Leafs postgame - Leafs lose again. We want toast!

Cam Charron
January 10 2014 08:37PM

Well, let's focus on the positives: Toronto had a healthy scoring chance advantage, to my eyes, over the Washington Capitals. Jonathan Bernier had a pretty good start, the struggling Maple Leafs penalty kill held a very potent Capitals powerplay to no goals, and just seven shots in eight minutes. The checking line was very good, and dominated the possession matchup against the Caps top line. Ex-Leaf Mikhail Grabovski was held to a minus-8 Corsi, the second-lowest on the Capitals.

In other good news, Carolina's win streak ended in Columbus at five games. They lost 3-0.

The bad news is that the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped their fourth straight in regulation. They don't have a regulation or overtime win on the road since October 30 in Calgary. They are 12-20 in games decided in regulation, and the door is open for both Ottawa and New Jersey to surpass the Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings tomorrow with wins. The Leafs dropped a 3-2 decision in Washington, squandering an early third period lead in the process.

THE RUNDOWN

I felt Toronto had the run of play in this one, so there's no sense in laying waste to the organization and my belief in sports again tonight. Minus two consecutive staged fights in the second period, it was at least enjoyable as a hockey game. Mikhail Grabovski set up Alex Ovechkin early in the second to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead, matched quickly by a nice little deflection by James van Riemsdyk on the powerplay.

Early in the third, Phil Kessel shot a puck past Michal Neuvirth thanks to a deflection off Karl Alzner's stick, which wasn't pretty but got the job done. Unfortunately, Nick Backstrom tied it up minutes later on a flubbed pass across the crease that banked in off Cody Franson some Leaf player, and at the tail end of a powerplay, Marcus Johansson set up Joel Ward in the slot who had a tonne of open area. He fanned on his shot, but it was knuckling enough to get by Jonathan Bernier. Despite a brief late charge, the Leafs weren't able to tie the game, and Neuvirth was first star for the Caps.

Still, in the third period, Mason Raymond was stopped on a golden set-up from Tyler Bozak, and Joffrey Lupul had the puck bounce over his stick. Some other nights, those pucks go in and the Leafs get another goal and the game goes to overtime tied. We can definitely say that the Leafs have used up all of their good fortune. Leaf fans sipped Felix Felicis in large doses last season, and have moved on to straight scotch this time around.

WHY THE LEAFS LOST

You can tell that Randy Carlyle isn't sleeping well. Check out the bags under his eyes. He doesn't look good close-up in high definition, for sure:

Compare that to Adam Oates. Now, I don't hold Oates in as high regard as I have for somebody like Mike Babcock or Todd McLellan, but the man oozed class tonight with that candy cane tie:

 

The Capitals got the key saves at the right times and the Leafs didn't. That's not talent, that's just being a little bit luckier on the night. Adam Oates wore his lucky tie and Randy Carlyle looked like he was up all night with an Archer marathon.

BLUE WARRIOR

Kudos to any Toronto Maple Leaf that is attempting to bring down this operation from the inside. Nikolai Kulemin took not one, but two minor penalties in the offensive zone tonight. That sort of sacrifice must be commended, as Kulemin is likely costing himself minutes in ice-time to increase the chances of his team losing and cleaning house so that a new management group can squeeze out the last remaining goals of Lupul's prime and Kessel's peak before it's too late.

NUMB3RS AND NOTES

The Leafs being on the road throws me off since the colour on the ExtraSkater Fenwick graphs defaults to red. Especially on nights where they're playing a team dressed in red like Washington. Red is unblocked shots by the Leafs, blue is unblocked shots by the Capitals:

 

Observations from the ExtraSkater game page:

  • Pretty even much of the way. The Leafs held a slim advantage after the second, but unfortunately, late in the game score effects didn't kick in and the unblocked shots were 8-7 for Washington after they took a 3-2 lead.
     
  • Score-close 5-on-5 Corsi was fairly even. Washington had a slim 38-36 advantage. The Leafs didn't get dominated in this one.
     
