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Bernier and Reimer play, “Can you top this…?” and then came Boston

I’ll add a few observations to my original post (below) in light of the Boston game Sunday night.  The Leafs held the early lead, and it was good to see young Holland (who played so sparingly on Saturday night) be a big part of both Leaf goals.  McClement demonstrated that he still knows how to find the back of the net.  But the Bruins remain a challenging club for the Leafs, who could not build on the early lead.  A big second period for the Bruins turned the tide.  Though the Leafs scored early in the third to set up a comeback bid, they fell short. 

We still had three forwards with basically five minutes or less of ice time, while the Bruins had but two forwards with less than eight minutes of action.  They were missing key guys too and were playing with a lot of people who are not exactly household names, but Claude Julien obviously feels he can rely on them.  So the Leafs remain a team that, in my eyes, need to find a fourth line they can consistently depend on, especially in close games against other good squads. They did, though, get that often elusive  “secondary” scoring on a night when their gunners were a bit silent.


Gardiner logged a ton of ice against Boston and some Leafs showed well though special teams struggled again.  That said, few would have predicted a sweep this weekend, so I’m guessing a lot of Leafs fans will accept two points in the midst of a tough schedule.

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Having won two games heading back home to host the Bruins on Sunday night (who may not be their usual strident self, after a suspension-worthy incident involving Shawn Thornton on Saturday night against the Penguins), Leaf enthusiasts are still left to wonder a bit.  And what they might be wondering is this:  though the Leafs have won two in a row against Dallas and the Sens, did the team actually play much better than during their recent swoon?  Or, did they simply receive other-worldly goaltending from first Bernier and then Reimer to garner those four points?

I’m not savvy enough to break down every component of their game in detail, but I thought I saw much the same Leafs as we’ve seen all season.  They got out-shot and out-played at times, but received superior goalkeeping- and won as a result.

Kadri was obviously inspired when he returned to the team on Thursday and led the offense while Bernier shut the door, and the Leafs managed to win in overtime.  Same thing on Saturday night.  The Leafs got a lead, held on (barely, at times) and Reimer was stone cold sharp in the shoot-out.  Post-game the Leafs ran to the bus in Ottawa with a win in their pocket, looking (for me, at least—you may well disagree, I understand) very much like the club that stole a number of games early this season and put points on the board as a result—points which have kept them in the fray in the Eastern Conference despite some rather “uneven” (that's a nice word for it) play in recent weeks.

In any event, I’m drafting this part of the post before the Bruins encounter.  I may add some thoughts afterwards, but for now, All-Star level netminding means wins, eh?

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For some reason it was good to see Liles in the on Saturday night.  He has been called up from the Marlies before, but he actually played this time.  It’s not that I’ve been pining to see Liles or that I’m especially down on any particular Leaf defensemen (though, yes, many have had their frustrating moments, like most defensemen), but it does seem as though he has been wearing the "scarlet letter" for too long in this organization. Is everyone else here really so much better than Liles (even given his contract) that he should have been essentially shown the door as abruptly as he has been?

So he played against Ottawa (18 minutes) and was the last guy off the ice for the Leafs after the shoot-out victory, clearly happy to be back with the big club—and where he belongs, in the NHL.

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I was happy to see D’Amigo earn a well-deserved call-up this week.  He didn’t see much ice Thursday night, but was more of a presence in Ottawa, playing 8 plus minutes, including some time on the penalty-kill.  We still saw some odd ice-times for the Leafs (MaClaren and Holland maybe 3 minutes each…) but I’d like to see more of someone like D’Amigo and, if healthy, Ashton, as I’ve mentioned here before.

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Jake Gardiner continues to amaze and agitate all in the same breath.  Maybe I am simply too hard on the talented young defenseman.  He scored his first goal of the season against the Senators and had other standout moments.  But his work on Ottawa’s second goal, which really turned the game around in the third period when the Leafs led 3-1, left me scratching my head.  He was so easily pushed off the puck in his own end and that led directly (and immediately) to Ottawa’s second goal, which gave them all the momentum they needed tie the game shortly thereafter on the power play.

