Game Review: Game #63, Blue Jackets 2 vs. Leafs 1

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TORONTO, ON - MARCH 3: Cody Franson #4 of the Toronto Maple Leafs defends as Brandon Dubinsky #17 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates with the puck during NHL game action March 3, 2014 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Good-enough first and third periods were spoiled by a lack of finish and a nightmare second 20 as the Maple Leafs dropped a 2-1 regulation decision and were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the season series.

The horrendous 2nd period really changed the direction this game seemed to be going. In that first period, the Leafs only gave up one scoring chance to my eye, the Nick Foligno breakaway early which James Reimer turned away with a good pad save. The Leafs had a half dozen prime scoring chances and two powerplay opportunities. The top line was relentless; on their best chance, somehow Kessel didn’t score after putting a puck through Bobrovsky that spun like a top on the goal line.

Interestingly, with the Leafs PP struggling of late, Carlyle went to the 2nd unit powerplay to start each powerplay and it was donning a new set up. They abandoned a net presence and incorporated more rotation into the unit, with Mason Raymond no longer bound to the left half-wall. There was some good puck movement on the first PP, but ultimately the lack of net presence is probably going to make it ineffectual. Raymond at one point looked like he thought about putting a puck on net, but noticed there was nothing but a clear view for the goalie and decided, “what’s the point?”

The team came out really flat in the second period and it was a harbinger of what was to come, with some long scrambly, collapsed spells spent in their own zone. The opening goal is not going to allay any angst with the collapsing system. Gardiner chased the puck high out of his corner while Clarkson rotated low, but Trevor Smith had tracked back so deep to the top of the crease that a D to D pass gave acres of space for Dalton Prout to step into a point shot. With Ranger and a Columbus screen in his face, Reimer didn’t have much of a chance on this one.

The Leafs just unraveled in this period after the first thing went against them. The second goal started with what should’ve been a slashing call on Nick Foligno. The missed call significantly impacted the ensuing events, as JvR passed off his stick to Reimer and Kadri tripped over the loose stick trying to clear the zone. The Leafs cleared the puck but it came right back into their end. Franson left Anisimov alone to the side of the net (after initially throwing him to the ice with a good hit) and he took a backdoor pass from the point and lifted it over Reimer. Overall, this second period was a disaster, with the Leafs getting worked on the boards and the fast, clean zone exits of the first period nowhere to be seen.

Reimer battled hard throughout the second and again in the third to give the Leafs a chance late, with one sequence in which he made three or four saves as four Leafs stood still and fumbled their clearances. (He also got ran into twice during this game and had to answer for it himself). The Leafs came on strong in the back half of the third period especially. Despite an awful second period, the Leafs probably weren’t outchanced on the whole. There was ample opportunity for the Leafs to put together 2 or 3 goals out of the chances available to them. Bozak missed two great chances in tight in the third and Kadri had a good chance fall to him in front as well.

If there is a “one-line” problem, it’s partly because Carlyle isn’t sticking with what works. There is plenty of points and offensive ability to go around between the likes of Kadri, Lupul and Kulemin and a proven track record of effectiveness, but David Clarkson has had nine lives on that 2nd line and it has looked good for maybe a total of one game. Full marks to Nikolai Kulemin for filling in adequately at center again, but the Leafs have to get their bottom three lines in order and they can’t be waiting around for Dave Bolland to do it. Lupul, Kadri and Kulemin always looks good together and it looked dangerous against Montreal. Sure enough, dropping Clarkson off that line for Raymond saw the second line generate its first two scoring chances followed by a goal from Raymond.
(Note: I say partly, because Carlyle isn’t the sole explanation for Lupul and Kadri being invisible and generating zero shots for the first 50 minutes, playing too much on the periphery).

