January 6, 2012
Little love for Leafs pair
By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - The dudes who pull on the Maple Leafs sweater every night like to go on about how they have the greatest fans in the world.
Which is all fine and good, but youíve got to wonder if Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul are actually buying into that theory these days.
Despite being third and fifth in NHL scoring, neither forward was voted into the NHL all-star game. Instead, a trio of Ottawa Senators forwards, Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek, received more votes in fan balloting, which wrapped up on Wednesday ó despite the fact that Spezza is 11th in NHL scoring, Alfredsson 68th and Michalek 79th. (Alfredsson and Michalek have suffered injuries, but so what).
Toronto is supposed to be the centre of the hockey universe and the Air Canada Centre is packed every night, yet the leagueís third and fifth leading scorers did not receive enough votes by the fans to get pre-selected into the game (though Dion Phaneuf was second among defencemen in voting and was selected).
Itís expected that Kessel, who has 23 goals and 23 assists, is a slam dunk to be picked for the game by the NHLís hockey operations department, but Lupul is not such a sure thing, though he should be. The Leafs forward, whose career almost ended a couple of seasons ago when he suffered a serious back infection, is only one point behind Kessel and three behind NHL leaders Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks and Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers. In some ways, Lupulís performance this season has been superior to Kesselís. Lupulís a plus-8 (Kessel a plus-5) and he plays a much more physical game than his linemate.
Perhaps you can chalk up the fact that three Senators received the most votes among forwards on the fact that Ottawa is hosting the Game (Jan.29 at Scotiabank Place). Fans in the host city tend to be very enthusiastic about the game and vote in droves.
But still, the fact that two players from the so-called centre of the hockey universe, who are third and fifth in NHL scoring, were not voted into the all-star game is really quite shocking.
Privately, you got to figure that Kessel and Lupul are not impressed.
Kessel and Lupul have been a model of consistency this season. Kessel scored and Lupul picked up an assist in Torontoís 4-0 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. They both have recorded points in 32 games this season ó which leads the NHL. The only negative part of their overall game has been the play in their own end at times. At least once a game, the Kessel-Lupul line, either with Tyler Bozak or Tim Connolly at centre, find themselves pinned in their own end for an extended period of time, exhausted and chasing the puck.
Clarke MacArthurís third-period goal against the Jets was his 12th of the season but only his second at home ... Phaneuf, who picked up an assist Thursday, has eight points in his last seven games ... MacArthur also has eight points in his last seven ... The Leafs fired 25 shots at Chris Mason, but the only thing that saved the Jets goaltender from being shell-shocked is the fact that Jets skaters blocked a whopping 27 shots (compared to 16 by the Leafs). Defenceman Ron Hainsey blocked six himself ... Tough game for Winnipeg defenceman Johnny Oduya, who was a minus-3 ... Luke Schenn lead all skaters with seven hits.
One of my Twitter pals asks a very good question. Why did the Leafs stick with Philippe Dupuis for so long when they had Darryl Boyce down on the farm the whole time? ... You gotta hand it to Air Canada Centre organist Jimmy Holmstrom. In honour of Winnipegís second visit to the ACC this season, the keyboardman extraordinaire serenaded the crowd with Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver and Jet by Paul McCartney and Wings ... In attendance for was Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia, who was celebrating his birthday ... Sitting in the visiting broadcast booth was the one and only Dennis Beyak, the former Leafs radio broadcaster and now the voice of the Jets.