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From the Branches: King for the day

Jonathan Bernier finally defeats his old team, and he does it in a spectacular fashion.

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Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

No one is feeling better as they wake up this morning than Jonathan Bernier - well, maybe James Reimer - after he lead the Leafs to a shutout of The Kings last night. Bernier buried several deamons: finally getting a win this season, a shutout no less; finally defeating his ex-team; and finally smiling!

Before we get to to the news, let's take a step back to the league level. Some very interesting things are going on these days. First, note that the holiday roster freeze is now in effect. There can be no trades for the next 7 days. This is significant as there have not yet been many transactions this season, but many teams are far from where they thought they would be, and they may want to make some trades to shake things up.

Did anyone at all expect that? The Penguins have played four games under their new coach and still have yet to win a game with him. They are exactly two wins ahead of The Leafs. What the fuck?

How about the The Lightning, last years Stanley Cup finalists, sitting two wins out of a wild card playoff spot? Then there's The Ducks. In the tire fire that is the Pacific division you would think their traditionally high octane offence would do them some good, but they sit last in the league for both points (tied), and goals scored (58 in 31 games).

It goes beyond those anomalies as many early season narratives are also falling apart. The Canadiens have lost 7 of their past 10 games, possibly because they actually aren't much of a team beyond Price. The Avalanche have won 5 in a row, and 8 of their last 10, turning the season around and making them a contender once again.

What is all this leading up to? When the holiday roster freeze is over there will be only 65 days to the trade deadline. We're going to see several GMs on the hot seat, desperate to buy; and teams like the Leafs that are desperate to sell. There will be some big trades! Hold on to your butts.

Leafs 5 - Kings 0

So, that Jonathan Bernier. What a morale boost last night must have been both for him and the team.

And they'll need it immediately.

The Leafs have today off, but will shortly be flying out to cram in a mini-road trip before the start of the Christmas Break. The Leafs play the Avalanche tomorrow, and the Coyotes on Tuesday.

Leafs 5, Kings 0, Kadri, Bernier Win War Of Stars - Pension Plan Puppets
After a tough first half, the Kadri line got the last laugh on Anze Kopitar and the Kings.

Here is what may be Stephen Whyno's last ever Leafs game recap before he takes his career to the USA.

Bernier has a shut out in first win as Toronto beats Kings 5-0 - The Globe and Mail
Jonathan Bernier’s confidence may have been wounded, but his sense of humour is in tact. "I won last week," Bernier quipped about winning in the minors.

Uncle Leo is amazing in case you haven't noticed. 13 goals in 31 games. Only 15 players in the league have more than that. Only 7 in the Eastern Conference. Are we still pissed about his contract? Vote in the poll!

Last Night's Games

Last night was quite a busy night. There were 10 NHL games. 2 went to shootouts: Sabres vs. Hawks, and Jackets vs. Flyers. 2 games were shutouts Leafs over the Kings, and Coyotes over the Islander. 2 games (other than ours) were blowouts: The Avalanche annihilated the Oilers 5-1, and the Stars toppled Vomit City 6-2.

HNIC had a player interview before the Leafs game and it was good. Really good. I honestly think this is a real sign they have made changes this season in response to feedback. It was lighthearted, honest, and enjoyable. Note that Strombo was barely involved. It wasn't a serious sit-down interview, which I think is not at all appropriate for HNIC. It was simply a casual and fun chat, and Benn and Seguin clearly enjoyed it too.

When you're only half trying to stick chirp.

It's pretty rare you can fool the camera man!

Remember this guy?

Line brawl!


Here's one for the rule wonks. Is this offside?

Angry Ruff!


Maybe he's been taking lessons from Barb Underhill?

SB Nation Game Recaps

Wild finish helps Chicago steal 2 points in shootout - Second City Hockey
The Hawks win in their first shootout of the season.

No Need For Bacon Here - St. Louis Game Time
Suddenly a wild Elliott appears!

Stupid Is As Stupid Does On Display in Devils 1-2 Loss - All About The Jersey
The New Jersey Devils committed many turnovers, bad passes, bad plays, and bad decisions in their 1-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

Pens drop 4th straight under Sullivan - PensBurgh
The Pittsburgh Penguins fall 2-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Flyers battle back, revisit familiar fate - Broad Street Hockey
Flyers fall behind, but still manage a Bettman point as they come back from a two-goal deficit in the third in Columbus.

Two Special Teams and Their Special Teams - Defending Big D
Special teams (including eight power plays) were the story in a game between two special teams.

