Game Day: Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m., SNet)

Game Day: Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m., SNet)

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For his and all of our sakes, I hope the team can stay on the winning track once David Clarkson returns, starting tonight in Florida. The contract, the lack of production and the injuries have already entangled him in a formidable web of bad contract angst, mounting pressure and disappointment, as his first season as a Leaf on his new big deal has started to get away from him. Having this team immediately slow down from their blistering pace once he comes back would just be another angle to the whole thing, one he really rather avoid at this point. The Leafs are 14-6-1 without Clarkson, and around .500 with him.

Which, to me, indicates Clarkson’s bad season could partially be about bad timing. He missed the hot start due to suspension, and we’re overstepping if we’re going to blame him from the dips in production in November and December on the part of Lupul, Kadri, JvR and Kessel. Bozak wasn’t even around for most of that period and the top line was certainly not tearing the league apart as it is now.

On the whole, Clarkson’s impact in New Jersey was not a total fluke or illusion. He has, however, had a hard time fitting in on this team and there’s been a whole host of mitigating factors, between suspension, injuries, the timing of those injuries, and him finally finding some early signs of chemistry with Bolland only to have Bolland get hurt. Somewhere amid all this frustration comes the tendency – especially for a heart-on-the-sleeve player like Clarkson, in the high-pressure situation of trying to justify a contract that everyone knew was an overpayment – to simply want to do too much and to start playing outside the confines of what made him successful in the first place.

Tonight, he’s likely to play with Mason Raymond and Jay McClement on line three. His best bet for turning his season around may come when Bolland returns, but this game against Florida on the road is not a bad situation to start to get his feet under him again. Clarkson will be picking up a nine-game pointless streak in progress. I maintain hope that Bolland and Clarkson together on line three can be a great combination after the Break and one that gives the team a hell of an all-purposed checking line come playoff time.

Lineup and Matchup Notes

Peter Holland and Carter Ashton both will not play tonight. Jerred Smithson from the looks of it will play alongside Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren on line four, which means 2-3 minutes except for Smithson, who may get some PK time. I thought this experiment was over after it cost the Leafs the game versus San Jose, but injuries have complicated things. At least, in Clarkson, McClement and Raymond, the Leafs will have a third line that can maybe chip in.

Will the third time be the charm in terms of the Leafs‘ first period performance against the Panthers? The Leafs should remember this Florida team isn’t bad enough to be unready from puck drop and not pay the price for it. They’ve fallen behind 2-0 in both games versus Florida, but thankfully mounted a comeback a week ago today by putting six past Scott Clemmensen.

Tim Thomas will start for the Panthers tonight. The Leafs haven’t faced Thomas since he took off into the woods for a year with his doomsday cult.

Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul all enter this one lightning hot, and if the Leafs take the opponent seriously there should be no reason why they can’t at least score enough to continue their winning streak to four. The Panthers have, however, been able to score against the Leafs with six goals over the two meetings (both teams are 1-1 through two games in the season series).

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Bernier Starting
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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]
929 comments
Dangle_My_Berries
Dangle_My_Berries

the islanders really are a joke management wise.....give up the kitchen sink for Vanek, screwing up the team chemistry in the process, now Vanek wants nothing to do with the team....and now snow is clawing to get some value for him as a rental to save face...

Wilbur
Wilbur

No matter what team you play, no matter how well your goalie plays it's hard to win when you are out hit, out skated, out hustled, out worked, out thought, out played, out competed etc…A complete embarrassment when you consider they played in front of their fathers. Need to rebound against TBay but I wouldn't count on it. TBay out played us last time we played them but we still won. If we want to beat TBay on Thursday we will need to actually be the better team. We shall see...

Dangle_My_Berries
Dangle_My_Berries

nice to see clarkson score tonight, something to build off of for him, nice goal too 

Uncle Otis
Uncle Otis

Cripes,should have known better to read down and see all the Carlyle hate

Did any of you jokers actually watch the game?

Hint;

He didn't dress.

Dangle_My_Berries
Dangle_My_Berries

on the flip side maybe the boys go over to russia and really start to realize what luxury they have here, hopefully humbles our boys and they come back ready to play 

Leafbites
Leafbites

I wasn't expecting four points down in Florida, but this stinker may what they need to get the boys up enough to get 2 points in the next one against the team they're chasing, who also lost tonight. 

Jay_Berg
Jay_Berg

Fact: Smithson is a beer league hockey player that is in the nhl because he wins 60% of his faceoffs.

