The Bruins' Gregory Campbell celebrates scoring a shorthanded goal while Leafs' captain Dion Phaneuf looks skyward in dismay.
Toronto - October 26, 2014 - Hockey Night in Canada started with a beautiful tribute to Canada’s fallen this week. The three arenas in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto all sang the national anthem together in what was a very moving experience. When it came time to drop the puck in Toronto, the Leafs were set to take on the Boston Bruins.
With the Leafs taking on a Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk less Bruins, many Leaf fans may have expected their team to come out firing on all cylinders. Instead the Leafs came out in neutral, with most of the Leafs looking uncharacteristically slow and uninterested in the game. In the end the Leafs would lose 4-1 to the Bruins, which upon reflection feels like a merciful score given the Leafs performance. The Leafs lone goal came from new addition Richard Panik, his first with the team.
The Leafs problem continues to be production. They simply cannot put the puck in the net. The Leafs second line of Lupul/Kadri/Winnik continues to be their best statistically, however when the puck isn’t being put in the net the stats don’t mean much. In the end the Leafs’ second line was the only line to finish with a positive Corsi stat.
The first line was again mostly absent, they do not look good. It may be time to break up the trio of James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel as their play for the majority of the season thus far has been vastly underwhelming. A solution to their lack of production needs to be found, and with no one else putting the puck in the net, the solution needs to come as soon as possible.
If Carlyle wants to use the Leafs’ third line as a shutdown line, then there is a lot of work to be done. The Bruins top line out played the Leafs ‘shutdown’ line all night. This was not aided in anyway by David Clarkson taking 3 penalties in the game. The takeaway here is that the top two lines are incomplete. When you need to lean on Mike Santorelli and David Clarkson to stop the best in the league, you have a problem. I was not a fan of the chatter suggesting the Leafs make a move for Eric Staal, but it’s becoming even more clear that the Leafs need to make a move somewhere to bolster their top six.
What stood out the most to me however, was the Leafs’ willingness to watch the puck. They looked slow, they were constantly a step behind the Bruins. It was painful to watch the Leafs, who were seemingly playing tonight at practice tempo, lose the puck in the neutral zone so easily. Very few players played with any real speed, and the few that did; namely Kessel, Riley and Lupul, did so at their leisure.
It was disheartening to watch, especially when it resulted in goals against. On the Bruins third goal, Dion Phaneuf was completely absent from the play. Despite being a matter of inches from the puck, he did nothing as it slid onto Gregory Campbell’s stick moments before finding the back of the net, shorthanded.
I like Phaneuf as a Leaf. Phaneuf makes this team better. He is the team’s best defenseman and he often plays like it. His utter complicity in that goal was angering though. So was the rest of the team’s indifference in the way they simply accepted a loss, against a rival team who was missing some of their best players.
This team is looking worse than they actually are, and have for the majority of the season thus far. Whenever a team is out playing their supposed talent level, its usually chalked up to good coaching. The same is true for when a team is not playing at their talent level. I feel that Randy Carlyle needs to be fired. He simply is not working with this team. However I suspect that Shanahan and the Leafs brain trust also know this, and are just going to sit on it.
At this point it’s hard not to think that the Leafs are going to go all in on current Red Wings’ coach Mike Babcock this coming summer, and if that is the case Carlyle will probably be around for a while. The biggest change I could see happening would be Carlyle fired and current Assistant coach Steve Spott taking on an interim role until the end of the season. With that in mind it is looking like a long season for the Blue and White faithful.