Game Review: Game #74, Blues 5 at Maple Leafs 3

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Toronto Maple Leafs vs St. Louis Blues
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 25: Alex Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues waits on a shot against Dion Phaneuf #3 and goalie Jonathan Bernier #45 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on March 25, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

At what point do we stop saying the next game is a “must win?”

Tonight was a must win and the Leafs came out flat, at home, and got dominated. Doesn’t matter who they were playing, the effort was [censored] embarrassing. Full stop. The Blues could be seen with smirks on their faces after whistles in the first 40 minutes. It doesn’t really matter if the Leafs make it interesting in the last 8 games, this is what we got from a fully healthy Leafs team when it still mattered.

No NHL team should give up 23 shots in one period, let alone one with playoff aspirations playing in a crucial game. At home, to boot. An elite, heavy cycle team like St Louis exposed the Leafs’ leaky system like water tracing dye. The system isn’t working, and that’s on Carlyle. On the other hand, even when they were in position to do so, the team couldn’t win a board battle when the game still mattered.

It’d be nice to say it begins and ends with Carlyle. Removing him from his post is the right starting point, but there’s some bigger questions facing this management group in the off season. What alterations need to be made to the core? Who is the right coach for the makeup of this team (clearly not Carlyle)? What is the identity the team is aspiring toward, anyway? Do they aspire to be that heavy forechecking/cycle team like the Blues? They’re a 100 miles away from that. Up tempo, skill/speed, high-scoring team? How can they supplement that, and who is the right coach to oversee it? They certainly need to improve down the middle and on the back end. How are they going to improve a core that is locked into place on long term contracts without much cap space likely to be available? Big questions.

This was Dion Phaneuf’s worst game as a Leaf at a crucial time of the season, and the wolves will be circling. In his defence, he has left games with countless injuries (and recently, illness) this season, and hasn’t missed a game besides his suspension. He gets leaned on like crazy, in terms of minutes and assignments, even though he’s really not of the elite 1D ilk to be able to handle it. Even when he’s himself, he appears to hit a wall after 23 or 24 minutes, at which point he is huffing and puffing and can’t keep up. For an average skater who battles hard physically shift in shift out, a season of wear and tear, big minutes and tough assignments appears to be catching up to him.

While he was the only reason the Leafs were down just 2-1 for the first half of the game, Jonathan Bernier looked a little hesitant to go into butterfly at points in this game. It doesn’t appear his groin is close to 100%. That probably sinks any chance at a sudden turnaround in the final 8 (there wasn’t really a chance anyway).

The most depressing part of the whole thing is that we’re right back at that dismal, mediocre non-playoff team status we’ve been at for years since the lockout. The third collapse in three seasons ensures the Leafs still haven’t won a playoff round since 2004. Only this time it’s without the defence of being early in the rebuild, or a young team on the rise experiencing its very first playoff round.

Essentially, laughingstocks again.

Photo: Extraskater.com
Photo: Extraskater.com

EV fenwick chart for 2014-03-25 Blues 5 at Maple Leafs 3Toronto Maple Leafs vs St. Louis Blues

  • Shift_Disturber1

    BOOM!!!! Thanks Alec

  • Shift_Disturber1

    I thin we need a different approach and some more players that play a hard game.

  • hometeem

    ty alec

  • dlb eh

    hey, check this out.
    what does Morgan Rielly have in common with a Rottweiler bite, Grey Maynard from the UFC and former strong man champion Magnus Samuelson?
    http://www.amctv.com/shows/game-of-arms/infographic

  • Pent_House

    Nice write-up Alec. I think this was the straw that finally convinced me that Randy needs to go. I was going on about this team identity thing the other way, nice to see you bring it up as well. Definitely Phaneuf’s worst game of the season, and Bernier isn’t healthy. This season is a wrap. Lot’s of questions ahead.

