Questionable officiating; coaching costs Leafs in 5-3 loss to Flyers

Photo via Abelimages and NHLInteractive

The officiating was bad in Thursday’s loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Leafs were cost at least three powerplays in that game. Jay McClement was taken down midway through the second period at the top of the circle after a turnover. Nazem Kadri was tripped up on a zone entry late in the third. The winning goal was clear goaltender interference on the part of Adam Hall. Joffrey Lupul was also hit in the head and left the game.

BUT! One thing I want to stress, one thing that I’m quite sure none of the afternoon radio shows will discuss, was a coaching decision by Randy Carlyle late in the third period. Down 4 to 3 with 4:45 to go, the Flyers sent out their fourth line of Sean Couturier, Adam Hall and Jay Rosehill for a defensive zone draw. Carlyle pondered the matchup. After a TV timeout, he had a fairly rested lineup. The players he throws over the boards?

Jay McClement, Colton Orr, Mikhail Grabovski, John-Michael Liles and Mike Kostka.

The Maple Leafs lost 5-3.

-It’s not a terrifically important point. The odds of a line with McClement, Grabovski and Orr scoring in that situation are about 2% slimmer than the odds of a scoring line over a 45-second shift. It’s not a big difference, but it’s those small, marginal coaching errors that have cost the Leafs a lot of points and a lot of separation in the standings. They are getting the best goaltending they’ve had since the Curtis Joseph years, fantastic penalty-killing, a career year from a young player and a fantastic season from Phil Kessel, designated playmaker.

-But they’re pissing away points in these small, meaningless bits of game. Maybe it was 2% late in the third down by a goal. Maybe there was a 1% mistake earlier in the game. Or a 3% mistake. Over the long haul, those marginal errors add up to legitimate points. You never know just how important the mistakes are, because you unfortunately don’t get to read the boxscores from a parallel dimension when a man other than Randy Carlyle is coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs.

-So what does the narrative become? The top guys couldn’t get it done. It’s true. Phil Kessel had three long shifts in the end game. Nazem Kadri had two. The captain Dion Phaneuf couldn’t get it done (despite playing on the left side during the last shift with Cody Franson on the right). James Reimer looked shaky, coughing up a couple of rebounds and one led to a goal. The veterans couldn’t pull through. 

-None of that is true, of course. Phil Kessel played a fine hockey game, involved on six scoring chances for the Leafs, taking four shots from good areas and setting up two. James van Riemsdyk finally scored a goal and got some excellent shots away. The first line was again dominant and they’ve strung together three excellent hockey games. Kadri didn’t record a point, but other than the top line, he was the only Leaf able to generate multiple scoring chances in this one.

-No, the Leafs lost simply because they aren’t deep enough, and they aren’t deep enough because they aren’t smart enough to manage the depth they have and get real players into actual lineup positions. Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr ain’t winning any team Stanley Cups anytime soon. Ryan Hamilton isn’t going to show enough to stick in the NHL if he has to play with a couple of thugs. That one decision, that one bleak decision by Carlyle is going to come away as the major tipping point in this one. He somehow managed to tip the scales in a game against an opponent so debilitated by injuries that Mike Knuble is centering the third line and Luke Schenn is playing top defensive minutes.

-The Aristocrats. So, so many Aristocrats jokes.

-One thing I won’t fault the man on is that he seems fine playing John-Michael Liles lately. I think Liles is a fine hockey player that takes some un-due heat because his contract isn’t pretty. Behind that contract is a pretty decent defenceman with lots of speed and smarts. He’d look better if he were paired with Jake Gardiner, but Liles is the least of Toronto’s worries on defence.

-The Leafs actually did out-chance the Flyers at even strength. Some of that was score effects as Toronto pressed late, but they kept Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek and Matt Read, Philly’s most dangerous players, stuck in their own ends while giving up very little. Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson had a damn fine game on the top pairing, each landing in the positives in scoring chances and Corsi playing primarily against the only actual line that the Flyers have available to play.

-Nazem Kadri was in on that too. Kadri played 9.1 minutes against Voracek, for instance, and Voracek and the Flyers recorded just one scoring chance in that time (and to be fair, it was a goal, and a pretty ugly-looking one, but it was the only one recorded).

-Here is why I don’t necessarily sweat faceoffs:


-What matters between the draws is so, so much more important than winning or losing a draw. Even Greg Millen on the broadcast piped up about it. Unless you can turn a faceoff win into meaningful puck-possession, you’re better off being on the bench while a player who knows how to position himself on defence handles duties in the defensive zone. Straight up, the Leafs first line was good-enough offensively to cover its defensive misgivings, but they really shouldn’t be starting any faceoffs in the defensive zone unless there’s an icing call.

-Anyway, not all bad. Leafs have still won three out of their last four, they managed to out-chance and out-shoot the Flyers in this one and if not for a couple of bad calls or a misplayed puck by James Reimer, this is a tie game. James van Riemsdyk’s goal was excellent…

…and Dion Phaneuf nearly slicing Kimmo Timonen’s leg off while celebrating is a good bit of video.

-Joffrey Lupul’s injury is not a good thing. He’s been playing excellent lately but that looked like another concussion. Team is calling it an “upper-body injury”.

-Individual scoring chance differentials. Please note Luke Schenn played his best game in Toronto since… well, probably ever, given what I’ve seen out of him in his career.

