March 14 2013 12:04PM
So John-Michael Liles will roll back into the lineup tonight, which changes up Randy Carlyle's defensive pairings for the first time since the Leafs first game against Ottawa, when Ben Scrivens recorded his first ever NHL shutout. That was Game 15.
There have been tweaks, but for the last twelve games on the schedule, Carlyle has started his defensive units as such:
Dion Phaneuf - Korbinian Holzer
Carl Gunnarsson - Mike Kostka
Mark Fraser - Cody Franson
Three left shots and three right shots. The two defencemen in the press box eating popcorn and salary cap dollars, Mike Komisarek* and John-Michael Liles, are both left shots (*-UPDATE - It's been pointed out that Komisarek is actually a right shot. He doesn't play enough for me to notice these things). Carlyle evidently hates the idea of a defenceman playing on his off side, despite Phaneuf playing excellent on his right side alongside Carl Gunnarsson last season, and despite Phaneuf playing excellent on the right side of left-shooting Keith Aulie back during the spring of 2011.
Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)
March 13 2013 10:41PM
Get ready for two cliches over the next few games - "The Toronto Marlies take on Lake Erie", and "your defence wins you important hockey games". Blame the AHL schedules for the first one, and credit the Marlies for the second, because while the team remains in low scoring times, they've found a way to make the situation even worse on their opponents, as they did tonight with a 2-1 win over the Monsters.
March 13 2013 11:29AM
Mini-slump? MINI-SLUMP!!! TIME TO PANIC?!??!
March 12 2013 10:12PM
"A possession black hole on every forward line, and an AHL defenceman on every pairing."
Not entirely sure if Randy Carlyle's rebuilding of the Maple Leafs locker room has that hung up on a sign somewhere, but the good fortune the Leafs got in the defensive zone of the first 10 or so games of the season has finally come to catch up with them.
The Toronto Maple Leafs stunk against Winnipeg, and there weren't very many bright spots. They were out-scored 5-2, out-chanced 17-12 and the Jets had 78 shot attempts to the Leafs' 46. This is all despite the game starting with two face-punching tilts with Colton Orr against Chris Thorburn, and then a well-advised Dion Phaneuf-Andrew Ladd scrap that wiped out a potential Blake Wheeler scoring chance.
March 12 2013 03:41PM
The last time the Leafs went into Winnipeg, it was my last game preview writing about a goal-less Phil Kessel. Kessel scored a late game winner for the Leafs who took a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets.
Last season, everything sort of crashed for the Leafs after their second visit to Winnipeg. Having taken 9 of 10 points in their last five games and a 28-20-6 record, the Leafs would go on to win just one of their next 11 games after suffering a 2-1 loss to the Jets. Chris Thorburn and Blake Wheeler scored the goals and Ondrej Pavelec, probably Winnipeg's shakiest player, stopped 17 of 18 shots. Really, he wasn't tested too much. I bring this up because an article in the Globe & Mail suggests a similar decline for Toronto this season, although with 22 games to go in the regular season rather than 28, the Leafs have a bit more breathing room.