February 16, 2013
Maple Leafs 3, Ottawa Senators 0
Did I say Ottawa Senators at the top? I meant to say the Binghamton Senators, as the visitors were playing without several of its key players like Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, Peter Regin and Guillaume Latendresse.
Well perhaps maybe not so much the last two names listed above, but definitely the first two.
Despite all the injuries to the opposition coming into this game and following a woeful effort in Carolina on Thursday, the Maple Leafs played another poor game tonight on home ice. Well, perhaps at least the first forty or so minutes were poorly played. For the Leafs to allow for that to happen on home ice is purely unacceptable, and they are lucky to have Ben Scrivens playing so well in the absence of James Reimer.
The Leafs did in fact score the first goal, something that the team failed to do so numerous times last season and much of the seasons prior. It just goes to show how important scoring the first goal of any game is. Fraser McLaren got credit for the goal that seemed to pinball of a defender, off McLaren then down through the pads of Craig Anderson. Call it a lucky goal, but it was a break that the team needed at least until the third period.
After the first tally, the Leafs were constantly on their heels, chasing the puck around and watching several youngsters like Eric Gryba, David Dziurzynski and Derek Grant trying to make plays and settle in nicely during their NHL debuts. Those three guys looked very good and very comfortable in their first games. I would be impressed if I were a Senators fan tonight.
After the horn sounded ending the second period, I got the feeling as if the Maple Leafs did not care if they won the game or not.
Still, I cannot remember the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won, or stole a "goaltenders victory". For the second straight game, Scrivens was nothing short of spectacular and proved without a doubt that he was the best player on the ice. Scrivens came up huge in the second period with perfect positioning saves, including an outstanding read on a snapper close in the slot that he ended up sliding over just in time to knock away with the shoulder on what seemed to be a sure goal.
So credit Scrivens on helping the lackluster Leafs earn two points in a game where the Leafs were badly outplayed and out-skated for much of the night.
Also credit the young Senators, who despite missing several scoring chances played a much better game than Toronto did. Unfortunate for them, Mr. Scrivens was up to the task every time they tested him.
However, I was much more pleased with the play of the Buds during the third period. They must have realized that their offensive game was atrocious, so they did everything they could to help prevent the Senators from scoring. Bodies in blue and white were quickly taking away shooting lanes and helped block more shot attempts that Scrivens did not have to stop. Usually when you do that and work that hard at the end of a close game, you are rewarded with an empty net goal as icing on the cake. Sure enough, the icing on a lopsided cake came off the stick of JM Liles.
Finally, when the Leafs did manage to get the puck in the Ottawa end of the ice, they were able to cycle the puck effectively and then generated an insurance goal off shot-pass from Dion Phaneuf that was redirected in off the skate of Tyler Bozak. I am not sure if that was a good goal, but Bozak knew exactly what he was doing on the play. And like I said before, those guys up in the Official Review Booth are just flipping a coin on every replay they see. Luckily for the Maple Leafs and Bozak, the flip finally came up in their favor.
I am still not very pleased with the effort tonight. In the second period, Phil Kessel and Clarke MacArthur both had chances to shoot the puck in prime areas, but elected to pass instead. Both passes were way off the mark and a couple good chances were erased.
Hockey Night in Canada commentator Jim Hughson made a comment that perhaps the presence of Craig Anderson and his play so far this season was forcing the Leafs into making perfect plays to beat him. I think that was outrageous if that in fact is the truth to the Leafs not shooting. Not throwing the puck on net takes away any chances of scoring. And who in the world is Craig Anderson? He is not a bad goalie, but the journeyman backstop has been with four teams since the 2006 season and has never really been a standout goaltender in the NHL. I see him as a nice fit for teams waiting on younger talent to develop or for a team in need of goaltending help due to injuries. For example, he would be a nice fit in Calgary right now. Let's not make him out to be Marty Brodeur, Patrick Roy or even Jonathan Quick here!
Kings 2, Columbus Blue Jackets 1 (Friday)
I was expecting two points and a victory on home ice after four days off before hosting the lowly Jackets at Staples Center. And the Kings got them.
What was most impressive was the way the Kings were able to completely shut down the Jackets, holding them to only 12 shots on goal against backup Jonathan Bernier. Without experienced blue line help, guys like Keaton Ellerby, Davis Drewiske and Jake Muzzin have filled in very nicely, and deserve the playing time that they did not get last year (Drewiske and Muzzin I mean).
I still would like to see Lombardi make a play for another able-bodied defenseman to help at least push the Kings into the playoffs and a chance to defend their title with dignity.
While I am happy with the two points that were badly needed out of this game, I just want to see some more offensive success. I actually fell asleep for most of the second period, then woke up hearing the train horn after Kyle Clifford's goal at the end of the second.
Mike Richards' deflection goal later in the third pretty much killed any chances of Columbus making a comeback, although former King Jack Johnson helped set up a very late goal sending the Kings into somewhat of a frenzy as the final seconds ticked off.
I wonder if the LA Kings organization were able to hand off some hardware to JJ? The guy deserves some credit getting the Kings to where they got last season both with his play and his services.
I will be in attendance at the United Center for tomorrow's matinee in Chicago.
In the meantime, I must give some credit to Darryl Sutter for giving Quick some time off finally and allowing Bernier to get some quality playing time in before Sunday's huge tilt against the Blackhawks.
Hopefully Quick will be well rested and ready to go as the defending champions look to be the first team to knock off the mighty 'Hawks in regulation and do it on Chicago's home ice. As Stanley Cup champs, I expect them too!
More tomorrow as well as some comments on the NHL's realignment plans...