Later in the third period, clinging to a one goal lead (prior to the the Karlsson power-play marker), Gardiner jumped into the rush when there was simply no need, which came perilously close to creating an odd-man rush going against the Leafs. 

Then in overtime he was yet again trying to create something in the neutral zone but was trapped, badly. Only a determined effort on his part, after an initial hesitation, tripped up what would have been a dangerous shot for the Senators.

The young man has legs, smarts, and a wonderfully calm demeanor on the ice most of the time.  But to me, he has infuriating habits at times, and while I’m prepared to say he is young and will of course mature and develop over time, my guess is he is a challenge for the coaching staff.  They obviously see his immense talent and potential.  

But while playing to your strengths and using your innate hockey instincts are clearly important, there are times when a defenseman simply has to choose the more cautious route to help his team. Preventing goals is still one of the basic tenets of the game.

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To say it one more time:  I believe, strongly, that Morgan Rielly should be released to play for the Team Canada junior team at the upcoming World Junior Hockey championships.  I’ve been saying this since training camp when it became clear the Leafs wanted him with the big club.

He’s a gifted player still years away from his prime.  But unless the Leaf brass truly believes he will be an instrumental player in actually winning a Stanley Cup this season, the Word Juniors would be a massive opportunity that should not be missed for a 19-year old with his ability.

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It strikes me that Kadri has, as I mentioned above, come back with a bit a burr under his back side this week.  Maybe he is playing the same way as he was before but he certainly has stood out in the last two games.  He seems inspired.

I recently wondered aloud if his play had stalled a bit (it’s not like he would have been alone in that regard) but he was certainly back to his dangerous, cagey self against Dallas and Ottawa. He is an important part of the mix here, or at least needs to be on a consistent basis.  First line, second line, third line, wherever he plays, the Leafs need to see him at his feisty, creative best.

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Like most fans I always like underdog stories.  Trevor Smith appears to be that, certainly.  Let’s be clear: I had precious little awareness of the guy before training camp this year.  He was, for me, just another number trying for a spot with the big club and I figured he had no chance.  But he has played a determined game for the most part in his time here, and after playing less than 25 games with three different NHL teams over several pro seasons, the 28 year old has shown himself to be a versatile performer. 

Now, before I get ahead of myself, lots of players, when finally given the chance, will work like mad and stand out for a bit before settling into being a bit player who may have a difficult time sticking with a team when the injured guys return.  But I admit, he has caught my eye.  He played well over 20 minutes against Ottawa, so Carlyle obviously felt he was doing something right. As with previous Marlie captains, including the now departed Ryan Hamilton (and Alex Foster before that, right?), he seems to bring character and a will to compete—traits that never hurt a team.

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24 comments:

  1. To be honest, over the last week I think I was actually most impressed with the effort against the Sharks. That was a game against the top team in the league that the Leafs only lost because they weren't ready to play from the opening face off. As soon as they settled down I thought they were the better team for most of the evening. The disappointing first 15 minutes were obviously a problem and it cost them 2 points, but a performance like that would get the win against at least two thirds of the league.

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    1. One thing that has eluded the Leafs this season is being able to play a full 60-minute game, Oliver. If they can get that consistency in their game, it would be huge.

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    2. Isn't that how it's always been? Most seasons I've felt they have either showed up and won, or didn't bring any kind of effort at all and lost. I would welcome the feeling that would come from watching the team give it everything they had and still fall short, but I don't feel that I have seen that very often.

