If you watched the Toronto Maple Leafs vs Calgary Flames game on Sunday night and happened to pick up your phone and check twitter halfway through the second period – you’d think Calgary under Coach Daryl Suter was a bottom feeding team we were supposed to easily beat 6-1.
Calgary needs no motivation to come out hard, physical and ready to battle against Toronto. Quite honestly it’s been the Leafs most exciting series to watch this season, barely narrowing out the Edmonton series.
Toronto despite playing sluggish, struggling to string a series of passes together and without an answer on the powerplay managed to keep it close only because of clutch goaltending from our 4th string goalie. Let’s be honest if Hutch let in 4 goals on Sunday night and we lost, I still wouldn’t blame him. The product in front of him was not up to the standard we expect night in and night out from a Stanley Cup hopeful team.
Here are my post game thoughts:
•Toronto tied the game up 2-2 in the later part of the 2nd period on Alex Galchenyuk’s first goal as a Maple Leaf.
Now I do think Dubas is still shopping the market for a top 6 forward. However Gally, Chucky or whatever you want to call him has brought a much needed dynamic to that 2nd line. He’s hard on the puck and has had a constant motor in all 3 zones. He’s providing Hyman level forechecking and has a proven history of being able to finish.
•I’ve admittedly been a big critic of John Tavares all season. In comparison to his cap hit and role on this team, I think he has had a disappointing season. It’s hard not to look at Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in their prime and not think Tavares should be torching 2nd lines night in and night out.
Jeff O’Neill during the post game said having a B-game when your A-game isn’t going is crucial. Tavares all season long has been the embodiment of that statement. He’s always going to fore-check, grind, play solid d and not take bad penalties. Cap hit aside I can respect that and even with a statistically down year for him the Leafs are still 1st in their division.
•There’s an element to Marner’s game I’d like to see when the skill stick on his controller dies. Him and Matthews struggled all game to find each other and heavily relied on Hyman’s forecheck to sustain any offensive zone pressure. It took just 1 play, 1 pass and 1 shot to show why that line is so dangerous.
Marner has had the same problem all season when his shiftiness and elusiveness are broken down by strong defensive systems. Instead of simplifying his game and intensifying his forecheck with relentless pressure, he floats outside the scrum or at the top of one of the faceoff dots.
This essentially puts all the heavy lifting on Hyman and Matthews. He’s incredibly guilty on nights where he doesn’t have it just quickly trying to force it to Matthews and hope he makes something of the play.
•Travis Dermott relative to his cap hit and role on this team has been an absolute bright spot on the back end. Admittedly you might be disappointed if you consider his draft stock and what many thought he would be at this point in his career.
•I thought Wayne Simmonds slowly found his game about halfway through the 2nd period. He was always going to need several games to catch up and I was a little worried myself. However if we see the Simmonds that showed up in the second half last night, he’ll be a staple on the 3rd line.
•I like Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev. They’re feasible, effective 3rd liners. They do a great job of forechecking, cycling in the offensive zone and are not a liability defensively. Of course both of them have hands of stone when it comes to finishing. These are the kinds of players I root for but am also fine if they’re traded away.
Author: Josh BeLeaf