Devils Down Maple Leafs: Is It Time To Hit The Panic Button?

February 22nd, 2012 10 Comments

There are times in an NHL season that your team really lets you down. The Toronto Maple Leafs continued their downward spiral on Tuesday night, losing a hard fought game to the New Jersey Devils by a final score of 4-3 in overtime.

Maple Leafs sniper Phil Kessel tied the game with 44 seconds left in the third period, beating Devils’ goaltender Martin Brodeur with a slick wrist shot which eluded the future hall of fame netminder.

Despite Kessel’s heroics,Torontowas unable to close the deal, as Devils’ defenseman Mark Fayne put a weak shot pastTorontogoaltender Jonas Gustavsson at the 01:18 mark of overtime.

For Gustavsson, Fayne’s shot resulted in one of three questionable goals on the evening. Soft goals and poor positioning for their goaltenders and a lack of overall defense is killing the Maple Leafs chances of making the playoffs as they have now gone 4-5-1 in their past ten games.

As a result of the Maple Leafs poor performances of late they now stand to lose their stranglehold on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference as the Winnipeg Jets have tied the Buds in the standings with 65 points on the season, while the Washington Capitals (who have been equally horrible in their past ten games going 3-6-1) sit just two points back of the Blue and White.

Tuesday night was a better overall effort from Toronto, especially in the physical department where captain Dion Phaneuf had a nice tussle with Devils forward David Clarkson, but there are still glaring holes on defense and far too many turnovers in the neutral zone for anyone to take this club seriously.

The Maple Leafs have been blown out in three of their past five games, losing to the Montreal Canadiens, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks by a combined score of 16-3.

Despite being Home for their next three games the games will not be easy for the Maple Leafs as they are set to play against the San Jose Sharks, Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers.

With Washington and Florida fighting it out for top spot in the Southeast Division where both Winnipeg and Florida hold a slim two point lead on the struggling Capitals.

We have been saying this since early January, but the next three games really are a make it or break it stretch for the Maple Leafs. Win and they should manage to hold onto eighth spot in the East, lose and it will be very tough for this team to make the playoffs once they have fallen behind.

Let’s face it; confidence is at an all-time low for the Maple Leafs, especially where their goaltending and defense are concerned. Combine that low confidence with the non-stop trade rumors involving a number of roster players and what you get is a team that has lost its killer instinct on some nights.

The opposition smells a wounded dog and they are going for the kill every single night.

It is not time to push the panic button just yet. That said, by the end of the Maple Leafs’ four game Home stand it may very well be.

One thing is for sure, the Maple Leafs do not look like a playoff team right now. Whether or not Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke brings in Columbus Blue Jackets super star forward Rick Nash in a trade or not there is plenty of work to be done in Leafland.

Until next time,

Peace!

 

 

 

 

10 Comments

  1. Hudson says:

    Not Nash. Carter. I am calling it right now. It’s almost official. 😉

    We sure are hurting right now. These next three games are totally winnable. And we need ’em all badly.

    Burke is not standing pat. You know that 100% now. The question becomes…what is he going to do? The more we slide, the bigger I think Burke is going to go. Ready for that surprise, Mark?

    I think from a coaching standpoint, it’s time to bring up Scrivens, and let Reimer and Gust think for a while. And yes, that is my new nickname for the Swishy Swede: Gust.

  2. Mark Ritter says:

    Hey Hud-

    I look at the Steve Downie trade, which came out of nowhere and say to myself, with all the atention on Columbus is there another team out there that wants to make a significant trade that Burkie can approach? I also think, what happens with all the teams that lose out on Nash? How do they adjust their needs? Would they still be willing to trade some of those assets?

    Dallas traded Neal last year for a defenseman. It was a good example of two teams dealing from strength and improving both squads- might Burke be able to find a team in need of D and find a good forward to add to our mix?

    Edmonton has a ton of young forwards, few young d-men…if only they would trade a good young forward to us for Schenn…???

    There are other teams willing to deal. Would Pittsburgh be interested in a player like Grabbo or Kulemin- (who played with Malkin in Russia)-, and what would they give up to get those guys?

    Should Burke look to make that kind of deal- looking for futures, instead of trying to squeek into the playoffs and have their butts handed to them by Boston, or the NYR?

    I guess what I am saying is that there has to be a plan B after Nash, but I am unsure what that is and I am not so sure it is Carter…in fact, I am pretty sure it isn’t Carter.

