Wow, it has been quite a long time since I posted for MSF, but I return to do what I do best, chat about the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here are a few tidbits about the boys in blue and white that have been on my mind over the first 13 days of the season.
- The Leafs top line of Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, and James van Riemsdyk has come under fire at times already this season. They were lighting it up against the Rangers and Avalanche, but were nowhere to be found in the home-and-home versus Detroit. While I don’t suggest anything too extreme, such as breaking up the line or trading one of the three, change needs to be made with their zone entries. Way too predictable with this line. Almost everyone knows what happens when Kessel hits the opposing line with the puck. He crosses the blue line and puts on the breaks. Usually when he does this, he has no option for a decent pass, and either dumps it down low, or goes cross ice and has the pass intercepted. Defensemen have caught on to this, and are pressuring Kessel as he enters the zone, forcing easy turnovers. JVR has also been quite predictable when leading the rush, usually driving wide and then forcing himself to the net, though it has been met with little success. Start mixing it up a little to stray away from predictability guys. Try a breakout scheme that will see all three hit the blue line at the same time, instead of either Kessel or van Riemsdyk only carrying it into the zone. Also, they need to switch up the power-play zone entry as well. Opposing teams are quickly catching onto the outlet pass to JVR at the blue line to enter.
- Bold prediction: Jake Gardiner will be traded by the end of the year. Yes, he is a smooth skating defensemen, who, when he has all the time in the world, is capable of making a great first pass. But, he has flaws in his game, mainly that under pressure he makes poor decisions that result in turnovers (ex. against Detroit that caused Jonathan Bernier to make a clutch save) and he is incredibly soft along the boards/in the corners/in front of the net (ex. losing a battle to David Desharnais of all people, resulting in a Habs goal). These problems have plagued Gardiner, and barring improvement, I’m going out on a limb and stating he will be moved after management becomes frustrated by his lack of progress.
- Is Stephane Robidas still hurt? Seriously, this guy has been so slow that he is making Hal Gill look like Sergei Fedorov. His hooking penalty 13 seconds into the Colorado game sums up his season thus far, as he struggled mightily to keep pace with Jamie McGinn. Robidas currently looks like a shell of his former self.
- How could the Leafs not score at least one goal on Jonas Gustavsson on Saturday? IT’S GUSTAVSSON!!! The goalie with probably the worst positioning, glove hand, and rebound control in the game.
- There have been positives though in LeafLand. It was nice to see James Reimer post two great starts last week. Must have been a nice confidence builder for him. Also, Bernier bounced back from a shaky beginning to the season with a solid performance against the Red Wings.
- Hands down the Leafs best line has been Leo Komarov, Mike Santorelli, and David Clarkson. They have been the best possession line, playing a dump and chase game, winning battles down low and moving the puck well, thereby creating some quality chances night in and night out. Clarkson is also quickly becoming a pest for other teams on the second line PP. The PPP are going to start coming for #71.
- Praise to those who started the Praise be the Phil section on reddit.com. This subreddit is always good for a smile, as Leafs fans honour Phil the Thrill daily.
- Finally, get well soon Brandon Kozun. Kozun has probably been the most pleasant surprise thus far, using his speed and grit to wear down opposing lines.
Here’s a shameless plug as well, tune into my hockey show, The Untitled Hockey Show, on Thursdays at 3pm on riotradio.ca
Photo credit to: thestar.com