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Preds 9, Maple Leafs 2 - I've Made A Huge Mistake

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"Help out with a game recap", I said. "What could go wrong?", I said.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

NHL.com recap War-On-Ice Stat Pack On The Forecheck

After a tough pair of losses on the weekend, the Maple Leafs returned home to face the Nashville Predators, looking to shake off a lackadasical effort on Saturday that..

(Nashville just scored).

Damn.

Anyways, as I was saying. The Leafs had been on a nice little run, 6-1-1 in their eight games previous to the Pens and Sabres games. And while the possession numbers once again trend in the wrong direction...

(Nashville just scored).

Damnit. The Leafs are still in a playoff position, so it's not like...

(Nashville scored again)

Screw it. Let's get to the recap. When you volunteer to start doing game recaps, and THIS is what you get for your first offering, sometimes you can't help but...

(Nashville scores again)

1st Period

A sleepwalking Leaf team start the game by giving up a pair of ten-bell chances within the first minute, including an empty net that James Neal somehow misses (Sweet coverage by "defensively responsible" Tyler Bozak as per usual).

Yet again, the Leaf are behind before every line has hit the ice. Jake Gardiner can't handle a Predators dump-out, allowing Taylor Beck to step around him, and beat Bernier far side to put Nashville up 1-0 before the game is 2 minutes old. Gardiner got a bit crossed up in the neutral zone but the coverage after Beck recovered the puck was inexcusably bad afterwards. Polak tries to cover but can't get there in time, and that's a shot that Bernier needs to stop.

The Leafs seemed content to run around for a little bit longer, before Peter Holland nearly squeaked a short-handed goal that simply stopped at the goal line. In fact, things actually seemed to be starting to move in their direction, as they were generating chances and had made up an early deficit in the shot attempt category.

Of course, almost immediately after Ray Ferraro mentions this, the Leafs lose three consecutive puck battles at either ends of the ice, and Derek Roy somehow outmuscles Phaneuf to the front of the to put Matt Cullen's centering pass pst Bernier to make it 2-0.

Look, I'm as hard on Randy Carlyle as anybody, and I think Randy Carlyle's repeated requests for greater 'compete' are complete bullshit, but that's the sort of goal that leads people to believe that the Leafs not competing or being ready to work at the start of the game is a player issue and not a coaching one. Bozak and JVR get beat in the corner, Ryan Ellis' outlet pass beats Phil Kessel, and then Franson and Phaneuf get outworked by Cullen and Roy even though both of them have about 4 inches and 30 pounds on the forwards.

By the way, goons or no goons, Carlyle puts his 4th line on the ice following a goal against. It's their first shift since the seven seconds they got from the offensive zone faceoff that led to the first goal. Plus c'est change...

Craig Smith takes a slashing penalty on a Morgan Rielly rush, and then the Leafs hilariously do nothing with the powerplay, leading to Polak immediately taking a penalty for closing his hand on the puck. Taylor Beck cashes in on a rebound for his 2nd of the period, on a play where he's literally got enough time to peruse the Platinum Lounge's wine list, make a selection for the intermission, find the rebound and tap it past Bernier for a 3-0 lead.

Beck would almost score a 3rd goal a minute later on yet another play where the Leafs are caught flat-footed by the Predators devious breakout scheme of "shooting the puck up the boards". I follow hockey about as closely as most people on this site but I'd literally never heard of Taylor Beck before tonight. Also the Leafs are playing defence like a house league team.

2nd Period

James Reimer is in net for the 2nd period. Half of the fanbase thinks this is unacceptable.

The game finally gets a little bit of emotion courtesy of the Leafs 4th line as Richard Panik is taken halfway off his skates and collides with Pekka Rinne, setting off a small dogpile. The referees give Panik a goaltender interference penalty that is easily one of the worst calls I've seen all season. The penalty kill was fairly uneventful, save for a great goal-line stand by Leo Komarov off a neutral zone faceoff.