Crashing the Net Yields Success - On the Forecheck
Nashville outlasted the Wild to win an important divisional game.

Coyotes 1, Islanders 0: Defense wins. - Lighthouse Hockey
A struggling offense and a struggling defense met in Arizona. The Isles' slump continued as the Coyotes shut them out.

Avalanche Oilers - Mile High Hockey
Special teams gave the Avalanche an early lead, then pour it on even strength for a decisive 5-1 win.

Other News

Stamkos: I want to stay with Lightning | Tampa Bay Times
There's a sense among some in the hockey world that Stamkos has already decided he's as good as gone. "Absolutely not," Stamkos said. "Not even close."

Saturday Toronto Sports Media Roundup Toronto Sports Media Blog
@yyzsportsmedia has the roundup of the goings on in the Toronto sports mediaverse this past week.

Prognosticating: NHL All-Stars - The Cannon
The NHL All-Star Game format has changed, and with divisional alignment of the rosters it could make for some interesting 3-on-3 combinations but who is making each team?

Look back at 2004 WJC final between U.S., Canada -
Junior hockey always has held an anything-can-happen characteristic, and that trait was ever present during the 2004 WJC.

DeBoer faces difficult task choosing North America roster -
Todd McLellan and Peter DeBoer will be reunited on the coaching staff of Team North America for the World Cup of Hockey. It is a strange dynamic, considering DeBoer replaced McLellan as head coach of the San Jose Sharks last summer.

If the Coyotes' defense doesn't improve, a goalie change won't matter - Five For Howling
The Coyotes may try to change their goalie, but that will not be enough to solve their defensive woes.

Remembering Dickie Moore - Eyes On The Prize
Today, Canadiens fans mourn the loss of one of the greatest the team has ever had.

Forward Usage and Stats by TOI Rank on Team |
Takeaways: Being better offensively is a combination of generating more shots and higher quality shots. Because shot quality is a talent and varies throughout the line up, a Corsi evaluation of forwards will underestimate the value of the top forwards and over estimate the value of weaker forwards though it will typically identify which are the best forwards and which are the worst. PDO doesn’t regress to 100 for all players, particularly forwards and rather than suggesting regression to 100 one should view a range of 97-103 as being a typical range for forwards over large sample sizes (a season or more).

Devils Could Use More Discipline - All About The Jersey
Over the last four games, the New Jersey Devils have shown themselves to be a very inconsistent group. To remove the bad games and bring about more good games, one area that they should look to improve upon is discipline, as they take many penalties.

Daniel Sprong sent back to Juniors - PensBurgh
The Pittsburgh Penguins send their talented 18 year old winger back to Charlottetown of the Quebec League.

WIAA Says Ty Emberson Must Choose Between Team USA Or State Tournament - SB Nation College Hockey
The politics of high school hockey are bizarre.

Corey Crawford just put his name up there with Tony Esposito's - Second City Hockey
Crawford has stopped 88 shots in those three shutouts, or 112 total of the 114 he's faced in his last four starts. It's nice the Blackhawks have been (mostly) scoring a lot of goals for him in the meantime, but he hasn't quite needed the offensive support! In fact, no Chicago goaltender has needed the offensive support quite like this since the 1973-74 season when, in February of '74, Tony Esposito had three shutouts over four games.

John Kelly and his family take the fight to Cancer again - St. Louis Game Time
John Kelly's wife is battling cancer and she wants to spread awareness. Help her do so #stlblues fans.

Evander Kane

I brought this up in yesterday's FTBs comments, but thought it deserved it's own section here. This is a guy who the Winnipeg/Canadian media treated like garbage in a totally undeserving way.

Evander Kane continues to do good in Buffalo - Die By The Blade
He's not the player we'd heard he was, at all.

Species Recommends

I don't often make personal recommendations about what to read, so you know it's going to be interesting. This is a fascinating look at what happens in the media world when the end comes. Credit to @yyzsportsmedia for pointing it out.

The Untimely end of my TV career
A security guard was waiting for me to leave. I wanted to go back to the office and pick up a few things. The security guard wouldn't let me grab anything but my coat, my briefcase and my headphones. He told me he was sorry (everybody was sorry) and that he enjoyed watching me on TV. I asked him if he'd let me grab some files and some other items. He told me he was going to the bathroom. I scooped up a bunch of things and threw them into an empty blue box. 12 years of notebooks, file folders, tapes, clippings, scripts, teacups and knick-nacks. I forget to grab my autographed Doug Gilmour framed picture off the wall. I never got a chance to say goodbye to my viewers or my co-workers for that matter. And no severance pay. For anybody.