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As long as Game 2 in Boston doesn’t go like Game 1 did for the Maple Leafs….

Because I was “on the road” (Wegz Stadium bar) to be part of a special “live” podcast for “Leaf Matters” hosted my We Want a Cup, I am not posting what is a normal column on the heels of the Game 1 loss in Boston.

I’ll simply mention a couple of things, and if you’d like to chime in, please do so in the comments section:

  • I liked the Leafs early on; thought they were able to play with the Bruins in terms of physicality.  They showed good composure, I felt, through most of the opening period.
  • I liked their special teams effort (1 for 2 on the power play in the first period, and they almost killed off both Boston penalties) but yes, the very late Boston marker to make it 2-1 changed everything.
  • My guess is there will be some lineup changes, though it was not only the “lesser light” Leafs who struggled as this game went on, and Boston showed why they have been the better team in recent years.  (It’s never the “stars” who will sit, and that’s because the coach knows he needs those guys, as they will likely be the ones he will depend on to produce offensively if the Leafs have any chance to show something as this series moves forward…)
  • The hits on Grabovski (the flying elbow to the head that was not called in the first period; the crunching and very legal side hit in the third ) told us all we needed to know about the kind of series this will be from the Bruins' perspective.  Once they got going, they hit, hit and hit some more.  Legal, illegal, doesn’t matter.  They intend to outmuscle us, and we will need more than Orr and MacLaren who show up ready to play physically.
  • Fans will want to see Gardiner in Game 2, I’m sure, though I’m not certain that addresses the issue of not being able to handle the Bruins forecheck.  Yes, he is a marvellous skater and can move the puck (and is calm under pressure).  Those are all crucial traits.  I just don’t know how he will respond to that kind of relentless checking, but hey, the Leafs “D” struggled as the night went on, so maybe he’ll get his shot.

I will say this: it’s one game.  I could go back through my memory bank and come up with examples of Game 1 lopsided losses (this one felt worse than 4-1 by the end…) where the team on the losing end came back and won the series.  (In fact, the Leafs did it in 1967, getting hammered by the Hawks and the Habs in both series that memorable spring before going on to win the Stanley Cup.)

However, I well recognize this is not 1967.  And we are a young team that has really not been playing consistently good hockey for several weeks now.

Those who follow VLM know there is one thing I’ve said here many times, and it is hardly startling news.  But it is true:  playoffs are a time when any flaws you have are exposed.

In Game 1, a lot of Leaf flaws were exposed, and it wasn’t just one guy on the blueline who I know a lot of fans will want to cite as the major culprit.  It went far beyond that and it would be narrow-thinking indeed to suggest the whole problem was one defenseman or our fourth-line wingers. (People can call for Gardiner, Frattin and Hamilton, and who knows, maybe that will help.  But I'm not convinced they will be somehow turn the tide...)

Game 2 is a chance for the Leafs to gain back something—pride, respectability, confidence, all things that they will need if they hope to upset the Bruins in the first round.

It was a long night on the road for this old Leaf guy, so I’m calling it a night soon.

Have your say…


  1. Gardiner absolutely needs to play in the next game. A lot of the Leafs problems with the Bruins forecheck were because they either couldn't beat the Bruins player to the puck (primarily Fraser, though Franson and Liles were nearly equally as guilty all game) or all they could do is chip up the boards to center ice where the Bruins defencemen could pass it right back into the zone while the Leafs were changing. This problem got worse as the game went on as the Leafs adjusted by having the forwards come down lower into the zone to try to help take the pressure off the D on the forecheck, but creating to large of a gap between the forward helping the D and the forwards trying to break out.

    Kostka and Fraser looked absolutely brutal all game long, and O'Byrne and Gardiner really need to come in next game.

    One final thought: Why play Orr and Maclaren (and to a lesser extent Fraser) if the only guy that's really going to get tough at the end of the game is Komarov? Except for one shift Orr and Maclaren looked wildly outmatched against every line the Bruins put out there against them, especially the Jagr line. I just can't understand the reasoning of letting a Jagr line vs. Orr/Maclaren line happen, as Boston will take that every time.

    1. Thanks, mapleleafmjt. I expect fans will want to see Gardiner. As I said in my post, I'm not sure he is the answer, but we'll see!

      End of the game toughness really means anything. The Leafs need to be hard to play against all night long, when the game is still in question. If newcomers to the lineup can do that, great.

  2. CBC is a laughing stock. The first opportunity to broadcast a Leafs game in 9 years and this is their response. Hockey Night in America. Can't even count on our own channel. No one is denying the defensive deficiencies, blocking half of a shot, all the giveaways. The Leafs hardly showed up and we saw it. We're homers, not blind. But CBC has to put their cigarettes out on our legs. Gotta make sure we get the Bruin's 30 hits in super slo-mo instead of the Leaf's 37.

