Leafs postgame – No intent to blow; Leafs lose 2-1 in shootout at MSG

Has David Clarkson ever been photographed standing up?

For the second consecutive game, the Toronto Maple Leafs lost in a shootout. For the second consecutive game, they were probably lucky to get a point in the first place, albeit under completely different circumstances.

Toronto was again out-shot heavily, this time at Madison Square Garden, and again failed to win in regulation. In the last 18 games, their only win through 60 minutes has come against Chicago, but they’re piling up the points in the third standings column, and enter the three-day Christmas break at 18-16-5.

But the progress over the last few games was halted. We were back to the early season refrain for Toronto. Too many penalties, too many shots against, and too few engines running offensively. The Leafs were helped out thanks to another excellent goaltending performance from Jonathan Bernier, and a controversial late tying goal that sent the game to overtime. 2-1 is the official final. 


First period was a bit of a snoozer, with the Leafs actually out-shooting the Rangers 10-9 and getting a slightly better share of the scoring chances, but there weren’t many to go around. They also got a couple of powerplay opportunities, including one drawn by Mason Raymond on an excellent rush. Him and Joffrey Lupul were the two best Leafs in the period, and it looked like the Leafs would make a game against a team playing its second game of a back-to-back.

Alas, the second period came, and despite keeping it even for the first half, the penalties piled up. Peter Holland went off for roughing. Colt Knorr for holding. That penalty was shortened thanks to a pretty obvious goalie interference call on Rick Nash, but Lupul responded 90 seconds later with a just-as-obvious boarding on Ryan McDonagh. Then the Leafs were caught with five guys on the ice in the play already down a man, the team’s fourth penalty on the period. 

Bernier was perfect, stopping six or seven excellent scoring chances in the second half of the period, and the Leafs were out-shot 22-5 but held onto a 0-0 scoreline in the second. 

The problem with being out-shot a lot is it usually means more time in your own zone, and the more time you spend in your own zone, the more chance you have of a defensive breakdown summarizing your evening. The Rangers were changing lines while pinning the puck in deep against Toronto’s second line and third pairing of Morgan Rielly and Paul Ranger. Mason Raymond was watching the puck and completely missed a streaking J.T. Miller who found a tough area on the ice the easy way, and was unimpeded in receiving a pass from Chris Kreider. That was the first goal of the game to make it 1-0 for the Rangers.

Late, after the Leafs failed to score on a two-minute powerplay after Kreider flipped the puck over the glass, David Clarkson made a wraparound play and Rangers goalie Cam Talbot appeared to pin the puck against the post, but the whistle wasn’t blown and Nazem Kadri stuffed it in. While I think the whistle should have blown, because it almost always blows in that situation, as soon as the puck went in and the referee signalled goal, it was clear that there was no way the league could possibly overturn the call. I don’t know why the referee Jean Hebert didn’t blown the whistle, but no reason to complain:

Best part about that goal is that the MSG game-ops didn’t realize it was a goal at first, so they weren’t pumping music into the stands. You get to hear Kadri celebrate, and Brian Boyle say some words that shouldn’t be on TV.

“That’s ****ing bull**** why didn’t you ****ing blow it???”

Underrated aspect? The little back pass made by Raymond back to Rielly. He was watched by Boyle up at the top of the line and didn’t have a lot of space to make the move, but attracted two Rangers players and left Rielly with a lot of time and space to make the pass to Clarkson.

Overtime was excellent and exciting, but solved nothing (except the riddle of: “Who can stop Phil Kessel if he’s accelerating with space in the neutral zone?” The answer is “Ryan McDonagh”) and we went to a shootout. Shootouts are complete coin flips, and the Leafs came out on the wrong end.


As much as Bernier stole one for the Leafs, props to Cam Talbot for making it a game at the other end as well. This would have been an interesting game to track scoring chances for. I don’t think that the 43-26 shot clock was really indicative of the type of shots each goalie had to face, and Talbot seemed to have to make a lot of good saves in tight. Maybe not as many as Bernier, but certainly more proportionally to the shots they faced.

But it’s that damn refrain. Shots against, shots against, shots against. The Leafs have the puck so little that they’re constantly getting into situations where their goalie and defencemen need to bail them out, or take penalties. The breakout looked a bit cleaner tonight, and for at least the first period there was appropriate pressure put on the Rangers’ point men. But, again, all statistics can tell you is the “what” and not the “why”. We know what the Leafs’ problem is, but there are still differing theories on why. It’s obviously not just Mark Fraser’s doing, since he was in the pressbox tonight. It still seems that this is a difficult system that has no margin for error, and the Leafs are making a disproportionate number of errors in execution, resulting in constant turnovers and frustration.

I hope HBO shows the between periods speech Randy Carlyle gave the Leafs after the second period. It’s going to be legendary.


Bernier. What the hell, everybody else?