For a game that would end 9-2 not a lot happens in the 2nd period for long stretches. Randy Carlyle brings out the line blender and this somehow ends up with Nazem Kadri stapled to the bench for long stretches of the period. You know what? This is crazy. Randy Carlyle learned literally nothing from last year. His idea of accountability is a joke when it only applies to about three guys per year on the team. Kadi's at worst the third best forward on the team, and Randy Carlyle buries him. Unbelievable. Randy deserves to be fired if for no other reason than he's just mismanaged the players that management believes are the team's best prospects since he got here. Keep William Nylander overseas until Carlyle isn't behind the bench

.A hilariously underrated moment midway through the period occurs when Ray Ferraro's breaking a down a play involving a Cody Franson shot, and the camera switches to a wide shot of Ferraro and Franson sitting at the end of the bench. Ferraro awkwardly stumbles through the remainder of his point because I think he's watching the monitor and knows that Franson is watching him on the monitor, and is literally right next to him so he can hear everything Ferraro's saying. That was outstanding.

Sorry, I'm getting off track. A third Leaf powerplay occurs during the game where the Preds generate greater chances while shorthanded than the Leafs do on the powerplay.

So let's talk about backchecking. With about four minutes left, the Leafs turn the puck over, and the Predators have a 3-on-2 shorthanded. Phaneuf and Franson do a pretty good job on defence, but Calle Jarnkrok still gets a chance because he's the open man, and Phil Kessel simply can't catch up to prevent the shot (Reimer stops it).

Now, Phil Kessel and his backchecking are in the news once again, and Kessel can't get back here to cover. He gets caught in too deep, just like what happened on the second goal. But there are three forwards on this line, and James VanRiemsdyk and Tyler Bozak are nowhere to be found on the backcheck. Once again, they've been outworked below the goal line for a puck battle, and Bozak peels behind the line and away from the play. But Kessel's only about ten feet further up ice from them. Kessel labours the whole way down the ice to try valiantly to catch Jarnkrok.

JVR and Bozak? They both give a half-hearted effort to get back, but they basically give up by the Preds' blueline. The camera behind Reimer in the replay keeps Bozak in the shot the whole way, and he's straight-legged by the red line. How does Tyler Bozak have a reputation as being defensively responsible? It's baffling.

With just over a minute left, the Predators make it 4-0, thanks to a dump-in (even though the Leafs have gained the blueline) that rings all the way around to the Preds. Morgan Rielly gets caught in no man's land pinching, Roman Polak successfully covers no one on a 2-on-1, Eric Nystrom beats James Reimer. Guess which of the players I mentioned gets blame for the goal from our esteemed media.

Jeff O'Neill wraps up a segment where the TSN Panel rightfully gives it to the Leafs for a pitiful effort to this point.by questioning Phaneuf's leadership and commitment. I guess if anyone knows what coasting as a Maple Leaf looks like, it's Jeff O'Neill.

3rd Period

The Maple Leafs should and frankly need to be embarassed of their performance tonight, in the game as a whole and specifically the third period.

The coaching staff should be embarassed that they continuosly have no answers for why this team can't give an honest effort most nights, or why they don't have any resolutions other than "compete harder".

The management should be embarassed that they believed Randy Carlyle needed a contract extension.

The media should be embarassed that they've made excuses for the Leafs inability to prevent repeated goals within the first two or three minutes of the game, something that three years ago they skewered Ron Wilson for but now is apparently the fault of the players. Just because Randy doesn't know what accountability means doesn't mean you need to be oblivious either.

Steve Simmons should be embarassed that he essentially threw a Molotov cocktail into the dressing room with post-game questions asking Cody Franson whether the team is trying to get the coach fired, or asking Stephane Robidas whether he'd be surprised if there wasn't a new coach or GM tomorrow. Whether the question should be asked is irrelevant; it's not why Simmons does it. He does it to try and get a reaction and that's bush league.

The fans that Bronx cheered James Reimer for a save when it was 8-0 should be embarassed. Fuck you. You're the worst.

Game in Six

Steven Stamkos and the Tampe Bay Lightning come to town on Thursday. Stamkos might break Darryl Sittler's points in a game record if the Leafs have an effort like that.