With a little more talent on each side, last night's game against the Ottawa Senators would've been a lot more fun to watch. The teams traded rushes all night, but it felt like there were far too many missed opportunities, bumbled plays, and ugly goals. Grabovski opened the scoring, Zibanejad answered with a very nice tip past Scrivens. Holzer shoved Condra, Scrivens, and the puck into a goal against, but MacArthur would respond by goal by jamming the puck and Bishop into the Senators' net. Chris Neil got his customary cheap-shot-run-away combo in, and Colin Greening batted home a floating rebound to win the game. Disappointing how chippy the goals were, really, given that the rush trading led to some nice opportunities. Watch it all, in the game in six:
Kadri and Kessel looked good, as the game lent itself to their creativity in the neutral zone and on the rush. In general, both teams' forwards seemed to miss a lot of second chances, but the Leafs were holding their own once the puck got into the offensive zone. Grabovski's goal was a good example of the second chances that were plenty in this game, but seemed to always be recovered by the defensive team.
Scrivens had three times this game where he either botched the rebound control or let a puck squeeze through him. It wasn't a strong performance by him, but it was probably around where we would expect a backup NHL goaltender to play. He got run twice again this game, which has made for a lot of physical contact between last night and Thursday against Buffalo.
This is probably starting to sound like a bit of a broken record, but the Leafs' D was bad. Gunnarsson had a poor night, falling behind Zibanejad on the tip, surrendering the inside to Greening on the game winning goal and botching a couple of outlet passes throughout the game. I'm hoping that the Leafs aren't playing him through an injury, as with Colborne last year, but Gunnar has jumped to third highest ES TOI/60 of the Leafs' D. Holzer continues to be played above his depth, simply because the Leafs have an artificial glut at LD and a lack of defensively capable players on the right.
Which brings me to another point: The Leafs suffered from a poor outlet pass last night. Several times, they were picked off or disrupted in the neutral zone, and Phaneuf and the forwards were the only people who looked capable of jump starting a rush. The team lacked a smooth skating, strong first pass defenseman - y'know, like Jake Gardiner.
Why was the team missing that? Because Randy Carlyle doesn't believe in letting a 3-time all-star, top-pairing, and - I'll say it - elite defenseman play on the opposite side. Because Carlyle wants Dion to play his stick-side, where his lethal slapshot is rendered far more soft, the Leafs are full on LD players (Phaneuf, Gunnarsson, Liles, Fraser), and their RD depth is so poor (Franson, Kostka, Holzer, Komisarek) that it becomes a rotating wheel of incapable minor leaguers. Randy Carlyle's personnel decision is hurting this team. That's the only way to look at the defensive usage right now.
The dangerous part is this: It's obvious that our defensive personnel are detrimental to the team. At some point, Nonis needs to step in and either fire Carlyle (not going to happen) or provide Carlyle with the personnel he can use (more likely). Since the Leafs seem to be stuck with Liles and his contract extension, do the Leafs sell low on someone like Gunnarsson just so that Carlyle can play Phaneuf on the left side? As Gardiner continues to log massive minutes in the AHL, Carlyle's stubborn, if not stupid, ways may lead the Leafs to look outside the organization for a right defenseman, when the answer is already playing with the team.
Maybe I've stepped a little far into speculation for a game recap (and since my speculation is in line with birky's yesterday, maybe it's a little overly pessimistic), but the Leafs shouldn't be happy with their performance last night. An injury-riddle Ottawa is exactly the team that the Leafs still need to prove they can beat to be considered a regular contender in the league.