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Recap: Devils 3, Leafs 2 or, Behold: Your Team Without Goaltending

There is really only one difference between the Leafs on a 5-game losing streak and a team that wins: goaltending.

First, a few thoughts on this losing streak:

Yes, getting Dave Bolland back helps the Leafs forward depth, but the truth is that even when he's 100% healthy, he's not going to be this team's savior. In fact, it seems that no one can save this team now except the one man who is missing: Jonathan Bernier.

It's not that James Reimer can't do this. He's in the midst of a cold streak, and has had an off-year, to be sure, even if his save percentage (.908) is only a bit under league average. Really, things started going downhill for Reimer back in December, but the Leafs were still able to ride the hot hand of Bernier and some very fortuitous shooting to effectively cover for him. He'll likely bounce back next year, and unfortunately, it will probably be with another team.

For now, the Leafs simply aren't getting fantastic goaltending. This is a flashback to the days of Vesa Toskala and Andrew Raycroft, when the Leafs bled goals, even on nights when they didn't play terribly. Remember how that felt? I think what this should highlight for everyone is that without a hot Reimer or Bernier, this is a lottery team. Not just a mediocre team, a bad team.

Now, there are two points to be made in defense of the Leafs, here: 1) they currently DO have two good goalies, so hopefully things will get turned around shortly and 2) they definitely possess the skill necessary to be a better team than they have been lately. But something, probably first and foremost the coaching, needs to change. This year's Leafs squad is lucky to be clinging to a wild card playoff spot, and they might not do it for long, but they shouldn't have to be lucky to be here. This isn't a great team, but it shouldn't be a bad team, either -- the personnel should be in place.

And now a few thoughts on the game:

Going down 3-0 on the road on the second of back-to-back games is never a great strategy, but that's where the Leafs found themselves by the second period. To the team's credit, they fought back and managed to score two goals to make things interesting, but Cory Schneider is an awfully good goalie, and isn't going to give up 3 or 4 easy ones on many nights.

James Reimer is just having a rough go of things right now. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why, though it's certainly easy to speculate. "He hasn't played enough" just doesn't carry much weight with me, but perhaps knowing that he's going to be traded when this unfortunate season is over is what's getting him down. But then, maybe it's just a question of bounces. Who knows? In any event, Reimer allowed 3 goals on 10 shots against to start the game, and although we might forgive him two, the third wasn't great, and Randy Carlyle was right to pull him. In fact, Drew MacIntyre should perhaps have started this game to begin with.

MacIntyre was solid for the Leafs, stopping all 14 of the shots he faced. This performance will go a ways towards inspiring enough confidence in his play to perhaps get a start if Bernier isn't ready by tomorrow. For the long-term sake of the Leafs, I hope Bernier doesn't try to come back too early.

"I'm not making any comments on goaltenders, thanks to you guys," said a terse Carlyle after the game.

In terms of creating offence for the Leafs, both goals came from the usual suspects, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel. Dion Phaneuf, Morgan Rielly, and Jake Gardiner each added helpers, and ti's nice to see such production from them, since their ability (or lack thereof) to generate points has been a talking point for most of the season (with the exception of Rielly, who has a bit of a longer leash in his first year in the NHL).

Two bright spots for the Leafs last night were their special teams. The penalty kill didn't allow any goals for the first time in what feels like forever and the power play managed to cash in early in the second period.

Colton Orr played 2:17 last night. Good thing Carlyle has decided to roll 4 lines with 12 forwards.

Oh, and David Clarkson? Sigh.

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