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  2. I nodded in silent agreement while reading this post, Michael. How the Leafs are able to keep winning points while being outshot and outplayed by such wide margins is baffling. Their tendency to make the same mistakes game after game is maddening, but then they'll put a good little stretch together, and hope blooms again. If we can ever get scoring from another line, we could be a force to be reckoned with.
    At this point, I'd say our goalies are #1 and #1. They *need* to be alternated if they're going to face almost 50 shots a night!
    I agree that Kadri seems to have extra juice, and can't help relating it to his grandfather's passing. He seems to be making the most of his time with Kessel and JvR. While I prefer Bozak with the top line - they seem to have a sublime chemistry - Kadri is looking as strong as he ever has over the past two games.
    And like you, I was happy to see Liles back with the team. Although he hasn't been the same since his concussion a couple of years ago, hopefully he can be a stabilizing influence and help us with our D-zone exits. (As a side note, and as an adjunct to last night's events in the League, I wonder how many players are the same after a concussion? Not many, I'd say.)
    Jake is our team in microcosm, isn't he? Flashes of brilliance, followed by a bonehead play or two. I like him, but his decision making doesn't seem to have progressed much. However, it has progressed, so more blooms of hope are budding in the O'Malley Leafs' garden.
    It does appear the Rielly isn't ready for the NHL step quite yet. If Liles sticks, I hope they'll let Morgan go to the junior championships. His confidence needs a boost, based on what we've seen recently in games and interviews.
    And finally, I can't help pulling for players like Smith - and Hamilton last year. Smith has shown pretty good puck sense in the O-zone, but he took a couple of D-zone penalties last night that we could do without. I'm mystified why we haven't seen TJ Brennan yet, but I suppose it's a question of having to put someone on waivers unless there's an injury call-up, much like Liles' languishing in the minors because of cap issues until Bozak's LTIR status opened up some salary space .
    I'm expecting a shenanigan-free game tonight - both teams are missing some key players. Let's hope we can break free from our 2-for-1 shots policy, or it may not be a happy hour of hockey!

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    1. It's true, Gerund O', players seldom get back to their earlier form (at least not right away) after a confusion. Liles deserves a chance, here or wherever, to show he is still a solid NHL player.

      As for the ability to play a full game, as Oliver noted above, that's been a problem, for sure. All teams strive for that elusive consistency, and the Leafs are not alone in often struggling to find it. Thanks Gerund.

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  3. Again tonight Michael the failure to kill penalties comes back to bite the Leafs. The desperation to clear the puck has not been there for most of the year. They were not outplayed tonight but lost the special teams. The defense looks better but lacks toughness outside of Phaneuf. I read somewhere that they were looking at Gleason of Carolina, he would seem to be a fit. They have lost that hard on the puck tenacity that was on display last year. That really spilled over on the penalty kill where they KNEW that the other team wouldn't score. If they can rediscover this then the team will be fine, if not...........................

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    1. I sometimes wonder, purch, if like so many things in life (and in sports) the confidence is just not there for some reason with our penalty-killing units this season. As you say, a year ago they were tenacious and confident. This year, I don't know that they are tentative but maybe that inner confidence isn't there. But it's a factor, for sure.

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  4. Michael,

    I was going to post earlier today, but I thought I would give the team another game to perhaps change my mind. Once again, it didn't happen. The Bruins, like the Leafs, have some players out of the lineup. As the home team against the oppositions back-up netminder, the team practically disappeared in the second period. A lot is made about the PK situations, its pretty hard to draw penalties when you are without the puck for vast stretches of the game. The Leafs find themselves chasing the play, game after game after game. Until, and unless this team figures out how to compete, and work hard every game, mediocrity shall continue.

    Its a real shame that Clarkson guy that was talked about so much in the offseason, is still suspended. It sure would be nice to have a true power forward on this team to balance out all of the more skilled guys. That signing is sure to be one that the Leafs are paying for, for a long time. And in the end, likely paying him to play somewhere else, or not at all. A la Tucker and a host of other mismanaged signings.

    With how well Liles has played in the last two games. It makes me wonder how many wins were squandered having him suit up for the Marlies. There is no way that there are 7 more capable NHL'ers already on Toronto's blue line. He needs to play, and play a lot at the expense of some others that I won't name.

    I have been pleased recently with Gardiner. Funny though to see a guy play 24 minutes one night and be in the press box the next. I wish he was stronger along the boards when he doesn't have the puck. He doesn't win many battles with the opposition, especially when there is no advantage before both of them get to the puck.