Cloud09
Cloud09

Well time to hit the reset button and try again. Carlyle needs to rethink how this lineup is orientated with the injuries to Holland and Ashton. Smithson doesn't work period, and McClement can't play 18 minutes a game. I'd be bringing McKegg back up and split the time between him and McClement evenly to start. 

Dangle_My_Berries
Dangle_My_Berries

i have a feeling most olympians will be returning back from these games pretty pissed off about the conditions they are gonna be in

Bruffins
Bruffins

I think I picked a great game to not be on this site during. Pretty poor game overall but I thought Kadri, Clarkson, Bodie and JVR looked decent. Raymond can not be traded soon enough in my opinion

lieffan
lieffan

Was this not a perfect game for Orr to fight if fighting provides the momentum we're led to believe? Why isn't he out looking for one? Useless

Uncle Otis
Uncle Otis

@Wilbur

And yet some still insist its the coach's fault

This team is unable to take nights off from skating...and tonight they spent much of it coasting

Unacceptable as professionals

Bring the team Milfs next time too.

DJBrianBurke
DJBrianBurke

@Jay_Berg So Steckel 2.0, but better skater (not saying much)? Sometimes I would take that stat.

Bruffins
Bruffins

@Jay_Berg  

hey! Not many players can double their season shot total in one game... lets give the guy some credit

Hmmm
Hmmm

@wiski  How many of us would get arrested because of top right?  lol

Komas Taberle
Komas Taberle

@wiski  

The bottom right is " Do not use heroin in bathroom, go outside to do it"

Jay_Berg
Jay_Berg

Wtf is the bottom right?

Jay_Berg
Jay_Berg

Is the middle right picture a no "upper decker"?

Bruffins
Bruffins

@lieffan  

gardiner had the enforcer role covered...

Wilbur
Wilbur

@Uncle Otis @Wilbur  Yep…RC, like all coaches, has his warts but games like tonight are on the players. There's no guarantee they'd have won if they played well but that's not the point. They were out competed tonight. They were hoping for the easy route and that wasn't there tonight.

Jay_Berg
Jay_Berg

Steckel is twice the player that smithson is which is the truly pathetic part

Dangle_My_Berries
Dangle_My_Berries

@wiski @Dangle_My_Berries  these games are gonna be a disaster. if they cut corners here, can only imagine what else is wrong......not to mentioned that rampant match fixing possible with the mob so heavily involved

Bruffins
Bruffins


@Jay_Berg

I feel like these signs act more as a challenge, not a prevention 

Uncle Otis
Uncle Otis

@Cloud09 @Uncle Otis@Wilbur

Bottom two are built more often to keep the puck out of the net

You guys focus wayyyy too much on line 4

Its ridiculous and just a reason to hate on Randy IMO b/c he likes a tough line-up which I'm told ad nauseum...,is passé

Then there was the defense.......

Cloud09
Cloud09

@Uncle Otis @Wilbur  So the guys who have been carrying this team on their backs for the past 12 games suddenly have an off night and it's their fault the team lost?? The point of having a bottom 6 that can put the puck in the net once in a while is for nights like this. You put a guy like Smithson in, with only 2 shots in 18 games or Orr who has zero points in 45 games games and where is the secondary support supposed to come from? A Raymond-McKegg-Clarkson line has way more potential to score than putting McClement in that spot. The loss is on the whole team with the exception of Bernier but Carlyle had an opportunity to change the way the line up looked and chose poorly IMO.

Uncle Otis
Uncle Otis

@Wilbur @Uncle Otis

Listened to it all day about the fourth line, like it was going to lose us the game

This was on the d and top lines who were horribly outplayed,,,not Randy for playing McC in the dieing moments as he'd double shifted the top guys and they needed a rest

Hope someone finds our French goalie some FLA snatch tonight...he deserves some love ;)

#slapshot

Cloud09
Cloud09

@DJBrianBurke @Jay_Berg  I know some people get their backs up about this but it was nice having Komarov around since he could do spot duty as the 4th line centre when McClement moved up with Grabovski last year. 

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

@Jay_Berg  Strange thing is Stechel has been called up to play with the Ducks 

DJBrianBurke
DJBrianBurke

@Jay_Berg Steckel was so slow at the end. A few years ago, he wasn't a bad 4th liner.

I don't like crapping on these kind of players. I know what they are. So, there's no need. But when the Leafs don't need players of that type, they'll be a better team.