Game Review: Game #70, Red Wings 3 vs. Leafs 2

557
Photo: NHLI via Getty Images

It’s amazing how quickly things can change at this time of the season. Combined with the loss in Washington, this four-point swing puts the Red Wings five back of the Leafs for a wildcard spot with two games in hand. That’s still a sizeable gap at this stage, but two consecutive losses by the Leafs combined with three straight wins each by Montreal and Tampa Bay suddenly has the Leafs in a wildcard spot and looking in the rear view mirror.

Conceding three goals in nine minutes and losing to the Capitals, and falling to the severely undermanned Red Wings — two non-playoff opponents — can pretty quickly erase all memories of two wins over Anaheim and Los Angeles. There’s a lesson to be gleaned here, though, and it’s not just that the Leafs are a frustrating team to cheer for (although that is also true); at this time of season, it’s not necessarily a good thing to be playing a team on the ropes versus one nestled comfortably in a playoff position.

That’s not to excuse the Leaf performance tonight. This time of season it’s about playing with urgency and desperation, and there wasn’t enough of it present on the Leaf bench in the first half of this game. The Leafs started to pick it up by the half way point, but unfortunately they were already down one and contending with Jimmy Howard’s A game.

The first period featured two good shifts from the third line of Peter Holland, David Clarkson and Mason Raymond, one or two good Kadri moments, and not much else. We were expecting more from the start after the loss to Washington.

Detroit’s 1-0 goal was the product of the Leafs getting caught with Franson and Gleason on the ice at the same time (along with Nyquist being fast). It started with a inattentive pass attempt by Kessel in the corner, before Gleason got caught in a tough situation with a 50/50 puck trickling between the blueline and top of the faceoff circle. Gleason was in between on trying to keep the puck in and backing off the line, while Franson maybe should’ve been quicker to recognize the danger and back off the point into a support position. Really, it was a demonstration of the obvious on why Franson and Gleason would never be a pairing as Nyquist burned through the middle and got a lucky bounce off of Reimer, who made the initial save but paddled it into his own net inadvertently afterward.

The second period went scoreless despite a slight Leaf edge (a second line of Clarkson, Lupul and Kadri made inroads) before the Leafs conceded a dagger-goal in the early 3rd. It was the product of a giveaway from Lupul high in the offensive zone that handcuffed Paul Ranger. A great shot by Nyquist, his second goal of the night, beat Reimer on the far side. Reimer had no chance on this one and it was a back breaker.

The Leafs’ powerplay had been stumbling all night long, with the first powerplay unit accomplishing next to nothing, before Rielly and Gardiner combined beautifully to get the Leafs back into this game eight minutes into the third. That was a play they talk about in their shared hotel room after lights out. Gardiner took off down the ice, Rielly instantly recognized it, and the hail mary play worked as well as it did for Phil Kessel against the Jets earlier in the season. The exuberant celebration between the roommates after combining for one of the Leafs’ prettiest goals of the season at a key time in the game was a special moment amid a frustrating night.

The ensuing full court press by the Leafs yielded some good chances, but it naturally came with the risk of conceding another. Sure enough, with Gardiner caught on a pinch, a 2 on 1 was finished off by Daniel Alfredsson to put this game out of reach. A JvR tip off a Phaneuf point shot made things interesting, but it was too little too late.

Notes

– In the final minute, the Leafs should’ve had a faceoff in the offensive zone with more time on the clock, but a missed call by the referees prevented that from happening. The puck clearly deflected off the Red Wing stick and into the crowd. The only reason the Leafs were in a position to take another offensive zone draw in the final 4 seconds was Bozak and JvR’s clever play off the faceoff in the neutral zone to give JvR a quick opening, where he got a shot off and an offensive zone draw followed.

– The set play at the end was designed to try to generate a shot from the Leafs’ best shooter, Kessel, with three bodies crashing the net. McClement had the worst faceoff percentage of the Leafs’ centers, making this a puzzling decision, but he did win the draw. It’s a split-second play where absolutely everything has to go right. Unfortunately, McClement won the draw so cleanly that Kessel was forced to scramble.

