The Toronto Maple Leafs have a history of laying eggs in Philadelphia. For at least as long as I remember, and certainly beyond, they have struggled first at the Spectrum and now at the Wachovia Center or whatever it's called this week. Saturday night was no different as they lost 5-2 in a game that prompted an equal amount of handwinging and glee among hockey fans. The buds were outplayed at every turn and made a number of mental mistakes.
MF37, our resident bringer of hope, made a salient point: this year's troubles look to be more of a result of bad decisions than a lack of skill which is a refreshing change fom previous years. The former can be dealt with through practice and coaching while the latter needs to result in changes. The biggest change I've seen people begin to agitate for is the firing of Ron Wilson. A Plea From A Cat Named Felix noted that while Wilson was getting hammered for making changes to the third and fourth line, John MacLean was being mocked for making changes to his top line. Seems like a no-win situation. Another interesting contrast is that while we all acknowledge that the Leafs that are no longer with us were universally terrible, some people expected Wilson to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.
Since the double blockbusters on January 31st, when I think we can all acknowledge that Brian Burke completed his makeover of the Leafs, the Leafs are 17-13-4 including this year. Not only that but the Leafs ended last year with a penalty kill over 80% from January 31st to the end of the season. They started this year off on the same roll and they sit 8th in the league with a 88.5% success rate. The powerplay has not improved much, it is merely average rather than terrible, but that seems to be an issue of personnel as the decline of the Leafs' penalty kill has been constant since the first year after the lockout. So while Ron Wilson may make decisions that you disagree with let's acknowledge that once he was given competent goaltending the team's been much improved.
The game in six and some observations after the jump.
Ten Things Because It's Sunday Night And I've Slept 36 Hours:
- Welcome back Mike Komisarek! After six games of playing only around 12-13 minutes of ice-time Der Komissar played over 19 minutes, was plus 2, had an assist, was credited with two hits, and a blocked shot. He also played a beastly 7:53 of SHTOI. Of course, Komisarek's minutes came because of...
- Dion Phaneuf's rough night. He only played 15 minutes and was a -3. To be fair, he was left out to dry by Francois Beauchemin and Tomas Kaberle on two of the goals against but he didn't do himself any favours with tentative play.
- Godd Till was yapping on gchat about John Mitchell playing more than Phil Kessel. Well, 5:52 on the penalty kill is a big reason for that. Mitchell definitely needs to learn how to win face-offs if he is going to be out there for so long.
- A Godd Till Gem: "The visor, the constipated expression, the giveaways, the ill-advised pinching, the Stanley Cup with another team...Francois Beauchemin is Larry Murphy all over again." Kill me now.
- Luke Schenn played 35 shifts. Wow.
- A note for those that use giveaways to hammer offensive players: Kris Versteeg was credited with...wait for it...0 giveaways. This despite the fact that he picked up an assist on the Flyers' 3rd goal.
- Komisarek and Carl Gunnarsson were out for 6 and 5 more defensive zone face-offs than offensive ones.
- 14 shots won't win you any game in which Vesa Toskala isn't the opposing goalie.
- Colby Armstrong's hit from behind was really dirty.
- The worst thing that could have happened to the Leafs was to win the first four games. I think the worsening mood among a section of fans would be different if they were alternating wins and losses.