Fenwick chart, and all the information below, via ExtraSkater

  • The game chart is none too pretty. At the midway point in the game, the unblocked shots are 21-16 for the Rangers. At the end of the third, it’s 52-28. Now, it’s true, they did tie it up, but will they always tie it up if they play this badly? Just because they have the last two games, and have a history of dramatic comebacks since the start of the 2013 season…
  • The Leafs’ top Corsi players were Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson, the only players on the team to check in at above 50%. The Leafs out-attempted New York 11-9 with Franson on the ice and 15-13 with Kadri on.
  • Kadri’s line took the bulk of the minutes from that McDonagh-Girardi pairing, and a little under seven minutes against the Stepan line and the Boyle line. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault isn’t ever committed to forward matchups, which contrasts Randy Carlyle’s style.
  • Though I thought they played well in the first, Raymond-Holland-Lupul were out-shot heavily in this game, mostly against the Brad Richards line and Anton Stralman defensive pairing. Leafs out-attempted 5-14 with Holland on, despite a 6-4 offensive-to-defensive zone start advantage. Richards played on a five-man unit with Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, Stralman and John Moore for most of the night and they were the Rangers’ best players despite not getting rewarded on the scoreboard. The three forwards combined for 13 shots on goal.
  • Leafs coming into the game… 61.4 shots on goal against per 60 minutes of 4-on-5 time. Tonight? 9 4-on-5 shots against in a little over 6-and-a-half minutes, or 81.6 over 60. Again, Jon Bernier was big in this one. With an added shot on the short 5-on-3, it’s a tiny miracle the Rangers didn’t score a powerplay goal in this game.

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  • How much more of this crap until it makes sense to tank? Even if this team makes the playoffs, they look like the kind of team that gets trounced in 4 or 5 games in the first round. I’d much rather they just tank to draft the top end talent they lack in the system

  • STAN

    Wanna a quick hint at why the Leafs are in this quagmire? Here are two priceless fantasy lines from heir fearless Captain, who obviously lives on a different hockey planet.

    “I thought it was a really good point to get. I think we can go into the break feeling good about the way we played.”

    Yeah, a wonderful performance against a team that had played the night before.

    Good night.

    • Jeremy Ian

      Thinking about what you said more, later in the interview Phaneuf talks about how it feels they are playing every other day and how the schedule was tough without mentioning the Rangers were playing the second of a back to back game and how the rangers soundly outplayed them.

      Not only is Phaneuf’s ability to understand and play hockey starting to rival his understanding of advanced stats but more and more he appears incapable of accessing, communicating and resolving the team struggles and issues.

  • STAN

    Why is everyone so negative about the leafs. I think advanced stats are leading folks to faulty conclusion.

    For example Phaneuf quote captures the game amazingly well for me “We played a pretty solid road game…and we can go into the break feeling good about the way we played” Sure the leafs were outshot, and they spent the majority time in their own zone but the rangers were lucky to steal two points in the shoot out because the scoring chances were pretty close and the leafs were in the entire game.

    Secondly, raw shot differential misses the aspect of quality shots. For example, Bernier’s quote describes this well when asked about facing over 40 shots “except for the second period, I thought they kept everything to the outside which made it easier”.

    So sure they were outshot, but what these advanced stats miss what NHL goalies understand in that quality shots are what matter more and not corsi or shots against.

  • Another uber gash performance, think we were quite lucky to get a pity point. What gets me is some of the responses from this.

    Had Dreger repeat the message that it’s all because the players, and it’s up to them to be motivated. Which I find a bit odd,I mean a team with supposedly all the ‘intangibles’now just can’t be arsed. Furthermore, if you agree with this view, doesn’t that make Randy look terrible? All these great character players and they have not been motivated for quite a while now.

    Also I think I saw somewhere Randy moaning about the schedule, which every team faces, but using that excuse after playing a team that played the night before? It’s a bit crummy. Correct me if I’m wrong but the Rangers were on the second night of a B2B?

  • Never thought I’d admit this but I actually miss Bozak. Not really the aspect of his play but more the fact that with Bozak in, Kadri can play with Lupul and Raymond on the second line. Kadri seems timid to shoot the puck on the Kessel and JVR line and has even said himself that he needs to shoot more. Saw a few glimpses of him in this game taking more risks and creating shots instead of passing the puck off

    • Jeremy Ian

      I was having the same feeling by the third period. I start to cringe watching Kadri position for a face off….

      So, Cam — can you unpack this intriguing quote?

      “We know what the Leafs’ problem is, but there are still differing theories on why… It still seems that this is a difficult system that has no margin for error, and the Leafs are making a disproportionate number of errors in execution, resulting in constant turnovers and frustration.”

      What’s your theory on “why?” Is it player execution? The system is at odds with the player makeup? Basic flaw in Carlyle’s assumptions? An ineffective system with faster/more skilled players and tighter rules?

      I am a close reader (and admirer) of your narratives. Over the past few months, you’ve offered different variations on the why. Right now, taking stock, if you had to put your thumb on a dominant causal explanation, what would it be?

