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Leafs have one 'statement' game behind them—with a month of statement games to come…

In my previous post, on the heels of a discouraging loss in St. Louise (after a very good effort in a losing cause to the LA Kings) I made a simple statement here.  I indicated that I felt strongly that the Leafs were badly in need of not only a “statement” game, but a statement month.

Well, I’m hardly going to go out and buy some confetti and ticker tape for the parade just yet, but the convincing Saturday night win at home against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks was, in fact, a statement game. (Yes, the Chicago goaltending was not great, but we won 7-3 and could have scored a dozen...)

And it was also, perhaps, a start.

How was it a statement?  Well, many Leafers may start by saying that a statement was made (by Nonis/Carlyle/fans?) because the roster was closer to what they have been calling/asking/begging for for several weeks:  no Fraser, no Ranger and full throttle ahead for the "kids" like Gardiner and Rielly.  Our fourth line (on this night, Bodie, MacLaren and Smith) played sparingly, but everything else was clicking.  Youngsters like Peter Holland and Jerry D'Amigo played more and were prominent.  Bernier was good enough.  We outshot the Hawks.  We scored on the power play.  D’Amigo picked up a goal and an assist, and that, along with two goals (and almost a third) from  Holland, gave the underdog Leafs the crucial secondary scoring that we often talk about here.

They had some jump, some breaks and obviously were able to "finish" on offense.  Now, I will readily acknowledge I have seen this movie countless times before in fifty plus years following the Leafs.  That is, a struggling Leaf side plays at home against a superior club with a history of success, and for one night at least, the good guys provide the faithful with a peak at what could be—and a bit of hope for the future as well—with an unexpected, decisive victory.

This is always the tantalizing—and frustrating—situation, it seems, in Leafland.  At least it has been in recent years again, as it was at times, for example, in the generally desolate ‘80s.  We see talent sprinkled throughout the roster—some solid young talent, in fact. (Again, it was that way in the '80s, too.  Check out the rosters from the mid and later ’80 Leaf teams. There were some impressive skill names there: Clark, seen at right, Courtnall, Leeman, Thomas, Vaive, Iafrate, etc.). There were some tough guys on those teams, too, just like today, and a few grinders sprinkled throughout the roster.  But at the end of the day, the sum of the parts never seems to give or bring the desired results.

But I will say again, it was a statement game against the Hawks, because of the Carlyle roster shuffle (Clarkson was absent too, which no doubt made those not fond of his early season play smirk a bit, I’m guessing), because they beat a very good team on a Saturday night on national television, and because it came at a fairly desperate-feeling time among Leaf faithful.  The Leafs told us—and more importantly, themselves—that, for one night at least, they could play with the big boys and come up with a win.

Many of us have acknowledged here that, on any given night this season, the Leaf “glass” can feel very much full—or quite empty.  When Kessel is flying and Phaneuf is controlling the back end, when the goalies are on their game and we score on the PP, when van Riemsdyk spends the night parked in the goalie's crease and everyone crashes the night, when Kadri is his cagey self, when our checking lines check and when we look like we care about getting the puck more than the other team, things are, well, pretty swell in Leafworld.

When we play as we did in St. Louis—when our goaltending is suspect, when we are second to the puck most of the night, when the players look like they are mostly just jostling to see who will get out of the dressing room first so they can get a window seat on the plane home, we’re not thinking this is a team that’s going anywhere but the golf course come May.

A win is always a good thing.  A win against a really good team is even better.  Now, lest anyone misunderstand, the earlier post about a statement game (and a personal thank you to the Leafs for the quick and definitive response; well done) was written very much within the context that what they really needed was not just one good game. It’s not enough to play the skilled, determined, smart hockey that we all want to see (and that they win- unlike the outcome against the Kings, where they actually played a 60-minute game but still lost) once in a while.  No, I made it clear, I hope, that I was—and am—talking about a much loftier expectation.