Paul Ranger is handy to have around for the penalty kill in the place of shorthanded minutes for Cody Franson or Jake Gardiner, but there is a trade off with the 7D. Carter Ashton and Jerry D’Amigo are ripping it up in the AHL and some combination of McClement, D’Amigo, Ashton or Bodie on the fourth line would surely give the Leafs better depth options. Exposing Smith to waivers is understandably a difficult decision; he’s a guy the Leafs would like to have around in the organization and he was named Marlies captain at the start of the year. Smith has scored a few timely goals in a scoring role, but in a lower roster player I take the energy, forecheck and penalty killing option of a D’Amigo. Why Carter Ashton cannot get the same looks Bodie is getting on line three makes little sense to me, either.

The Leafs now hit the Trade Deadline in a precarious spot, in the top wildcard spot for now. Detroit is four points back with three games in hand. Washington is four points back with a game in hand. Columbus is five back with two games games in hand. The Leafs only collected two of a possible six points out of the Islanders, Canadiens and Blue Jackets. They now embark on a five-game road trip against a string of difficult playoff opponents, including the California road trip that has been the Valley of Death in past years. The Leafs are 11-12-7 on the road.

Solving all their problems before 3 p.m. on Wednesday seems highly unlikely, but there seems to be better lineup options available to Carlyle within the organization. For the most part, expect Dave Nonis to leave it to the group who put themselves in the playoff spot after 62 games to find it within themselves to close it out.

Leafs-BJsFenwick chart for 2014-03-03 Blue Jackets 2 at Maple Leafs 1

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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]
  • Shift_Disturber1

    I agree with your great point on Bodie/Ashton Alec. Ideally you would have Ashton as 3rd line winger and Bodie’s energy on the 4th

  • Loric76

    The fixes this team needs aren’t going to come from the trade deadline market, unless we miraculously trade all our junk in the bottom 6 for prospects that can play for the Marlies, and then bring some of the kids up…

    Even then, we’ll be shit and inconsistent for the rest of the season.

  • Cameron19

    Loric76  Challenge, accepted!

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    Cameron19 Loric76  *rolls up sleeves, makes 5 way trade*

  • Loric76

    DeclanK Cameron19 Loric76  well, you still have around 30 hours left…

  • Zep2

    Ashton is not Leiwickes son in law. Bodie ha been fine in his role but iif anyone thinks merit is the only consideration in him being in the lineup, I’ve got a bridge to nowhere to sell you.
    Draft young players into your organization and ask them to compete for spots then give away a spot to the bosses daughter. Right

  • Loric76

    night gang.  Hopefully this mini slump can be turned around on Wednesday…

  • Cameron19

    Loric76  

    To LAK: Raymond, McLaren
    To TOR: Clifford

    To COL: Franson, Kulemin
    To TOR: Stastny (salary retained)

    We roll:

    J.V.R. – Bozak – Kessel
    Lupul – Stastny – Ashton
    Kadri – Bolland – Clarkson
    Clifford – Holland

    Gunnar – Phaneuf
    Gleason – Rielly
    Gardiner – Ranger
    Percy

    Bernier – Reimer

    In the summer we move Reimer and our 1st for RH Defender (Myers?), and reload with Komarov in tow.

  • OTL

    Cameron19 Loric76Cameron, impressive.  that took a total of 7 minutes to propose!  Ashton up on the second line?  I haven’t seen him play yet, has he been that impressive to get those minutes?

  • Cameron19

    @OTL More about matching skill sets. Ashton would be on that line for his board play. Kadri moves down to try and help Bolland get back in the groove, and also to hopefully feast on some lighter competition. Would imagine that he and Ashton would flip back and forth as required though. 

    But yea, Ashton’s been eating up the AHL lately. 13 goals in 16 games. He’s not waiver exempt next year, so we need to see him in a scoring role at some point, because that’s what he is – a potential 2nd/3rd line player.

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Impressive stuff to watch tonite.  5mins of hockey.

  • Gozo

    The management should be concern about this team. This it make you sick to watch.

