Games like the Toronto Maple Leafs' loss to the Penguins help to make crystal clear how far this team still has to go. Brian Burke corrected Elliotte Friedman before the game about the media's mistaken belief that he guaranteed the playoffs but it's clear that while that is still a long way off the gulf between the Leafs and Penguins is massive.
The Leafs kept things close for about 34 minutes. They continued the level of effort that they displayed for most of the game in Buffalo and had the game tied 1-1. Appropriately, I ran across this quote of the day on the NHL's main site:
"You don't get points in this league for playing good games. We've got to find a way to put the pucks in the net and get results and get points. The effort was there. We played well enough to at least get a point and maybe win the hockey game but we just couldn't pull it out."
-- Panthers' center Stephen Weiss
That could be said by almost any Maple Leaf in so many games this year. We've said it here a number of times but moral victories, while helping to develop the younger players on the roster, are not as valuable as real victories to a team that still harbours dreams of playing past game 82. Of course, any follower of the team can tell you that it's not so much that the Leafs lose (actually, it is but the sentence demands I downplay it) but how they lose games. With that, I present one of the strangest sequences I have ever seen:
A full explanation of the rule after the jump.
The Leafs in about 30 seconds went from having seen a shot rebound off of their crossbar and a penalty shot subsequently awarded after Alexei Ponikarovsky was hauled down to trailing 2-1 but being on a power play. Needless to say, when Sergei Gonchar ended up in the penalty box fans and media on Twitter were scrambling for an explantion. Commenter JohnnyG helped clarify the rare situation which Don Van Massenhoven called correctly (I guess you don't get to 1000 games without knowing that book inside out). From the NHL rule book # 78.6 Video Review:
When a team scores an apparent goal that is not seen by the on-ice officials and play continues, the play shall be reviewed by the Video Goal Judge at the next stoppage of play. If the goal is confirmed by video review, the clock is re-set to the time the goal was scored. If the goal is not confirmed by video review, no adjustment is required to the clock time.
Only one goal can be awarded at any stoppage of play. If the apparent goal was scored by Team A, and is subsequently confirmed as a goal by the Video Goal Judge, any goal scored by Team B during the period of time between the apparent goal By Team A and the stoppage of play (Team B’s goal), the Team B goal would not be awarded. However, if the apparent goal by Team A is deemed to have entered the goal, albeit illegally (i.e. distinct kicking motion), the goal shall be disallowed by the Video Goal Judge and since the play should have stopped for this disallowed goal, no goal can be awarded to Team B on the same play. The clock must be re-set to the time of the disallowed Team A goal and play resumed.
Any penalties signaled during the period of time between the apparent goal and the next stoppage of play shall be assessed in the normal manner, except when a minor penalty is to be assessed to the team scored upon, and is therefore nullified by the scoring of the goal. If an infraction happens after the first stoppage of play following an apparent goal (infraction after the whistle) by either team, it is assessed and served in the normal manner regardless as to the decision rendered by the Video Goal Judge.
Good on Glenn Healy for getting that rule correct. The bolded line explains why Gonchar had to go to the penalty box instead of the Leafs getting their penalty shot. Some other thoughts on the game:
- Sidney Crosby now has 30 points in 19 games all-time against the Maple Leafs including embarrassing Tomas Kaberle.
- Evgeni Malkin, who was in a slump with only 4 assists in his last 10 games and -9, upped his career totals to 34 points in 15 games against the Leafs. Who'd have thunk it?
- Kris Letang (or LeOrangeDrink per Loser Domi) led both teams with 8 blocked shots.
- The Leafs got killed in the face-off circle 58-42.
- Phil Kessel and Luke Schenn both had five shots blocked.
- From the Corsi/Fenwick ratings the Leafs that really carried the play to the Penguins were Luke Schenn, Tomas Kaberle, Matt Stajan, Jason Blake, and Phil Kessel.
- Luke Schenn, a night after being + 2 was -2 despite being an innocent bystander on the opposite side of the rink of both goals scored. Helps the highlight the flaws in the +/- statistic.
- Marc-Andre Fleury came into the game having posted a 1-5-0 record with a .870 sv% in his last seven appearances. He proceeded to make 42 saves on 43 shots for a .977 sv%. Who could have seen that coming?
- Phil Kessel continued to respond well to Ron Wilson's criticism. On a night with better luck he would have had three goals. As it happened though, he ended the night exclaiming "Are you f-cking kidding me?" after yet another massive Fleury save.
- After a Penguins' clearing attempt Glenn Healy got a hell of a dig in on Vesa Toskala:
No, it didn’t go over the glass, it went past the bech and down the runway. It was actualy saved by Toskala… you might want to video archive that.
The Maple Leafs are now nine points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference but more importantly they are four points away from 25th in the NHL. It is vitally important that the Leafs not finish within the bottom five because I have a sick feeling that they will win the lottery. Regardless of the how the player selected develops the fact that it would end up being the top pick would be hammered at us forever just for the optics. The Leafs are off until Tuesday when they host Carolina.
Notes: Mike Komisarek will be out for 7-10 more days which means the earliest he could return is January 18th against Nashville. At 12:30pm on next Tuesday Curtis Joseph, he of the two stints with the buds, will announce his retirement in a press conference at the Air Canada Centre. Maybe he can take a few guys from the current roster along with him.