Monday, January 4, 2010

Top-Six Troubles, The Monster's Making Progress, And Burke Goes Out To Lunch

After winning 6 out of 8 to start December, fooling many of us into thinking that this team had a legitimate shot at the post-season, the Leafs have now won just 2 of their last 9 games. They sit 6 points behind the NY Rangers for the 8th spot, with 5 teams inbetween. At the half-way point of the season, they are on pace for just 74 points, their lowest total in 11 seasons.

The Top-Six Forwards Have Dropped Off The Face Of The Earth

Stajan: 1 point in the last 8 games. Minus 5 in that stretch. Zero shots on goal for the last 2 consecutive games. Had not been held without a shot previously this season.

Poni: 2 points in his last 8 games, both of them assists coming in the same game, in fact, the same period, December 27th against Pittsburgh. Usually one of the Leafs best 2-way players, Poni is a minus 6 over the last 8 games.

Hagman: 2 points in his last 10 games. Minus 2. Had 2 terrible back-to-back games against Phoenix and Buffalo in the middle of December for which he was a combined minus 5. Otherwise his play has been respectable, however nonthreatening. Doesn't seem to be the dangerous difference-maker that he appeared to be at the end of November when he had 6 goals in 4 games. He's had 3 in 18 games since.

Grabbo: 2 points in his last 10 games. Minus 4 in that stretch. Now out six weeks with a broken wrist.

Kessel: 1 point in the last 8 games. A disturbing minus 8.Blake And Stempniak Have Been The Leafs Most Consistent Forwards For Some Time Now. I somehow find this even more disturbing then Kessel's minus 8 in 8 games.

Blake: has 3 points in his last 4 games, 4 in his last 7, 6 in the last 10, 8 in 13, and 11 points in the last 17 games going back to the start of December. Has not gone more then 2 consecutive games without a point in that stretch.

Stempniak: Perhaps moving into the top-six in Grabovski's absence will be Lee Stempniak, who also has 11 points in 17 games since the start of December, and who, like Blake, hasn't been held pointless for more then 2 consecutive games in over a month. Stempniak has 6 points in his last 8 games and is a plus 2 in that span.

The Monster Is Making Progress

This is really good news, and it's really easy to demonstrate. Gustavsson keeps getting better:

Currently: .907 SV%
October: 139 shots, 124 saves = .892 Sv%
November: 282 shots, 254 saves = .901 SV%
Combined for Oct-Nov: 421 shots, 378 saves = .898 SV%
Since October: 441 shots, 402 saves = .912 SV%
Dec. 1st to today: 159 shots, 148 saves = .928 SV%

The Leafs are getting solid goaltending from the Monster, but have failed to score 3 goals in any of Gustavsson's last 5 starts. Hard to win when your offence only scores 2 or less, but Gustavsson did pick up 4 points in those 5 games, losing only 2 in regulation.

Carry On, Carry On, 'Cause It Doesn't Really Matter...

So, I realize I'm not posting enough, but the Leafs aren't winning enough either. Sadly, I now think that the Leafs don't have any reasonable expectation of making the playoffs this year. Then again, I fully expect the Leafs top point-producing forwards to break out all of a sudden and go on a terrific run, led by Kessel, and put together another stretch of 6 wins in 8 games.

"If you took out the first seven games, it's been a successful season, but you can't do that," said Burke.

If you took out the first 7 games, the Leafs would still have only 14 wins and 21 losses after 35 games. I don't see how that's even close to being a successful season, but whatever. What I really don't like about this statement from Burke is that it sounds like resignation and acceptance. It sounds like an invitation for the players to stop trying or caring. Oh well. Maybe next year, eh. Not that many of the guys in the top-six will still be here.


Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

I figure Kessel got through those first 20 games on a lot of adrenaline. It's not totally surprising he's cooled off, especially considering the struggles of the other guys.

Hagman seems like a streaky player. And if we're being led by Blake and Stempniak, it's no wonder we're on pace for only 74 points.

But you're right, the silver lining is Monster's play. He's been solid. Unfortunately, the Leafs have 5 sets of back-to-back games this month. Including two this team. That means we're going to see Toskala. A lot of him. And that's really just unfortunate. Eight points up for grabs this week. Florida, Philly, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. What's the realistic goal? Four points? Or three? A win and an overtime loss. That's how we roll.

Or maybe all eight. And, voila: playoffs!!1

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

Including two this week, I meant.

general borschevsky said...

Hey eyebleaf! Beating the Panthers in regulation is a good way to get back on track. Stajan, Hagman, and Poni each pick up a point, and Stempniak with another goal. Hopefully the forwards can get on a roll again. If they can score 3 in a game, there's a good chance Gustavsson will only let in 2.

looshV said...

Good Blog, you always have a positive I can take out of the Maelstrom. Monster has been getting better thank god, but RW is a serious problem to this team IMO.

general borschevsky said...

Hey looshV! Welcome, and thanks for droppin' by.

It will be intersting to see now how Kessel responds to being singled out by Wilson in front of the media.

I'm not ready to point the finger at Wilson yet, but too many games the Leafs have seemed horribly unprepared and fallen behind early. Eventually the coach has to take some of the responsibility for a powerplay that can't score, a terrible penalty-kill, and consistenlty surrendering the first goal of the game.