  • dlb eh

    Carlyle’s post game was good i thought, even though there’s fuel for Franson-Phanuef no-likers to hate him for
    that was a tough game to watch tonight.  we have a few timid players.
    watching how effective Bolland can be at 75% shows me how lousy some of the guys are that we’ve gotten used to.  not going to name names, but luckily most aren’t locked up past this year.

  • RickC1983

    Once again down by one, and fucking idiot puts Franson out instead of Gardiner.

  • Komas Taberle

    Thanks Alec. We need a wholesale change non of our core leaders will win anything.
    Deal every one except Kessel, JVR,Rielly and Gardiner

  • rockydundas

    It’s all fine and well that we feel RC should go, but not to bring in a b level coach because no one else is available. Speaking of that, who IS available? Other than Guy Boucher and Peter Laviollete, I have no idea.

  • wendelsfist

    Bernier put up .917 being unhealthy.   A healthy version would perhaps have been a .950 goaltending and get at least a point maybe.

  • FloorHockeyFlopper

    dlb eh  Morgan Reilly grip 167 lbf, average male 108 lbf, average woman 64 lbf, Me after 16 years of massage therapy 50 lbf :(   lol        Good on him tho, can’t wait for his shot to progress

  • hometeem

    Komas Taberle  bernier

  • Pent_House

    rockydundas  I think I’d go with Lavy, he likes fore-check teams.

  • rockydundas

    wendelsfist  
    Maybe, but points tonight would be lipstick on a pig. From what I heard, (I wasn’t home to watch the game) We were thoroughly outclassed.

  • RickC1983

    rockydundas  They should of given the job to Eakins back when it was vacant. Having a coach that is in the system and familiar with the younger players (ie Cooper in Tampa) could have been a good idea. Instead they brought Carlyle in and it is a failure.

  • rockydundas

    Pent_House rockydundas 
    Yeah. Ugh. Never liked him. Is Babcock available? Sigh….

  • Shift_Disturber1

    wendelsfist 49 SOG to 25 SOG and our Goalie put up a .917 SV%

  • rockydundas

    RickC1983 rockydundas 
    Maybe, but Eakins is sure struggling in Edmonton.

  • RickC1983

    rockydundas Pent_House  Your avatar is giving me a rod right now.

  • FloorHockeyFlopper

    Can anyone tell me if a players contract is subject to them making the team? … I can’t find anything on google

  • hometeem

    rockydundas wendelsfist  couldnt bare watchin after teh 1st then couldnt stay away and watched the 3rd, outclassed on every level tonight

  • rockydundas

    Shift_Disturber1 wendelsfist 
    49 shots.Good Lord.

  • Shift_Disturber1

    FloorHockeyFlopper Contract is guaranteed

  • hometeem

    FloorHockeyFlopper  guaranteed contracts

  • RickC1983

    rockydundas RickC1983  true, but it could just be a first year thing and could turn around next year or so.

  • hometeem

    rockydundas Shift_Disturber1 wendelsfist  23 in the first

  • gjdevlin

    The Leafs look like they are on an agenda. An agenda to lose as much as possible as if they don’t want to be in the playoffs. What team doesn’t want to be in the playoffs? It makes no sense to me. On paper, this is one of the best teams in the league and on the ice – they stink up the joint.

    Maybe they are just plain bad but giving up 23 shots as Alec pointed out in the 1st period – if you cut those shots to 8 or 9 which would be the norm in a given period, we would have a 1-0 game or even a 3-0 game because if we are not allowing them to generate offense then we are sure generating it themselves.

    I don’t know – I did not see a collapsing system that was so evident early this year but I saw guys that were making half-hearted efforts in the d-zone to corral the puck and get it out. It was almost like they were deliberate plays – for a team loaded with offensive talent and speed I just find it bizarre – sorry just too bizarre and puzzling to fathom – what’s even more troubling – a team like this should be motivated and bonded to wrap things up to lock up their spot in the playoffs but they aren’t doing it.

    More on Randy’s system – I’m NO expert but does it look like they were playing a 2-2-1 system instead of 2-1-2?

  • rockydundas

    hometeem rockydundasShift_Disturber1wendelsfist 
    I just don’t get it. How in the hell are they THAT bad?