    The producer of CBC should be castersted in front of a live audience in Dundas Square for all to see. To be made an example of. 
    It's not enough that the boys are down 4 -1. CBC needs to replay Grabo getting crushed twice instead of ever showing a clear view of Orr's savage, but warranted response. 

    Colton Orr was the best Leaf on the ice for the 3rd period. The Only Leaf. Grabo gets merked and who steps up? Colton. The Man who never backs down. Never skates away. Never lets Things go. Never turns the other cheek. Exemplifying the mean and nasty Blue and White that should be held to standard. 

    Yeah yeah, I take Hockey too seriously and it's just a game. You work a regular job every regular day outside in the sun or cold and Life's fine. You have a good girl and you have good friends but everybody wants more. So you get to watch your Boys on the Ice and all you want is for them to get a fair shake. You hope they beat those God damn bruins down and you hope some calls go your way. Some times it doesn't work out, so we wait for the next battle. You'd think the Canadian Broadcasting Company would show a little loyalty but corporate interests reign supreme. 

     Saturday's far away. 2 days straight of fairweathers wagging their fingers, huffing and puffing, muttering "I told you so." 

    Even Don didn't have our back, draped in yellow, proving his true colours. Or "Colors", I suppose.  A Real Man that a lot of us look up to turned his back on us tonight, but we'll soldier on. 

    I'm just rambling now, getting myself riled up thinking about Phaneuf around ten minutes into the third. Dion skated backwards, away from JVR getting mobbed by three or four Bruins. Our captain. Skating backwards, away from teammates in trouble, In the playoffs. I've never questioned his captaincy before that moment. 

    There were other Leafs who played hard. The usual suspects, Komarov, Fraser, mcclement, etc. but unless everybody displays the edge and the tenacity of those few, we won't escape round one. But they boys have it in them. 

    "If you can't beat 'em in the alley, you can't beat 'em on the ice."

    P.S. The Feature on Jagr. CBC really believes Toronto's fans and the National audience would rather watch Jagr skate around in skimpy shorts instead of re-playing Orr showing a Bruin what happens when you take Grabo down. Jagr in shorts. That's what they think we want as we drink our beers in front of our TVs. Jagr in shorts. 

    (Long time reader, first time writer. Castration comment was hyperbole, you get the idea)

    -Christian Pacifico

  3. The 'crunching hit' ice-landing for Grabovski looked like his head snapped back and I wonder if he might not have a really stiff neck in the next few days. If he can't move properly, we may say a young (big body) Colborne (but we'll probably miss Grabbo's improved faceoffs...

    I'm thinking that Clarke MacArthur got bounced around a bit (and took an overly aggressive penalty in response - at least in the eyes of the ref, but I doubt Randy was too pleased), so I'm wondering if Hamilton will get some ice. Perhaps the beef can be spread more throughout the lineup as a result. However, given the lack of offense, this may just be a good time to insert Frattin and hope he plays more physically.

    Was Franson on the bench because of an injury? I didn't see anything that made me think he was in the doghouse (though I did have to step out a few times, missing some of the play). Will we see O'byrne and/or Gardiner? The latter may depend upon Franson's status... O'Byrne may just find himself inserted because of his size and defensive ability to deal with big bodies (Lucic/Jagr) better than Kostka might.

    Bozak seemed fine on the faceoffs but there wasn't much shooting - woulda' been nice if he could've gotten one off on the breakaway. I did hear he was working on the shot machine a couple days ago, so wonder if his injury is affecting that more than other areas of his game.

    Wonder if the 'elbow to the head' will receive any discipline consideration... if MacArthur and Lupul sat out 2 games, I can't see how that 'targeting the head' wouldn't carry some punishment... should be interesting.

    Lotsa' random, disjointed thoughts... kinda' like the game we just saw from a Leafs perspective. Glad we have some options, since there's lotsa' room for improvement, notwithstanding the first period (that was fairly balanced before the late goal did it's harm).

    1. We know Bozak is playing hurt (and I sense other Leafs are as well) and yes, I'm sure that didn't help on his scoring chance. (Of course, the Bruins have been fighting through hurts as well...)

      I do expect roster shuffling. Regardless of who plays, we'll have to not give the puck up, and play hard- harder them we've had to play most nights against middlish Eastern Conference, regular-season opposition.

      As we've said here many times, the bar is a lot higher in the playoffs. If we were happy "just getting here" then fans will be OK with what the Leafs accomplished.

      If they want more (and I posted about this recently; it's natural to hope for more once you get to the playoffs), then the Leafs will need to step up their game. Thanks InTimeFor62.

  4. Through your frustration with the Corporation (and our friend Don- that was indeed a loud jacket!), I can detect that you were watching this encounter closely, Christian. You point out some of the, let's call them "concerning", elements of the Leaf performance Wednesday night.

