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Leafs build on Boston win; survive ‘look past’ game, upend Sabres—Habs next

I had an idea for a post tonight but it’s probably best to just invite the usual thoughtful commentary from readers here at VLM, on the heels of the Toronto’s shoot-out win over the Sabres Wednesday night.

We all know this was one of those games where the Leafs could easily have suffered a hangover from a big road win the night before, especially as they are surely looking ahead to facing Montreal on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday.  But they outshot and out-chanced Buffalo and earned  an important win in Eastern Conference playoff race.

Just a few brief comments:  Carlyle went with pretty much the same lineup that bested the Beantowners the night before—Ashton and Orr played precious little; McClement was in his fourth-line/penalty duty slot. Holland continued to demonstrate that, given sufficient ice time, he can put up some points.  Kadri made a nifty pass to Reilly for Toronto’s third goal.  Gleason played over 20 minutes.

Again, as was the case the night before, there were some good signs. I'm sure some of you noticed things I didn't.

The Leafs looked like they wanted to win this one in regulation, and very nearly did.  I thought Ryan Miller played better as the game went on.  (I’m not sure, by the way, that I agree with the thesis that Miller always plays well against Toronto.  To me, he’s played some pretty mediocre games against the blue and white in recent years, but yes, he’s had some stellar games as well.)

As for Reimer, well, as I often say, you can’t play with a piano on your back.  He’s obviously under a microscope and the reality of playing once in a blue moon can’t be easy.  The guy is clearly not himself.  He’s fighting things.  He needs a big save at a big moment to get his confidence back. Maybe his clutch stop in the dying seconds of overtime (which, in the end, protected the extra point for Toronto) will kick-start him a bit.  He wasn’t really tested a lot against an under-skilled Sabre side, but did enough to get a win.

Again, some positives were in evidence, albeit against a team that is fighting an uphill battle this season.


I’ll save my post idea for another time.  In the meantime, share any comments you might have on the Leafs as we look ahead to playing the Habs.

23 comments:

  1. Hi Michael.
    I lost my live stream and missed the end but so glad they managed the 2 points.
    when one announcer said both teams would run a long bench I thought -" Oh, you don't know Randy, do you?" Carter played just over 3 min., Orr 3 min. and Jay just over 6--On the 2nd game of a back to back. Scott, on the other hand, had around 8 min. I have to give a tired Leafs team credit for making it all the way to the shoot-out. C.N.

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  2. Yes, it would be good if the Leafs were comfortable giving the fourth line some minutes. Ashton may get his chance. McClement is OK with the lesser minutes, as we've discussed here for some time. Thanks C.N.

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  3. Well they got two points. At this point that is all we can ask. They are so far behind on tiebreakers that they will need to win a playoff spot outright. We all know the deficiencies this team has and at this point in the season I don't think that is going to change so any way they get points is crucial.

    I missed my first game this year due to a wicked wind storm (I have heard up to 125k/hour on the radio) that lasted over 13 hours in my area and which knocked out power from 11:30 last night till 1/2 way thru overtime tonight. So far we are the lucky ones, I have heard that some people are going to be out of power for up to 5 days. All I can say is thank God we are having a warm spell right now and it is only going down to -3 overnight. Last week at 40 below would have been deadly. Kind of puts the Leafs problems in perspective for me a bit.

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    1. While sports can be a healthy distraction (not always!), you're so right, Willbur. When certain things arise in our lives, we quickly "re-remember" just how much more important health, security, loved ones, etc. are.

      I hope everything is restored for everyone out your way, Willbur. Talk soon.

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    2. best wishes to you and your family/community wilbur!

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  4. Hi Michael
    It was not how we drew it up, but a win is a win. There were times when I thought we could have cashed in with a few more goals and taken over this game. But the Leafs always make it interesting for us. They played hard, competing and forcing turnovers and capitalizing on two of the goals, against a team that struggles giving up a lot of shots as well.

