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After the Leafs battle in Boston, I need you to answer some questions…

While one game is rarely an absolute indicator of what’s to come, my guess is a lot of Leaf fans were looking at the Thursday night encounter in Boston as a mini-barometer, at least, of where the Leafs really are at this point in their development arc.  Most of us really do believe they are an improved squad- better coached, with better goaltending and more commitment to playing consistently hard than they had a year ago.

Whether you buy (or not)  the idea of the Bruins being the ultimate “measuring stick” in the Eastern Conference for an emerging team like the Leafs, I think there was a little extra interest in Leafland around this particular game, especially in light of how the Bruins have hammered the blue and white the last couple of seasons.

I said going into the game that I saw no reason that the Leafs could not match up against Boston.  That’s exactly what we saw—a competitive Leaf team.  Especially given that it was a road game and the second of a 'back-to-back',  they kept it close.  (That said, I didn't think the Leafs were particularly a threat in the third period, and the Grabbo/McClement goal was fluky, though the Leafs did a nice job of keeping the puck in the offensive zone.)  Boston was perhaps vulnerable coming off some recent games where they coughed up leads, but Toronto couldn't quite finish off the comeback late in the third.

Still, the Leafs can play with these guys.  This is a different Leaf team, one that has grittier players like McClement and Komarov, edgy guys who get the opposition off their game.  Too, they have Kadri finding his game -and his confidence- at this level, and they have achieved what they have this season without Lupul and Gardiner in their lineup—two mainstays from a season ago.  When Lupul and Frattin rejoin the squad, they should be operating on all cylinders.

This is not to get caught up in any hype.  That’s not it at all.  They have a ways to go to be a really top team.  But it’s clear the Leafs are a tougher team to play against.  Most teams in the East don’t like having to play teams like the Leafs, who finish their checks more often than not these days. Teams with skill and some toughness, like the Bruins and Rangers, usually have an edge

The Leafs are showing toughness, and it helps that the Leafs have some semblance of chemistry and harmony on their forward lines and on their defense pairings.

For their part, the Bruins are not quite as “rugged” as they were when they won the Stanley Cup two years ago, or at least I don’t see them as quite as physical as they were.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe there is no reason why the Leafs would be intimidated playing against the Bruins at this point.  They weren’t Thursday night.

I was impressed that Kadri scored in Boston, tying the game up at one in the second period on a nice rush with MacArthur.  Kadri is still improving, though he is developing quickly after his progress maybe seemed a bit stalled the last year or so.  We can debate whether the Leafs handled his ups and downs properly, but regardless, he’s the most dangerous guy on their roster right now and it’s a good sign that he can be offensively productive against Boston.  I say that because if Boston is indeed the best in the East (or at least in a group with other hopefuls like the Rangers, who I think may be rounding into form after a sluggish first half of the season) and Kadri can play well against them, that will be a huge boost for the Leafs.

We know the playoffs expose flaws in teams that aren’t quite ready for prime time, and that’s why making the playoffs is so important.  Let’s find out if this team is ready to win in the springtime.  If not, Nonis and Carlyle can see what exactly they need to alter to become, soon, the top team in the East.

After watching the Leafs in Boston, I need you to address a few specific questions, based on what you saw—and have seen from the Leafs lately:
  1. Did we skate with the Bruins?  We’re a skating team, still.  How did we hold up in your estimation in that regard?
  2. How did we measure up in physical terms?  I don’t mean fighting,  I’m talking about taking and giving hits, fighting for loose pucks and our grit in the corners and in front of the net.  (Some examples of the physical hockey I personally like:  the Holzer hip check late in the third and the Boychuk open ice hit on van Riemsdyk earlier in the game. For me, those were examples of tough, clean hockey.) Are we now in the Bruins’ league in that regard?
  3. Do we have the defensive structure—and the personnel—to deal with what the Bruins would bring in a seven-game playoff series?
  4. A couple of weeks ago I posted here that I thought the Leafs were already playing something akin to “playoff style” hockey.  That is, close checking, tight to the vest, with a focus on finishing checks and fighting for pucks while keeping the games close and relying on solid goaltending.  No, the playoff urgency is not there yet for any team, but have the Leafs maintained that approach, or have they hit the mid-season blahs, despite a lot of victories of late?
  5. If you’re of the view we still aren’t quite in Boston’s league yet, what do you think we need to do to get there?
The Bergeron line was pretty good against the Leafs. If we can contain them, you have to think we really can play with the Bruins.

