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Toronto FC fans have seen and heard it all.



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Registrován: stř 15. lis 2017 12:12:03

Příspěvek čtv 23. lis 2017 11:28:31

Toronto FC fans have seen and heard it all.

TORONTO – Third in league scoring, John Tavares entered the evening with at least a point in all but three of the Islanders 21 games this season. Teuvo Teravainen Jersey . "Four now," Carl Gunnarsson told the Leaf Report proudly following a 5-2 victory over New York on Tuesday night, the clubs fifth straight at home. Gunnarsson was among the stable that kept Tavares, who has 25 points this season, off the scoresheet entirely. The Islanders captain finished with just two shots and was rarely a threat, bottled up by the top pair of Gunnarsson and Dion Phaneuf and a recently assembled shutdown line of Jay McClement, Mason Raymond and Nik Kulemin. Tavares entered the night with eight goals and 16 points in 15 career games against the Leafs and had been responsible for 43 per cent of his teams offence this season. But he was held pointless for just the fourth time all season. "We played tight on him, we played hard and we didnt give him much time in our own end," Gunnarsson said of Tavares, who played alongside fellow top scorer Kyle Okposo and rookie Brock Nelson. "We couldve done some stuff better too, but when that line doesnt score we give ourselves a pretty good chance to win the game." Randy Carlyle has yet to employ a shutdown line consistently against opposing top lines so far this season – often using his top unit when healthy – but he did against the Islanders. As McClement explained it, the assignment isnt known to players until game-time and often beyond that. Unlike Andy Murray, his longtime coach in St. Louis, who would present line matchups to the group on a whiteboard in the morning, Carlyle prefers to keep his close to the vest. "He wont let you know too often," McClement said of Carlyle, leading Leaf forwards with over 20 minutes on Tuesday. "You dont really know until you start the game. And even the first shift we didnt start against them and then we played every other shift against them. You never know. Maybe its a good thing. Youre not thinking about it, youre just ready to play." What the McClement unit did effectively most of the night against Tavares, who had points in five straight, was keep him on the defensive. With consistent pressure and a simple chip-and-chase game, the line spent a good chunk of their shifts against him deep in the offensive zone. They would be rewarded when Raymond scored the eventual game-winner early in the third, the 27-year-old capping a McClement drive to the crease of Islanders goaltender Kevin Poulin. "We got to pucks on the forecheck and ended up having a lot of shifts in their end," McClement said, also beating Tavares on 10 of 19 draws. "Thats the easiest way to play defence is play offence." Five Points 1. Home ice dominance While theyve yet to establish a consistent brand of hockey (see below) the Leafs have nonetheless strung together a strong record through the quarter-mark of the season (13-7-1). Part of that success emanates from their effective showing on home ice. The Leafs have now won five straight at home and seven of their past eight, and are now 8-2-0 on the year at the ACC. Theyve outscored opponents 35-23 in that span, more effective offensively (3.5 goals per game) and defensively (2.3 goals against per game) than on the road. "That was one of the goals we wanted to create is when teams come into this building theres no more of this two points, kiss your relatives and go home," said Carlyle. "Its enough of that." With another power-play marker – this one from Phil Kessel – the Leafs also continued a trend of home dominance on the power-play; they rank first with a 32.4 per cent success rate. 2. Clarkson breaks the goose egg Without a goal in the first 10 games of his late-starting season, David Clarkson finally broke through with his first as a Leaf against the Islanders. The 29-year-old rifled a shot beyond the glove of Poulin midway through the final period, benefiting from the effective work of Joffrey Lupul and Trevor Smith down low in the offensive zone. "The better feeling is coming in here after a win and turning on that music," said Clarkson, who played nearly 19 minutes, adding five hits. "Thats the best feeling to me ever." 3. Gardiner on the left When Mark Fraser returned from a left knee injury last week – hes since re-injured a different part of the knee – Carlyle juggled his defence pairings, opting to move Jake Gardiner back to his natural left side position alongside Cody Franson. Gardiner had never played the right before and often appeared uncertain and inconsistent there alongside Paul Ranger. "I think Ive felt a lot more comfortable offensively," Gardiner told the Leaf Report prior to Tuesdays game. "I still have to fine-tune some things, but I feel like I see the ice a lot better from the left side." The 23-year-old is also pleased to be reunited with Franson, with whom hes played alongside for a good chunk of his NHL career. "We even talked about it – we know where each other are on the ice," said Gardiner of Franson. "Theres some plays that we do a lot of that seem to work and we know exactly when theyre going to be there, whether its in the offensive zone, neutral zone or defensive zone. Hes a vocal guy too. Its really easy to play with him. Hopefully he feels the same way." Gardiner led the Leafs with over 22 minutes against the Islanders, including 19:42 at even-strength. 