Two vastly different Maple Leaf teams showed up, but neither were enough to muster W, as the Leafs fell to the San Jose Sharks 4 – 2 Tuesday night. Ex-Leaf Mike Brown, Joe Thornton, Brad Stuart and Logan Couture tallied for the Sharks, who won their 19th of the season and sixth straight. Mason Raymond and Phil Kessel replied with power play goals for the Leafs, who dropped their fourth straight. James Reimer made 37 saves in defeat, while Antti Niemi stopped 28 in his 24th start of the season.
1. Tonight marked the beginning of the Leafs’ Dreadful December, facing the league’s second best team in their first of four games in six nights. Ahead of the game, the mismatch in play styles was heavily noted. By the numbers, the San Jose Sharks are playing like a Cup favourite, and the Leafs look like anything but. The Sharks are dominating almost every statistical category, including scoring more than 1.5x as many goals as they allow. The Sharks shot differential is a baffling +8.1; the Leafs a staggeringly bad -9.5. It seemed the Leafs would face a Sisyphean task just to lose by a touchdown.
2. Despite the coming up short on the stat sheet ahead of the game, the Leafs came out buzzing to start the first. The newly minted 2nd line of Raymond, Holland and Kulemin got a number of chances in the first minute of play. All three players, though they would spend most of the rest of the game on separate lines, had good nights tonight, Raymond especially.
3. Frazer McLaren should not be an NHLer. At about the 6 minute mark of the first period, McLaren fed a suicide pass to Jerrod Smithson as they were exiting the Leafs zone. Sharks 4th liner Andrew Desjardins absolutely demolished Smithson with a clean, jolting hit one step past the Leafs blue line. Perturbed by the check, McLaren decided to take matters into his own hands, shoving Desjardins and causing a scrum. For his antics, FML served two minutes in the sin bin; Desjardins received nothing for a clean hit. I don’t care if you love enforcers, I don’t like players who put their own teammates at risk and then take stupid penalties against the one of the league’s top offenses in a tied hockey game.
4. After the Leafs managed to kill the penalty, a series of turnovers and failures to clear the zone by the Leafs defenders, Mark Fraser and Morgan Rielly, led to Mike Brown scoring the game’s opening goal. After Rielly failed to clear the puck along the right wing boards, Fraser gets beaten to the puck by Desjardins. Desjardins feeds Demers at the right point, whose shot deflects off Brown’s stick then Rielly’s stick before eluding Reimer. Good to be lucky, lucky to be good, I guess.
5. Because NHL referees like working playoff games in sunny California at the Leafs expense, the Sharks made it 2 – 0 shortly thereafter on a 5 – on – 3 powerplay. Joe Thornton finished off a terrific passing play from just in front of the Leafs net. Both power plays for the Sharks came from penalties drawn in their own zone. McClement took a foolish hooking penalty at the Sharks blueline; then Mason Raymond took a somewhat marginal tripping call behind the sharks net during the ensuing PK. On the ensuing faceoff, Tyler Bozak was hauled down to no call, and the Sharks’ top PP unit began a series of surgical passes that put the Leafs down two.
6. The Leafs ended the first period getting outshot 13-5 as a full 17 minutes of gameplay elapsed between Leaf shots. The Leafs started the second period with about a half minute of power play time, though failed to capitalize on it. Dion Phaneuf caught a pass from Phil Kessel, had his initial two shots saved and a third get deflected (on a WIIIIDE open net) and sail high. However, shortly after the penalty expired, Trevor Smith draws a penalty breaking out of the Leafs zone. Late in the power play, Morgan Rielly threads a pass up the left wing boards to Raymond, who outworks Brad Stuart to get the puck, and then skates it down and scores a squeaker through Antti Niemi’s five hole to make it a 2 – 1 game.
7. Whether from the benefit of the power plays or Carlyle putting the fear of god into the Buds during the intermission, the Leafs came out and played the Sharks a world better in the second. At one point they led the Sharks 9-3 in shots. But the pundits would tell you the turning point was when Smithson took on Desjardins. Clarkson had a chance go off the crossbar, as the Leafs were buzzing around the Sharks zone. After the Sharks took their third penalty of the game, Tyler Bozak picked up the puck from James van Riemsdyk and fed an incredible backhand pass to Phil Kessel who buried his 15th of the season to bring the game even at 2 – 2.
8. With three lines humming and taking the Sharks to task, Randy Carlyle gambles with a fourth line shift late in the period against the Shark’s fourth. The Sharks put on a cycling clinic, hemming the Leafs brutes in their own zone for well over a minute. Everyone with eyes on the ice knew what was coming, and eventually Dan Boyle found Brad Stuart who slipped it past Reimer to make it 3 – 2.