    There always seems to be blatant giveaway (ala Franson this time ) every night. Its not that I don't expect mistakes to happen but the aspect of taking a chance to make a play without weighing the consequence of if it does not work. Leaf players need to better judge weighing the reward vs. consequence on plays like making tight passes, pinching to keep the puck in at the blue line. This time it was a soft bank pass off the boards by Franson when there was only one man back. Not the kind of play to make here as it clearly backfired with a two on one going the other way. Even if the puck did get past Moulson there it would not have resulted in a great scoring chance for us. So the gamble was not well calculated. These are the type of mental mistakes that drive us fans crazy. Its not just Franson too, but it seems that we continue to play with fire and repeat these type of mistakes when they can be for the most part be eliminated. The players especially the d men need to make better judgments out there. At least have the forwards backing them up in case it does not work.

    Reimer made a great save in the last minute of OT there on Myers. The 3rd goal he gave up was somewhat like the Bruin goal the night before from the side of the net. Those type of goals are considered weak but interesting that Reimer goes on to say that he did everything right on that play from a positional stance but the puck happened to roll in behind him. The replay showed he did have most of the net smothered. So I'm not sure if it really was a bad goal or just bad luck. I would like to hear what you Michael and the commentators think?

    Although they did get a goal tonight, I'm waiting for the Lupul Kadri Raymond line to really break out and score some points as there is too much talent there to be held down. Especially since they would be up against second pairing defensemen with the top line taking on the opponents top pairing defencemen.

    The third line has been excellent and plays the boards nicely down low. Holland without question brings an offensive dimension to the line making them a threat as well.

    I don't see Orr cracking this lineup anymore, especially if Smith or Bolland get back. He has been a good soldier for us and with teams not willing to drop the gloves so much anymore, the need for his play has become near obsolete.

    All around I loved how our dmen stood up at the blue line recently more than in many of the games this year. Gleason has brought this element to his game which is often overlooked.

    Its amazing how predictable Lupul is in the shootout but manages to still score with the same move. I guess if even Miller a world class goalie who is excellent at the shootout historically knows whats coming and still can't stop it then why change anything right?

    Aside from the game itself it is rather interesting that Scrivens fetched the LA Kings only a third round pick. Mind you it may be a high 3rd rounder. Especially since he has had good gaa and save percentage numbers this year. I'll be keeping an eye on how well he does in Edmonton now to see if the LA defensive oriented team game inflated his numbers or not.

    But it makes me wonder what Reimer who is more proven would fetch us if he was dealt at the deadline. A high second, perhaps or late first? I'm hoping. Instead I'd rather him stay here but not sure he resigns with the way he feels he has been treated here.

    Take on the Habs and keep her rolling boys...

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    1. All worthwhile comments in your post as always, BlueANDwhite. Franson is likely trying to "make things happen" at times, which is fine, but you raise a fair point. Sometimes it's better to simply take what is given. Given the pace of the play at that level, I guess those quick judgments are impossible to get right all the time.

      The third Buffalo goal was odd. I, too, thought Reimer had done what he could to cover the post. But it was a very peculiar play. Those things happen.

      I think the Kadri line will get it going. He has too much talent not to deliver. Unless someone can point out what he is doing so differently from a year ago to demonstrate he why the point production has tailed off, I'll expect the numbers to rebound. And, as others have said, there are three guys on a line. Last season, I thought Kadri made all the wingers he played with better. This year has maybe been (so far) a bit more of an adjustment for him.

      Lupul's savvy in shoot-outs has been something this season. Very confident in that situation.

      I, too, would rather Reimer be here, of course, but if a trade is the outcome, then it will likely depend on where other teams are at in their goalie hunt in the summer. A late first-round pick may not seem like a lot to a team if they can acquire a netminder who can play well for them right away, and in his prime years. Thanks BlueANDwhite.

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  5. Ever since Miller made his smart-ass comment about how much he loved to beat the Leafs and shut up their fans he has had his problems against them. Leaf fans give it to him with the sarcastic Miller Miller chant both in tha ACC and in Buffalo which has to be disconcerting.

    I was happy with the Leafs game last night. With 5 games in 7 nights and 8 members of the team suffering in various stages of the flu this was always going to be a gut it out type game. Ted Nolan has the Sabres playing pretty good hockey so this was a gratifying win under difficult circunstances.

    I can't help but think that this would have been an ideal time to send the 4th line out for 10-12 minutes. Aston looked good during his short stint. We know what McClement can do and there are a number of Marlies who could play right wing on this line. I just cannot understand or accept Carlyle's intransigence on this point.

    I was impressed with Holland and Gleason. They have both stepped up impressively to meet the needs at 3rd line centre and defense.

