
Toronto's Frazer McLaren engaged in his second fight of the season, tangling with Calgary tough guy Brian McGrattan, who won the bout, at 1:22 of the first period. McLaren did not return to the game after serving his fighting major because of a scratch on his eye.Life of a fighter, Part II
Carter Ashton of the Maple Leafs engaged in his second fight of the season in the second period and may have skated away with his second broken nose of the season. In any case, he was bloodied in the battle. He fought Montreal's Jarred Tinordi in the season opener and didn't do any better against Flames defenceman Shane O'Brien. Even worse, Ashton will probably be summoned by the NHL for his hit from behind on Calgary defenceman Derek Smith that preceded the fight. A suspension or fine may be in order.New kids on the block
Newcomer David Clarkson, playing in his fourth game after a 10-game suspension, made a picture-perfect toe-drag deke and got a shot on goal that was stopped in the third period. The rebound, however, went to Mason Raymond who made no mistake notching his fifth goal of the season. It was Clarkson's first point with Toronto and for Raymond, who signed as a free agent in the summer, it further cements his chances of earning a multi-year deal beyond this season with somebody, possibly even the Maple Leafs.Steckel signs in AHL
Former Maple Leafs centre David Steckel signed to play with Norfolk of the AHL Monday. The six-foot-five, 220-pound checker and faceoff specialist split last season between Toronto and Anaheim. Steckel is solid on the draw and it is worth noting Toronto ranked 27th in faceoff percentage going into Tuesday's action. He has played 419 NHL games in his hit and may best be remembered for his accidental head hit in an outdoor game on Sidney Crosby that sent the game's best player into a physical tailspin for a few years.
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