December 11 2013 08:57PM
I don't know how many times over the last 70 or so games I've looked at an empty page, attempting to make sense of the game I just saw, trying to explain a game that was beyond explaining. The Toronto Maple Leafs have won their fair share of games that they didn't deserve to win, either because of a timely goal, a timely save or just straight-up voodoo. In a game like hockey, were process rarely conflates with results in a real small sample, it can be difficult to be analytical about a single game. Sometimes things were just not meant to be.
But I have never been so shocked about a Leafs loss as this one. Perhaps Game 4 of the series against the Bruins, where the Leafs got everything together for half a game and took it to one of the best teams in the conference offensively, defensively, and physically, only to lose the game on several botched coverages in the OT. This was similar. The Leafs were all over Los Angeles, and it was just one play that led to a two-on-one, with the puck on the stick of a dangerous shooter… and the winning goal was scored. And then another goal was scored, and it was a 3-1 final.
Much like that game, the Leafs out-played the Kings. Sure, the Kings were on the second game of a back-to-back, but they're one of the best puck possession clubs in the NHL, and the Leafs absolutely took it to them, and could not beat that friggin' undrafted goalie at the other end. At least it wasn't Ben Scrivens, because, oh boy, how bad would that have looked?
December 11 2013 12:25PM
Before every game, I get into writing about something other than the obvious storyline pertaining to the other team. The obvious thing going into tonight is the goaltenders. Jonathan Bernier will get to face his old team while Ben Scrivens looks to be sitting on the bench. Both have been exceptional since the trade in the summer.
But I don't want to write about the goaltenders, nor do I want to concentrate on the 6-0 drubbing the Los Angeles Kings laid on the Montreal Canadiens (thank you!) a night ago on national television. I want to focus on Justin Williams, because he is a player so rarely talked about in the mainstream press despite possibly being the best two-way winger in the world right now. He won't get Team Canada consideration because he's not flashy, but his teams are embarrassingly better with Williams on the ice than off the ice.
After the jump I'll look at the key statistics between the two teams, then completely ignore those, and focus on Justin Williams.
December 09 2013 11:20AM
The big news, I guess, is that Dion Phaneuf is facing a hearing for his hit on Kevan Miller at the conclusion of the Sunday game against Boston. While the Leafs were lucky enough that Nazem Kadri was suspended for a series of games that included Buffalo twice and the New York Islanders, the Maple Leafs can ill-afford to play Los Angeles and St. Louis without their top defenceman. So this could get interesting.
Onto other things:
I wasn't able to watch most of the Saturday game with sound, but I heard CBC's David Amber set up the game when the teams were skating onto the ice. He mentioned that the Ottawa Senators had been shorthanded more than any team in hockey. That can't be disputed, but it should be worth pointing out that the Senators (as of Monday morning) are fourth in the league in powerplay opportunities while the Toronto Maple Leafs are 28th.
December 08 2013 12:09PM
To quote Steve Dangle, the Leafs "have now won back-to-back games, and given up 50 shots in each of them, and had a different goalie win each of them. This goofy friggin' team."
Even when the Leafs win, they can't do so without escaping criticism. They've blown leads in their last two wins, but have wound up with two points against two teams that they won't have to chase come playoff time. In fact, the win before the one against Dallas, they also gave up 50 shots, this time to Washington. Every game, they gave up a late lead, 50 shots, and won in overtime. They haven't won in regulation in nine games now, and haven't beaten a playoff team in regulation in 19!
So yes, despite a two game win streak, everything isn't rosy in Leaf-land, although "winners of their last two" looks a hell of a lot better than "losers of their last five" which is what everybody was writing on Thursday. The good news is that there's enough games played that trends reverse rather quickly, which was a point I made in the Dallas pre-game.
December 07 2013 08:44PM
If the Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs this season and everybody asks why, just show them the tape of this 3-2 win over Ottawa. No game will probably match this one in showing off the Maple Leafs' outstanding strengths and horrible flaws. They got two goals and five points from James van Riemsdyk. They blew a 3-1 third period lead. They had the better goalie. They allowed 50 shots. They scored on the powerplay. They took too many penalties.
It all added up to a shootout win by the Leafs over the reeling Ottawa Senators, whose playoff hopes are in all likelihood, ended after tonight. 8 points back with 50 to play is a tough task for any team, and a tougher one for a team that hasn't been able to buy a save, or defence, or win against teams within the division.
Not pretty because the Leafs dropped a point, but harmless, lest that 'ROW' category comes back to haunt them on the final day of the season.