Thursday Morning Leafs Roundtable – Playoffs Edition: Leafs Humbled in Game 1

Thursday Morning Leafs Roundtable – Playoffs Edition: Leafs Humbled in Game 1

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Game 1 is in the books and after a brief moment of post-season exaltation that was nine years in the making, the Leafs were handed a 4-1 drubbing from the Beantown Bruins. ICYMI, here’s the first ever Playoffs Game in 10 in MLHS history via Mislav.

Not shockingly, this game resembled those from prior seasons, where 5-on-5 hockey looked like a Bruins powerplay, giveaways were in abundance, and the Leafs‘ top offensive players were unable to gain the Bruins zone with any sort of speed, aggression or consistency.  At certain points in the game, even the Bruins’ fourth line had the Leafs hemmed into their own zone. As Carlyle put it during his post-game presser, the team just seemed to implode and “guys were falling down” even when no one was around (psst…Barb Underhill).

Before I go any further, I feel that I need to preface my following comments. Throughout the season, a debate raged over Twitter regarding Carlyle’s competence given the line-up decisions we’ve seen. (You guys remember the rogue agent’s tweet, right?)  I’ve read, and listened, to both sides of the argument, from the writers and podcasters within the barilkosphere, to the MSM guys in their towers. During all of this, I decided to withhold my judgement of Carlyle, just let the season roll-through, and evaluate from a higher perch once the playoffs were under way. Sure, using Carlyle’s decisions from the regular season should heavily influence your ultimate thought, but I believe, and so does Burke, “you earn your pub-stub in this business in the playoffs”. Now that we’ve had a one-game sample, I can finally ask, what in the flying F*** was he thinking with those line combinations? I could go on a rant but it was put much better last night:

“I’ve generally gone easy on Carlyle much of the season figuring I won’t question him so long as they are winning, but tonight was a disgrace. The coaching decisions he made, made no sense. Lupul and Grabovski never play together so lets start them in the first playoff game in 9 years. You desperately need offense for much of the game, yet Franson and Liles are your least used defensemen, and Fraser your most used. Kadri and Kessel play just 13:35 and 13:51, and Lupul just 15:25. These are your core offensive players and you sit them when you need goals? It’s no wonder the Leafs failed to generate much offense when their best offensive players are pinned to the bench. Awful coaching IMO.” -David Johnson (@Hockeyanalysis(Btw, I think he’s looking for some donations to continue his work – the guy runs an awesome stats site.)

Now, all is not lost. Carlyle has promised that there will be line-up changes. Let’s take him on his word. But, if I see another shift from Kost…………..Alright, I’ll put the keyboard down.

-Aaron Chan (@Mapleleafmuse)

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Here’s what our writers had to say:

The Good

“It wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be to find the good in last night’s game. The united enthusiasm of Leafs fans was a beautiful thing (for the 10 minutes it lasted.) The Leafs being aggressive on the puck and finishing checks legitimately seemed to have an impact (before they stopped doing that.) Reimer did a respectable job of handling an unrealistic workload. And Grabovski once again looked like he was the Leafs best center (not hard, but he was solid at both ends of the ice.) Perhaps the best part of last night was that after a performance like that we should never have to watch Mike Kostka play in an NHL hockey game again.” -Jon Steitzer (@YakovMironov)

“Less than two minutes into the first period, the Leafs capitalized on a sloppy Bruins penalty kill, taking a 1–0 lead with James van Riemsdyk converting a juicy rebound from Tuukka Rask.  In a game that got out of hand as time wore on, it was a nice opening act.  This wasn’t JVR’s only good chance of the period, as he absolutely dangled the Bruins defense before wiring a shot that struck the post.  With the Bruins focusing upon Kessel, van Riemsdyk might be given slightly more space and with it the chance to pad his solid postseason scoring numbers.” -Michael Stephens (@MLHS_Mike)

“Brilliant first power-play.  Strong, consistent passing and good compete from everyone.  Good rebound recovery from Franson to set up van Reimsdyk’s goal.” -(@mORRganRielly)

“The Leafs simply weren’t ready for the 60-minute challenge that is an even-not-at-its-peak Boston team. Their second period effort was reflective of regular season-mediocrity that you can get away with when you have 60 games left, not the kind of playoff intensity needed in a 7-game season.” – Matt Mistele (@TOTruculent)

The Bad

“The defense is awful once again.  Phaneuf, Gunnarsson, and Franson look fine individually, but I get the sense that the constant rotation of the defensive system is confusing some of the guys; a little skating ability in place of Kostka could go a long way (i.e., Gardiner).  Kostka battles, but he’s just not NHL material. ” -(@mORRganRielly)

“I made a bold prediction on Twitter after the second period that Kostka’s played his last game as a Maple Leaf. With a series loss to Boston, and assuming that he sits the remainder in favour of one of O’Byrne or Gardiner for the duration, it might not be that unrealistic of a concept. His performance Wednesday night warranted, certainly, at least a Game 2 scratch.” -Matt

“One of the biggest problems for the Leafs in last night’s trouncing at the hands of the Bruins was turnovers.  Both the forwards and defense were guilty of being selfish, but that doesn’t give enough credit to the zeal with which the Bruins fore-checked.” -Michael

