Toronto Maple Leafs 2010-11: Week 3
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Maple Leafs Record: 4-0-0, 8 pts, 4 game winning streak
Leading scorers: C. Macarthur 5G, 1A, 6 pts, P. Kessel 4G, 2A, 6 pts
Well, no one expected it to go on forever. The 4-game winning streak ended with an overtime loss to the New York Islanders on Monday.An entertaining and somewhat controversial game, though it probably unfolded in much the way the experts figured most Toronto games would. Coach Wilson made one lineup change, sitting underperforming youngster Gunnarsson in favour off-season free agent Brett Lebda. Isles’ Matt Moulson scored as a powerplay expired early in the second to go up 1-0. The Leafs had chances, but things didn’t break their way. Kris Versteeg tipped a raised puck behind Dwayne Roloson. The play was whistled as a high stick, though replays seemed to show it should have been a legal goal. Colby Armstrong shot one at the net, which was found to not cross the goal line. However, the Leafs argued John Tavares put his hand on the puck in the crease. The referee disagreed, no penalty shot was awarded. Kessel eventually got his 5th late in the third on a powerplay to send it to OT, where Lebda was whistled for goalie interference. Leafs argued, though the call was no worse than the one that gave an advantage the game previous against Rangers. Tavares scored to hand the Leafs their first loss. Roloson played very well as the Leafs outshot NYI by 30-20 (12-6 in the third). The game showed that while perhaps the defence and PK for the Leafs will be much improved, they will struggle at times to score goals, will have to get some bounces, and they will have to compete against teams like the Islanders for potential playoff spots.
Thursday saw the Leafs follow up with an underwhelming effort in a rematch against the Rangers. No disrespect to Martin Biron, but a backup goalie, and the fact the Rangers were still without Prospal, Gaborik and Drury meant that on paper, the Leafs looked good to resume winning. Both teams seemed to be flat, though the Rangers had more jump, and won more battles early. They outshot the Leafs 15-8 in the first, and goals 1:01 apart game them a 2-0 lead going to the first intermission. Jonas Gustavsson played well in the Leaf net, but his mates could not generate any offense until Colby Armstrong got his first of the season late in the third. The result was the first regulation loss of the season for the Buds, as the game ended by a 2-1 score.
Saturday night saw the season’s worst effort to date from the Leafs. Wilson sat out Zigomanis and Lebda (after 2 less than stellar outings) and Gunnarsson and Mitchell were in. Wilson also broke his lines up to try to re-fire the offence. While the Leafs did come out with some jump early in the first, they only managed to get 4 shots past the Flyers shot blockers, and were not rewarded with any goals. Philly got 14 shots, and late in the first carved out a 2 goal lead as the Leafs’ defensive coverage was terrible. Kessel and Macarthur each got their 6th of the season around a Blair Betts goal, and the Leafs trailed 3-2 going to the third. A series of horrific giveaways and high-risk (and unsuccessful) plays gave Philadelphia the opportunities to capitalize, and with 2 early in the third, the Leafs were done. Flyers outshot the leafs 40-14.
For all the promise the 4-0-0 start gave Leaf fans, this week saw it all evaporate. Of Toronto’s 20 goals this season, 12 have come from Kessel and Macarthur. The fast-paced, well-executed breakout plays are gone, the defensive zone coverage is weak, and more players are guilty of poor decisions and giveaways than not. Ron Wilson has his work cut out for him if he’s going to figure out how to recapture the early magic. Certainly, there is not enough offensive talent on the forward lines to carry the team up the standings. If the Leafs are going to chalenge for a playoff spot, it will be on the strength of solid goaltending, responsible defensive play, and a lot outworking the opposition for the puck.
Leafs play 3 this week, at home to Florida and Bryan McCabe, then to Boston for a look at Tyler Seguin, and Saturday their third game of the month against the Rangers.