But before we look too far ahead, you have some questions to answer. 


  1. With Frattin and Lupul in the lineup, I think we may have better offensive luck with clubs like Boston who seem to shut the Leafs down. I was thinking watching the game that I wish Kadri could have played every shift!

    The skating was there, but the commitment to D (from both forwards and defensemen) was not. That second Boston goal was killer, with Seguin and Marchment scoring on a 2-on-4, dipsy-doodling through Holzer,JVR,Phaneuf and Bozak, none of whom seemed terribly interested in fighting for the puck. Phaneuf in particular seemed disinterested tonight in beating Bruins for the puck in his own end.

    Scrivens has got to stop giving up goals with less than a minute to play in a period. His last several starts, it has been the difference in games as it was tonight.

    Boston didn't play particularly well tonight but emerged with the win, just as the Leafs have lately, most notably against Ottawa.

    A positive sign that Toronto is competing, at least, against the Bruins. Sure would like to see some points from Kessel vs Boston though, as Seguin continues to light it up. Does anyone anymore buy Burke's bluster of 'I'd do that trade again?'

  2. Boston can play better, no question, Sean. And the Leafs were in the game throughout. Maybe the truth is it was not the 'best' performance from either side.

    To your question: while many Leaf fans say "move on", the deal will always be part of Leaf lore. It just will. And every time we play the Bruins, it's part of the backdrop.

  3. MIchael,

    I am pleased to be asked for my participation. Thanks for asking/writing the questions. Lets get some debate going.

    1. We are a skating team, this much is true. The game I saw, was a good old hockey game. Some scoring, some hitting and a bit of fighting. It interests me a great deal how the Leafs will be a different team when Lupul and Frattin are back in there. Two of the pluggers in the lineup come out. So Steckel and someone else I assume. I think that makes us tougher to skate with but less of a threat physically. In order to use your speed, sometimes you have to want to win races for the puck and take a hit to make a play. Some of the Leafs don't do this, some do. Playoff wins are predicated on the willingness to do everything to win. Can some Leafs do more in this regard when the time comes? We'll see, but I hope to have the chance to find out.

    2. There wasn't much animosity in the game I watched. Some hits yes, very little after the whistle stuff, and no real violence to speak of. Boston seems more willing to mind their manners this year with Toronto. Orr, Fraser and McClaren sure have changed the face of the team in that regard. If those three can play in the postseason and not be a huge liability, that will help our chances, in my opinion. If not, then guys like Campbell, Lucic, Horton, Marchand, Thornton and Chara, will have free rein to do as they please. Those guys are the heart of the Bruins. They play a lot, and when the games are big, they play hard. All of them finish every check, on every shift, every game. They do this as regulars who put up points, pretty special in my eyes. They are the definition to me, of tough hockey players. Outside of the three players on Toronto that I mentioned, there aren't many other Leafs who I consider tough to play against. Komorov and MacArthur, sometimes Phaneuf. I vote no, the Leafs are not in Boston's league, simply because our three toughest guys won't play a lot. Thornton, Chara and Lucic are as tough as anyone in the league, and they will all play regular shifts.

    3. Not right now. Even though I feel Franson is starting to show more of this side of the game. Kotska, Holzer, Gardiner, Liles, really don't have this as part of their game. Phaneuf does to an extent, problem is Toronto needs him to play so much for us to have any chance. He can't be hurt or in the box for us to be successful.

    4. I think that the Leafs are getting very good goaltending. Other than that they are giving up about the same number of chances as well as shots, compared to last year under Wilson. They are better at making the simple play and getting the puck moving the other way. Fraser and Franson are quite adept at this. I also have always thought Gunner did this very well, he did so tonight for the most part too. Our top line and top two on the backend were a combined minus ten. I have really only seen better goaltending and not much real improvement in other areas, even with the coaching change. Saying that I am seeing an increase in the willingness to compete for the most part, most nights, which is good.

