Jake Gardiner was on the ice for 62 even strength goals against last season, and Lord help us if we don’t go through each and every one to try and pin the blame on somebody else.
You may recall yesterday in the comments section of Part I, well, one commenter at least, I encourage the rest of you to chime in, faulted Gardiner for two goals out of the six shown.
That could be the case on this first goal here, from David Clarkson. Gardiner fails to keep the puck in against Nick Palmeiri, who gets the puck out to Clarkson. All he has to beat is Luke Schenn:
The only possible outcome of this situation, I’m afraid, is a David Clarkson breakaway. This is one of many scoring chances against we’ll end up pinning on Schenn throughout this series.
Goal number two of six from today occurs a day later, in Ben Scrivens’ first ever NHL start (the Leafs won that game 4-1). The NHL play-by-play sheet calls this a “Tip-In” from three feet out, so the possibility is that somebody wildly missed their mark.
But I’m not even convinced this is a scoring chance. Antoine Vermette weakly throws it at the net and Bozak held with his man coming in. A bad bounce costs the Leafs a goal on this one, I’m afraid, so neither Schenn or Gardiner are at fault at first glance, but there’s always the possibility of a failed clearance from earlier:
After the lost face-off, all four recorded events took place inside the Toronto zone. However it wasn’t a bang-bang dump-in that allowed Columbus to set up. I went back and took a look and Gardiner actually forced the puck in deep but Joey Crabb and Tyler Bozak failed to set up a good forecheck, and Aaron Johnson hit Matt Calvert with a stretch pass. Calvert, of course, is the left winger on this line and theoretically Schenn’s responsibility.
This next one comes in a 6-0 loss to Boston, just two days after the Columbus win. This time, there’s a twist! Cody Franson, not Schenn, is partnered up with Gardiner.
Gardiner takes an offensive spot in front and actually sneaks behind Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. But he makes the fatal mistake of assuming that Tim Connolly has the ability to feather a puck through the eventual Selke Trophy winner, or that Franson at the point can handle Krejci and Milan Lucic.
The play develops much as you’d expect. Gardiner doesn’t receive the puck and hustles back after Connolly gives it away. Franson is slow to close the gap on Krejci and gives him a lot of time to make the play. Lucic receives the puck with Gardiner close, but not close enough.
Not sure who you can fault on this one. Boston is a pretty good hockey team. On the ice at the time they had Bergeron, Krejci, Lucic, Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas, all pretty elite at their position. Joe Corvo was also on Boston, which is nice for him.
This next one comes from a few days later in a Tuesday night game against a Southeast division opponent. This time, though, it takes 9:45 for the Leafs to be losing by a goal. Gardiner wasn’t on the ice for that one (Schenn was!) but he was for the second, late in the middle frame:
It’s easy to blame this one on Jonas Gustavsson. It’s also easy to blame this one on Matt Lombardi. But Gardiner gets out-worked pretty good there by Marco Sturm, who I guess just wanted it more.
This one is a late tying goal. For some reason, preserving a one-goal lead, Ron Wilson has opted to pair his least defensively responsible line with his most defensively suspect pairing:
St. Louis has established possession before the clip starts, thanks to Matt D’Agostini taking over Schenn in a race for the puck. After Phil Kessel, of all people, knocks the puck away from him, Gardiner has a pretty good chance to clear and gets it halfway out of the zone but Bozak gets caught up and beat to the puck by a pinching Ian Cole on a good play by him.
That’s where our clip starts. Cole throws it at the net and the Leafs are set up on defence, although Schenn and Gardiner are each playing the wrong side, and there’s nobody covering the right wing. Hustle over there, Joffrey!
Gardiner lets Patrick Berglund get an initial shot away, then Schenn gets out-worked in front by three Blues and eventually Berglund jams in his rebound. This is a good play by the Blues, but I think Gardiner had a hand in having that puck kept in in the first place.
Wilson also deserves some blame. It had been two minutes since Mikhail Grabovski had last touched the ice, and the rotation was preserved rather than the best players going out. Post-hoc analysis, I realize, but this isn’t a real good combination of five players when holding a one-goal lead.
The goal from this last game is probably best known for Craig Smith roofing the puck on an empty-net attempt, which is the best blooper from the season excluding Columbus’ handling of Jeff Carter. Again, the top line is out with Schenn and Gardiner:
I think Gardiner makes the right read but is a little hesitant to check Mike Fisher, but the two-on-one isn’t his fault. There are FOUR Toronto Maple Leafs trying to hold the puck in on the right point, including Luke Schenn who has inexplicably fallen over.
This is a ten-part series, and the plan is to extract some sort of objective data. If you’d like to chime in on what that would be, please do in the comments. I think I’ll look at how many goals were off scoring chances, and by extension, whether the entry into the scoring chance area was on Gardiner’s side or his partner’s side of the ice.