The Games Of Little Meaning


Today marked the official return of Sidney Crosby for the Pittsburgh Penguins.  It was also the beginning of the NCAA Basketball tournament.  Tonight I decided to stay the course and continue to follow the Maple Leafs downward spiral out of the playoff picture and inch closer to a lottery pick.  No pleasure should be taken from being in contention for a lottery pick, as this team should be much further ahead than they are, but if any solace can be taken from this disaster that would be it.

The Leafs have for lack of better terms “owned” the Lightning this season, outscoring the west Florida group 14-3 in the first two meetings.  Toronto was dominant in each of the match ups, which has been unusual over the past several years.  The one team that really struggled with the Ron Wilson speed up the middle run and gun game was the lightning.  It will be interesting to see how the Carlyle defense first approach works during the tonight’s game.  The remaining games will likely be used to try and determine which pieces will be useful going forward and what type of players Brian Burke will need to find over the summer.

It’s really hard to ramp this game up as it has little meaning to either team.  Both Tampa and Toronto are out of contention, and at this point even a miracle run will land them short.  For the Leafs this may be a blessing in disguise, the draft pick they hold will increase in value infinitely the higher it is.  If they are to make any kind of run moving towards the draft at making a significant trade, the draft pick will likely be key. Either way, while more interesting games may be going on during the Leafs game, Toronto will be an interesting team to watch over the summer.

Game Highlights

-Toronto came into the game skating.  Not hard to do when the team your playing spots you a power play 7 seconds into the game.

-James Reimer looked sharp early and often.  The Leafs were sloppy at times early on and Reims made some highlight reel saves

-Leafs power play was able to draw blood early, but had trouble as the game went on.  You get the sense watching that they more often than not are trying to do far too much with the man advantage.  The early goal by Liles is a perfect example of simplification.

-The penalty killing was actually good tonight when called upon.  They cleared the zone with authority and when it looked like things might break down they fell back on their systems play.  No single player was greatly out of position at any point in time.

-Not to dwell on a single call in a game because the guys in stripes are human beings, but how on earth does that segment in the last minute of play happen.  Phaneuf throws a clean hit on St. Louis, Stamkos comes over to fight Phaneuf.  Suddenly once Stamkos is there, St. Louis grows a set and starts swinging as well.  Allocating 4 minutes to Phaneuf and 2 minutes to Stamkos all for roughing when there really should have been 5 minutes a piece and an instigator for third man in on Stamkos.  The only reason this sequence is so upsetting is it cost Reimer a shutout.  The people yelling and screaming about removing the instigator rule from the books should look up the statistics, it never gets called anyway.

-Another note on the above, good for Dion tonight making Stamkos night a living hell.  At least 3 or 4 times the two high profile players came together and Phaneuf made sure that 91 knew exactly what kind of night the Leafs would allow him to have.  Far too often this season the oppositions quality players have the run of the ice when playing the Leafs, something that needs to change going into next season.

-For all the people that are not fans of Jack Edwards announcing skills, tune in to Bob the “Chief” Taylor when the opportunity arrises.  This guy makes Edwards look like the most unbiased broadcaster in pro sports.  He let out some gems during the game, many of which were not even factually correct.