I want to see this team become what they were at times last season, but only much better than that.  I want to see them skate, to score in transition and off the rush.  I want to see their elite skill on display whenever possible.  But I also want to see a team that has a desire to own the puck.  I want physical players like Kulemin, Clarkson, et all to hit hard—and consistently, not just when the mood strikes. I want opposition players to feel uncomfortable when they go near our net because they are apt to get whacked.

I want to see our defensemen make smart plays, to rush the puck when there is an opening, but not recklessly so simply because they are young and love to skate with the puck.  I want to see that the team truly buy into Carlyle’s much-maligned “system”, embrace it and play it to the hilt.  (I don’t believe, by the way, that his system suppresses all of our natural ability, or at least it shouldn’t. It is surely not that repressive an approach. It wasn't on Saturday night. Same system, maybe with small modifications...) 

Lately, people have suggested—and I understand this, I really do—that either the system is wrong for the talent the Leafs have, or the talent just isn't there.  I’ve looked at the rosters in the Eastern Conference and I still see no reason why the Leafs can’t be among the better teams in the Conference—on paper.  And I don’t believe that Carlyle has suddenly forgotten how to coach, or is so out of touch that the game has completely passed him by, whatever his growing legion of critics say.  (I am open to opposing arguments and have read many—just not any that convince me that he has be fired now. Those who have followed the Leafs for a while have seen the coach carousel thing before.  The grass is always greener...)

We have goaltending (and I won’t even go on, though tempted, to explain in even more detail than before why the two-goalie system will show itself to be a terrible idea before the season is out. I accept the current reality).  We have two of the most promising young defensemen in the NHL.  We have highly-skilled players like Kessel, Kadri, van Riemsdyk and Lupul (when healthy).  We have an experienced leader in Bolland, who should be back by the playoffs.  Lest I sound like I’m jumping on some bandwagon, we all know I could just as easily make things sound awfully depressing the next time the Leafs lose a game in disappointing fashion.

My point is:  the Leafs looked pretty darn good Saturday against Chicago and were full measure for their win—just as they were full measure for a troubling loss two nights before.

What are these Leafs?  Who are they?  I still have no clue.  I’ll just enjoy a win, and two points.  But my real assessment will come in my earlier stated timeline:  a month from now.  If the win over Chicago proves to have been a launching pad, and the ills that we fans have identified and complained and talked about fade from memory, then we’ll stop hearing about Clarkson being bought out (never going to happen, c’mon), about why this defenseman and that guy should be demoted or traded or that Carlyle should be turfed.  Instead we’ll be waxing hopeful about the impending playoffs, and asking ourselves how far will this speedy, talented Leaf team go?


I’m not even going to try to forecast what’s on the horizon.  Let’s simply wait, watch and assess it in a sober, honest fashion as the Leafs work through a crucial stretch of games.

24 comments:

  1. Two statements really resonate with me, Michael: I've seen this movie before, and I'll wait a month before assessing where we are. I'm walking along beside the bandwagon at the moment!
    Two good games in the last three is promising, no doubt. The unmissed Clarkson, Ranger and Fraser an interesting aspect. Third and fourth string Hawks' goalies, well, you've got to take advantage, as Carlyle said post-game.
    There was a lot to like last night, but the aspect of the win that's caught my attention is that the team was NOT playing according to the coach's oft-stated strategy. They played a rush game, and looked pretty darn good doing it. This can't help but resonate with those, and I'm one of them, who think Carlyle should either change his strategy or change the players. Is it possible Holland, Smith, D'Amigo et al represent the change we need on both counts? Hard to tell - we'll have to wait until the going gets a little tougher.
    For today, I'm still enjoying our first defeat of the Hawks in over a decade (!), and looking forward to Monday and Tuesday's games.

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  2. I like that line, Gerund, that you're "walking along side the bandwagon". I think I'll occupy that perch myself. System change, player change. We'll see. Whatever the system, they have to work their tails off. Talk soon.