Fail horn

Were the Leafs better off going with a right handed faceoff taker (Bozak) and trying to win this to Phaneuf on the right? It’s all academic.

– Something has to change on the first powerplay unit. Franson and Phaneuf cannot gain a clean zone entry without dumping it in and asking for a low-probability puck retrieval from that forward group. The Leafs scored their late goal with Phaneuf on the right; there’s no reason he can’t shift over and play with Gardiner or Rielly. The performance of powerplay unit #1 was atrocious tonight.

– Morgan Rielly put on a show leading rushes late in this game. There were a number of times he prevented a break the other way, as well, with a hard 4 or 5 strides to make up the ground. He’s already an amazing option to have late in games with his ability to join the attack and still be the first man back. Amid the frustration of this loss, that’s something special to hang your hat on.

– Peter Holland played just 7 minutes in this game, with his minutes slashed once the Leafs fell behind. He played the least among Leaf forwards. This didn’t make much sense. He was a part of two of the Leafs’ better shifts in the first period. It wasn’t like the Leafs’ top line was on their game tonight, either.

– Time to abandon 7 defencemen for tomorrow’s game and go with four forward lines in a back to back situation? I’d say so.

– 4 goals in his last 6 for Jake Gardiner. 8 points in his last 10 for Dion Phaneuf. 4 points for Rielly in his last 7. The D continues to do its part offensively down the stretch.

#ReimerGate

Carlyle assessed Reimer’s game as “OK, just OK” tonight, while Reimer thought he was “good but not great” when told of Carlyle’s remarks. Twitter was then quick to connect the dots between the following two tweets, one from Reimer’s agent (I can’t say whether Reimer’s agent was responding to Carlyle’s comments or general Reimer criticism):

First off, Bernier’s ability to make multiple big saves in a game and steal a victory at various points this season has set the bar high, but it doesn’t mean Reimer should be expected to steal games or else he sucks. And it wasn’t a case of Reimer playing poorly or making no good saves tonight. (Reimer had a particularly nice save with his toe on the doorstep one minute into the 2nd period).

However, the chances were pretty even in this game and Leafs needed a save on one of those three odd man chances or breakaways. Should the Leafs be giving up those chances? In a perfect world, no. But Detroit got a save (Kessel breakaway) the Leafs didn’t. That makes the difference in a single game of hockey.

There are lots of questions for Carlyle this season and this game was no exception, but I can’t honestly criticize his description of Reimer as “okay” when my assessment after the game was no different. It wasn’t Reimer’s fault, as in there weren’t any decisively bad goals that caused the team to lose, but I thought Jimmy Howard was better.

The way a quote sounds when it’s isolated and disseminated on Twitter can also come off much differently than how it sounds in real time. Listening back to the post game videos, neither comment was all that inflammatory.

Highlights

It is going to be a brutally tough turnaround leg against Tampa Bay back at the ACC tomorrow night, and now it’s one where the Leafs badly need some points.

Fenwick chart for 2014-03-18 Maple Leafs 2 at Red Wings 3

EV fenwick chart for 2014-03-18 Maple Leafs 2 at Red Wings 3

Leafs vs Red Wings

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Detroit Red Wings

DETROIT STATISTICS

GOALIEDEC.SHOTSSAVESSAVE %MIN.
Jimmy Howard (15-16-10)W33310.93960:00:00
PLAYERGATOI+/-SOGPIMFWFLHITSBSTAKEGIVE
Daniel Alfredsson1017:22120013000
Todd Bertuzzi0015:12030201000
Danny DeKeyser0025:09:00110000200
Cory Emmerton009:21010420010
Jonathan Ericsson0013:09000001201
Landon Ferraro009:45010002100
Johan Franzen0018:16142510000
Luke Glendening0018:140128111100
Jakub Kindl0015:39-130004101
Niklas Kronwall0123:35200000201
Brian Lashoff0013:28-100001200
David Legwand0117:301301171021
Drew Miller0020:47020001000
Gustav Nyquist2016:03160000011
Kyle Quincey0119:44222000210
Riley Sheahan0014:16100560000
Brendan Smith009:43120000100
Tomas Tatar0015:21102102010