    You can learn everything you need to know about this team from one play in tonights game. Milan Lucic backchecks hard and catches Kessel. Lucic wins the battle for the puck deep in his own zone, and hustles up the ice, drives to the net and sets up the Bruins 4th goal. Kessel gets caught, out fought for the loose puck and then dogs it up the ice on the back check. There is no way that Lucic can outskate Kessel, but he did, and the Bruins ice the game because of it. Unless and until the Leafs best players get the fact that defensive accountability wins hockey games, and Stanley Cups. The mediocre crap fest display of hockey, will continue ad nauseum.

    The goalies have been lights out this season. Both of them, no caveats, no excuses, they are the only thing saving this teams bacon. If it weren't for Reimer and Bernier, the Leafs would barely be distinguishable from the Islanders. I'm not a big fan of trading for Gleason at this point, I would rather give Liles a run. It will probably be announced tomorrow that we have indeed made that trade. Too bad that Liles isn't very good at punching the other team. I have nothing against Gleason, but I can't figure out what our coach has against Liles. Probably isn't great in the room or some other excuse.

    In my opinion, this team would have a lot more confidence, and wins. If they would work harder, and once in a while, play like it mattered to them if they win or lose. They just aren't talented enough to win many games without busting their asses. And honestly, I haven't watched a game all season in which I thought they gave a respectable effort.

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    1. I couldn't help but notice that fourth goal as well, Jim. Maybe it was fatigue- Kessel and Phaneuf have played a lot this season (Phaneuf was sort of caught waving at the play as well, as I recall). But I realize that's an excuse.

      There does need to be a more determined effort from every player every night, and for 60 minutes. The old line about your best players having to be your best players applies- and that includes all over the ice.

      The goaltending has been generally superb. We need more. though. Thanks Jim.

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  5. I remember during the Pat Quinn era we used to roll 4 lines and were successful doing so. Logically it keeps all the top lines fresh and gives the 4th line confidence by playing them more and when they are relied upon, play better. However a 4 line consisting of either Orr and McLaren is just not cutting it. We have seen when Jerry D, Ashton, even Brodie, Holland, and Smith on the forth line, bring a dimension of being able to log actual minutes. This is crucial during a long season with many games cramped together into the schedule. We can keep Orr as a 13th player we use in and out of the lineup as needed.

    With regards to Gardiner, I am so excited about his skill set with his speed and effortless skating and passing at times but like most of us get marveled by how easily he gets pushed off the puck, makes brutal mistakes like in adverted pinches, over handling the puck and his decisions with not making the safe plays. We are too often left shaking our heads. I recently heard that for young players to adjust to the NHL it is not about knowing what you can do but what you CANNOT do. I understand that D men do take longer to develop as I think he did start off his junior career as a forward, but its his consistency in being so inconsistent that troubles me. Im not sure he is learning from his mistakes as quickly as we all like him to. Maybe we let him play his way out of it or send him down. I truly have no sure answer about him. However JMLiles is back! Barring any effects of an injury should be on the top 6 of this team. He makes the safe plays and has the puck moving ability and is better at decision making that some of the guys we have. He should be even getting better having found his game back this year.

    I am not so quick to give up on Clarkson. Players like him go through long stretches where no points are put up. But I see he brings an element of toughness, driving to the net, paying the price to make a play, checking, cycling the boards and leadership qualities. We are just not seeing it come together for him yet but I have hope that when it does he will be a fan favourite. Hartnell, Malone, Oshie, Bertuzzi, Ward, even Lucic from last years regular season are players that often go through long stretches of getting nothing, but are dangerously effective when they do come alive.

    Goaltending has been the true bright spot on this team and is the only reason why we still are in a playoff spot now as we speak and is exactly what teams hope to catch in a bottle to create upsets during long playoff runs.

    Injuries are a part of every team, but it seems this year has hurt us the most because it seems that our players are being forced to play outside of their comfort zone. Perhaps we dont have the depth that us fans thought we had on our farm team. Or perhaps the inconsistent ice time being given to the fill-ins with 5 minutes one night and 15 or 18 the next affects their confidence and ability to be effective.

