Leafs Notebook – October 28

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Photo: Getty Images/mapleleafs.com

Usually I like to include a little preamble before getting into notes, but the notes went a little long this week so I decided to scrap it. I’m also looking into something that could become a lengthy post; if all goes well there, I’ll hopefully have that up a little later in the week.

Moving on, there’s a lot to talk about in a week when JVR and Kessel put on a show against Anaheim, the Leafs made Columbus look a lot better than they are, and the team played two of their best periods of the season against Pittsburgh.

Notes

– I’ve written about this in this space many times over the last few years, but it’s worth repeating after Kessel didn’t touch the empty net pass by Raymond (giving Raymond the goal) and then tried to setup Bozak for an empty netter instead of going for his fourth goal of the night against Anaheim: Kessel doesn’t look to rack up points once the game is out of hand. If the Leafs get up handily on a team, Kessel shuts it down instead of trying to pad his point totals. That’s just the kind of guy he is. Some call Kessel a hot dog because he isn’t physical, but to me a hot dog tries to rack up points whenever he can in situations like those to up his totals. Kessel doesn’t.

– Against Anaheim, with 1:50 left and the net empty, the Ducks dumped it deep. Bernier came out, stopped the puck, and passed it to Franson who easily shot it out. That’s what puck handling goalies can do for you. When the Leafs played Pittsburgh, the Pens dumped it in on wrist shots more than a few times and Reimer wasn’t even coming out of his net (which is probably for the best). Also of note: Rielly was on for that late shift vs. Anaheim.

– Saturday’s game for Reimer was somewhat reminiscent of last season when he played against Pittsburgh in January. To refresh your memory: the Leafs started Scrivens not only in their season opener on the Saturday night in Montreal, but in their home opener against Buffalo on the Monday, too. That meant Reimer’s first game of the season was in Pittsburgh for the Penguins’ season opener, where many said the Leafs would get slaughtered and that they were throwing Reimer to the wolves. Of course, just like this past Saturday, the Leafs won that game, also by a three goal margin (5-2).

– On that note, when are some Leafs fans going to learn that Reimer, a) always plays unbelievable against Pittsburgh (4-0-2, .931sv%), and b) he faces adversity head on and usually comes out on top? Seemed like everyone thought the Leafs were going to get crushed by Pittsburgh in Toronto, on a Saturday night, with Reimer in net. Not so much.

– Seemed a number of people wanted to note that Bozak didn’t record a single point on Kessel’s hat trick. But, watch the hat-trick goal against Anaheim. At the very beginning of the video, Bozak ties up the man driving the net, which is the reason the puck goes untouched and swings around to JVR for the 2 on 1. If Bozak doesn’t completely tie up his man there, Kessel doesn’t score that goal.

– JVR’s speed is just incredible right now. The way he broke away from Ducks players to draw that penalty shot was jaw dropping for his height. He clearly worked his tail off during the summer and it’s showing big-time. Kudos to him. We notice it, JVR.

– I know some might suggest Clarkson getting suspended caused him to settle down, but I think the team going 7-3-0 in his absence showed him he doesn’t have to be any sort of saviour for this team. He just has to play his game, and for the most part he did try to come in and simply complement the team. He’s noticeably big out there despite only being 6’0, 200 pounds; he plays like he’s 6’5 and he finishes checks, which is something the Leafs have lacked without Komarov and Kulemin in the line-up. He put a good crunch on Crosby, who got frustrated and took a penalty moments later. That’s what he’ll bring, and it won’t show up anywhere on a score or stat sheet.

– It was disappointing to read that the Leafs had concerns about Clarkson’s conditioning heading into camp. Makes me wonder if we’ll only really start to see him hit his stride in mid season as he gets back into game shape and makes up for the ten games already lost.

– Raymond passed up a good shooting opportunity against Columbus after the puck broke loose, looking for a passing opportunity for a tap-in instead. Then, against Pittsburgh, there was a point in the second where the Leafs had three shots on net, at least five minutes went by, and the Leafs were in the Penguins zone twice for excellent cycles; a little later on, the commentators noted the Leafs had just mustered their fourth shot on net. The point is that the Leafs don’t seem to value shots on goal the way some teams do in lieu of good opportunities. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but I’m saying sometimes the Leafs’ shot on goal totals aren’t perfectly indicative of the flow of play because the Leafs do pass up shot opportunities instead of throwing it on net and crashing the crease. This is something Greg Cronin mentioned the Leaf coaching staff explicitly instructs the team to do.