TORONTO STATISTICS

GOALIEDEC.SHOTSSAVESSAVE %MIN.
James Reimer (11-10-1)L31280.90357:45:00
PLAYERGATOI+/-SOGPIMFWFLHITSBSTAKEGIVE
Troy Bodie008:06010000000
Tyler Bozak0019:55-1008102010
David Clarkson0013:41-120000020
Cody Franson0020:25-110001100
Jake Gardiner1021:15-130001011
Tim Gleason0011:39-102002100
Carl Gunnarsson0016:15000001200
Peter Holland007:17000211010
Nazem Kadri0018:48-1201090010
Phil Kessel0020:54-170000000
Nikolai Kulemin0016:51030131120
Joffrey Lupul0119:45052001010
Jay McClement009:330007121010
Dion Phaneuf0123:07110001100
Paul Ranger0012:47-100002400
Mason Raymond0016:46022000100
Morgan Rielly0114:50-120001113
James van Riemsdyk1022:21-142012100
SHARE
Previous articleRandy Carlyle - DET Post Game
Next articleMaple Leaf Hangout Ep. #25: Leafs vs. Lightning
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]
  • Yan28

    Do what you got to do in the off-season, send Lupul out, Kadri whatever…you’re not going far with this defense core. Goddamn. Horrible.

  • wiski

    Was keeping calm but the fucking corci is coming around to be right.

  • BingoDabber

    wiski  If Corsi was right the Leafs would be one of the worst teams in the League, not firmly in a playoff position.
    They’re still fine but need to figure it out soon or could find themselves in do or die games.

  • Savo43

    Man, the only way to shut ppl up is a perfect season me thinks. Why is the sky always falling when we lose, its 2 losses. We’ll be back on the horse tomorrow.

  • Great Dane

    Savo43   I haven’t changed my mind on the team. We have a number of good pieces but they are not playing as a team.

  • maple1967leafs

    Savo43  Some people think that we are suppose to win every game and the cup after missing the playoffs for 8 years,they think you can change a team overnight,The best coach we;ve had in 15 years and they want him canned after 2 winning seasons, Savo you have to learn to not pay attention to the Debbie Downers

  • RickC1983

    Play-offs or not, something has to change in the off-season. The goal to win the cup and there is no way this team can ever do that playing this system/style of hockey.

  • maple1967leafs

    Off to work ,,,A better night tonight,,,,fingers crossed

  • Great Dane

    RickC1983 Your conclusion is absolutely correct. Too many question marks around the system/style..

    What I find most amazing is that just because we are in a playoff spot fans are pleased. Looking at the league table it is pretty obvious that first 7 teams are 10 points clear of the middle group. Goal diff is at least +25.

    Should we be please having a goal diff of -9 and hanging more than 13 points back on Chicago or 19 point on St. Louis.

    In a 7 game series Leafs will never be able to get passed 4 rounds against those top teams.

  • Zep2

    Need to break up Dion and Phaneuf because of zone entries. Next paragraph,starts, Rielly putting a on a show rushing the puck.
    Are Rancy CArlyle and his staff the only ones in Leaf Nation not watching the games

  • MaxwellHowe

    Zep2 Dion and Phaneuf are apparently a package deal

  • Zep2

    I posted same thing last night
    2 big character wins out West , 2 huge character losses against Wash, Det
    Wake the F!!K up
    ,,

  • Zep2

    Ooops

  • MaxwellHowe

    Leafs just don’t have a system, rhyme nor reason.  Poorly coached IMO.  Bernier and sometimes Reimer bails them out, but fact remains the richest team in hockey has substandard coaching.  And after Carlyle’s comments about Reimer, Nonis should mark a day in June to fire his ass.  Its not about whether he’s right or wrong.  Its about defending “your” guys and its about fostering a team spirit.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Zep2 sorry for being a dick about it.  Just lashing out.

