In the first two weeks of December, which is now two days away, the Leafs will face San Jose, St. Louis, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and Pittsburgh. First, they will play a back to back against Buffalo and Montreal to close out November. Seems like they should probably pick up a few points starting tonight.
The Leafs are 4-5-2 in the month of November and will have to sweep this back to back to come out with a winning record in a relatively easy month, one that features three games with tonight’s last-placed opponent. Guess when the Sabres last won a game? Yep, against the Leafs in the first leg of their November 15/16 back to back. Five consecutive regulation losses since (one to the Leafs) has this Sabres team well on track for the first overall draft selection in the 2014 draft with a putrid 5-20-1 record. The Sabres haven’t scored more than a goal in a game since their two-goal third period in Toronto two weeks ago.
The Leafs didn’t play particularly well against Buffalo in either game of the home and home, but went 1-1 and were without Kadri and Bozak. That said, the first game was somewhat of a trap if you consider the Leafs were without their entire center group and Ted Nolan was coaching his first game behind the Buffalo bench. The first 40 minutes of the second game featured some dominant spells by the Leafs, but a near-collapse in the third period left a bad taste in the mouth.
On that note, Randy Carlyle, with the number of optional skates he’s been holding in the last month, seems to think energy is an issue for his team when they waver (i.e. every game) in their sixty minute effort. That could be the case, but it seems their main issue is reacting to certain situations thrown their way by the opposition when they start bringing the pressure by pinching with their D down the boards – which seems to be exploiting a systemic sore spot. Is it any coincidence the hold on leads has been tenuous at times for this team?
Carter Ashton has been recalled from the Toronto Marlies. He last played on November 15 vs. these same Buffalo Sabres and was sent down on November 21 when Kadri came back from suspension and Bozak had also returned from injury. In two games down with the Marlies, Ashton tallied three points (1 goal, 2 assists). The fourth line is better off with him, his board play and physicality, on it as far as I’m concerned.
We won’t know lineup information until game time given the optional practice. On D, one imagines Jake Gardiner draws back in and Jonas Siegel seems to think it could be Morgan Rielly coming out.
Extra work for Morgan Rielly this morning. Appears a possibility that he'll come out tonight in favour of Jake Gardiner.
— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) November 29, 2013
Not sure why Mark Fraser and Cody Franson are immune to the rotation here.
James Reimer will start in net, with Jonathan Bernier getting the start in his hometown tomorrow in Montreal.
This is a game the Leafs simply have to win. They’re stumbling, and somewhat to their credit still scraping along at around .500, but a blowout at the hands of Columbus followed by the 4-1 and 5-3 lead forfeitures to Pittsburgh has the Leafs in a position where a loss to the 5-20 Sabres would be pretty crushing.
Carlyle Game Day Presser:
Leafs/Sabres pregame hangout live in a few http://mapleleafshotstove.com/2013/11/29/maple-leafs-vs-sabres-pregame-hangout/
Just heard McGowan say that the $5.2 Billion is over and above what Sportsnet is currently paying. Also, the increases being discussed to include all channels will be about $2 per month. Not bad!
Sharks winning 4-0 and still throwing shots on net and putting on pressure.. wish the Leafs would follow that approach
Haven't been able to post for awhile , thoughts on Pens game
-when yourPK is in the shitter, don't take penalties
-in that vein , the JVR penaltY was particularly stupid
-penalties 200 ft from our net by Kadri and JVR has cost us points / wins against Boston/ Minny / Pitt.
-Kessel had a couple of shifts were he was SPECTACULAR
-Rielly for the 1st time this year looked a bit awestruck
-Ranger had a good game, so did Bozak
-Carlyle has to spread the workload around a bit. Nice to see Ashton recalled
HEY snap out of it people.
Tonights game depends on one thing.
REFEREEING. That is all. If it's a shit show like last game we'll lose. If every minor hit is called like a PEE WEE game, we'll lose. We'll see what the refs decide will be the outcome.
It's amazing to look at the jump in average ice time once you get out of the 4th line turnstyle. Pretty obvious that Carlyle plays 3 lines for most of the game, putting the team at an immediate disadvantage.
