Leafs Burned by Flames

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    The Leafs were down early as rookie phenom Jonas Gustavsson was lit up for 3 goals on 5 shots. Poor defensive coverage, a terrible line change, and a lucky bounce on a shot that Gustavsson likely should have had forced the Leafs to swap the goaltenders and bring in Vesa Toskala. The goaltenders tapped sticks at the bench in the shuffle. “Tag, you’re it” can be described at the outcome.

    The Leafs fell 5-2, and while that doesn’t seem to bad considering the poor start, Toskala made 15 of 17 saves to finish the game with an 0.882 SV%, one being almost identical to the first goal of the game. Iginla came down the near side and fired one low, far side on the net. Toskala stayed deep in his goal once again, and I’m starting to believe that he loses sight of where he is. It can only be that or he feels he lacks lateral movement, so he stays deep to get across quickly and make up for his lack of leg length. Either which way, it’s not helping him when he decides to cheat on the anticipated pass. Guys like Iginla will beat him everytime, just like he did last night from 50 feet out.

    It was the ninth time in 18 games the Leafs came out of the gate down 2-0. When asked if he had an aswer as to why the team can’t find a way to score first, Leafs head coach Ron Wilson stated “I don’t have one. I’m sorry.”

    Toronto out-shot the Flames 40 to 22 in the game, but could only muster up 2 goals. Phil Kessel improved his point streak to 5 games as Stajan put away his rebound on the powerplay. Aside from that, the Leafs found out that there is one game they can play, and they play it well – the physical game.

    Oh, surprise surprise. Brian Burke spends the entire off-season trying to build the grit and physical play for this team, and they play like pansies all year long, earning just 3 wins in the process. All of a sudden, Jamal Mayers returns to the lineup and plays his game – the physical game – not the Colton Orr taking cheap shot penalties game. No, a fast skating I’m-going-to-put-your-body-through-the-boards physical game, and all of a sudden the Leafs gain control.

    The Leafs could not finish though, that’s a problem but how much more fun is it to watch them go out there and crush bodies when they can’t score? It’s strange how the team can start playing when they begin to execute the Brian Burke game plan, and not the Ron Wilson game plan.

    There were 3 fights in the game, and you can watch them all:

    Click here for the Beauchemin/Jokinen fight where Beauchemin basically one punches him and splits him open. Bad decision by Jokinen, to say the least.

    Click here to watch the Orr/McGrattan and Mayers/Prust fight where Orr eases off of him after shattering McGrattan’s nose, and Mayers and Prust have a decent throw down.

    Also worth noting is Alexei Ponikarovsky playing the physical game as he sent Phaneuf flying at the Flames blue line on a huge open ice hit. You get what you give, Phaneuf.

    Also worth noting is Carl Gunnarsson’s succesful first game. Aside from the Leafs fourth line, Luke Schenn, Carl Gunnarsson and Jason Blake all finished the game at an even +/- ratio. Gunnarsson and Schenn looked like they have been playing together for years, as both were defensively sound (for the exception of one bad give away by Schenn) from start to finish.

    I would suggest the Leafs keep these two paired together in the NHL or send them both down to develop their chemistry in the AHL because that is exactly who Schenn needs on his line – someone he can rely upon so he can play his own game.

    The Leafs will now prepare for their road game in Ottawa to renew the Battle of Ontario. If the Leafs bring their physical play in the game early, “Battle” will finally be an appropriate term when these two teams faceoff for the second time this season.

    Update: A stat worth noting: Kessel went 8-0 on the draw last night. John Mitchell with 9-4. Perhaps we should be looking for Wingers for Kessel, and not a centerman?

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    Micheal A. Aldred
    [email protected]