UPDATE: The first version of this chart mixed up Flyers and Leafs skaters. It has now been corrected (1:15 AM EDT on April 5)

  Chances For Chances Vs. Chances +/-
Tyler Bozak 6 3 3
James van Riemsdyk 7 2 5
Phil Kessel 8 3 5
Nazem Kadri 4 2 2
Joffrey Lupul 1 0 1
Nik Kulemin 2 1 1
Mikhail Grabovski 0 2 -2
Jay McClement 1 2 -1
Matt Frattin 1 3 -2
Ryan Hamilton 0 2 -2
Colton Orr 0 0 0
Frazer McLaren 0 1 -1
Dion Phaneuf 5 3 2
Carl Gunnarsson 4 2 2
John-Michael Liles 4 2 2
Mike Kostka 4 2 2
Cody Franson 2 3 -1
Mark Fraser 1 2 -1
  Chances For Chances Vs. Chances +/-
Matt Read 3 5 -2
Claude Giroux 2 4 -2
Jakub Voracek 3 3 0
Brayden Schenn 2 2 0
Wayne Simmonds 2 1 1
Scott Hartnell 3 2 1
Mike Knuble 1 3 -2
Simon Gagne 1 4 -3
Ruslan Fedotenko 1 2 -1
Sean Couturier 2 2 0
Adam Hall 1 1 0
Jay Rosehill 0 1 -1
Bruno Gervais 1 5 -4
Kimmo Timonen 2 5 -3
Luke Schenn 6 2 4
Oliver Lauridsen 3 2 1
Kent Huskins 2 2 0
Erik Gustafsson 0 4 -4

-Team totals:

  1st 2nd 3rd Total
Toronto (EV) 3 (1) 6 (6) 3 (3) 12 (10)
Philadelphia (EV) 7 (1) 4 (4) 2 (2) 13 (7)


LeafsNation Three Stars

  1. Dion Phaneuf
  2. Phil Kessel
  3. Luke Schenn
  • jasken

    You missed the poorest decision Carlyle made tonight in coaching the leafs. Carlyle was outclassed and outcoached tonight in how and when to use the enforcer. Lavi owned him on his smarter and more effective use of enforcers. Just a terrible job by Carlyle tonight he didn’t have the team ready to skate after the break.

  • jasken

    Also your scoring chances say that Phaneuf had a terrible game for the leafs. He was largely paired with gunnar (and franson i think) but he puts up these terrible numbers. I only bring it up because you promised me that the reason Phaneuf has negative scoring chances was that he was paired with AHLers (Holzer). But the problem still persists even with better team mates.

    I still hold that Phaneuf is good defenseman but he has fundamental flaws in his defensive game, skating and defensive choices. Your stats seems to support my point. That said, I like Phaneuf fiestiness tonight.

  • jasken

    Luke Schenn is a monster. Trading him was a horrible decision by Burke and one that will haunt us for years. At 23 years old, he’s only going to get better too. What a scary thought.

    Leads the league in hits among defensemen, top 25 in blocked shots, +4 rating on a team that has been outscored overall this season.

    What a horrible trade.

  • jasken

    Terrible game by the leafs. 1st line gets dominated constantly, Reimer was left out to dry soo many times and the Defence was just horrendous.

    I have a huge beef with Kostka and the Defensive pairings Randy chooses. Kostka is a terrible PP quarterback, had a nonsense penalty in this game and was a give-away machine leading to 2 GOALS! I dont know what kind of statement this is, telling us Kostka is better than Jake Gardiner? What?

    Also, I was a huge Fraser fan but after watching him closely he is immobile and pinches too often. Give anyone those 20minutes and they will do a much better job.

  • jasken

    It’s not like we didn’t get anything back for Schenn. We got a young power-forward who also happens to lead the team in goals. Was a good trade for both teams.

  • jasken


    Phaneuf still has pretty bad numbers because hes Overplayed, Playing against top lines and his defensive partner is playing injured. I have no doubt in my mind that if Phaneuf had a Proven Veteran shutdown defense men, he would be a + player and his two-way game would shine.

  • jasken

    Yes we got JVR back but he’s what, a 50 point guy, 60 at most? He’s also very inconsistent. Didn’t do anything for the last 10 games before tonight and the goal he scored was meaningless.

    Meanwhile, the Flyers got a defensemen who’s already leading their team in TOI for the last month, a potential #1 defenseman, the biggest hitting and most physical defenseman in the game, is only 23, and will, incredibly, only get better.

    Flyers laughing at us as they will easily be able to replace JVR but we will never be able to replace Luke.

  • Hmm, Phaneuf has pretty bad numbers because Bruno Gervais had a bad game. Probably should have made sure that I didn’t mix up Flyers and Leafs skaters when plugging my data into the spreadsheet.

    So that’s the first time I’ve made that mistake this year.

    Carry on.

  • Flyers fan here. Why do Leafs fans seem to think that Luke Schenn is still the same defenceman that was a healthy scratch for them a lot of last year? He’s been really, really solid for the Flyers D this year. This article seems to think that Schenn playing top minutes is due to all the injuries we’ve suffered, but it’s not. He’s been on a pairing with Timonen all year, and has been playing top minutes that whole time.

    I know you guys desperately want to win a trade for once, but as much as you don’t want it to, this trade is working very well for both teams. It’s still a draw.

  • I’ll take Randy Carlyle over Ron What’s His Name any day. Maybe Ron WHN can hook up with Mike Gillis in Vancouver and the Canucks would have the TWO smartest guys in the room (who haven’t won anything.)
    I’d really like to see Jake Gardiner back in the lineup.