Game Review: Game #71, Lightning 5 vs. Leafs 3

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Photo: NHLI via Getty Images

First off, more important than the outcome of the game, the good news is that Paul Ranger is expected to check out of the hospital tonight after receiving a vicious hit from behind at the end of the first period. We’ll await word on the nature on the injury and hope for the best in the meantime.

As for the game, it was a maddeningly frustrating 60-minutes of hockey. There was the constant sense of fear and dread whenever the puck entered the Leaf end of the rink, beginning with a bad goal on Reimer 59 seconds into the game. There was some disturbingly poor defensive play from the Leafs (although Tampa’s wasn’t much better at points). There was some good mixed in, especially from the Leafs defence in the offensive context, but there was the sense that no amount of goals would be enough to surmount the Leafs’ defensive issues on this night, and Reimer looked far from up to making a collection of big saves.

The refs blew a call late in the game that changed the direction, to boot. The Leafs dominated the first half of the third period, had drawn within one with 11 minutes to go, and Jay McClement took a high sticking penalty. On the ensuing PK, Gleason was knocked over at the blueline and the Lightning scored on a cross crease shortly thereafter. That should be a short 4 on 4 followed by a powerplay to the Leafs, which, given their dominance of the 3rd to that point, may well have meant at least one salvaged point. (As Gus points out, Raymond could’ve done a better job reacting to that situation, but there’s no denying what was the main cause behind this goal).

James Reimer could not have fashioned a worse start after the controversy surrounding him and Carlyle coming off the last game. The 1-0 goal was a total stinker. Reimer had some traffic to contend with, but he was simply way too deep in his net.

It’s difficult to stick him alone with any of the other four. JvR didn’t take the lane away on the opening PK goal against (hopped over his stick), but how does Steven Stamkos get left wide open in front of the net two times more? It’s one thing to get beat by one of the purest snipers in the game, it’s another to hand him a couple of chances on the doorstep for easy conversions.

At a time when the Leafs should be tightening up their game down the stretch, they’ve never looked worse defensively. Tonight’s game was riddled with ‘puck-focused’ scrambling. The inference by Martin Biron on one of the intermission panels was that it’s a product of a lack of trust in Reimer. It’s a theory, although one that’s certainly tough to prove. It’s hard to imagine the opening goal did much for the psyche. At the same time, it’s just a case of basic execution when Phaneuf fails to pick up arguably the most dangerous goal scorer in the League in front of his net.

What Remier hasn’t been bringing that Bernier has most nights is that calming influence amid an often chaotic Leafs defensive zone structure. Bernier’s ability to kill a play after the team starts scrambling and the ability for his defenders to predict where he’s directing pucks are things that help out a defence group that is often easily strewn out. The Leafs need great goaltending, and Bernier’s been great. Reimer hasn’t been at fault, but there’s a big difference between the two. The Leafs’ margin for error in net given their defensive play is very thin, and losing Bernier is right up there with Kessel in terms of importance to this team

The bright spot was four more points from the defence as the the blueliners drove the offensive production tonight. Gunnarsson made a nice play to join the rush and find Kessel in front for the 1-1 tally. Gleason’s slap pass onto Kulemin’s stick was a smart little play for the Leafs 2-1 goal, and Gardiner’s 4-3 goal was an awesome individual effort. Witnessing Rielly and Gardiner’s ability to take over a game and apply relentless pressure when pressing late in the game has been one upside to the recent losing.

It has more or less gone from “thinking about home ice/second in the Division” to “hoping not to relinquish a wildcard spot” in three games. The next biggest game of the season comes this Saturday against Montreal. The heat is on and the Leafs are starting to wilt.

Quick Hits:

– Joffrey Lupul’s play alone could’ve been the source of a stomach ulcer for any fan watching him closely. The blown one-arm clearance on Stamkos’ third goal, the trip on Brewer negating an important (he had no chance at getting the puck) powerplay opportunity at the start of the 2nd, a number of times he opted for a fancy play in tight, or tried to pick corners rather than putting pucks low and hard at Bishop with traffic in front….

– The overdue Peter Holland should’ve tied this game with nine to go. Great effort by Bodie to scrum the puck along the wall (Holland, Bodie and Raymond was the line), followed by what looked like a sure-goal for Holland to the side of the net. Bishop did a “backwards fall” save that somehow kept it out. Man.

