Anyone following this team in earnest over the last two seasons is familiar with a number of this young group’s faults. One is their propensity to elevate their game to a different level – at the very last possible moment. The shortened season was better in this respect, as a team that the hockey world thought little of went out every night with the goal of proving themselves. This culminated in a showdown with the Bruins in the playoffs, wherein the team’s speed, determination, and some miraculous goaltending propelled the series to seven games.
Fast forward to this season. A group of young Leafs have forced the aforementioned hockey world to take them seriously. Predictions varied this time – but many saw this club as a playoff threat with upside. Is it possible that the mere act of making the playoffs was enough for this group to rest just a little too easily on their laurels?
Certainly, it’s not a defining trait of the team, as some of their best players in Kessel and Phaneuf are rarely short on effort. But one needs to look no further than Joffrey Lupul’s game as this losing streak has progressed to witness this characteristic in action. Lupul, who is counted on to be one of this club’s very best forwards, has only recently began moving his legs and driving the net with the intensity that we know he can bring. As others have mused this season, this is an area where the Leafs miss players such as MacArthur, Grabovski and Komarov. While not the offensive talent that Lupul is, these three gave 100% each shift (pardon the cliché) and defined the fast, determined game that propelled the Leafs to success last season.
For a lot of 2013-2014, Toronto has made do with elite first line scoring, elite goaltending, and a mishmash of mediocre across the rest of the board. With their backs against the wall tonight, it was time for the Leafs as a whole to put up or shut up. No more hockey platitudes – just win.
Entering a notoriously hostile building with an ongoing tendency to cough up early goals? Yeah, to literally nobody’s surprise, the Leafs continued this trend (despite an admittedly energetic start to the game). Firstly, Cody Franson looked as cumbersome as ever in his attempts to hold the offensive line and took a penalty in the process. This was followed by a soft tripping call on Kulemin to put Toronto down two men early. To make matters worse, McClement was inexplicably thrown out of the circle on the ensuing draw. The result – Dion Phaneuf’s first ever NHL faceoff. Salivating at the opportunity, Philadelphia’s potent power play wasted no time in capitalizing. The recently demoted/motivated Lecavalier fired a one timer past Bernier and thus began another night of playing from behind.
Halfway through what turned out to be a respectable first period for the Leafs, Kadri made a nice play to set up a trailing Gunnarson. Gunnarson, who has come on as strong offensively in recent months as we’ve ever seen, put it in the net. Unfortunately, an eager Lupul bumped into Mason as he drove the crease. This was one that usually would not be called goalie interference, but served to nullify Gunnarson’s goal on this occasion. Otherwise, Toronto’s best chance of the period was a frantic scramble at the end of first on the powerplay. The stimulus for this chance: the now rare Dion Phaneuf shot from the right side.
Bozak and JVR epitomized Toronto’s quick strike offense with their goal just four seconds into the second. They embarrassed Couturier and Timonen respectively as they darted up the ice right off the faceoff. They burned the two Flyers with their speed and Bozak fed it to JVR who fired it home to tie it up.
With the fast paced game of these two squads on display tonight, one can only imagine the chaos that might have been had Reimer been in net. Contrarily, Bernier was his usual calming self, with Philadelphia’s only goal of the period being a powerplay deflection. Hartnell got his stick on a Timonen wrister, as the Flyers powerplay cashed in again. In a rare turn of events, Toronto finished the second leading in shots as the importance of this game went directly to the players’ legs and sticks.
With the desperation factor at a season-high, the Leafs came out hungry in the third. After some tenacious puck work, Kulemin found Phaneuf from behind the net. Despite a golden opportunity, the captain was shut down by Mason. As it goes in Leafland, JVR subsequently tried an ill-advised cross-ice pass that wound up on the wrong player’s stick. Claude Giroux raced in unimpeded on the wing and fired a laser in off the bar over Bernier to make it 3-1.
Thankfully, this tally was soon returned in kind. A strong shift from the Bolland line saw Clarkson launch the puck at the net a few times (something noticeably lacking in his game this year). Bolland went to retrieve Clarkson’s rebound from the corner, only to be hauled down, drawing a penalty. However, it would never make it to the man advantage, as the puck found it’s way back to Bolland with an extra attacker on and a yawning cage in front of him. 3-2 for the Flyers.
With the phrase “too little too late” possibly becoming the epitaph for this season, Philadelphia quenched Toronto’s fire with their fourth of the night. A bobbled puck by Phaneuf lead to Simmonds hounding the disc off of an unaware Kadri in the slot. The Ontario native drove it home and that was all she wrote for the night. A late powerplay went for naught and Phaneuf took out some of his frustration on Jake Voracek with a tussle in the corner.
