Leafs Postgame - Leafs defeat obnoxious troll; Coyotes in shootout 2-1

Cam Charron
December 19 2013 08:48PM

 

The Leafs major problems this year: a lack of depth scoring and a bevy of shots against. After the first period, the Leafs were leading 1-0 on a goal from Troy Bodie, and held a high-octane (seriously!) Phoenix team to just five shots through 20 minutes.

James Reimer ripped into his team after the performance against Florida, and rightfully so, and the Maple Leafs came out with a much better effort against Phoenix Thursday night, snapping a two-game losing streak. It probably doesn't matter that the Leafs blew another third period lead. Two points is two points, and perhaps the Barilkosphere will calm down for the next few days. 

There's still the matter of the single regulation win in the last 16 games, but after the late tying goal, the Leafs got through a high-event overtime period and wound up winning in a shootout that included the greatest troll move ever pulled by one Mike Smith. 2-1 Maple Leafs win.

THE RUNDOWN

No, seriously, Troy Bodie really did score his first as a Leaf late in the first period, at the end of a hard fourth line shift started with a simple dump-and-chase and a physical cycle game:

Forwards on the ice for Toronto: Bodie, Jerry D'Amigo and Peter Holland. It's amazing what can happen when three players that can skate make up the fourth line. Bodie and D'Amigo were both used sparingly, but were effective when they were on the ice, and it's a good thing they were, since Toronto scored its only goal of the game with them on the ice. 

The first ended with the Leafs out-shooting Phoenix 8-5, and the Leafs got the only powerplay. Is this real life?

Not too much happened in the second period. The teams traded mostly dump-ins and not establishing much offence. Phoenix began to turn things around, firing 13 shots at James Reimer, but he stopped all of them.

The third period was a little more open as the Coyotes really started to press. I was really impressed with the game of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Martin Hanzal, visually, and you could see the Leafs start to wear down physically along the walls. The Coyotes established possession often on dump-and-chase attempts and kept pressing. The Leafs failed to convert on a wild scramble in front of Mike Smith, and not finishing kept the Coyotes in the game.

Carl Gunnarsson had played a pretty good game up to the point he made a costly giveaway six seconds after, and the Coyotes were again able to establish good possession, and worked the puck around to Hanzal, who scored a rare goal off of a wraparound to tie the game:

Almost immediately after, Mike Smith flat out robbed Phil Kessel on a tic-tac-toe play and the game seemed destined for a shootout.

First shooter, James van Riemsdyk, tucked his shot under Smith's pad and over the line, but Smith worked himself out of the net without revealing the location of the puck under the equipment. Despite no conclusive replay showing the puck across the line, the NHL war-room deferred to common sense and proclaimed the puck in the net, giving the Leafs the shootout lead. Mikkel Boedker tied it on his next shot, but Joffrey Lupul won it with a nice head fake and shot, and Reimer sealed it with a save off of Antoine Vermette.

Here's the video of the Smith incident:

WHY THE LEAFS TIED

I'm old-fashioned. I don't think the shootout has a place in hockey, and I'm more than content with games like this finishing in ties. The Coyotes certainly didn't deserve to lose, but they also didn't do enough to win. The Leafs played well enough to win in the first 40 and well enough to lose in the last 20, so we'll call it even.

It was fun because late in the game, both teams ditched the game plan and traded rushes and scoring chances. The overtime was absolutely clown shoes. Morgan Rielly and Phil Kessel both came dangerously close on individual efforts to winning it in the OT.

Counting zone entries is sometimes a lot of fun and sometimes it's a pain. In the overtime, from 4:09 remaining in the OT to the end, the teams simply traded controlled entries. I'd never seen a sequence like that, but I thought it made the OT a lot of fun. Neither team really had much to lose, in a non-conference game. Reimer made a big stop off a 3-on-1, and John-Michael Liles did well to pick the puck off of a Coyote stick (missed who had it) after Rielly gave the puck away and nearly gave the Phoenix player a breakaway.

Hey, you know what me and Steve said about the Leafs needing to win 7-6? Yeah… forget that.

One thing I like, however, is that Toronto are taking much fewer penalties than they were. I've think they've had a +7 penalty differential in the last week.

BLUE WARRIOR

This is a tough one. I don't want to go with the goaltender Reimer. He stopped 34 of 35 and 2 of 3 in the shootout, but we've used the goalies already far too often this season in this space. Ditto Phil Kessel, but why not Nazem Kadri? The Leafs first line was a bounce or two away from breaking it wide open tonight. I had Kadri down with five controlled zone entries on the night and he certainly looked the part of a first line centreman. His line combined for 12 shots on goal.