    It's "only" one game, as I noted above. (The Leafs lost the first two in Detroit in '93 and looked awful and came back and won the series...) But I well recognize there will have to be a lot more pushback on Saturday. And our "skill guys" will have to fight for and earn their open ice against the Bruins.

    Can we do it? Well, if we believe we have enough skill to compete with these guys, then it becomes a matter of will. Do they have the will?

    Thanks for posting at long last, Christian.

  5. I think your title says it all, Michael. Only the dewy-eyed could say there were positives tonight. We were out-coached, out-hustled, out-muscled, out-hit, out-shot, out-scored - thoroughly outplayed in every aspect of the game. Our response will go a long way to determining the length - or brevity - of this series.
    The Leafs have been playing poorly for a couple of weeks now, and weren't able to find their vanished "A" game, as many of us feared. I lost count of the giveaways in the first period - I'd love to see that game stat. We'll need a whole lot more "compete" if we hope to extend the series past four games.
    Of most concern to me is the disappearance of Lupul, who hasn't been the same since his concussion, and Kadri, who appears to have let the early adulation go to his head. Without those two adding some firepower, we're sunk.
    Carlyle said there would be roster changes, but now we see how little depth we really have. Gardiner has yet to show he can handle a forecheck, and isn't the answer. O'Byrne, who seems to have become the new Komisarek, could at least add some physicality. Let's hope Fraser had first game nerves - if his game goes south, we're in big trouble.
    The forwards were mostly invisible, with the exception of JvR, Komarov, Grabbo maybe. The fourth line did its best, and even generated a scoring chance or two. Hamilton or Colborne might add some size, Frattin some energy, but none of them can be expected to be game changers.
    This is a team sport, and tonight the Leafs, as a team, were brutal. Not once did I feel the "will to win" which any team needs to advance. Despite the references to history, I believe that if we don't bounce back with some pride and determination in the next game, our season will be done one week from today.

    1. We can fall back, as I did in my post, on the idea that this is "only" one game, and it may well be. Leafworld has not had a playoff game to dissect in a while, so I expect us all to react strongly when the outcome was as it was last night, Gerund O'.

      I'm not sure the roster "changes" planned are the answer as much as each guy playing better and the team being better in an overall sense- notably in all the ways you and other posters have described above. We know what's needed. Carlyle knows what's needed. So do the players.

      Can they actually do it, is the question. Thanks Gerund.

  6. It's only the first game of a series, so I wouldn't panic yet. That said I'm not sure why anyone is really surprised by the result tonight. Like I have said more than once when Reimer is only average the Leafs get beat. For them to have a chance he has to steal these games.

    Michael you mention turnovers but the Leafs led the league in turnovers by a huge margin this year. They are in a league by themselves is this area of the game so it should come as no suprise when in the first playoff game they turn the puck over a lot. They got outshot badly again. I know we differ on the importance of shots but really a 2-1 margin is awfully hard to overcome. They haven't played very well the last 3 weeks or so and tonight was no difference.

    Fraser was dreadful tonight, there is no way to sugarcoat this. Phanuef was not great, he wasn't terrible per say just not great. Kostka was bad as was Gunnarsson. They both looked overmatched and not ready for the physical grind that the first round is. I thought Liles was all right. Overall the d really needs to step up.

    Up front the only guy who really stood out for me was JVR and that was only for the first period. The entire forward group as a whole was not ready to play at the level the Bruins were. From half-hearted hits, to awful shot blocks the Leafs were not willing to sacrifice to win. It is apparent to me that "muckulence" is missing. I'm not sure how the Leafs ended up with more hits than the Bruins because to my eyes it looked like the Bruin were many levels of physical play above the Leafs.

    I really was not impressed by Carlyle tonight. Other than the first line we had 3 new lines in the first game of the playoffs. Baffling to be sure. I have no idea why you take Kadri off a scoring line and put him out on a checking line. No disrespect to Komarov but he doesn't exactly have Gretzky hands.

    Just game one though and I expect the Leafs to be a lot better the next game. As you mentioned Michael flaws get exposed at playoff time and the Leafs were exposed last night. Now we see what they are made of, out of adversity come oppurtunity. I suspect some guys are playing for jobs next year whether they know it or not. Saturday night is a big oppurtunity to make a statement. They had better come prepared to sacifrice or this series is going to be a short one.

    1. You hit a lot of nails on the head today, Willbur. Thank you. We will see what Game 2 brings...

  7. For the first ten minutes of the game our team looked younger, faster and fresher than the Bruins. It was this kind of fast, confident, 'underdog' game that I was hoping the Leafs would bring and upset the Bruins team that is, as has been pointed out lately by many including yourself Michael, not what it used to be - a team that is getting older, slower and less motivated then few years ago when they had that Cup run.

    The damn post and the ensuing counterattack (which JVR could have prevented by dumping the puck that was right in front of him) did the young Leafs in. They never recovered - they fell victim to the loud arena and Bruins who capitalized on givaways and defensive breakdowns as any playoff team would.