  • Burtonboy

    3 pt out of 2nd and 4 pts ahead of the last wild card spot . Leafs woes aside that is one amazing freaking race we have going on here . I said earlier this week it was gut check time. That schedule was going to be tough and everyone should have known it. Tonight is going to be really tough. Who the fuck play the first game back from a 5 game road trip in the 2nd game of a back to back. This is going to be a war the rest of the way and the Leafs better show up from the drop of the puck every single game.

  • MaxwellHowe

    This might make some of you feel better:
    http://thehockeywriters.com/despite-forcasts-gloom-future-bright-leafs/ 
    I hope that works – its on the hockeywriters.com site, look under the Maple Leafs

  • Cameron19

    Burtonboy  It’s really just us. Pretty sure 95% of the league isn’t subjected to that kind of ridiculous scheduling.

  • Cameron19

    Zep2  Well, they’re probably going to lose again tonight, and it has little to do with character, in my opinion.

  • Burtonboy

    Cameron19 Burtonboy  Carlyle said last night he’s never seen that in all the yrs he’s played or coached Hockey

  • Cameron19

    Burtonboy Cameron19  There are teams that had to play more games than us after the break that have way easier schedules. It’s a joke.

  • Burtonboy

    MaxwellHowe  A good article about the Leafs for the Hockey Writers . The world is getting strange indeed

  • Burtonboy

    Cameron19 Zep2  They will need to really did deep tonight Cam.

  • Loric76

    So we’re 2-3 in the past five.  Excluding the LA game since it was a split due to injury, we’re 1-1 with Bernier, 0-2 with Reimer.  It’s not Reimer’s fault, but the team does play different in front of him.  They’re more hesitant, less confident.  Reminds me of a few years ago when Gus was in net.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Burtonboy MaxwellHowe The organization needs to determine a plan, not go from year to year hoping to fill this hole and that hole.  What do you want the team to be?  Long term.  Find coaches to make it happen.  Geez you got a coach preaching systems and Rielly and Gardiner out there playing their own game. It just seems all so ad hoc.

  • Cameron19

    Loric76  They’re 1-2 with Reimer. I would say the difference has more to do with half the team having the flu, and that afternoon start in Washington. They seemed to have no trouble playing in front of him after the first 15 minutes in Washington, and no problem playing LA. Last night it was back to the old defensive miscues problem. 

    It seems  it’s always one thing or another. Either ridiculous gaffes by defenders, or forwards blowing the zone and missing their coverage. It’s rare we get everything working at once.

  • darthNihilus

    Is there anyone who thinks this team can do anything in the playoffs? I cannot see us being able to compete with anyone unless Bernier steals a game or two. Randy Carlyle is a moron for calling out Reimer when he should be calling out his D and forwards.

  • Cameron19

    darthNihilus  The defenders made gaffes last night, but very clearly, the Kessel line is doing nothing right now. Got some shots last night, which was a step in the right direction, but no real pressure. Yet hilariously, people were all over Lupul, one of the only forwards consistently creating zone time.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Cameron19 Loric76 Reimer has allowed 6 goals in 8 periods.  Not one  of them could you say he really muffed on.

  • darthNihilus

    CanuckUKinToronto  He was just “ok”? 2 breakaways and a 2 on 1. He probably should have stopped the Franson gaff. When the team in fron tof him shows up and plays some D and chips in some goals we can call out the goalie.

  • Cameron19

    MaxwellHowe Burtonboy  Gardiner and Rielly playing that way is part of Carlyle’s system though. I don’t think that’s counter to anything Carlyle preaches. Especially when we’re losing – that’s when you see he tells them to go for it.

  • Cameron19

    MaxwellHowe Cameron19 Loric76  Maybe the 2nd goal in Washington.