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  3. What has Randy Carlyle actually said about the Leafs not being a rush team? It just occurred to me that I have come across this idea several times, but never saw/heard the original comment(s). Thinking about the issue in a factual vacuum it makes sense to me that it shouldn't be an aspiration to be a rush team, since that will often lead to an ill-timed pinch (at least in hindsight) and an opposition goal on an odd-man rush the other way. However, that doesn't mean that you would necessarily discourage the players from utilizing their skills. I think it just means you would try to focus more on what happens after gaining entry into the attacking zone than you would on emphasizing the entry itself as a means to an end.

    I'm completely with you when you say we've seen this before. But I don't think a little bit of optimism can hurt anyone, so I'm choosing to look at it as a solid effort in two out of the last three games. One game at a time is all you can really worry about. Let's hope for the best tomorrow night, then take it from there.

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    1. I believe it's OK to be hopeful/optimistic as well, Oliver. I think most long-time Leaf fans, those who have really followed the game and the team, understand there are always nuances here. We can have our opinions as fans, look at advanced stats and everything else, but the people who really know and understand the players best are obviously those who work with them every day.

      If Carlyle believe he has a system that works best for this personnel group, great. Now, whether it is the best system, I don't know. But he is an experienced coach who must have reasons for his assessment. These things don't just happen in a vacuum. For me, there is talent here; there is a system in place. Guys may not follow the system. Not every single guy on the roster may be at his personal best in the overall system or can provide what the coaching staff expects, but these are NHL players. They have the capacity to adjust.

      And, they also have the ability to walk into the coach's offence and have a frank conversation if they feel there is another way to go, in terms of systems and approach. This can all be worked out. As you say, two out of the last three games have seen very good efforts. But the proof is in the pudding. And in this case, we need to, as you say, see how this squad does one game at a time. Thanks Oliver.

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  4. Hi Michael,

    Great win on Saturday. I certainly would not have predicted that one, eh. I guess that is why they say that they play the game on ice, not on paper. Turns out that on Saturday it was very true. Good game, very entertaining, enjoyed Mr. Cole in the booth. I wish he did more Saturday games for the Leafs. I really do like his style more than any of the other guys.

    It shouldn't really come as a surprise to anyone who has read my comments here that I would find the following troubling. It has been reported/speculated since Saturday that the lineup decisions made for Saturdays game, were not the head coaches. There is video of the coach taking Ranger and Fraser aside breaking the news to them. It looked a little conciliatory, if you know what I mean. Not only my suggestion that it looked like he was saying, 'sorry guys, not my idea, this move is being made by the guy upstairs'. No coincidence to me that the Leafs played their best game of the year, with a more talent laden squad.

    My position on the coach has been clear for quite a while now. For me, its not about whether or not he's a good coach. He is, so is every coach that even gets an interview in the NHL. They are the best of the best. There are only thirty of them at any given time in the whole hockey world. More elite than an all-star game, for the players. Really select company for a coach to be in the NHL. It really is about whether or not our coach is the right one for this team, at this time. I don't think he is, and recalling Troy Bodie so that he can sit on the bench for 56 minutes of a hockey game, didn't make any sense to me. Ashton is the better player now, and has more potential in the future. Bodie only makes sense as a security blanket for a coach that has lost his way.

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    1. GM-coach conversations are pretty hard to decipher, I guess. I don't doubt that the coach has the "final" say the vast majority (always?) of the time when it comes to game-night rosters. But GM's can influence decisions, for sure. Whether Carlyle has suddenly lost some authority here, I would not want to say.

      Your comments regarding NHL coaches is a very important one. These guys are indeed, for whatever we as fans may feel at various times, the best of the best. But it's also fair to ask if a given coach is the "right" coach for a given team at a particular time, as you said.

      It was indeed good to hear Bob Cole on a Leaf broadcast. Thanks Jim, as always.

