It would seem that repairing the Leafs Defensive units is going to take more than a couple of bag skates and white board work. This team is suffering from years of upside down practices in their own end of the ice, it’s going to take months to fix this team. For the record, in the 5-4 loss the team played significantly better than at any other contest against the Bruins this season. The lack of success is two fold, having as much to do with the systems the team runs as the makeup of the current Leafs roster. Without getting too winded on this one, here is the breakdown:
-Line matching was fun to watch and at times effective. Carlyle appears to have a pulse on his team and will likely make more alterations as time goes on. I was left wondering during the game watching Jake Gardiner struggle if it was out of the question that Jeff Finger might be brought up for support. This was before Joffrey Lupul got hurt and with only 1 call up remaining it’s hard to picture anything other than a forward being promoted. Time will tell.
-Phil Kessel having a productive night against his former team. Part of the credit for this should go to the coaching in the diligence with line matching, but Kessel also scored 1 of his goals on a 2 man advantage. Has to feel good for the former Bruin.
-The penalty kill was very good again, not that the Bruins are exactly power play specialists on the road. The killers were aggressive at clearing the zone and the goaltending was more than adequate.
-It’s going to sound strange to give credit to a goalie that gave up 5 goals, but monster played well for the most part. There was maybe 1 goal in that game that could be hung on him, the rest will be addressed in the “Bad” section below.
-Leafs power play also effective against a pretty good penalty kill.
-Good for Tim Connolly going after Brad Marchand. This makes 2 consecutive games that he dropped the gloves in attempts to fight. He is ill suited to perform this task, but as was witnessed not one player came to his defense after Marchand laid an uncomfortable hit. Notice the oppositions reaction to coming within the sphere of influence that Tim Thomas occupies, they swarm like hungry jackals.
-Luke Schenn is a pretty big kid, and at some point the 22 year old is going to have to play like it. Part of this is the fault of the organization, he used to know how to play defense in his own zone. As stated above, Randy Carlyle has his work cut out for him in improving the defensive play of some of the younger players.
-As bad as Luke Schenn was, Jake Gardiner was worse. He is a rookie and looks to be a prospect that a lot of other teams should be jealous of. That said, he was a turnover machine in all 3 zones of the ice and was actually counterproductive to the fore check at times. These problems were not created overnight and will likely not be fixed that quickly either.
-It’s been happening for quite a while, but it is rather disgusting the lack of punch this team has. Many will point to the fact that Rosehill and Armstrong both scrapped, but it’s more than just a couple of fights. The team is full of smaller players which is no fault of their own, but only some of them play with the jam that it takes to regularly win games. Another game with almost no winning the board battles.
An extended absence of Joffrey Lupul or Colby Armstrong will hurt this team terribly. Lupul left favoring his shoulder and Armstrong was bleeding profusely after a second period fight. The word concussion was circulating after the game regarding the absence of Armstrong.