    It's really a sad story from there on:
    Kadri hasn't been giving pucks away like that since the times of Ron Wilson - this was by far his worse game of the season - defensively irresponsible and offensively non-existent. Kessel was Kessel as always - trying, making plays (he had a role in that PPG goal) but less potent against Bruins than against other teams; we have grown accustomed to Reimer keeping us in games and even stealing a few as of late and he was definitely not doing that tonight (although he did have a few good saves); Phaneuf was showing signs of his past selves looking lost out there on few occasions; Lupul was ok but not great - clearly trying his best but still puck-watching in the defencive zone etc. etc.

    If there is anything positive to be taken from this game it is the play of our 4th line wingers (especially Orr) and JVR's few offensive outbursts (his defensive game remains under-developed). I thought Grabo actually showed some signs of coming back and Kulemin was decent as always. Liles and Franson did a few things right - enough not to be noticed for screwing up like Fraser and Kostka.

    Ultimately, I think, this loss is on inexperience: getting too high after the initial lead and getting too low after the equalizer. Also, and perhaps this is wishful thinking on my part, I think that the Leafs had quite a few bounces go against them tonight - I don't think the goals that Bruins scored would have happened on a different night - everything was going in for them - it's not like they 'created' the victory - they simply put the pucks (that they were usually served on a silver platter) on the net and they went in - a bounce off of Fraser's skate, Kadri handing over the puck, Kostka's half-hearted attempt to block, Reimer just being a few inches too close in and so on.

    I really don't think that this is the end of the story and that the Leafs will go away in 4 games. I think this series is still winnable and I really hope Carlyle can find a way to bring back the team that beat the Bruins in regular season and got us where we are. They played some great hockey earlier in the season and outhit and outscored every single team in the East at one point or another. I know that they can do it and I also feel confident that this Bruins team is on its way down and that the Leafs are on their way up. I just hope for this swap to happen sooner (now) rather than later (next year). Perhaps I'm way off and a victim of my own constructed narrative but I don't think I'm out of my mind. I guess that's why I call myself the leafdreamer.

    1. I really like your post today, leafdreamer (I always do.)

      You've heard me say that some nights the puck does - or doesn't - go in and that's the difference in the game. Meaning, the effort is the same as when you win, say, but on a given night, you don't get the breaks, your shots hit the goalie, hit the post, whatever, and you lose. It happens in sports all the time. That's the story of Kesell, in many ways. When he shoots and scores, we're thrilled. I'm not sure he was any different against the Bruins than he is some games, but they game-plan to shut him down. I do't want to believe that the effort is not there.

      That said, yes, the Bruins deserved to win this game by a big margin. "Breaks" may have cost the Leafs early,agreed, but as the game wore on we were the authors of our own demise, as it were. And the Bruins played a bit more like the old Bruins. Was that them, or us allowing it? Probably a little of both.

      There's nothing wrong with dreaming. Heck, that's what we do, as fans. It's healthier than being negative all the time. I've said many times (in old posts talking about playoffs, it's a longstanding belief I've shared here) that I believe the most important games in a series are Game 2 and Game 4 when you start the series on the road. So there's lot of time to right the ship. As I said above, it is a matter of will. Thanks leafdreamer.

  8. Remember all the hand wringing about a lack of playoff experience? With the exception of a few players, to me, they looked like a team that did not know what they were in for. Most of the team was either nervous or they did not “get” where they were. Fraser, in particular, looked nervous. (For now, I don’t want to think one of my favourite Leafs cannot handle the extra speed of the playoffs.) Positives? JVR looked sharp. Colton Orr, Leo K., McClement and Grabbo battled. Lupul showed occasional flashes of his true abilities. Kessel seemed to be trying against Boston this time, but he was, once again, relatively ineffective. I am sure that I missed some players who played well but overall, there was a lack of synchronicity to the Leafs play. All of the Boston players knew they were in a playoff game. Only some of the Leafs did. At this point we have to ask ourselves, what would change the dynamic of “playoff unreadiness”?

    If things are as bad as they seem this morning, I think we are looking at a problem in the deployment of veteran players with playoff experience. Personnel problems of this magnitude are a management failing. Be it Burke or Nonis, they just don’t quite get it. Who could have foreseen this situation prior to this season, you could well ask? I joked yesterday that a casual poster like me gets to rub it in when, in retrospect, he is right. Back in June of last year I wrote on VLM: “As of last year, Jagr was still an effective player. If he is interested, he seems like a good choice as a veteran presence, an experienced, effective player …” Then, at the beginning of January I wrote that we should be “having a discussion about Wade Redden who, if the reports are true, will be UFA by the end of the week? I note that he was a +8 in the year that, according to John Tortorella, he was no longer good enough to play in the NHL. In my mind, his sudden demise from elite to incompetent never passed the smell test, particularly given that Tortorella was behind Redden's AHL demotion. Could there be a salvageable rearguard there for the taking at a relatively low cost?”

