The Toronto Maple Leafs found themselves in a familiar situation last night: building a big lead against their bogey team the Bruins with their playoff lives on the line. Fans, however, could relax this time because Jonathan Bernier was in net and David Clarkson and David Bolland were two thirds of a shutdown line. The former would turn back the pressure and the latter two would provide the pushback that was so lacking last Spring. Ghosts would be exorcised and the Leafs would win. While the Leafs did ultimately win - the two young stars that Nonis has been rumoured to trade combined for the winner - their path was hindered by Bolland and Clarkson.
It's pretty simple to break down this goal against. Clarkson, Bolland, and Mason Raymond all dip below the hashmarks - by design remember - as if they were on leisurely Sunday skate with their family and watch as Milan Lucic drifts into the danger area that the Leafs allegedly defend so well before firing a shot through an unmolested screen and past Bernie. I don't have the time or patience to take a number of screenshots and draw a number of funny squiggly lines but here's the moment where the Leafs' defensive system put them in trouble
Somehow, Clarkson's grit didn't rub off on Cody Franson and lead him to drive Jarome Iginla out of the crease to clear Bernier's line of sight. And it's hard to explain why but David Bolland's attention to defensive detail which makes him the irreplaceable embodiment of everything that the Leafs' strive to be abandoned him at this moment. As for Mason Raymond, well, at $1M and without the MSM hype machine promoting some idiotic contract then one can only sigh and hope that you do better next time.
The best part of this goal might have come during the replay when "that was your guy Wendel" could be heard being directed towards David Clarkson. No idea who said the funniest thing I've ever heard but it managed to enter Ray Ferraro's subconscious and gave us a great moment in Freudian slips.
Anyway, the game is now 3-2 and the Leafs are now absolutely ready to shut things down...except Paul Ranger decided to plop Patrice Bergeron right on top of Bernier and either aggravate his groin or injure his knee. Either way, James Reimer was about the enter the thunderdome. This gave us the great moment of the fans ramping up the noise organically to boost up Reimer. Who knows what effect that it had on him but considering the insane amount of crap that he has taken from fans and the media I hope that he enjoyed it.
The Leafs have their shutdown line again and again it fails to shut anything down other than possibly the discussion that the Mimico Moochers represent anything other than local boys looking to cash in on the obsession on the part of some segments of the local media and fans to have players that grew up going to Leafs games before it became prohibitively expensive. Again, there's one image that sums up the much discussed problems with Randy Carlyle's defensive systems.
The Leafs do not do a better job than most defending the most dangerous areas of the ice. The Leafs' system of collapsing deeply - and make no mistake, this isn't the players going rogue - allows a ton of dangerous shots. The Leafs' defencemen do not play well in front of their own net. Most importantly, Randy Carlyle is not a good defensive coach. These are snapshots that illustrate trends that have existed since day one of his tenure. When Bernier and Reimer are hot then they can hide the truth but it is always there. Particularly fun to note, Ray Ferraro tears into Clarkson and Raymond again and has nothing to say about Bolland. I don't know what he thought Bolland should be doing in that case since Carl Gunnarsson has the front covered and he seems to just be doing pirouettes in the slot. Maybe Clarkson delegated water bottle protection duties to him.
Somehow, by some miracle, the Leafs again blew a third period lead against the Bruins. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that the ice was tilted so radically by a combination of score effects, the Bruins' superior talent, and the Leafs' passive system of play.
Yikes! Anyway, there are reasons that the Leafs continue to blow third period leads like they just need to make a little bit of money to pay for bus fare and I believe that they are caused much more by the coaching of the Leafs than with the make up of the Leafs. I'm sure somewhere Mikhail Grabovski was smiling.