    It looks like the Leafs have the league's most lethal shootout combination in Van Riemsdyk, Lupul and Bozak. I still despise this Bettman skills competition as a way to decide a hockey game but it is reality and it is nice to see that the Leafs have a way to turn it to their advantage.

    This has been a nice, but unexpected little win streak. A win Saturday would put them within striking distance of 3rd place. They need to aim high. A wild card spot is just not good enough.

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    1. Agreed on your last point, Pete Cam. They can absolutely look to get as high as possible in the standings. And if the depth players, including those you cite, can continue to contribute, that will be key down the stretch. Thanks Pete.

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  6. We keep harping about the 4th line or lack thereof so I thought I'd insert a 4th line vintage memory at this point.

    Sometime during the 1959-60 season Punch Imlach put together a 4th line consisting of Eddie Shack, Gary "Duke" Edmunson and Johnny Wilson. Shack was an undisciplined enigma at this point, Edmunson was a journeyman banger and Wilson was at the end of a nice career. Funny thing is these very different players clicked and became the high energy "Wrecking Crew". They checked, they hit and generally made things miserable for the opposition. We eagerly awaited their appearance and Maple Leaf Gardens came alive when they took to the ice. They also seemed to energize their teammates and the Leafs played much better after this line was formed.

    So I would say to Mr. Carlyle; take a page from Mr. Imlach's book. A good 4 th line can make a definite difference.

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    1. Thanks for that, Pete. You know I appreciate those names. I so agree.

      I also often think back to Imlach's really good Sabre teams of the mid '70s. They had the great Perreault line, and the wonderful Gare-Luce-Ramsey scoring/checking line, but they could throw out Rick Dudley and Brian Spencer and cause absolute havoc- in a good way. Those guys were tough, could skate, crash the net and the corners and chip in with goals. I'm with you, Pete.

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  7. it's so frustrating for a maple leaf fan like myself, living in buffalo, to see such a terrible team (buffalo) give toronto such a hard time... so consistently... for so many years. grrrr. decent effort in the dying minutes of the 3rd for the leafs though.

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    1. One of those games, Alex, where I guess a win takes precedence over everything else!

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  8. I didn't watch much hockey in the 60's but I remember how much my Dad loved Eddie Shack. When he yelled "Here comes Shack!" we all ran to watch as players tried desperately to get out of his way. It must have been a great experience to be in the Gardens when Eddie came out. We've had players like Clarke who could lift the team but there's only one Eddie Shack.

    Good Luck in your area, Wilbur. We are watching the news on the windstorms here. What a winter we're having, throughout Canada and the United States.

    Montreal next and here I am--married 36 years to a Habs fan. Colleen

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    1. Shack was absolutely unique, no question, Colleen- and that's an awful long-time to be married to a Hab guy!

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    2. the saying was "Clear the Track, Here Comes Shack". Was a song which was tops on the charts for a number of months.

      It is too bad Eddie took his role as "Entertainer" so seriously. He was a gunner coming out of Junior with Guelph Biltmores. While he had five 20+ goal seasons, he may well have been a victim of coaches who could not figure out how to harness him (sound familiar). Too bad we remember him as a fourth line agitator.

      Eddie may well be hockey's version of Moe Norman. He may have been a much better hockey player than he even he thought was. There are many stories about Shack. My room-mates in 1960-61 related how Eddie cruised the streets in their hometown (Sudbury) in his Cadillac convertible with no shirt and a Mohawk haircut all summer.

      Michael, was he at oldtimer's game? I don't imagine he still sells Christmas Trees in North York?

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    3. No, I don't believe Eddie was at the Legends game in Michigan, Ralph (RLMcC).

      You reference to Moe Norman is an interesting one. By all accounts Norman was such a pure golfing talent, but largely misunderstood. Maybe a difference is that Shack, to a certain extent, utilized his unconventional reputation to help market his career. Moe did not seem, to be able to get noticed and respected until much later in life, sadly.

      Shack was, as you say, an offensive threat. Fine scorer in junior, frustrated in New York but a 20+ goal guy many times, as I recall, in the NHL (once with the Leafs, and then in the expansion years, as well, I think...). Thanks Ralph.

