|2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs|
Well, it happened again. The Leafs lost to the Bruins in seven games and before the teams finished shaking hands, Leaf fans were playing their blame game, blaming Gardiner, Kadri, Andersen, Nylander and Marleau.
Fuckin Leaf fans! Lose with some dignithy people.
What is it with this fan base that makes us incapable of understanding rule number one of all team sports? You win as a team you lose as a team. Don't blame Jake Gardiner. Don't blame Freddy Andersen, don't get caught up in the media and fan's blame game. They are a very young team that has taken a very good and very experienced Boston team to 7 games 2 years in a row. We got further than Tampa did this year. Tampa was the best team this league has seen in decades and they got swept in the first round, they aren't firing their coach or GM, they aren't gonna trade half the team. Anything can happen in the playoffs, sometimes the better team doesn't win. That is what happened here. The Leafs are a young, very talented team but they have a lot of lessons to learn before they win the Cup. They learned a lot of them tonight. They should have closed out the series on Sunday in game 6 but they had never been in that position before and they laid an egg. Broke my heart, I paid a fortune to go to that game. We had another chance to win game 7 and we outplayed Boston for parts of the game and still lost, these things happen in hockey. We won several games we should have lost throughout the season and so did every other team. You don't want it to happen in a game 7, but an experienced team can take advantage of that situation and sometimes win a series they don't deserve. That's what happened this year. The Leafs were the better team in games 1, 3, 5 and we were the better team for parts of game 7. That is not enough to win a series, not against Boston, give them credit, they are a great team. But they are getting older and as their core players age outta their prime other contenders will emerge. Three years from now Chara will be retired, Bergeron will be 36, Marchand will be 33 and the core of our team will be entering their prime with 5 years of playoff experience, learned and earned from series like the one we just lost. We probably won't be facing Boston in the playoffs, we will be facing the teams that are rebuilding right now. Teams like Fla, Det and Carolina will be our main competition in a few years. They will be the young teams going up against our experience team and we will have the advantage. It still doesn't guarantee we will win, as we have witnessed this year, anything can happen in the playoffs.
There is nothing to be gained by pointing fingers at our players except perhaps destroying the confidence of a young kid who is part of our team. If that is your goal, you're not a fan, you're an asshole. Kyle Dubas and Brendan Shanahan saw the same series you did, if changes need to be made, I trust them to make them and I hope they don't listen to our stupid fans.
Babcock is another story. While I don't think he should start listening to our stupid fans, I do believe he is guilty of thinking we are so stupid that if we suggest something it has to be wrong and he wants to prove that to us at all costs, even losing. Part of the blame lies on the fans and media. If we weren't trying to tell him how to do his job, he would come to the obvious conclusion himself, he is not a stupid man or a bad coach. But he is a stubborn bastard who talks about his players being willing to adapt and change their approach to his way of playing so he better be willing to put his money where his mouth is and make some adjustments to his approach this summer.
Far be it for me to tell Babs how to do his job, but for 4 years I have wanted him to change his approach to pulling the goalie. Scratch that, his first year here, we were trying to tank and I liked it when he pulled our goalie too early because it always backfired. In fact, I kinda thought he was doing it to help us tank but then the next season we were competetive and he kept pulling our goalie before we established posession in the offensive end. After watching him pull Andersen too early in games 6 and 7, I decided to look up some stats.
The Leafs scored 5 goals this year playing 6 on 5. This stat also counts goals scored when we have a delayed penalty, and I'm pretty sure we had a couple of those. We allowed 15 empty net goals. Someone in the Leafs analytics department needs to sit down with Babs and show him the stats. It's not only the time left, it's the fact that we haven't established possession, deep in the other team's end. What good is a 6th player if you turn it over at the blue line and it ends up in your empty net with 3 minutes left? I believe if he sees the stats he will make the appropriate adjustements.
