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Scrivens won’t go away and stakes his claim in win over Panthers

Let’s be honest:  the way things have gone for Dale Tallon’s once-promising Panthers this season, the Maple Leafs should beat that kind of struggling team at home—even in a so-called “trap” game.  We had a lot on the line, they didn’t.  Florida has some really talented young players but this is a team that now evidently needs new owners and with a lame-duck coach (because someone always has to be a scapegoat when a team seems to slide backwards after making the playoffs the year before), they aren’t playing for much these days.

So while I don’t put much stock in these games, it was significant that the Leafs were able to come from behind and win a game that keeps them in a promising position in the Eastern Conference standings.  Too often in the past they played to the level of their opposition (well, they did again Tuesday night, in truth) and lost games that should have been in their grasp.  So perhaps this is another small sign of progress.

While Lupul’s big goals and some other industrious play (once the blue and white got their skating legs in the second of a road-and-back-home back-to-back) were obviously key, for me, the night was about Scrivens.  42 shots and beaten only twice, and at that, both on deflections off the skate of his own defensemen.  He staked his claim to stay in the hunt for the number-one job.  While I’m a Reimer enthusiast and feel he should be the ‘guy’ based on his three years with the team, what he has overcome and his body of work this season, I like that Scrivens is fighting for his time, too. We need to have two goalies that can win games for us down the stretch and into the playoffs, just like we’ll need to be ten-deep (which we are right now) on defense if we expect to advance come playoff time.

Both Scrivens and Reimer are motivated guys and both compete hard even on the nights when they are not on their “A” game.  For me, that’s impressive—and important. 

Could these guys lead us to a Stanley Cup?  I don’t quite believe that, but I do think they are fully capable of getting us to the playoffs and once there, we’ll see what they’ve got.  But they have done everything we could ask of them for the most part this season.  You may recall I wrote a week or so ago that one (or both) of Reimer and Scrivens had an opportunity to really shine and run with the job during this important stretch of games.  So far, both are doing that, and longer-term, it sure would help put an end to another summer of talk about what the Leafs need to do in goal, which, let’s face it, can get tiring.

I recognize that the Panthers are nowhere near an elite team right now, but the Leafs won, and at this point, even sloppy wins are better than a loss.  Bozak was instrumental in both Lupul markers, as was Kessel.  Ryan Hamilton contributed 15 good minutes.  Phaneuf scored, Gardiner had a lot of jump from the back end, though he was exposed in his own zone again as he has been on occasion in recent games (this time on Florida’s second goal).  The Leafs blocked some shots in the final minutes and Scrivens did the rest.

They’ve now come through a busy stretch, and played some good teams—and some not-so-good opponents.  But they earned 8 points out of 10 in the last five games, if I’m not mistaken.  And that’s nothing to sneeze at, considering teams the Leafs are jockeying for position with are also feeling the pressure of a playoff chase.

Now do you believe the playoffs are there for us?


  1. Michael,

    Love the blog. It seems as though the playoffs are going to happen. I hope that I am not jinxing them by saying that. The team continues to play mediocre hockey and make the most of it, most of the time. I never would have predicted that the rest of the teams in the East would be as awful as they are. Good thing that you only have to beat the teams behind you to keep your spot.

    I do wish that Scrivens or Reimer would play above and beyond where they are playing right now. Seize the net, and cement a claim to being number one. Maybe they will, I hope we don't end up with another Bester and Wregget situation. Both are ok, and have their backers. But, neither is good enough, or great enough really.

    I have felt lately that there isn't much to say about the team. Seems like we have covered all of this ground over and over. The defensive zone, the breakouts, the chemistry. It all feels a lot like trying to get some more out of your horse down the stretch, realizing that it doesn't have any more to give. Lets pray that the Leafs draw the Jets in the first round of the playoffs. A playoff series win sure will prove how close this group is to the Stanley Cup.

  2. Hey Michael,

    Interesting game, Lupul definitely showed his potential of being a good nominee for being named the next captain of the leafs.

    I didn't get the time but after the Saturday game I was going to pose a captaincy question to you as well.

    I wonder who out of our current young players and prospects could be a future captain? Kadri? Reimer? Reilly? Finn? Percy? Gardiner? Frattin? Franson? Scrivens? Guy not yet drafted/traded for?

    That series with the Bruins was a real test and Reimer definitely stood his ground in the 2 games. It's a shame that leafs named bozak are the only ones able to score in the shootout these days. The rest are too predictable at it.

    Playoffs? They are definitely there for us, but nothing is set yet. We must beat Carolina on Thursday and try to replicate what we did with the bruins in the series with the rangers and the devils - then I can say that we have pushed back the teams nipping at our heals and be quite likely to make it into the playoffs.

