Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)
March 28 2014 08:27PM
Modern Leafs captains have shared some common traits. Most notably, the last few have played centre and had their modus operandi questioned a couple of times as things unfolded. This week, Dion Phaneuf had the latter occur (undeservedly) for skipping media scrums after a game, and for a moment, he accomplished the former. However, I don't think it's an experience he'd like to try again in the future. It lead to the first goal of the game, which ended up in favour of the Flyers, who won by a score of 4-2 and extend Toronto's losing streak to seven games.
Two teams opened the game pretty evenly matched for about five minutes, trying to get a feel for each other. Suddenly, within 25 seconds, Cody Franson and Nikolai Kulemin found themselves in the penalty box. To add insult to injury, Jay McClement was tossed out of the dot, leaving the above scenario to go down. Claude Giroux won the draw easily, Kimmo Timonen fed the puck over, and before the Leafs could re-arrange, Vincent Lecavalier fired a slapshot past Jonathan Bernier.
The Flyers took control of the game for a stretch, looking for the second goal, but to no avail. A late penalty to Zac Rinaldo gave the Leafs some time to regroup, but they got nothing out of it before the intermission. With one second remaining, you would assume they couldn't in the next period either. This is technically correct, but thanks to a smart faceoff win by Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk was able to skate in and fire a shot past Steve Mason just four seconds in, breaking a Leafs record and tying a league-wide one.
History repeated itself around the midway mark of the period. As David Bolland sat in the penalty box, the Flyers once again finished a powerplay up within seconds. Same Giroux draw win, and this time, TImonen shot, with Scott Hartnell tipping the puck on the way to the goal. The period ended with several pushing and shoving bouts, but no further scoring.
Philadelphia widened the gap in the third period, taking advantage of a bad pass by James van Riemsdyk. I felt this was played properly. Cody Franson covers the pass, and Dion Phaneuf is catching up to Jacob Voracek. However, Giroux whips a ridiculous wrister into the top right corner, and it's a 3-1 game. For about a minute, that is; an advantageous David Bolland was quick to pick up a loose puck in front of the net, just a minute later.
Perhaps the worst defensive play of the night was on Wayne Simmonds' 4-2 goal, which put the Leafs out of their misery. Dion Phaneuf, worried that the puck would bounce over his stick, uses his glove instead. It doesn't work, the puck is promptly taken away, and Nazem Kadri's lone hand on his stick didn't stop Simmonds. It really was a disaster. Thankfully, the last one the team made before the final buzzer, but it's not like much positive happened afterwards.
Why The Leafs Lost / Real Talk
"Just wait until Bolland gets back!" "This team needs to get healthy!" "The goaltending is slipping!" "They're not trying hard enough!"
We're out of excuses, folks. The full roster is here. The goalies aren't at their hottest parts of the season, but what does it matter if the team can't score more than three goals? Don't get me started on compete level; these players are under such a microscope that they might be trying too much, running a mile where they only need to run an inch.
Tonight was one of the better games of this collapse. Two goals against were positives of the Flyers powerplay unit. One was played correctly. Outside of a couple of minutes, the Leafs kept up with the Flyers. In a middle of a balanced schedule, you may even take this as a good game.
But a "bad luck" game after a string of terrible ones is almost the exclamation point to this statement. After a calendar year of winning games where the team theoretically should have no chance, games like this almost feel like karma.
Karma for being happy. Excited. Somewhat optimistic. Sometimes paid back in luck, sometimes paid back in exposure of flaws. It's a brutal slow bleed. Something surely has to be gained from this in the long run, right?
I'm not picking one tonight. Nobody had a particularly stand out game. And with this losing streak, I'm sure the rest of the team understands if nobody wants to pump any individual tires.