Murphy’s Law is gripping this Leafs team at the moment. The performance wasn’t terrible in this one; it wasn’t exactly great, but there is a confluence of bad things happening to this team at the moment, some in their control and some not. The most disconcerting part about the conclusion to this month, as the Leafs enter a brutally tough December – 2 regulation wins in 13 November games.
1 – The last thing the Leafs needed was a bad start, but the Leafs got started on one with an interference penalty by Carl Gunnarsson. On the ensuing penalty kill, Fraser and Phaneuf left the stretch option wide open while stepping up to hold the neutral zone. Phaneuf motioned toward Fraser a little late and neither picked Pacioretty up in time. Bernier made a great initial two or three saves on Pacioretty, but he had time to set up a three-course picnic lunch in front while he jammed in the rebounds.
2 – The Leafs had a goal called off a few minutes later. A hit from behind in the corner by P.K. Subban on JvR went uncalled, before JvR went out front and parked himself in front for a good screen on a legal Dion Phaneuf goal. The varying standards from officiating crew to officiating crew certainly appears to be screwing the Leafs this past week (compare: Malkin goal on Wednesday; hit from behind call against Franson on Friday). The ref never hesitated to wave this one off.
Here’s the rule for goalie interference and goals disallowed:
69.1 Interference on the Goalkeeper - This rule is based on the premise that an attacking player’s position, whether inside or outside the crease, should not, by itself, determine whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed. In other words, goals scored while attacking players are standing in the crease may, in appropriate circumstances be allowed. Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgment of the Referee(s), and not by means of video replay or review.
Being in the crease alone does not justify a no-goal call and JvR didn’t seem to make any notable contact or prevent Price from making a save, at least not to an extent any greater than the entire purpose of screening a goaltender.
3 – Outside of that one should’ve-been goal, the top line was a struggle in the opening period, and at one point were pinned in by the Habs’ fourth line. Some terrible breakouts, being second to pucks on the boards, and blind throwing of pucks into the neutral zone by this group. On a lost faceoff with four minutes to go, Kessel took the wrong angle on his man in P.K Subban, failing to recognize he had stepped up to the top of the circle. Subban beat Bernier blocker side with a quick release.
4 – All that said, there’s no way this team should’ve been down 2-0 come the start of the 2nd; they weren’t outplayed overall, had a legal goal called off, and Kessel hit the post on an empty net on the first shift of the 2nd. The top line had a better second period but were overpassing on their opportunities.
5 – This game got out of reach with five minutes to go in the 2nd. Gardiner was double teamed in the corner on a shift against the Plekanec, Briere and Gionta line, and the Leafs seemed to be in OK shape as Bozak dug the puck out in support only for Bozak to throw a soft out up the boards. The play worked its way around the back of the Leaf net and the Habs had numbers in front as Leafs lost their coverage. Plekanec made it 3-0 as Bernier got a piece but not enough.
6 – A shorthanded goal – there’s one remaining bad thing that hadn’t happened tonight – followed a minute-twenty later, one Bernier simply had to have. A backhand along the ice from Pacioretty beat him through the legs and ended up more crucial than it seemed at the time, but maybe the Habs started to let off at 4-0.
7 – This game was quickly going the way of a blowout, before JvR responded with a beautiful lob shot on the PP to beat Price up high with two minutes to go.
8 – 22 seconds later, it was nice to see the rarely-used point shot thrown at net by Paul Ranger. It led to the 4-2 goal as Mason Raymond pounced on a loose puck to the side of the net.
9 – The Leafs were alright in the third, but just aren’t clicking well enough at the moment to mount a come back. This team also doesn’t seem effective when pressing late. As we all know, it’s more of a rush team and it’s in-zone offense needs work.
10 – The second line accomplished nothing of note tonight (Clarkson, Kadri and Raymond), with Clarkson looking particularly ineffective. Long shots with no traffic or bodies crashing, and nothing much in the way of physical play. I’d prefer if the vast majority of Clarkson’s shots came from below the hashmarks. Whether he ever had the chance to set up in front or not I can’t say, but he was a perimeter presence tonight. Only noticed him if he fell over or chirped after the whistle. Still not happy with the 4th line, either; the effort from Smith, Kulemin and McClement on line three is hard to complain about at least.
On a positive note, Morgan Rielly handled himself well; having both him and Gardiner in the group of six wasn’t a total nightmare as Carlyle seemed to picture it.
The book on the Leafs has been published and distributed league wide. The Habs were aggressive from the start on the pinch down the boards and the Leafs’ zone exits just weren’t consistently clean enough because the Leafs (wingers) are often second to the puck in those situations. That wasn’t as problematic as it has been in games previous, though; there is a lot going wrong for this team right now and it’s hard to pin point any one thing.
Indeed, all the critical points of failure seem to be there for this team at the moment indicating a tailspin has started – goaltending is slipping a little, which is seeing more of the mistakes end up in the back of the net; so are the special teams, and the confidence seems to be gone. Now, the Leafs enter the toughest part of their schedule, both in terms of volume of games and quality of their competition. Let’s see if this team can rise above the adversity rather than allow it to crush them.
|0:58:00||MTL||PPG - Max Pacioretty (8) Wrist shot - ASST: P.K. Subban (19), Carey Price (1)||1 - 0 MTL|
|16:13:00||MTL||P.K. Subban (4) Wrist shot - ASST: Max Pacioretty (3), David Desharnais (5)||2 - 0 MTL|
|15:05:00||MTL||Tomas Plekanec (9) Wrist shot - ASST: Daniel Briere (4), Brian Gionta (9)||3 - 0 MTL|
|17:22:00||MTL||SHG - Max Pacioretty (9) Backhand shot - ASST: Lars Eller (8)||4 - 0 MTL|
|18:10:00||TOR||James van Riemsdyk (12) Wrist shot - ASST: Tyler Bozak (6), Phil Kessel (10)||4 - 1 MTL|
|18:32:00||TOR||Mason Raymond (9) Backhand shot - ASST: Paul Ranger (6)||4 - 2 MTL|
|J. van Riemsdyk||L||1||0||1||-1||0||6||3||1||0||0||0%||4:53:00||0:00:00||24:35:00|
|J. Bernier (L)||35 - 39||0.897||0||57:51:00|