Toronto Maple Leafs 2010-11: Week 16
Yes only love can break your heart - Neil Young
Neil was only half right… being a Leaf fan will also do a very nice job of breaking one’s heart.
After a decent start to January, documented in previous posts, the Maple Leafs have fallen back into old habits, as evidenced by their 7-0 slaughter at the hands of the NY Rangers. It took about half a period before the Leafs fell apart, and the Rangers were able to exploit a defence that abandoned Jonas Gustavsson, making his first start in weeks. Marian Gaborik, Brian Boyle, Gaborik again and Ruslan Fedotenko scored in 4:45 (3 on Gustavsson, once on Giguere who replaced him), and from there the game was over. Coach Wilson seems intent on completely destroying Gustavsson’s confidence, throwing him back into net to start the second period, where Gustavsson allowed 3 more, for 6 on 25 shots. The fact is, Gaborik had been struggling and the Rangers were without Brandon Dubinsky, expected to miss a month. Yet, Gaborik ended up with 4 goals on the night, while Henrik Lundqvist faced only 22 shots. The Leaf defence was nowhere to be found, the offence was no threat to the Rangers, and the only negative for NYR was losing Fedotenko to a separated shoulder late in the game.
No rest for the Leafs, travelling after the NY game back home to face Anaheim on Thursday night. Giguere was promised the start against his old team, the first chance he’s had to face the Ducks since being traded. And just like that girl who broke your heart, the Leafs smiled at their fans and suddenly all was forgiven. Shaky in the early going, tentative after the shellacking from the previous night, the Leafs allowed Anaheim the first goal, Dan Sexton’s 3rd of the season. But, looking for a response, MacArthur provided one, scoring on a Kessel rebound to even it up. Even when Brandon McMillan scored to put the Ducks up again, Toronto responded, as Gunnarsson wristed one to tie it up, then Bozak added a goal to an assist. Grabovski scored twice, one backhanding a neat steal of the puck in front of Jonas Hiller, to take over the team goals lead and hit 20 for the season. JS Giguere was solid, making 26 saves against his old team, which admittedly was missing Ryan Getzlaf. But as disappointing as Wednesday’s effort was, Leaf Nation has to be happy with a 5-2 win over a Western playoff team the following night.
Saturday’s test would be a Capitals team that has struggled at times but recently seems to be back on track. And while the Leafs played well, the inability to score reared it’s ugly head once more, this time against a 21 year old in only his 7th NHL game. And, the Leafs made him look like an all-star, despite that his GAA was over 3, and his save percentage below 900 when the game started. Yes, Braden Holtby did make some very nice saves, but the Leafs missed a lot of opportunities. Shots wide, high above the cross bar, blocked by Caps. And once again, the Leafs were outshot in the first period, managing only 6 shots, allowing Holtby to get comfortable in net. At the other end, Ovechin crashed the net, and while a case could have been made for goaltender interference, #8 tipped one past Giguere. Early in the third, Ovie got his second of the night. Tim Brent managed to get one by the kid in net soon after, and in fact the Leafs gained some momentum in the third and looked good to maybe tie it. That is until Matt Hendricks scored, and the game was trapped to death by the Caps. Ovechkin got the hat trick into an empty net, despite having struggled recently to score goals. As has happene so often this season, the Leafs just could not get the offensive side of the game correct, and it cost them, as the Capitals had only scored once in the first 2 periods.
The momentum that had been gained is now gone. This was a difficult week, and a tough part of the schedule, but the Leafs are now 1-2-0 in the first 3 of this 5 game stretch leading to the All Star Break. They now sit 12 points out of the playoffs in the east, and 4 points back of BUF and FLA to even move up the standings at all. It will be a tough task to gain any momentum back to make a final push up the standings and try to make this year’s showing a little respectable.
Toronto Maple Leafs record: 19-23-5 – 43 pts (12th Eastern Conference, 26th overall)
Hot Leafs: MacArthur (G, 2A)
Leading scorer: MacArthur (40 pts)
Goals: Grabovski (20)
Assists: Kaberle (28)
PIM: Orr (128)
Wins: Giguere (9)
GAA: Reimer (2.26)
Sv%: Reimer (0.933)
This week: Toronto is on the road for a Monday game at the Hurricanes, and Tuesday at Lightning before getting a week off for the All Star Break.