NUMB3RS AND NOTES

Fenwick Graph from ExtraSkater

I like these game graphs. You can really see which team is controlling the play as it goes along. Toronto had a slim advantage towards the end of the second period until whhooooaaaa. The teams were tied at 21 unblocked shot attempts around the 17-minute mark of the second period, but Phoenix out-shot them 36-15 the rest of the way. Some of that is score effects, but the Leafs need to work on holding leads down. Defencemen don't have a lot of options when making passes out of the zone and end up having to chip the puck out (and conceding it back to the opposition) or making a dangerous pass that can result in a giveaway (which is what happened on the tying goal).

In the end, too many corss and fenwicks against the Leafs in the final 20.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#2 chuck
December 20 2013, 06:53AM
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Instead of focusing on Phaneuf, fans should look at the way Carlyle uses his lines. McClement lead all centermen with 20+ minutes. Leafs go in a shell when leading, and Carlyle over plays a McClement who can't create any offensive preassure.

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#3 Bertly83
December 20 2013, 06:36AM
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No Mclaren, no Fraser, and no Ranger = a win.

Coincidence? I think not.

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#4 plantheparade
December 20 2013, 07:17AM
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Always happy to see the buds pull one out but this was such a typical LEAFS game. A few points I noticed that the leafs are lacking:

- weak forechecking after the 1st period, less hits thrown by the top 6 - A LOT of bad passes coming out of the zone by the D, including unnecessary icings, and soft chip shots up the boards that don't make it past the opposing D on the point - leafs look horrible when they "slow it down"; lots of D mistakes holding the puck too long before making a pass or dumping it out; forwards making bad neutral zone plays because nobody is skating with speed through the zone includig them

I don't disagree with the other comments here but from a pure spectator who watches lots of hockey, the Leafs' game is just pure and simple UGLY right now - especially in 2nd and 3rd periods of games

Not sure the solution, whether its the coach, guys with the pucks making bad plays, or guys not moving without the puck the way they should (or all the above)

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#5 leafer2013
December 19 2013, 09:27PM
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Here is some interesting insights I came across recently on the leaf shot differential problem and in particular the reason for these third period collapses in corsi and sometimes goals against. Johnson at HockeyAnalysis did some nice work on Phaneuf and his defensive problem in different situations. The good is that Phaneuf looks like a decent defender for a marginal playoff bubble team and is particularly effective offensively when the leafs are trailing.

http://hockeyanalysis.com/2013/05/15/dion-phaneuf-when-protecting-a-lead-vs-when-playing-catch-up/

However, Phaneuf cannot and does not shutdown at an elite level. He is incapable of shutting down another team when the leafs are leading and he withers under the pressure which is being demonstrated in the inability for the leafs to close out game in regulation. And it should not be too surprising that Phaneuf was on the ice for the tieing goal in the third period versus Phoenix. His decision to chase Hanzel behind the net instead of staying in the front of the net is questionable. And till the, Phaneuf had a great game, though to be fair (Gunnar and Reimer were at fault).

I hope Nonis, heeds the insights of the variety of advanced statistics and doesn't sign Phaneuf to a Clarkson style contract as with these kind of warts, the remaining cap needs to be spent more efficiently and effectively if these teams wants to be more then wild card playoff team. What is becoming clearer from watching hockey and Johnson and Burtch's analysis is that Phaneuf is insufficient as the core member of the blue line of a cup winning team. And Phaneuf is a core problem with the leafs shot differential problems (particularly in pressure situations when the team is leading) and the leafs tend to collapse.

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#6 leafer2013
December 19 2013, 10:53PM
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It was a comment about the game, but maybe I rambled off topic so let me try again.

The leafs are not good playing with the lead, and often the leafs shot differential "collapse" when they have the lead which you show and comment on with your Fenwick chart.

The reason for these problems, and in particular the reason they get outshot as in the PHX game, can be explained in part by Phaneuf's inability to manage shot differential when the team has the lead (Johnson's link above) and Phaneuf poor skill in minimizing corsi events against (Burtch's SDI previously).

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#7 STAN
December 19 2013, 11:26PM
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leafer2013 wrote:

It was a comment about the game, but maybe I rambled off topic so let me try again.

The leafs are not good playing with the lead, and often the leafs shot differential "collapse" when they have the lead which you show and comment on with your Fenwick chart.

