Leafs Have 99 Problems But The Sens Ain't One

Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo

2 points!

It's rare that the Leafs get to play a team as sloppy as they are, but last night the Ottawa Senators were happy to give up as many chances as the Leafs needed. In true holiday spirit, the Leafs were just as happy to give back, with interest, making for a game full of undisciplined penalties, breakaways, and wild crease scrambles.

The Leafs struck early on the power play, with James van Riemsdyk pouncing on a rebound from Nazem Kadri and Dion Phaneuf about a minute and a half into the game. The Kessel line was in on all three Leafs goals in the game, with Kessel finishing a nice 2-on-1 with JvR in the second, and Jake Gardiner getting his first goal of the season with JvR lying behind the Craig Anderson in the Ottawa crease. Oh, and it was JvR who scored the winning shootout goal (even if it wasn't the clinching one).

Naturally, Clarke MacArthur found the back of the net, and we can be happy for him because his team lost anyway. The only really frustrating part of the goal was how completely open MacArthur was in the middle of the ice when he one-timed a shot through Reimer's five-hole. In fact, it was one of two rather big lapses in coverage with the Leafs on the penalty kill, with Mark Fraser totally forgetting about Erik Karlsson on the Sens' 3rd period game-tying goal. Of course, if your team is going to hand eight power plays to an opponent in one game, mistakes are bound to happen.

Overall, the Leafs played too much in their own end. That much should be obvious just by glancing at the Box Score and seeing that the team once again gave up 50 shots on James Reimer, who deserves a medal, a holiday, or at least a cuddle. Score effects were a big factor in this game, as the Leafs held the lead for most of it. Extra Skater has the 5v5 Score Tied number for the game at 53.1% CF for the Sens and a 46.9 for the Leafs, which is great by Leafs standards. The thing is, the straight 5v5 numbers are 60.2% to 39.8%, and score effects don't justify such extreme bottling up. Heck, even Randy Carlyle knows that:

Here are the Cliff Notes of what Randy Carlyle said in the presser:

- Received game, incomplete effort

- Two power play goals should have had coverage

- Wins lighten the mood

- "When we get a lead we freeze... if we had the answer right now we'd have corrected it a long time ago."

- "We took [Jvr] off the penalty kill because we felt we were wearing him down... we put Jerry D'Amigo in..."

- "They basically went to three full lines in the third"

So all in all, Carlyle seems to share pretty much all my own observations on the game. The difference, I suppose, is the way we'd go about correcting what we saw.

Notes on individual players:

- John-Michael Liles came back from the Marlies and looked pretty good. I don't see any reason why Mark Fraser should draw into the lineup over him, especially since with the new cap rules, it wouldn't really change the cap situation for the Leafs. Carlyle notices when Fraser screws up (on the PK, for instance) but doesn't seem to want to do much about it.

- Kessel just loves playing against the Ottawa Senators. I mean, LOVES it. He has more goals (22) against the Sens than he does any other team in the league. The best part of this is that his linebuddy van Riemsdyk is learning how fun it can be, too.

- I don't think this was a particularly strong game for Nazem Kadri, but you can't argue with the results. The line was easily the Leafs' best, and he picked up an assist for 3 points in 2 games skating with Kessel and JvR. Kadri also had an awesome flip pass to Carl Gunnarsson for an overtime breakaway. Yes, you read that correctly. My one concern with Kadri is that he doesn't look as quick as last season, and this may be an issue playing with a pair of wingers who can both really move.

- Speaking of Carl Gunnarsson, he jumped into the rush repeatedly last night. Both may have simply been fluky plays, but maybe Carlyle is starting to encourage even his stay-at-home defenders to start jumping into the rush. This will be something to watch for.

- Morgan Rielly sat out again last night and this made a lot of people unhappy, but barring a slew of injuries, I rather doubt Carlyle is ever going to start Jake Gardiner, John-Michael Liles, Cody Franson and ANOTHER  defenceman who can skate. That's just too many people who can skate well, you know?

- I understand wanting to reward Trevor Smith for some strong play, but when Trevor Smith lines up consistently as your team's second-line centre and on your team's second power play unit, something is broken, and it's not just Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland. I'd love to see Peter Holland get a shot.

- Jerry D'Amigo has continued to be everything we'd hoped for. He's a great skater, looked good on the PK, and even drew a penalty late in the game. Why is he not skating on the Leafs' third or fourth line more regularly? carlyle.jpg

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