    The counter argument I got from another poster about Redden was that Kostka was a better choice than Redden. Now, I am a Kostka supporter and all, and I am happy to see him on the team. But honestly, who do you want on your team in a playoff game, Mike Kostka or Wade Redden? Why can an ordinary fan see this when highly paid management types cannot? The inability to evaluate the team’s potential, the overrating at the time of the Kessel trade, the stasis when the likes of Jagr and Redden were available this season and finally the quintessential red herring, Mikka Kiprusoff, point to management deficiencies, In stark contrast, and at a key time, Peter Chiarelli went out and gave up assets for Jagr and Redden. We could have had them for the taking as free agents, as I pointed out when they were unsigned. Where was Nonis at crunch time? He was chasing after unicorns. Burke and Nonis may well be good managers. The question is, are they good enough?

    1. Bobby C.- I see these questions through a similar lens. The one thing I would throw into the discussion "hopper" is that Nonis is clearly committed (despite his obvious overtures regarding Kiprusoff) to staying young. Is it that, as we have batted around here at VLM before, that this past season was not yet the time to bring in wise, battle-tested veteran-leader types? That maybe in a year or two, the Leafs will be true contenders, and that will be the time to part with prospects for that run at a Cup?

      If so, he can be defended, and fans would have to accept that this was, as I have kept calling it, an "experimental" year for Carlyle who clearly does not have the roster he wants- and needs. And further, that we, as fans, have to accept that just making the playoffs (sad as that is to admit) was as much as we could have possible hoped for, and any playoff success would be a cherry on the top of the sundae.

      I don't have the answer, because I sense Leaf fans are all over the map, Bobby. Some expected failure this season, but now expect playoff success. I get it. I wrote about this very thing a week or so ago. Once you get to the dance, you want to actually dance. But we have not been good for years, and on nights like like last night, it doesn't feel as though all the developing, drafting, etc. is looking as good as when we have a big game against a good team.

      A long-winded way of saying I hear exactly what you are saying. I would have liked to see, as I have noted here many times over the past two seasons, true leaders and guys with playoff experience in the locker room. It's tough to win at this time of year without that.

      If, though, this is a "bonus" year for Nonis, if just making the playoffs was enough, then my point, I guess, is they achieved that- as modest an achievement as that is.

      The series is far from over, but if players, management or fans are looking for more, it won't be simply roster changes, it will be desire and willpower.

      Otherwise, we will soon be talking about "next year". Thanks Bobby. Great stuff, as always.

  9. I am not overly alarmed with the outcome of last nights game. Most of us knew there would be losses. Did any of us really think the Leafs were going to sweap the Bruins?

    From his post game inteview we know that Cody Franson injured his foot and was afraid to even remove his skate because the swelling would not allow him to put the boot back on. The injury to Franson lead to more ice time for Fraser and Kostka and their weakness was exposed. I think both of these guys are useful 6th defensemen in the NHL but you can't have two of them on a good NHL team.

    The Leafs need better defensive strength in the among the 2nd to 4th defensemen. I think Franson and Fraser are fine as a third pairing, but we may have to give up one of Liles,Gardiner or Morgan Reilley to get a better two-way defenseman for that 2-4 spot. Those guys are out there. Think of how well Dennis Seidenberg plays for the Bruins. In 2010, he and Matt Bartkowski were traded to the Boston Bruins for Byron Bitz, Craig Weller, and a second round draft pick. Boston didn't give up that much, those aren't houshold names.

    The good news is that Grabovski had his best game in weeks. News just came out Andrew Ference is scheduled for a hearing today and this is his second infration. A suspension might upset the Boston defense core.

    I am hoping Cody Franson will soon be back to normal. We don't play until Saturday which may be just what the doctor ordered. The break will help Bozak too. My guess is that Mclaren comes out and Frattin goes in to provide Kadri with a more offensive winger than Komorov. The fourth line could be Komorov Frattin and Orr, which I actually liked as a checking line.

    I thought some of the Boston goals on the Leafs were odd/lucky bounces. Let's hope we get the bounces on Saturday.

    1. We'll see if Game 2 brings about more desire, DP. For me, that was a bit too absent throughout a fair bit of the lineup as things got tough and the game wore on. But as you note, no one expected the Leafs to walk over the Bruins.

  10. Welcome back to the playoffs #LeafNation . As we were reminded last night, the playoffs are a whole new season. The intensity is higher, and so is the scrutiny.

    Frankly going into last night's game, I had no idea what to expect from the Leafs. On the other hand, I knew all too well what the Bruins were capable of doing, and they did it well. They come at you hard, with intense forechecking and tight neutral zone coverage. The way to counter that is with speed, good puck control, and crisp forward passes. Spend too much time in your own end, and Bruins will hurt you.

