It was just six games ago that James Reimer stopped 31 of 31 shots in relief for Bernier to help the Leafs beat LA 3-2. Fast forward six games; Reimer is pulled after letting in a very saveable shot from the point, and Drew MacIntyre, straight out of the AHL, replaces him in midst of a four game losing streak. At the end of the night the Leafs would lose, making their losing streak five straight, and lowering their *playoff chances to 34.5%. It’s the same team that had a *90.6% chance at making playoffs just two weeks ago. That team, beat some of the hottest NHL teams including Philadelphia, Anaheim and LA. That team is now desperately playing for a win and a wild card spot in the East. I don’t know what happened? Wait, I think I do. Their defensive zone coverage sucks, they can’t score, and their number one goalie has been injured.
The defensive zone coverage has got to be better. You can’t tell me that Paul Ranger is the defensive backbone to this team and ever since his injury, the defense has been terrible. It has been a collective defensive effort of sucking over the last while. Too many defensmen are joining the rush when they have no business doing so. I’m talking about Gleason, Gunnarsson, Phaneuf, and Franson. Gardiner and Rielly are the only exceptions here because they are legitimate offensive weapons, and are fast enough to make for their mistakes if they make any while pinching. If Cody Franson is deep in the zone and loses the puck, there is no way he gets back in time to help out on an odd man rush. Video proof that Phaneuf can’t do that either.
Here are some of my favorite defensive zone miscues that have lead to goals in games of late:
As bad as they’ve been defensively, the Leafs defense has finally contributed offensively. If it wasn’t for goals from defensmen, Toronto would be in a bigger hole than they are in now. There are a few reasons why the Leafs’ forwards are struggling to score:
One: the first line is slumping and based on his body language in games, Kessel is unhappy with mainly JVR’s play.
Two: Colton Orr is still dressed for games instead of Peter Holland.
Three: McClement, Kulie, and Bodie are getting way too much ice time and are put out there in the wrong situations, especially McClement.
Four: David Clarkson sucks right now. That’s not a huge factor, but I’m just upset that he’s playing awful.
I really like James Reimer. I think bringing in Bernier was a mistake but mainly an insult to Reimer. Even though he carried them through playoffs, for some reason, management didn’t have enough confidence in him to play a full season as a #1 goalie. Between that and Bernier’s fantastic play, it hit Reimer’s self-confidence hard. His game is all mental now and because of that and the awful defensive zone coverage, he isn’t playing well. Drew MacIntyre on the other hand, should not be an option for the Leafs ever, unless both goalies are hurt, but he got his chance tonight and played well. Right now, as much as I like Reimer, I have more confidence in MacIntyre than Reimer, and I feel like the Leafs do too. Bernier is such an important part to this team, and his return will immesly help the Leafs.
*According to SportsClubStats.com
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