A combined nine goals conceded against Florida and Carolina – not exactly a pair of offensive juggernauts – has the Leafs down to 27th in goals against at 3.24 per game. Their 122 goals against on the season make the Leafs easily the worst defensive club of the 16 current playoff teams.
In last night’s 4-3 loss to the Canes, captain Dion Phaneuf for his part did not exactly lead by example. Two lackadaisical plays on the 3-2 and 3-3 goals played direct roles in the Thursday night collapse. To be fair, on Staal’s first, Aulie got caught inexplicably pinching with three Leafs forwards in the area, all of whom were caught standing still and puck watching. Meanwhile, Phaneuf was the fifth man up when he should have been hanging back in a central position to cover for Aulie (failure all around).
While the Leafs seemed to think they had this game more under control than they did, Wilson’s attribution of the collapse to simple mental mistakes doesn’t quite satisfy me. At 3-1 with ten to go, the Leafs’ reluctance, or seeming lack of ability, to shift down a gear into defensive mode left one to wonder if the right adjustment was made or if a message to stay aggressive, not sit back, might have been grossly misinterpreted.
Undoubtedly, it’s partially a byproduct of a young team that’s learning the hard way; the Leafs’ blueline, without Liles and Komisarek, is very young, though not as inexperienced as it looks. But the fact of the matter is the Leafs are getting lit up by offenses good and bad, and a run and gun style with seemingly no form of choke collar is putting a young team in a position to make more mistakes than is to be expected or accepted.
Run and gun, exciting hockey is all well and good but success isn’t achieved in this league without defensive discipline. Against Florida on Tuesday it was the same problem after the Leafs fought hard to even the score at 1s. With a two goal lead against the lowly Hurricanes last night, clamping down shouldn’t have been as hard as it looked.
If there’s a positive to take out of it – with their ability to score goals – - it’s the potential of this young Leafs team if it learns to pick its spots better and rein it in at the right times.
On a good note(s):
- In six games this season, Nazem Kadri has equalled his goals total in 29 games last season with three. He’s looking ready to contribute. Impressive self-made goal last night.
- Great example of the way to get out of scoring slumps: Nik Kulemin bodies his man off the puck, makes a smart pass to Franson to start the zone exit, and gets rewarded for going hard to the net at the other end. Please get going Kuli.
- Now on a four game point streak, Kessel still hasn’t gone more than a game without a point. What consistency from he and Lupul. Neither has gone pointless for more than one game at a time. No one else in the league (to have played 30+ games) can claim to have done that. Not Giroux, not the Sedins, not Stamkos… Nobody. The Leafs have two who can.
What’s Eating James Reimer?
Like the rest of the team, it’s the penalty kill. Amazing stats here.
If the Leafs need to get better (and they do), who would you move?
Interesting question from Michael Langlois.
This is why we can’t have nice things
Jeffler tries to keep things in perspective.
Top 5 Maple Leaf goals of 2011
Enjoy some Grabo magic.
Leafs let another slip away
From Dave Shoalts at G&M.