– For what it’s worth, if you saw the way Clarkson sort of changed the dynamic of his line as a cycling menace, I think Kulemin will have a similar effect. If each of them are anchoring a cycling line, with JVR-Kessel together on the top unit, the Leafs should be in good shape once healthy.

– Loved seeing Kadri take a run at Malkin. When he does stuff like that you know he’s on his game.

– The things really killing Paul Ranger are the mental mistakes he’s making. Against Pittsburgh he twice hit shin pads with shots, and when Reimer made his diving pad save on Dupuis the 2 on 1 was the result of Ranger deciding to pinch with the fourth line on the ice. Although he technically pinched by the letter because he took his man and relied on his back-checker, you have to realize the situational circumstance when you’re on with the fourth line and the back-checker was Frazer McLaren. Backing up on that play is just smart hockey; pinch when you’re on with a Bolland, or a JVR, or even McClement. Of course, he also fumbled the puck and gave it away against Columbus for what turned out to be the game winner, too.

– Even though Kessel’s goal against Columbus was ultimately the result of a brutal turnover, that was one of the Leafs best breakouts of the season so far. JVR realized there was no clean breakout moving forward, so he moved it back to the D to regroup. The puck went D-to-D before Phaneuf moved it up to JVR, who was at the blue line instead of past center ice. JvR then hit a streaking Phil Kessel who was moving with speed through the neutral zone. See for yourself here:

– That’s what the Leafs need to do more of. If they keep it simple they will make life a hell of a lot easier on themselves.

– On the topic of that goal, Bozak made a nice pass to set up Kessel, but the biggest difference between Bozak and Kadri centering that line is Bozak is just going to try and dish it to the other two and let them do all the work. Whereas Kadri will handle it himself, make his own plays, and is more of a finisher. Their line really wasn’t doing much against Pittsburgh, and then all of a sudden they got a little open ice and scored one of the goals of the week. That’s all they need. Bozak in that same situation probably would have tried to pass to the backdoor (and that’s not a knock on him, it’s just the reality).

– Rather quietly, JVR has become a regular member of the Leafs penalty kill, averaging 2:23/night at 4 v 5 for the Leafs. When Carlyle was with Burke in Anaheim, they agreed not to put Perry and Getzlaf on the PK for fear of them blocking a shot and breaking something. Maybe it’s a change in philosophy, or maybe Carlyle just has faith in those shot-block protectors on the skates (and we know how he feels about wearing them in practice now). We’ll see if that changes once Kulemin and Bozak return, because along with McClement and Bolland those would figure to be the top four PKers on the team.

– It’s also interesting to see Bolland on the top PP unit instead of Kadri, despite Kadri playing on the top line 5v5 with Bozak out. I would assume the logic is that Kadri leads one unit while Kessel leads the other.

– One of the stranger things I saw/heard this week was Sportsnet really play up the fact that Kadri’s unit started a PP in the second period against Anaheim as opposed to Kessel’s unit, and how that “sent a message.” Even with JVR and Kessel each getting another point on Saturday on the PP, Kadri and Lupul both have more points than those two at 5 v 4 (five for Kadri and Lupul, as opposed to four for JVR and Kadri), so I’m not sure what message was really being sent? Maybe it was “We put on the guys who have been scoring more on the power play?” Sportsnet really played it up as if a turning point in the game.

– I don’t know if the Leafs sent Ashton down to build back some confidence, or to send a message, but on Saturday he sure played like he never wanted to ride the bus in the AHL again. He didn’t just come out strong against Pittsburgh; he brought it every single shift on the forecheck, won a few battles to get the puck out (including notable one in the first period where it required a second and third effort), and he was an animal along the boards. Ashton played a season-high 11:34, and he gave a glimpse as to why Ashton-McClement-Orr could be an above average fourth line.

– Maybe people get frustrated by Orr because he is about as much of a scoring threat as you or I, or maybe I have my blue and white goggles on, but he’s been fine lately for the Leafs. He gave the Leafs ten solid minutes against Pittsburgh, got in on the forecheck, banged a few bodies, and wasn’t a liability. If he gives the Leafs that all season I won’t complain (as long as they only dress one enforcer…).

– Pittsburgh really clogged up the neutral zone in the second period and the Leafs were having trouble breaking through it and sustaining any zone time, but in the third period Toronto started taking the body and creating their own space (players like Clarkson, Ashton, Bodie come to mind here). Getting physical to open more space on the ice for themselves has really been lacking in the Leaf game so far this season. Hopefully Saturday night was a sign of what’s to come.

