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Leafs brush off Panther loss, skate past the Lightning...

While there has been absolutely nothing to complain about for the past few weeks (with a record of 9-1-1 heading into the Florida matchup Tuesday night) Leaf fans were nonetheless looking for a bounce back game in Tampa on Thursday night. 

The Leafs delivered.

They played a spirited contest against a team that has managed to  stay near the top of the Eastern Conference standings over the past couple of months, despite the loss of the sublimely skilled Steven Stamkos. I thought Toronto was full measure for the 4-1 win.

A few observations from the contest:

  • Bernier continued to play with calm and confidence, though that has been standard stuff much of the season. He withstood a brief flurry after Tampa made it 3-1 and that helped cement the victory.
  • Clarkson, the focus of a recent post here, seemed to fit nicely with Lupul and Kadri when given that opportunity against Tampa.  Many have commented here that they would like to see this trio have a shot to stay together for a while.  Does this game Carlyle something to contemplate over the Olympic break?
  • Ranger needed to get back into the lineup somehow—something that has been hard to do with the Leafs on a roll.  While he has had an uneven season, we need to have all our defensemen ready. Playing seven defensemen was a bit of a mini-breather to those who have been logging extensive minutes of late, without anyone having to be a healthy scratch.
  • Raymond scored his 15th of the season.  Who had that number in mind when the Leafs signed him as a tryout player at training camp?
  • Given the ice time he logs and who he plays against. Phaneuf being a plus 18 at this point in the season is, well, pretty darn impressive.
  • I don’t make predictions but I’ll say this:  Lupul can be a key Leaf down the stretch, especially after three weeks of rest before the close of the regular season and the playoffs. He just needs to be healthy.
  • If I’m not mistaken, Rielly has points in 7 of his last 11 games. 
  • McClement doesn't score often, but that was a sweet sleight of hand to give the Leafs a 2-0 lead early in the third period. (Of note, Clarkson made that play with a strong rush and a timely pass…)


In the final seconds, the Leafs did the right thing in responding to the Tampa forward running at Bernier.  You just can't let teams do that.  All part of this team finding an identity and playing for one another...


**

While the show was conducted before the Tampa game, if you’re interested in a bit of an inside look at a potential Leaf-Lightning playoff match-up, check out the latest ”Maple Leaf Hangout”.  Our guest is long-time Tampa Tribune beat writer Erik Eriendsson, who provided a perspective we wouldn't get anywhere else.






13 comments:

  1. In the first period, there was a small play that I noticed when Gleason was about to leave the zone at the blueline and a TB forechecker was in the vicinity. Rather than rush or panic, Tim just patiently waited to see if he was going to be pressured or if the Bolt was going to peel off. When he saw the latter it was an easy pass to his D partner for a breakout. Just a small thing, but maturity has it's rewards! Hoping Franson was taking mental notes on that one :)

    After a slow start, the power play really turned the tide on this game... I think a penalty call in Sunrise, would have really helped a couple days ago, but we need to find a way to 'gear up' if no calls are forthcoming in future games. It was good to see a bounce back game that I'm sure the Dads appreciated, too.

    And, in a parenthetical kind of way, Gleason finished off the game with a statement not easily forgotten... don't take any liberties (perceived or real) with my tender when I'm on the ice! I think that was a statement that will have an impact in the room (and, probably, league-wide). Maybe 'knuckles Gardiner' was already taking notes before the Panther game...

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    1. The Gleason play you cite is an example of why the Leafs are a bit better, InTimeFor62. Though still giving up loads of shots, I do believe there is discernible improvement.

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  2. I had trouble streaming this game and missed the last period, but it was an odd line-up with an extra defenseman and only three centers.( Smithson was scratched) A slow start to the game but, again, a strong finish. C.N.

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    1. I think Carlyle wanted to get Ranger in there and get some minutes. And yes, they closed the deal well. Thanks Colleen.

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  3. Hi Michael
    Although it was a shaky start early on, the pp got us going in the right direction. Bernier is showing us why he is the number one goalie on this team. Making saves look easy and extremely quick on his feet with his lateral movements not overplaying any shots. His rebound control and positioning has been stellar.

    We just talked a couple of days ago about how Clarkson has been finding his game and tonight he was very noticeable all around the ice. Raymond is quietly showing he doesn't need much space, time and chances to make a difference. He is simply an explosive scorer with a great nack around the net. Gunnerson was the most dangerous offensively I've seen him all year and Franson had some good first passes.

    It goes to show with a balanced attack you don't need to have everyone (Kadri) going every night to chalk up a win. Gleason with his darting Tucker eyes must give the league notice that no liberties will be taken with taking runs at our goalie. Good on him. Ranger played admirably given his long lay off.

