On the heels of a shocking late-game collapse, the Maple Leafs head home to face the Penguins tonight in the second match of a back-to-back set. The Leafs will have to find a way to put last night’s shootout loss behind them in rather quick fashion if they are to have a chance at earning the two points they came within six seconds of earning in Pittsburgh.
Many were quick to place the blame squarely on Gustavsson’s shoulders, pointing out two goals in particular that he should have stopped with ease as the reason for the team’s collapse (“if he stops those we aren’t in a one-goal situation at the end”). Although this argument is rooted in a logical basis, the singular appropriation of blameÂ is not an entirely accurate assessment.
Soft goals or not, the fact of the matter is the Leafs held a lead with under a minute remaining. Yet during that final minute, the Penguins were allowed to control the puck almost exclusively as the Leafs collapsed into a defensive shell. With the extra man on and all of six seconds left on the clock, James Neal fired a shot that went off a completely uncovered Evgeni Malkin and past Gustavsson, who couldn’t do much more on the play than take out his frustrations on the crossbar. How one of the league’s premier players could be left alone on an island, at the game’s most crucial juncture, is both inexplicable and inexcusable. With a playoff berth anything but a lock, the Leafs can ill-afford to make such an egregious mistake.
Without a doubt, weak goals against left the Leafs in a less-than-desirable late-game situation: defending a one-goal lead. Nevertheless, the players still had a job to do in those final seconds, and the bottom line is they failed to do it. And it is that which cost the team a tally in the win column.Â For as surely as it takes a team effort to win a game, it takes a team effort to lose a game, also.
Onto your morning links:
Leafs Blow 3-Goal Lead, Fall to Pens in a Shootout
Silver lining: 8th place. Playoffs!!!1
Wilson Has Some Shuffling to Do
Lineup and roster changes are on the horizon as Liles and Armstrong get set to return
The Leaf Legacy in my Lifetime: 1950s
Michael Langlois with the first entry in a new Leafs history series. Can’t wait until he gets to the ’80s.
Don Cherry’s Bizarre Feud with Brian Burke
Cherry mad as hell? Burke hot under the (loosened with tie undone) collar? MacLean a conspiracy theorist? READ ON.
Crosby’s neck not fractured
In case you live under a rock and somehow missed this yesterday.
Great moments in All Star weekend history
Down Goes Brown takes us on a trip down memory lane.
The Whiteboard: What’s your responsibility on a lost d-zone faceoff?
Someone better forward this to the Leafs.
Shut Down Defensemen – Part 1
Steve Burtch examines the qualities of an ideal shut down defender, and who the league’s best shutdown blueliners may actually be (the answers may surprise you).