    The question we all ask is why do we have so much trouble playing 60 complete minutes. I think that leadership on a successful club is an underappreciated quality. I don't mean Phaneuf here or any one player singled out, but several true chiseled veterans that teams like Boston and Detroit Always have on their teams. We need that presence on the bench, in the locker room and on the ice who the other players look up to. We are one of the youngest teams in the NHL and it is costing us as we need guys who have been through the trenches and know what it takes to settle teams down when they need to and just know how to bring it. Roberts, Niewendyk, Gilmour are ones that come to mind because it seems we have had so few in recent years. Bolland appears to have had that demeanor and has been the biggest loss of ours. No doubt, great teams always have a veteren presence on their teams, always, even when they are a team that's building.

    Maybe that's why a building is still called a buildING even when its complete. We need to always be building our teams with youth with the presence of veterans.

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    1. Absolutely great point about the 60 minutes and agreed wholeheartedly about the lack of true leadership on this team. Just as an observer, you sense it when things start to go south that our silent leader does nothing to stem it. I guess apologizing to the opposition might be consider the nouveau leadership qualities way in today's NHL

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  6. You've captured the sentiments of as lot of Leaf supporters, BlueANDwhite. The ability to roll four lines (that a coach has faith in) makes a huge difference. Goaltending is key, of course, but that alone won't win you a Cup- or get you close.

    Gardiner will likely continue to infuriate at times but also do more than enough to balance that out and should get better in the years ahead. He has work to do, but as you note, he is young and still in a learning curve.

    Clarkson is still a factor. I know he is a disappointment to some fans, but I sense the work ethic and the "care" is there. You cite many examples of similar players who don't always put up big numbers but can still be impact players.

    It does, in part at least, come down to leadership and that veteran experience that knows how to win in the spring. We have some of that now (especially if and when Bolland returns) but maybe not quite enough. As you say, building is a constant process, with a balance of veterans and young players. Thanks BlueANDwhite.

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  7. Hi Michael,

    Just some points today to go with your observations.

    Gardiner/Reilly - They are playing with one speed typical of rookies. It's all go go go. They just need to slow down a moment and make safer plays and once in a while when warranted, explode using their speed. It's a hard game and it's easier said than done, but I see the 'agitate' part of his game is that he run head long into a situation without thinking and expecting that his speed will bail him out. Like Reilly when he first started playing, the speed were incredible but as of late, you can see they both has lost some. Whether it is because they over exerted or the opposition has mitigate it with better positioning is up for debate but it seems to me the obvious part they are not playing a little 'slower'

    Our goaltending is the MVP this year. It doesn't matter who it is and it's just so frustrating that within the past decade, the one time we have goaltending, another aspect is lacking namely defence.

    Which leads me to Liles. This is an NHL caliber defenceman and if it wasn't for his contract, he would but more importantly, should have been on the roster from the beginning. Sometimes politics, reputations or stubbornness makes bad personnel decisions. As much as I think Reilly is NHL ready....most....some nights, I would not have put him on the roster. Sending him back to Jr would not have been worst than being in the spotlight making mistakes that every other guys is making yet being scapegoated for the same 3 reasons above that Liles was subjected to. As it stands, I would have made room for Liles a lot earlier even at the expense of removing some 'toughness' from the line up.

    Lastly, the call ups and recemt replacement have been tremendous and for the life of me, I don't know why they are not playing more. Jerry D'amigo without scoring a single goal, has shown the tenacity and toughness that neither MClaren nor Orr combined all season. I just don't understand why they are not playing more. Ahston playing less than 2 minutes on Sunday is absolutely ridiculous when McLaren played 2 minutes more on Saturday.

    Lastly last night 4th goal, Phaneuf should have been better but JVR on the backcheck was atrocious.

    Sigh

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    1. Rielly and Gardiner are sublime talents but you make a good point, that teams have seen them now and have a better idea how to deal with them. Like in all sports, now it will be up to Jake and Morgan to keep making adjustments themselves. These are skilled young men.