    I noticed in the defensive end tonight our forwards especially were pressuring the opponents and taking away the point shots better than I have seen them all year. Maybe this was one of the reasons why we kept the Lightning players to fewer shots against. There is a feeling unlike earlier in the year that even when the other team has possession of the puck in our end there isn't panic that its going to lead to a goal or penalty against. A sign of confidence and poise that seems to be growing on this team.

    I hope the Olympic break doesn't halt the progress and roll that we are on right now as things seem to be falling into place with players executing their rolls on their respective lines.

    A good rebound game that'll make the Dads and the rest of us around.

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    1. Lots of positives on a night when you win on the road. All the players you mention stood out and played pretty well overall.

      It's hard to know how the break will affect everyone- and all the other teams as well. But they're in a good spot with one game left. Thanks BlueANDwhite.

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    2. "It's hard to know how the break will affect everyone- and all the other teams as well"

      I think this point might need its own post and discussion prior the league re-starting post oly break.

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  4. "In the final seconds, the Leafs did the right thing in responding to the Tampa forward running at Bernier. You just can't let teams do that. All part of this team finding an identity and playing for one another..."

    Exactly my thought last night Michael. It is totally irrelevant whether the TB player ran Bernier on purpose, tried to miss, didn't try to miss after getting directed by Rielly, or whatever. Bernier was upset he got a forearm to the head and he re-acted. Gleason did EXACTLY what he should do in reacting to protect his goaltender. You could see him physcially pushing Bernier back while trying to get at the TB player. Then when Gudas came in and tried to pull Gleason off he dealt with that situation the right way too. That little episode late in the game will go a lot further than a lot of fans will realize into pulling that team tighter together.

    What we saw last night was team toughness. Your Orr/FML/John Scott's of the world are dinosaurs and a complete and total waste of a roster spot in todays game. What are the odds of them ever being on the ice during the situation above when they are not good enough to play more than a few minutes a game? You need the Clarksons/Gleasons/Shawn Thorntons/Chris Neils/etc that can play the game well enough to be a big part of your team toughness.

    As you guys discussed he has patience in his plays due to his maturity and he tries for the most part to make smart plays and not flashy ones. I wasn't sure exactly what Gleason would bring to the team other than some toughness perhaps but oh boy, he is exactly the type of dman every team needs and wants.

    I had a good laugh watching the replay and seeing Kulie trying to hold onto a TB player while watching Gleason go speed bag on Gudas. I can just imagine what Kulie was thinking."There, but for the grace of god, go I." :))

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KN0ALTJyj5I

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    1. Hi Pep- agreed. I don't think the staged fighting garbage when that's all guys bring to the team does much for team togetherness, as I've said here before. But you used a term I refer to all the time, and that does matter: team toughness.

      To me, it's a mindset that we won't be pushed around and we will initiate physicality if and as needed. It can mean fighting for the puck along the boards, in the corners and in front of both nets. It can mean finishing your checks and making the other team tentative. It can mean defending a teammate and it can include, yes, fighting at times. But mostly it's that mindset.

      If the Leafs can indeed find that team toughness mentality, they may be on the way to hammering out a team identity which goes beyond "they're fast and they can score goals and have a good goalie". This would be the icing on the cake, to a certain extent. Great post, thanks Pep.

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  5. I know I'm just echoing what's already been said, but great on Gleason there. THAT is the type of fighting that lifts a team, in a lasting sort of way. I've been so impressed with this guy since he came over from Carolina. He's demonstrated that he will go through a wall for his teammates, and in turn, I do believe that his ethic will be reciprocated all over the lineup.

    Props today to some hard working forwards, Kulemin, Bozak, and McClement especially. It was nice to see the Leafs bounce back and show their speed game. Not a whole lot else to say really, other than it would be nice to keep the momentum going Saturday before they go into the break. Just hoping nobody has checked out too early before that one.

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    1. My expectations for Gleason were very modest, Pete, but so far he has had an impact. The physical will is there, too and that's so important. We lacked some of that.

      Some teams are already done for the break, so the Leafs will be like the students who have the last exam at the end of the school year and are still on campus, alone. But I think they'll be fine. The Canucks are struggling and the Leafs are at home. (They just had their Florida vacation!). Thanks Pete.

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  6. I really like dressing 7 man defence in particularly to reduce Phaneuf's minute to manageable numbers where he can excel. I've always believe that he is much more effective when playing in the 20-22 minutes range. I also helps the young guys as well. The other day there was a game in which Byfuglien switched up from offence to defence and then to offence midway on a play it cause massive confusion for the defensive team and it occurred to me then that is such a great strategy and given how ineffective the 4th lines have been, it's an idea that warrant some consideration. Now not every guy can play like Byfuglien but we do have some really talented D that can play O. Imagine, Reilly suddenly switch up using his speed or Franser suddenly standing infront of the net with his size (god I wish he uses his size more). The flexibility would huge.

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    1. Managing minutes will be important in the final weeks of the season, for sure. The ice time with the forwards seemed to be shared last night as well for the most part. Thanks Lukas.

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