  • While the 16-84-8 line for the Capitals were in on a couple of goals, it's worth noting that they were crushed in possession by the Leafs' checking line. Little consolation, but good on Jay McClement, Nik Kulemin and David Clarkson on their respective+14, +6 and +5 Corsi numbers. Oddly, Randy gave McClement zone offensive zone draws, giving 14 defensive zone draws to Tyler Bozak and just 4 to McClement. Now, about those three penalties…
     
  • The Leafs fourth line was tuned up. Colton Orr, Jerry D'Amigo and Carter Ashton failed to attempt a single shot on the Capitals' net.
     
  • Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson were back together for this one, both with above zero possession nights against the Capitals' first line, with plenty of defensive zone starts.
  • The Leafs drop to 4-16-2 when their goalie fails to post a .920 save percentage. Again, goalie doesn't steal a victory, the Leafs don't get one. Such is life.
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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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#1 leafer2013
January 10 2014, 08:58PM
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The game tonight strengthened my belief that the problem is with the team compete and not the system or coach. See what happens when Kessel and JVR back and fore checking and funny enough, the shot differential reflected this. This is the level of effort that is needed to be competitive (shot differential wise) in the league.

The next step for the team is to generate some consistency and confidence with this same kind of effort night after night. Or keep up with the inconsistent play and force some roster changes

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#2 leafer4life
January 11 2014, 07:04AM
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Also it has to be said that Grabbo is trash for slashing Kessel. Go try that stuff on Orr pineapple head. I'm surprised Grabbo didn't run our goalie. Grabbo is a rat and I'm glad he is off the team. The guy has no respect for his fellow players.

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#3 kesselkadri
January 10 2014, 09:44PM
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Like I suspected, the leafs needed more grit in the line up and a few fights to motivate and open up room for the leafs forwards. Orr's fight is the turning point of the season and the creation of the leaf identity. The team just plays better, show passions and even Kessel back check when Orr fights.

Orr's grit and value to the team is clear with how Kadri bowled over Bouwer and how the team was competing the entire game and got that team finally going. The interesting thing is both teams played better afterward. But even JVR noted how his game was elevated with that fight and how they battled tonight being physical.

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#4 STAN
January 10 2014, 10:35PM
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Just 54 days to the trading deadline and if Nonis has learned anything from his longtime buddy and mentor Brian Burke, he might be able to upgrade. But that's a long shot.

With two Marlies D-men ready for promotion (Percy and Brennan), why not send Fraser and Ranger to the NY Rangers for Del Zotto. Salaries are almost a wash and the Leafs get a quality guy back.

Or those same two dudes (duds) to Edmonton for Gagner or, say, David Peron.

And having Orr and McLaren suiting up AT ALL makes little sense in this day and age. Put them on waivers or try to swap them for picks.

My only fear is that the Leafs are still in the hands of a management cabal that basically traded Grabbo, MacArthur, Liles and $15M for Tim Gleason.

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#5 negrilcowboy
January 11 2014, 04:26PM
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@Jeremy Ian

thanks for the chat jeremy, while i never formally spent much time studying philospy as my major was engineering the fallacy of division may or may not apply to the leafs. i can state that the current edition of the leafs is a fallacy, one conjurged up by some slick talking front office types.

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#7 Derek
January 10 2014, 10:44PM
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kesselkadri wrote:

Like I suspected, the leafs needed more grit in the line up and a few fights to motivate and open up room for the leafs forwards. Orr's fight is the turning point of the season and the creation of the leaf identity. The team just plays better, show passions and even Kessel back check when Orr fights.

Orr's grit and value to the team is clear with how Kadri bowled over Bouwer and how the team was competing the entire game and got that team finally going. The interesting thing is both teams played better afterward. But even JVR noted how his game was elevated with that fight and how they battled tonight being physical.

Poe's Law. Not sure if serious...

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#8 negrilcowboy
January 11 2014, 09:19AM
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kessel and jvr get a hall pass more than any other player in the organization. the constant fly bys instead of an actual check result in goals against time and time again. kitty carlyle needs to shake the lineup. put a star or two in the booth. as for the captain, the dion is a shoe in for the most overrated nhler award again. cut back the minutes and play with some energy. coasting for 24 mins plus a night and not being an impact results in losses.