“Mark Fraser played 24 minutes of defense in an NHL Playoff game. He played more than Phaneuf. He didn’t play well. I think we are again dealing with the Carlyle preferring mediocre players playing to their full potential over good players struggling with a tough workload. The balanced attack of the Bruins makes it hard to lean exclusively on the Phaneuf pairing, but the reason for having a player like Phaneuf is so you can play him until his legs fall off in the playoffs. Using him for only 23 minutes is unacceptable. With Franson possibly hurt, and Kostka being a special kind of awful it seems reasonable that both Gardiner and O’Byrne find their way into the mix.” -Jon

Kadri, Lupul, Kessel

“For all the talk about how excited he was to get going in the playoffs, Kadri was kinda invisible through the first two periods. Granted, he spent the night with Komarov and MacArthur – but he’s going to realize quickly that playoff talk in this town means very little without a performance to back it up. Colton Orr created more offence Wednesday night than Nazem Kadri did. (This is just friendly negative reinforcement. I still love you, Naz).” -Matt

“Kadri was particularly ineffective at getting the puck past his blue line or in at Boston’s, often forcing the puck across the ice instead of looking for a pass.” -Michael

“Lupul looks a bit tentative.  Perhaps he’s trying to get into a rhythm.  Skilled players don’t always get it going immediately; a little stick jab into the arm pit and Lupul will probably wake up.” -(@mORRganRielly)

“Kessel looks like he’s missioning to prove people wrong.  He has always avoided contact because he recognizes that he can’t win every battle – but he’s giving a little bit here and there and looking for breaks.  I feel that he’s going to have a big series.  He may not have had a great game overall, but he was back-checking, he was willing to go after pucks with Chara around, and he wasn’t intimidated.” -Matt

Winnipeg Blue Bomb Shelters

“The facepunching duo certainly didn’t earn their keep either. Orr hand a handful of pointless penalties while both were just generally ineffective as they couldn’t get a rise out of any one. It’s worth noting that Shawn Thornton was just as pointless for the Bruins, but just because Claude Julien wants to burn a spot in the lineup doesn’t mean Carlyle should follow suit. I know this is a radical concept, but for the love of Wendel I hope we at least see only one of them on Saturday.” -Matt

“You know, I hated Domi for the longest time – I met the man in person and he was a complete asshole.  That elbow on Neidermayer really bothered me as well.  But he could play a regular shift in the playoffs.  He wasn’t anything special, but he could skate and had a little bit of skill to burn the other fourth line.  Orr and McLaren?  They got nothing.  Can’t skate.  Can’t control the puck.  Awful passers.  Terrible instincts.  They just aren’t playoff material.  Why are they playing at all? ” -(@mORRganRielly)

“To me, physical game in the playoffs has always come from making your own space.  You need to be willing to play the body and take a hit.  If it comes to the point where the team feels that it needs enforcers in the line-up, you have already been psychologically beaten. -(@mORRganRielly)

Inter-Ference, CALL THE MEDIC!

“Johnny Boychuk’s thunderous check and Andrew Ference’s Captain Falcon-inspired elbow on Mikhail Grabovski accentuated the physical domination that the Bruins had over the Buds in game 1.  Though the Leafs did lead the hit count on the night, the Bruins hits were of the devastating variety.  They were simply hitting harder and more effectively than the Leafs.  This will be one horrible war of attrition. Lupul, Bozak, Franson all join Grabovski on the ranks of walking wounded.” -Michael

“Early indications from Dreger are that the Ference elbow to Grabovski’s head was reviewed by the NHL’s Uselessciplinary Department and that a suspension is “unlikely.” I tried to think of another way to phrase “elbow to Grabovski’s head,” but the only alternative I could come up with was “elbow to Grabovski’s face.” So, wonderful. We’re one game into the playoffs, and the credibility Brendan Shanahan already didn’t have is somehow further reduced. All jokes aside: if something that transparent, blatant, fragrant, and obvious doesn’t warrant a suspension, then I’m not sure why the NHL thinks we’ll take anything they say seriously. Brendan Shanahan is to NHL Playoffs discipline what Jay Mohr is to NHL Awards funny.” -Matt

Final Word

“If we’re making lemonade out of lemons it’s worth noting that Boston didn’t look that good on Wednesday, and if the Leafs play anywhere close to what their record dictates they are capable of, they might actually make this a series.”  -Jon

“I felt Grabovski was on a mission as well.  But man oh man, he needs to be careful.  I love Grabovski, but there’s effort and there’s craziness.  He needs to channel that kamikaze instinct into selective situations.” -(@mORRganRielly)

“Long story short: the Leafs still aren’t a great team, they have glaring weaknesses, and Boston exploits them expertly. The Leafs haven’t been a playoff team for nine years, and in every aspect of Game 1, looked exactly like it. Boston played like they know they’re one, and Toronto played like they weren’t quite sure what they’re doing here. We won’t win this series, and that sucks, because damn, that first hour of hype was amazing!” -Matt

“The CBC needs to shut up.  Oh, hockey is played in a three dimensional space, and there are portions of the net that aren’t along the ice? Thanks for reminding me of that fact on every Bruins shot attempt, CBC.” -Michael

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Sportsnet.ca: JVR “Poke-checks” Marchand To Much Hilarity -Not sure this nose-faced rat has gonads.

 

 

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