  • ProfessorRance

    Cameron19 Loric76  Kadri for Myers and 1.5 million retained in the offseason is my bet. Most may not like it but I think that is the deal that gets done. Tim was assistant in Ottawa when Burke picked Kadri. We all know Ottawa wanted him so maybe he was apart of that group. With a bevy of defensive prospects along with the possibility of Eckblad getting drafted by them in this upcoming draft, Myers could be on the out, especially for a forward of Kadri’s ilk. 

    If they move Erhoff as well I could see them wanting Gunnar as a cheaper veteran option as well. Kadri + Gunnar for Myers (1.5 retained) and Grigorenko if they have soured on him. 

    I’m not the best at these so don’t fillet me too badly.

  • GreekGod

    ProfessorRance Cameron19 Loric76  
    Ummm no thanks to Myers. Better off keeping Kadri and Gunnar

  • leafsjon

    Nice review Alec. Especially the comment on Carlyle not “sticking with what works.”

  • Alec Brownscombe

    ProfessorRance Cameron19 Loric76  Moving Kadri for that Myers contract is outrageous.

  • Great Dane

    I find absolutely amazing that a former Norris Trophy winner can’t teach this group to play defense.

    Carlyles lines are mystery.

    His TOI blaffling.
    His lack of ability to motivate the players second to none.
    Carlyles bacon has been saved by great goaltending and a first line that is probably Top 3 in the NHL right now. 
    Kessel is playing like a dream, so is JVR and to my surprise so is Bozak. But this season RC has had 62 games to get 3 lines to work and nothing absolutely nothing has improved.

  • Dink

    In 2 weeks we are all going to be depressed.

  • Lonsmos2

    I would trade Gardiner he has terrible hockey sense good skater but not a clue in our end

  • 4evrblue

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!
    Darren Dreger: You can add the Toronto Maple Leafs to
    the list of many teams who have expressed interest and have talked to
    Vancouver Canucks’ mangement about http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/teams/players/?name=ryan+kesler,
    but as Bob identifies, the asking price is very, very lofty. So in
    Toronto Maple Leafs terms, if a deal were to be reached it would likely
    include http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/teams/players/?name=nazem+kadri. It would likely include either http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/teams/players/?name=jake+gardiner or http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/teams/players/?name=morgan+rielly and that first-round draft pick. And if http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/teams/players/?name=morgan+rielly is must as part of this deal then it’s unlikely it happens.
    .
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ir1YRmRgBI

  • Burtonboy

    CanuckUKinToronto  Problem is what can he do . Is there a top 6 forward we can get to help up front ? Help on the back end would be great but it has to be an upgrade on what we have already if its to make any difference. Is that defense-man available for a cost we can afford ? Sure we can do a deal like the one Blue just posted above but what sense does that make . I’m all for looking to improve the team with trades but not the expense of trading away what young talent we have . I’m not in favor of trading Kulie and the return we could get for Raymond or a Franson would not be worth it . Hope fully getting Bolland back can spark the team and straighten out the problems with lines 2,3,and 4 but I don’t see getting anyone one in a trade that can help us unless we are willing to trade the Likes of JVR, Kadri ,Gardiner and Rielly. I bet most of the calls Nonis gets all revolve around those player

  • 4evrblue

    CanuckUKinToronto 4evrblue Exactly. It’s so ridiculous you can’t help but laugh at it. These are prime pieces moving forward that will be better than Kesler. The only piece that would make sense to move is the pick. Even then you want it to be for a good young player like Ryan O’Reilly or Tyler Myers

  • MaxwellHowe

    Burtonboy CanuckUKinToronto Not interested in a panic move.  Then again, I’m not interested in clinging to players for the sake of wishful thinking about a playoff run.  Lupul played well last nite, but I still think that progress with this team would be best served by finding a buyer for him.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Lonsmos2 oh dear.  This meme.

