Toronto Maple Leafs 2010-11: Week 8
Sunday, November 21, 2010.
Maple Leafs record: 7-9-3, 17 points
Leading scorer: Clarke MacArthur, 19 games, 7G, 10A, 17 pts
The end of the week will be an important set for Toronto, as they play consecutive games against divisional rivals that they currently are looking up at: Buffalo, with 19 points in 22 games, and Ottawa with 19 points in 20 games. The Leafs start the week with 3 games in hand against Buffalo, 1 against Ottawa.
The season has been a roller coaster ride for Leafs fans, starting better than expected, then crashing back to earth with a horrific string of poor performances. And it would seem the ship is righted again as the Dallas Stars roll into town with Brad Richards, probably the premiere UFA in next year’s market, should he make it to market. There is significant buzz that the Leafs would, or should, try to trade for Richards, a player the Stars may not be able to afford if their ownership issues are not resolved soon.
Coming off a 2-1 week, and riding solid goaltending from the Monster, the Leafs hoped to avoid a letdown from being shutout Saturday night. And no letdown would be seen as the Leafs would come out with a good effort, and a decrease in the number of turnovers that became scoring chances for the opposition. Kulemin went to the net mid-way through the first and a puck deflected off his knee past Kari Lehtonen to give the Leafs the lead. Kulemin again scored in the second by wiring a rebound into the net. One defensive breakdown allowed Richards to slap a goal into the net, and that lead to Coach Wilson benching Kessel for his lazy defensive play. Kessel would return in the third period, but has been unavailable to the media since. Tyler Bozak finally got his third goal on a good effort, and Versteeg notched another into an empty net. Gustavsson stopped 25 of 26 in his third consecutive start. Nazem Kadri also continues to add points, all assists as he makes his case to stay with the NHL club.
Friday night, the Leafs faced a Sabres team struggling to score. Starting with a shootout win last time they saw the Leafs, Buffalo won 4 of 5 to climb back into the fray. But, they had now lost 3 of 4, including a shutout against the Pens, and news that Ryan Miller’s groin was still causing him problems. Having not played since Monday, the Leafs should have been ready for a Friday game against a division rival. Yet the Leafs find a way to once again help the Sabres feel good about themselves. Miller returned to the net and essentially stoned the Leafs, except for a late goal by Phil Kessel. The Leafs did create some chances, and Miller was able to save just about everything. This is mostly because once again, the Leafs have returned to perimeter play, allowing the opposition goalies the chance to boost their save percentage numbers with easily stopped shots. Unfortunately, the Leafs were also guilty of undisciplined play, taking 2 early penalties, and giving the puck up numerous times. Jordan Leopold was able to notch a powerplay goal with the Sabres’ first shot, and the Leafs were never able to catch up, going down to a 3-1 loss.
The next night was just as bad, as the Leafs went down to a 3-0 loss to another divisional opponent. Again, unforced turnovers, sloppy play, and an ineffectual peripheral offense, were the story. Again, an inability to capitalize on the few chances they had, and a few really pretty plays on the part of the Senators, and even a somewhat vocal pro-Leaf contingent could not spur the Leafs on to score.
The Leafs are falling further out of the playoff picture, unable to gather points against teams they will compete with for those 7th or 8th spots. Home for 3 this week, Tampa Bay, Edmonton and Boston will visit.