Though I could barely contain my excitement heading home to watch the game last night and despite thinking I would have alot to say after the Olympic hiatus, last night's mistake-filled performance
left me uninspired. Not to take anything away from the Capitals, as they out-hit, out-thought and out-worked the Leafs most of the game.
Don't count me as someone who thought the two week break would solve the Leafs' problems. Far from it. But I was hoping to see an improvement in overall team smarts, as the little things that have killed this team all year can't continue to happen if we plan on sneaking into the top 8. Needless to say, after 0:37 my optimism was dashed.
Eddie played one of his weakest games all year. He was late to the puck on many occasions, and the score could've been far worse if it not for pucks shot wide or right into his chest.
Lindros was knocked about several times in the first period, and I don't recall him laying the body in turn. He definitely was rusty, as he lost several break out passes off the end of his stick. He even gloved a puck in the air behind Brent Johnson, negating a goal. But rust is to be expected after missing 20+ games.
The TSN crew noted that Sundin admitted he is "looking for his legs" which is as accurate an analysis of what is missing from Mats' game as you will find. He used to be a oak tree down low or cutting in from the wing. Now he predictably goes around the back of the net for the wrap around to avoid the power-hockey which was his specialty.
Tucker played another great game and is one of the few sources of offence Quinn can rely on. His set-up on Antropov's goal, after some crafty work with Allison along the boards directly behind the Washington cage, is a prime example of where Toronto's production has been and will be coming from. In his 20 games since mid-December Tucker has 18 points (11 g, 7a) which is by far the most productive Leaf over the same span, save for Allison - 16 points (4g, 12a), Kaberle - 16 points (3g, 13a) and Sundin - 19 point (3g, 16a)over their last 20 games played.
Kaberle continued his strong play and seemed to have a little bit extra in his swagger, probably a result of his play in Turin(o), as he walked in behind the man marking him at the blue line after keeping the puck in, got the puck back and fired from the slot. In the third, he had another offensive foray without the puck which resulted in another good scoring chance. And the best part was his initiative forced the Capitals to respect his shot, giving McCabe some room to look for his. Of course, McCabe then saw a shot that wasn't there, resulting in a back-breaking shorty with less than a minute to go in the second period.
Berg and Khavanov were back, with the former smartly taking the body when AO was coming at him. Woz replaced Kronwall. I would've kept Harrison and Kronwall around. Klee sucks it, and Woz fumbled the biscuit almost every time he got near it. McCabe not only set-up the shorthander, he also wasn't helping much in front of Eddie and was called for an obvious dive. As a whole, the Leafs blue line corps gets a grade of C- for the night. Did I mention Klee sucks it? Just making sure.
Earlier this season, much was made of the 'identity' of this Leafs team. Would they adapt to the new enforcement standards after toeing the line of legal obstruction for years? Would they shore up the defence in their own zone? Would they find their even-strength offense? Many felt the team didn't have an identity. I beg to differ. The 05-06 Leafs have an identity, it just isn't attractive to put it kindly.
Maybe this embarassing campaign, which in all likelihood will end up with the team missing the post season, will force Leafs' brass to get serious about building a winner, and not just a team that makes the playoffs (Hurting MLSE in the pocketbook might be the only way to get through). I can hope, can't I?
Leaf LinesMaybe I was inspired afterall. Or maybe it's because all the managers of my office are at an off-site meeting for the entire day.