There is no real good time to give up a goal in a close game, but giving one up early in the first period—and late in any period—are among the worst times.
Monday’s game against the Thrashers saw the Leafs give up three in the above categories. That’s not what they needed.
Momentum is so important in sports and can often change in the course of a game—or a season. When the Leafs scored those two power-play goals in the third period to draw within two, you could just see the sudden jump in their legs—and heads. Versteeg had a good opportunity with about four and a half minutes remaining. Then Bozak had an opening but tried to make a nice play for a tap in to Versteeg. Grabovski and Mitchell also came close but the Leafs ran out of time.
It was that close to being a different game at the end. The final score did—and didn’t—reflect the way the game went.
While the Thrashers were caught frozen in the headlights in most of the last half of the final period trying to protect a diminishing lead, the Leaf mini-surge is a reminder that it wouldn’t take that much, perhaps, to see the team start to score and win a few games in a row.
The Leafs must lead the league (I really have no idea, it just feels that way) in having their shots blocked. Every game we seem to hear that the opposition has blocked “x” number of shots.
It’s not that the Leafs aren’t getting shots, or chances. They are. But they simply aren’t finishing as often as they need to. Hey, the NBA Raptors brought in a shooting "expert" years ago. Never mind...
Another obvious issue is the continuing run of turnovers. The almost season-long problem is contagious, and while the end of the third period was exciting, it was hard not to notice the minus “stats” littered throughout the Leaf line-up when the night was over.
Makes sense, though surely they knew he needed to get stronger before now, eh? (Would he need to get stronger, right now, if his shots were going in?)
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, there are bigger issues than Kadri’s development in Leafland, among them, the need for Gustavsson to play out of his head for the next few weeks to get the Leafs in a consistently confident frame of mind going into games. I believe the guy is capable, but for whatever reason, he didn’t play out of his head Monday night.
If the players feel they don’t have to score 4 or 5 a game to win, they may just start filling the net, though that's not a prediction.
Unfortunately, they now have a week, basically, to think about the first 33 games of the season.
I’d be interested in hearing what readers think about the (presumably) temporary move of Lebda up to the wing. Yes, he played there for a number of games with his previous team, the Red Wings. But do you see that as a good move, desperation, or a sign of an obvious lack of depth on the forward lines?
It was good to see Mitchell get one, on a rare power play opportunity. The challenge for him seems to be earning minutes, then keeping his minutes by consistently playing the way he did to earn those minutes.
I mentioned in a recent post that other GM’s have done more, faster, with less, than Burke and the Leafs have, given that Burke is now into his third season with the Leafs. As I also mentioned at the time, Rick Dudley in
is a very good example of a team in worse shape than the Leafs two years ago actually leapfrogging ahead of them—at least for the time being. Atlanta
They have good goaltending (so far), some useful players from the Cup-champion Black Hawks (including Sopel and Eager) and some talented youngsters (Little, Kane, Enstrom, etc.)
It’s a reminder to the Leafs, Kadri—and Leaf fans— that it takes time for most youngsters to develop into the players they can be. (Look at Tavares on the
Island. He was the best player in the draft by a mile, everyone saying he should have been allowed to be drafted a year before his time. Now, he hardly gets a mention, with the Islanders struggling. But he will still be a top talent.) Time, patience—and circumstance— are so important. And hard work, too
Byfuglien, another ex-Hawk, kind of came out of nowhere, at least in the minds of fans in most NHL markets, in last spring’s playoffs. Now, as a Thrasher, and a defenseman, no less, he is flat out emerging as a bona fide high-end talent, a legitimate impact player.
Leaf fans will remember Modin as a young guy with the Leafs. Big, fast, with tantalizing potential. Yes, to fans, he was very frustrating at times. We wondered if he would ever fulfill his promise. Would he be the big, skilled winger that we craved for Sundin?
Well, to a certain extent, he did. He’s never quite reached that elite “star” level, but he has been on a Cup winner, and at 36, has had a lengthy NHL career.
Two goals for him against one of his former teams no doubt brought back memories.
I’m a bit stunned that Lamoriello has not already stepped behind the bench in
. Could it be that he wants to let the season “go” and grab a draft choice? Surely not. New Jersey
But if the Devils do "earn" a high pick, and New Jersey selects a talented goal scorer, hopefully the player will eventually be more responsible defensively than Kovalchuk—currently a minus 21 on the season for the Devils. This must feel like all those years in
for Kovalchuk. He wanted to go to a winner—or was it about the money? He could have achieved both a year ago when Atlanta offered him 100 million, and it wasn’t enough for him. Atlanta
Are the Senators poised to turn a corner, or are they heading south? Alfredsson, now 38, has been a hockey warrior for so long for them, but without consistent goal scoring, a patchwork line-up and injured goalies, it’s hard to fathom them making a run to the playoffs.
Should we be surprised if we see changes behind the bench in Jersey,
Ottawa and ? Calgary