At the very least we can now say everyone on the roster has playoff experience. The Leafs are still getting reacquainted with the post season so it seems only fair that there are few things that needed to be relearned.
- One goon in your lineup in the playoffs is pointless, but two is a complete disaster. No matter how much you want to pretend that Orr and McLaren pushing around Chara and McQuaid in the first few minutes of the game had an impact, it’s much more likely that Orr’s pointless penalty three minutes into the third hindered any attempt obtaining a respectable outcome. At what point does Carlyle just rely on Mark Fraser as his enforcer? He certainly can’t rely on him for reliable defense.
- If you don’t want Mike Kostka in your regular season lineup you definitely don’t want him in your playoff lineup. It was a remarkable achievement for Kostka to be on the ice for all four goals against, especially when it means that despite being horrible defensively Carlyle seems to think he should use Kostka on the penalty kill as well. Kostka did not have a single redeeming shift and I should never have to watch him play hockey again. I can’t help but think that Jake Gardiner’s passing ability and speed could have cancelled a couple of odd man rush situations. I’m not pretending that Gardiner is perfect defensively but after Phaneuf and Gunnarsson defensive ability falls off a cliff. It’s also worth noting that just because Mark Fraser has no offensive ability that does not make him a shutdown defenseman. It makes him equally bad in all zones.
- If the goaltender faces 40 shots than the coach is not a line matching mastermind. This one has bothered me for a while, and I’m sure there will be plenty of people who will want to remind me that the road team is at a disadvantage. I’ll counter with the fact that if you change first and fourth line sucks then you should never put them out for a faceoff. The scary thing is that Randy Carlyle might be getting the matchups that he wants, but he has no idea who should be out there.
- Remember: “Championship is the goal. Not to get in the 8th spot and get your ass kicked.”-Brian Burke. I guess 5th place is a bit more impressive than 8th, but with the Leafs blue line are we honestly believe this team can advance past the first round? I didn’t buy into Burke’s philosophy and think it was important to make the playoffs in order for this franchise to begin moving forward, but since this team isn’t all that different than what the Leafs had last year maybe we shouldn’t be shocked by playoff ass kickings.
While it was nice to see Carlyle give Grabovski a chance at creating some offense the line didn’t work. Neither did the Kessel line. Neither did the Kadri line. I think it’s safe to say with two days off we can expect something completely different.
It seems like too much is being crammed into the top two lines instead of a balance between three. If Matt Frattin comes back into the lineup there’s an opportunity to role three solid lines, as well as your fourth gets infinitely better by removing one of McLaren or Orr.
While advocating for Bozak leaving the top line is nothing new it seems that health concerns gives us the opportunity to revisit this. It may be a pipe dream but I’d love to live in a world with a balanced three line attack with some defensive ability built into each unit as well. Maybe this would make line matching less of an issue.
I’m sure I’ll get plenty of detractors for these, but here are my perfect world lines as of Thursday:
As for defense, it’s beyond help and it’s probably just a good idea to transition away from playing Mark Fraser twenty four minutes a night and maybe give that Jake Gardiner kid a shot. I hear he’s pretty good.
It’s only been a couple of days since my bold prediction of the Leafs winning the series in six games. After watching Toronto fall flat in their debut I want to renew my commitment to this statement.
While the Leafs looked absolutely awful against Boston, the Bruins didn’t look particularly good when they weren’t being served up odd man rushes, and ideal Kostka vs. anyone matchups. It is still realistic to believe that sustained pressure along the lines of what Toronto demonstrated in the first 10 minutes of the game would make a world of difference. The slightest addition of skill (Gardiner and Colborne or Frattin) gives one offensively inclined line a chance at exploiting Doug Hamilton’s inexperience or Boychuk’s general awfulness. If the Leafs realize they are playing against the Bruins in the playoffs and nothing is off limits and actually run Rask or throw the occasional questionable hit on Bergeron or Seguin they might get somewhere. And for the love of Wendel, dive anytime Marchand is within three feet of you. Boston will be returning the favour.
This still may not be a smart prediction, but I am not ready to divorce myself from blind faith just yet. I’d like to see the Leafs lose when playing their best for I completely give up on them.