4. Kessel durability Phil Kessel played his first game as a Leaf on Nov. 3, 2009; he sat out the first 12 games recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. The 26-year-old has not missed a game since. Kessel extended his iron-man streak to 303 consecutive games, breaking a recent dry spell with a pair of goals against the Islanders. A bout with the flu a day earlier put his games played streak in jeopardy, but the teams leading scorer remained in the lineup, paired with James van Riemsdyk and Peter Holland for the second straight game. Kessel is a ways off the active leaders in consecutive games played. Jay Bouwmeester is the current iron man with 654 straight games played, according to TSN Research, trailed closely by Henrik Sedin at 651. Only three players remain from the Toronto lineup that dressed on the night of Kessels highly anticipated debut: Luke SchennGarnet ExelbyIan WhiteMike KomisarekNiklas HagmanLee StempniakMatt StajanTomas KaberleWayne PrimeauFrancois BeaucheminAlex PonikarovskyColton Orr*John MitchellNik Kulemin*Rickard WallinJason BlakePhil Kessel*Mikhail GrabovskiVesa ToskalaJonas Gustavsson*Still with the team 5. Standing at the quarter pole Joffrey Lupul offered the following assessment of the Leafs performance one quarter of the way into the season. "Weve battled through a lot of injuries and were still up near the top of the conference. Thats a positive," said Lupul. "Is there things we can do better? For sure there is. But Im sure every team in the league with the exception of maybe St. Louis or San Jose or one of these teams is saying the same thing. Everyone wants to do some things better. But its early in the season and youre just finding that identity as a team and you want to eventually be a team that plays the same way every night and a team that improves throughout the year. Were not there yet, but were still high in the standings so theres positives and negatives you could say." Added Randy Carlyle, "Weve tried to create a template that were more conservative from an offensive standpoint. Were not making the Hail Mary plays. Were not trying to just be a rush team. Were trying to do a lot of different things as far as getting away from just one and out. We want more puck possession time. Theres been a lot said in our statistics proving out that were having success when we shouldnt be. We look at it as weve been forced to do some things differently with personnel, suspensions and injuries. We are just trying to find a way to manufacture points. This isnt a development league were in, its about winning. The points that we can put up on the board, doesnt matter who we have in the lineup, it just bodes well for us in the future." Bonus Point – Extending an opportunity Trevor Smith played his first NHL game with the Islanders back on Dec. 31, 2008. On Tuesday against the same New York squad, the 28-year-old had a career-high three points. Playing alongside Lupul and Clarkson, Smith scored the games opening goal 22 seconds into the first frame, adding a pair of assists in the third. Plugging a hole at centre with Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland both injured, Smith has compiled at least a point in three games since being recalled from the Marlies last Friday, totaling three goals and five points in that span. "The guys are making it really easy for me to come in and play and be confident to make plays with them," Smith said. "I was fighting the puck a little bit in the first, but they calmed me down and just told me to relax and do what I do and we went from there." Nazem Kadri is due to return from a three-game suspension on Thursday, but it would appear that Smith has earned, at the very least, an extended opportunity. How long that opportunity lasts is unclear with Bozak likely to return Saturday following a lengthy stint on injured reserve. Stat-Pack 1 – Goal for David Clarkson this season. 303 – Consecutive games played by Phil Kessel. 8-2-0 – Home record for the Leafs this season. 3 – Points for Trevor Smith against the Islanders, a career-high. 32.4 per cent – Leafs power-play effectiveness at home, first in the NHL. 3 – Assists for Joffrey Lupul against the Islanders, a season-high. 2 – Multi-assist games for Lupul this season. 13-16 – Faceoff mark for Jerred Smithson against the Islanders. 