1. Offence gone south: The Maple Leafs have scored seven goals in the last six games, and of course they’ve been shutout in the last two. As the Red Wings GM Ken Holland’s theory states, 250 goals in a season is the magic number to give a team enough offence for an NHL club, and right now the Leafs are on pace for 189. They need to find offence fast, or its going to be a really long season.
2. Strong efforts: After soft efforts the previous week, the Leafs have gone back to their strong forechecking and are skating fast, resulting in more power plays. Sometimes it only takes a lucky bounce or more pressure around the net (as we’ve seen Orr do against the Panthers). Leafs might not be on the receiving end of W's, but as soon as they get away from strong defensive teams and goaltending, those W's won’t be too far away.
3. When they play against defensive-minded teams, Leafs will need to figure out how to win these games or expect less and less of a chance to make postseason action. The Leafs opposition in the last six games have led in blocked shots (other than the Panthers), and in half of those by more than double.
Including that with the Leafs usually lead with missed shots, and total shots on net. This means that Leafs will have to get more traffic around the net, and more pucks thrown on net low, and start looking for rebounds.
This also shows the Leafs are lacking big and physical forwards who can do that job night-in and night-out. Players like Antropov, Sundin and even Tucker are long gone now. New players will have to change their roles to adapt, or GM Brian Burke might have to be looking to make a move sooner than later for that type of player.
4. Injuries have become an issue: Versteeg returned last night and Armstrong is gone for four to six weeks. Leafs should be glad they haven’t had any issues until now; most teams have already had more than one big injury to their rosters. The worst part of this is that the Leafs are missing a physical forward in front of the net, and the only Maple Leaf who is tough enough to absorb this kind of pain would be Colby.
As I stated a couple of weeks ago, Armstrong would be better used in front of the net especially on power plays, and the next night he scored an exact goal. I haven’t been a fan of Colby’s, but this is where his talent lies, please come back soon Armstrong Leaf Nation, your team needs your abilities.
5. Where has Dion Phaneuf gone? Since joining the Maple Leafs last February, Dion has scored a total of one goal in the Blue and White. Though he does lead all defensemen in goal totals for the past four seasons.
One warning issue are many of his shots are high and wide, most hitting the glass or boards behind the opposing goaltender; he is second in the NHL in missed shots. Dion needs to get more shots by the blocking defenseman and on net, as well more traffic from his teammates.
Not only is his offence an issue he’s been in the wrong position or been caught flatfoot in his own end on a few occasions. Dion needs to be better, and once he improves his team will follow.
6. Leafs defense hasn’t been as good as it looks on paper. They have no one on the roster in the top 30 in the league in blocked shots, which means many shots are getting through on net. As well both Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin are in the top 10 in the league in giveaways, both need to improve on this.
The worst is most of these giveaways lead to pucks being in the back of their own net. Leafs need to look at gambling less on those long passes from their own end. The Leafs defense is also tied for last in the NHL in goals by the defense with two. The offense need support from them as well, on the rush, on the point and on the power play the defense needs to get into better shooting areas, and get pucks on net.
Last but not least, Leafs have spent roughly $25 million in their defense, players like Mike Komisarek aren’t living up to half of their paycheck. Except for Luke Schenn everyone on the back-end needs to improve their game with more blocked shots, smarter passing, and helping with offense.
7. I still don’t understand Ron Wilson: First and foremost, where is Mike Zigomanis? Zigomanis is great on faceoffs, strong on forechecking and penalty-killing and works hard every shift. His ratio of giveaways to takeaways is the best on the Leafs, four takeaways is high for a player on the fourth line. He makes great decisions and gives a full effort.
Next is the defense, which aren’t making good decisions and aren’t blocking shots. They need to practice getting in the lanes and blocking shots. Much like the Leafs offense needs to practice having forwards in front of the net, and getting pucks there. It still looks like this is the obvious flaws in the team yet no one is willing to do the dirty work.
8. Let’s look at the bright spots: stronger efforts, better goaltending and more improvement from Luke Schenn. Though the Leafs have been having a rough time the past while, if the Leafs can keep up the energy they’ll get more chances, they just need to adjust and change their styles slightly.
Both Giguere and Gustavsson have looked solid in their own net, both haven’t been able to steal a game, but at the same time, both haven’t given up a weak goal and have kept their team in each and every night. The Leafs haven’t seen in a couple of seasons, keep it up you two.
Then there’s Schenner who’s leaped beyond that sophomore season and looks to be the Leafs best defenseman so far in the early season, if he keeps this up, he’s exactly what the Maple Leafs expected from this stud. The human eraser is back.
P.S. - I could go on and on about the offense, it’s obvious they need more finishers on this team, everyone from Versteeg to Kulemin need to start putting the biscuit in the basket or Burke will have to make a move.