Maple Leafs 3 v. Coyotes 6: Not Good Enough To Coast

Chemmy Thought of the Night: The Leafs traded a 1st, 2nd and 4th for Toskala on June 22 2007. On Nov 17 2007 Bryzgalov was claimed off waivers by Phoenix. Since 2007 Toskala's save percentage has never been above .904, Bryzgalov's has never been below .906.

Since the lockout three things have been constants for the Maple Leafs:

  1. The goaltending has ranged from great to atrocious. Unfortunately, if you were looking for a split between the two it's probably been 10% great, 90% atrocious.
  2. Once the Leafs feel satisfied they fall apart. Toskala is one of the worst on this team for being pleased and thinking that excuses him from playing well. Tonight, for 52 minutes, we saw the entire team pull that trick.
  3. When there is any mention of "PLAYOFFS!!1" the Leafs' testicular fortitude disappears. There is a reason that they always go on crazy runs to end the season: there's no pressure.

The net result is that the team plays lackadaisically and completely out of sync. For about 52 minutes tonight that's what we saw out of the Leafs. Terrible goaltending was compounded by the rest of the team's October flashback.

 

The first five minutes of the game actually weren't half bad and the Leafs left the first only down 1-0 before the wheels came off in the second. Four goals came as a result of the Leafs' sudden decision to stop skating or play anything resembling hockey:

Ron Wilson: That's the frustrating part we couldn't stop the bleeding in the second period and they scored a couple of crappy goals.

To top things off, when the team looked to Vesa Toskala to make a save, more often than not, he failed the team. The first went shortside (ie the 'minor league' side) while another was a result of playing far too deep in the net. Ron Wilson wasn't at all pleased by Toskala's play:

Wilson: Every goalie in this league gets screened and you have to fight to see the puck it's as simple as that. The goalie should never make an excuse that he's screened on a play "I'm screened so I don't have to try anymore." It's not something that I like.

Reporter: (paraphrashing) What I meant was that five guys were often running around chasing the puck

Wilson: That happens. As a goaltender your job is to work hard to try to find the puck, period, if your defence is scrambling - "oh I'll make myself as small as possible" - you have to make yourself you gotta make yourself big and try to come up with the save. And When the goalie's struggling you have to hope that the defence bails you out too.

Of course, the Leafs were hardly helped by the four blind mice working the game. The problem with terrible performances is that every bad call that goes against you has a much greater impact. The first goal came off a Jim Vandermeer dive that drew two minutes on Jason Blake. The third goal, after the Leafs had drawn to within one, was a result of a blown offside call. In both cases, the Leafs had a chance to offset the errors if they had simply concentrated. Instead, the Leafs' league-worst (by a country mile) failed and the fire drill defending couldn't clear the puck.

However, one call that was out of their control came after Ian White tried to kick a puck out of danger but ended up directing it towards the Leafs' empty goal. Toskala reached back and snatched the puck just as it was about to cross the goalline. Now, the ref on the ice called it a goal and after viewing it from multiple angles the Video Goal Judge was apparently unable to overturn the call because it was inconclusive therefore he couldn't overrule the on-ice judge. However, nowhere in the rule does "incontrovertible evidence" get mentioned. In fact, it says that once the call goes up to Video Goal Judge his ruling is the only one that matters:

Rule 39 - Video Goal Judge

39.1 General Duties – The following are the general duties of the Video Goal Judge:

(i)  He will review replays of disputed goals when requested to do so by the Referees.

(ii)  He will review replays of disputed goals when he observes an incident that was undetected by on-ice officials.

(iii)  After viewing the incident he will promptly convey his decision directly to the Referee at the penalty bench. When a play has been referred to the Video Goal Judge, his decision shall be final.

(iv)  During the review he may consult with a member of the League’s Hockey Operations or Officiating department staff if latter is in attendance at the game (or via telephone).

(v)  No goal may be awarded (or disallowed) as a result of video review once the puck has been dropped and play has resumed following the first stoppage of play after the potential goal.

 On that basis it's hard to believe that he saw the puck actually go in. What it looks like is that the referee guessed that it must have gone in and the Video Goal Judge was not willing to overturn the goal. It would be nice for the NHL to release any high-def video it uses because on my TV, in slow motion, it might have gone over the line just like Stempniak's against Chicago.

Again, the main problem was that the Leafs' were terrible and it started on the back end:

Ron Wilson: It was a giveaway fest in the second period we couldn't find any loose pucks and we got pushed out of the way. Our defence just wasn't any good last night.

The interesting part of the post-game presser was that Wilson led the way in showing us a good way to deal with this game: move on.

Wilson: We weren't as sharp as we needed to be. Playing at a high level every night is not possible when you're playing 4 games a week. We'll put it behind us and move on. The 3rd period showed we weren't going to roll over

The bottom line is that the Leafs faced the very team they have been for the last while (but with better goaltending) and they weren't able to summon the desire. Whether that's because of the schedule, as Ron Wilson notes, or because they lack the forwards to fight through tight checking, I think that this definitely played a part, is up to the viewer but the Coyotes certainly did their part as James Mirtle highlights in his piece for the G&M.

Note: I embedded the entire presser because I think it's worthwhile viewing. These are available on the Maple Leafs' official website and part of the fun is watching the trepidation with which some questions are asked and the scorn with which he replies but overall, despite the media's complaints, I find Wilson is pretty forthcoming in these. He highlights his ideads on the team's shortcomings, identifies who didn't perform, and generally tosses some humour in.

 

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