    5. Not sure that there is a way other than to stay the course and hope for guys on the team to grow and develop. Kadri continuing to improve his strength and fitness, as well as others doing the same as they mature into the players they are going to be. A top shelf right side d'man wouldn't hurt either. Maybe Getzlaf signs here as a free agent. That couldn't do anything but help our cause.

  4. It's true, Jim, Boston's tough forwards (in the way that you and I are defining toughness) play significant minutes. Our tough guys really don't- and can't.

    Lupul and Frattin will be helpful additions, for sure. Come playoff time, will we have enough grit? We're certainly better in terms of playing a hard-edged game. But the playoffs are so different. Will be something to watch for...

    I appreciate your thoughtful answers.

  5. "Did we skate with the Bruins?" Yes

    "How did we measure up in physical terms?"
    Fine, Boston plays a very polite game with Orr, McLaren and Fraser in the game. They don't push us around like they used to.

    "Do we have the defensive structure—and the personnel—to deal with what the Bruins would bring in a seven-game playoff series?

    No, we could be swept in 4 close games. Phaneuf could use a defensive partner that is true top two pairing guy.

    "...have they hit the mid-season blahs, despite a lot of victories of late?"

    The urgency was pretty good, but I would have liked to have seen more from Kessel tonight.

    "If you’re of the view we still aren’t quite in Boston’s league yet, what do you think we need to do to get there?"

    Like I said, Phaneuf could use a defensive partner that is true top two pairing guy.

    Most of the problems should right themselves with the return of Lupul and Frattin. Lupul made Kessel go last year. JVR might spark the Grabo line...they clicked the few times they played together. Frattin, Kadri and MacArthur could be a devastating line. Komorov and McClement are two parts of an elite 4th checking line and would probably be ok with Orr or McLaren.

    I used to think we needed a first line center, but I am not sure we can get one at a decent price.

    Plus, Kadri is 15th in league scoring with 25 points....only 5 centers in the league have more. He is also +12, which is 14th in the league and again only 5 centers in the entire league are better. Kadri is already producing like a first line center. If he can improve his faceoffs, it seems hard to imagine that he won't become a first line center very soon.

  6. Watching the game tonight I thought that the Leafs played hard but what I see missing is some mental toughness, that mindset where one refuses to be denied victory.It looked like they were trying to play well enough not to be embarassed. That to me is not good enough! Each player should look at this game as a measuring stick and we will not get to the next level until we overcome the Bruins.Stopping Seguin should be paramount as each time he scores agianst the Leafs he isn't just rubbing it in Kessels face but the entire team.Stopping him in a way is kind of like standing up for your teammate. How he was left so wide open on his first goal is unbelievable! Lupul and Frattin will help in the toughness department as they don't mind playing the body and their offense will make it tougher for teams to match up. Overall I think that this team is very close to being a contender, developing that mental toughness will go along way in acheiving this.

  7. We are already part of the "good" teams in my mind, but need a while more to become one of the "great" teams in the league. Some tweaking is needed for sure. Is anyone on our roster other than Kessel a first line or first defensive pairing player on any of the elite teams in the league?

    As for your questions:

    1. We still are a skating team and can skate with anyone. Though last night we did seem a bit behind the B's.

    2. Toughness: Check. We will be really nasty to play against if the players that don't usually hit finish one or two checks just so the other team doesn't get too comfortable.

    3. This one I'm sad to say, no. The B's are at another level in this regard. There has been some scrambling on our part the last few games. In a playoff round I don't believe we could handle them (but stranger things have happened).

    4. The Leafs have maybee fallen away from the tight to the vest game a bit, but I do think it's a matter of a little re-focusing.

    5. For the Leafs to be a top conference/league team we need the ever important n.1 center and just wait for Gardiner, Reilly and Kadri. I think we have found our goaltending.

  8. You covered the bases, DP. Maybe we can have our first-line center on the third line, if you know what I mean? Spread the wealth....

