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An Up And Down Season Thus Far

by Matt Iaboni / Toronto Maple Leafs

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With the 2011 NHL All-Star break now here, the Leafs have had some ups and downs during the first half of the 2010-11 season. We will take a look at some good moments and some not so good.

The season couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. Not only did the Leafs defeat the Montreal Canadiens in the season opener, they won the first four games of the season for the first time since 1993 when they won 10 in-a-row. During that four-game span, the Leafs defeated the rival Senators and they won two road games against Pittsburgh and the Rangers.

There has been no hotter Maple Leaf than Mikhail Grabovski. On December 6th against Washington, the Leafs entered the third period trailing 4-1. After a Grabovski goal early in the third, Tim Brent and Clarke MacArthur scored 59 seconds apart late in the game to send it to overtime. Grabovski was the second Leafs shooter in the shootout and for the first time he unveiled his spin-o-rama shootout move. It was the winning goal and it capped the Leafs biggest third period comeback this season.

As the calendar turned to 2011, the Leafs began the month on a tear winning five of the first six games. With J.S. Giguere sidelined with a groin injury James Reimer was recalled from the Marlies. Reimer was brilliant when got his chance. He won four of his first five starts in the NHL including three straight games. His best performance came against the San Jose Sharks when he stopped 40 of 42 shots backstopping Ron Wilson to his 600th career win.

There have been a few rough moments for the Leafs in 2010-11. After winning the first four games of the season, the Leafs would go just 3-9-3 in their next 15 games. If October was full of optimism it was gone after a November swoon that saw the Leafs win just three of 13 games.

Two of the worst defeats this came via shutout. On December 2nd, the Leafs were thumped 5-0 by the  Edmonton Oilers. Giguere and Gustavsson allowed five goals on just 19 shots. Last week, they were thoroughly beaten by the Rangers 7-0 in New York. The Leafs trailed 4-0 after 20 minutes of play as Marian Gaborik scored four times on the night.

The final five games before the All-Star break were to be key games for the Leafs to get back in the playoff picture but that just wasn’t the case. The Leafs went 1-4 during that stretch getting outscored 21-10 and they now sit 14 points back of Atlanta for eighth in the Eastern Conference.

When the unofficial second half of the season begins on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers, the Leafs will have 33 games remaining. Out of those upcoming games, many will be difficult as just nine are against teams under .500. The home and road splits aren’t that bad with 16 games left at Air Canada Centre and 17 on the road.

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