      The Liles thing is a bit of a head-scratcher, Lukas. I'm not suggesting he suddenly is a Norris candidate, but he is an NHL defenseman- flawed just like everyone else on this roster.

      Four line allocation? As I've said here, I'm with you. Give Ashton and D'Amigo real playing time, over an extended period.

      Sigh, indeed.

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  8. Some quick points on our guys:

    Agreed on the points about Gardiner. Very skilled but almost seems uninterested in what happens if he loses the puck. I think he is too "calm" out there, not believing anyone will hastle him.

    In your post about next leaf captain, I threw Liles' name into the conversation. I´m glad he´s back. He has something about him I think the guys in the room like too. Is any D-man other than the top 2 really better than him?

    We have a new dynamic duo it seems. Kessel and JVR. We aal want someone to make Kessel a better player, to "feed" him. The truth is anyone who plays with Phil becomes better. We saw it with Bozak then Lupul and now JVR.

    Why won´t Carlyle listen to people like us who know better. Was it really worth keeping Reily on the big team. Let's all say it together... "We told you so Randy".

    Has Bernier caught the Reimer bug. Do both of them have to let in a soft goal every single game?

    Am I the only one who is losing patience with Clarkson? Simply not enough. Please come back Komarov.

    I didn't think we'd miss Bolland and yes, Bozak like we have. Shows us what we know.

    In one of your "hangouts" you almost refused to say Lupul was injury prone. It's not his fault, but he's always on the wrong end of things. Is he unlucky, or just injury prone? It does cost the team and I wonder if we can afford to have someone like him not playing half the time.

    and finally... Have you noticed that other than Phaneuf, not one player on our team even comes close to knowing how to shoot a one-timer? Such a skill guy like Kessel can't shoot a one-timer to save his life. It's comical. I don't think there's a more dangerous play on the power play than a big one time shot (Subban, Malkin, Stamkos, Ovi). Maybee JVR should practice that instead of the cute between the legs play. Or maybee not. That play is sweet.

    That's it. Thanks for putting up with my dumb insight.

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    1. Don't worry, I always enjoy hearing from you, portuguese leaf.

      As for Randy listening to us, well, we know that won't happen. And it shouldn't Coaches are paid to make decisions. We may not like them, but they know their personnel better than we do.

      That said, we, as fans, have a right to first guess- and second guess, too. Rielly being here is fine, but was it really the best decision for the long-term? I just don't think so. It simply wasn't necessary. I do hope he plays with Team Canada.

      Liles will hopefully stay for a while. If he is healthy (and he seems to be) and confident, why can't he help a blueline corps that is OK but far from perfect?

      Lupul plays hard when he's in- he's just not in enough!

      I don't have an issue with bad goals. If a goalie otherwise shuts the door down the stretch when the game is on the line, that's OK.

      Hang in and talk soon, portuguese leaf!

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  9. We have to be somewhat happy with the 4 points out of 6, but the 2 more points in Boston were there for the taking.

    Liles looked good last night. The defence in general was clicking in that Boston game. They looked like a real NHL defence and they haven't looked like that some nights.

    Kessel was the goat against Lucic on the Inginla goal. If he fights a little harder on that play, maybe we get a point in that game.

    Jerry D'Amigo with all that speed and hustle looked like a terrific 4th liner. He was blocking shots and has drawing penalties in his last two games. They need to jugle the lines to get him more ice time and leave McClement more fresh for the PK, which has been floundering, partly because McClement is tired with all those minutes that he doesn't ussually play.

    They need a better player than McLaren. You could see the guy was staying high in the offensive zone so he wouldn't get burnt because of his lack of speed. Essentially there are only 2 forwards who will go low on the boards when he plays. You can't have that in the NHL.

    Bring up Devane or Broll in place of McLaren. Devane has already proved that he can take on the Matt Kassians and not get hurt. Devane could certainly fight Chris Neil in that Senators game, plus Devane is good on the low boards and rather agile in front of the net.