– This has kind of slipped under the radar, but the Marlies, and by extension Leafs, have become a bit of a second-chance rehab center for players. They currently have cast-offs Stefan Legein and Jerred Smithson on their team, they gave Mike Liambas (he of the infamous Ben Fanelli hit) a tryout in the past, there’s Paul Ranger of course, all of the college UFAs they’ve signed, and even Mason Raymond. You can’t say the Leafs aren’t scouring for talent in every place possible.

***

Quotes

“There are tough minutes for him to accumulate. We think that he does a heck of a job for our hockey club, or else we wouldn’t be using him in those situations. I know that it seems to be that there’s a love-hate type of relationship at certain times, but there’s a lot of love shown from our part as far as a coaching staff.”
Randy Carlyle, on Dion Phaneuf.

The Leafs wouldn’t be where they are right now without Phaneuf. Plain and simple.

“They’re a pain in the ass to wear. I already have big feet so adding even a little extra weight to my skate is a pain. But if it is going to save an injury then I am going to start wearing them.”
Cody Franson, on wearing shot-blockers on his skates.

Nazem Kadri also mentioned something about it being more difficult to take pucks off his skates, but “pain in the ass to wear” is better than not playing at all, which is where Joffrey Lupul found himself.

“We have told him to find a roommate. We think it is important that as a 19-year-old he live with somebody and we have a few options. We’re not guaranteeing the player will be here for the whole year. The 10-game barrier will be gone. The option of him going to the American Hockey League is not there for us. He’ll either play with us or go back to junior.”
Randy Carlyle, on Morgan Rielly staying a little while longer.

Kind of funny that he’s staying with Jake Gardiner of all people, no?

***

5 Things I Think I’d Do

1 – I think this will happen regardless, but I’d give Kadri every opportunity to show that he should be centering JVR and Kessel while Bozak is out. Maybe he’ll have a bad game, or struggle in a tough match-up, but he needs to get a true look in this role to at the very least gauge where he is at in terms of his readiness to take over the top spot. It was only a few years ago that Tim Connolly got hurt before Bozak stepped in and never looked back.

2 – I think I’d call up another forward who can score for this road trip (probably Leivo), because the Leafs bottom six has almost no ability to put the puck in the net and that puts a lot of pressure on the top six. A few weeks ago I said I’d be snooping around trying to find an NHL forward that’s available on the cheap, and I still would be.

3 – I think the ultimate end game for the Leafs defense is one of Gardiner/Rielly playing with Phaneuf while the other pairs up with Franson. How they get there and when they get there, I’m not sure, but I think we’re starting to see signs of Gardiner sliding in with Phaneuf here and there. I’d start to do that more consistently. Except for the Chicago game (19:56 TOI), Gardiner has played over 20 minutes in each of the last seven games.

4 – I think I’d roll with Reimer more or less until he gives me a reason not to after his game against Pittsburgh. With a 1A and 1B situation, the Leafs always need to be cognizant of keeping the idle goalie fresh, but Bernier had a bit of an extended-look opportunity and it seems Reimer deserves the same if he keeps up his strong play.

5 – I think I’d take the leash off Rielly a little bit. Sometimes you watch him and get the feeling he’s holding back in his play when it comes to puck carrying and getting involved offensively. It would help to be on the third pairing instead of playing with Franson against second lines, but I guess the Leafs are trying to grow the defensive side of his game. I think Rielly has a lot more to offer offensively, but right now I watch him and think there’s something in the back of his mind telling him not to skate with the puck as much as he wants to.

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Anthony Petrielli has been at MLHS since 2011. He is known for his weekly "Leafs Notebook" feature, and also writes specific analysis pieces. You can contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @APetrielli.
  • Xxxxxnew

    Five years ago this week this was the Leafs future on the Marlies
    Tim Stapleton
    Bates Battaglia
    Jeremy Williams
    Alex Foster
    Darryl Boyce
    Kris Newbury
    Mark Bell
    Andre Deveaux
    Staffan Kronwall
    Jaime Sifers
    Ben Ondrus
    Brent Aubin
    Boyd Devereaux
    Anton Stralman
    Stefano Giliati
    Richard Petiot

  • Alec Brownscombe

    dlb eh Alec Brownscombe Sorry to hear you are forced to suffer through our blogs littered with Colton Orr hatred and derision.

  • Cloud09

    Anthony Petrielli Alec Brownscombe You were, got your point across here.

  • 17Forever

    dlb eh Jay31 
    Listened. Liked

  • Cloud09

    Xxxxxnew Mark Bell did the only notable thing on that whole roster.