So Ashton got the call eh? I was thinking perhaps Leivo to inject some skill and goal-scoring in place of Lupul but whatever. No idea how Leivo's looked for the Marlies though.
Just to get the discussion going. Cox:
2. You can see why they signed him : David Bolland went down to injury Nov. 2 in Vancouver. With him, the Leafs were 10-4-1. Without him, they're now 4-5-1 after Wednesday night's loss.
Bolland was one forward who the Leafs could count on to do the right thing in the defensive zone, and to make simple plays to relieve pressure. Without him, they've regularly turned into the punching bag that they were against the Penguins.
3. When contributing just isn't enough : One of the bright spots this season has been the play of Marlies captain Trevor Smith. In three game earlier this month when the club was missing three centres, Smith responded with five points in three games including a one goal, two assist performance against the Islanders.
His reward? He didn't play Monday against Columbus and got five shifts against the Penguins on Wednesday.
Newcomer Peter Holland is following a similar pattern. He was scratched against the Blue Jackets and played only seven shifts and 4:55 against the Pens.
4. Peculiar choices : On Saturday in the shootout win over the Capitals, David Clarkson missed, James Van Riemsdyk scored and Joffrey Lupul potted the winner.
So how did Carlyle follow up on Wednesday against Pittsburgh in Penguin goalie Jeff Zatkoff's first NHL shootout?
First went Tyler Bozak, who hasn't been playing much of late because of injury. Bozak failed on a fairly routine five-hole attempt. Then Clarkson missed again, and badly, on a backhand move. That was it.
No JVR, no Phil Kessel, no Nazem Kadri.
@Jay31 Elite teams can sustain that kind of pressure. The Leafs are a long way from that.
@mcloki ............If the Refs start calling everything again on us one of our dmen......Dion being the guy I would pick when he gets a chance behind the net he should instead of ringing it around the boards he should just shoot it right at the Ref who is closes to him. A few shots like that and maybe just maybe they will take the hint and start calling penalties against other team.............
I don't understand this... Carlyle's system is the same from last year. It worked well then. Only reason it's not now is because the players are being lazy and not getting to there correct areas, or losing puck battles, or making dumb mistakes with and without the puck. I blame the players 100% for this. THey need to get there heads out of there asses and start playing with more heart... like Clarkson has been.
@Cloud09 Do you yourself trust anybody on the 4th line playing in the third period in a close game. ??
@ingy56 Ahl .com says 4 games played and 5 points ,but the net sucs here today again grrrrr
@ingy56 Leafs have enough offense, its their defense thats worrisome.
@Great Dane I fully agree with point 3. Holland and Smith have both been exception and responsible in their own ends. Also both are good at faceoffs. Really under utilized.
@Great Dane Definitely right about Bolland making those smart little plays defensively. Miss him quite a bit, but he has to be an afterthought.
@GreekGod @Cloud09 @mr_hanie A solid 4th line can change the momentum of games. Joey Crabb, Daryl Boyce, Tim "Fucking" Brent have all been 4th line Leafers who created a spark or chipped in a garbage/lucky goal once in a while. McClement was that guy last year. Smith could very well be that same kind of guy if Carlyle played him for more than 5 minutes a game.
@Cloud09 @mr_hanie @ingy56 We are at the very beginning of Carlyle deserving to be on the hot seat. Only way off is for his team to play consistent high level of hockey. If in the next 10 games the Leafs calibre of play does not improve many will be on the fire Carlyle bandwagon and I may be one of them. I already see a yellow flag with this guys performance.
@mr_hanie @ingy56 Leafs are third last in SF/G and last in SA/G. I think you are both right, Leafs need to shoot more and take less shots. Unfortunately the way Carlyle is telling the team to play doesn't correlate well to SA and the roster doesn't have the skill to create more shots/defend. Some big changes are needed IMO for this to be fixed.
@mr_hanie @ingy56 I agree, that's why I'm thinking if you have the puck in the other team's zone they can't take any shots against you. I'm not a proponent of the fancy stats but they need to control the puck a lot more than they do. Their goaltenders are under too much pressure and it's starting to show.