9. After the fourth line dug a hole, the rest of the Leafs team came back and played the Sharks evenly in the third period. Fast paced, with chances both ways, it looked very possible that the Leafs would be able to knot the game at 3s. The best chance came with just over three minutes to play when Raymond fed Jake Gardiner in the slot, who wired a shot that Niemi just snagged. With Reimer pulled, Morgan Rielly turned the puck over at the blueline, and seconds later Logan Couture ices the game with an empty netter 4 – 2.
10. Let’s not kid ourselves; almost everybody predicted a Sharks victory tonight. It was frankly a much closer matchup than anyone thought it would be prior to puck drop, and a lot closer than the 4-2 margin of victory. However you want to look at tonight though, the Leafs Jekyll and Hyde game is a serious issue. This was a game that featured a period where the Leafs didn’t record a shot for 17 minutes followed by a period where they fired 17 shots. Whenever the second period version of the Leafs wants to show up for 60 minutes, even the San Jose Sharks can be made to tremble.
Perhaps more distressing, the infirmary was busy tonight. The centre depth might have taken a substantial blow again tonight, as Bozak left (and returned) in the second, and wasn’t on the bench in the third. Smithson, as noted above, looked to have his bell rung at least a little bit in the first. Finally, Peter Holland blocked a shot late in the period and was seen to be limping afterwards.
In sum, there was a lot to like in the Leafs performance tonight, despite the result. There were also some fairly egregious lapses in judgment by both players and staff which ultimately sunk the Leafs. The Leafs will hope to get back in the win column Thursday as they host the Dallas Stars.
|10:00:00||SJS||Mike Brown (2) Wrist shot - ASST: Jason Demers (11), Andrew Desjardins (5)||1 - 0 SJS|
|14:31:00||SJS||PPG - Joe Thornton (5) Wrist shot - ASST: Joe Pavelski (17), Dan Boyle (6)||2 - 0 SJS|
|2:44:00||TOR||PPG - Mason Raymond (10) Wrist shot - ASST: Morgan Rielly (9), Carl Gunnarsson (2)||2 - 1 SJS|
|9:47:00||TOR||PPG - Phil Kessel (15) Snap shot - ASST: Tyler Bozak (7), James van Riemsdyk (9)||2 - 2 Tie|
|16:00:00||SJS||Brad Stuart (3) Tip-in - ASST: Dan Boyle (7)||3 - 2 SJS|
|18:36:00||SJS||EN - Logan Couture (10) Wrist shot - ASST: Tommy Wingels (10)||4 - 2 SJS|
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||0||1||1||-1||0||7||5||0||1||0||0%||3:16:00||2:11:00||22:10:00|
|NO.||PLAYER||SAVES - SHOTS||SV%||PIM||TOI|
|34||J. Reimer (L)||37 - 40||0.925||0||59:38:00|
This was a better game and effort. They continue to struggle defensively whenever teams apply pressure. The forwards on this Sharks team forecheck very aggressively, our defense hardly has any room to get the puck out; thus, why we get hemmed in and out shot.
1) When we have the puck, forwards could help out by getting in position along boards to chip puck out. Make sure the puck doesn't get turned over leaving opposing players in the slot for a clear shot. If you have to make passes through the checkers, your positions are not supporting each other. Move up as a unit (think Roman legion like) blocking out the forecheckers to the outside away from the puck. To spread them out, occasionally, one can go for open ice if there is a reasonable chance to get puck to him; if not, opposition has succeeded in blocking him out. The time tested strategy of divide & conquer creating micro man advantages should be employed to our benefit, not theirs.
2) Adjust better to opposing teams' adaptations to our defensive plan especially between periods. Be less predictable on defense; don't always show one type of coverage. Get the whole team or at least your line on same page.
3) Defensive mates should practice being more proactive in their positioning to cover their mates' defensive attack moves as a whole unit. The box should adjust with their mates as well as the opposition's moves.
4) Defensive mindset should not lay back, be predatory looking for opportunities to separate them from the puck. Wisely attack in defensive zone without giving up prime real estate. Like a good boxer on the ropes, make the puncher waste energy and create counter attack openings; don't just take a beating, dictate how the flow goes. Don't let them inch in to better spots, actively push them to areas where they can make mistakes such as near the blue line. Corner them into making more risky passes to create a turnover.
5) For 5-on-5, there should never be any opposing player uncovered. When down 5-vs-4, there should never be anyone uncovered; the goalie takes the shooter. If covering well, that shooter should be the least dangerous and not in a good shooting position. If two opposing players manage to get loose down low or in the slot, the defense should take away the pass; goalie takes the shooter while everyone else gobbles their man.