    What do u and anyone else here think?

    Scarborough Anon.

  3. Hey Mike,

    Haven't posted here in a while, but just wanted to share some thoughts. I like the tandem of Reimer and Scrivens right now. They both have their shaky moments, but they give us a chance to win, which is more than we've had in a long time. Reimer seems like the more positionally sound player, but sometimes it seems like Scrivens has these flashes of games here and there where he just looks great, but then follows them with some shaky play as well.

    One thing I will say, I don't think this team is 10 deep on D. In the sense that this team has at least 10 defensemen between the NHL and the AHL clubs? Fine, they're 10 deep just like every team in the league is 10 deep.

    In the sense that they have 10 NHL capable defensemen that are capable of being anything more than the 6/7th d-man? That's a stretch. Even assuming we have a healthy Liles, that's a stretch. Beyond Phaneuf and Gunnarsson, the defense is bad. Franson has shown his offensive chops, but he still struggles at time defensively, and hasn't really shown that he can handle second pairing assignments. Fraser is a 3rd pairing guy. Not more. Gardiner has been dreadful defensively since returning to the big club. I have no doubt he can be and will be a 2nd pairing kinda guy eventually, but he isn't right now. Liles is probably fit to play the second pairing, but preferably with someone better than him to carry the defensive responsibility. Kostka, Holzer, Blacker, Komisarek, and the rest, simply aren't fit for anything more than the role of a 7th guy who can fill in as a replacement in injuries.

    This team has a dearth of quality defensemen, despite a wealth of depth guys. Calling the team 10-deep when there really are only 2 guys who would fit as starters in a playoff top 4 is a bit misleading. We're probably 10-deep in 3rd pairing guys though, so there's that I guess

  4. The answer to your fiest question "Could these guys lead us to a Stanley Cup?" is an obvious "no". Not yet, and not with this team. But, as they are both young and still learning, within a few years you never know.

    Put the question another way and the answer is very different. "Could these guys lead the Hawks or Ducks to a Stanley Cup?" Based don their play and numbers, I think the majority would say yes.

    As for last night's game, a win is always good, and we need to be able to win those types of games.

    Kadri looked "normal", he can't hold that kind of superior play for a whole season... can he?

    Phaneuf's goal sort of made us forget his defensive mistakes, Frattin needs to get going again and why has Gardiner forgotten how to play defence? We all know he can skate, pass and shoot, but he hasn't been defending well at all.

    Kessel played very well in my mind, no goals but a beauty assist and a very nice defensive play to break up a breakaway.

    Lupul, as I've written here before doesn't "blend in", when he's on the ice, everyone knows it. Same can be said for Kessel and Kadri.

    The first round is coming this year, and it's not only us Leafs fans who say it.

  5. Funny you say that, Jim. I feel much the same about having covered all this stuff before. (In fact, I've been thinking about taking a break from VLM. When you start to feel like you are just saying the same things over and again, it's probably time to step back, before readers just tune out...)

    As you know, I've tried to take a hopeful stance this season. I've said for months (years, actually) that the East is really middlish.

    I don't pretend we're a great team. But there are signs of progress. The playoffs are what count- and where weaknesses are exposed. We'll see. Thanks Jim.

  6. I'm quite hopeful about the playoffs, Scarborough Anon. Like you, I assume nothing, but I have to figure we can play well enough down the stretch to earn a spot. For Carlyle, it's always a work in progress. There won't be any 'resting on laurels'. He'd be the first to say we haven't won a thing, yet. As I said to Jim, the playoffs are when you really find out what kind of team you have. Thanks Scarborough Anon. Stay in touch.

  7. Darryl- I think your comment about the defense is fair. Yes, I'll make the argument that we are "10-deep", but will in the same breath concede an awful lot of them are replaceable parts. That said, I think we are indeed in much the same boat as most NHL teams in that regard, in the new, cap-constrained, parity-filled NHL. It seems to be the way it is.

    I think the guys you mentioned can all play a role. As I acknowledged above, the playoffs is where cracks in the foundation show. So we'll see the proof in the pudding soon enough! Thanks Darryl.

  8. Kadri sure has been on a mission this season, portuguese leaf. (You're right, we can't expect him to put up three points every night...) I sense he's trying to prove a lot of people wrong. The challenge for him will be to play this way throughout his career- not just when he is in a 'prove people wrong' mode. I'm sure he has the drive to accomplish that, but consistency will be the key for him long-term.

    I probably have more faith in Reimer and Scrivens (especially Reimer) than many, but I like their mental make-up, as best I can determine what I think they have "inside". There are certainly more skilled goalies out there. Who knows if they are the long-term answer, but for now, they are playing with heart.