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#9 negrilcowboy
January 11 2014, 11:52AM
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Jeremy Ian wrote:

Hm. JVR led the team in shots (5) and hits (4). Kessel (2 points) made 3 hits, same as the "grit" we picked up from Carolina, Gleason, who got mashed by Ovechkin.

keep drinking the coolaid pal. kessel and his franchise tag needs to be competing at the highest level every shift, not the coasting until he gets his break down the wall and fires a blast at the net followed by the scenic tour back on defense. the team defense particularily the so called big guns is pathetic. i thought shoes phanoof handled the tough minutes as per the pr campaign, afterall wasnt his re-upping at 7 for 7 suppose to save the franchise.

the leafs have more passengers than air canada, well live with the fact that kessel was cut loose by the bruins for his somewhat pedestrian approach to defense. take the 30 to 40 goal campaigns and not look at the other side of the ledger.

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#10 negrilcowboy
January 11 2014, 01:51PM
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leaferfan wrote:

But Kessel is paid a large portion of the cap. If he can't play a complete game and is overpaid for the value he provides then that cap space takes away from offering quality team mates to support Kessel. In effect, to keep kessel we had to buy out Grabbo and sign a worse and cheaper Bozak.

seems like jeremy likes the flashy rush down the wall the slapshot and the wide gliding turn that phil provides over a true player who's results are winning hockey games. kessel is the hockey equivalent to a 50 home run guy that bats 200 and leaves runners on base in the ninth.

in all fairness to bozak, he is a very capable 2c, the reason he gets topshelf treatment from kitty carlyle is to appease phil. phils imput into who is on the team suggests primadonna not champion.

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#11 Jeremy Ian
January 11 2014, 02:07PM
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@leaferfan

Clearing cap space for Kessel was not why Grabbo was bought out. Please. It was to clear for Clarkson, for more "grit" for the money.

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#12 negrilcowboy
January 11 2014, 03:03PM
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Jeremy Ian wrote:

Yup, I confess to that perverse affection for fast skaters who enter the zone with possession and take shots in order to score. You got me there. I like results that help win games. Guilty as charged.

if you like results that win games then you would or should realy enjoy players that dont take the long scenic route back on defensive coverage. players that compete for one on one puck battles and go to the dirty areas of the ice, block shots and finish checks not half hearted flybys and bail .

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#13 Jeremy Ian
January 11 2014, 09:02AM
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Nice write-up. Just a few minor points, then a larger one in response to Stan who posted on your last thread (I roll into this one to keep things going...).

1. The Kadri line looks like it might be getting its groove. No goals, but got some pressure and Lupul led the team with 5 shots.

2. Saw D'Amigo make a strong rush that led to a decent shot, though I don't think he was with the 4th line at the time. In fact, I think it was on the PK. He's got skill. On a better 4th line he'd be an effective weapon.

3. Grit shmit. The Orr fight was a turning point? 14:58 of the 2nd period. Look at the graph that Cam produced for us -- thanks, Cam, always helps to have evidence-based arguments -- and note that the red and blue lines CONVERGED after that fight. Turning points should mean divergence. The Caps outshot the Leafs in the 3rd, 14:9. Cam's right, the 4th line was tuned up a bit. But Ashton was a bigger physical presence on the ice than Orr, and D'Amigo had the speed. Whatever. A confirmation bias is when you search for evidence to confirm your hypothesis or preconception. It's the scourge of science. But it also means that those who fall prey to it are likely to dismiss evidence that disproves their preconception. So, I am not expecting to convince the grit-lovers. But man, grit is an inflated quality. I prefer it for breakfast when in New Orleans.

4. True, the 3rd line played better. But it's still a weak link.

Right, RC's not looking so hot. Pretty sure that Nonis has read the riot act to him: turn this around or else. Hence the desperate plea for confidence from a coach that confused motivation with degradation.