– 12 goals against in the last 4 for the Leafs. Toronto out shot the Lightning in periods 1 and 3 and 39-30 overall. Just a case of committing the more egregious defensive mistakes, with some bad luck, a bad goaltending goal and a refereeing hiccup mixed in there, too.

– The second line scores its goals with Clarkson and Kulemin on Kadri’s wings as Carlyle was frustrated with a turnover by Lupul early in the game.

– Brutal call on Clarkson in the first period. It was a nothing play and you hate to see games of this important partially decided that way.

– Probably going to be mixed reactions re: Clarkson’s thing with B.J. Crombeen. Some might not mind that Clarkson committed himself to being a pest full time if he’s not contributing anything positive to the game otherwise. Clinging onto someone who is refusing to fight and taking a holding penalty doesn’t seem too wise, though. (Pretty good punch he landed in that ensuing melee). You kind of feel bad for Clarkson in this situation, because you can tell he’s sensing the urgency and desperation of the moment, in big games like this down the stretch, but he’s really struggling to impact the game in a meaningful way.

The pressure is building and it will begin to reach a fever pitch at the ACC with Montreal in town on Saturday. I’d be excited if I weren’t so nervous. If Washington wins their game in hand, they’re two points back of ousting the Leafs from a playoff position.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Fenwick chart for 2014-03-19 Lightning 5 at Maple Leafs 3EV fenwick chart for 2014-03-19 Lightning 5 at Maple Leafs 3

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Tampa Bay Lightning.csv

TORONTO            
GOALIEDEC.SHOTSSAVESSAVE %MIN.
James Reimer (11-11-1)L30250.83358:18:00
PLAYERGATOI+/-SOGPIMFWFLHITSBSTAKEGIVE
Troy Bodie007:09000001000
Tyler Bozak0221:041221360012
David Clarkson0010:14019001000
Cody Franson0121:39140007221
Jake Gardiner1021:02140002200
Tim Gleason0115:47010003300
Carl Gunnarsson0119:00-110002300
Peter Holland009:37040261100
Nazem Kadri0015:49-1203102211
Phil Kessel1021:01150000001
Nikolai Kulemin1017:03-130112100
Joffrey Lupul0016:11-132011012
Jay McClement0011:08032581001
Dion Phaneuf0021:34-110001101
Paul Ranger004:50000001000
Mason Raymond0018:47000000000
Morgan Rielly0116:08000001101
James van Riemsdyk0022:39152011000

TAMPA BAY

GOALIEDEC.SHOTSSAVESSAVE %MIN.
Ben Bishop (33-11-6)W39360.92360:00:00
PLAYERGATOI+/-SOGPIMFWFLHITSBSTAKEGIVE
Eric Brewer0114:12212005111
J.T. Brown0010:35-120000011
Ryan Callahan0019:08020004002
Matthew Carle0020:24-220000301
B.J. Crombeen009:43015000130
Valtteri Filppula0220:500101470000
Radko Gudas1019:56-140004401
Victor Hedman0023:00040000100
Tyler Johnson1121:52120560001
Alex Killorn006:210115001000
Michael Kostka0019:15120001100
Ryan Malone0211:20120000000
Ondrej Palat0021:06010002110
Teddy Purcell0117:12-100000010
Tom Pyatt007:43-120322000
Sami Salo0119:37000001100
Steven Stamkos3018:34130450101
Nate Thompson0012:12000740010
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Tampa Bay Lightning.csv
  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    I can hear the fat lady warming up.  We need to get our act together.

  • rockydundas

    Bon Scott was a Leaf fan  
    You’d rather see my avatar sing, wouldn’t you Bon?

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    rockydundas Bon Scott was a Leaf fan  
    Tease!!

  • B_Leaf

    I haven’t liked the way this team has played all year. I can’t say I am surprised by this turn of events.
    Nonis’ work is going up in smoke.

  • ProfessorRance

    Well our coach ruined an asset.

  • Great Dane

    Well – we should not panic but do the right thing. prof Rance is right Carlyle is doing his best to ruin another asset.
    So Carlyle needs to be sacked as a start, then run with the assistant coaches for the rest of the season. 
    Phaneuf is IMO playing hurt right now, but the positive thing is that Gunnar has really improved since New Year. Gardiner and Rielly are going to be amazing in 2-3 years time.  So we need another top 2/4 d-man to complement the defense.   Franson and Gleason should be on the block. There are enough talent on the Marlies to fill the gaps and you might want to bring Ranger back as well on a 1 million cap hit contract.

