Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Shoot To Kill

Here's a problem: The Leafs are 0 and 5 in extra-time so far this season. That's 5 points left on the table, and worse, 5 additional points surrendered to the opposition. Distressingly, 4 of those losses were to Conference rivals, and twice it was the Habs.

The Leafs are a better team then their record indicates... blah blah blah. If the Leafs keep playing this way, the wins will start to come... blah blah blah. Once again, the Leafs outplayed their opponents for most of the game... blah blah blah. Boring.

If the Leafs had won those games, we'd have 12 points after 13 games, and more importantly, we'd be just 2 points out of a playoff spot. We'd also be equal to Montreal (who'd have 12, not 14) with still 2 games in hand. In fact, those dastardly Habs are a frustrating contrast. ALL BUT ONE of their wins have come in extra-time, and they have yet to surrender a loss in overtime or the shoot-out. 4 OT wins, 2 shoot-out wins. 6 additional points acquired on top of the 12 points split evenly with their opponents. The Habs record could look like: 1-8-6 and 8 points, almost exactly the same as the Leafs 1-7-5 and 7 points. Instead, the Habs are 7-8-0 and 14 points and tied for 8th in the East. That seems like a pretty significant difference for two teams that match up evenly after 60 minutes.

The Leafs last night again displayed an alarming lack of finish, despite the presence of Kessel. One game is too soon to expect a solution, but there is promise that the problem is being fixed. Kessel looked dangerous all night, unleashing 10 shots on goal over nearly 24 minutes of ice time. As long as he can stay out of the trolley tracks, he should be producing plenty, and soon.

Our heroes are on a 5 game point-streak, which sounds great, picking up 6 points out of a possible 10. That's a .600 winning percentage, which over 82 games translates into 98 points and a playoff spot. Unfortunately, Leaf opponents have taken 8 of a possible 10 points in those same 5 games and are therefore playing .800 hockey. Welcome to the post-lockout NHL, where .500 means you suck.

"We have to persevere. We can't change what we're doing, because we're right there knocking on the door. We've just got to find a way to knock the door completely down."
The Leafs have found the right level of intensity that allows them to compete with their opponents for 60 minutes, giving themselves a chance to win for 5 straight games now, but like the old cliche, we need one hundred and ten percent. We need to go to 65 solid minutes of hockey, if that's what it takes. We need more then just desperation, we need a killer instinct. Stop knocking on the door fellas - you have to let yourselves in, make yourselves at home, and have sex on the carpet.

"He's gotta make plays, he can't be content to be on the ice..."

The coach is talking about Tlusty there, after he was called up, but he could be talking about the entire team's approach to extra-time. Stajan, Blake, Stempniak, Hagman, White, Kaberle, Kulemin, Grabovski, and Ponikarovsky, not just Kessel, need to kick it up a notch. We can't just be happy for the point. We can't just be satisfied to have played a decent game. We gotta make it happen, and overtime is just as much our opportunity as it is anyone else's. There's a point up for grabs and it's five minutes and then it's a shoot-out. We can't be content to be on the ice.

We need to smell blood and finish it.


Anonymous said...

Agreed. I've had it up to here with the overtime losses. It's time to finish the job when the Leafs have a chance. It has to be a team effort, too. They can't rely on Kessel to magically do everything for them, he's only one guy after all.

Great points and an insightful post, General.

general borschevsky said...

Hey Kavel! Thanks for the comment. I agree with your point that the Leafs can't wait for Kessel to do it alone. All the players I mentioned in this post are capable of putting the puck in the net. Not sure what they have to do to get over the hump, but I feel like they're almost there.

Alex P said...

First off, good points about Montreal.

Secondly, I guess I'm the only person in the Barilkosphere that wasn't over the moon about Kessel's game. While he certainly has the ability to make a play all on his own, too many of the shots he took looked like low percentage shots that just got batted down and cleared up ice. I don't want to say 'wasted opportunities', but there were more than a few times where he had good passing options and he took a shot instead.

Either way, I'm happy to see that he so passionately wants a goal, but I hope he learns in time to temper that with good hockey sense.

bkblades said...

While I agree with you Alex that Kessel didn't have a sensational game in terms of results, he was still clearly the best forward that night for both teams. If not for Nittymaki, the expectations on Kessel would have been astronomical after scoring a pair of goals. The problem with the Leafs for the last couple of years is the lack of forwards willing to shoot the puck. Aside from Blake, too many players were either too unselfish or just unwilling to shoot the puck. Kessel directed 20 shots on goal in Tuesday's game, which is very likely unsustainable. If Kessel can shoot 5+ shots on net every game, that'll go a long way with the Leafs producing goals 5 on 5.

general borschevsky said...

Hey Alex! I doubt you're the only one not "over the moon" (great expression). To be honest, that hit he took scared the crap out of me. Just his first game back though. His timing and power might be a little off but it's clear Kessel has instincts for the net.

happy to see that he so passionately wants a goal

That's what it takes, I guess, especially in overtime. It's refreshing to see and hopefully it's contagious.

Mr. bkblades! Good to see you.

Kessel directed 20 shots on goal in Tuesday's game

Err... pretty sure that's a typo but that would have been awesome, even if he didn't score. 10 shots is still a heck of a lot. Cheers, bk!

bkblades said...

Kessel attempted 20 shots in the game, but only 10 hit the net. I imagine some were blocked, while others just missed the mark. I had to do a double take myself. It was an absurd total.

general borschevsky said...

Cheers, bk. Thanks for clearing that up. Even 20 attempted shots in one game is a little mind-boggling.