    Let’s say Burke could trade Kulemin and Grabbo. You know I want to see Grabbo remain, but with the prictag he is floating around I am not sure he is worth it. Grabbo for a second rounder or a late first, Kulemin for a nice defensive forward prospect- a hitter, a guy that can be a difference maker and make opponents cringe when they see him coming…think of a Steven Ott kinda player.

    What about revisitiing Colorado? What about Derek Roy?

    Man, Jason Spezza (you know, the guy Ottawa couldn’t give away last season) sure would look good in the Blue and White right about now, wouldn’t he???

  3. Hudson says:

    Yeah I guess you raise the key point. Is it about hitting the playoffs bar-none, or looking further ahead?

    I think they are desperate to get in the show this year. Even if we lose, it’s hugely massive experience for such a young and rising team, and it’s an equally large and record-setting monkey off everyone’s backs to get back in.

    Are they willing to show the patience to miss out again and in their trade activity say to we fans, “Well, folks, it’s next year, again. Please be patient with us”.

    I can almost stomach the latter. I really think I could. But I don’t think they think they can send that message again. And this is what makes me think they are really trying to work something big. I can’t help but imagine this is the case. Burke is a mover and shaker. Even giving up good pieces from our team, as you guys have detailed, we have a lot of young players almost NHL ready over the next year or two…

    Spezz does look like the player of old……..

    I am done with Buffalo trades. Unless it’s Miller. 🙂

  4. Hudson says:

    Damn, the new story on TSN just made my heart jump for a sec. Columbus is selling. I can’t stop refreshing the page, lol.

  5. Jake says:

    Same old theory by Leafs fans bring up the AHL players and magicall they will improve the Leafs . Get a clue guys the prospects are in the AHL because they belong there for a while longer . The Leafs have no A prospects that are going to change the game for them .

    The goalies are doing fine it is the defensive play of the forward that is the problem . Mostly because of no size and no grit up front .

    Leave Nash and Carter in Columbus because they can’t win there why would they win in TO ? Their contracts are like albatroses 7.8 mil for Nash and Carter’s rising salary curve tops out at 7 mil in a couple years . If the Leafs take on one of those contracts there is not going to be cap space to add or even resign decent players they have . Not to mention Columbus wants a four player return for the priveledge of taking Nash’s salary off their hands .

    The Leafs need bigger two way forwards before they need a star player plain and simple . They have definitely too many soft and fragile players to make any kind of play off run . Burke needs to make the post season and not much more so a couple of journeymen forwards with grit that can score a few is the order of the day for the Leafs .

  6. nhl fan says:

    Hi Jake

    Sorry but goaltending is brutal and has been all year. Their goaltending has stolen maybe one game all year against Detroit. Their goaltending basically gives you no chance of winning from the start.

  7. defence is the order of the day that meaning starting from goal out . get with it burke go get a good goaltender at any cost and a hard hitting stay at home defenceman .

  8. Mark Ritter says:

    Jake—

    I hear ya- Burke needs a more physical team. The Issue is there are not a heck of a lot of those players around anymore. The tough guys are on their way out and the players like Hartnell, Ott, Ruutuu are seemingly unavailable.

    The thing is I really see this team peaking in 2 years, not now. In two years Kessel and Lupul will be UFA’s, in need of new contracts and Toronto will have a good idea exactly what they have there and a ton of cash available to sign some additional help.

    I say Burke is better off taking a slow and steady approach rather than attempting to rush things along. Steady wins the race, and perhaps the Cup!

  9. Mark Ritter says:

    Gerry, NHLFAN,

    Agreed. Leafs need to either develop better players on D and between the pipes or bring in some players that can get the job done.

  10. Dave says:

    I think the Leafs do have some hardhitting stay at home defensemen. Problem is two fold:

    A: When Schenn pastes a guy into the boards going wide or down low, the wingers or center either are caught out of position or lose the battle for the puck.

    B: When our guys (in this case its typically Schenn and Komo) dishes a hard hit – which if often, if they do come up with the puck they make a bad decision with it and either give it away again, or make a bad outlet pass resulting in turnover or little opportunity.

    Its a team game, and the last 10 games have been tough for everything to come together and click. Last night was just another example – this time around Gus and bad D zone coverage – not generally by the D either.

    And before anyone points out the Phaneuf play – he was filing in for a forward as he came out of the box down the wing.

    Its a team game boys!! The kids are rattled….Monday at 4pm cant come soon enough for these guys.

    Dave

    Dave

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