Prepare yourself, this loss is going to invite some doomsday, trade-everybody overreactions.
1 - Game #9 started out much different than it ended, with a decent first period from the Leafs. Kadri, Frattin and Komarov are the only thing going for this team offensively at the moment. He’s got a lot of fans on this site, but it’s worth repeating anyways: Komarov has had a big impact despite being pointless. He covers a ridiculous amount of ice; they send him in as usually the lone forechecker and he does enough for two. Kadri and Frattin scored off a rush play, but just a shift or two of theirs earlier, Komarov nearly set the stage for a goal by applying pressure behind the net and causing a turnover for Kadri to hop on.
2 - A good start erased: Skinner beats out an icing and Holzer makes the decision to join Liles in the corner, with Grabovski and Kulemin arriving to support down low. Two defencemen in the corner often means someone’s open out front, and sure enough there was – Jordan Staal gets his first and it’s 1-1.
2b - For a good skater, Liles got edged out on two icing calls, one that contributed to a goal against and another that very well could have a little later on with the fourth line on the ice. Don’t get me wrong, Skinner (who beat Liles on the play that led to the Jordan Staal goal) is an amazing skater, but Liles was in position if he used his body positioning to his advantage and battled harder.
3 - Late in the 2nd it looked like the first line had finally gotten some overdue luck around the net. Bozak wins the draw and does the right thing, driving straight to the net. Kostka fires it low and hard at the net and the puck takes a bounce off Bozak’s skate and in. It’s ruled a kicked-in no-goal upon further review. Tough call. A few reviews of the player later, I can’t objectively make the case it wasn’t the right call. While it might have been in the course of Bozak stopping, the job of the war room in that situation is not to judge his intentions, it’s to determine whether or not there was a clear kicking motion. Bozak’s leg does swing through, so I’d say there was.
4 - This one starts going off the rails late in the second after a penalty on Jay McClement for snowing the goalie. Another questionable call, but one the Leafs have benefited from in the past (Pleckanec penalty vs. Montreal), and the reality of a silly new rule we must accept. On the ensuing PK, the Leafs lose a battle on the boards and Phaneuf steps up into the high slot with Komarov caught out of position after the lost board battle. The puck goes down low to Eric Staal in open space beside the net, Staal step outs in front to throw a pass across the crease, it takes a bad bounce off Kostka’s skate and it’s in the back of the net.
5 - It all goes downhill from there. Kostka gets flat out torched by Skinner (big mismatch in speed there) and takes a tripping penalty that really should’ve been a penalty shot. Holzer also gets burnt just outside his own blueline and throws out his knee to take down Tlusty shortly thereafter. The Canes capitalize on the 5 on 3 – imagine that – in the early third.
6 - Franson continues to conflict the hell out of me. Again, I like his game offensively, but he’s so mistake prone in his own zone (see goal #4).
7 - McClement is too useful to be playing with Orr and McLaren. I wouldn’t drop down Komarov to that fourth unit, but I would think about giving Ryan Hamilton more of a look if McClement is staying down there now that MacArthur is back.
8 - As for the PP, I’m just going to send you over to Anthony’s analysis from earlier today, because not a whole lot changed in this one. Carlyle, or Greg Cronin if he’s calling the players’ numbers for the PP personnel, is either stubborn as hell or much more patient than I.
9 - Damien Cox said at intermission that the Leafs appear to be a three line team, when in the past they’ve been a one or two line team, and how that’s a good sign for Carlyle’s group. On paper I’d agree, but they’ve yet to produce like one. The Lupul injury, of course, hurts big time. I think Carlyle has to shake it up here in an attempt to get Kessel going. Give him someone (Grabovski?) who can take some of the pressure off of #81 always having to carry his line. Kessel for his part needs to drive the puck more off the rush. Twice tonight he had gathered blazing pace off the rush only to pull up and get stripped of the puck. Defenders are expecting him to try to back them off and throw on the breaks; he’s got to keep them honest, drive it to the net and hope something goes in for him.
10 - The pressure is only going to get heavier as the Leafs lose games and struggle to score. Carlyle has to do what he can to get Kessel scoring, for the player’s sanity and if the team is to going to get the offense they need to win a respectable number of games. I don’t think you can worry about breaking up this line or that line right now. The lone exception might be the Kadri line with the chemistry Kadri and Frattin are showing. I could be overreacting – Cam Ward was excellent in this one.
10b - That’s 1-4 at home this season so far and an embarrassing thirteen regulation or overtime/shootout losses in their last 15 at home. Playing slump breakers for visiting players and giving Ontario boys a nice return home (in tonight’s case, both in one) has become all too common at the ACC and this team isn’t surprising anybody fast until it can make home ice advantage count.