Stan asked in your previous thread about how you restructure when you are locked into a handful of big contracts. That's a fair enough question because one thing this half-season's proven is that this team as is will not be very successful at anything other than disappointing fans.

But what you do depends on what you think's wrong. There are always options and choices. Mediocrity is not a destination unless you choose it. My sense is that what was chosen was dialed into a coach's preferences. We can quarrel about whether RC's "system" was a good one or not. But if it were to work, it needed a lot of personnel changes, either shipping people out or retooling the ones who stayed in. The last nudge in that direction was Gleason over Liles. The money was a wash, but the marginal value added for Liles to the Canes far exceeded the marginal returns to the Leafs from Gleason. (Basically, it pulls Ranger off the ice; maybe that was a tweak upgrade) Doesn't mean Gleason's a bad player. It just means that was bad management to conform to a dying gameplan in a deal with a Conference rival poised to step on your head in the scramble for a playoff berth.

So, now you come up with a new gameplan. Pessimism gets you nowhere unless you think the future is foretold.

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#14 Jeremy Ian
January 11 2014, 12:07PM
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@negrilcowboy

Hang on, gulp, gulp. OK.

Let's take Kessel and JVR out of the line-up. What's the score, then? See Cam above.

Phaneuf on Ovechkin -- one of the great defense-sniper match-ups in the league. Who won that battle last night? Corsi from last night for Dion? Positive, despite being Ovie's shadow for much of it. Ovechkin scores when Franson and Gleason are on him.

If you want to pick on a struggler, be honest: Cody Franson.

What interests me as a sidebar is how fans want to blame their best players for what's going wrong. I need to understand; having finished my Kool-aid maybe I'll even be able to think straight.

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#15 negrilcowboy
January 11 2014, 12:55PM
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Jeremy Ian wrote:

Hang on, gulp, gulp. OK.

Let's take Kessel and JVR out of the line-up. What's the score, then? See Cam above.

Phaneuf on Ovechkin -- one of the great defense-sniper match-ups in the league. Who won that battle last night? Corsi from last night for Dion? Positive, despite being Ovie's shadow for much of it. Ovechkin scores when Franson and Gleason are on him.

If you want to pick on a struggler, be honest: Cody Franson.

What interests me as a sidebar is how fans want to blame their best players for what's going wrong. I need to understand; having finished my Kool-aid maybe I'll even be able to think straight.

can you honestly say that shoes phanoof is an impact player? the team defense sucks as evidenced by shots on goal. you can use all the analytics you want, kessel is pedestrian. what is more disturbing is that people give 81 a hall pass when he scores, yet he is a defensive liability with his cavalier approach to the game.

i whole heartly agree franson is struggling, no doubt there. the whole team is struggling as indicated by their terrible record.

corsi, lmao. it is a miss leading stat at times, as is pus/minus. a player can float and rely on teammates to push the play and have a good corsi. possession is also misleading, some players have great possesion numbers and accomplish squat. perhaps a new stat can be created that measures true impact. i sense you like to take an approach that stats such as hits and shots are the end all be all. lets look at the ten bell quality shots, and the effect of hits. scoring a hit is arbitrary at best, after the play passes i rub you out along the boards but in the column it says i hit you, no measurement of the force of the hit or the outcome. chit the juniors out hit the entire tourny therfore they win, lol play the game and you will have a far better understanding as to the value of stats. dave semenko had great corsi numbers playing bodyguard to gretzky and kurri yet was a terrible hckey player but the ultimate facepuncher. going off the stats he is a hall of famer. lol

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#16 Jeremy Ian
January 11 2014, 01:07PM
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@negrilcowboy

So, it's my cherry-picked anecdote versus yours? How do you define and gauge "impact?"

We're all agreeing that things are a mess. But why aim at the little evidence that's good? Actually, last night Kessel did some decent back-checking for a change. Oops. That's evidence. You really think benching Kessel is going make things better? Hey, what are you drinking and I'll trade in my kool-aid?