    Kulemin and Komorov have to be resign they both provide a lot this team needs.  Top line with Kessel – Bozak – JVR is fine. Kadri should only be moved for a player like John T. However, some hard decisions need to taken with Lupul and Clarkson. Where do they fit in?

    Then we should be able to fill the 3rd and 4th with Marlies and I am slowly warming to the idea of resigning Raymond.

    The most important thing is to find a coach that fit the style of players that Nonis and Loiselle have collected.

  • LeafsForLife

    Great Dane which asset is it that carlyle ruined?

  • Great Dane

    LeafsForLife Great DaneI believe that he could have done a much better job with Kadri, Gardiner, Holland, Ashton, D’Amigo and Reimer. The Reimer case he should have kept is mouth shut and talked with Reimer instead talking through the MSM.

  • LeafsForLife

    Hope Ranger is doing well. Hopefully not seriously injured.

  • LeafsForLife

    Great Dane LeafsForLifeI totally agree about Riemer. I think he must keep that in the locker room only. The media should not be the ones relaying the message. Unfortunately, I dont see Riemer staying with the team after the season is over. (after the playoffs are over).

  • Great Dane

    LeafsForLife Great DaneNeither do I. I really like Reimer but he should be a chance somewhere else.

    And yes you right about the 3 min 4th line stuff. But Carlyle won’t do that.

    Leafs have wasted 1.9 million in cap space for 2×4 minutes in maybe 50% of the games.  That is bad cap space management.

  • RickC1983

    I’m all about firing Carlyle in the off season whether or not we make the play-offs this season. The problem is, who is a coach that can take this team and provide a vastly improved defensive system to lower our goals against while maintaining our high goals for as well.

  • Lonsmos2

    Can you say Jacques Martin

  • DJBrianBurke

    Lonsmos2 I hear Ron Wilson wants to get back into coaching. We finally have a goaltender. Could be a fit there… lol

  • Great Dane

    DJBrianBurke Lonsmos2 I believe that we have had enough grumpy old men

  • DJBrianBurke

    Great Dane DJBrianBurkeLonsmos2I was kidding. Grumpy old men is basically all there ever is for hockey coaches it seems.

    I don’t find Carlyle grumpy. Not more than anyone else after a loss.

  • Great Dane

    CanuckUKinToronto DJBrianBurkeGreat DaneLonsmos2Robinson any connection to Nonis or Loiselle.

    I would bet good money that if Nonis hire a new coach it is someone him or Loiselle already worked with.

  • 4evrblue

    so its a “fire Carlyle” kind of morning here is it?
    Don’t expect that any time soon. NoNo has to stick with him for at least the rest of this season. Hard to say what will happen if we miss the playoffs but if we get in I think we see Randy here for the start of next year. Even if we lose in 4.

  • 4evrblue

    https://twitter.com/GSparks40

    https://twitter.com/GSparks40/status/446531970432892928

    Thank goodness for shootout wins because they make long bus rides home tolerable..

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    4evrblue  You can ride a bus to Peoria….

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    4evrblue  Remember the Devils a few years ago firing their coach with like 15 games left?  They went on a solid run….

  • 4evrblue

    TheCanucksnaphook 4evrblue Very true. I wouldn’t expect that from NoNo. IMO he doesn’t have the balls

  • Burtonboy

    I’m almost to the point where I’m hoping the Leafs don’t make the playoffs. Might be the only hope we have to get rid of Carlyle. Unlike others I don’t really think its a system problem. There is nothing wrong with the system because most teams in the NHL use some variation of collapse. The problem I have with Carlyle has always been his personnel usage and game management . His refusal to use a 4th line , his reluctance to take players like Orr out of the line up. His insistence that he has to ride his best players into the ground. Its all catching up with him now.

    At this point I’m also questioning his ability to get the message across to his players. Its almost unfathomable to me this team still hasn’t got defensive structure figured out in the’re own end with 71 games played. We can’t continually blame this on inexperience or young players. its obvious to me anyway there is something very wrong with how the message is being delivered.

    Now we have a full blown goalie controversy at a time when we could least afford it . At first I didn’t think his statement was that bad but in this market its doesn’t take very much to cause major problems like this. I actually thought it was over blown nonsense but the statement released by Reimer’s agent makes it pretty obvious there are real issues simmering behind the scenes. Carlyle has now fanned those flames at the worse possible time .

