The Leafs last played to a degrading and debilitating loss last Saturday to the Rangers. A game where their early season problems manifested once again. Those being:
- The inability to score first or in the first period
- Forget secondary scoring, where's the tertiary scoring?
- The lack of trust in there goaltender following a soft goal
- Forwards not coming back for defensive coverage
- Not being able to clear pucks over the blueline from 5 feet inside it
- Players being arbitrary healthy scratches
- John Mitchell not hitting the net and being somehow exempt from being scratched
- Jason Blake shooting from 1 degree angles and thinking no one has ever tried a wrap-around and what a great plan it would be
All of this may sound frightfully similar to last year. And the biggest change is that quite a bit of scoring left with Nik Antropov, Pavel Kubina and (not-so-much) Dominic Moore. Not to mention the offense that left with unsigned AHL players that signed elsewhere. Here's a good time to mention that Anton Stralman is looking pretty serviceable in Columbus. Not looking any worse than, say, Jeff Finger or Garnet Exelby. Honestly, the money playing on the back-end is making the people who signed them look horribly inept. The only signing starting to take a little shape is Beauchemin. After a horrid first week, he has settled down and is only turning the puck over at the offensive blueline 2 or 3 times a game. Most of those turn overs are actually a change in the coaching style this season. I've heard that Wilson is asking all(good grief, WHY?) of the defense to stand up on the boards and keep the puck in the offensive zone. This is landed a few of the defense in hot water and a slash in the minus column. The hard part will be watching players that are not already good at this(Beauchemin, Kaberle) trying to get better at it(Komisarek, everyone else). I think that Burke thought this might be a little easier transition that it has actually been. Racking up 7 losses probably wasn't in the Powerpoint Presentation at the opening day meetings. The last thing I want to comment on is the obvious kid gloves being used with Luke Schenn. They constantly have him changing partners and monitor his time. That's all well and good, keep the faith in him. But for crying out loud stop switching sides. Especially when I know that there is an obvious push from within the coaching staff for Schenn to improve offensively.
Oh, the picture I promised of the beard-in is above. I used my cell-camera which is almost as good as a burnt log writing on a flat rock. I know, it's not the camera's fault.
Last year the Leafs iced a team that at least entertained and tried like hell until the final horn. The year's Leafs look lost, like "the system" has somehow eluded them. Are there any quick fixes to Burke's allusion to the post-season? A few, really. How about working on penalty killing, for one? Ron Wilson joking about icing the puck is the first time I thought, "You know that you're actually making fun of your staff and not the players, right?". And the endless debate on whether there is a problem with Vesa Toskala(there is) isn't helping the fact that the forwards don't backcheck deep enough into there own end. We are having the same problem as last year of turning the puck over 6 feet inside our own blueline when trying to get it out.......5 on 5. For all the changes to personnel, the system is still either not being adhered to or the system doesn't work. Team defense is not a concept that is being embraced in Toronto. Half-fullers will tell you that the team (mostly the defense) needs more time to "gel". Are you kidding me? October is the month as the Leafs have a few times with 5 days between games. Bag skates are something my Midget coach did when we sucked. Mostly because in 1986 there was no such thing as a "system" in minor hockey. When you have guys making millions to play a game, do you really think that a bag skate is going to "wake them up"? Hopefully being down after tonight until a Saturday rematch against the Rangers, they can work on the defensive play that has made Toskala look so horrid.
In the meantime (and in-between time) are there any bloggers willing to join me in my Beard Protest? I didn't have the presence of mind to take a picture, but I will later tonight and put it up with this post. Is anyone out there good with Photoshop? I was thinking of using whatever pic I get up as a new banner(or at least an avatar).
Each fight in last night's game ended up giving Montreal momentum and their fourth line dissected the defense and was huge on two goals.
Toronto's face-off percentage was atrocious outside of Wayne Primeau, who had a 78% on the night.
John Mitchell missed the net an estimated 314 times. If he backs through the slot with his legs spread one more time I'm writing an angry letter. Also, he was under 50% in the faceoff circle and a minus 1
Beauchemin and Schenn being a minus 2 is hopefully not a sign of things to come.
Mikhail Grabovski had an assist and was a plus 1 with 20:14 of ice time. Put him with Stalberg for a shift or two, you won't be disappointed. (Or at least get Kulemin back in the line up)
Do we really need Rosehill AND Orr?