  • Burtonboy

    MaxwellHowe Burtonboy Reilly and Gardiner are doing exactly what Carlyle is telling them . They shifted the strategy after the Olympic break and wanted them more involved in the offense. People need to understand the core  this team has really only been together  for 2-3 yrs. They are and will be inconsistent because of that . Look at the top teams. The’re core groups have been together for 6,7, 8 yrs or longer.

  • Cameron19

    CanuckUKinToronto darthNihilus  Your first sentence is really the key there. People always get so worked up when we lose to teams chasing us. Those games are way harder at this time of the year than playing your contenders – who are just trying to avoid injury. The Leafs will find another gear in the playoffs, just as they did last year.

  • Cameron19

    CanuckUKinToronto darthNihilus  Assuming they make the playoffs.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Cameron19 darthNihilus its all one shot, one chance, puck out, one shot, one chance, puck out.  Wingers rarely win battles on this team.  drives me crazy.

  • darthNihilus

    Cameron19 darthNihilus  I think both top 2 lines have sucked. None other than JVR are being aggressive on the puck. Bozak who I always defend has sucked shit lately-he circles in the offensive zone once and if he loses the puck he skates to the bench. Kadri and Lupul have been aweful too – same lack of puck control and lack of desire to dig for the puck in the O zone. You cannot win games like that.

  • Burtonboy

    Cameron19 CanuckUKinToronto darthNihilus  Especially when you play a trap like Detroit uses . Detroit did the only thing they could do to win that game and did it well. As always the Wings interference doesn’t get called

  • Jon5200

    So let me get this straight….calling Reimer ‘ok’ is throwing him under a bus?  REALLY…..the sensitivity of people these days is OFF the charts!  2 losses and the sky is falling……i am in NO WAY happy about the losses but we have a good team that is young and improving…..i dont know how far they will go this year but Nonis will add to this team and we will be even better next year!  Lets not act like habs fans and tear the team down when they lose or beat your chest when they win………i have a guy at work….u know how the leafs fans know if the habs won or lost, this guy wears habs gear when they win and gloats ALL day about them, BUT, when they lose….not a word is spoken and not a stitch of habs gear is worn….he is the PERFECT example of a fair weather fan……

  • Loric76

    darthNihilus  I had the same thoughts last season, but this was an entirely different team once the playoffs started (starting with game two lol).  All the mental mistakes, the lazy plays, the lack of confidence, etc. all went away.  The difference between the regular season and playoffs was amazing.

  • Burtonboy

    darthNihilus Cameron19  This is were I really take issue with Carlyle. He rides his horses and he’s played the shit out of the top line since the Olympics . That’s costing us big time right now. The’re gassed and its bloody obvious

  • Cameron19

    darthNihilus Cameron19  I’m not seeing that from Lupul at all. He’ s not getting the results, but I think he’s been all over the place in the offensive zone, turning pucks over and creating zone time, and a chance for his line-mates. Conversely, not seeing that on JVR so much right now.

  • Cameron19

    Burtonboy Cameron19 CanuckUKinToronto darthNihilus  And were you saying Carlyle actually commented on that?

  • Burtonboy

    CanuckUKinToronto  Did they apply the corsi factor to those stats ?

  • MaxwellHowe

    Jon5200 the “just Ok” was a bit of a shot.  Liem getting a C.

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Dont worry boys….one of our “leaders” will pick up the slack and take us to the promised land.  /s

  • MaxwellHowe

    TheCanucksnaphook need a few more followers maybe

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Cameron19 darthNihilus  Listen I get your love of Lupul but if you dont blame him for that pass that fucked Ranger at the blueline then you are the ultimate blue and white goggled fool.  

    I know you are bright enough to understand his shit work along the boards (same as 5 other forwards) and lack of attention to details are part of his flaws.  He does work his ass off most nights.

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    MaxwellHowe Yeah….and we cannot have the goalie, his agent sniping the Coach in the media either.

  • Cameron19

    CanuckUKinToronto Cameron19 darthNihilus  Yea, and sadly we’ve been set up to lose this one tonight pretty badly.  Basically an unprecedented scheduling.