December 12 2013 09:28PM
Thanks to the Toronto Maple Leafs Twitter account for sparing me the trouble of having to find an appropriate picture for this mess.
That's all it was. Less than 24 hours after their best performance on the season, despite a loss, to Los Angeles, everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Toronto in St. Louis and it's coming more clear that the team has no ability to play against the big dogs in the league. Los Angeles was an anomaly, and it's not outside the realm of plausibility that the real Kings a night ago had simply gone to the Loose Moose and switched places with a beer league team, figuring they wouldn't need to bother showing up against the Leafs.
Fatigue is one thing. Going from your best game in quite some time, to the absolute worst since the pre-Brian Burke era, is quite another. The Leafs came out flat and left flatter, with the score made respectable thanks to three great saves made by their starting goalie in the first ten minutes, four goal-posts by St. Louis, and a fluke bounce off Alex Pietrangelo. 6-3 was the final, and to quote Joe Bowen from back when the score was 2-0: "it's not even that close."
The Leafs got the first scoring chance of the game, as Trevor Smith hopped on a loose puck and got a good shot away on Brian Elliott. Unfortunately, for the rest of the first period, Elliott may as well have been picking the lint out between his toes, since Toronto didn't even come close to testing him after that.
James Reimer made a series of saves, but was beaten by a wide-open David Backes on a pass from behind the net, dropped his stick and couldn't contain a close-in shot from Jaden Schwartz, and allowed a third goal on another pass from behind the net.
Reimer was mercifully pulled. He didn't play well enough to steal the game for Toronto, but at the same time, the Leafs shouldn't need the goalie to steal every win for them. In the rare moments they've outplayed the opposition this season, they've been unfortunately out-goaltended. So in comes Jonathan Bernier, and he shut the door for the rest of the period (one shot) and the Leafs were down 3-0 after 20. Also, Carl Gunnarsson left the bench to go to the room after blocking a shot with his arm, which is lovely.
Second period, Schwartz again set up a play, setting of Vladimir Sobotka. Mark Fraser's stick somehow left his hand, and Sobotka passed the puck over to Chris Stewart, who made it 4-0. Leafs got one back, on a long shot from Nazem Kadri that somehow fooled Elliott (must have got toe lint in his eyes) but other than the above-pictured fight, nothing happened for the rest of the period, unless you also count David Clarkson's illegal check to the head of Sobotka that will probably get reviewed by the league.
Third period, goal by Alexander Steen… then Kulemin, then James van Riemsdyk made it 5-3 on a play that had Alex Pietrangelo kicking the puck in (can't take P.K. Subban to Sochi because he makes mental errors at key times) and van Riemsdyk very nearly made it 4-3 a couple of seconds later on a scramble in front. But the game effectively ended when David Backes scored his second, banking in a puck onto the Leaf empty net off the boards in his own end.
Do we need to know the stats? Leafs out-shot 36-22, out-Corsi'd 46-28 at even strength, 15-3 in score-close situations, and were out-Fenwick'd 52-28 overall. I suppose the crazypants part about the 6-3 final is that it could have been worse. You might also say it #couldof been worse.
WHY THE LEAFS LOST
Because Randy Carlyle is a mad man that is trying to employ an impossible breakout technique and trying to to get the puck to his forwards using long stretch passes through both zones rather than use the speed that almost every single one of his forwards has.
Getting out-shot hurts, but the Most Outshot was Mark Fraser, and yet it's his defensive partner Paul Ranger that keeps getting the blame:
Any team that dresses Paul Ranger probably isn't making the playoffs. #leafs— Sid Seixeiro (@Sid_Seixeiro) December 13, 2013
It can't be a coincidence that whenever the opposition attempts to enter the zone, it's on Mark Fraser's side of the ice. The Leafs have an awful bottom pairing, and while Ranger isn't totally not-at-fault for what's been happening, the fact of the matter is that the Leafs straight up paid an AHL defenceman because he was +18, and didn't take into account the lofty shooting percentage the Leafs racked up with him on the ice. He recorded a point on seven of the 42 even strength goals he was on the ice for, and the Leafs assumed that he was the one driving his high plus/minus number?
And, yes, it's hard to blame Fraser, because he's not the one that keeps putting Mark Fraser in the lineup every night. Over 19 minutes for Ranger and close to 19 for Fraser. Unreal.
There are few Leafs that I liked the games of. Trevor Smith is one, Nik Kulemin is another, Peter Holland is a third, but I'm going to go with Morgan Rielly, because it's quite apparent he won't get a chance on Saturday because Carlyle thinks he's too volatile. Granted, he didn't get a regular matchup on the night, but the Leafs out-attempted St. Louis with Rielly on the ice, 14-13 (same with Kulemin, but he played fewer minutes).
- Free John-Michael Liles