The Story Of The Game
The Toronto Maple Leafs fell 1-0 to the Boston Bruins in what was one of their best performances against them in a long time. Now, that is not saying much as the Leafs lost last year's season series 6-0 while being outscored 36-10 so short of coming out and vomiting on themselves they would have done better. Chris Bourque scored the only goal of the game and the Leafs' inability to score cost James Reimer a shot at a win in which he made 37 saves and kept the Leafs in the game. The Leafs powerplay had a couple of chances but couldn't capitalise or even create chances for that matter. Ultimately, the gulf in class made the difference as the Leafs minus Clarke MacArthur, Joffrey Lupul, Carl Gunnarsson, and Jake Gardiner are separated in class by even more than usual.
Carl Gunnarsson And Mike Kostka
Last night Gunnarsson was a scratch because of a lower body injury. James Mirtle had previously mentioned that Gunnarsson seemed pretty beat up before the season started. It seems like it might have been a better idea to let Gunnarsson get to 100% than to play him at 80% and aggravate the injury but without knowing the extent that would be assuming the worst. It does, I think, go a long way towards explaining the overuse of Mike Kostka as Carlyle probably did not feel that he was ready to play against the opposition's best.
The latter led the Leafs in ice-time with 22:46 including 4:25 on the powerplay. The even strength time is starting to at least be explained but the powerplay time I think is an issue. Kostka was quarterbacking a successful PP unit for the Marlies but at the NHL level the speed of his decision making seems to be one of the variables that is leading to a lacklustre powerplay. The puck movement is far too slow to break down the opposition's penalty kill and it usually bogs down at the point. Again, it's not that Kostka isn't an NHL defenceman because I think he is but he definitely isn't a top pairing guy. I understand the philosophy that you want to play a guy in the same role in which he's succeed at the AHL level but eventually you have to put him in the best position to succeed at the NHL level.
The Fourth Line
Last night the fourth line featured David Steckel, Colton Orr, and Frazer McLaren. They were on the ice for the only goal against and were partially responsible. Cody Franson also feel asleep on the goal but a race to the puck that was lost led to the pass for the goal. In their just over four minutes of ice time the fourth line was consistently under siege and Orr and McLaren didn't even punch anybody. The Bruins even had the audacity to bodycheck the Leafs over and over again. It was really unseemly.
All kidding aside, I know that one of the criticisms of Pat Quinn's tenure as coach was that he didn't play Mats enough during the regular season but Carlyle is leaning the opposite way. SkinnyFish's look at the team's drop off in play will probably continue to drop off if Carlyle runs the top of the team too hard. He's even acknowledged it. However, he's also a proponent of icing a fighter which means that he's going to be leaning hard on the the other three lines. At home, like last night, sharing ice time isn't as big of a problem because with last change he can get more favourable matchups. But on the road the issue is magnified if he is going to keep sheltering certain players.
But the Marlies and Leafs have plenty of players that could offer the Leafs a fourth line that could offer the team a fourth line that could give the other forwards more relief and possibly not get pinned non stop in their own zone
Cam is doing yeoman's work tracking scoring chances for the Leafs. Last night's show an ugly picture for the Leafs. They were out chanced 12-4 at even strength and 15-7 overall. That really highlights how well Reimer played because it could have easily been a replay of one of last year's blood baths.
Phil Kessel Watch
Kessel had two amazing scoring chances. One came off a nice rush into the zone where he burst into the zone and rifled a wrister that hit the cross bar and one came from about four feet away (but he doesn't go to the dirty areas!) resulted in an unreal glove save by Tuukka Rask. He's knocking at the door, lady luck just needs to answer.