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  5. Well that was a good Leaf game. They played to their strengths and were full measure for the victory. You mention Holland in your write up Michael and I think that is an interesting point. Holland plays with other skilled players, gets to play 16 minutes and picks up three points. Contrast that with his earlier games, plays on the fourth line with pylons gets 4 -5 minutes a night and is invisible. Wow what a concept, play your skilled guys and get a skilled game. There is no way in any universe that MaClement should be getting 20 minutes a night while Holland gets 5 ( which happened more than a few times over the last 3 weeks ). This is not a rip on MaClement he is the perfect 4th line winger and when he plays 12 minutes a night he is very effective. Also, Phanuef and Gunnarrson only got 18 and 15 minutes. Dion at 18-22 minutes a night is very good, Dion at 26 minutes a night is not so good. Rielly and Liles made mistakes and gave up some chances but so did Fraser and Ranger. The difference is Rielly and Liles also create some chances, something neither Fraser or Ranger does. I can live with the mistakes if they create.

    On the topic of coach changes you mention the grass is always greener on the other side. My counter to that is Ron Wilson, who I think most would agree was kept too long by Burke. Just because something fails in the past doesn't mean it is the wrong thing to do this time. The same goes for keeping young players, just because it was wrong in the past doesn't mean it is wrong now. Each and every case is unique in sports. I think with the proper coach this team could be a lot better than they are now. Being in thrall to the past and afraid to make a move because it didn't work in the past can be just as dangerous as making the actual move. This team is clearly not a cycle team, nor is it a particularly good defensive one. But you know what so are some of the more recent cup winners. Neither the Hawks or the Penguins are good cycle teams or strong defensively. They beat you with skill, speed, puck movement and goaltending. Things that with the right line up the Leafs have in spades just like last night.

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    1. Yes, it is hard not to notice the difference in Holland when he has the opportunity to play with skill guys- and play real minutes. I'm always confused when our fourth line, whoever is on it, plays 3 or four minutes a night. I love McClement but like you, see him as a guy who should play a more modest and specific role.

      As for the coach, I understand the growing legion of Carlyle detractors. I do. Yes, I agree the past is not necessarily relevant, that each situation is different. But is Carlyle really that stubborn, and willfully not playing to the strengths of the roster he should know well? I assume Nonis is watching very carefully. Thanks Willbur.

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  6. Hi Michael
    Agree with Jim on Bob Cole: He has the ability to lift viewers with his call and I wish we got him more often to call our games.

    About Carlyle. He takes a lot of pride in representing a certain style that he has coached throughout his career. So when he was informed after the Chicago game that most of his teams goals came off the rush. It was interesting that he mentioned that it was a result of good offensive forchecking and cycling the board as he said wears the other team down thus resulting in creating rush chances. Hence I dont think he will change his style and stop preaching what he believes in, which is a good defensive, tough style
    to play against that focuses primarily on the defensive end with his players taking away the chances between his goal to the slot 15 feet in front of the goal. However the St.Louis game resulted in goals against mostly in these very areas on the ice. I agree that this approach can result in success to an extent but the drawback is a lot of shots taken from the other teams players especially their defencemen from the perimeter. In addition a decisive amount of puck possession by the other team in our zone resulting in wearing down our team. The Leafs pressure is mostly put on the other teams forwards down low but when we do get the puck back in our zone, it probably results in fewer options to get the puck out as our players are mostly collapsed in front of our net. We avoided getting put into this position a lot this Saturday because our more mobile defensemen Liles, Reilly and Gardiner made better quick first passes out of our zone to the more defensive conscious forwards who came back and got open for the transition game to play effect.

    Also on Saturday the Leafs did a much better job positioning themselves between our net and so to say "box the other team to the outside" of the dangerous areas.

    You are correct in mentioning that the players need to buy into the system. This team is still learning what works and what is required of them on the ice. But it is nice to see them have success against Chicago with winning those one on one battles for loose pucks and creatively making accurate passes, getting open and just getting the puck to the net.

