To cycle or rush, that is the question when it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs, writes Mike Brophy. But in a 7-3 win over the NHL's No. 1 team, the Chicago Blackhawks, Saturday at home, the Maple Leafs did a little bit of both.
To cycle or rush, that is the question.
Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle envisions his team as a group that will forge the puck into the other team's zone and then wear it down on the offensive cycle. Observers of the Maple Leafs may suggest they might be better using their speed and offensive creativity to be more of a run-and-gun team -- a description Carlyle hates.
In a 7-3 win over the NHL's No. 1 team, the Chicago Blackhawks, Saturday at home, the Maple Leafs were a little bit of both.
"We tried to play more of the game from an offensive standpoint by trying to create more offensive zone time," a raspy Carlyle said. "We have been striving for that and in the games we are more effective it seems like we have more of that. We are trying to eliminate being a one-dimensional rush team."
When quizzed about his team's success scoring off the rush against the Blackhawks, Carlyle stood his ground.
"When you start to wear teams down by playing more of the game in their zone the rush game becomes more effective," he said. "And I think it is important that you notice that the amount of time you spend in the offensive zone, the players will never tell you they get tired of playing in that zone. They are not receiving the game."
2009 choices for Nonis
With his team struggling, its win against Chicago Saturday notwithstanding, Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis must be pondering potential roster changes among other things. And by roster changes, I mean trades.
Nonis has been pretty quiet as his team slides down the Eastern Conference standings and possibly out of the playoffs.
Peter Holland, who scored twice and added an assist against Chicago, is certainly making a case to be one of the team's top three centres which means one of Tyler Bozak or Nazem Kadri could be moved. Fellow injured centre David Bolland is safe; he was the team's MVP when he went down with a severed tendon. Holland scored two goals against the Blackhawks giving him five goals in 16 games; four in 12 with Toronto. He missed on a breakaway seven minutes into the third for a hat trick.
Holland was a first round pick, 15th overall, for Anaheim in 2009. Bozak, the defensive conscience of the Maple Leafs top line with James van Riemsyk and Phil Kessel, was an undrafted free agent signing, also in 2009. Kadri was Toronto's first pick, seventh overall, in - you guessed it - 2009.
At six-foot-two and 194 pounds, Holland has decent top-six size and is also a swift skater. These traits cannot be ignored as the Maple Leafs try to figure out a way to get back to the playoffs and then out of the first round.
Holland's line, which includes wingers Joffrey Lupul (2-2-4) and Mason Raymond (0-4-4), combined for 11 points in a much-needed victory.
"It was a good night for our line," Holland said.
Holland talked about being the first star in a game on Hockey Night in Canada saying, "It's pretty amazing, I'm just trying to let it sink in right now. To come home and play in front of these fans who I was with when I was growing up is pretty special."
Maple Leafs right-winger David Clarkson was benched by the NHL for the second time this season following his illegal hit to the head of Vladimir Sobotka of the St. Louis Blues Thursday. Clarkson missed the first 10 games of the season after leaving the bench to engage in a fight in the pre-season. Because he is a repeat offender, Clarkson's fine is based on his average salary so he'll forfeit $128,048.78 which goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund. That brings his fine total this season to a whopping $397,279.58.
The Toronto native was signed to a seven-year, $36.75 million contract last summer to add leadership and secondary scoring. With just two goals and six points in 23 games (he's also minus-4) and now two suspensions, he has added neither thus far.
By the way, defenceman Dion Phaneuf returned to the lineup from his two-game suspension for a hit from behind last week.
A goal to remember
Maple Leafs rookie Jerry D'Amigo scored his first NHL goal, 42 seconds into the second period. After Chicago goalie Antti Raanta made a save, D'Amigo was on the door step to tap the rebound in with just one hand on his stick. The 22-year-old was playing in his sixth NHL game. Kind of made it look easy.
"My mom is probably crying and my dad is probably jumping for joy," D'Amigo said.
With the Maple Leafs playing two men short in the first period, Phaneuf dove to try to block a Patrick Kane pass to the front of the net, but inadvertently tipped the puck behind goalie Jonathan Bernier. In the second period Chicago's Marian Hossa swatted a puck out of the air with his glove that hit Phaneuf's stick and again beat Bernier. This time the goal was waved off.
Fresh off a two-game suspension for hitting from behind, Phaneuf did it again to former teammate Kris Versteeg of the Blackhawks late in the first period. He was not penalized on the play.
Liles draws in
The Maple Leafs opted for skill and speed over size and toughness dressing veteran defenceman John-Michael Liles and sitting Paul Ranger and Mark Fraser.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.
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