Game Preview: Taking a good loss into St. Louis

Game Preview: Taking a good loss into St. Louis

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Who was that team in Blue and White last night?

A team in Leafs jerseys was getting out of its end efficiently. Moving up the ice together as a unit. Using fast legs to forecheck and sustain a cycle.

What explains the Leafs, a poor possession team and brutally outshot for much of the season, suddenly outpossessing and handily outshooting one of the best possession teams in the NHL? The NHL betting wasn’t in their favour.

Check out the NHL shot chart, especially in the prime scoring area:

Leafs/Kings Shot Location Data

Leafs/Kings Shot Location Data

It could partially be the team getting a kick in the ass and playing desperate without Phaneuf, it could partially be the Kings playing the second leg of a back to back, or, and I like this theory, it could be Carlyle putting together lines that make sense and using them properly, especially on the backend. The Rielly and Gardiner pairing was a treat last night, with Gardiner leading the team with 26 minutes of ice time, and showed clearly why both need to be in the lineup. Holland played more minutes in McClement’s place, on a line with Nikolai Kulemin and Joffrey Lupul that looked good while butting heads with Anze Kopitar’s unit. Holland was in the 15 minute range despite taking a costly offensive zone penalty, while McClement saw his minutes reduced to 8:11.

Franson and Gunnarsson played a fine game together, as well, in 18 minutes of even-strength work.

Even if the Leafs go 0-2 in this back to back against two of the best teams in the League, but look pretty good doing it, and manage to find a clicking line beyond the first one up front and better pairings on the backend, it will have its successes and bode well going forward.

That said, the points are dropping fast, and the Leafs sure could use a few.

The deflating part about last night is not just that the team finally played the right way and lost; it’s also that the team was in a pretty good position to take some points off both Boston and Los Angeles and got a total of 0, and now they go into St. Louis on the second night of a back to back followed by Chicago on Saturday.

The challenge is much the same as they saw last night, only tougher on paper. This is a heavy cycle team, St. Louis, only one that’s more prolific at scoring (2nd in the league with 3.34 goals/game) and plays stingier defence, allowing just a shade over 25 shots a game (also 2nd in the league).

Behind Alex Steen (Dammit, Cliff!), team leader with 33 points, the Blues have great scoring depth; St. Louis has eight players with more than 15 points this season, which is tied with the Blackhawks for the most in the league, and the Blues have only played 29 games (tied for fewest in the league). A defence built around Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk and Bouwmeester is formidable; the three have combined for an amazing 61 points, and the Blues are getting an average of 2.1 points per game from their top three D. Pretty amazing.

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]
435 comments
Komas Taberle
Komas Taberle

Scabs getting beat 1-0 on a goal by Raffi, see even children's singers are scoring on Price.

wendelsfist
wendelsfist

Phaneuf and Cuthbert interview starting now on etalk (on CTV TWO) if  you care.  

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

Looking like the only change in the line up is Reimer in for Bernier. Now just wait for RC's curve ball :)

Komas Taberle
Komas Taberle

This game will tell us Leaf fans alot about our team , do they have the heart and determination to compete in back to back against top competition?

skippysleafs
skippysleafs

ALec or Delcan ???? hello is there anybody out there

wendelsfist
wendelsfist

There is a Phanuef and his wife interview on etalk sometime in the next half hour

skippysleafs
skippysleafs

hey any buddy on supervising my accounts screwed

deedrag
deedrag

ShiftDisturber should make a spoof of " I want my MTV" and insert "I want my LEAFSTV"

NotSince67
NotSince67

Who's broadcasting the game tonight? Rogers guide has been down for the last few days

Cameron19
Cameron19

Great effort last night, but I wouldn't expect the same kind of game tonight. St.Louis isn't coming off a huge win in another city. 

deedrag
deedrag

I feel bad for RC he looks like he's not getting enough sleep because he's totally stressed out.

Tommy Cat
Tommy Cat

When's Bolland back.  I think everything when for a shit when he went down.

deedrag
deedrag

On a different note i got the kid NHL 14 for Christmas. Is it a very real looking?

wendelsfist
wendelsfist

Phaneuf's got Cuthburt wrapped around is finger.  


wendelsfist
wendelsfist

@Burtonboy Only Ranger/Fraser and Holland made more serious mistakes enough for a substitution but let's see the surprise.  

ingy56
ingy56

@skippysleafs His e-mail address is in his bio accompanying the above article. 

wendelsfist
wendelsfist

@wiski Carlyle is turning Gardiner into a stud.  His offensive game has always been there but lately his defense is improving

deedrag
deedrag

As much as we shoot the breeze about what we'd do, I wouldn't want that kind of stress or that job.

Tommy Cat
Tommy Cat

@deedrag Maybe he's stumbled onto Burkie's secret stash of whiskey.

Tommy Cat
Tommy Cat

@deedrag Those guys live and breath it.  Wouldn't know what to do with themselves without it.

deedrag
deedrag

@TheJFish @Tommy Cat Last yr. it was when Lupul went down. he did come back with some major grit after that though.

NotSince67
NotSince67

@TheJFish @NotSince67 @Murph2417 I feel your pain. It actually worse in Ottawa where they blackout regional games, makes you almost want to drive out to Kingston just to catch it.

For the reasons above, I hatbeing forced to find a stream. Such a shitty way to watch a game and it's like trying to find waldo just getting one.

deedrag
deedrag

@Murph2417 I managed to get the wife to leave Christmas shopping so i had it all planned out for tonight. No nagging, no kids, just me and my Leafs T.V.