February 04 2014 08:59PM
Shot clock in Florida midway through the second period
Well, I suppose Jeffler posted the above photo across social media for a reason. For those of you who never saw Space Jam, log off right now and go watch the movie, and THEN come re-join us in the postgame thread. For those that need a refresher, scrawny aliens need to play a basketball game against the Looney Tunes, so they capture the talents of NBA stars and beat up on the Looney Tunes until the second half, when the Tunes are led by Michael Jordan to a heroic comeback and also get clutch performances from Bill Murray and Newman for some reason.
As best as I can tell, the Florida Panthers captured the talent of a real NHL team and just absolutely hammered the Leafs. The final score was 4-1 but that flattered the Leafs somewhat. I have no idea what I just saw.
Well… it started out with the Panthers dominating zone time, locking the Maple Leafs first line in their defensive zone for a good minute, and didn't really stop there. Jonathan Bernier was insane, stopping 19 pucks in the first, and it carried over to the second.
Mostly, anyway. David Clarkson took a pretty weak slashing call (considering the stuff the referees were allowing, I didn't like the penalty) and the 30th-ranked Florida PP scored within a minute on a Tom Gilbert slapshot. Still, that was all the Panthers got past Bernier in the second frame, and Bernier had to make two breakaway stops off of Jonathan Huberdeau and Scottie Upshall to preserve the one-goal deficit.
It looked like it could be one of those games where the Leafs got their show run on the shot clock but somehow pull it out with a timely goal or two. Not so. Tim Thomas robbed James van Riemsdyk twice, and stopped 20-of-21 overall, with lots of those shots quality.
In the third, the Panthers scored early on with Jesse Winchester being lucky enough to have a Brian Campbell wrist shot bank in off him. David Clarkson scored his fifth four minutes later to pull the Leafs close, and Phil Kessel nearly tied it but for a great stop by Thomas. Then, a Cody Franson turnover led to a Shawn Matthias partial break and he wired home a wrist shot short-side to restore the two-goal lead.
WHY THE LEAFS LOST
Because the only positive to glean from this game was that Dion Phaneuf returned to the bench after sustaining an awkward hit from Sean Bergenheim. Also, a few of us MAY have bet the over on David Clarkson's goal total this season (got it at 14.5 after he struggled to open the year. Score!) so there's at least some solace in watching this mess.
More technically though, I noted a few times the Leafs were sitting back in a penalty killing formation throughout the game, with the extra guy in the middle of the four-man box:
This is a bit tighter than the Leafs normally play in their own end. Usually, they like to pressure the point-men, something which could theoretically work against the Panthers but not in theory tonight. The Panthers generate a lot of their offence from their defencemen, particularly in their top pair of Brian Campbell and Tom Gilbert.
The Leafs defensive zone system theoretically works if you can beat opponents to puck races and start covering those points before the opposition has time to set up, but the Panthers were able to extend these long zone sequences thanks to their defence remaining relatively unguarded.
Remember, Florida out-shoots—their issues mostly stem from goaltending and a weak powerplay, but their team was given a lot of space for those sequences in the offensive zone time.
Poor Jonathan Bernier. He stopped 44 of 47 and that may have been one of his better performances on the year. Here he is, daydreaming about what life might be like back on the Los Angeles Kings with a struggling Jonathan Quick:
Let's zoom in:
The last photo isn't even that pixellated. Jonathan Bernier's soul left him tonight and what remains is the blurred remains of one of the best goalies to ever play for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
NUMB3RS AND NOTES
Evidently, because we hate you. This was never even close. The Panthers were up 25-7 in unblocked shots by the time they scored their first goal. The Panthers were up 52-17 by the time they scored their second. The Leafs gained a bit of space before the Clarkson goal, but just three unblocked attempts after that, to Florida's 7.
How bad was it? Not to get into anything too deep, but Jerred Smithson led the Leafs in Corsi on the night, on the ice for two attempts for and two against. Colton Orr was second with three attempts for and five against. The red-hot line of Lupul-Kadri-Kulemin were out-shot 9-1 when on the ice. This was just a total mess.
Oh my God I'm watching Sportscentre right now and the Leafs' all had their fathers in attendance.
Anyway, I'm sure we'll read some great stuff about the Leafs have a brutal record when David Clarkson in the lineup (16-17-5) and a historically-good record when he's not (14-5-1). That's completely coincidental of course, but pretty hilarious. It's also something we can laugh at when the Leafs lose only sporadically like this. The problem is that when they lose, they lose big, and it looks brutal.