6) Hockey is as much a mind game as it is physical, be at least a step ahead in both. Know what the opposition is thinking and will do, entice them to make mistakes, and pounce on the opportunities without exposing your chin.
Rielly alows an even strength goal every 14 minutes played.... Phaneuf every 40 minutes played.
The kid is costing games.
Most bizarre issue plaguing this team right now is offensive zone penalties.
I get defensive zone calls are going to occur when you get cycled on ad nauseam, but this is a strange, and destructive, phenomenon at the moment.
I give up night shift a long while back . Not gonna start again staying on here all night . Have a good on guys and talk with you all tomorrow
Okay folks heading off to work.
Play Kulemin more (with Clarkson and Kadri), take out MacLaren and Smithson.
This is a recording.
So pretty much this:
Someone pointed this out earlier in defence of RC but it bears repeating with a little help from me…
Dion (stud #1)
Gunnar (likely a rock solid 3rd pairing guy on a cup contender)
Rielly (raw rookie)
Gardiner (young and developing)
Ranger (hasn't played in the league in 4 years)
Fraser (AHLer or maybe an 8th Dman at best)
Franson (struggling tremendously outside of assists on the pp)
Really RC? You can't coach this team to a win every night?
Well one way to look at this game is we had Kadri ,Lupul ,Franson and Bozak for 1/2 the game out of the line up tonight . Of course we can't forget Bolland . Yet we still made a game of it . I think with the full lineup, some tweaks on d and the 4th line the Leafs are competitive with any team in the League
Looking at the home plate, Leafs outshot the Sharks from that area.
Lack of discipline / reputation calls are catching up . Too many penalties and another 5-3 . Thats probably a stat we are leading the league in.
Find it interesting and informative that Dions plays near 26 min is even +-, 4 BS and 2 hits against the best team in the league
Clearly he isn't a top pairing guy. LOL
@Komas Taberle He's also playing with Ranger and Fraser. The two worst d on our team currently.
@wiski How is a Sens vs. Canucks a "true Canadian classic?" Classic implies greatness and history, which neither of these teams have.
@wiski Leafs have not been in a heritage classic yet
Oprah Winfrey versus Vivien Leigh.
@Reversethecurse13 Good old Night Shift eh. Thats something I don't miss. Have a good one
@Pent_House Holland won't miss a beat
@wiski I don't know if it's unbelievable but it's not good...
@Murph2417 Good stuff. What we need more of from players in general and him in particular , is that Kulie hit
@Murph2417 Cool. Thanks. Keep at it!
@Burtonboy I missed the third period. What happened to Bozak?
@Burtonboy Just to play devil's advocate here: The Sens were missing Spezza and Karlsson and made the playoffs.
Some might say that even with Bozak, Kadri, Lupul and Franson in the lineup the team has played poorly...
@Burtonboy You are being too rational... :)
@Burtonboy i think we are, just need everyone back. Bollland and Lupul alone are solid scoring threats and good along the boards, Kadri is a dynamic player
@Burtonboy 25% of the starting lineup. wow
@Zep2 I thought Phaneuf played amazing tonight.
@Komas Taberle @wiski Great stat digging. But no one should be surprised, he wasn't drafted because he can shut down the other teams. This year was all about learning, especially away from the puck. He stuck with the team so that means taking good with the bad. There are going to be more bumps on the road, but hopefully it will all pay off in the end. He has skill.
@DJBrianBurke @wiski @Alec Brownscombe I went ballistic though on the faceoff to start the 5 on 3 kill. Our center had a chance at the loose puck and got held and obstructed, no call. When you put a team down on a 5 on 3 and then that happens, you absolutely have to make the call there. Once again, a total fail on the refs.
@DeclanK 14 games is a long slump.
@DJBrianBurke @Zep2 @LeafFan15 you all need to take your blue and white glasses off. If the reigning norris trophy winner is not a lock, how can phaneuf be? Also, Phaneuf is not worth the $7MM+ and 7year deal he wants. remember, it is only game 28 and the "stellar" performance of being "even" in +/- will be exposed later in the season when Carlyle overplays him and he becomes a still pylon for the final stretch.
@Zep2 @DJBrianBurke @LeafFan15I know, but it's pretty funny. All he's done is shut down locks for Team Canada and not a peep. It's not like MSM thinks the Leafs are any good, so he's doing it on a basically playing on a poor/some what lucky team. Whatever, as much as I want him to get the experience, I would also like for him to have a nice rest, plus miss out on getting injured. I also have a weird feeling that Team Canada will disappoint, so best if he's not part of that. Hope I'm wrong!