Basically a metaphor for the game itself.
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
It’s clear to anyone who understands "luck" in hockey, and how a team can in fact get lucky over a sample size of nearly fifty games, that this years Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t particularly good. They’re not as bad, however, as they looked on Wednesday night in Boston.
In game one of the Leafs first round series against the Bruins, Toronto’s cinderella club were outshot two-to-one by the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions. Toronto’s best players hardly showed up, and frankly there aren’t a lot of positives outside of the play of James Van Rimesdyk to really cling to. Though I guess if you count "at least it can’t possibly get any worse" as a positive you might have something.
Read on past the jump.
Cam’s covering the Canucks game with credentials for CanucksArmy.com so I’m just writing up a quick recap. Rest assured Cam will post the full chance data and everything else you’re used to later this evening. For now let’s just focus on some key things the Leafs did well and did poorly on Wednesday.
What Went Right:
– The Leafs are in the playoffs. Yeah it sucks to have waited eight years only to watch your favorite team get their teeth kicked in, in game one of their first series in the postseason. But the Leafs are in the playoffs. Perhaps that’s not enough for you but I think that statement will have more effect if you curl up into the fetal position and repeat it endlessly in a strained falsetto tone while rocking back and forth.
– Colton Orr played well. Yeah that’s a secret negative since it means he’ll stay in the lineup over the likes of Matt Frattin (who could’ve legitimately been helpful in this one, I’d think) but he was the only Leafs skater in the red by unblocked shot differential at even-strength and nearly had a goal on a back-hander at one point. At least he didn’t score on it!
– The power-play was pretty good. Four shots in just over four minutes of work is nothing to scoff at, especially against a pretty good penalty-killing team in Boston. The opening goal of the game was a beauty too, a slap-pass from Kessel to Bozak that JVR managed to bury after a scrum in the slot. The Leafs simply can’t match Boston’s fastball at even-strength, in fact they look a bit hopeless at evens, but if they’re going to show respectably in this series special teams and goaltending are key. Toronto’s short-handed play, a major strength of the team all season, was lacklustre on Wednesday but at the very least the power-play did its job on Wednesday.
– James Van Riemsdyk. Yeah his possession numbers were ghastly, but Toronto got outshot by nine at even-strength so that’s to be expected. At least he played a lot, the Leafs didn’t surrender a goal against while he was on the ice at even-strength, he earns kudos from me for battling (and occassionally out-battling, like on the goal he scored) big Zdeno Chara in the slot and he generated five-shots on net.
What Went Wrong:
– Honestly looking over the head-to-head ice-time data over at timeonice.com it doesn’t even look like Randy Carlyle tried to win this game. Here’s some key numbers:
- Phil Kessel played 11.7 even-strength minutes on Wednesday, ten of them against Zdeno Chara. The Leafs were on the road so Julien had last change, but Carlyle needs to figure out how to mix in a Kessel shift away from Zdeno Chara occassionally.
- Julien managed to get the Kelly, Jagr, Daugavins line out for roughly four minutes against Toronto’s fourth line. In fairness Carlyle managed to get the Kadri line out for four minutes against Boston’s fourth-line too, but unfortunately for the Leafs Dan Paille and Gregory Campbell can, y’know, help a team win hockey games.
- Phaneuf was only on the ice for 6.2 minutes against the Bergeron line. That might not be the best way to use your only top-pairing defenceman.
– Phil Kessel. One shot, ten minutes through two periods (I’m not going to go on about his final ice-time, keeping him out of the third period wasn’t a terrible call) and a -14 attempted shot differential. A really ugly return to the playoffs for the slick shooting winger from Madison.
– James Reimer. This loss isn’t "on" Reimer or anything but two of the four goals were of the "soft" variety, and in a series in which the Leafs are pretty severely overmatched at even-strength, they’re relying Reimer to do better. Much, much better. The big guy between the pipes needs to a steal a game or two (or four) if the Leafs hope to win this series, and hell, he might need to steal a game for Toronto to even avoid a sweep.
– The penalty-kill. Look Boston’s power-play is nowhere near as bad as its reputation. Most of their issues this season were percentage based, I think, and certainly they don’t have any issues generating shots. Boston managed to generate fourteen shots of the power-play variety on Wednesday, cashing in on one of those fourteen, in eight minutes and change with the man-advantage. That’s a very un-Leafs-like performance for Toronto, and they’ll be dead in the water if it continues.
James Jake Gardiner and Matt Frattin were in the press box. What’s up with that?