  9. MIchael,

    I think there are two or three teams that as configured right now, will beat the Leafs pretty handily in a playoff series. Boston, is clearly one of those teams to me. Saying that, that leaves 4 or 5 teams that I sense aren't really better or worse than Toronto. Teams that with some good goaltending, good luck and a good draw opposition wise Toronto is more than capable of beating in a seven game series. Montreal, despite its record, doesn't scare me. Neither does Ottawa, Carolina or New Jersey. So if they get in and get lucky, a playoff series victory is possible in my eyes. While Toronto lacks a true stud line up front, they do have 3 well balanced lines. And when all hands are on deck, four lines that could play ten minutes or more per game. That kind of depth is invaluable come playoff time. This franchise would really benefit from some good fortune at this stage of the game. Don't forget about trades that can help this team either.

  10. There is no question, purch, that "mentall toughness", as you called it, is a huge part of a good team turning the corner and becoming a real "winner". I agree- I think we're closer. What you described about the Leafs last night I also thought was the case when we hosted them a while back at the ACC and lost 1-0. We played not to lose badly, if you know what I mean. Which is understandable after what has happened the last few years, but not what is needed to truly get to that next level. Closer, though,. Thanks, purch, for chiming in today.

  11. Thanks portuguese leaf. Well said. I don't think any of us is expecting the Leafs to be exactly like the Bruins, who have a few years behind them playing Julien's system and knowing one another on the ice. But we're getting there, which is encouraging- though we can't stop now. (Some see Kadri as a first-liner already but I'm with you- I love how he has played but I still need to see more...)

  12. We're on the same page, Jim. As you know, I've been saying here for ages, while trying not to get ahead of myself, that in this Conference, who is really a lot better than the Leafs when they play like like they can?

    I agree, Boston would be tough in a playoff series and maybe the Rangers. But beyond that, who do we look at and say: we can't play with those guys at all?

    That's why finishing in the top four would be nice- you'd get a series against a team that you can play with for sure, before taking on one of the "elites" in the East. Thanks Jim.

  13. The big difference that I saw was the relative “compete” level for available pucks. Think of the Leafs in general and Phaneuf in particular (although it was an off game for him) when the net was empty and Boston pretty much had their way with the Leafs in gaining puck possession and ultimately iced the win. Think of how hard Seguin fought for available pucks when he factored into the scoring. I hate to carp, but compare that level of compete to Kessel. The Bruins wanted to win those battles more than the Leafs did. I guess what heartens Carlyle and his staff (that the Leafs have never really put together a firing on all cylinders performance) yet still win, is what concerns me. I think they really need to bring it up a notch to be a competitive playoff team (individually and collectively).

    Anyone who might have followed my comments knows that I did not subscribe to the consensus during the past year. I would not concede the need to bring in another goaltender and I did not share the despair about the core roster felt by most pundits and fans. I think most of us realize now that the goaltending is adequate to win with (albeit untested in playoff circumstances). I think the defense might be able to succeed without a Chara or Pronger type (very difficult to find anyway). Where I am able to climb on board the bandwagon however, would be the need for a big, aggressive point producing center who battles for the pucks and leads by example. I know, pretty much everyone has been saying this for some time, but as someone with a disdain for herd mentality, it is one instance in which I concur, the group is right. Another, complementary need would be a talented battler: A difference maker, a player like Tyler Seguin.

    I am torn regarding the needed approach at this stage. Part of me hopes that the addition of points producers like Lupul and Frattin will provide the needed spark. Part of me wants to see bold, Burke-like moves. Another part wants Nonis to be slow and patient so as not to toss away the likes of Seguin, Hamilton and Tlusty. I guess if we could merge the two managerial styles we could get some of each and we might be on a better, short and long-term path.

  14. 1. I thought the Leafs skated with the Bruins, or as much as Boston would allow them. The Bruins are a tough checking team and they try to minimize the amount of time the opposition has the puck and try to line up along their blue line to prevent teams from coming into their zone. When the Leafs were able to get out of their own end, I thought they were able to skate. The key is puck retention.