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#17 negrilcowboy
January 11 2014, 01:22PM
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Jeremy Ian wrote:

So, it's my cherry-picked anecdote versus yours? How do you define and gauge "impact?"

We're all agreeing that things are a mess. But why aim at the little evidence that's good? Actually, last night Kessel did some decent back-checking for a change. Oops. That's evidence. You really think benching Kessel is going make things better? Hey, what are you drinking and I'll trade in my kool-aid?

sounds like you have a crush on kessel, wearing your 81 jersey while typing lol. survey knowledgable former nhl players regarding kessels play and i assure you it will be overwhelmingly. kessel is a lazy offensive minded player. the contract demands that he be a 200 foot player and a leader.

ovie while being a sniper falls into the same category as phil, and look at the sucess the caps have had. i will take toews,staal, richards over either of those one dimensional scorers and hoist the mug. the bruins let phil walk because the team had no need for a passenger.

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#18 leaferfan
January 11 2014, 01:42PM
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@Jeremy Ian

But Kessel is paid a large portion of the cap. If he can't play a complete game and is overpaid for the value he provides then that cap space takes away from offering quality team mates to support Kessel. In effect, to keep kessel we had to buy out Grabbo and sign a worse and cheaper Bozak.

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#19 Jeremy Ian
January 11 2014, 09:24AM
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negrilcowboy wrote:

kessel and jvr get a hall pass more than any other player in the organization. the constant fly bys instead of an actual check result in goals against time and time again. kitty carlyle needs to shake the lineup. put a star or two in the booth. as for the captain, the dion is a shoe in for the most overrated nhler award again. cut back the minutes and play with some energy. coasting for 24 mins plus a night and not being an impact results in losses.

Hm. JVR led the team in shots (5) and hits (4). Kessel (2 points) made 3 hits, same as the "grit" we picked up from Carolina, Gleason, who got mashed by Ovechkin.

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#20 leaferfan
January 11 2014, 10:00AM
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I came across some hard statistics on the value of McClement destroying the "narrative" that Carlyle's usage of the third line is wrong or whatever.

McClement Under 15 mins: 3-9-0 2 of those wins in the shootout)(3-2 with Bolland, 0-7 without)

McClement Over 15 mins: 18-11-5

The team as a whole has won more game when McClement gets more minutes even though that line does not contribute offensively. Maybe the truth that people don't want to accept is that the problem is compete level "skilled players" and not the compete level of these 3/4th line grunts.

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#21 Jeremy Ian
January 11 2014, 01:35PM
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@negrilcowboy

Survey knowledgeable former NHL players?

Teams are composed of interdependent, specialized parts. That's what makes them a t-e-a-m. Kessel's got a role; is he a 360 degree or 200 ft player? No. But that's why teams have defensemen and goalies. K's role is to be an offensive juggernaut. If the team doesn't have a Toews, et al, why blame Kessel? Beside Toews is another sniper. Beside Ovie is another 2-way playmaker. Oops. He used to be on the Leafs. Scratch that. But don't blame Kessel for the bone-headed decision to buy out Grabovski.

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#22 Jeremy Ian
January 11 2014, 02:12PM
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@negrilcowboy

Yup, I confess to that perverse affection for fast skaters who enter the zone with possession and take shots in order to score. You got me there. I like results that help win games. Guilty as charged.

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#23 Jeremy Ian
January 11 2014, 03:39PM
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@negrilcowboy

We're starting to waste digital space here. You want Kessel to be someone else; I want Kessel to be on a better team. (I include the coach on the team.)

There's this thing I learned when I was a student at U of T, in some philosophy course I think. It's called "the fallacy of division." It's a logical thing. Has nothing to do with statistics. It's when you reason that when something is true of a whole (like a team sucks) the same must be true of its parts. Like, a movie is bad, so the actors are bad. De Niro would have a lousy career if we committed the fallacy of division when assessing his acting skills.

The Leafs are miserable. And they've gotten worse. But falling into the trap of the fallacy of division will lead to bad decisions when the Leafs could actually take advantage of their crisis and start making some good ones.

Anyway, nice chatting with you @negrilcowboy.

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