So the Maple Leafs extend their tank-friendly stretch of non-success with a convincing 4-1 loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers tonight, marking their seventh loss in their last nine games. As I snicker while watching Mats Sundin look equal parts lazy, fat and slow (yeah, he scored an empty net chance, so what), here are a few thoughts about tonight’s pedestrian performance from the Blue and White:
*The Leafs had very little to offer for the first 40 minutes. Lots of shots as per usual (outshot Philly 42-30), but few were penetrating chances. Wilson seemed to overplay his energy line for the first period before curtailing their minutes for the rest of the tilt. An energy boost is needed now and again but please, spare us the painful experience of watching the likes of Ryan Hollweg and Andre Deveaux trying to stick-handle or do anything in relation to the puck. Finally, the Ponikarovsky – Stajan – Antropov line found some life in the third. The energetic, always-dangerous presence of Mikhail Grabovski was noticeably absent tonight.
*Alexei Ponikarovsky appears to be developing a signature reverse between the legs finishing move. Don’t look now but he’s on pace for 25+ goals. That’s pretty unreal and part of the credit should be given to Matt Stajan for providing an enabling link-up presence. There’s a very interesting to trade or not to trade question developing with Poni. He’s having a fantastic year, finishing very efficiently on his chances and using his body more and more effectively as he did tonight. It’s all contingent on the market that’s out there, if his market value is reflective of the belief that he’s still just a role player then he’s definitely worth keeping. He might just be a worthy top six player.
*Not sure if Ron Wilson missed the memo about the Flyers’ offensively-dangerous penalty kill, but it was perhaps not the best time to experiment with Lee Stempniak on the point. I’m fairly confident the Leafs were outchanced on their own power-play opportunities.
*Who would’ve thought pre-training camp that Ian White and Luke Schenn would comprise the Leafs‘ top two Leaf performers among defenseman come the mid point of the season? The prevailing belief was that Schenn would be with Kelowna and Ian White a different NHL club. Consider also the pleasantly surprising play of Grabovski, Stajan, Ponikarovsky and Antropov and there’s definitely something to take out of this first half of the ’08/’09 campaign.
*The fact that the Leafs have the worst team save percentage probably isn’t overly surprising. But this is somewhat – the Leafs are fifth best in the league in terms of shots allowed per game. Indisputably points to truly awful goaltending.
*Jeez, somebody should’ve tried to acquire that Jeff Carter guy last year.