  • Xxxxxnew

    That was the roster two months before Burke arrived.

  • Cloud09

    Great read as usual Anthony.

  • Anthony Petrielli

    Cloud09 Anthony Petrielli Alec Brownscombe Glad to know I’m not losing it. I was kind of shocked to read some of the comments… And I have no problem admitting when I’m ripping a guy.

  • Komas Taberle

    dlb eh Jay31 You know female, natural blonde 5’10, pert breasts and tight buns.

  • Komas Taberle

    Cloud09 Xxxxxnew Stralman isn’t too bad either.

  • Mind Bomb

    Komas Taberle dlb eh Jay31  Brunette, about 5’5 pert Breast, tight Buns, Kinda Sassy, cause thats the way i like em
    Think Mila Kunis !

  • Mind Bomb

    Xxxxxnew All that and your Golfing come spring :)

  • Cloud09

    Komas Taberle Cloud09 Xxxxxnew Yea but he never did this
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b59LxkvpW8Y

  • Greg Fenton

    Xxxxxnew There are several prospects who were pretty highly thought of, at the time, int eh system not on that last. Tlusty for one (the top prospect at the time). Reimer was on the marlies that year (maybe not this week but that year). Holzer was int he system, Stalberg was finishing his last year at college. Pogge was on the Marlies that year. Chris DiDomenico, who a lot of people were high on, was scoring over a PPG in the Q that year. Gunnersson was playing his year in Sweden. Dale Mitchell and Frattin were two guys not on the Marlies a lot of people liked etc…
    If you are trying to make an over system-system comparison, that list doesn’t include a lot of the guys who were the more promising prospects at the time. And, you have to remember that the majority of players ont he Marlies will most likly be busts at the NHL level, and while the roster looks very promising now, in 5 years it might not look much better then that one.

  • lieffan

    Best Leaf read. Thanks.

  • lukethenuke

    Burtonboy please no not that plug ugh

  • dlb eh

    Cloud09 
    my old avatar

  • dlb eh

    Komas Taberle 
    Stralman is a player his team is looking to upgrade

  • Anthony Petrielli

    Greg Fenton Xxxxxnew Didomenico had that leg injury too that pretty well ruined his career

  • Greg Fenton

    At this point, I disagree that Reimer should get an extended look at this point. 
    People are always quick to say the team and players need time to “gel”, the same is true about the team and the goalie. Bernier and Reimer play very different styles and switching them often forces the rest of the team to be constantly adjusting to new/different play behind them. 
    As of right now, it looks like Bernier is the guy Carlyle likes/trusts more. Reimer should more playing when/if Bernier drops the ball, not just to make things equal.

  • dlb eh

    Greg Fenton
    Reimer was in the ECHL at that time, and so far off most people’s radars there was almost no hype about him at all.  i remember hearing how he was a sponge and a hard worker and how people inside the organization had some faith in him…but no one seemed to hear that same comment so i was seemingly alone with that for a few years.

  • Mind Bomb

    Anthony Petrielli Greg Fenton Xxxxxnew  Thats was a Nasty injury Anthony !

  • dlb eh

    Greg Fenton
    Stalberg was never a player people got excited about until they actually saw him.  much like Frattin, they didn’t hit the radar until they were pretty much in the NHL.  there was little hype there.  again though, there were reports about these two guys in particular that lead one to believe they would make it, but neither were considered big time prospects at the time by typical fans.

  • ProfessorRance

    Gilbey93 Greg Fenton Reimer deserves a look. Bernier can take Calgary and then have Reimer back in against the Canucks.

  • Mind Bomb

    Greg Fenton Hhaha Tough cookies for the team them, adjust or move on, or would they like Toskaloss back. We finaly have Goaltending depth, lets not ignore it. Secondly your forcing Reims to ask for a trade, if you tell Reims he has no chance, has already lost the battle, it sends a horrible message.

  • dlb eh

    Anthony Petrielli
    Dido had a great year, then got hurt, and then he was a great recovery story.  more people hoped something great would come of the kid than actually thought of him as a blue chipper, of course.  still a shame.

  • Greg Fenton

    Anthony Petrielli Greg Fenton Xxxxxnew And he just wasn’t THAT good (by that I mean, as good as the hype that started up around him). He started to do more and more the older he got, and a lot of people didn’t take the over age/older player thing into account.

  • Greg Fenton

    dlb eh Greg Fenton Thats why I said he might not have been ont he marlies 5 years ago today, but hew as on the team 5 years ago this season.