    During the regular season the Leafs played the Bruins four times, and were out-shot a total of 121 to 86. Ironically the only game the Leafs won against the Bruins, they were out-shot 33 to 13. Last night Bruins out-shot them 40 to 20. Hard to win games that way, let alone an NHL playoff series.

    As most noticed last night, the Leafs' defence struggled immensely under the forechecking of the Bruins. No doubt many fans will want to see Gardiner and O'Byrne be put into the lineup for Game 2. To be honest, they couldn't be any worse, so why not. O'Byrne certainly has the size and can handle the physicality of the Bruins forewards, but he too can make mental mistakes, and his first pass can be great or not so great. Gardiner on the other hand has all the puck-moving/handling skills and speed needed, but what he lacks most now is confidence. Gardiner has struggled at times, and rather than let him work through his mistakes, Carlyle just pulls him from the lineup. I hope he comes in and plays well, but not surprisingly his confidence could be frail.

    The fourth line was not the problem last night for the Leafs, but seriously do we need both Orr and McLaren in the lineup? McClemment is a very good 2-way center. Give him at least one decent winger who can play both ends of the rink well. Simple solution... Ryan Hamilton.

    Another strange decision by Carlyle was pairing Lupul with Grabovski. I understand the idea to re-balance the scoring on the three lines, but Lupul has no history/chemistry with Grabovski. Seemed like a foolish experiment to try in the first games of the playoffs. Although Grabo played a better game, the line changes left Kadri with little in the way of offensive wingers.

    Just want to say a few words about that elbow by Ference on Grabovski's head. No doubt there should have been a penalty on that play, probably 5 mins and a game misconduct. Will it be reviewed, YES. Will Ference get suspended, my guess is NO. Worse case scenario he gets a one-game suspension. More than likely though, Shanahan & company will say there was no penalty or injury on the play, and the player was able to continue. My guess is he gets a strong warning, a fine, and nothing more. Had Grabo laid on the ice for several minutes and went off to the dressing room (like Jokinen did after being knee'd by Reasoner last night), we'd probably see a 3-5 game suspension.

    What to expect in Game 2? Well certainly a better performance by the Leafs. They can be competitive with the Bruins, though beating them in a series is a whole different story.

  11. It's funny, Don (TML_fan), I wrote on the very subject you discuss above at one point in your post today- that is, even though most fans claimed they were just happy to see the Leafs finally make the playoffs, once there, fair or not, the scrutiny from fwe ans (and yes, media) will be much, much more pronounced.

    Can we tell the Leafs haven't been in the playoffs since 2004? Fans were ready to talk playoffs, for sure.

    All I will say is we can all (and I do too, though not always here...) pick at the coach's roster decisions and line configurations, but I know from working with many coaches at that level over many years that they spend far more time than the rest of us trying to find the best rosters, combinations and all that to exploit the opposition's weaknesses. They look at film obsessively and know what they are trying to accomplish.

    At some point, the players have to do the job asked of them and do it on a consistent basis. And for the past few weeks, the Leafs have often struggled in a number of areas, as we all know.

    When Gardiner played, and I'm talking about when he healthy after having played a long while with the Marlies, etc., not right after he returned from a concussion, Carlyle gave him plenty of ice time and Gardiner struggled badly. Others may see it differently, but sometimes we see what we want to see. So f he can come in and play well, great, but I personally don't blame the coach for not just letting him go out there and lead rushes and give up the puck in his own zone when he was asked to play defense first. (Other guys make the same mistakes, agreed, but they are at least trying to play defense first. At times, they are simply not capable, which is a roster issue, not a coaching issue...)

    Again, a long-winded way of saying I agree with a lot of what you say, Don. But as you note, this is the playoffs. As I keep saying, it's about will, determination. and toughness, and I don't mean fighting.

    If the Leafs show those attributes in Game 2 and beyond, they will likely get some results. If they don't, fans will spend their time blaming the coach, when it will be on the players.

    We all agreed this is how a young team get experience. Well, chances are they will get that experience in this series. Let's see how they fare! Thanks Don.

    1. In regards to Gardiner playing poorly, I believe someone pointed out last night that the only time the Leafs beat Boston this season Gardiner played over 20 minutes and was +2.

    2. I would rarely put a lot of stock in one regular-season game, mapleleafmjt, but if Carlyle believes Gardiner is the right man for the job (clearly fans think so), great. I'll happily support it. I've just raised concerns here in the past and I haven't changed my view. Marvellous skill set, lots of trouble this season when checked aggressively.

      Sometimes people think he is somehow going to be a saviour getting the puck out of our zone. Maybe. I guess we'll find out!

    3. Another factor to for me is Gardiner could hardly do worse than Fraser and Kostka did last night. Whatever you think of the defensive merits of Gardiner Fraser was atrocious last night and Kostka was hardly any better.