    I don't need to say anything about Lupul. Everyone can see, like Kadri, what he is bringing to the lineup. Thanks portuguese leaf.

  9. I'd be shocked if we miss the playoffs at this point. With 16 games left we need less than one point per game against a lot of beatable teams. If that's not do-able I don't know what is. Reimer should be the number one guy. He's the better goalie. He's younger, with more NHL experience. Rotating starts in the midst of a 7 game series is bad idea. Carlyle said in a pre-game interview that he had a 1a/1b situation in Anaheim that worked for the entire season until the playoffs. We saw it last year in Vancouver to an extent, even though goaltending was hardly a problem for them against the Kings. Either way in the mind of Carlyle if Reimer hasn't established himself yet than he's probably really close regardless of last night's game against the Panthers.

  10. I'd kind of be surprised if Carlyle did not go with one goalie in the playoffs, Anon. But that said, he has experimented with the lineup all season. Who knows what the playoffs will bring- and what goalie might have a hot hand?

  11. "Could these guys lead us to a Stanley Cup?"

    Perhaps not lead,but they are stil relatively young and they are probably not at their peak yet. Teams have won the Stanley Cup with less.

    I think they will get better. They could become a terrific tandem over the next five years and maybe even solidify the Leafs goal for 7 or 8 years.

    To refer back to some "Vintage Leaf Memories"...over the next 5 years I think they could become as good a tandem as Felix Potvin and Damien Rhodes. That tandem went to the conference finals. I could even see them becomiong as dependable as Andy Moog & Reggie Lemelin were for the 1989/90 Bruins. If they do, we just won't have to think much about the goaltending position for a long time. Won't that be good?

    The nice thing about our current goaltend situation is that it isn't totally dependant upon one guy. If either guy goes down, for 7 or 10 games, there is no panic. Most of us feel that there is a very good chance that the team still get some wins in the interim and the playoff chances will remain intact.

    Young guys that get along and both give you a chance to win...that's a good place to be.

  12. I see both guys, DP, as capable, sometimes better than that, sometimes just OK. The bigger question, as you allude to, is what can they become? Is their "ceiling" high? We'll see over time.

    I well remember the goaltending tandems you cite-Potvin and Rhodes did just fine (Felix had his struggles, but like Reimer had nice 'bounce-back' ability) and Moog/Lemelin had their flaws but did indeed take that Bruins team a long way.

    I appreciate your historical references. Thanks DP.

    1. "Is their "ceiling" high? We'll see over time."

      They are actually doing pretty well already...17th and 19th in save% with .918.

      If they can both take it above .920 (just .002 better) and get the shots down with some improvements by the defensemen, then the wins should start piling up and they will both be in the top of the league.

  13. The playoffs are in sight - can there really be only 14 games left in the season? - but a look at the standings shows it's not yet a sure thing. We're seven points up on the #9 team, the currently surging Islanders. The Canes have 3 games in hand on us, so points on Thursday are a must. What I like about this year's team is that it doesn't feel like there's a "18 wheeler" collapse in the works. If we go 50/50 to the end, we should be OK.
    There's lots to like in the development of both goalies, to my eyes. Carlyle alluded to the fact that Scrivens has really staked a claim to the top spot, even though management seems to have decided Reimer's the guy. I think they're both playing better than last year, and I feel they're both keen on improving and learning. Like so much in Leaflandia, it bodes well for the future!
    Where I'm starting to get antsy, as playoff hockey is kicking in, is our defence. Am I the only one who now feels uneasy whenever Gardiner is on the ice? In every game he's played, we've seen him outmuscled, outhustled, and left flipping and flopping like a fish on ice by some speedy forward. He's been directly responsible for what - a goal a game? Certainly he's given up prime scoring chances in every game he's played. I know we have no choice now - he's up to stay - but they might as well have given Komi another look. (Michael - you're not the only one who's concerned he keeps repeating himself!)
    Random thoughts: the other area of concern for me is our inability to consistently get two lines going. I like the idea of JvR/Kadri/Kulemin - hope that's what we try on Thursday. There's no question the Lupul/Bozak/Kessel combo was like old friends reuniting. Hamilton doesn't look out of place at all. And how about some praise for Phil? Not only did he have a role in setting up both goals (though I don't think he got an assist on the first one), but that back check was awesome!

  14. I'm also living 'happily' (relatively) with our goaltending tandem right now, Gerund O'. You and I are seeing young Jake the same way. Guy oozes talent but I still need to see defensemen that can handle the physical realities of grinding playoff hockey.

    You raises fair concerns (I sense we all have them) but they are somehow winning enough to be in the chase, despite the inconsistencies, giveaways and roster flaws.

    Yes, Phil can beck check- and it will be even better when it happens so much we won't feel a need to mention it! Thanks Gerund.