December 17 2013 08:24PM
Is there any good news to glean from the Leafs most recent loss to the Florida Panthers? Well, at last check, the New York Islanders were up 2-0 on the Tampa Bay Lightning, which might improve the Maple Leafs' lottery processes.
Throughout the game, the broadcast showed images of Randy Carlyle furiously scribbling away on a whiteboard and nobody on the Leafs bench seemed to really pay attention to him. That's sort of become the theme for Toronto. Randy Carlyle is just flat out of answers. He benched Jake Gardiner for an extended period of time against the Florida Panthers because of one giveaway, yet never feels the need to hold other Maple Leafs players accountable for the same rare moments of lapses.
As it turns out, the giveaway by Gardiner was elementary. The Toronto Maple Leafs demon on Tuesday night again, was familiar. This team can't score, and this team can't score because it was put together by an inept management group that favoured intangibles and birthplace over talent and production. It was 3-1 Florida, but who cares.
The Leafs certainly weren't the better team in the early going, but they didn't deserve to be down 1-0 after 3-and-a-half minutes, but a turnover from Nazem Kadri and a lousy pinch decision by Dion Phaneuf gave Tomas Fleischmann (the *dangerous* Tomas Fleischmann) the puck on a partial breakaway and he made a pretty good shot over James Reimer to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
The remainder of the first was relatively tame. The Leafs, who have been doing much better by way of penalty differential over the last two games, earned a taste of the familiar with a stupid holding the stick penalty taken by David Clarkson. The Panthers didn't do anything on the powerplay, but it was nice that there was an air of familiarity about the game. The unblocked shot attempts were even going into the second.
Sort of fell apart there. Jake Gardiner made the giveaway a little under five minutes into the second that led to an extended period of zone time for the Panthers second line of Sasha Barkov, Brad Boyes and Sean Bergenheim. Knowing that Carlyle is a results-based coach, does Gardiner get benched for that turnover if the interference is called on Dmitry Kulikov here…
…hence negating the goal? I think no. Bergenhim scored at the end of the shift.
The third Panthers goal was helped out on another missed call on Kulikov, who took out Mason Raymond's legs from under him, and after the Panthers cleared the zone, Carl Gunnarsson got a little too casual with the puck and gave it away to Brad Boyes, who had enough time to skate in on James Reimer and find his own rebound before any Leaf so much as laid a finger on him.
Finally, a bit later in the period, the Leafs were able to test Scott Clemmensen, but Nazem Kadri was stopped point blank. That was… about it. Peter Holland made a great move to set up a goal by Mason Raymond early in the third to break the shutout, but ultimately, the Leafs didn't generate enough on Clemmensen, and though they out-shot Florida, teams should be getting more than 29 shots if they're trailing for 56 minutes.
WHY THE LEAFS LOST
This was something Greg Millen picked up on in the second period. It didn't lead to a goal against, or an icing, but it just sums up how predictable and counter-productive the Leafs' breakout is:
Now, Mark Fraser isn't a great hockey player. He has difficulty making passes from his own goal-line to his own blue-line, let alone tape-to-tape aerials. Is he supposed to have support in the neutral zone? He should, because the odds of making this pass are pretty slim.
This had no impact on the final result, but neither did Carlyle scribbling on his board like so:
I liked Phil Kessel's game tonight. He was flying through the neutral zone, led the team in controlled carries by a wide margin, and his line with Kadri and van Riemsdyk were the only ones that were generating any sort of consistent effort all night. Three shots on goal for each of the players on that line, and I thought they deserved a goal or two. Kessel had one entry that I marked with a star where he just exploded on a loose puck in the neutral zone and kicked it up to top speed, and only just missed the net with his hard wrist shot.
It was cool. Should the game have had a better result I'd have uploaded it.
NUMB3RS AND NOTES
The Fenwick graph from Extra Skater. If you don't know how to read this, it's essentially a progression of unblocked shot attempts throughout the game. The Leafs were generally in it but got a couple of bad breaks. I think if this loss doesn't come tacked on to a long slump, we shrug it off as "team got unlucky, playing a back-to-back against a rested team" but I'm angry now. I've spent a lot of time watching the Leafs this year and there has yet to be a payoff.
- Credit to the Leafs for managing to out-shoot Florida 7-4 with Mark Fraser on the ice. Didn't see that coming.
- My eyeballs liked the top line tonight, and the data confirmed it. Leafs out-attempted Florida 19-12 with Kadri on the ice, and the best three Leaf forwards were 1-2-3 in Corsi on the night by a healthy margin.
- Dion Phaneuf had another good night, this time up against Fleischmann-Bjugstad-Upshall. Other than the brain fart on the first Florida goal, that line didn't generate much, combining for three shots on net, all from Fleischmann.
- I liked Holland's play on the goal, but his line was the Leafs' weak link. Despite five offensive zone shift starts and just three in the defensive zone, the Leafs were out-attempted 12-16 with him on the ice. To be fair, he saw a lot of time against the Tom Gilbert and Brian Campbell pairing.
- The Leafs ate up on the Panthers' fourth line, but most of the Panthers' top three units were in the black, possession-wise. I guess the fair thing to say is that it was a very even game, but the Leafs took advantage of the Panthers' lack of depth. Troy Bodie and Jerry D'Amigo played well-enough on the wings to help Jay McClement to another positive possession night.
- Leafs won the Corsi Close battle 19-15, which is encouraging, especially on the second half of a back-to-back. Their number has crept up from 41% to about 43% over the last couple of weeks, but they're still nowhere good enough to play well against the best teams in the league.
- Data via ExtraSkater