      I like Fraser and what he has brought to the table thos year but if one is willing to sit Gardiner for percieved lack of defensive accumen what does that say about the other two's play last night?

    4. I think Gardiner will get in. I think my point is: he may play well at first, but he was benched for the very reasons Kostka was pulled out of the lineup earlier this season (and will be again after last night)- too many give-aways and errors. I love Gardiner but in a series like this, I just don't know.

      If we take Fraser out it may be a bit of panic. It may well happen, I realize. But he was the one we brought to the dance, and is one of the key reasons, in truth, we are even here. So if we throw him under the bus now, in the hopes that a better skating kid will save the day, well, I say OK, but beware what we wish for.

      I'd rather the forwards do a better job of helping out the defence. But again, if the coach figures Gardiner should draw in, great. Let's give it a few games and see how it goes...thanks Willbur.

    5. I actually think Fraser should play again. It is after all his first playoff game too I think. As you said he got us to the dance and he deserves a chance to see if he can rectify what ailed him in the first game.

      Gardiner is not a saviour I just think his skating ability as well as his first pass precision could be very useful in defeating a ferocious Boston forecheck.

      It is kind of funny to me how different people see players. I know you had a whole post on it a while ago and is still very relevant today. A lot of guys seem to pick apart Gardiner's defensive game but are willing to overlook or rationalize someone else's weaknesses.

      A good example is the commentary on other sites willing to explain Kessel's lack of production against the Bruins because he is playing against a Norris trophy winner (finalist), a Selke nominated player and a Vezina nominated player (in all likely hood). Well boohoo to be a truly great player one has to fight through that to still produce.

      Kessel reminds me a lot of Lindros. Not in the way they play the game but in the way that both seemed to dominate the regular season but can't find the extra gear come playoff time. Its like the rest of the league elevates their play come playoff time but those two either can't or just don't. Now I know it is early in the series and Kessel can still find that gear but I'm not willing to lay money on it. I didn't see any extra compete out pf Kessel last night and as Carlyle has stressed the compete level goes up 20% come playoffs. It's like you have said many times before Michael, Kessel's game doesn't really change from game to game just sometimes the puck goes in. Unfortuantely, at playoff time there has to be extra effort.

      That said the rest of the Leafs didn't really find that extra gear either, Dion I'm looking at you. So hopefully they have got the nerves out of their way and are focused and willing to do what it takes to succeed.

    6. I think, Willbur, you hit the proverbial nail on the head. If fans like a certain player, they will overlook a carload of errors and still try to prove their point about a player. Kadri can do no wrong; Phil's a bum. Kostka sucks but Gardiner is great (I'm not suggesting you are saying that...I'm making a broad statement of hos fans react.) If both players make the same mistake, we forgive one readily but chastise the other. (Your Lindros reflections are interesting...)

      Same with Carlyle. There is a whole cottage industry out there now, a 'group think' thing going on and many fans are jumping on the bus, claiming Carlyle hasn't got a clue. Some of the stuff I'm seeing is just so far from accurate it is mind-boggling.

      New players, extra gears, we probably need it all. If the Bruins really want to win this series, it will be tough. But if the Leafs really want it, we have a series. Thanks Willbur.

  12. Hi Michael,

    Let me start by saying again, it was great meeting both you and Matteo in person. I certainly hope it won't be the last time we're able to get together.

    It's funny how sometimes Leafs fans make it kinda easy for others to criticize and sometimes ridicule us. Following the game, I was surprised to see some asking (seriously in some cases) whether a series loss, or a sweep, could result in a Carlyle firing. I realize there are those, many even, who want nothing more than RC gone. But, unless you're asking with some kind of sarcasm or looking to play devil's advocate, I just don't get it sometimes.

    • This is a franchise 9 years removed from the playoffs. With less than 250 collective games of NHL playoff experience.
    • This is a team that a number of pundits still picked to miss the playoffs this season.
    • Many of these folks asking for RC to be canned spent a good part of the season pointing out this team should never have been occupying a playoff spot and 5th in the East was an over-achievement.

    I can certainly see the validity of points made above (and I admit I did not read everyone's posts in-depth). A Redden or Jagr would have been a nice addition, useful now in the playoffs without doubt. And I am not necessarily a big Carlyle fan... he gets credit for doing some good things, but just like any coach, it's not just him pulling strings and no one else contributing. Facts are facts, numbers are numbers, and despite some of them, the Leafs finished with the 10th best record in the league this year.

    But, I think we all should remember this is a franchise that is in early stages. And there's a commitment, finally, to youth and trying to develop a team rather than plug holes and hope for a deep run.

