Leafs Nation recap: Beatdown on Broadway

Jim McIsaac/Getty

Not often when you go into a road building against one of the conference’s elite teams do you have a chance to win. Seldom do you even hold a one-goal lead into the third period. 

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Whether it was fatigue from playing their third game in four nights, or simply by being a group with several glaring holes in the lineup, the Maple Leafs had another third period to forget, and walk out of Madison Square Garden with a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers, falling to 2-3-0 on the season. 

Toronto got out-shot, badly. They got out-chanced, badly, and after the final buzzer, they got out-scored, badly. The lone positive in this one may have been the play of one James Reimer, the 24-year old goaltender who has looked every bit an NHL starter in his appearances this season.

-Some scoring chance numbers… New York had the bulk of the scoring chances, 22-10 through three periods and doubled the Leafs up 18-9 at even strength. In score close situations, it was 14-7 for New York. Just an ugly performance by the Leafs skaters.

-I thought the game got off to a good start in the first couple of minutes. Some decent chances and rushes either way, but then the sideshow began, with fights between Mike Brown and Arron Asham as well as Colton Orr with Mike Rupp. After that the pace of the game slowed to a crawl, which benefit the Leafs for a while since they’re not a team that can skate with the first two lines of the New York Rangers, as it turns out.

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-How good is the Rangers’ top line? Well, as noted several times on the CBC broadcast, it’s basically a five-man unit with Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Michael del Zotto and Marc Staal. The five combined for 12 scoring chances, and three goals. Neither of Gaborik’s goals were registered as chances, as one was a tipped point shot and one was an empty net goal.

-That line played against all three of the Leafs lines at some point, and they all failed to match up effectively. By eye-balling the play-by-play sheet, it looks as if it was Dion Phaneuf and Mike Kostka the defensive pairing that was frequently burned by them. I’ll double-check by own chance numbers tomorrow, but it was not a good game for the Leafs’ top pairing. Any game where a player plays 31:33 in his fifth NHL game isn’t going to end the right way.

-Toronto didn’t have a consistent offensive threat, with their own shots and chances scattered throughout the lineup. Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk each had four shots, but their linemates didn’t match the offensive performance. Tyler Bozak had another high-minute game, at 19:27. Eventually, those minutes are going to hurt, and again, the Leafs having Orr (3:29) and Brown (3:37) on the fourth line is going to really kill them. Depth is an issue, and after Clarke MacArthur went down, Randy Carlyle really had to scatter his lines.

-Ryan Callahan had a good game for New York, particularly in the latter half. Four shots on goal, and gave the Maple Leafs a tough matchup option since they couldn’t stack their pairings against the top unit. New York’s depth is an issue, but they apparently signed Jason Arnott today, that will make them a bit scarier. Jeff Halpern played just 4:16, Mike Rupp 2:08 and Arron Asham 1:57. The Rangers have been able to get away with that because they’ve had consistent goaltending and good top pairing defencemen for the better part of seven years. 

-Phil Kessel’s shot distances have been better than CBC would love to have you believe. He wasn’t particularly good in this one, however. 

-Mikhail Grabovski’s goal was a thing of beauty. Him and Nik Kulemin have had to play some tough, tough minutes so far this season so it’s nice to see Grabovski get some offensive numbers that could help people’s perception of him. If the team continues to lose games like this though, I can see a few articles popping up where people are suggesting he be bought out. That would be the wrong move.

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-Today you saw how over his head Nazem Kadri and his line are defensively at this level against top competition. They got absolutely worked over on Brian Boyle’s clinching goal.

-Not much more we want to learn about this game, not without working with some better numbers. Hopefully once timeonice.com is up and running, we’ll have a better picture of what went on away from the puck in these games.

