Nine Thoughts To Ponder
In honor of Norm Ullman, here's nine thoughts on the second Leaf loss of this young season:
1. Say thanks to Stevie Y for this one: Cam Ward is undoubtedly still seething over not even being invited to the Canadian Olympic road hockey camp in August, and showed on Thursday night in beating the Leafs with a strong 24 save effort just how good he can be.
So far, you could argue Carey Price of the Habs has been the best Canadian goalie. But after that? Probably Marc-Andre Fleury of the Penguins, who also wasn't invited to the orientation camp, but after the past two playoffs it would be gutsy to make him the No. 1 Canadian goalie.
So Ward may end up being right there. Certainly, incumbent Roberto Luongo has yet demonstrated its his job to lose. Braden Holtby isn't wowing anybody For Ward, meanwhile, backup Anton Khudobin is sidelined for a while, so he's probably going to get a good long run of starts to flaunt his stuff.
2. How depth can disappear in an instant: The number of folks suggesting that they'd seen all they needed to from Jonathan Bernier, and that James Reimer should be traded, was truly baffling. Neither Bernier nor Reimer is an all-star, and both are still establishing themselves. There's more strength in two than one until one proves he's all you need.
Reimer's injury against Carolina may give Bernier a stretch of games, but after that hot start the former King was shelled in his last start on Saturday and then gave up that bizarre, awful winning goal to the Canes.
It happens. It was a bad mistake. But Bernier, even before that happened, was still in need of delivering a lot more evidence before he can be anointed as a bona fide No. 1 NHL goalie.
By the way; Brett Willows, the 5-foot-9 U of T goalie who was the emergency goalie on call after Reimer left? He stopped a career-high 50 shots against Ryerson this week.
3. Behind every good team is an ex-Leaf with a brain: Saturday's game against the Blackhawks will mark the fifth straight game the Leafs have faced a team featuring an ex-Leaf player on its coaching staff.
It start last week in Nashville with Phil Housley (four games!), which was followed up by Dallas Eakins (Edmonton), Darby Hendrickson (Minnesota) and Kirk Muller (Carolina). Chicago, of course, is coached by former Leaf blueliner Joel Quenneville.
4. The Atlantic Division's punching bag: The Leafs have been outshot in six of eight games, while their opponents have had 30-plus shots in EVERY game. It hasn't cost them so far with a 6-2 record, but it's not a recipe for extended success. They're an entertaining team to watch, but while the D-men are absorbing the lion's share of the criticism, too many forwards are doing not very much in the defensive zone.
Being without solid vets like Nik Kulemin up front and Mark Fraser on the back end sure isn't helping.
5. Not the rule's fault, but. . . bad rule: Look, there's no excuse for the goal Bernier allowed. That's it. Period. Jonathan Quick and Roberto Luongo have each permitted one just as bad already this season. Life goes on.
That said, it was yet another surprising interpretation of the hybrid icing call that didn't result in a whistle before Bernier had a chance to screw up so badly. This rule is confusing and open to interpretation, the worst kind of rule there is in a league where officials won't call diving unless they can send another player to the box at the same time and will do anything to avoid calling the instigator penalty.
I hate no-touch icing. But it would be preferable to this dumb hybrid rule, which is going to cause more and more problems as the season moves along.
As I've said many times, there was nothing wrong with the old icing rule, and the way in which the hybrid rule was instituted on the eve of this season suggest it needed a little more thought.
Yes, there were some bad injuries on icing before. But if the emphasis was on enacting rules to eliminate awful injuries, icing would have been about No. 10 on the list.
Boarding and checking from behind, as we've seen with hits on Dan Boyle and Nicklas Kronwall this week, happen far more often and often with devasting impact.
Five minutes and a game misconduct just isn't enough, and while we'll see what Max Lapierre gets, history says the supplementary discipline just hasn't been enough in the past to change anyone's mind.
6. About every four years, the Lone Ranger strikes: Paul Ranger's assist on Joffrey Lupul's goal was his first NHL point since Oct. 10, 2009, a game which also happened to be against Carolina.
Interestingly, another young man like Ranger who at one point walked mysteriously away from the game, Stefan Legein, is trying to resurrect his career these days with the AHL Marlies. The 24-year-old Oakville native, once a second round pick, spent last season with Manchester's AHL squad.
7. The entry draft is just a beginning, not an ending: Josh Leivo scored his first NHL goal against Carolina and David Broll competed in his fourth straight contest. Leivo was a third rounder and Broll a sixth rounder, and the fact that both are up with the Leafs while former first round pick Tyler Biggs skates in the minors is a very healthy indication that in the Leaf organization, it matters more what you do than where you were drafted.
That said, the fact Biggs hasn't blown anybody away the past two years may soon become a concern.
8. Getting closer, and closer: David Clarkson will play his first game as a Leaf next Friday, and it'll be interesting to see what happens between now and then, and where Randy Carlyle chooses to use Clarkson.
The theory before, of course, was that Lupul was a better left winger than a right winger, something the Anaheim Ducks had failed to discover before trading him to Toronto. But right now, Lupul looks just as dangerous on the right side with Nazem Kadri, and we know Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak are sticking together. Lupul, of course, could shift back to the left side, with Clarkson moving into his place.
The simplest decision may be to put Clarkson in place of Leivo with Dave Bolland. Leivo has two more games to make a strong case for that not being the right decision.
9. Take all the time you need, JVR: Mason Raymond had two goals on Tuesday when James van Riemsdyk, and on Thursday he played 24:49, more than any other Leaf forward.
It was the most the 28-year-old has ever played in an NHL regular season game. Guess Carlyle thinks he was a good signing last summer.