Maple Leafs Recap:
1/26 @ New York Rangers
I am not going to beat a dead horse from Thursday's game against the Islanders. I didn't get to see much of the game, but saw enough as Scrivens allowed several more easy goals between the legs. Toronto had built a 3-1 lead all to be completely destroyed due to a spotty defensive effort and poor, inexperienced goaltending.
Say what you want about Thursday's ugly loss; Leaf's being tired after an impressive win the night before in Pittsburgh, or a little bit of a "let down" against an inferior opponent...big deal! The Leafs played lousy hockey and took several steps back after passing a big test the night before.
Tonight, I don't know where to begin. Although the Leafs took a 2-0 lead after the first period, the game itself looked like men against boys. The rest of the game, there was nothing but smaller bodies in white being knocked around like rag dolls by bigger, larger blue ones. On top of that, the Leafs played the remainder of the game just sitting back waiting for the Rangers to finally get their game going.
Toronto's defensive core was just plan soft. On NY's first goal, Reimer had made the initial saves in tight, and there were Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel, becoming spectators instead of getting involved with the play. The Rangers, crashing the net hard, finally found the loose puck to put it past Reimer who was down and out looking for the puck.
It was just a matter of time until the stronger Rangers would tie the game and eventually take the lead. Not at all surprised at the outcome of this one.
• Impressed with the play of James van Riemsdyk and Mark Fraser. In my opinion, they were the only two skaters who really wanted to actually win this game.
• I love Matt Frattin's speed and skill. He is an exciting player to watch. But he better learn how to play in the defensive zone. Moreover, the penalty he took chasing a Ranger deep into his own zone with a hook was terrible. Frattin has had plenty of chances to solidify his position on the Leafs roster, and he needs to learn the NHL is not a backyard pond hockey game for God's sake!
• Since I am on penalties at the moment, what in the world was Bozak thinking playing baseball in his own zone late in the period? Those kinds of penalties, and the timing of it is unacceptable. It just showed more inexperience and pressure getting to a younger player who has been around long enough to know better.
• Carl Gunnarsson played as if he was just plain scared. He shied away from the puck several times, and avoided hits all night. Unlike Mark Fraser, who was not afraid to take a hit and make a play. Perhaps when Jake Gardiner is ready to return, Gunnarsson can play against smaller guys in the AHL and learn not to be afraid to take a hit and make a play.
• James Reimer is back! Let's hope he can keep his game going into Tuesday's game at Buffalo...aka the "House of Horrors"! Reimer was sharp tonight despite the 5-2 score. Reimer made several great stops on Rangers forwards who picked their spots but only to be denied by the quick glove. Reimer's performance was one of the few bright spots to take notice of heading forward.
• Giving credit where credit is due, heck of a performance by the veteran Mike Komisarek. With the Leafs defense being so darn soft, Komisarek's job looks somewhat safe for now.
• Still waiting for Mike Kostka to make a play. He has played decently in his first four games, but tonight looked way too passive. Similar to Gunnarsson, hesitant to step up and make a play.
• The main reason for the lost tonight was the play by several of the Toronto defensemen. Beside the play of Mark Fraser, who actually looked like a defensemen, the rest of the men in white did not take the body, constantly lost battles along the boards and similar to Thursday night, self-destructed in the third period.
• Back-to-back third period disasters is something the entire team needs to embrace. Going into Buffalo will not be easy, as I recall one of Toronto's most memorable and most agonizing third period losses just late last season in Buffalo.
• Studying the box score from tonight, Dion Phaneuf and Mike Kostka both a minus 4. Not good! You get a great effort from Reimer, and your top defensive pairing are a bunch of softies in front of you. That must be disappointing.
What do you think Leaf's fans? Are Toronto's defensemen just plain soft, or is it another problem...Personally, I think they are all way too offensive minded. Tonight, most guys in white just did not want to do the dirty work along the boards. Teams like the Rangers, Kings, and Bruins to name a few, pride on the fact they are hard to play against, because they make you work for the puck. Leafs did not want to work hard enough tonight, which explains another abysmal finish.
While I love the play of JVR so far, I am still critical of the trade that sent a big, young defenseman the other way in Luke Schenn. Schenn was a guy who would throw the body around, and was not afraid to get physical along the boards. While JVR will help the team develop and mature, the Leafs will miss the presence of a truly physical defenseman like Schenn.
Forget goaltending right now, GM Nonis should start paying attention to his soft defense he has on the ice if he hasn't already. Even the eventual return of Gardiner does not solve the issue either, because Gardiner plays like a forward as well.
What about the Leafs and Canadiens getting together and making a trade with PK Subban heading to Toronto? Now that would be a deal worth giving up a first round pick and more for. Wishful thinking? Probably, but Montreal needs some scoring depth, which Toronto has plenty of.