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

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

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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

Review overview
Forwards - 50 %
Defence - 50 %
Goaltending - 85 %
Special Teams - 50 %
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]
723 comments
ShiFty_D
ShiFty_D

As of the deadline at this moment (if you follow) we can add annual salary of 3.355 million

DARF24
DARF24

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?

CanuckUKinToronto
CanuckUKinToronto

OK.. I am speculating that Leafs trade Franson or Gardiner and Kule and a pick/prospect for a top 3 D man

The_Irv
The_Irv

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. 

GreekGod
GreekGod

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....????

ShiFty_D
ShiFty_D

Why the hell are they starting at 8am? The hockey world never seems to wake until about 10

whalz
whalz

@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?

Chris Jay
Chris Jay

@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.

phaneufoundlander
phaneufoundlander

@Jmessih  shitty tune to go along with it though.....fuck sake, should of went with Thunder struck !

jimmyg65
jimmyg65

@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....

ShiFty_D
ShiFty_D

@GreekGod Come on man. The guy can't even operate the toaster and you ask this of him

Reversethecurse13
Reversethecurse13

@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

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

@Pent_House  Smith on Waivers . Likely won't call anyone till after the deadline 

The_Irv
The_Irv

@Pent_House @The_Irv  It may not.... And the reason I'm willing to take the risk and move him is because this may be as high as his stock gets. 

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. 

4evrblue
4evrblue

@MaxwellHowe @Pent_House could honestly see Kulemin being traded. Wondering if this whole playing centre experiment is to show teams what he can do and up his value.

jimmyg65
jimmyg65

@Jmessih @jimmyg65  I was at the Leafs blueline for two periods so got to see him in his own zone. He still makes the odd mistake, but he is so solid with his puck-handling decisions and hard to knock off the puck. And jeez, can he skate. He did not look like a 19 year old out there.

Reversethecurse13
Reversethecurse13

@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.


phaneufoundlander
phaneufoundlander

@wiski @Mcost61 @4evrblue  .... plan the parade ...... another acquisition that the fans will place on a pedestal till he gets benched....keep up the good work Zoolander

 

CanuckUKinToronto
CanuckUKinToronto

@mapleaf13 @CanuckUKinToronto@4evrblue@MaxwellHowe@Pent_House Not nuts.. I dont think they want to pay Kule more than $3m and he will want and prob get over $4m as UFA.. so done in toronto I think.   Leafs wont want to sign Kule for expensive money-. With Cap.. They got 17 goals and 38 pts in 63 games from $1m investment in Raymond.. Kule in the last 3 yrs and 169 games has scored 22 goals.

so in 37% of games played, Raymond who people complain about scored 77% of goals Kule did.. so people will say but Kule does so much.. well why not pay $1.5m for greater goal production from one guy and $1.5 m on a guy like McC who is a defensive specialist who will also hit and fight...

mapleaf13
mapleaf13

@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