  • Greg Fenton

    dlb eh Greg Fenton You’re right when you say that about Reimer, it was ALL about Pogge in net 5 years ago. But you’re completely wrong about Stalberg. LOTS of people were very excited about this guy 5 years ago. No one thought he was a top line guy, but many fans thought he was going to be a player.

  • newfiesinker

    Greg Fenton I agree, Reimer still has rebound control problems

  • Biltmore

    Any way to get the Leafs schedule at the top of the website, to go with the Marlies? That would be awesome.

  • Mind Bomb

    newfiesinker Greg Fenton His other problem is he wins games !

  • Greg Fenton

    ProfessorRance Gilbey93 Greg Fenton I wouldn’t go back and forth like that. Bernier seems to have to won the job have the coachs confidence. Unless he looks horrible for a stretch, it should be his net. 
    Like I said, people go back to that “gel” and chemistry thing all the time, the same applies with the goalies. The most consistent that position is, the more the players KNOW whats back there etc… the better the team is.

  • Dan39

    newfiesinker Greg Fenton Rebound control and handling the puck are issues but he makes up for it in other ways. He’s an above-average start in the NHL. That makes him a valuable piece. I agree, though, he probably gets moved rather than re-signed at a higher price next season.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Biltmore Click on schedule, as opposed to the drop down. Both are there.

  • Greg Fenton

    Mind Bomb Greg Fenton Either 1) He has to wait for Bernier to screw up or 2) He doesn’t have a chance. And like it or not, a move is coming, they won’t run both goalies for long. 
    Having a consistent starting goalie is just as important as lines and defense pairings that are allowed to develop chemistry.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Biltmore Also, clicking “statistics” gives the up to date player #s as well

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Greg Fenton What was the whole premise behind the two  good goalies thing if they need to only play in front of one who you perceive they’re comfortable with? Who is the guy who’s been here three years and who’s the one who’s started a total of 7 games in Toronto again?

  • Mind Bomb

    Dan39 newfiesinker Greg Fenton There is also the scenario where he re-signs a two year deal at a reasonable rate, to continue to be a leaf, If we give him only 10 games this year he is gone for sure.

  • dlb eh

    Xxxxxnew 
    the guys i remember hoping to see make the jump were the scrappy 3rd and 4th liners.  newbury, ondrus and deveaux.  i don’t think deveaux embraced the enforcer role.
    Stapleton was shifty an crafty, but hes kinda like Abbott now.

  • Biltmore

    Alec Brownscombe Biltmore Great, I’ve never noticed that before. Thanks.

  • dlb eh

    Greg Fenton 
    it’s possible people in your cirlces saw Stalberg before his last year of college but i don’t remember much talk about him.  i used to go through all the kids in the system and was intrigued by Stalberg because he had size and reportedly had speed.  it wasn’t until he actually arrived on the scene did i hear people talking about him though.

  • Mind Bomb

    Greg Fenton Mind Bomb There is no way I am giving up Either goalie, Look at Nashville, they can kiss there season goodbye now. They were a playoff bubble team, now they are a lottery team without Rinne. Injuries happen, we would be foolish to trade Reims right now

  • ProfessorRance

    Greg Fenton Mind Bomb How hasn’t Reimer not been consistent this year compared to Bernier? Each has had a bad game.

  • Jay31

    What do you guys think of Christian Ehrhoff? Should the Leafs be interested? Seen his name popping up on some of the other Leafs boards I frequent

  • djamon

    Greg Fenton No one’s getting moved this year. Bernier has played 70% of the minutes at this point, but he has lost 3 of his last 5. So it’s not like he’s locked down the #1 spot yet.

  • Mind Bomb

    Jay31 Wait there are other Leaf Boards ? 
    Bah ! :)

  • dlb eh

    Greg Fenton 
    logically i’d assume Reimer came up large on Saturday and is now poised to get his run.  but i think GF is right about Carlyle considering Bernier his 1A.
    i hate to say it, but Reimer is a perfect backup.  he’ll battle hard for his team and win almost every game he gets in.  Bernier still has that rebound and puck control aspect to his game that i think the former defenseman relishes, so i just feel like RC is going to come back to him.  similar to how he’s stuck with Rielly-Franson while they work it out.

  • Mind Bomb

    TheCanucksnaphook Ass Kiss ! 
    :)

  • ProfessorRance

    Jay31 Can’t afford him unless salary goes the other way. Don’t think Buffalo would want that. Plus that contract is odorous