Leafs continue to leave points on the table as playoff race tightens
Staying up late, Leaf fans? Has it been worth it?
The Maple Leafs have frittered away points in their first two games in California — we’ll say one point at least in San Jose and another in Los Angeles.
These points are huge in the close Atlantic Division. The difference between being in a playoff spot, and not. And currently they are not.
But the learning experience? Invaluable.
The Maple Leafs currently — generously speaking — have only a handful of players who have been through this kind of race before: Brian Boyle, to start with. And he hasn’t been around much. James van Riemsdyk (remember, he was a Flyer), Roman Polak (Blues, Sharks).
It drops off.
My point is this: They’ve got to learn. Not just the kids, but the veterans too. And the brass has to learn which of these players really have it and which are wilting. Those determinations will go a long way to their summertime moves.
The Leafs are 10-7-14 in one-goal games including 5-6 in 3-on-3 and an absurdly unlucky 1-8 in shootouts.
In other words, the Leafs have left an awful lot of points on the table. They’ve been close, but not close enough. That might be their epitaph come playoff time.
It was Brooks Laich last year — who was around for the rise of the Capitals — who said playing with the lead is harder than playing from behind. The Leafs are proving him right this season.
The Leafs have also lost 10 times (once in regulation) when leading after two periods. That’s something good teams don’t do.
The lessons they are learning this year will help reverse those numbers next year.
TO THE MAILBAG:
QUESTION: What defines a Calder winner? If banging in garbage goals in front of the net and NOTHING else..than Matthews is your guy. At 6-3 220 lbs he has the lowest hit totals in the league..
How many goals would Clark have gotten if he wasn’t kicking the shit out of half the guys in the league at the same time?
IMO..Marner is twice the player Matthews is.
ANSWER: Holy wowza, what a letter to start things off. First off, nothing against Marner. Love him. As for hits, only players without the puck can register a hit. Matthews has the puck, and is therefore the player getting hit. (Zach Hyman does most of the hitting on the line. Would you rather Hyman do the shooting, Matthews the hitting? Didn’t think so.) Matthews is credited with throwing 15 hits (Marner, 35). Matthews retrieves pucks in other ways. His work on in the neutral zone is sublime. He is first in takeaways among rookies (52). As for scoring, it’s the name of the game and the hardest thing to do in the game. And Matthews and Laine — as teenagers — are among the top 10 in the league in their first year. Pretty amazing.
(By the way, coach Mike Babcock is not the biggest advocate of the ‘finishing your check’ mentality. He prefers stick work to retrieve pucks. Hitting tires a player out quickly. Thus some frustration among fans when players — defencemen, usually — don’t hit.)
QUESTION: If they remain close in overall point production (seems to be the main criteria), then Mathews should win due to playing a more difficult position.
A winger is concerned mainly with his side of the ice, up and down mainly. A centre needs to see all sides of the ice, as well as be very efficient in
faceoff situations. So all being even, or close to it, Mathews should win.
ANSWER: No argument here.
QUESTION: Hi Kevin,
Your thoughts about the Corrado for Fehr (Oleksy and a 4th pick)? While the obvious look at this trade seems to suggest a salary dump for Pittsburgh in order to make other trades (ie Streit), what can we except from Fehr? Where do you see (if at all) him being on the Leafs or Marlies? Also, do you think Lou made this trade so that he can also expose Fehr for the expansion draft? Finally, other than the Leafs being in the playoffs, wouldn’t you agree the next best thing will hopefully be watching an Eastern conference matchup between the Pens and Capitals? Both teams are so talented and all in again this year!
ANSWER: If this is all about getting a fourth-round pick, it seems like an awful lot of work. I have to think the Leafs value the depth Fehr gives them. Good for Corrado to get another chance.
QUESTION: I very much like the Boyle pickup. It does send a message that the team is serious about getting this group some playoff experience this year. It certainly not about winning the Cup this year. My question is about that 4th line…Boyle, Martin , Soshnikov or Boyle, Martin, Leivo. My two cents, Levio is bigger, stronger, more aggressive and a better fit with the other two. Which way would you go and why?
ANSWER: For now, it’s Boyle between Leivo and Martin. Soshnikov bides his time, as does Ben Smith. We’ll see where Eric Fehr fits in.
QUESTION: Hi Kevin,
Recognizing the Leafs’ need for that true #1 d-man so many Cup champions seem to have, and the unlikelihood of finding one via free agency or trade, do any of Mark Hunter’s d-men picks over the last couple of years project to anything meaningful in the NHL as of yet? I noticed he took some behemoths in later rounds last year and was wondering what the word is on their development to date.
ANSWER: Hunter seems to have a knack for finding the scoring winger. The bigger challenge is the defenceman (even bigger, a goalie). Not sure Andrew Neilsen, leading the Marlies in defence scoring, is the long-term answer. Travis Dermott might be the defenceman with the best hockey sense. And Rinat Valiev (who predates Hunter) is still in the equation. I understand the organization is very high on Jesper Lindgren, 2015 pick and right-handed shot with 24 points in 49 games for MODO of the Swedish league.
QUESTION: Hi Kevin,
In reference to the loss to Montreal on Saturday night, how could the ref not call a slash penalty or even a penalty shot for the player who interfered with Matthews near the end of the game?
Thanks, Brian in Courtice, On
ANSWER: Because sometimes refs miss things. And sometimes what fans think are penalties are not penalties.
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