Are The Leafs Falling Off The Cliff?

Toronto took on St. Louis in a very important game on Tuesday. With their playoff hopes on the line, the Leafs hoped to beat the Blues, who have already clinched a playoff spot. Jonathan Bernier made his return between the pipes and was welcomed back by the Blues, by getting absolutely pummeled with shots. The Leafs were dominated from the start of the game, but struck first on a Joffrey Lupul goal, off a great mid-air pass from Nazem Kadri. At that point, the shots on goal were 12-5 for St. Louis, and the Blues didn’t stop shooting after that; 11 more shots on the period, 2 of which, were goals. The first goal was a hustle play by TJ Oshie to dive and knock the puck in, but the second goal was just a terrible defensive play by our captain, leader, and defensive rock, Dion Phaneuf. After one, the shots were 23-7 favor for St. Louis. In the second period, Dion Phaneuf once again couldn’t get back after pinching in the zone, and 3-1 St. Louis on a David Backes breakaway goal. Later in the period Alex Steen would score after beating Phaneuf in a one on one battle in front, to score on a backhander.

*Leafs Trade History Detour*

In two season’s with the Leafs, Lee Stempniak, whom the Leafs acquired in exchange for current Blues, Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo, scored just 25 goals. This season, in just 62 games, Steen has 31 goals, and Colaiacovo has 1 in 17 games. In total, Blues, Steen and Colaiacovo outscored Maple Leaf, Lee Stempniak 123-25, 104 of those coming from Steen. We didn’t win that trade did we now, John Ferguson, Jr.?

Here’s a table for better representation, and because I’m procrastinating my homework:

 Player Post Trade Seasons With Blues/Leafs  Games Played  Goals
 Carlo Colaiacovo  5  267  19
 Alex Steen  6  345  104
 Lee Stempniak  2  123  25

 

Anyway, after the second period, the Leafs were out shot 36-14, but were miraculously only losing 4-1. We all know how dangerous a 4-1 lead is right Leaf fans…

Yuuuup, that happened, sorry for the memories (it still hurts).

The Leafs started the comeback with around 15 minutes left to play in the third on a Carl Gunnarson shot from the slot, and got even closer to tying it up with 5 minutes left on JVR’s goal, but David Backes completed the hat trick on an empty netter to seal the deal for the Blues.

Things I Noticed…

 

Dion Phaneuf:

Dion was terrible against the Blues, as well as the last few games, and I think I have an answer to why he sucks lately. Since the losing streak has started, Phaneuf has logged just under an average of 22 minutes per game. That’s not Suter or or Karlsson numbers, but it’s a significant amount, enough to lead the team in the average time on ice stat. Phaneuf is just looking exhausted, he needs to be played less. In his rookie season, he came in 3rd place for the Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year Award) behind Ovechkin and Crosby while playing around 22:00 as a rookie. Now that Phaneuf is almost a decade older than he was in his rookie season, maybe playing him the same amount of minutes, on a less defensively stable team, isn’t the best idea for his play. Limit his roles on this roster. Play him on a regular shift, on the power play, but you have 7 defensemen in your regular rotation now, play other, less tired, defensively responsible guys in those situations. Give Dion Phaneuf as much rest time as he can get, so he can exert his energy through what he does best, scoring goals, hitting hard, and playing defense first.

Goaltending:

Everyone thought that James Reimer was the worst goalie this organization has ever seen since Bernier went down with a groin injury. Well, Bernier just lost this game, but he’s still everyone’s favorite. Reimer has faced about as many shots as Bernier has faced, and Bernier still couldn’t get the job done either. The problem isn’t the goaltending, it is the defense. Like Phaneuf, guys on the blue line have got to be more responsible. I point out in my last post, that the defensemen are pinching in when they shouldn’t be, not clearing the zone, and are having other defensive miscues as well. Out of the 4 real goals St. Louis scored, 3 of them were because of defensive miscues, and  they all happened to be done by Dion Phaneuf in the Blues game.

Backes Goal #1: Phaneuf can’t clear the puck out of the zone.

Backes Goal #2: Phaneuf is caught pinching in the zone.

Steen Goal: Phaneuf loses a battle in front.

I’m not saying Phaneuf is the worst d-man on the team, because he is definitely not, but tonight, it was him making the major mistakes which lead to goals. If those areas can be fixed by the defensemen, the goalies will have a much easier time doing their jobs.

The bottom line is, the Leafs have got to stay composed, and find a way to win, because if their losing streak continues they won’t make the playoffs, & the 18 wheeler will most definitely complete its descent down the cliff. Next up is Philadelphia in Philly, then right after that it’s back home, against a heavily injured Red Wings team, in the most important game of the season.

~ Justin

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← Click my logo for more hockey analysis & more Leafs Daily posts from SportsBlog.com I'm a young sportswriter covering the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL. Subscribe to me on YouTube at: YouTube.com/TheHockeyStuff

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