Toronto Maple Leafs, 2010-11: Week 5
Sunday, October 31, 2010. Leafs record: 5-4-1, 2 game losing streak
Leading scorer: P. Kessel, 7 goals, 2 assists, 9 points
Might the Leafs be the first NHL team to have 2 guys in the 50-goal neighbourhood, while no one else has more than 16? If you project the numbers after 10 games, the answer is “holy crap, yes.” The story of the Maple Leafs seems to be a lack of scoring, as they closed off last week unable to score in 2 straight games.
Hosting Ottawa on Tuesday, things did not seem to be changing much. Wilson went with the same line up, and in the first period the Leafs were outshot 12-5. A penalty shot awarded to Mike Fisher resulted in a 1-0 Ottawa lead late in the first. The coach must have said something between periods, as the Leafs did come out with jump in the second, though it was obvious the guys were squeezing the sticks, getting some good chances but unable to get anything into the Ottawa net. Two unnecessary penalties, one to Caputi for an elbow, and one to Orr for a punch thrown saw the Senators able to get traffic in front of Giguere, and got 2 pucks by him to expand the lead to 3-0. The big news of the period was that captain Dion Phaneuf suffered a leg laceration in a collision in the second period, and is lost for 4-6 weeks after surgery. Leafs pressed in the 3rd, outshooting Senators 18-4, and the scoreless streak ended north of 167 minutes as Kulemin got in front of Brian Elliott and Francois Beauchemin managed to squeeze on through the 5-hole. A late powerplay saw Clarke Macarthur add a goal to an earlier assist, but that’s as close as the Leafs would get.
The next night in Washington resulted in another moral victory for the Buds. Beauchemin (28+), Komisarek (26+), Kaberle (24+) and Schenn (23+) ate up the slack minutes caused by Phaneuf’s injury, with Brett Lebda chipping in almost 18 minutes. Nik Kulemin got the Leafs on the board first, and they escaped to the first intermission with a lead. As expected, the high-flying Capitals were not kept scoreless long, as they managed 3 in the second period, going high on Jonas Gustavsson. In an uncharacteristic outburst, the Leafs, who had just come off an almost 3 game goalless streak, managed 3 in just over 3 minutes, with Mike Brown getting his first and Kris Versteeg being sent in alone for his second, while Bozak also got his second. Lebda took an unfortunate cross-check penalty, and Semin capitalized to tie it. A scoreless OT resulted in a shootout where Ovechkin and Semin scored on Gustavsson in the shootout to seal a victory. Leafs managed their first point since beating Florida, and maybe come away feeling ok about a) not getting blown out by the team picked to win the conference and b) managing 4 goals for the first time in almost 3 weeks.
Saturday the Leafs gave up yet another 3rd period lead and lost in the shootout. This time, to the league’s worst team, the Buffalo Sabres. Toronto carried the play, being outshot but significantly outchancing the Sabres. Things looked pretty good as Mikhail Grabovski finally got off the schnide with his first of the season late in the first period. The line of Grabovski-Kulemin-Macarthur was the leafs’ top line, and all 3 got points as Kulemin scored to make it a 2-0 game. Late in the second, Derek Roy managed to swat in an airborne puck past Giguere to give the Sabres life. Toronto was 13 seconds away from snapping their losing streak when Jochen Hecht scored to tie it up. An uneventful OT led to another shootout, where Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg remained invisible, and going to a 5th shooter where Tyler Ennis sealed the extra point for Buffalo.
The Leaf’s losing streak now stands at 5 games. And the reason boils down to one thing… scoring. The goaltending is solid (Giguere 2.00GAA, .921 SV% in last 4 GP, Gustavsson 2.62GAA, .915 SV% in last 3 GP). Yet Phil Kessel has no points this week. Kris Versteeg isn’t even getting as many points as Viktor Stalberg (plus Leafs gave up 2 prospects in addition, and Stalberg makes a lot less money). Kulemin and Macarthur are supposed to be providing additional scoring, not all the scoring. Brian Burke needs to find himself a trading partner in need of a defensman, or else be prepared to watch Boston draft in the top 5 again come this summer.