    2. The Leafs were physical enough, although sometime in their efforts to win the puck battles their defensive responsibilities would break down. There are few teams than can physically match Boston. You are not going to out-muscle them. The key is quick puck movement and if you can pressure them, they'll break down and make mistakes, despite their physical advantage.

    3. Not yet. By-in-large I think we have the defence to be able to do an okay job, but without the forwards living up to their defensive responsibilities, it is going to be difficult. At least two of the goals against last night were situations where players missed their assignments. Sadly Boston is so adept at capitalizing on mistakes.

    4. The attitude and coaching on this team is different, so I don’t see them hitting any mid-season doldrums. What will make a huge difference (as you and others have pointed out) is getting a healthy Frattin and Lupul back into the line-up. Getting those guys back will increase the offensive threat of the top three lines. The first line may not change, but as the second and third lines get a boost, the opposition will have a harder time containing the Leafs. Kadri’s line is already causing headaches, so imagine what would happen if you add Lupul and Frattin on his line, and slide MacArthur to the third with Grabo and Kulemin. McClement then goes to the fourth line with Komarov and McLaren.

    5. Assuming the Leafs get healthy, they have the players needed to put offensive pressure on the Bruins. That means less time the Leafs are spending in their own end, and more time the Bruins are on their heels. Despite last night’s performance, the Bruins don’t score all that many goals, and if you can score three or four against them, you have a very good chance of winning. Their workhorse as everyone knows is Chara, and when he’s on the ice he can almost single-handedly negate your top line. Last night we saw him on the ice a lot, both against Kessel and Kadri. Shots on goal were pretty even last night. Get healthy and no doubt the Leafs will get a lot more shots on net, and more quality shots.

    Outside of a couple personnel changes needed, the two main issues the Leafs have to contend with are minimizing defensive breakdowns, and playing (and skating) with intensity for a full sixty minutes. If they improve on both of those things, they can compete with just about anyone. To win a seven game series against a tough opponent, they may have to wait until they have the right personnel (for example, a #1C).

  15. Your first paragraph does help define, a bit at least, what may still separate the teams, Bobby C.. When our "best" players were on the ice in the final minute, desperate for a goal, the guys defending actually carried the play. They held the puck.

    Usually, the desperate team at least generates those scintillating last-second chances. Boston could have scored any number of of empty-netters, because of their willingness to fight for the puck.

    I agree that we won't find a Pronger, Stevens, Niedermayer or Chara under a rock. Phaneuf is "our" guy right now, and I don't know that he is close to that league. As DP said above, perhaps he could use a fellow 1A type of defenseman.

    You are likely not alone in being torn on an approach going forward, Bobby. I think a lot of us are. I'm fine with building and youth and all that. But at some point windows of opportunity are missed, too. I've seen that movie often with various teams in other sports over many years. You build and build but never win. Happened to the Senators. Seems to have happened with the Canucks and the Sharks, though they both still have a shot.

    It's finding the right moment to recognize when you are almost "there" and then making the bold moves needed to cross the threshold. And then your players have to pay the price and perform, too.

    Thanks Bobby. Solid stuff as always.

  16. Strong points across the point, Don (TML_fan). I was nodding a lot.

    I especially agree on point 2. Any team, including the Bruins, will make mistakes under duress. If you pressure them in the right spots they will cough up the point sometimes.

    It's good that we can talk about competing with the best teams in the East, rather than a lottery pick. Thanks Don.

  17. I tend to disagree with a lot of the comments here today. I would like to point out that at a similar amount of games last year we had the exact same number of points. That was without the goons playing at all. I challenge anyone to go back and watch those games from last year with Boston. You will find that there was a similar lack of after whistle stuff back then. The games weren't overly physical and the Leafs weren't pushed around. This whole goon thing about how it's making the Leafs tougher to play is just a bunch of hogwash.

