The Toronto Maple Leafs fell 6-3 to the Atlanta Thrashers in a game that could have gotten out of hand much earlier than it eventually did. Some fortuitous bounces kept the Leafs in the game before shoddy defending, a brutal turnover, and a softie from Jonas Gustavsson. For the first three minutes of the game the Maple Leafs did not cross the red line in control of the puck. Frankly, it was an embarrassing start. The tide was only shifted because the MGK line played their regular great game and because the Thrashers sat on their lead.
The Maple Leafs are an enigma. This is no surprise. What shocks me beyond the consistent inconsistency, the terrible special teams, and the non-stop goaltending carousel is how Leafs players have scrambled to defend Ron Wilson. Jean-Sebastien Giguere has spoken about how he has built a positive atmosphere in the dressing room, Nazem Kadri talks about how he welcomes Wilson's coaching, and now Clarke MacArthur referred to the fans getting on Ron Wilson 'sickening'. Funny, I would have used that word to describe the effort of about 16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs on most nights. Without being in the dressing room, I wonder why the players are so vocal in their defence of Wilson. Maybe it's Burke's efforts to put together a high character team paying off or maybe Wilson's lip service to accountability is comforting to the players or maybe they really believe that he is giving them the tools to succeed but they just aren't able to. I am not sure which one is the truth or which one is more terrifying. Or as one Twitterer put it: for how much longer can the players say that the blame lies with them and not Ron Wilson while not responding on the ice?
Odds and Sods:
The Corsi stats for the entire team look great. That the Leafs trailed almost the entire game is certainly a factor in that result. The Tyler Bozak, Kris Versteeg, and Phil Kessel line especially ran roughshod.
For all of the hand-wringing, Phil Kessel played 4.6 and 3.3 minutes of EV time with John Mitchell and Brett Lebda. My guess is that he was being double shifted to get him away from the top pairing of Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom.
The Leafs directed 40 shots, 33 missed shots, and had 15 blocked. That's a lot of effort to get three goals.
The Leafs won 48% of the face-offs. This is demonstrably a skill that can be taught and learned but in the meantime it is killing the Leafs.
Ho-hum, another two point night for Mikhail Grabovski. If I could bottle his desire and infuse it in the rest of this team...
The Leafs won the scoring chance battle 21-17. They were down 6-1 by the time the score was 2-0. Good thing the Leafs were ready from the outset.
The Waffles once again made an appearance. Video is below. I wish the fan had waited for this attack to finish before launching a box of eggos. He got tossed but the Leafs responded with two goals. Coincidence? Maybe fans should shower the Leafs in waffles before every game.
Four out of five Waffle Men