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  7. The first few comments on this thread are giving me a lot of food for thought. The Leafs played a great game, and did they play Carlyle's game? Is Carlyle compromising and allowing them to play their own game? Is Carlyle finally loosening the leash on Gardiner or is it happening by default?
    It would appear to be the death knell for a coach in the NHL to lose control of his personnel decisions and allowing the inmates to run the asylum. Carlyle is such a seasoned coach at this level, and it is hard to imagine him take his hands off to such a degree. If Carlyle is here to stay, then my best case scenario is that he is showing an ability to adapt and change, and not to be too stubborn.

    Down at ice level, they simply played a great game against a great team. This shouldn't be such a surprise, they did that just a few nights prior against Los Angeles. The egg they laid against St. Louis was the real surprise. It should come as no surprise to hear me say that I was glad to see the lineup sans Fraser and Ranger. I of course am not an NHL coach, but seeing is believing. Too slow afoot, and too slow to make decisions in their own corners has helped keep the Leafs hemmed in their own zone far too often. The steady presence of Phaneuf, Gunnarsson, and Franson, plus the sheer speed of Gardiner and Rielly, seems to be a winning combination. Lest we forget, the much maligned Liles never did lose his NHL-caliber ability, and he belongs here.

    I'll try not to get too excited about one game, as much as I tried to dismiss one terrible game two nights before. But the Leafs can look at themselves and assess what works and what does not just by watching video of the past week. Who shows up tonight?

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    1. If I had to guess, Pete, I would say that tonight's Penguin game would be a better barometer of things to come (at least for the next while) then the past three games. I say that simply because just as it is natural and to be expected to have a terrible off-game (St. Louis), it is just as possible to have a breakout game against a high-flying team like Chicago and it really mean nothing. The Hawks had no goaltending and would no doubt say, if asked, that they were awful against the Leafs. So that win, while nice from our perspective, may not be meaningful except if it builds our confidence and momentum.

      So tonight against a different, also very good team, should give us a reading as to whether we are in fact on a bit of a roll, that the roster is really better this way and that either Carlyle or the players - or both - are adjusting. Thanks Pete.

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  8. I read your comment today with interest, BlueANDwhite. As I mentioned to Willbur, I know people are feeling that Carlyle is not playing to his team's strengths, etc. I just wonder if it is indeed his desire to stick with what he knows and feels has been successful in the past.

    Most coaches do have tendencies, just like players. That's why everyone watches film of everyone else. But most good coaches also evolve over the years, and/or adjust their thinking/system to meet the needs of a changing sport and also their own personnel and roster limitations. That Carlyle would not do this would seem shocking to me. Thanks BlueANDwhite.

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  9. The manner of the win Saturday was gratifying. It gave a glimmer of the potential of this team and hopefully was a harbinger of future play.

    During the preseason many of us looked forward to a second line of Lupul, Kadri and Clarkson. These thoughts have become a train wreck with Lupul's injuries, Kadri's suspension and hiatus to the first line and Clarkson's suspensions and overall less than stellar play. Saturday's game produced a second line of Holland, Lupul and Raymond that gave an emphatic indication that it could be a combination that can shoulder some of the scoring and take some pressure off the first line. I hope that this line is kept intact and given a chancr to gel regardless of Clarkson's return.

    I was impressed with the checking and overall energy of the McClement, Kuliman and D'Amigo line. That they chipped in with a couple of goals was an added bonus. They too deserve the chance to gel as an effective third line. Their stellar play also ate up some ice time and keep the first two lines fresh.

    I believe that our top six defensemen were dressed Saturday. If they are going to keep Rielly then he needs to play and we need to realize that there will be inevitable rookie mistakes. I would like to see him paired with Lyles who would be a good and necessary veteran mentor. It, unfortunately, has been painfully obvious that Fraser has lost a step and Ranger has not yet recaptured his Tampa level of play.

    At this point I am cautiously optimistic. I believe that the Leafs have the talent to compete favourably with most teams in the East. I also believe that it is vital that they achieve some consistency in their line combinations and defense pairings over a period of a number of games.