    As some of the above comments have said true toughness is willing to compete in the board battles and for loose pucks. Last night the Leafs didn't compete for loose pucks and weren't willing to go to the dirty areas of the ice. As Michael pointed out in the last minute what team had the puck? Hint it sure wasn't Toronto. Our top players are consistently out shot when on the ice and overall Toronto gives up 6-7 more shots per game than the opposistion. Eventually, just like last year this will catch up to them. The only saving grace this year is that in such a short season there probably won't be enough time for the correction to happen. Over the last 10 games the Leafs have won the majority. However, I challenge anyone to find a game in which the Leafs truly dominated. You won't find many, if any at all. The only reason the Leafs have been winning is because Riemer has been playing at an elite level all year period. When they get average goaltending as they did last night they loose.

    I would also like to point that against teams who are above them in the standings the leafs are well under 500. As Michael has stated many times they benefit from playing in the woeful Eastern conference. If Toronto had to match up against the West, they would be getting killed right now.

    The Leafs will make the playoffs this year. In a shortened season in a an average conference they have enough of a gap now that they will make the playoffs. However, let's not delude ourselves, the same problems they had last year are still here and sooner or later the Leafs puck luck is going to desert them and the inevitable correction will happen.

    One last thing can we please stop with the whole goon thing. It's nothing but a side show and hasn't done a damm thing to make this team better.

  18. I always appreciate a sobering perspective, Willbur. Thanks.

    The only area where you and I may differ a bit is I do think the Leafs are overall tougher to play against. I will "credit" Orr and MacLaren with providing a bit more "space" for creative players like Kadri to wheel and deal. (A bit like Gretzky did seem to like having Semenko and others like him around, unless I'm not remembering correctly.)

    I will be posting on the "goon" thing in the next couple of days, by the way. I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts when I post.

    My guess is most Leaf fans have been somewhat realistic, and know that we have a) had better goaltending this season, which always makes coaching and a "system" look better and b) caught a ton of breaks, despite suffering some injuries- like most teams in the East.

    Thanks Willbur.

  19. The big difference between Orr and Semenko is Semenko actually played on Gretzky's line a regular shift every night. If you look back at the so called policemen of history you will find that these guys actually played a regular shift and were good players who also fought. You yourself point out O'Rielly as a guy who could play and fight. Add to that Neeley now Lucic. These guys fight but they can play the game.

    John Ferguson is often held up as the ultimate tough guy. The first so called policeman. Well his most fights in one season was nine. Yes he was tough, yes he fought but he did so in the context of the game. In what way was Fraser McLaren knocking out the youngster from Ottawa part of the game? It wasn't it was just a side show. After the fight Ottawa out shot Toronto 10-2 and if it weren't for Riemer the Leafs could well have been behind (on a side note Riemer was much better than Bishop, the real reason Toronto won). Did the KO intimidate Ottawa? It didn't seem like it as they almost came back to win that game in the third.

    A true fight in a game is the one last night we saw from Fraser and McQuade. It arose from the context of the game and had a purpose. Fraser is a true policeman. A guy who can fight and stick up for guys if needed but still contribute to actually winning the game.

    Again I'll point out that last year the Leafs were 9 games above 500 in January solidly in a playoff spot. All this took place with not one single goon playing, for crying out loud Orr wasn't even on the team anymore. To believe that Orr has had that much of an effect this year one also has to accept the premise that their crash last year was solely predicated on the fact that they didn't have him in the line-up. Does anyone really beleive that?

    While I believe that fighting has a place in the game you will never convince me that a goon playing 3 minutes a night has any effect on a game at all. If anything it's more impressive the Leafs have actually managed to win carrying three (now two with the departure of Brown) cement anchors in every game.

    One last thing everyone points out how the Bruins are much politer with McClaren and Orr around. Well god forbid we ever meet these guys in the playoffs because all their tough guys will still be on the ice while ours will be in the pressbox. Maybe we should just concede the series right now.

    Sorry about the rant but the goon thing just gets me riled up. You should see me and my brother go at it. Good thing my wife is around to straighten him out. She lets me argue with facts without the worry of him beating me up.

  20. I saw Ferguson play when I was in my young hockey following prime in the '60s, Willbur, including in person. I hear you loud and clear. He was the ultimate policeman who did not have to fight often. (Guys, in truth, were afraid of him. No one wanted to fight with him...Beliveau credited Ferguson's presence with being a huge part of the Hab turnaround in the mid-'60s.)

