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.
We have so far gone through 20 goals that Jake Gardiner was on the ice for. In Part IV, we tackle six more. Generally, the theme has been that Gardiner’s mistakes have been amplified by poor play from teammates, notably Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul and Luke Schenn.
What will we find today?
First, this one:
So that counts as a scoring chance, but that is a horrendous bounce. With a team-leading PDO of 101.1, however, you can only expect that Gardiner was the beneficiary of more of those bounces at the other end of the ice. Still, rotten luck.
This next one is a Tuesday night game against a Southeast Division opponent. Naturally, Toronto lost, and Gardiner was on the ice for this Bill Thomas goal:
I’m unclear as to how this breakout prevention is drawn-up. Jake Gardiner skates in directly from the left point, presumably he’s assuming that Nikolai Kulemin knows Bill Thomas is his responsibility, and he’s trying to catch Matt Cullen off guard. This is a nice play by him, he picks up Evgeny Dadonov without too much trouble. From there, Dadonov and Thomas are a couple steps ahead probably of the Leafs’ two best defensive players.
Any time there is a breakaway, the Leafs’ defence looks horrible, I’ve come to realize.
4:15 into this contest against Carolina, Brandon Sutter strikes:
Count the number of times all Tyler Bozak does is wave at the puck with his stick:
Cody Franson is trying his best to get the puck out. Gardiner has to cover the front of the net, and Sutter whimsically waltzes through two Leafs forwards to get a good shot away.
Toronto eventually won this next game 7-3, but the outcome wasn’t decisive halfway through. Pavel Kubina gets revenge on his old team with a good shot here:
Gardiner has a hand in losing that puck battle to Dominic Moore, I think. That’s a tough angle to see from, but Joey Crabb had a hand in it too. Crabb also collapsed in fear about three feet in front of Jonas Gustavsson when the shot was being taken. I looked for a better replay, and noted that ten seconds before this clip begins, Gardiner skates in and makes a beautiful feed to Kulemin who puts it wide. That’s why Gardiner appears a little behind the play when it develops.
Unfortunately, on the defensive end, neither he nor Crabb are any less at fault at giving up the puck to Moore and Vincent Lecavalier.
Moving along. The Minnesota Wild were the worst team in hockey last year, even worse than the Leafs, so much so that they were down 4-0 and it took a ‘snack goal’ for them to not be shut out in the end:
A snack goal is defined as a goal that breaks up a shutout late in a contest when the outcome has already been decided. Jake Gardiner is not at fault for this in any way.
Let’s walk through the steps through this next one, shall we? Late in a contest, Toronto has sent out its primo offensive unit for a defensive zone faceoff. The Leafs gain possession and Phil Kessel brings the puck up ice:
- Kessel takes a weak shot from well out, turned aside easily by Carey Price
- The puck is cleared from the front of the net, and Andrei Kostitsyn picks it up along the boards
- Tyler Bozak does something not horribly useless, and forces him to make a play up the middle, Jake Gardiner easily intercepts the puck
- Jake Gardiner whiffs when trying to stickhandle and Lars keeps the play alive for Montreal
- Cody Franson swipes at the puck, Eller evades, has more space to work with, Gardiner is tight on his man, then backs off, and we have a standard 2-on-2.
- Franson forces Eller wide behind the net, Gardiner bumps into Gustavsson with Moen’s help, and Gustavsson is off balance.
Looks like a mix-up between Gardiner and Franson. They both made good plays on this sequence, but both left the puck alone when it was out in the open a couple of feet from the crease.
Together, Franson and Gardiner were a 53.6% puck possession pairing in easy minutes. I think that they can grow with that, slowly taking on tougher minutes together. Komisarek and Gardiner were 47.1%.