17:45 – Ice-time for Morgan Rielly. Special Teams Capsule PP: 1-2Season: 24.3 per cent PK: 2-2Season: 84 per cent Quote of the Night "That was one of the goals we wanted to create is when teams come into this building theres no more of this two points, kiss your relatives and go home. Its enough of that." -Randy Carlyle on the Leafs home record. Up Next Nazem Kadri returns from a three-game suspension when the Leafs host the Predators on Thursday night. Joakim Nordstrom Jersey . According to TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger, the New York Rangers winger skated with extras and goalies today. James Wisniewski Jersey . Coming off a 6-0 drubbing at Chelsea on Saturday, Arsenal endured another demoralizing result after rallying for a 2-1 lead -- only to concede a fluke equalizer. . Louis, MO (SportsNetwork.On Thursday morning at Toronto FC’s Downsview training ground, members of the media sat down with the club’s management team to hear an outline of their vision for Toronto FC and its academy. On hand to explain the details were Tim Bezbatchenko, the teams general manager, Greg Vanney, TFCs head coach, Jim Liston, their head of sport science and Michael Rabasca, director of cognitive development. If this all sounds vaguely familiar, there is a reason: it was the same strategy employed by Bezbatchenko’s predecessor, Kevin Payne, back in January of 2013. “I’ve mentioned a few times – kind of every time I talk – about culture; that really was the first order of business. I really felt strongly that we needed to change the culture of the organization, particularly out here at the training ground,” said Payne at that meeting in early 2013. “Good teams, if they do things right, can create a virtuous cycle. And bad teams tend to create a vicious cycle,” said Payne. Well, Payne hit the nail on the head with that that last one. Over its eight-year history, TFC has created a vicious cycle - one in which the club stumbles from one terrible appointment to the next. A quick look at the club’s recent history shows you just how often they’ve made a mess of things. Let’s start with Jurgen Klinsmann, the “football consultant” hired to search the world over for the right man to take the club forward, only to come back with Aron Winter - a rookie head coach who knew nothing of MLS and was completely out of his depth. Then there was Kevin Payne, the club’s American president and GM who thought the best way to symbolize what Toronto FC was all about was to erect an inukshuk – since he couldn’t think of a more clichéd symbol of what it means to be Canadian. Payne followed that up with the bizarre decision to hire Ryan Nelsen as his head coach. Nelsen was, at the time of his hiring, still a player with Queens Park Rangers in the English Premier League and had no coaching qualifications or experience. When Tim Leiweke rode into Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment on his white horse to save its three sports franchises, he jettisoned Payne in favour of rookie GM Bezbatchenko. Rather than giving his new GM the freedom to hire his own coach, Leiweke instead decided to shackle Bezbatchenko to Nelsen, insisting that Nelsen was the man to lead the charge on the “Bloody Big Deal” that was the signing of Jermain Defoe. The relationship between Bezbatchenko and Nelsen was doomed to fail from the beginning and, when Bezbatchenko hired Vanney to be TFC’s assistant GM and academy director in December of 2013, Nelsen was looking over his shoulder at the man he knew would be his replacement. Julien Gauthier Jersey. When the inevitable axe fell on Nelsen - with 10 games remaining in the 2014 season and TFC sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference – Vanney took over the reins. The team picked up just eight points from its remaining 10 games and finished in seventh place – outside the playoff picture for the eighth-consecutive season. Toronto FC fans have seen and heard it all. The last thing they want to hear is yet another pronouncement that the club is “going in the right direction” and is “building the foundation of success for years to come. That is a shame, because I liked a lot of what Vanney and his staff had to say on Thursday. For starters, the club is finally taking its academy seriously. While it has been investing over $1 million a year in its academy, there was never the sense that there was a plan in place to systematically develop talented youngsters. That has changed under Vanney, who spent a lengthy amount of time on Thursday outlining the eight player development traits the club is looking to develop in its players, from the academy right through to the first team. Vanney also outlined how the club’s USL Pro team will allow it to better aid players in making the transition from the academy to the first team or even to another development pathway, such as the NCAA or the CIS. Toronto FC aims to develop as many prospects as it can through its academy and, while it is an ambitious target, Bezbatchenko highlighted that the three-to-five-year plan is for the club to increase the number of academy graduates in its core roster to as many as nine players. Liston and Rabasca discussed the roles of sport science and cognitive development in building future professional soccer players – areas that are often understaffed or even ignored at other clubs in Major League Soccer. With the resources provided by its parent company, MLSE, there are no excuses for TFC not to have the best academy set-up in the league. But all of this will be for naught if the first team continues to struggle. The execution of any long-term plan is entirely dependent on achieving short-term success. That, in the form of a post-season playoff berth, has, thus far, proved to be an elusive thing for Toronto FC. 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