    I do think MacLaren's presence has given Kadri some room at times, so I credit him for that.

    I'll be posting on your broader point in the next couple of days. Stay away from your brother!

    1. Did you know the John Beliveau was one the toughest guys to ever play the game as well? I was looking at career totals for teams in some magazine and was shocked to see that Beliveau had more PIMs in less career games than Larry Robinson did. I was flabergasted. Until Ferguson came along Beliveau actually was the career leader for PIMs for Montreal. One of the classiest, best skating guys ever was also one of the toughest to play the game. How the game has changed.

  21. "Did we skate with the Bruins?"

    Yes, in both games this season, though I did keep hoping for Kessel to silence his critics, I'm feeling he's not totally engaged/comfortable with the new 'expectations' that will be a part of any future in Toronto with Carlyle.

    I just keep loving McClement and Komarov... I hope it rubs off on the rest of the team (without diminishing the rub-ees :)

    "How did we measure up physically?"

    We 'belonged' in both games this year… with a response for any liberties taken.

    "Defensive structure—and the personnel—to deal with what the Bruins would bring in a 7-game playoff series?

    I think Lupul and Frattin will help, but do think another (or different) skilled, big body (or two) might be very helpful amongst the forwards.

    "mid-season blahs?"

    The effort was better than the last few games, where success wasn’t a measure of a full 60-minute commitment all over the ice… perhaps last night was a matter of "reaping what they’ve sown" in the last few games, during a game where a better fate was possible (though, by no means, ‘assured’).

    "what do you think we need to do to compete with Boston?"

    My very speculative answer:

    With the Ducks signing Getzlaf today, they seem unable to keep Perry. I feel like we have a better shot at a negotiatd Perry where a trade would be the only way to do a full-limit 8-year deal (short of an unlikely sign-and-trade). Anaheim will want to retool for the future, without completely disrupting their present success heading for the playoffs.

    Perry would be a better fit on the top line of a Randy Carlyle team (and well versed in 'expectations'). It is possible that the Ducks will also see the possible/impending retirement of the likes of Selanne/Koivu as a reason to consider a Kessel/Bozak package. The duo already has chemistry there to put on a second line and Selanne might just thrive on the top line for a bit while Kessel finds his place.

    Clearly, the Ducks new scout is a believer in Kessel and may facilitate an acceptable negotiation for both teams (maybe he was 'released' to potentially fulfill that capacity to begin with... you never know)!

    This may work if we can actually find a better 1C (like my Tavares Dream) or (more practically) try moving Kadri up and give Colborne a shot on the 3rd line with Frattin/Komarov/MacArthur (if he’s still in the mix) for the remainder of the year. Both teams would have more time to transition if a trade happened sooner than later (also appealing to Burke's sensibilities).

  22. Also, Carlyle/Nonis do want to see what they've got without greatly disrupting the present chemistry and they would clearly gain perspective with a legitimate viewing of such implemented changes before the end of the year. It might be very helpful for making future decisions before the draft, trades, other prospects or Free agents are considered or entered into the equation. If chemistry and success found then different summertime activities will prevail.

    Perry could provide more grit than Kessel on the first line and Colborne's JVR-like size would help on the third (as referenced above). It would appear to be a good time to give Kadri a shot in that role. If he succeeds, then a longer term JVR-like 2nd contract could result… if not, then everyone realizes that a shorter/smaller contract makes more sense for Nazem to grow into the role.

    Long term, I’m looking forward to seeing how a Biggs, Broll and Crescenzi might sprinkle into the lineup… if they can move above the 4th line, then we have a really good chance of matching up against teams like Boston for some time!

    PS I do think Gardiner will be in the mix after another player for pick/prospect happens, but in the meantime, there's a lot of help for the Marlies potential success left in place in the meantime (at least until Rielly arrives in the next week or so)... Things are really shaping up for the future, even without the major move I suggested... let's see if the Leafs follow any of our sage reasonings!

  23. I appreciate you getting my hopes up with your hopeful speculation about Perry, InTimeFor62. If not Tavares, maybe he's next!

