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Game 4 of the Carlyle Era – Leafs vs Flyers

March 11, 2012

Hi there, I’m back to the land of the familiar after toddling off to equal rights land for a bit.  Don’t want anyone to think that I’ve lost my focus! 😉

While it has become increasingly difficult (again) this season to watch the Leafs, especially since the beginning of February, I have hope that there will be improvement under the new head coach. Game 1 was a tough entrance into the world of being the coach of the most scrutinized team in the league against the next most scrutinized team.  Fortunately for Mr. Carlyle, the Leafs came out with a win and a brief respite.

Games 2 & 3 against Boston and Pittsburgh respectively, produced identical frustrating losses.  Toronto led at some point in both games, but defensive short-comings were again their downfall. For a team that appears, on paper, to have decent blueline depth, it is increasing apparent that the ‘d’ is either not playing up to their potential or they don’t actually have that potential to play up to.

Here’s hoping it is the former and the change in coaching will help, especially with respect to the younger members of the core; say Luke Schenn, Carl Gunnarson, and Cody Franson.  Jake Gardiner will hopefully not fall into a rut, because he is the brightest light to shine on the defence corps in quite some years.  With apologies to Schenn, he’s just not as an exciting a player, that doesn’t mean he’s not good or that he cannot improve with coaching.

So far, 2 pts for 3 games. Not a great showing for a team scratching to make the playoffs after being a playoff team until February.  Saturday night and home game #2 for Carlyle just happens to be against the Philadelphia Flyers, the team whose reputation for Brian Burke’s favourite adjective, truculence, is well-known.  Short 3 forwards and a defenceman due to injury, the Leafs brought in rookie Carter Ashton for his second game, Matt Frattin and Mike Komisarek, who is no longer stuck in the press box due to either numbers or horrific play.

Fast forward to the second period, because essentially nothing of interest happened in the first. About six minutes in we get a bit chippy and there’s a fight between Joey Crabb and Wayne Simmonds. Give Crabb an ‘A’ for effort, but really, much as I like the guy, I don’t think he has the goods to be in the league.

Moving on.  The first two periods brought few highlights or excitement aside from the fracas. Entering the third the Leafs started to move their feet, use their speed and consequently the game opened up. Cue the theme from ‘Jaws’. This is usually the moment when, with all the wide-open play, defence is thrown to the wind and the Leafs get burned.  Strangely, although the opportunities were there for Flyers, they didn’t capitalize.  Whew.  Unfortunately, Toronto didn’t manage a goal, either, despite some decent pressure and opportunities.

O/T!  Kessel with a breakaway and… he’s stopped.  The Leafs bring it into the zone with speed and … chuck the puck around without getting a good shot on net. The Leafs need the two points from a win, but going into a shootout with just about anybody isn’t the way for them to get them.  And the shootout goes the way one would expect.  Tyler Bozak with a ping! off the post, Mikhail Grabovski – no joy, and Kessel stopped.  Giroux fakes the Monster out of his shorts and roofs it for the win.

Jonas Gustavsson really deserved better. He played solid, didn’t give up the shaky goal he’s been fighting the past few games and looked confident.  One point is better than none, but a 0-0 shutout lost in a shootout kinda stinks all over the place.   Can’t blame it on the ‘tending today boys.

While losing Joffrey Lupul, arguably the most consistent Leaf, is a definite blow, it hasn’t been the offence that has been the problem in Hogtown, its the lack of defence from the goalie out.  Tonight the team displayed a decent defensive effort and an excellent goaltending effort but a definite lack of finish around the net.  Like every Leaf fan, I was left waiting for the game where the defence and the offence both take to the ice.

Next up, the early game against Washington, tomorrow.  You know, the team who is currently in the last playoff position in the Eastern Conference? Guys? Tomorrow would be a good game to bring it!

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