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.
3,500 words of Leafs insight. Bring a change of clothes. This week's #Leafs Notebook: http://mapleleafshotstove.com/2014/03/04/leafs-notebook-march-4/ … via @APetrielli
hows does ottawa let a guy like Cory Conacher go on waivers? 20 pts in 60 games isn't horrible for a pretty young guy (24) no? someone picks him up no?
Something I want to say...
I am a Gardiner fan, and think him and Rielly will be very important pieces to our future. HOWEVER, I am willing to move him if it's for a significant piece. Sometimes we get too caught up in keeping players based on potential, when the return could be greater (Ex. Schenn for JVR).
On the other hand, sometimes we give up too soon (Steen for example). Bottom line is, its risk and reward. I have faith in Gardiner and our management staff to do what is right.
I would sooner trade Gardiner before Kadri personally, and I think defenseman hold some value right now because everyone is looking for help on the back end.
should be noted, if it hasn't been already, that Columbus head coach said he had to make adjustments to his system after the first period as the Leafs were controlling the play.
Why the fuck can't Carlyle do the same goddamn thing....????
@Shift_Disturber1 but what about when Bolland comes back off LTIR?
@Shift_Disturber1 Don't hold your breath and don't waste your time starting at 8am.
@CanuckUKinToronto not going to move 2 dman for 1..........I could see GArds +....
but I want franson, hes been injured and is our only RHD
I think GArds + Raymond for Kulikov? or kuly for kulikov?
@Shift_Disturber1 Did someone let the cat out of the bag?
@The_Irv I've watched Gards make too many boneheaded passes and giveaways to care if he gets traded. Will he grow out of it? Who knows.
@Shift_Disturber1 The job of the defenseman is to keep pucks out of the net, Spec.
@Jmessih shitty tune to go along with it though.....fuck sake, should of went with Thunder struck !
@Jmessih I was at the game last night, with a really good view of the game, and what I saw confirmed what I've been saying since last March: Carlyle is not a great coach. I don't think he's a bad coach, but his personnel decisions are incomprehensible and out of date with the way the game is being played this year. How he continues to not use a fourth line is a complete mystery, and he obviously has no idea how to get any offence out of former 30-goal scorers Kulemin and Clarkson (I'm not suggesting those guys should be getting 30 or even 20 goals every year, but he has to get more out of them).
The Leafs also seem to play one style of hockey whether they are winning by three or winning by one, or whether they're losing or tied. Columbus was so obviously a better-coached (and less-talented) team--they played with focus, with an obvious game plan in mind, with individual players seeming to understand their roles.
Reilly is a keeper, though....
@GreekGod Come on man. The guy can't even operate the toaster and you ask this of him
@wiski I think the Leafs could have used a guy like Weaver. Shoots right, can play some minutes at ES and PK...anything that results in less Franson at ES and PK is the goal for me
@Shift_Disturber1 kuly + holzer for Kulikov?
@Pent_House Just waiting to see if someome bites on Raymond or Kulimen :)
@Pent_House Smith on Waivers . Likely won't call anyone till after the deadline
@Burtonboy Helloooooo....... Stastny :)
@Burtonboy Dater mentioned that O'Reilly was going nowhere
We have pieces in the system in Rielly, Percy, Finn, even Brennan potentially (I dont watch enough Marlies, is he that much worse defensively than Gardiner?). I think we trade from strength to recoup elsewhere.
This team needs to re-shore the bottom six, and need a bonafied #2 Dman. If I'm Nonis I make a deal for a top pairing dman, as long as he is 28 or younger.
@hoolihan thats the mechanics yup
@Gilbey93 this is something i don't know. But at the cost of a 5th rounder, we could have used him.
I will say this: i will be very disappointed if we go into the playoffs with Franson in the Top 4...i think that is a recipe for disaster.
@CanuckUKinToronto @4evrblue @MaxwellHowe @Pent_House I think you guys are nuts. Kulemin makes the Kadri-Lupul line good. Whenever anyone else (ex. Clarkson) plays with them the line stinks. They NEED Kulemin if they have any hopes of putting together a decent playoff run.
...Raymond I could see going though