    It was indeed refreshing to hear Bob Cole calling a Leaf game. Hughson is a poor substitute and I usually mute the sound when he is calling the game.

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    1. We all recognize that various factors, including injuries. mess with well-thought-out plans in terms of roster and line combinations, Pete Cam. But it would indeed be nice if the Leafs could, for the most part, settle on line combinations and preferred roles so everyone can pull in the same direction. On paper, there is little reason this roster can't compete with the best teams in the East. But we all know that talent alone rarely wins much.

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  10. Hi Michael

    On the risk of sounding pessimistic, we are not out of the woods yet. Tonight's game would be even more meaningful. Do they progress forward or put up another stinker in st. loo? Pun intended..;). It was interesting watching the first chapter of HBO 24/7. There were little glimpse into the inner workings and not surprisingly, there's seems to be less of cohesion within the dressing room. An interesting thing about Tatar reading out the starting lineup seems to be that it didn't show the Leafs having that type of team bonding moment. Whether that was left on the cutting floor or to be revealed later I do not know. Just some feeling that I have that this team does not have the cohesion needed to be mentally tough and ultimately tough to play against. I know it is minor but I always believe in team unity and just some small thing i noticed or biased towards. Who knows.

    As far as some of the personnel changes, the one that I really approved of is Ranger not being in the line up. Although, Fraser's season has been poor, I have not seen glaring errors that resulted in poor position or poor choices, he has simply been beat and or have had some unfortunately bounces. On the other hand Ranger's decision making has be atrocious and no sign of it being any better. I am not sure what it is about him but at this stage, he is not able to do the job.

    I will definitely look forward to the response tonight.

    Thanks

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    1. It's fair to want to wait to see which direction the Leafs are going. Big wins against good teams are nice, but consistently strong play is what's needed here.

      Your comments regarding Fraser are also fair- and interesting. As fans, we all think we know something about the game. We bring our individual experiences to the forefront and (when not emotional) make hopefully reasoned assessments about players, coaches, management personnel, etc.

      Where some fans will criticize a particular player, another fan sees something entirely different. Who's right, or wrong?

      Fraser, in hockey terms, is a warrior. But he suffered a serious injury at the end of last season. He has always been a borderline NHLer when it comes to talent. But he has that big heart. On good days, fans will fan in love with Reilly and Gardiner because of their sublime skill, but there may come a day when we will need Mark Fraser- slow afoot as he generally is. And I mention Fraser as one example only regarding how fans react, fair and sometimes not so fair. Thanks Lukas.

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  11. Michael,

    I think it is safe to assume that was not the game we were looking for in Pittsburgh. Part of me really wants to go on a rant about not being able to beat a minor league hockey team. The other part of me feels that this is just more of the same from the Leafs. Beat a team on Saturday night that they had no business beating, and then take tonight off. The level of inconsistency is astonishing to me. One night to the next, two completely different hockey teams. Not to mention the effort level of the teams best players. Our best players, are pretty embarrassing when I think about it.

    I really don't know what the rest of the season holds for fans of this team. They are just as likely to win more games than they lose, or the exact opposite. I am having a lot of difficulty liking this hockey team. I gave up on the coach months ago, the players aren't willing to do much of anything on the ice most nights. None of these guys is doing anything to endear themselves to the fans. When Troy freaking Bodie is your most involved player, what does that say about everyone else?

    There are many more things I would like to mention, too many really. Strange team this years edition, they are doing a great job of removing my will to care about them. That is something I never would have thought I would say. I should go, my kitchen appliances have me all perplexed this evening. Does anyone remember the old opening to Wide World of Sports on ABC? 'From the thrill of victory, to the agony of defeat' All in the course of two hockey games, a pretty good summation of this years edition of the Leafs.

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    1. I feel the frustration, Jim. Not quite sure I have an answer. The talent is there in spots. The effort is there at times. Goaltending is great a times. They play well as a team at times. Lots of "at times".

