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.
December 19 2013 01:01PM
I don't know what it will take for the Toronto Maple Leafs to break out of this funk. All I can really say is that the current course doesn't feel right. The prolonged slump (we're over a month now) is currently leading the general manager of the organization to spout out excuses over the radio.
No, the team probably won't play at a 63-point pace from now until the end of the season. That sort of record is reserved for lottery teams and teams stuck in perpetual rebuild modes. The Leafs are still a team whose true talent probably puts them somewhere around .500. Hopefully, we never do get a chance to find out just how bad this slump can get, and alarm bells start going off, forwards start giving defencemen shorter options on passes and the Leafs change from a defensive zone strategy that doesn't lead to players getting wide open in the slot. It's possible to win in the NHL even if your team is getting out-shot, but it's a lot harder if you try to make your fast players play slow and your slow players play fast.
Hence the title. I'm just waiting on the epiphany. The urgency should have set in sometime in April last year when the team won just two of its final six and got massively out-shot. Then came the Boston series, the Leafs were a much better team, and then that progress was wasted. Thankfully, this game against Phoenix doesn't look so bad as it did a month ago. At one point the Coyotes were 13-4-2, but they've gone 5-6-3 since. Regression hurts a lot of clubs, as we'll see below.
December 18 2013 01:28PM
I've gotten into some discussions recently about whether the Leafs' injuries provide a valid excuse for their recent record. The popular one is that the Leafs slide began at the start of November, after David Bolland went down to injury in Vancouver with the Leafs record at 10-4-0. Since? Toronto has gone just 7-12-3 with just three wins in regulation, and their lineup has been further exasperated with the removal of Tyler Bozak and the constant sufferings of Joffrey Lupul.
Well, not really. There's been somewhat of a pattern in the Leafs' injuries this season that make it fairly likely that one guy being out would account for a disproportionate share of team victories.
December 17 2013 08:24PM
Is there any good news to glean from the Leafs most recent loss to the Florida Panthers? Well, at last check, the New York Islanders were up 2-0 on the Tampa Bay Lightning, which might improve the Maple Leafs' lottery processes.
Throughout the game, the broadcast showed images of Randy Carlyle furiously scribbling away on a whiteboard and nobody on the Leafs bench seemed to really pay attention to him. That's sort of become the theme for Toronto. Randy Carlyle is just flat out of answers. He benched Jake Gardiner for an extended period of time against the Florida Panthers because of one giveaway, yet never feels the need to hold other Maple Leafs players accountable for the same rare moments of lapses.
As it turns out, the giveaway by Gardiner was elementary. The Toronto Maple Leafs demon on Tuesday night again, was familiar. This team can't score, and this team can't score because it was put together by an inept management group that favoured intangibles and birthplace over talent and production. It was 3-1 Florida, but who cares.
December 17 2013 12:29PM
For the first time, the Leafs will play against the division rival Florida Panthers, which acts as the first break in the schedule since the start of the month. After facing San Jose, Dallas, Ottawa, Boston, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Chicago and Pittsburgh sequentially, the Leafs go up against the weakest link in that chain, despite the Panthers having won five of six.
Basically, the breaks in the schedule are not really breaks. The Leafs are playing their third game in four nights, and against a team that is arguably better than the record indicates. Toronto are still nursing their final playoff spot, three points up on the Ottawa Senators and four up on the New York Rangers, also teams that have turned it around after a slow start.
Still, with five of the next six games at home for the Leafs, they're in a position to take back some points. The worst part of the schedule is over, and the Leafs are still in a playoff position. Hey, positives.