Look at how inspirational this is. Everyone wants to be like McLaren, rather than offensive dynamo Nazem Kadri. - Rick Stewart
The Toronto Maple Leafs coughed up a 3-1 lead to the Buffalo Sabres, as the team went down two forwards on the second half of a back to back. Well, one forward and one guy who was never expected to play hockey.
Every time I think the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Leafiest game of 2013, they one-up themselves. There were pointless fists, there were sexy stars, and there was heartbreak. Bozak opened the scoring on a nice screen by JVR, Kadri tipped home a goal, and Ennis cut the lead on the power play as the Leafs failed to clear the zone and failed to cover the open man in the slot. Gardiner sent a great shot-to-be-tipped, which Grabovski followed through on, and Buffalo threw up three quick goals. Kadri would score the game tying goal, and the Leafs would beat their heads against Ryan Miller with a fake-shot-backhand move that never worked. Suffer through this game in six:
Kadri was great. Reimer not so much. Gardiner looked good, but it's obvious that he needs to transition to the NHL again - taking too much time, playing the puck, and generally looking like he expects to be the best player on the ice. Franson had a good game, Fraser not so much. Bozak is a dead weight on his line, goal aside. Kadri deserves a shot on the number one spot, with Bozak buried as far away from the defensive zone as possible. But the reason the Leafs lost a point tonight? The old Dead Horse himself, Randy Carlyle. If you made it through the above video, suffer through this post game press conference:
Colton Orr's number one job on this team is to take penalties. Fighting majors, usually, but instigators come with it. Since becoming a Toronto Maple Leaf four seasons ago, Colton Orr has played 161 games, taken 110 penalty minutes in minor penalties alone. He's taken 235 minutes in major penalties. He's taken 110 minutes in misconducts, and received his second game misconduct as a Leaf tonight. In short: If you start Colton Orr in a hockey game, you should expect that he will not be an option for your hockey club. Worse, you should expect that he'll probably put you down a man. But Carlyle complains about penalties and a short bench.
And it was for nothing. Goals were scored because Kadri is an offensive wizard with 12 points in 9 games, not because Kadri was so deeply moved by Colton Orr eating Kaleta's fists. Ott still ran his mouth at Phaneuf. Scott still slashed Kessel off a faceoff. Plays were still dirty because no one is scared of Frazer McLaren or Colton Orr when they're stapled to the bench or paying their service to the referees.
Was Colton Orr's expected 5 minutes of TOI going to be the difference maker in tonight's game? Rested vs. fatigued? Couldn't Ryan Hamilton have played those minutes, not taken a fighting major, and maybe even rotated through the second and third lines to provide wingers a longer break? Oh sorry - he's a hockey player who earned his way out of the AHL. He deserves to be in the press box because John Scott is going to get you if you misbehave.
When people applaud the Sabres for "getting tougher" in the offseason, it's exactly for games like tonight's. Not because Scott's cheap shots inspired his team. Not because Kaleta hits from behind so well that Kessel is afraid to score goals. But because Randy Carlyle plays down to their level, bringing two non-hockey players who take up bench. Two players that he doesn't even want to play during a game. The Leafs hamstrung themselves - Randy Carlyle hamstrung himself - and he did it under the guise of "toughness."
So please, Randy, tell us more about how "the situation" is what killed us last night. Next up: Boston. Without Lupul, because his NHL-Justice-Dart landed further away than Kronwall's, and maybe without Komarov, who's got an upper body injury until the doctors tell us more.