    Broll has play making ability and is even a better player than Devane. Broll could fight Lucic and do fine, plus take Lucic off the ice for 5 minutes.

    Put Orr on LTIR, sit McLaren and bring up Devane or Broll for a few games.



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    1. You have shared your thoughts on Broll and Davane here for some time, DP, which I appreciate. You made me aware of them. I finally got to see these guys earlier this year and I agree with your assessment. They can certainly play fourth-line minutes here.

      I think you're right about McClement. Our injuries have meant too much ice time for him. He is likely over-taxed. We need him to spearhead the PK.

      I'm not a cap guy, but your suggestions, roster-wise, sound reasonable to me. Thanks DP.

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  10. FIRE RANDY CARLYLE!!!!

    I am going to post some paragraphs from an article written by a Ducks blogger on November 30th 2011 and please anybody tell me this doesn't sound like the leafs at the moment.

    Here you go:

    Point Three: The Ducks have responded particularly awfully to leading AND trailing.

    Whenever the Ducks are up by two goals or down by one goal, the odds that Anaheim scores next is very, very slim. It is kind of stunning that with all the trailing that's been happening in Anaheim, Ducks have only been able to tie the score from behind only six times. You'd hope that once trailing, the Ducks could adjust their game to some sort of offensive focus in pursuit of that game-tying goal, but whatever they're doing, it's awful. Most early deficits are staying deficits; Ducks apparently don't have that ability to adjust their game in that direction.

    When leading, the Ducks are pretty awful, too -- even the two victories the Ducks have over their past 18 games have both featured nearly-blown multi-goal 3rd-period leads. Put the Ducks up by multiple goals, and the Ducks will stop playing for the night. Sometimes the clock will expire in time to keep that lead intact; lately it takes opponents hardly any time at all to catch up. Whatever Carlyle is coaching, it isn't helping when the Ducks lead or trail.

    Tie situations seem like they could go either way, but even that's kind of deceptive. So far this season, 31 times the Ducks have entered a 20-minute period with the score tied. In 8 of those periods the Ducks managed to outshoot their opponents; in 21 of those periods Anaheim's opponents outshot the Ducks. So really, no matter the score, I don't like how Carlyle's Ducks are performing. And results don't appear to be any better than they were a month ago (1 win ago).


    Point One: Randy Carlyle's Ducks are not prepared to play the start of any period, or any season, really.

    First let's look at that table above for 23 games this season -- even I'm stunned at how neatly this worked out. The Ducks are losing periods as quickly as possible, it seems. And while they do seemingly right their ship as periods go along, part of that is that opponents adjust as they start playing with a lead. This table does include overtime periods, but so far there has been only one goal-against in overtime; it barely impacts the table at all.

    It seems obvious from the table that the Ducks this season are not prepared for the starts of periods. The matchups are wrong, or the mindset is wrong, or the players are not warmed up effectively -- whatever the reason, it comes back to the head coach. If Carlyle cannot motivate or maniupate matchups so that his players execute a competent first eight minutes, then he should hurry and find somebody who can. At this point, players appear unafraid of Carlyle, which is working out pretty disastrously.

    And slow season starts aren't new for Carlyle, either. Carlyle's Ducks are a collective 23-30-7 in their first dozen games of the past five seasons; only once in five tries have the Ducks been above .500 twelve games into the season. Training camps appear to be ineffective attempts to prepare Anaheim for regular season hockey, just like Carlyle's locker room speeches.

    Here is the link to the whole blog: http://www.battleofcali.com/2011/11/30/2592092/ducks-lossday-lets-talk-about-fire-carlyle

    I would like to make clear - I am not presenting any of this as my writing - This writing above is by Earl Sleek of Battleofcali.com

    And I say again: FIRE CARLYLE!!!

    Anon from Scarborough.

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    1. Hi Scarborough Anon. Thanks for sharing the post from that Anaheim site.

      I can appreciate your frustration, obviously and there do seem to be some startling similarities between the Ducks' experience in the latter days of Carlyle and what we are seeing in Toronto (based on the article's observations). The Leafs did start very strongly this season, so I'm not sure we can make the claim that his teams aren't ready to start the season.

