Leafs Lack of Leadership Hampering Results?
Well, another big game for the Leafs on Saturday fell the way side once again.
Toronto got a promising start from a nice backhand goal from Joffrey Lupul, who finally returned to the lineup after missing 25 games. But the Maple Leafs could not build on the early lead and completely fell asleep in the second period.
Once again, Korbinian Holzer was out of position, forgetting all about Antti Miettinen standing alone next to an open cage. Give Miettinen some credit on that play however, he waited until the right time for the puck to drop below the crossbar and swatted it in from mid air as it was about waste high.
Someone in the Leafs organization must have a real soft spot for the German kid, because there is no way he should be skating on one of the three defensive pairings at this level. Mike Kostka and JM Liles are much better options than Holzer, yet they too have not helped matters that much over the past week.
Ben Scrivens was the Leafs "messiah" for much of the period, until he too made a couple big gaffes losing the puck behind the net and then allowing a wrap-goal to Blake Wheeler.
Yes, the Leafs battled back to tie things up, but nobody could step up late in the game, in overtime or in the shootout period to deliver a much needed second point on the night.
Randy Carlyle has done all he can with this team thus far. It is now up to them to fight through the adversity and battle out for a playoff berth that the club so desperately needs for future growth. The problem is not with the front office nor behind the bench, it is the players on the ice.
At the present time, the Leafs have a very weak leader on the ice in Dion Phaneuf, but after him it does not get much better. I had been hoping that Lupul would provide some leadership to the team, and he somewhat did so scoring a couple key goals and adding some punch to the recent lackluster offense. However, I see him pulling a "Phil Kessel-like" show of emotion as he just missed tipping in a shot past Ondrej Pavelec in the first period. Instead of getting in position for a rebound or a loose puck, Lupul threw his eyes to the heavens in disgust that he had missed an opportunity. It actually was not that easy of a tip-in. If he had knocked it in, it would have been a spectacular play. He didn't really have that great of a chance on the play.
With guys showing negative emotion and small temper-tantrums on the ice, it should be Phaneuf's job to calm them down. Obviously, it has not helped because too many guys are showing it. In fact, Phaneuf's frustrated, yet questionable instigator against Andrew Ladd last Tuesday spoke volumes of his own maturity.
Right now, this team is a bunch of misfits, all trying to play their own game and not so much a team game as it had been doing well in January. This aspect was very evident during the four-goal barrage of the Jets in the second period. The defensemen were not working hard at taking the bodies down low, and the forwards were circling around the blue line like sickened vultures looking for a break out pass like those guys I play with in rat hockey.
Where has the accountability and defensive mind gone over the past week? The team has all of a sudden reverted back to its ugly, non-responsible self as it had under Ron Wilson.
Right now, I am not sure what to do. I am glad I am not the one in charge, because if this team cannot muster up a couple victories against bottom feeders Tampa Bay and Buffalo this week, then there may be some significant changes in personnel, and it has nothing to do with the coach, staff or front office. I believe the Leafs have the right people in place as far as support, but the guys on the ice need to grow up, mature a little and kick it in the ass.
Fans in Toronto have had enough of this Mickey Mouse approach to hockey. Myself included and I happen to live in Chicago!
Big Win for Mark Chipman and True North
Not sure if anyone saw the camera angle on the Winnipeg Jets ownership box. I don't mind folks getting excited over a win, especially when it is the owner or someone deeply involved emotionally and financially in a project. But my God, I have never seen anyone so pumped over the Atlanta Thrashers before. I still don't think the 500 fans (maybe a little exaggerated) in Atlanta miss the team that much.
And for the love of God, why do people still take these shootouts so seriously? What is the point of having an overtime or shootout if a regulation or overtime victory is the same amount of points as winning a shootout? It doesn't make sense. I would rather see a team play a ten minute overtime with five on five, then if someone scores, you can go crazy Mr. Chipman!
Next, we will compare Mr. Chipman to Howard Dean's energetic outburst while on his presidential campaign in Iowa (occupied mostly by weak minded Chicago Cubs fans) back in 2004...
nah, just kidding. On to the LA Kings instead...
Kings vs. Coyotes; Pacific Division Showdown
I cannot stress how important it is for these two teams to earn some big points Monday and Tuesday night at Staples. But with the Kings hosting both games, it puts a little more pressure on them to grab these four points away from Phoenix.
If LA can get both of these games, it should help solidify a playoff spot down the stretch into April. However, the defending champs cannot afford to lose both or drop three points to one in the standings.
In the meantime, I still think that the Kings will be alright taking three of the four, or even splitting the two games, but the Kings should try and be greedy and go after both games and bury Phoenix.
Coach Darryl Sutter better have both goaltenders ready to go for these two contests, or else he should be thrown out of LA, despite the Stanley Cup run last spring.
There is no more time to fool around with his ridiculous goaltending merry-go-round. Jonathan Bernier was superb in goal Saturday against the Sharks, so he should get the call Monday and then Jonathan Quick should be ready to go Tuesday. Whoever plays better, gets Dallas on Thursday.
So, a big four nights for the Stanley Cup champs, hosting three division games at Staples. Time to step it up once again...