Game in 10: Game 64, Leafs at Blackhawks
1 – The Leafs are 29-28-7, and tonight they found a new and creative way to lose. It’s painful to think one more loss and we’re back to .500 after all this team worked for through 50 games. To put this in perspective, Tampa Bay sold at the deadline and if they win their next game, they pass us in the standings. Buffalo, the biggest disappointment in the league given their preseason hype, is two points back with two games in hand.
2 – It’s of little consolation given the last ten games of results, but this actually was a decent effort in a building few teams emerge victorious from, and in the second game of a back to back. Sometimes, before you can get out of one of these prolonged slumps it takes a game you play well in but lose anyways. I’m not sure if this was it and I can’t say I’m confident the Leafs are going to turn things around, but you get my point. Maybe it was, can always hope.
3 – The Leafs took to the ground running despite their second game in as many nights, with travel in between, and that should be commended regardless of how god awful they’ve been lately. The same problems that have plagued this team all season is what cost them again tonight; problem is, even when the Leafs get goal support lately, it’s reached a point where the Leafs can’t outscore their own errors.
4 – It’s crucial the Leafs get that opening goal. It opened up the neutral zone and allowed the Leafs to trade chances and generate scoring opportunities with speed off the rush. Problem is, you need a goaltender to make some big stops and defensemen who can make key defensive plays if you’re going to trade chances. With a 3-1 lead on the road, playoff teams are able to rein it in and shut things down. That’s not the Leafs.
5 – About goaltending, I don’t think Gustavsson was particularly awful or solely at fault on any of the goals, but even at their best this team can’t exactly look to either of its goaltenders to help them out of their slump at this point. That clip TSN showed at the start of the game was a hilarious visual summation of the Leafs goaltending this year. Reimer gives up the net, Gus comes in and trips over the post.
7 – Not sure what got into Jake Gardiner tonight. He looked like he thought he was lining up at the rover position tonight. All over the place in the defensive zone and part of the problem on at least two goals. On Chicago’s fourth goal by Hossa, the right defenceman was nowhere to be seen. That was supposed to be Gardiner, who was drifting around high in the zone.
8 – This team, both in how it played tonight and based on some of the quotes coming out of the dressing room, didn’t strike me as one that’s given up on its coach. There’s a lot of fundamental flaws with this roster, and the warts are fully exposed by the way its coach and GM want the game to be played. But it was not a lack of effort that did them in tonight.
9 – I don’t know about you, but the quickest route between the Leafs and competitiveness is changing the system (and the coach, obviously) and shifting the focus. Run and gun, willingly entering a game of traded chances? No team in recent history has won anything playing that way. Washington flopped in the playoffs annually and were forced to change their approach. San Jose under Wilson played the system to great regular season success, but never got the job done in the playoffs, and they had experience, talent, and goaltending the Leafs can’t hold a candle to. They also had a bigger team capable of winning board battles and falling back on a dump and chase game when the neutral zone was taken away. The Leafs don’t have that either.
10 – It’s going to take more time than Burke can afford to assemble and develop a group good enough to play that way and contend doing it. But I doubt it’s going to change. For those looking ahead to the off-season at this point, his only choice is to throw caution to the wind and make some big plays at number one goaltenders, a top pairing defenceman, and size with skill up front. Might have to sign a long term deal to do it though.
Game in 10: Haiku Style
With the Leafs going all Boston-Red-Sox-fried-chicken-and-beer-in-the-dressing-room bad on us, I am trying to maintain a zen-like attitude about it all.Â What’s more zen than a haiku?Â Another loss?Â The universe is what the universe will be.
Off to Chicago
And they spotted us a lead
Uh oh; late goal scored.
Kane and Hossa score
Our lead is like our season
Gone and others smile.
Mike Brown scores a goal
The clock says there’s still some time
But the clock is wrong.