This was a knockout blow to the Leafs’ playoff hopes. The staggering Leafs will have to win at least six of their last seven games to have a real chance at the postseason this year. Hard to believe.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Philadelphia Flyers
|Steve Mason (31-17-6)||W||34||32||0.941||59:56:00|
|Jonathan Bernier (25-18-7)||L||29||25||0.862||58:45:00|
|James van Riemsdyk||1||0||24:31:00||0||6||0||0||0||1||3||0||3|
My musical serenade for tonight:
Well I don't know why I am watching tonight,
I got a feeling that the game won't go right,
I'm so scared in case they fall behind again,
And I'm wondering how RC can lose the game,
Clowns Line up on the left,
Jokers on the right,
Stuck in the middle with RC.
I believe we win tonight and then you really never know.... I still believe Clarkson will be what we hope her would be...either in the playoffs or next year. he works so hard and the times I have seen him live,including in NJ he was a difference maker. He will never be worth the crazy money he signed for and the the cap realities that come with him piss people off but the boy works and will get it figured out...and just for the record he got his picture taken with every one of these kids that Lupul just walked by...that buys him time with me. Truth is he needs a more structured system....I still predict big things for him and he will figure it out.
You know I can't stop thinking about how poorly Lupul has played this year. When he was on the first line he was a point a game guy, when healthy. But as a secondary guy he just doesn't work hard enough. I can still see him walking past those kids in Tampa wearing his beats with out even a glance in their direction. There was a time that I thought he should be captain and now I think it is time for him to move on. What ever we want to say about Dion's play .... he is clearly asked to be too much for this team but I believe he is a good captain and what I have seen could not treat fans better...including a couple of chats with me where he could not have been nicer. When we have a true # 1 Dman the Leafs and Dion will be better.
I wonder how many defencmen are available this summer, like Giordano and Weber like players we could make a huge package deal for. Gardiner, Holland, Reimer, our 1st rounder, prospects all available to be packaged. Or Kadri in a package for the right forward. I still see ROR in a leaf uniform this summer, I can just feel it
Dear Mr. Carlyle, is our top line going to play tonight, as you noted they have been overused? Our second line has been MIA for so long I thought they were as relevant as the fourth line. I checked in the line ups to find there is a third. Clarkson is a railway station, and is producing like one. Kulie is like the drink, reaches the spot occasionally. There is no fourth line to speak of, so why field one? Your PP pairings are as good as your defensive system, terribly lacking. How about, nothing works' so lets try anything for the final few games! Put Franson on the wing in place of Clarkson. Put Bolland in Kadri's place, and Kadri in Clarkson's place. Who knows, something might work, but the way you are going we can add train wreck, to burnt boats and tractor trailer units going over cliffs!!
Final spot between us and the wings and while the situation is clearly desperate I will not stop hoping until our next loss. If we win tonight we are ahead of the one team we are truly competing with. They may have a couple of games in hand but they need to win them...the points won't simply be award to them. 7 loses is rough but win tonight and it could be what is needed to open the flood gates and go on a little role. Even if that isn't likely it is how I choose to see things for one more night.
GO LEAFS GO !
I think there needs to be some big changes to the top 6.
Can't keep running
And expect to be contenders.
@CanuckUKinToronto Go narlies go , Holland gets the winner on a nice feed from Ross
@Belfour20/JB-45 I don't mind most of the core. It's the bottom 6 that I think should be overhauled. The blueline, IMO, only needs to be tweaked also.
@TheCanucksnaphook Ummm ,thinkin here ,Lunch ? why yes ,wait its a little late for that now eh lmao
@TheCanucksnaphook tonights our last chance
@TheCanucksnaphook You might as well be getting ready for dinner.
@Jordan29 i was thinking this but i dont think jersey would take on his contract
@CanuckUKinToronto sadly 7 games left, not 8
@Jmessih Okay, well i think you're delusional if you don't think Lupul is, compared to the whole league, a bad two-way player.
How he stacks up against the rest of our squad is almost immaterial.
@Jordan29 I want to see Reims, Franson, Lups, Gunnar, and a 1st for Weber.
We need a second line that's a threat so the opposition can't concentrate its blanket coverage on our first line.
@Reversethecurse13 Kulemin will likely walk and we will replace him with Komarov on the 3rd line, slide Bozak down and Kadri to the wing. Thats what we might see. Insert Jesus as a #1 centre somehow. Stastny, ROR, anyone
Thats my guess
2nd line invisible most of the year
@Bruffins The junk yard dog that belongs to us lol,me to just remembering the earlier posts here
Good Sir, when you refer to the D, do you mean the D unit or the team D?. I agre the D is a problem, but feel it is our forwards playing D that is the bigger part.
Don't question the son of God
@NotInsane @Reversethecurse13 I'm a fan of Kessel, and think he's world class. But Boston determined he wasn't a fit for their style of hockey.
Now, all that means, is that with Kessel on the squad, means that it's even more imperative that the rest of your lines pick up the slack in terms of possession.
If we had two or three other lines that could sustain a cycle it wouldn't be so bad.
When Kessel skates over the blue line and I see those opposing team's D backing up... its a thing of beauty.