The HBO 24/7 cameras were gone. Bozak was back. The Rangers started their backup goalie, and were playing the second half of a back to back against the rested Leafs. Clarkson left with an injury at the 11 minute mark, when the Rangers had 14/20 shot attempts in the game (70%) and a one goal lead. Gunnarsson left the game around 13:30, when the Rangers had 17/27 shot attempts in the game (63%), shortly before a line he wasn't matched against scored the game winning goal. The usual excuses thrown by the wayside, the game started bad and got worse. Try to make through the Game in Seven Goals:
Everyone looked bad. Bernier looked bad - including an absolute laugher of a second goal against - but still got five goals worth of rope just because. Franson looked bad. The Leafs' top line was effective at generating shots, but I'm pretty sure it was primarily after the game was decided, as they were on ice for 3 ES goals against. Jay McClement lead all Cs in icetime, because when you're down in a game, you really want to deploy the least offensively talented center you can find. Phaneuf took a penalty after fighting Chris Kreider, because "leadership" means getting off the ice early. Oh, and he was scrapping with Boyle earlier, when Colton Orr was on the ice getting ignored because he's not good at his job.
At the team level, it's more of the same-old, same-old: Did you know that when the opposing team gets more opportunities to score, they're more likely to score a goal? I know, it's crazy! At least this isn't a regular occurrence or anything...
This is the 13th time this season the Leafs have allowed 40+ shots (30 per cent of their games).— James Mirtle (@mirtle) January 5, 2014
Oh...well then. The Leafs are two points behind the 11-12 point pace, which would eventually collapse into the 5th overall pick. They're seven points behind last year's playoff pace - and we're just five games away from the "adequate sample size" that had the Leafs trying to compete. With tonight's defeat, the Leafs have fallen to the final wildcard spot, just one point ahead of the Senators following Clarke MacArthur's OT game winning goal (only one point because OTT holds the ROW tiebreaker, since so many of the Leafs' wins have been coin flip victories in the shootout).
There's only so much failure that can be hoisted on to the players' shoulders. They aren't "competing," they forgot how to take quality shots, or their third line center is somehow worth a dozen points in the standings or something. There's a much better chance that Carlyle's systems don't work, but his boss won't even "acknowledge any criticism."
Nonis should be held accountable for each game his coach burns, let alone for the roster he torched in a day, and the mysterious disappearance of depth at forward. But if you're thinking that Dave Nonis' boss is paying attention and holding people accountable - that is, the same Tim Leiweke that extended Nonis after he let two productive assets walk for nothing in order to sign an awful contract - you'll be very excited to hear him talk (mp3 warning) about how the Leafs are only missing "a chip here and a chip there." You see, he's "a big fan of Nonis," and he's sure that what the Leafs really need now - and what the organization has in plenty - is "patience." "Patience," as the Leafs' best players breeze through their prime age, and "patience" as Randy continues to get fluke into a deceptively respectable bubble team record. Patience to see just how far we can push the goaltending. Fan-fucking-tastic.
The Leafs aren't so bad that I would expect six goal losses with any regularity, but nights like this would be a lot easier to stomach if Leafs management didn't seem so convinced that they didn't play a part in causing it. Instead of pointing at themselves to blame, the only way to avoid making excuses is by being quiet - as if there's nothing to be said about the top-down approach to the game here. At some point, the red flags should have them looking for answers rather than excuses, and if a six goal loss and a stretch of four regulation wins in twenty-nine games don't count as red flags, I don't know what will get the Leafs to re-examine their positions. And they need it, because right now their position "optimistic bubble team."