In episode #20 of the Maple Leaf Hangout, Michael Langlois and Michael Stephens discuss the Leafs’ recent struggles and the tough month ahead.
For the first period and a bit of the second period, the Leafs played last night against Boston the way they did in the fateful playoffs. Then Ashton miscued and tossed a puck over the boards. Penalty, Boston scored. From there it was all downhill.
Like flipping a switch, the Leafs reverted to type and stopped functioning as a team.
In the first intermission Gardiner noted they'd spent most of the first period on the attack in the Boston zone and to win they needed to keep doing what they were doing.
One of the key ingredients in that early success was Carter Ashton. But after he disposed of the puck into the crowd, he disappeared. Probably benched to punish him for his mistake. The rest of his line disappeared with him and that was the hockey game.
Kessel overworked and underthunk. His collision with Paneuf was exactly what I was talking about in my last post. He's making the rest of his team look like artisans when it comes to getting off the ice and he's setting a bad example for everyone. He could have been hurt or could have hurt Paneuf. No excuse for blatant sloppiness.
Franson cost the Leafs an important goal with another of his fatal giveaways. Yet he kept playing. He should sit, Rielly should play.
Clarkson again gave a display of how intense he is and how many miles beyond his teammates are where the forecheck is concerned. He's still too paranoid to shoot accurately though. More practice and don't forget he needs to spend time with Gardiner and Rielly.
This was a game the Leafs should have won if they did all the things properly I spoke about in my last post. All things they know how to do.
What they did do was stop thinking enmass.
Last season it looked for a while like the Leafs could go all the way. They would have too but for one thing. When the Leafs started beating the Bruins, they were beating the Bruins at their own game. They somehow as a team, adopted the same style of play the Bruins were using. The Leafs were the better team. But it couldn't have been Carlyle's system because they haven't repeated that system after the last three minutes in Boston.
The main difference between the hockey the Leafs are playing now to the hockey that was successful against Boston is not the defensemen, it's the forwards. The Leafs are forechecking as individuals rather than as a team. No individual forechecker in hockey has ever been able to hold an entire team at bay the way Marcus Hanes did for the Globetrotters. If you recognize that impossibility on ice, you then have to accept that to do a proper job of forechecking in the offensive zone, then at least four members of your team have to be involved in the forecheck with one man back. That system is what all the teams are using on the Leafs now. They must have copied it from the Bruins too. The only ones who don't get that are the Leafs.
if you watched those fateful playoff games, you'll have noticed that the forecheck faltered when Bozak was sidelined. It ended altogether when Mark Frazer took a puck between the eyes. That was the moment right there.
The exact same thing happened in the Darryl Sittler years. The time I'm thinking of was when defenseman Claire Alexander broke his ankle. Once he was gone, the catalyst that made the forecheck work was gone and the Leafs were toast. You knew it right when it happened if you knew anything about hockey.
Frazer is back but so far the forwards are not believing in him or the rest of their defensemen. They are hanging their defensemen out to dry. They are sloppy and lazy. I don't mean they aren't working hard. They aren't working smart.
You see turnovers made by all of the defensemen. Why? The forwards aren't on the same page. The defensemen are being left with 2 or 3 opposing forwards banging them into the boards. You can see they don't want to cough up the puck but you can also see they've got no one to pass to. So they get stripped of the puck or they have to ice the puck to get rid of it.
Right now the Leafs are a team of highly skilled players but the five guys on the ice are playing like two completely separate teams even though they're trying to achieve the same thing. The only reason they score goals is because occasionally everything goes right by accident instead of by design. If they get any breaks at all, they generally score. But other than that, they're five guys scrambling around in their own end making individual efforts and not taking the man.
Kadri in particular epitomizes the problem. He is trying to do what I'm talking about but he's out of sync with Kessel and JVR. Those two guys do not get him or their own defensemen in the defensive zone. So they need Bozak who does the heavy lifting for them. Kadri is like a marshmallow on the puck - it sticks to him if there's no pressure but in heavy traffic, the puck goes one way and he goes the other - usually on his ass. Kadri is a winger, not a centre. He's probably about the same size Dave Keon was, but Keon didn't get hit. But he dished out the hits. Gretsky didn't get hit either. Kadri doesn't have that essential skill.
Carl Gunnarsson panics when he has no one to pass to. No problem. It's a no brainer, you assign people to be ready and available for a pass from him when he gets it. Not a Hail Mary pass, a short crisp pass because there was someone in the vicinity ready to receive said pass. Usually he's abandoned.
As good as Franson is, there were plenty of times when he was paired with Morgan Rielly where Rielly had to bail him out and other times when he couldn't. From my perspective, Franson was Rielly's worst enemy. These are two guys with completely different skills whose skills don't mesh.
Rielly and Gardiner are diamonds in the rough. I think they should be encouraged to free wheel. They remind me and plenty of other people of Bobby Orr. Both of them have the power to change the game when they get the puck. But not without decisive support by their forwards. Bobby Orr had that support.
The difference between them and Orr is that they can't have the same degree of confidence without knowing someone has their backs. I would blame coaching for that. Most of us can appreciate creativity but creativity is rarely appreciated by the boss because creativity does catch people by surprise and can lead to errors.
