Leafs snapshots: Deal makes Burke look good
Terry Koshan, QMI Agency
|Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (R) is held by Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf (3) in front of Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) during second period of their NHL hockey game in Washington December 9, 2011. (REUTERS/Molly Riley)
Brian Burke didn’t make a trade on Friday before his annual Christmas trade freeze kicked in, 10 days before the official National Hockey League roster freeze.
But a trade was completed elsewhere, and though it did not involve Burke directly, it made the Maple Leafs general manager look good.
Tomas Kaberle joined his third team since Burke unloaded him last February, going to the Montreal Canadiens from the Carolina Hurricanes for defenceman Jaroslav Spacek.
True, Kaberle won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins last spring, yet the Bruins would have won it without him.
Kaberle would drive some Leafs fans nuts at times, but he moved the puck well and never panicked under pressure. Registering assists was a strong suit, but he probably played his best as a Leaf when Pat Quinn was the coach.
Centre Joe Colborne, acquired by Burke from the Bruins in the Kaberle trade, appears to have a terrific future in the National Hockey League. Kaberle’s best days have faded into memory, and if the Canadiens think he’s going to boost their power play, we wish them well.
Burke has made several smart trades since he became the Leafs GM three years ago. Leafs fans should hope that new owners Bell and Rogers are true to their word and leave him alone in that area.
Much was made, rightfully so, of the return of Sidney Crosby to the NHL in November — the game needs his star power and all that. Well, the NHL is a better place, too, with an engaged Alexander Ovechkin. The latter looked like his old self against the Leafs on Friday night, throwing big hits and carrying the puck with flash through the offensive zone. How Ovechkin and recently hired Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter build a relationship will be curious to watch. The Caps are trapping under Hunter, and the former London Knights coach might not have the easiest time convincing Ovechkin it’s the way to go. We figure Ovechkin won’t have much choice ... If the Leafs are going to keep taking stupid penalties, they’re not going to win a lot of hockey games. If their penalty killers were good, then fine. But they weren’t, and spent a lot of time chasing the puck. Colby Armstrong, in his first game after missing 23, took a needless slashing minor in the second period. Joey Crabb took a dumber penalty and was sent off for boarding, joining Armstrong in the box, and the Caps scored. The Leafs have been short-handed two men on six occasions this season, and have given up four goals in those situations ... Toronto allowed four power-play goals in a game for the first time this season, and if it’s true that your goalie is your best penalty killer (coaches use that line all the time), then what does it say about James Reimer? Reimer has been up and down in three games since returning from concussion-like symptoms and has not yet won ... With their fourth loss in five games, the Leafs are starting to play with fire in the standings. If they slip out of playoff contention, it’s going to be a lot more difficult for them to climb back in. The Eastern Conference is too tight to be losing more than once every so often.
From the hash marks
Ovechkin and Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf have had their physical battles previously, not surprising given the enthusiasm that both have when it comes to taking the body. That continued on Friday night with a couple of big hits thrown by the two at each other. “It’s always a battle when you are playing against a guy like that who competes with the skill that he has,” Phaneuf said ... The Leafs dodged a bullet in the second period when Ovechkin’s skate hit Tim Connolly in the lower back. Connolly screamed before he hit the ice, but missed only a couple of shifts. In the games he has played for the Leafs, Connolly has been wise and doesn’t back away from traffic. Injury-prone, yes, but soft? No ... He now sits at 22 games without a goal, but Nikolai Kulemin did some good things. Kulemin broke up a Capitals play in the neutral zone on the play that led to Cody Franson’s goal in the third period, and in all, the reunited line of Mikhail Grabovski between Clarke MacArthur and Kulemin was strong during even-strength play ... Dennis Wideman’s hat trick was his first in the NHL, and he had never scored two goals in an NHL game. It was the first trick for a Caps defenceman since
Jan. 4, 2000, when Sergei Gonchar had one ... The sticks that break when players do little more than look at them are long past being annoying. Jake Gardiner barely tapped Alexander Semin’s stick, but was whistled for slashing when Semin’s stick broke. The Caps scored on the power play ... Since he suffered a finger injury against Dallas on Nov. 25, David Steckel has not been nearly as effective in the faceoff circle. In five games since he came back from missing one game because of the injury, Steckel has won 27 faceoffs and lost 37, for a winning percentage of 42%. Overall, Steckel has won 57% of the faceoffs he has taken this season ... So media conglomerates soon will be signing Ron Wilson’s pay cheques. Irony works so well sometimes.