    Thanks for your responses to the questions, by the way. We're getting closer. I'm not sure Lupul helps us much defensively (he struggled often last season) but he brings some leadership which should help.

    Agree on Komarov and McClement. They bring that dimension we have not had recently. Thanks, InTimeFor62.

  24. I think the B's have gotten into the Leafs head to an extent. Watching the game they seemed a little nervous, not as confident as they are on other nights, and for the most part (even though the Leafs competed well) the Bruins dictated most of the play.

    I agree with the earlier comment that the Leafs should keep an extra eye on Seguin and try to shut him down - whether it is fair or not Kessel and Seguin will ALWAYS be linked, and by shutting him down they are in a way sticking up for thier teammate. You don't think Kessel feels it when Seguin scores?

    All said, I am looking forward to thje playoffs! (and i love your blog)

  25. You may be right, Anon. The Bruins are still a mental "dragon" that the Leafs have to deal with. But they're closer.

    But it's great that we can talk playoffs without talking in whispers....thanks Anon! (and for the kind words, also...)

  26. I've noticed a trend as of late, saying Carlyle's not better than Wilson, he just gets better goaltending. And on the same vein, Gustavsson was not a good goalie, he just has it easier with the Red Wings. Those arguments, for me, are thought-provoking, sort of fun, but fundamentally flawed.

    I mean, of course it won't mean a thing when a goalie posts statistics like 1.96 GAA and .932 save percentage in Sweden, it's a crap league, anyway. Right? Those numbers happen, at any level of play, only in a team with a pretty damn tight checking system, and even then you'll need players who know exactly how to execute it.

    I haven't managed to watch many games live this season. I've tried to at least get the recaps, and more than that even if I knew the result before watching. It's the Leafs, so I want the result if it's available even before I watch the game. At the very least, the knowledge allows me to concentrate on what went right or wrong.

    Obviously, Carlyle has gotten better goaltending than Wilson ever did. What makes it obvious, is the fact that Carlyle's philosophy leads to much fewer critical turnovers than Wilson's ever could. And the fact after the matter is, that a puck passed moves faster than a puck carried, and is harder to intercept. Also, Wilson's men on ice had basically no idea how or where to regroup after they lost the puck. Carlyle, at the very least, understands the basic idea; if you lose the puck, take a step backwards and actually try to group up. That's something that's also known as the very basic trap; regroup without leaving the central passing lanes wide open. I know the T-word is an ugly one, but that's just because most people feel the trap is a strategy. It was, back in the 90's, now it's just a necessary part of a strategy. In capable hands (like Mike Babcock's), it has nothing to do with being boring, it's just a necessary part of regaining control of the puck after giving it up.

    So could we win the Bruins in the playoffs? Sure we could. We wouldn't be the favourites going in, but while we have managed to string together losing streaks of two games a few times this season, we've also won three times in a row at least on couple of occasions. And often enough, we've made our own luck and it has paid off. Also, you wrote a bit about this being an experimental season for the Leafs and Carlyle. I immediately started to compare the idea of Grabbo being a shutdown player to Sergei Fedorov winning a Selke Trophy, back in the 90's. I'm not saying Grabbo will ever amount to anything comparable to Fedorov, but the idea is the same; make your best puck controller play against the opposition's top lines. Grabbo is, right now, playing outside of his comfort zone, but the idea is not without merit.

    The Leafs are looking genuinely promising this season. I don't have the statistics to back that opinion up, so I'll just have to trust my eyes instead of numbers. But hey, I can live with that. And you're exactly correct, Michael. Lebda somehow weaseled his way into a Cup with the Leafs. And into well over 200 regular season games with the talentless Red Wings. Maybe we should void his Cup year, because he's obviously way too bad a player to ever have won a Cup? /sarcasm off

  27. Erm... Lebda won his Cup with the Red Wings, of course. He's not quite old enough to have won with the Leafs.

  28. Thanks CGLN. It must be a challenge to try and catch the games in Finland where you live and work. I appreciate your comments on the Bruins match-up and your thoughts on my earlier Gustavsson "group think" post, too. Take care.