As the camera panned over to Paul Maurice after he watched Tomas Kaberle let Tyler Kennedy (who?) waltz past him and bury another juicy rebound past Clemmensen it caught the coach perfectly articulating what every Leaf fan was thinking: F--cking brutal.
Those two words sum up the night, as they have all too frequently this season, and at the end of the year it's most likely that they'll also serve to define the 2007-2008 season.
Much like this season, I'm going to make this post a roller coaster so here are a couple of hilarious Knob Hockey videos that were made during the Oilers' run to the Stanley Cup Finals that feature Ty Conklin, the terrible, terrible goalie that the Leafs could not beat. Enjoy the brief laughter because the rest of the post is depressing.
Ok, back to our regularly scheduled gnashing of teeth. Maurice said it all after the game when he looked like a defeated man that just wanted to be fired:
We got beat one on one, there's not much else to it. Players were standing where they were supposed to be standing, the puck went by them and the man went by them.
After the first period the Leafs lost every race for a puck and both fights.
The two goals weren't even highlights. Jason Blake's run of three goals and two assists give the lie to the fact that two goals were from behind the goalline and put in by the goalie while the third went off of his knee. Of course that didn't stop him from celebrating the goals like he had just walked through the opposition before roofing a shot past the tender. How did he score 40 goals last year? His wrist shot wouldn't break a pane of glass. Not to mention the statistic showing the players that take the most shots that showed Blake's fellow frequent firers with at least double his total if not triple.
And I forgot to mention the fights! Ninja sums up the Tucker-Ruutu fight. As for Bell, I love that he's game to fight but his hands are too brittle to fight. Early on he almost looked like he was going to signal the refs in as he was shaking his hand but he stuck with it, landed on big punch, and then fell under Malone's phantom punch. Too often the Leafs have taken beating laying down so it was nice to see two guys try to jumpstart the team. I am still waiting for the Kilger-Bell-Tucker line to be created and let loose.
Back to Maurice and more and more he is looking like a guy that just wants to be put out of his misery. I have always been a pretty big supporter of Maurice since it's usually the players' fault when they lose but last night's game highlighted many of the trouble spots that MF37's written concerning Maurice:
- The recent run of blown games prompted MF37 to come out depression-induced hibernation to look at the players that were on the ice. Last night, at even strength, Crosby and Malkin (who were paired for 11:12 of TOI) faced the line of Steen-Sundin-Blake the most. Why not re-unite the Steen-Stajan-Devereaux line for a road game against two of the league's best players?
- Timeouts are one thing that Maurice has repeatedly mismanaged and last night was no different. The Leafs are notorious for being prone to giving up buckets of goals in quick succession (see: any game against Buffalo and last game versus Carolina) and still Maurice has never called a timeout until one goal too late. Maybe two goals that came in thirty-seven seconds was enough to stop things and give the team a reaming. Apparently not.
- Now, Maurice has not called a time out after two goals in thirty-seven seconds because that in no way demoralises the Leafs and they are not at all vulnerable for a third/fourth/fifth in quick succession. So, who does Maurice send out on the ice? Make-A-Wish and Carlo. Why he persists in pretending that Wozniewski is an NHL player is beyond almost any hockey observer and probably even Woz's own parents.
However, on the defining shift of the game Maurice decided to put Herpes out on the ice (granted, White and Gill had just been scored upon and needed to be taken off the ice) instead of Kaberle and Kubina who had rested not only for the thirty-seven seconds it took the pens to score the second goal but also the first celebration when they were on the ice and the second when they were on the bench. You might even say that a timeout would have given them a full rest and allowed them to be on the ice.
Instead, we were treated to AFW treating a bouncing puck like a hand grenade (is it hard to ensure that the puck doesn't bounce past you when you are the LAST MAN BACK?!?!) which allowed Petr Sykora to walk in alone. Clemmensen made the first save but Herpes was so fixated on watching the trainwreck develop that he was still rooted to the spot wondering how a freaking puck had just deked him out of his jock strap as Sykora slammed home his own rebound. Game Over.
Phew, that was a lot. The scary thing is that the Leafs have shown that they are a good enough team with Vesa Toskala in net to make the playoffs. That would mean that conceivably JFJ will return for a long-time and that Paul Maurice will continue to mismatch players, use Wozniewski, and keep his timeouts for when the team is REALLY in trouble. So even losses like last night are not even a guarantee of a terrible finish to the season and the accompanying house cleaning because the Leafs are not good enough to win it all but not bad enough to really tank. And that is the most depressing thing about last night.