December 23 2013 08:55PM
Has David Clarkson ever been photographed standing up?
For the second consecutive game, the Toronto Maple Leafs lost in a shootout. For the second consecutive game, they were probably lucky to get a point in the first place, albeit under completely different circumstances.
Toronto was again out-shot heavily, this time at Madison Square Garden, and again failed to win in regulation. In the last 18 games, their only win through 60 minutes has come against Chicago, but they're piling up the points in the third standings column, and enter the three-day Christmas break at 18-16-5.
But the progress over the last few games was halted. We were back to the early season refrain for Toronto. Too many penalties, too many shots against, and too few engines running offensively. The Leafs were helped out thanks to another excellent goaltending performance from Jonathan Bernier, and a controversial late tying goal that sent the game to overtime. 2-1 is the official final.
First period was a bit of a snoozer, with the Leafs actually out-shooting the Rangers 10-9 and getting a slightly better share of the scoring chances, but there weren't many to go around. They also got a couple of powerplay opportunities, including one drawn by Mason Raymond on an excellent rush. Him and Joffrey Lupul were the two best Leafs in the period, and it looked like the Leafs would make a game against a team playing its second game of a back-to-back.
Alas, the second period came, and despite keeping it even for the first half, the penalties piled up. Peter Holland went off for roughing. Colt Knorr for holding. That penalty was shortened thanks to a pretty obvious goalie interference call on Rick Nash, but Lupul responded 90 seconds later with a just-as-obvious boarding on Ryan McDonagh. Then the Leafs were caught with five guys on the ice in the play already down a man, the team's fourth penalty on the period.
Bernier was perfect, stopping six or seven excellent scoring chances in the second half of the period, and the Leafs were out-shot 22-5 but held onto a 0-0 scoreline in the second.
The problem with being out-shot a lot is it usually means more time in your own zone, and the more time you spend in your own zone, the more chance you have of a defensive breakdown summarizing your evening. The Rangers were changing lines while pinning the puck in deep against Toronto's second line and third pairing of Morgan Rielly and Paul Ranger. Mason Raymond was watching the puck and completely missed a streaking J.T. Miller who found a tough area on the ice the easy way, and was unimpeded in receiving a pass from Chris Kreider. That was the first goal of the game to make it 1-0 for the Rangers.
Late, after the Leafs failed to score on a two-minute powerplay after Kreider flipped the puck over the glass, David Clarkson made a wraparound play and Rangers goalie Cam Talbot appeared to pin the puck against the post, but the whistle wasn't blown and Nazem Kadri stuffed it in. While I think the whistle should have blown, because it almost always blows in that situation, as soon as the puck went in and the referee signalled goal, it was clear that there was no way the league could possibly overturn the call. I don't know why the referee Jean Hebert didn't blown the whistle, but no reason to complain:
Best part about that goal is that the MSG game-ops didn't realize it was a goal at first, so they weren't pumping music into the stands. You get to hear Kadri celebrate, and Brian Boyle say some words that shouldn't be on TV.
"That's ****ing bull**** why didn't you ****ing blow it???"
Underrated aspect? The little back pass made by Raymond back to Rielly. He was watched by Boyle up at the top of the line and didn't have a lot of space to make the move, but attracted two Rangers players and left Rielly with a lot of time and space to make the pass to Clarkson.
Overtime was excellent and exciting, but solved nothing (except the riddle of: "Who can stop Phil Kessel if he's accelerating with space in the neutral zone?" The answer is "Ryan McDonagh") and we went to a shootout. Shootouts are complete coin flips, and the Leafs came out on the wrong end.
WHY THE LEAFS TIED
As much as Bernier stole one for the Leafs, props to Cam Talbot for making it a game at the other end as well. This would have been an interesting game to track scoring chances for. I don't think that the 43-26 shot clock was really indicative of the type of shots each goalie had to face, and Talbot seemed to have to make a lot of good saves in tight. Maybe not as many as Bernier, but certainly more proportionally to the shots they faced.
But it's that damn refrain. Shots against, shots against, shots against. The Leafs have the puck so little that they're constantly getting into situations where their goalie and defencemen need to bail them out, or take penalties. The breakout looked a bit cleaner tonight, and for at least the first period there was appropriate pressure put on the Rangers' point men. But, again, all statistics can tell you is the "what" and not the "why". We know what the Leafs' problem is, but there are still differing theories on why. It's obviously not just Mark Fraser's doing, since he was in the pressbox tonight. It still seems that this is a difficult system that has no margin for error, and the Leafs are making a disproportionate number of errors in execution, resulting in constant turnovers and frustration.
I hope HBO shows the between periods speech Randy Carlyle gave the Leafs after the second period. It's going to be legendary.
Bernier. What the hell, everybody else?
THIS ISN'T HOW YOU TAKE A FACEOFF
NUMB3RS AND NOTES
- The game chart is none too pretty. At the midway point in the game, the unblocked shots are 21-16 for the Rangers. At the end of the third, it's 52-28. Now, it's true, they did tie it up, but will they always tie it up if they play this badly? Just because they have the last two games, and have a history of dramatic comebacks since the start of the 2013 season…
- The Leafs' top Corsi players were Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson, the only players on the team to check in at above 50%. The Leafs out-attempted New York 11-9 with Franson on the ice and 15-13 with Kadri on.
- Kadri's line took the bulk of the minutes from that McDonagh-Girardi pairing, and a little under seven minutes against the Stepan line and the Boyle line. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault isn't ever committed to forward matchups, which contrasts Randy Carlyle's style.
- Though I thought they played well in the first, Raymond-Holland-Lupul were out-shot heavily in this game, mostly against the Brad Richards line and Anton Stralman defensive pairing. Leafs out-attempted 5-14 with Holland on, despite a 6-4 offensive-to-defensive zone start advantage. Richards played on a five-man unit with Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, Stralman and John Moore for most of the night and they were the Rangers' best players despite not getting rewarded on the scoreboard. The three forwards combined for 13 shots on goal.
- Leafs coming into the game… 61.4 shots on goal against per 60 minutes of 4-on-5 time. Tonight? 9 4-on-5 shots against in a little over 6-and-a-half minutes, or 81.6 over 60. Again, Jon Bernier was big in this one. With an added shot on the short 5-on-3, it's a tiny miracle the Rangers didn't score a powerplay goal in this game.