The Leafs are running out of gas. The great stretch to start off the year has petered out into some terrible mix of MASH and Slap Shot.
Tonight's game came right out of the Bruin's book 'How to Make Leaf Fans Kick Kittens'. The Leafs came out with jump and drew three penalties in the first period and scored on none of them (Where are thou Tucker?). The Sabres go down the ice and score on a rebound when the player should have been tied up. Two bad bounces later the Leafs are down 3-0.
Finally, Ponikarovsky scores a goal and the Leafs are coming on! Unfortunately, their hands are still...somewhere where the Leafs last played well...so the chances go wanting. Then a boneheaded move by Ponikarovsky (hey, weren't you just the hero?) led to a scrambled play, another crappy bounce, and a 4-1 lead for the Sabres. 4 goals on 11 shots only tells half the story. The Leafs' shitty defensive play tells the other half. McCabe got the Alfie treatment from the home crowd which was a long time coming.
This personal anecdote sums up my thoughts on the Leafs' defensive coverage: one year I played on a terrible hockey team that also had trouble clearing the zone. A teammate's dad coached us one game because our coach was out of town. He said he was going to bench anyone that tried to clear the zone on their backhand or who failed to clear the zone when within ten feet of the blue line. On the first shift one of our better players screwed up and we watched the coach to see if the rule would apply. He promptly benched the player for a shift and the rest of the team bought into the system. It resulted in one of the team's best performances of the season. Unfortunately, our old crappy coach came back the next game and all progress was lost.
But my point is this: Maurice is hamstrung by the injuries to Wellwood, Tucker, and Peca. It wasn't a problem when the team was giving their all every night but that counted on contributions from guys that have never been counted upon to produce night in and night out. They were bound to hit a wall and they have done that. Unfortunately, Maurice can't institute a similar policy to that long-ago replacement coach. He cannot punish poor performance with a spot in the press box because who will he call upon?
On another note, a female friend suggested that I need to internalize each game and move on once the result is in. That is the kind of sentiment that keeps women's sports from being successful. But, in the interest of openmindedness I am going to try this out. It seems to work for Razor so why not me? These will be my last thoughts on tonight's game (post-game ranting e-mail which has been sent aside).
Yanic Perreault our (Leafs) nation turns it's lonely eyes to you.