    Yes, Boston seemed to limp to the playoffs and the Leafs had some nice things going on. I would have said Boston in 6 relatively close games, but wouldn't have been surprised by an upset. That hedges many bets, true, but for me the question hung on 2 things: would the veteran experience of Boston get switched on when May 1 hit, and would the Leafs be able to ignore 'THE PLAYOFFS' and take it game by game. I think Game 1 showed us Boston did switch it on, and maybe Toronto got a bit giddy on JVR's early goal.

    I was disappointed by the Leaf effort. Too many errors, poor execution, simple things like clearing the defensive zone was a major issue. Absolutely the coach needs to make adjustments. I thought Kostka was really out of his depth, Fraser might be also. I would like to see Gardiner in, but while I love his offensive skills, he is also mistake-prone (typical of a young d-man). Probably O'Byrne draws in also. I don't see the need for Orr and McLaren (though Orr had some good things going on). I'd like to see Hamilton, Frattin, those guys who have a little jam and better hands. Funny, wouldn't Mike Komisarek be the equivalent of Wade Redden right now? But these are hallmarks of a team that's still building and still in serious need of pieces, cohesiveness, experience...

    Carlyle is a coach who has had a whopping 66 regular season games with this team. The GM is entering his first off-season as GM. There is no way either gets fired, or the fanbase should panic, even if this team gets shutout the next games against a team that has posted a better than .600 winning percentage the last 6 years and just happened to win it all only 2 seasons ago.

    I'd love to see them go all the way, but it's just one game, it's just one series, and while I don;t want fans to 'settle' I think we have to be realistic about what this is.

    Go Leafs Go.

    1. Fantastic, thoughtful post. (And yes, I sure hope it's not the only time we connect, either, Mark. That was a fun event...)

      A couple of things: I respect the views of all those who post here. People like Bobby C., Wilbur, Gerund, Don, InTimeFor62, portuguese leaf, Scarborough Anon, leafdreamer and many others (I can't name everyone) all see the picture a bit differently, and that's OK. We all want the same outcome. You've just added some good thinking into an already nice mix.

      Re Carlyle: I've made similar points myself, Mark. The guy has not even coached this team a full 82-game season and people want him gone. For the life of me it never ceases to amaze me how many people honest-to-goodness think a) they know more hockey than a good NHL coach b) they would do things somehow differently and thus do a better job and c) actually, truly believe they know the players on the roster - and their capabilities and limitations - better than the coach who works with them every day and d) relies on this opinion mostly because of some statistical thingy. (The whole stat thing is getting out of hand, if that is the kind of analysis and thinking that it produces.)

      Yes, it's a young team; has flaws; has little true playoff experience and little proven, effective leadership. All things I've raised here ad nauseum here, while still trying to provide some hopeful discussion around a team people love one day and seem to loathe the next and hasn't won a thing of note in almost ten years Hey, they may go on to win a Cup this spring, but were we really thinking that was possible six months ago. Two weeks ago?

      Lineup changes? Sure. Coaches always do that. In Toronto and in every other city where a team loses a playoff game. That's the nature of things. Frattin or Gardiner may provide a spark, absolutely. Still, nobody wants to hear it, but if we think they will somehow turn a series around, well, I'm not sure what to say. They'd have to be a hell of a lot better than they were when they played in the regular season season- and do it consistently throughout an entire series, then another...

      The bottom line: the whole team has to play better, smarter, harder. You can roll any line combinations you want, any breakout system you want, but the players have to execute and be hard on the puck every inch of the ice. The best system in the world won't overcome a lack of desire when the other guy wants the puck more.

      We should try to enjoy the good moments, the good plays, the good things. If people don't like this, thank God we don't have to play the Western Conference.

      Thanks for triggering some additional thoughts, Mark. Good stuff.

  13. It was sad sight to see last night. I am going make some points of how I saw it and it seems like I am repeating them again.

    The Leafs played small and lost the momentum the moment they did not respond

    There was no response when Boston took liberties. Ferrence should have had his head handed to him for the elbow that same shift or one after. You can take 5 10 or whatever minutes in penalties. The team needed to set the tone but did nothing. You can clearly felt Boston owned the rink. When you have McClaren, Orr and Fraser, that cannot happen. EVER. I hate to say it but they need to goon it up against this Boston team. I was very disappointed in McClaren last night for not stepping up after clearly the game was lost. They might have not play the latter half of the game if they didn't bother to set the tone for the next one.

    No team toughness. One or two players does not team toughness make.

    No puck hunger - None

    Fraser, Kadri stood out as worst Leafs because more were expected of them

    All comes down to leadership which was clearly missing.

    As much as what a disaster the season it was for Gabbo, credit to him for at least show up...

    What a disappointment.

    1. I'm not sure I can add much- you touched a lot of notes. Thanks Lukas.

  14. Some more info that partly explains the Leafs problems last night:

    "Kostka suffered a broken bone in one of his fingers and is out. Franzen foot is bruised."

    Later today:

    "Kostka had a splint on his right index finger. Franson meanwhile was still walking with a pretty significant limp."