GDHQNHL15_2pg-Toronto Maple Leafs 2

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+3 plus/minus, he was -12 in those final 14 games. He’s been one of the best defensemen in the league over his nine-year career, and Toronto will be counting on him to bounce back. After a solid rookie campaign, Jake Gardiner spent most of the lockout season in the AHL despite the pleas of angry Maple Leafs fans. When he was called back up to the NHL, he made sure to play well enough to earn his spot on the ice. He averaged over 21 minutes per game and contributed 10 goals as well. The Leafs brought in veteran defenseman Roman Polak, who is still recovering from breaking his right leg in two separate incidents. At 37 years of age, it’ll be interesting to see how quickly he comes back and can make a positive contribution to the team. Another veteran defenseman, Roman Polak, was traded for in the offseason in exchange for Carl Gunnarsson. Although Gunnarsson did not play poorly last season, it appears that the new administration was set on going in a different direction. Polak will add a more physical element to the defense that Gunnarsson didn’t provide. Goaltending Jonathan Bernier was solid in net for most of the season, but he was injured down the stretch during the team’s most important games. Although his .922 save percentage and 2.70GAA were not spectacular, he did play behind a porous defense that repeatedly failed to clear pucks out of the zone and allowed the most shots per game of any team in the league. Bernier was acquired before last season in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings, and with an increased physical presence in front of him, a healthy Bernier is ready to make his mark in Toronto. Backup goalie James Reimer was stellar in 2012-13 but he was relegated to the backup role when Bernier was brought in. With the late season injuries to Bernier, Reimer was forced into important situations, but he wasn’t quite up to the challenge. Power Play One of the major bright spots for the Maple Leafs was their power play and they’ll return their top four goal scorers from last year’s unit. They finished the season converting on 19.8 percent of their penalties, which ranked fifth in the NHL. Kessel was the team’s most dangerous weapon on the power play with 20 points, and is the unit’s undisputed leader. But even eight goals was a down year for Kessel who has scored as many as twelve goals in a season. He’ll have plenty of help from van Riemsdyk and Kadri. The two young forwards combined for 16 power-play goals and 17 assists. Even if van Riemsdyk is separated from Kessel on even strength series, it’s likely that opponents will see plenty of the combo on the power-play. From the blue line, Phaneuf will see time on the power play along with Gardiner, Cody Franson and Morgan Rielly. Penalty Kill While the power play was a bright spot for the Maple Leafs, the penalty kill was a black mark for the team. They prevented just 78.3 percent of their shorthanded opportunities and allowed 58 power-play goals. Both of those were ranked 28th out of the 30 NHL teams. Although David Clarkson struggled in his first season with the Maple Leafs, the veteran could go a long way in repairing his status among the fans by bringing his skills to the penalty kill. His offensive numbers were down, but he did show his willingness to sacrifice for the team by blocking 35 shots. The team will also play Dan Winnik, who came over from Dion Phaneuf Anaheim, and Leo Jared Silber/NHL/Getty Images Komarov, who saw his first NHL action last season. Both Phaneuf and Lupul will continue their roles on the unit, but the team hopes that others on the team will step up and take some of that time off their hands.‑ Prediction The Toronto Maple Leafs appeared to be a lock for the playoffs late last season, but a disastrous finish to the season derailed that. Now they have to rebuild the mental pieces and welcome the clean slate of a new season. They have the offensive talent but this team will only go as far as their defense takes them. Because of that, they’ll struggle to reach the postseason. Scoreboard 2013-14 2012-13 2011-12 2010-11 2009-10 PLAYOFF FINISH DNQ Conf QF DNQ DNQ DNQ REGULAR SEASON 38-36-8 26-17-5 35-37-10 37-34-11 30-38-14 POINT TOTAL 84 57 80 85 74 SHOOTOUT RECORD 9-4 0-5 4-5 5-6 4-4 GOALS SCORED 231 145 231 218 214 GOALS ALLOWED 256 133 264 251 267 POWER-PLAY % 19.8 18.7 18.4 16.0 14.0 PENALTY KILL % 78.3 87.9 77.3 77.5 74.7


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