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  12. Hi Michael
    As we all are, I am disappointed with tonights result. However I think after our first goal I thought we were going to get things rolling and get a couple of goals. But a missed gaping net by Kuleman, a partial breakaway by Raymond, and hitting the post late was the difference. This game could have been easily won.

    I am still not sure on which of our goalies is the better one. They both have carried our team early on but both have not been stellar as of late. Not that I blame them for any of the losses in particular. I think Reimer is the ultimate battler who will strive towards doing anything it takes to keep the puck out while Bernier is better positionally sound. Wouldn't it be nice to see them take turns playing red hot rather than playing like the team is playing in front of them. I would love to have Reimer step up in goal this next game and keep the net for a while.

    I was wondering if we had won tonight if Carlyle would have elected to keep Clarkson in the press box after his suspension was over. But it seems like he'll take Jerry D's place on that line. We still need Clarkson in the lineup and maybe a couple of games away from the ice will be a good thing for him and the team.

    I noticed this season when we pull our goalie late, our players look gasped our there and show no desperation. Maybe the top players shifts are too long there at the end. Carlyle should perhaps then try the second line players if that is the case.

    Now is the time I want to see Lupul, JVR, and/or Kadri step up and grab the bull by the horns. I have discussed leadership on this club before but we need someone to put this team on their backs now. We are still in control of our destiny, that being a playoff spot for now. Since we know now that we can beat Chicago, then we CAN beat any team but it will take a team effort to say the least. But teams need that one guy to rally behind.

    Its time to forget feeling sorry for ourselves with the injury excuses, scheduling of back to back games, and take the game to the other team right from the puck drop. I am going to watch who that player will turn out to be. That is if there is one on this team. My wife suggested that Sundin was that guy in years past who when you needed that goal would come to the rescue. Even though he had Roberts and Mogilny to help him carry some of the load, but it was at the end One player.who the team looked up to to deliver. While we haven't found our Sundin on this team this year yet. Maybe Lupul, Kessel, JVR, Kadri. Maybe it'll take more than one...

    But I'm watching who will emerge.

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    1. It could have gone either way, for sure, BlueANDwhite. Leadership remains an elusive quality for this bunch. I think guys care and play "hard", but there is caring and then there is caring, just like there is working hard and then there is working hard.

      Your reflections on Sundin are accurate. He was so often the one to score or arrange the big play, the big goal. He had help indeed, but he was the guy for years. Ideally you'd like to have a few individuals who can carry the load. I think we are all waiting- and watching. Thanks BlueANDwhite.

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    2. Great teams bury their chances consistently. The Leafs are yet a team that can do that. Same as the LA game, their goalie played well enough that eventually, they caught up. There were swings in the game and we simply could not maintain it when Pittsburg gave it to us in the second and I would agree it's about leadership. We NEED a Gary Roberts type. Clarkson seems to have the make up to do that but for some reason hasn't. Not sure if it is because he is new to the team and are a little timid, especially after the 10 games suspension but he need and should step up to lead if not the scoreboard, the physicality.

      I am an avid of sacrificial games when the greater of the season is at stake. I would never have let Paluzzo get away with the hit(s) yesterday on D'amigo. Whether we lost a game because of it would have not mattered as it would have united the team through defending one another.

      The thing about this team that I feel is missing is the passion. I don't see it on any of them save for a couple of player with Lupul the leader. It seems like everyone has the Kulimen style in them. This team needs, a Gallagher, a Marchand, a Ott, or even a Avery sans the stupidity. There is no Passion uniting this team I am sorry to say.

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    3. You mention Gary Roberts, Lukas. Darcy Tucker also comes to mind. Not everyone (myself included) always liked his antics, but we could not deny his energy and passion and that often rubbed off on teammates who were less that way. This bunch needs a bit (a lot?) of that- and yes, sandpaper, too. Who can forget Shayne Corson hurling himself in front of shots at playoff time? We need that, and more, now.

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    4. Agreed completely....sigh.

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