Going into the game tonight against the Washington Capitals, the Maple Leafs hopes of playing games beyond April 7’th are likely in vain. The shootout loss to the Flyers last night was probably one of the final nails in the coffin. The main objective of the Leafs the remainder of this season should be to determine what pieces are going to be salvaged going forward and what will be required to build this thing into a contender. It should be reiterated the the opinion of this corner of the Internet is that tanking would do absolutely nothing for this team as that draft pick will more than likely be traded in the weeks leading into the draft.
If you would have said that Toronto and Washington would be fighting for a playoff spot in March, you probably would have been laughed at. While the Maple Leafs are sitting in a position that most figured, the Capitals have been one of the most disappointing teams of the season. They lack intensity and more importantly they lack an identity. The Capitals want to employ a more defense oriented game, but 2 coaches and multiple personnel changes later and they find themselves not much further ahead. If you think the Toronto faithful get upset by missing the playoffs, just imagine a Washington fan base that expects a division win let alone a playoff spot.
The Washington Capitals are a curious story really, they really are talented enough to not be in the position that they are in. The biggest element they seem to lack is focus and discipline. The team plays well in spurts but often lack any attention to detail when it comes to play in their own end. Sound familiar? Over the past several seasons the difference between the Leafs attempts to employ a similar system is the talent level of the players on the ice.
On to some observation from the game.
-The drop pass on the power play finally cost them a goal. I watched the Buffalo Sabres employ a similar tactic on their power play two seasons ago, it didn’t work then and it isn’t working now.
-Monster was solid again in the net. He has given the team a chance to win each time he has played and the question should now be asked if James Reimer will play again this season.
-Mikhail Grabovski is worth every nickel of the contract extension that he signed last week. He is a 3 zone player and regardless of what the local radio stations believe.
-The defense is still looking really good in terms of limiting quality chances. The flip side of this is the lack of offense, but it is finally good to see a team that looks responsible in their own end of the ice.
-In terms of Toronto offense, there is a skill lacking that will probably not be corrected until the off season and that is some net presence. The forwards on this team are too small, and look for guys like Travis Moen, Sami Pahlsson, and maybe even Paul Gaustad to be added to the mix. You don’t always notice players like this on the ice, but they become even more noticeable when you don’t have them on your roster.
-The NHL should really take a close look at it’s scheduling department, as games like today are not really acceptable. There are a lot of these games that benefit the Leafs, so this is not the basis of my complaint, but rather the overall quality of a game when both teams are on a short turnaround. People pay top dollar to get into these games, and they deserve far better than 2 teams that are on fumes from playing the day before.
-Getting shutout twice sucks, plain and simple.