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  9. Hey Michael,

    The game last night was what it should have been expected to be - hard fought and guts/clutch time - u r at the tail end of a whole bunch of games in a week plus u played on the road the night before and the sabres are purposefully trying to poke you by starting Miller against you. Plus Reimer is rusty, recovering from the flu and lacking in confidence.

    Good for the leafs to win this, no matter how they did it - credit where it is due.

    One thing I noticed all night - and I don't know if this is the media bias or spin being produced by a company that owns the leafs - but all night it was pointed out by ray ferraro and guys on leafs tv (in the post game) - how kadri lost another draw and not once during the third period - which is the only period I saw - was it pointed out the bozak lost his draw - and he lost a ton - but the one draw he won - it was pointed out instantly.

    I HATE this kind of biased reporting - it just sinks into the audience and fans and can create false impressions.

    Same with the third Reimer goal - everyone was on him for letting that one in and loosing the lead - but bernier gave up a near identical goal on a play that looked worse to me - since it really seemed impossible for that puck to find a way in - at least the reimer puck was bouncing.

    I am also very impressed by the habs - they were mediocre in the beginning but have put together some good hockey and have sort of switched places with the leafs in the standings (as in barely hanging onto a wild card spot).

    Keep Warm Wilbur (where ever u r in sask or alberta)

    Anon from Scarborough

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    1. You know what, Scarborough Anon- I almost always watch games now with the sound off- no radio or television sound. I can't stand Leaf bias- or broadcasters who clearly don't like the team. I prefer to make my own observations anyway, but you raise a fair point. Broadcasters (and broadcast organizations) have their own personal biases and it impacts their "reporting" of the game.

      Great point about the Habs. I have tended to discount them as a small, semi-skilled and very beatable team. But they have had some really solid stretches this season.

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  10. Guess what is the latest news from the reporter cousin of Dave Nonis:

    Kadri is not going to even be a 2C in the NHL; he has already done developing; saying he will be traded this year.

    Reilly is better than gardiner already and thus makes gardiner expendable; Reilly is half defenceman/half winger = dwinger;

    I can't believe they are going to resign bolland - because all indications are that they will and thus trade kadri. In my humble opinion they are going to be making the same mistake that they did with John Michael Liles.

    Also - if someone wants to read some of the radio talk about the leafs then - https://twitter.com/Hope_Smoke - is a good place to read rather than have to listen all day on radio.

    P.S. - the cousin is Darren Dreger of TSN.

    Anon from Scarborough

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  11. The media seems to work very hard to help teams " sell " trades both before and after a trade is done. A trade is a story. A disastrous trade means several stories. I believe trading Kadri and /or Gardiner right now could be disastrous for the Leafs so we see every reporter pushing for it. I hate to see young players portrayed badly and dragged through the dirt just to sell a trade to fans. C.N.

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  12. Michael
    Sometimes no trade is the best trade. It would be a terrible mistake to sign Bolland longterm right now at the expense of trading Kadri. As Anon from scarborough reminds us they made the mistake with Liles and I hope they don't repeat it. We can evaluate Bolland after he returns to see if he has lost a step and can continue to be effective on the ice first. Kadri reminds me of Ribeiro with some more jam to his game, who blossomed on another team after the Habs gave up on him.

    Besides we as an organization do not have immediate depth at center and cannot afford to run into injuries at the center position any time in the future. Holland has showed promise but is nowhere near proven. Kadri has so much of an upside because he is still very young and will only get better.

    It would not be fair to negate any trade without considering who the player is returning to the Leafs. So, of course it would depend on which center is coming back for Kadri. We know it will not be a first line center, so that leaves us with the likes of Ryan OReilly, Pavelski, Couture, Kesler, Huberdeau, Skinner.

    The most likely of these candidates is OReilly since Colorado is deep at center with Dechene and Stasney if he resigns, they probably don't want to pay OReilly 6-7 million so it would make sense to them to get Kadri and Gardiner for OReilly.

    Otherwise Skinner is the only other name we heard mentioned in the rumour mill. But he doesn't fit the bill as he too is smallesh for a first line center.

    Kadri and Gardiner for OReilly would be too steep a price to pay I think.

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  13. Just wanted to say thanks to everybody for the well wishes. A big thanks to the men and women of ATCO electric, because of their hard work and dedication we had power back on late Wednesday night. Their hard work stood up to yet another night of 70k+/hour winds. True heroes to work in such dangerous conditions to help us get by.

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