  • Pent_House

    RickC1983 rockydundas  Eakins sucks, glad we passed on him. He can’t win, he can only develop players.

  • dlb eh

    rockydundas
    STL gets to pucks first and don’t panic and give it back without a fight
    good size, speed and skill
    good support and hard on the backcheck

  • FloorHockeyFlopper

    hometeem FloorHockeyFlopper  it’s just cut in stone , that’s it?   Seems rather harsh

  • rockydundas

    RickC1983 rockydundasPent_House Bon doesn’t like it as much as my last one. Oh well! :)

  • hometeem

    gjdevlin  our d sucks and our forwards have no fn intention on helping out

  • gjdevlin

    rockydundas RickC1983Eakin’s is surrounded by entittled youngsters who won’t listen to him. The Marlies loved him.

    What is Eakin’s coaching style?

  • Pent_House

    gjdevlin  2-2-1 fore-check does not exist

  • Shift_Disturber1

    gjdevlin We can’t deal with a strong, heavy, physical fore checking team. We don’t seem to possess the strength, will or smarts as a group

  • dlb eh

    rockydundas
    they’re 20 points ahead of us in the standings
    we played like a team devoid of confidence

  • hometeem

    FloorHockeyFlopper hometeem  other than football all the pros get guaranteed contracts, i think it stems from if ya got hurt a team cant cut ya

  • gjdevlin

    Shift_Disturber1 gjdevlinThen we are going to suck next year if this is the same core.

  • hometeem

    gjdevlin Shift_Disturber1  agree

  • rockydundas

    Pent_House gjdevlin 
    Actually, it appears to be an 0-5-0 system. For those of you who know the configuration of steam locomotive wheels…if anyone at all does out here…you’ll know why that doesn’t work! LOL!

  • gjdevlin

    hometeem gjdevlinI like what we have in our D – Gardiner, Phaneuf, Gleason except Franson – we just need a new D over summer. I think the problem lies with our forwards not contributing to clearing out the puck.

  • hometeem

    gjdevlin Shift_Disturber1  its a fucking mess, individuals, absolutely no team effort, unless they are in position to score and then it seems like half our guys find their legs, fucking pathetic

  • gjdevlin

    Pent_House gjdevlinyer right – my bad.

  • Pent_House

    Like I’ve been saying all week on here, we’ll never win shit as a rush team, rush teams don’t win in this league. We’ll never win shit, unless we have an identity and we don’t have one either. Nonis deserves just as much blame here as RC.

  • Shift_Disturber1

    gjdevlin Seems like they play to make the coach look incompetent but still have an urge to win. I don’t know what the problems are just that there are. Several

  • dlb eh

    gjdevlin
    we gave the puck away at times there was little to no pressure.
    that screams “no confidence”.  i think we’ve been burned so many times when trying to be patient with the puck (turnover, lost battle ends up in our net or we go to the PK, for example) we just seem afraid to try to protect the puck and move it.
    bounce off some checks.  protects some pucks with your feet.  then move your feet to escape.  make a crisp pass and trust your team mate to receive the pass.

  • hometeem

    gjdevlin hometeem  ph9 has grown on me for the better, was a huge fan when he came here and i slowly started disliking the guy but in the last year i am startin to think that he is in over his head of what we are asking from him.  Hes brutally slow so he has to have a high hockey iq.  when he isnt our best d i could live with our d core so that would be a pretty large aquisition or a few years for reilly who i feel will definately develope into a better #1.  our whole forward group can go fuck their hat if you ask me.  never liked cherry pickers, never will.  i cant believe that there isnt some some crazy hate goin on in the dressig room the way the forwards hang the d out

  • hometeem

    Pent_House  your only a rush team cause u suck at holding it in their end, its a fancy way to say we fuckin suck at holdin the puck

  • Shift_Disturber1

    Pent_House I agree
    It’s what I didn’t like about the Raymond signing. It tipped the mix the wrong way. Just one example