Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs News & Notes: March 24, 2013

The Toronto Maple Leafs dropped both games they played over the weekend and have now lost five games in a row. Here’s the Game In Six from last night’s game against the New Jersey Devils:

The big question with a home tilt against the St. Louis Blues coming up tomorrow night will be whether or not Jonathan Bernier will be back from injury. Backup goaltender James Reimer has struggled, so if Bernier can’t go, Drew MacIntyre may even get a start.

It’s encouraging to see, despite this tough stretch, Reimer is still staying optimistic, and teammates like Tyler Bozak are supporting their goalie and taking responsibility for the losses. You can read those quotes as well as plenty of other hot-button topics surrounding this team in Jonas Siegel’s recap for TSN.

JP Nikota makes a good point in his recap for Pension Plan Puppets. James Reimer probably shouldn’t have even started this game at all, since he had played the night before against the Montreal Canadiens and it was his fourth start in six nights. Randy Carlyle should have gone with MacIntyre in net last night.

James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail adds that the Leafs’ problems can’t simply be attributed to Reimer’s recent poor play. Rather, this team has played some truly awful hockey for much of the season, but has been saved time and again by Bernier’s heroics. Mirtle hits the nail on the head with this:

There’s no question Reimer has had a tough season and an especially awful stretch this past week when the Leafs badly need the saves. He’s deserved to be the backup, there’s no doubt, especially given the remarkable year Jonathan Bernier has had.

What he doesn’t deserve is to be the end-of-season scapegoat for a team that has failed in so many fundamental ways that have nothing to do with his play.

I noticed something strange in Saturday night’s game. Carlyle sent the Phil Kessel line out to take a defensive zone faceoff. Then, on the next faceoff, which was in the offensive end, Carlyle deployed the fourth line centered by Jay McClement. Considering McClement’s role as a shutdown centreman and Kessel’s role as a high-scoring forward, the decisions by Carlyle were the exact opposite of what you would expect him to do.

As Thomas Drance of theScore found out, this wasn’t just an isolated case. Kessel has started more shifts in the defensive zone than every player in the NHL except four. Kessel has outscored everybody in the top five by at least 49 points.

Maybe, as Drance suggests, there is a method to Carlyle’s madness, since Kessel excels in rushing the puck through the neutral zone. Still, I find the whole thing very peculiar, as it makes more sense to have your best offensive players start shifts in the offensive zone, where they’ll have the best opportunity to generate a scoring chance. I guess we’ll just have to file this one away in the “What The Heck Is Randy Doing?” category for now.

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Tags: Drew Macintyre James Reimer Jonathan Bernier Phil Kessel Toronto Maple Leafs

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