Friday, January 22, 2010

Ten Overtime Losses

The Leafs lost again last night and are now sporting an atrocious 1-10 record when the game goes into extra-time. No other way to slice it - that's just horrible. When the stakes are high, and the money's on the line, this team rises to the challenge and comes away heroic and victorious at a 1 to 10 ratio. Oooouuuuchhhh. How did it get to be this bad? How does failure of this magnitude occur? I know a fun idea - let's take a look back and review this season's 10 overtime losses;

October 1st, vs. Montreal in Toronto. OTL 3-4. The season-opener. Leafs appear to have the game in hand on the strength of Matt Stajan's 2 powerplay goals, but with under 5 minutes left to play Komisarek is called for elbowing and Montreal scores on the powerplay to tie the game. The Leafs fire 42 shots at Carey Price in regulation and 4 more in OT but it's Montreal's 27th shot of the game that ends it with 13 seconds left on the clock. Josh Gorges gets the winner, setting the tone early for his illustrious 3-goal campaign.

October 28th, vs. the Stars, in Dallas. OTL 3-4. The game after our first victory, and the third game of a 5-game road trip. Kulemin scores a pair and Jason Blake has 3 assists, giving the Leafs a 3-2 3rd period lead again, but with 2 minutes 45 seconds to go, Ribeiro ties it up. Dallas peppers Gustavsson with 6 shots in 3 minutes of OT, James Neal finally scoring the goal. Final shots are 36-36, but Dallas outshoots Toronto 20-11 in the 3rd period and extra time.

October 30th, vs. the Sabres, in Buffalo. OTL 2-3. The very next game, 2 days later. Gustavsson in goal again. Things look bleak late in the 3rd with the Leafs trailing 2-1 when Matt Stajan is sent off for interference. However, 18 seconds later, Grabovski miraculously scores shorthanded to tie the game in the final minute, sending it into extra-time. Doesn't take long, though. On the same powerplay, 1:04 into OT, with 2 seconds left on Stajan's penalty, Buffalo scores, Connolly's second goal of the game.

October 31st, vs. the Canadiens, in Montreal. SOL 4-5. The very next game, the very next night. Last game of a 5-game road trip. Holloween. Toskala in net. The Leafs score twice in the 3rd to tie the game at 4. First Kaberle and White assist on Ponikarovsky's goal, then Kaberle scores inside the final minute to send the game to OT. Montreal outshoots Toronto 4-1 in the extra time, 39-30 overall, but this game goes to a shootout. Cammalleri, goal. Stempniak, miss. Gomez, goal. Kaberle miss. Game over.

November 3rd, vs. Tampa Bay, in Toronto. OTL 1-2. The very next game, their 4th overtime game in a row. Ian White scores the only Leafs goal, on the powerplay in the third period. Toronto outshoots Tampa in this contest 41-32, but it's Ryan Malone scoring the winner past Gustavsson, 2 minutes, 21 seconds into the extra period.

November 19th, vs. the Hurricanes, in Carolina. SOL 5-6. Possibly the most frustrating and painful loss of the season. It certainly felt like rock-bottom at the end. The Leafs allowed a 3-0 1st period lead to evaporate to 3-2 in the second, and then saw their 4-2 lead equalized by a pair of Tim Gleason goals in the 3rd. Finally, the Leafs then totally spoiled Ian White's heroic effort to restore the lead with just 30 seconds remaining, when Eric Cole beat Gustavsson with just 3 seconds left on the clock. Tied at 5, the game went to OT and then to a shootout. Final shots were 45-32 in favour of Carolina. Ruutu, goal. Kessel, miss. Jokinen, goal. Stempniak, miss. Game over.

November 23rd, vs. NY Islanders, in Toronto. OTL 5-6. As bizarre a game as you'll ever see. 40-year old goaltender, Dwayne Roloson stops 58 shots, every single one of them along the ice. The Islanders explode for 3 goals in the 2nd period when Toskala suddenly and abruptly pulls himself from the hockey game with what would later be termed as "an injury". But the Leafs battled back with Gustavsson in the net on goals by Kessel, Primeau, and Hagman, with Stajan and Kaberle contributing a pair of assists each to the comeback effort. In the end however, 61 shots was not enough as Josh Bailey scored with 43 seconds left in extra time to give the Islanders the OT win.

December 21st, vs. Buffalo, in Toronto. OTL 2-3. Leafs have a 2-1 lead after 2 on goals by Stalberg and White, but Hecht ties the game with 7:01 left in the 3rd, despite the Leafs outshooting Buffalo 12-6 in the final period. With 1 minute 25 seconds left in overtime, Derek Roy beats Gustavsson to give Buffalo the win, and the Leafs their 8th overtime loss.

December 26th, vs. Montreal, in Toronto. OTL 2-3. Boxing Day. Gustavsson in goal again. Montreal gets out to an early 2-0 lead in the first 5 minutes but the Leafs battle back and eventually tie the game on Ian White's goal late in the 2nd and Jason Blake's goal early in the 3rd. Shots heading into the extra-frame are 49-22 for the Leafs, yet it's the only shot in OT- Montreal's 23rd - that ends the game. Andre Kostitsyn, 34 seconds in. The win for Montreal is their 10th OT win of the season. What wonders.

January 21st, vs. the Lightning, in Tampa Bay. OTL 2-3. Just another Ugh experience. Gustavsson in goal again. Stajan and White score but the Leafs can't hold a 3rd period lead and with less then 5 minutes to go Tampa ties the game on the powerplay. In overtime, a too many men on the ice penalty puts the Leafs down a man again, and this time it's Martin St. Louis finishing the game with just 10 seconds left before the shootout, not that it would have made any difference.

The Leafs only Overtime victory this season came on November 21st, vs. Washington, sandwiched inbetween the shootout loss to Carolina and the OT loss to the NY Islanders. A 1-1 tie goes into a shootout and the Leafs show some camaraderie and team-spirit for the first time this season (not to mention, an open-belief in superstition) by flipping their helmets upside down on the bench. The rally caps do the trick as Kessel and Hagman score while Toskala stops Fehr and Ovechkin, and the Leafs get a rare - I mean extremely rare - extra point for winning in OT.

I guess the most frustrating thing from all this, aside from the crushing disappointment of losing games that could easily have been won, is that if the Leafs had a normal OT record, say a modest 6 wins and 5 losses, then they'd be just 5 points out - within striking distance, at least - of the playoffs. Furthermore, if we wanted to cherry-pick who those additional victories came against, Montreal (twice), Tampa Bay (twice), and the Islanders would have fewer points in the standings.

It'd just be so much more exciting and interesting if we won meaningful games more then once in a while. Some of the time would be nice for starters. I'm really tired of almost never.


. said...

A painfully necessary post.

Hard to look back at all the missed opportunities. Especially when you consider a couple of regulation losses included poor officiating and bad bounces that clearly affected the outcome. Leafs could/should be a lot closer than they are.

However, poor goaltending, inconsistent offense and horrid special teams are more likely the cause.

Maybe next year?

general borschevsky said...

Cheers Harold! It was hard to pinpoint a single reason for the Leafs failure in OT. One thing I did notice however was how often Stajan and White's good efforts were squandered by the team giving up a late goal in the third and then losing in OT, or by not being able to finish the comeback.

There's still 30 games left. Hopefully the Leafs can find away to pick up some memorable victories before the season is out.