In Gardiner's case, he has an additional problem, he's too worried about getting hurt. When he had his pocket picked as he approached the corner last night, he was looking over his shoulder to see if he was going to get creamed instead of watching the puck. He did it twice in that same play. He looked terrified to me. Each time he coughs up the puck, the same trick is played on him. The opposing player gets in his face and he crumbles. He has to be able to see some free ice or a teammate to pass to. When he coughs up the puck he's generally been abandoned by his team.
The answer to that is more muscle. He's too light for the size of him and nowhere near as strong as he needs to be to give himself the inner confidence he needs to take command. To me he's a player who's talents are conspicuously not being developed properly.
Jay McClement and Colton Orr need to play more billiards and study geometry. Both could be improved by it. McClement could also spend some time doing workups under pressure controlling the puck in front of a goal nets with a goalie trying to poke check him. He's fine until he's in front of the net then he whiffs it or shoots at the goalie. He doesn't play the angles. Therefore he needs practice. He'd be a superstar if he took care of those things. Maybe he's tried. If so, he hasn't tried hard enough.
I agree with Carlyle. Kulemin needs to shoot more often. He needs to be fed the puck more too. He's a wasted resource. He also needs to LEAD the forecheck instead of being abandoned to his own devices.
The best way to shut down an offense in hockey is in the other team's defensive zone. Every team but the Leafs seem to get that.
There's a reason for it too.
If there is one thing the Leafs are collectively terrible at is blocking passes. Every other team makes them look like peewees in that aspect of the game. If they can't block passes effectively, they can't forecheck. If they can't forecheck, they're doomed to spend most of every game in their own end which is exactly where they've been.
Clarkson needs to calm down. Relax. His high energy is putting his timing off. He's trying too hard when he gets the puck. He should spend time with Gardiner and Rielly. Talk to them. All three of them could help each other considerably.
If it weren't for both of their goalies being the best the Leafs have ever had, they'd be lucky to have won any games at all.
I hope this helps and I hope they get to read it.
Assume that these are the holes in our roster:
J.V.R. - _____ - Kessel
_____ - Kadri - Lupul
Kulemin - Bolland - Clarkson
Komarov - McClement - ______
_____ - Phaneuf
Rielly - _______
Fraser - Franson
Reimer - Berner
If you could pick anyone to fill in the blanks with, who would they be?
gardiner, bozak, reimer for tavares and a backup goalie. would you do it?
what if they asked for our 1st pick to close the deal? Still do it?
here's my leaf pothead thought of the day.....
i want a time machine so i can go back to 2001 and find mats sundin and tell him how bad it'll get over the next decade and convince him to join our 2013 leafs. he agrees and we add him right now. loophole says any time travelers don't count against cap hit. here's what we'd look like:
JVR - Sundin - Kessel
Lupul - Kadri - Clarkson
Raymond (maybe Leivo soon) - Bozak - Kulemin
Ashton - McClement - Orr
Gunnar - Phaneuf
Gardiner - Franson
Rielly - Fraser (soon to be Percy or Granberg)
We'd be contending for a cup right now for sure. That first line would be unstoppable.
Which goes to prove the same point we all know deep down. We need a number 1 center on this team. has been and still is our biggest hole. and we don't have it coming down the pipeline so it's tough to address.
so where is the goal tender interference on the Galenchyuk goal? same shit as the non-goal Dion got against the toilet seats
Marlies missing their captain, Biggs and Leivo taking turns at centre
Just love seeing the Turds 12th in the conference. But they will likely still give the coach, coach of the year for getting them there.
I think Franson will be traded and Gardiner will be kept. Big reason for this is Franson's poor play now that he's given top 4 minutes and will want a big pay raise next summer. Much like the one he was looking for last summer.
My line-up would look like this:
JVR - Gilmour - Kessel
W. Clark - Kadri - Roberts
Lupul - Bolland - Clarkson
Komarov - McClement - Kulemin
Rielly - Phaneuf
Gardiner - B. Orr
Pietrangelo - R. Bourque
@Cameron19 Anyone? Easy. Crosby, Lucic, Sobotka, Pietrangelo, Doughty
@Cameron19 Why is Fraser in your dream lineup?
Tavares or Sundin in the first one.
Gary Roberts on the 2nd line wing.
Komorov on the 4th line.
Seth Jones playing with Dion.
I'd put Franson with Rielly. I think he could be a good #4 guy if he develops consistency in his D game and a mean streak.
@Cameron19 Conner McDavid
@Bring the Cup Home Yes before he even finishes talking. Heck I'd replace Bozak with Kadri.
@Bring the Cup Home Yep.
@wiski Two and a half men!!
@PepTalk Brown is the type of player that is good all-around, but isn't elite in any area. That works for him in the OHL, but at higher levels (even just the WJC), he won't be as effective. That's why he wasn't drafted until the 6th round, despite putting up 53 points in 68 games on an absolute garbage team in his draft year.
@PepTalk domi and nurse left off aswell..........kinda puzzled on a few of the decisions by Hockey Canada
@PepTalk too good ;)
@Samling cool, take care
@LeafsForLife where are the leafs?
@Cameron19 Pietrangelo, Weber, Ladd, Orr on the fourth
@whalz @PepTalk Has Canada won anything anywhere since the Olympics?
@whalz @PepTalk Domi and Nurse not being on the team is really fucked up.
@whalz @LeafsForLife 6th.
@Shift_Disturber1 awesome thanks, im on my Blackberry and didn't want to log off here to check...
so refresh me here, 2 teams from each conference make the playoffs?