  • Burtonboy

    4evrblue  I bet there are fans that would do that trade just for the sake of making a trade

  • MaxwellHowe

    4evrblue not with a ten foot pole

  • Burtonboy

    MaxwellHowe Burtonboy CanuckUKinToronto  Lupul is signed and we would be better off waiting for the draft or the summer to make that deal when we could get a better return. BTW I’m not in favor of trading Lupul for one minute :)

  • MaxwellHowe

    Burtonboy MaxwellHowe CanuckUKinToronto The cap space alone would be worth it IMO

  • Burtonboy

    MaxwellHowe Burtonboy CanuckUKinToronto  Not for me . Lupul is a bonifide top 6 forward and if he goes I want a player of equal skill in return.

  • hometeem

    Great Dane  he is a reject, fully believe that all the players laugh in his face all the time and he has no fn clue wats goin on

  • Great Dane

    Burtonboy CanuckUKinToronto On the player front we are more or less stuck with what we have. 

    As nice as Yandle or OEL would be if at all available it would in a cap world be almost impossible to make a trade work.

    The only viable option for Nonis right now is to replace Carlyle. I was critical before the Olympic break and I still am. Carlyle coach nothing out of this roster.

    JVR, Kessel and Kulemin are some of the few players that really contribute, while the rest obviously have not returned from the holiday break that they had.

  • MaxwellHowe

    And I have to mention – the Leafs absolutely abysmal record with Clarkson in the lineup goes on and on.  What a absolute catastrophe of a signing that is turning out to be.

  • MaxwellHowe

    And I have to mention – the Leafs absolutely abysmal record with Clarkson in the lineup goes on and on.  What a absolute catastrophe of a signing that is turning out to be.

  • Great Dane

    MaxwellHowe And Carlyle keeps playing him with Lupul and Kadri which is a disaster.

  • hometeem

    Great Dane MaxwellHowe  RC doesnt adjust, at all,  period.

  • hometeem

    Saving grace will be bolland.  A second thought on keepin a face puncher to crack a couple buds into shape

  • MaxwellHowe

    Great Dane MaxwellHowe We can only hope he finds his niche with Bolland

  • Burtonboy

    MaxwellHowe  At this point I have to agree. I thought he could fit with Lupul and Kadri but its becoming obvious they don’t click. He did play decent with Bolland before he got injured so we have to re-visit that combo when he returns. What choice do we have

  • MaxwellHowe

    Burtonboy MaxwellHowe We can argue about Lupul, but forced to agree on Clarkson.  Untradeable.

  • phaneufoundlander

    MaxwellHowe  yip, he is a massive disappointment. Clarkson can’t cycle down low, he cant win battles and he can’t forecheck without falling on his ass…he is not even a pest anymore…..has the millions gone to his brain? He’s as soft as a DQ soft serve…….time to bench him and bring up one of the kids, this guy is a useless bum. Not even a 4th liner at this point.

  • hometeem

    hows bout signing dineen as a “mentor” till the end of the year

  • phaneufoundlander

    hometeem  Don’t get your hopes up…we thought that when Clarkson returned.

  • Burtonboy

    Great Dane MaxwellHowe  In Carlyles defense he did move Clarkson off the Kadri line during the Montreal game and he did the same thing last night moving Raymond up . The big problem personnel wise I had with Carlyle and the Leafs last night was they didn’t recall Holland and decided to move Kulie to center instead . Big mistake

  • hometeem

    MaxwellHowe Burtonboy  and ya cant think bout buyin him out for 4 or 5 more years

  • hometeem

    phaneufoundlander hometeem  ? we were doin pretty damn good when clarkson returnred

  • MaxwellHowe

    Burtonboy Great Dane MaxwellHowe Not a fan of the 7 dmen  / 3 lines idea.  Seems to me the forwards didn’t have the legs to complete the come back

  • MaxwellHowe

    hometeem MaxwellHowe Burtonboy Nope.  Might as well accept he is a fairly good 4th line plugger and staple him there.

  • phaneufoundlander

    4evrblue  Gillis has to be dumbest fuck in the league…. Kesler is a 30 yr old banged up player..dream on chub cheeks

  • hometeem

    MaxwellHowe hometeem Burtonboy  3rd/4th

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    hometeem phaneufoundlander  Clarskson was on the 4th line by the end of the game last nght.