The reason for these problems, and in particular the reason they get outshot as in the PHX game, can be explained in part by Phaneuf's inability to manage shot differential when the team has the lead (Johnson's link above) and Phaneuf poor skill in minimizing corsi events against (Burtch's SDI previously).

Gotta side with Leafs2013 - Phaneuf was mostly average to poor in this game. He was on the ice for the tying goal, cleared the puck to nowhere at least twice (in this game) and when he showed a flash of assertiveness exiting his zone, he tended to make a low-percentage pass off the boards or miss the intended target.

Overall this game was pretty boring. AHL skill levels are better on most occasions.

Also, if Nonis is dense enough to sign Phaneuf to $7M per season for seven seasons, about half the cap space will be taken up by his precious core of (in order of paycheque size): Kessel, Phaneuf, Clarkson, JvR and Bozak.

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#8 Poluza
December 19 2013, 10:43PM
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The second half of that game was downright sloppy. Ekman-Larsson was dangling around everyone by the end. But that celebration by Reimer at the end of the shootout totally threw all my worries out the window. Very entertaining game!

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#9 spogorzelec
December 20 2013, 11:52PM
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Thank God For Reimer, once again saves the day...Was starting to worry what was happening as he's not been playing as I know he can...but it was great seeing him play on Thursday and bringing one hme again... Once again he wins the shoot out.....something goalie #45 hasns't been able to do....You know it's the shoot out's that show your team, fans, management etc what your Goalie is made of, as it's one on one, and there is no one to help you win or loose for your team.... I am so sick of all the crap thrown at Reimer, like him or not he's the person who brought this team as far as he did last year, he's the one whoses ben with this team since the Marlies, he's the one who strives to improve his game for his team and himself...

YET HES PLAY ALOT LESS GAMES AND IS BEING TREATED MORE AS A SECOND RATE BACK UP GOALIE THAN THE NUMBER 1 GOALIE, HE'S HAD TO PLAY SECONF FIDDLE SINCE PRESEASON FINSHED WHY BERNIER GETS TREATED LIKE HE'S THE SAVIOUR THAT'S GONNA WIN IT FOR THE FANS, A GOALIE UN PROVEN AS A NUMBER ONE CONTENDER WHO WAS IN QUICKS SHADOW, WELL I THINK THIS TEAM IS IN FOR A RUDE AWAKENING, YOU ALREADY HAD A GOALIE WHO DESERVES ALOT MORE THAN HE;S GETTING AND IT'S TO BAD HIS FAITH KEEPS HIM FROM TELLING YOU ALL TO SHOVE IT,,,,

REIM'S YOUR THE BEST PLAYER THIS TEAM HAS, AND IF THE WHOLE TEAM COULD WORK WITH REIMER AND EACH OTHER IT WOULD BE AWSOME...

GO MY MAN GO!!!!!!!

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#10 BCLeafFan
December 20 2013, 11:49AM
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plantheparade wrote:

Always happy to see the buds pull one out but this was such a typical LEAFS game. A few points I noticed that the leafs are lacking:

- weak forechecking after the 1st period, less hits thrown by the top 6 - A LOT of bad passes coming out of the zone by the D, including unnecessary icings, and soft chip shots up the boards that don't make it past the opposing D on the point - leafs look horrible when they "slow it down"; lots of D mistakes holding the puck too long before making a pass or dumping it out; forwards making bad neutral zone plays because nobody is skating with speed through the zone includig them

I don't disagree with the other comments here but from a pure spectator who watches lots of hockey, the Leafs' game is just pure and simple UGLY right now - especially in 2nd and 3rd periods of games

Not sure the solution, whether its the coach, guys with the pucks making bad plays, or guys not moving without the puck the way they should (or all the above)

The Leafs are simply an average Eastern Conference team. Western Conference games, for the most part, are much more enjoyable to watch. Here's hoping that Tyler Bozak's return will help the Leafs pick it up, and I'd really like the Phaneuf haters to come up with a guy that can eat up the minutes with same +- as Phaneuf. He's not fantastic but he's the best the Leafs have.

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#11 pettycamp
December 20 2013, 11:11PM
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Morgan Rielly's poise, skating ability, and hockey sense is off the charts.

I don't know if he will ever be strong enough or big enough to be the #1 guy they desperately need back there (i.e. to replace Dion), but I thought Morgan should have been considered for blue warrior in the PHX game. I am so impressed with him.

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