Do you remember the kid in school that got good grades without putting any effort in? Do you have coworkers that were promoted at work that really didn’t deserve it? The Toronto Maple Leafs are on a mission to prove that they can be the hockey equivalent to the above comparisons. Over the course of 60 minutes, they were not only outshot, they were outworked in nearly every aspect of the game. The famous eyeball test that those close to the organization refer to when dismissing the analytics suggesting that they are not a good hockey team fails this time as well. At least from last night’s post-game press conference, Randy Carlyle seems to recognize that his team cannot continue to play this way and be successful.
The Leafs became the first team in the Atlantic division to to reach 10 wins, and when their percentages finally start regressing, the points they received for showing up tonight will be huge in preventing a late-season collapse. It is hard to criticize a win too much, but when the games get hard to watch while the team is winning, something needs to give. Not that they need any passes; this Toronto team plays like this after week-long absences, but the back-to-back in less than 24 hours at least excuses 10 minutes of the bad play. On to the game:
- The Leafs penalty killing is doing fantastic, and most of the thanks to this can go to the two men in net. Jonathan Bernier did a great job of not letting pucks out for second chances tonight. The one area that at least deserves honorable mention is the defensive puck retrieval off of rebounds that are let out. On two occasions, the simple act of finding the puck off a rebound led to an odd-man rush.
- Where is David Clarkson? The guy is pretty invisible out there right now, and when your team can gain no offensive zone time, would he not be the perfect remedy? This was his big trait that was talked about incessantly over the summer, and when he is on the ice, he looks pretty good at grinding and cycling. The trouble is, he spends little to no time at all on the ice.
- Another two shorthanded goals, this time by James van Riemsdyk and Paul Ranger. The second goal was a bit of a gift, but nevertheless, this should place Toronto near the top of the league in shorthanded goals. Special teams have been the lone bright spot in this weirdly-bad-with-a-good-record season.
- Carter Ashton should and likely will be suspended for that ridiculous hit during the second period. No reason to make that play at any point in the game, much less when your team is desperately clinging to a two-goal lead. It sounds kind of silly to suggest that a two-goal lead was being desperately held on to, but that’s what the eyeball test said. Most people here remember Game Seven of the opening round of the playoffs last year. If a three-goal lead isn’t safe, then a two-goal lead is downright dangerous.
- Tonight’s Maddie’s Mark player of the game can be none other than goaltender Jonathan Bernier. The Leafs looked pretty good up until the national anthem was completed, and from that point on it was Bernier versus a hungry Flames team that, in contrast to the Toronto club, loves puck-possession time in the offensive zone. Making 41 saves on 43 shots, it was certainly one of Bernier’s “Best Days Ever”. To find out how you can provide many more “Best Days Ever” to sick children, visit www.maddiesmark.org.