Let’s be honest, how many of you had either fallen asleep or changed the channel when your Leafs tied it up tonight? Â In a comeback devoid of any explosiveness, Toronto teased you with the possibility of an overtime victory. Â Hah! Should have known better, eh?
Here are some thoughts from this Friday night flop:
-Who else was a little surprised when TSN flashed their statistic about Phil Kessel (leading the league in shots with 189 since he started playing this year)? Â Then you take a closer look at his numbers and realize the young sniper fires off 4.5 shots every game. Â To put that in perspective, the only player with a higher shots/game ratio is some guy called Ovechkin. Â With 2 goals in his last 20 games, the kid is still operating at a pace just below 30 goals per season. Â Considering Phil works against multiple-man coverage on a nightly basis, those numbers alone are impressive. Â A lot of Leafs fans are calling for a true star center to work with their sharpshooter. Â Let’s face it, ANY other significant offensive presence on this team will go a long way into opening up space for Kessel. Â As soon as opposition teams need to begin expanding their pre-game planning beyond “cover Kessel and lol if they play Toskala”, our American winger will see success.
-“Jammer” picked up two assists tonight. Â This should boost his trade value enough so we get a few sticks with the bag of pucks. Â Some will foolishly claim that he’s a “veteran presence” that can provide grit or expertise on the penalty kill. Â Other than being apt in the faceoff circle, we just have not seen this from Mayers in his time with the Leafs. Â Good luck elsewhere Jamal.
-When the Leafs were down 2-1, Gustavsson kept Toronto in it. Â However, the team in front of him has a nasty habit of flipping him the bird and refusing to play defense. Â This makes it tough to judge the rookie tender fairly. Â Indeed, a swift survey of his numbers this season will suggest he’s been struggling (his numbers float around a 0.900 SV% and 3 GAA). Â However, the trained eye will have noticed the Swede’s ability to get in front of shots, cover ground in his crease with remarkable speed, and exhibit stretches of superb play. Â More importantly, one just has to picture Toronto’s netminder behind a capable defense to realize his statistics would be much better. Â The Leafs will resign their prizedÂ acquisitionÂ and give him every chance to prove himself in the next few years. Â Fellow fans, he’s got the talent. Â Let’s just show him some patience.
-On that note, somebody please slap Ron Wilson for pulling Gustavsson. Â Then slap him again because he considers Rickard Wallin a NHL player (yes, the title of this blog was in jest). Â But seriously Ron, pulling Gustavsson in a 2-goal game in which he is standing on his head? Â We can’t know for sure what he was thinking, but the best guess is that he wanted to rest his goalie for Vancouver tomorrow. Â With that one move the coach made it quite clear to his players that he had given up for the night. Â How did he expect his team to respond? Â The next two periods were miserable to watch as Zach Parise and co. took the lead and then suffocated their lifeless opposition. Â A few lucky goals to end the night don’t change this awful coaching decision by Wilson.
The Leafs face the Canucks tomorrow night. Â Let’s hope for some consistent energy and a good game on CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada. Â Expect the incessant trade-talk to continue for the next few weeks as the trade deadline approaches. Regardless, Toronto needs to focus and begin building a hard-working identity to provide them with a foundation heading into next season.
As always, interested to hear your thoughts.