      We have struggled at times out of the gate. I'm not sure that is a coaching issue though I admit it is often one of the tell tale signs of a coaching issue- if guys truly aren't "ready to play".

      I hear you. I'm not there with you at this point, but I'm listening.

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  11. Hi Michael:
    Despite growing up and living in Southern Ontario for most of my life (including Maple Leaf glory years in 50's and 60's), I was never a 'Leaf fan'. However, in the past 3 years through interaction with VLM and your knowledgable followers, I have adopted the Leafs.

    After following the Leafs via VLM, then Yahoo Game Live, then 'game in six' videos, I have now been able to see Leaf games here in Georgia via NHL Game Center for the past two weeks. While the sample size may be small it has allowed me to see "The Maple Leaf Illusion".

    As you know, I have been skeptical of the Leafs and the 'Carlyle system' for some time.
    Following the games on Yahoo Live revealed Box Score tidbits such as shots, hits, faceoffs, etc. which suggested there was a possession problem. The fact that the Leafs had two top-notch goalies allowed them to win games in which the team was badly outplayed. Maybe Nonis knew this skill would be needed for any chance of success? This contributed to the illusion that the Leafs were a good team and could improve???

    Then I figured out that I could see 'Game in Six Minutes' videos. Since these just showed highlights it further contributed to the illusion, since Leafs were winning. Following VLM which naturally has a Leaf bias further built my illusion.

    Now, Game Center has given me the ability to see the full product that the Leafs are providing. While I previously had suspicions about the Leafs, seeing the full games reveals that they are actually worse than my suspicions. I feel compassion for those individuals (not corporations) who are spending their own money to see this brand of hockey. It should be a signal to go see OHL Major Junior A hockey.

    Some observations from Bruin's game - they actually played better.
    Liles - This guy can play. He looked like the only defenceman that was trying to move the puck intelligently up the ice, rather than attempting to hopefully shoot it up the boards to no one in particular. This excludes Gardiner who gets over-aggressive in his puck-carrying (so were Orr and Coffey), but I would rather see that.

    Kadri - I had hoped to see him at Line 1 Center. I have changed my mind. There are not enough pucks for a line with 3 puck-carriers. Line 1 would be better off with a big center banging in front of the net (Phil Esposito type). In my view, he can provide more value on 2nd line.

    Too much skating backwards with one hand on stick (including forwards). This 'in the shell hockey' is seriously flawed as it seems to occur regularly with Leafs.

    Carlyle is at major disadvantage trying to play 15/16 players versus 20. In the end, this wears a team down in games and over the season. The Marlie kids look good enough to form an 'Energy line'. Holland looks like an upgrade on Colborne.

    So far, Game Center has been discouraging. Hopefully it will get better.

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    1. I appreciate that assessment and your analysis of the Leafs and their recent play, Ralph (RLMcC). I know that given your current southern U.S. location you have not been able to see a lot of Leaf games but you have provided an "objective" perspective here, one I hope VLM readers will take the time to check out.

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    2. Michael
      As Dr Phil says "Opinions are like @holes, everyone has one". I am like you, criticism is fine as long as it is constructive.

      Like many of your followers, I have been trying to figure out what is with the Leafs. Today, I discovered a fan post on Pension Plan Puppets that is 11 days old. I find the contents very plausible. If you haven't read it, here is the link.

      http://www.pensionplanpuppets.com/2013/11/29/5158446/randy-carlyle-and-the-2013-2014-toronto-maple-leafs-like-peanut

      I will let you make your own conclusions. Ultimately, decision with be in Nonis and Leweike court and perhaps sooner than later.

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    3. Thanks Ralph (RLMcC). There is indeed reasonable and fair thinking in that post. What Carlyle wants in his team's approach and what they might be capable of seem to be two different things right now. Toronto is a team with speed, etc. and are not quite built to play the grinding defensive game he may prefer. Where this leads, I don't know.

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