  • Burtonboy

    TheCanucksnaphook 4evrblue  Nonis is not Lou Lam. lol

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Burtonboy  you will love it if/when the Leafs express gets rolling !!  but i completely understand.

  • MaxwellHowe

    That Steven Stamkos kid seems to be very good at hockey.  Maybe the Leafs should watch him more closely next time.

  • Bennett2Gareth

    Burtonboy  I have had similar feelings regarding missing the playoffs.  I have supported Randy for the entire time he has been here, but now its getting kinda ridiculous.  Personal choices alone are annoying, but the same systems that cause being out shot, the excessive dumping the puck in and giving it to the other team.

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    MaxwellHowe  naw,flash in the pan.

  • MaxwellHowe

    TheCanucksnaphook MaxwellHowe Disagree, i think he may score a few goals in the NHL.  Just a hunch

  • Bennett2Gareth

    4evrblue  I don’t think Randy will get canned until next year if the Leafs have a terrible year.  Nothing about Nonis is impulsive

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    MaxwellHowe This is where we make a friendly wager.  I say he is overrated.  I will take a hard working former 30 goal scorer Nik Kulemin (2nd liner ya know) to outscore this one-dimensional PP “kid” over the next year.
    Lets see how it plays out…

  • MaxwellHowe

    TheCanucksnaphook MaxwellHowe well, I didn’t say he was a Nik Kulimen!!

  • Burtonboy

    TheCanucksnaphook Burtonboy  Right now phook I have very conflicting feelings about this whole situation . I would dearly love to see them make it but I’m also so tired of Carlyles bullshit I don’t want him behind the bench next season .

  • MaxwellHowe

    That Habs game is shaping up to be the game of the year for our Leafs.  Be really nice to have Bernier back.  Bolland?  Will the Leafs call up another dman?  Holzer?  Granberg?  MacWilliams?

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Burtonboy His personality has worn out its welcome with me as well.  Can you imagine how bad it gets in the dressing room?  I understand his tough love approach but this whole 7D thing is wearing out fast too.

  • Burtonboy

    Bennett2Gareth Burtonboy  Personally I don’t believe its the system at all . I think it has alot more to do with how he utilizes his players

  • Bennett2Gareth

    RickC1983  There is a Coach in the AHL, Luke Richardson.  He is the head coach of the Binghamton Senators.  Has been selected as the coach for the AHL all star team twice i believe.  Might be nice to see some new talent, rather than seeing someone who was fired from another team.

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    MaxwellHowe  Gotta make a call up.  Oh and I would love to sit Franson at this point.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Burtonboy Yes.  He is not a good coach for the organization.  The coach has to be an ingrained part of the “plan”.  Carlyle follows the beat of his own drum.

  • Bennett2Gareth

    Burtonboy Bennett2Gareth  Fair enough

  • Knights2Leafs

    Burtonboy  
    You have expressed my sentiments exactly.  This is like 2 years ago when the Leafs went over the cliff.  For me it was tolerable because even before Wilson was fired, I knew he was going to be. The unexpected upside was we not only got a decent draft pick but that pick is looking like he may be the best Leafs dman in 20 years.

    Truthfully I’d rather see the Leafs make the playoffs and what happens, happens.  I’d expect them to lose easily in the first round which would still ensure RC is on his way out.

  • MaxwellHowe

    TheCanucksnaphook MaxwellHowe What is the Ranger situation anyway?  Did’nt really look like a “concussion” type hit.

  • Bennett2Gareth

    MaxwellHowe TheCanucksnaphook  Looked like a neck injury

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Bennett2Gareth MaxwellHowe TheCanucksnaphook  The Idiot Greek was saying he was probably being released from hospital last night.

  • Bennett2Gareth

    TheCanucksnaphook Bennett2Gareth MaxwellHowe  idiot greek?

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Bennett2Gareth TheCanucksnaphook MaxwellHowe  just a buddy of mine.

  • Bennett2Gareth

    TheCanucksnaphook Bennett2Gareth MaxwellHowe  ahh

  • Joyntsky

    Burtonboy TheCanucksnaphook  Your worst case scenario is the Leafs miss the playoffs and Carlyle doesn’t get canned.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Too late to catch the Sabres in the tank-athon?

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    We can blame Carlyle all we want but how about that Lupul “effort” that led to the 3rd goal?  Plus last game where he hung Ranger out to dry in offensive zone?