      To be honest, I can’t decide whether there’s a problem with the parts of the team or the whole. The temptation is to focus on player-parts because they are the visible agents. And because we all hope — from Nonis on down — that a tweak here or there might fix the problem. But there are times that hope gets in the way of real solutions.

      Have a great Christmas…

      • I don’t know why it is.

        We can point to lineup decisions, but the team still gets handedly outshot with Mark Fraser and Paul Ranger out of the lineup.

        We can point to Jay McClement’s recent 18+ minute games, but only a couple of years ago he was a shot-generating machine, yet’s he’s getting badly out-shot as a Leaf.

        I think it’s mostly the breakout system, and I read Gus Katsaros pieces on the Leafs’ structure very closely. The defensive system also isn’t helping. I think there’s a very good hockey team here, with some excellent players at both ends, but they’re getting squandered adhering to a system that may just not work. Too many turnovers as a result of wingers bolting too quickly out of the zone, too many easy goals given up because the players don’t always execute in the defensive end, too few offensive goals created thanks to a cycle and a dominating shift.

        They’d been playing better of late, but I didn’t know why. Maybe luck? Maybe an epiphany?

        • Jeremy Ian

          Thanks, Cam.

          I agree the problem starts in their own end, which is why they get stuck there. A pernicious combination of poor breakout strategies and lapsing defense. The Katsaros series was smart.

          But why the persistence, as you note even with Fraser and Ranger (save last night) watching?

          Here are two theories.

          One: There’s a fallacy of the coaching style. When Carlyle whips out his board and marker, his assumption is that a player(s) doesn’t see something or know something, as if coaching is about giving information that a player doesn’t have. Something we know about behaviour and motivation is that people don’t behave or perform badly because no one ever told them. If just telling a player to be different worked, there would not be such a discrepancy between good and bad coaches.

          Another thing we know is that people basically behave in ways that they think are most likely to yield them the results they want. Even if they aren’t effective.

          My fear is that the players are on the verge of tuning out, not identifying with Carlyle’s system because it appears to yield so little, and so rely on their individual traits because they might yield something personally even if the team dissolves into less that then sum of its parts.

          Solution: change the coaching style. Break down problems into manageable issues, have players solve problems collaboratively and make them feel like they own (and are responsible for) their new skills. Not sure if this is in Carlyle’s tool kit.

          Two. A lot of lesser things that compound upon each other. So, if you repair one problem any improvement is drained away by leakages somewhere else, or the fix works for a little while, but then breaks again because the solution or new habit is too fragile. There’s a lot of analysis of why bad habits are so hard to break — it’s not because bad habits are killed. It’s because they hibernate. They are always there, like default conditions you lapse into because you learned them once upon a time. It’s why we see the Leafs collapse so easily into their accordion around the net, expanding and contracting without puck control.

          Solution: break up bad chemistry (this is where getting Mark Fraser of the ice was overdue) or pray for some exogenous change like a returning injured player (never thought I’d think of Bozak as so central to the makeup) that helps solve enough of the simultaneous problems that you can stop the leakage.

          Whatever the case, this is a team with talent that persistently underperforms.

          The good news is that this can be fixed. Much harder to get and sustain success if you don’t have the talent. Just wish I saw more consistent support from the coaching staff for the new practices that work. I thought the forecheck in the Blackhawks game was very impressive, and I was sorry to see the team let it go.

          You have a lot of readers out here who appreciate your hard work.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Here we go again, you lost the game AGAIN yet it’s ok???? because Bernier stops the puck through the game and overtime to to loose again for the second game in a row, lets se thats 4 shoot-outs and only one he won hmmmmmmmmmmmm sure like those odds for play off games that will not happen at the rate this team is playing or I should say not playing…. Maybe the big boss up aboue the rafters there ought to re-think his almost $3,000,000 goalie….but why bother he’s your man your Blue Warrior…oh please are you in this to win or just for something to do…same with getting a point when you loose the game, nothing like getting a reward for not getting the job done….
    Maybe the Bernier loving Coach should look more at the Goalie that all of you and he have tossed aside for the new saviour…Maybe if Randy had got off his high horse and swallowed his pride he could have giving the LEAFS a chance at finally wining the game by putting the only Goalie who seems to be able to win the shoot-outs out by replacing Bernier (after all wouldn’t hurt him to know what its like to be pulled from a game because its thought you can’t handle it or your not playing up to snuff) after all doesn’t seem fair that he can get away with loosing games left and right and getting scored on and still left in to loose the game…after all what did you have to loose…Reimer is 3 for 3 in his shoot-outs I mean The poor guy gets pulled again and WHAM you lost the game anyways…

    Bernier is not your saviour and he will not be the one you all think he is….after all seems to spent alot more time on the ice gut down as yu funed about Reimer..the difference is Reimer with a good team that knows how to jive as a team and with a good defense to work with as well as a great coach to work with he will be a top end Goalie and whipped this teams butt…..

    GO REIMER GO!!! who needs the Leafs….