Here’s Toronto’s individual chances:

  Chances Taken Set Up Total
Nazem Kadri 1 2 3
James van Riemsdyk 2   2
Phil Kessel 2   2
Dion Phaneuf 1   1
Clarke MacArthur 1   1
Matt Frattin 1   1
Leo Komarov 1   1
Mikhail Grabovski 1   1
John-Michael Liles   1 1
Mike Kostka   1 1
Carl Gunnarsson   1 1

And New York’s:

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  Chances Taken Set Up Total
Rick Nash 4 1 5
Marian Gaborik 3 1 4
Michael del Zotto 2 2 4
Ryan Callahan 3   3
Dan Girardi 2 1 3
Brad Richards 2 1 3
Carl Hagelin   3 3
Anton Stralman 2   2
Marc Staal 1   1
Derek Stepan 1   1
Ryan McDonagh 1   1
Arron Asham 1   1

Team breakdown:

  1st 2nd 3rd Total
TOR (EV) 3 (2) 4 (4) 3 (3) 10 (9)
NYR (EV) 6 (5) 9 (6) 7 (7) 22 (18)

Three Stars:

  1. Rick Nash
  2. Marian Gaborik
  3. James Reimer

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  • My takeaways
    1. Phaneuf is over his head as a #1D, he is at best 2D or on a great team a 3/4. I know people like to blame Kostka but even with Gunnar this holds. He is particularly poor skating backwards and especially these last two games his hockey IQ shows up in a bad way. He reminds me of an “better” version of Lebda who occassionaly makes bad pinches and has bad positioning.

    2. Kessel and that line needs to find ways to contribute when he is not scoring. Since he is not a gritty player this means being defensibly responsible and back checking. Too often he peels off for the quick break out and tonight it cost the leafs a goal.

    3. The other thing I found impressive is the rangers with a few “stars” on one good line manage to ice a competitive team. That is, there 3/4 lines are just as bad as the leafs and yet they are competitive team. Sure Lundquist helps but there is more to this. Either it is their size which they dominate other teams or coaching (game strategy).

  • Quasijr

    First I liked the way the Leafs played most of this game. Carlyles system when played benefits both the defence & goalie (Riemer not Scrivens who I think is only AHL caliber). If they played this way against the Islanders we would have won. The Rangers are a much better team than the Leafs by a mile. All of theyre lines have bought into Torts system, the Rangers size defensive play & later speed & skill started to pick apart the Leafs in the 3rd period. Small mistakes was all it took for the Rangers to score, case in point when Kulie lost the battle on the boards & skated towards the Rangers zone instead of going back to play defence, this started the break out play that lead to the second goal, Kulie wasnt there to take his man the defence took the proper guys but no Kulie was there to take the man in the slot.
    Its only a frustrating game to me because I can see how close but how far away we are from being a true contender.
    We are on the right course don’t trade any assists unless it means its better for us long term.

  • People are so wrong here. The Leafs problems are because of Kostka is playing in the one pairing and has zero to do with Phaneuf. Also, the leafs need to bring up Connolly and play Steckel while waiving or sitting Orr and Brown. Blaming goaltending or Kessel for not scoring is ridiculous when the team is so lacking in skill.

  • Quasijr

    Good Lord man, no comparing Phaneuf to Lebda. A better comparison for Phaneuf is McCabe in that Phaneuf is a good top 4 dman but should not be considered a #1.

    His offensive numbers have taken a hit because he is playing a shutdown different role in Toronto instead of playing more sheltered minutes. This would maximize his offensive assets – his hard shot, puck handling and forward skating and he could occasional pepper his game with a huge hit.

    But defensively Phaneuf will always struggle. He’s a poor skater going backwards and often it blown by with ease, his positioning, ability to read plays and decision making is below average (hockey intelligence) but he has shown he is able to correct parts of his game (very few bad pinches). Also he struggles with when to take penalties, when to pinch and hitting people in front of the net instead of tying up their sticks first. This is why Phaneuf will always leave something to be desired as a shutdown defender.

    Basically, Phaneuf should be the role that Brian Campbell does on the Panthers but occassionally he can line up against harder competition. If Luke Schenn developed as hoped then Schenn would be the primary shutdown defender and Phaneuf the primary offensive weapon on d. However, now Phaneuf is being used incorrectly in that his offensive skills are not fully utilized and his weaknesses are amplified. Hopefully this is addressed by management in time

  • Quasijr

    Also the other problem is too much cap is split between Phaneuf/Liles/Komisarek. Each of them are overpaid for what they provide the team and so the team needs to ice AHLers to compensate for these bad contracts. Obviously Phaneuf is the least worse but he is not 6M dollar dman.