Did anybody else see the WTF look on Marner's face when the first empty net goal went in? I am pretty sure he was questioning Babcock's decision to pull Freddy so early again.
As for the distribution of ice time, I question why Matthews wasn't used more in the third period of game 7 like everybody else, but hind sight is 20/20 and maybe Babcock knew something we didn't. I am not sure Matthews will see it that way. I thought the Marleau, Nylander and Brown line had a decent game, when they were on the ice, the puck was in Boston's end. They forchecked well and won their battles, but they generated absolutely zero chances in game 7. Babcock should have realized that time was running out and we didn't need to win a battle in the corner, we needed 2 goals fast.
I am more concerned with our power play's lack of creativity than I am with an extra minute of ice time here or there.
I am a Marlies season ticket holder and there were times this season when the Marlies power play looked a lot more creative than the Leafs. Part of that has to be due to a lesser level of penalty killing in the AHL but the creativity cannot be denied. When the Leaf's power play struggled against the Bruins, we switched Matthews and Marner to the other side of the ice and kept trying the same damn things. Maybe they should have taken a look at some of the Marlies power play tapes because the Leafs clearly ran out of ideas.
The Leafs penalty killing was not much better in the playoffs. Boston's power play wasn't great, they had trouble getting into our zone, but we made them look good once they crossed our blue line. Our forwards are usually pretty good on the PK but we weren't able to get out to cover the point and we let pass after pass get through to a streaking Boston winger. We have to do a better job getting out to the point to take away the shot and we have to keep our sticks busier breaking up the cross ice pass to the streaking winger.
It's easy to say that Kadri is to blame. One of our strengths going into the series was being deeper at centre than Boston. When Kadri took that suspension, he negated that advantage. It's easy to blame him, but it's not entirely fair. Game 2 was insane and the refs are completely to blame for letting it get out of control. Naz was our best player in game 2, he was playing pissed off and he was playing on the edge. He was one of the few Leafs capable of matching Boston's physical intensity. He took a questionable hooking call in the second period and as soon as he got out of the box, Debrusk hit him with a dirty knee on knee hit and of course there was no penalty. Kadri had been our best player all night but that hit got him off his game. He fell into Boston's trap and as soon as Debrusk hit Marleau into the stanchion, we all knew what was coming. So did Debrusk, that's why he did it. Look, I respect Naz for having the balls to stand up for a teammate and I like the idea that someone on our team is willing to take the law into their own hands when the officials aren't doing their jobs. But when it is the same guy falling for the same bullshit from the same opponent two years in a row, you have to question his intelligence at least a little bit. There is no questioning his heart, but he should have recognized that Boston were trying to get him to do something stupid and he should have showed some discipline instead of falling victim to their bullshit for a second year in a row. It's not all Naz's fault, the refs were just as much to blame as he was, they let that game get out of hand. Babcock also has to take some of the blame for not settling him down. I get it, he was playing great because he was so fired up, but if the fans knew it was coming and the Bruins knew it was coming, why didn't Babcock recognize that Naz was about to cross the line again. He should have had a talk with him on the bench and warned him not to let something like that happen. He gave Kadri shit for arguing with the Bruins earlier in the game, why wouldn't he say something knowing what happened last year? He should have recognized the refs were not taking control and that something bad was about to happen. If I could sense it, why didn't Babcock? Did he want Naz to cross the line? At that point, somebody needed to do something. The refs weren't doing their jobs, they should have been slapped with the same suspension Kadri did. Wake up NHL, discipline your bad refs.
I am not blaming Freddy for any of the goals in game 7. I am sure he would like to have the first one back, but if you go back and look at that goal it looked like he had the short side covered, the hockey gods squeezed it through just to fuck with us. Freddy stole game 5, played his heart out and gave us a chance in game 6 and played good enough to win game 7. We scored one goal, you can't hang that one on the goalie, our offence is supposed to be capable of more than that.
Any time you lose a series you have to look back at the mistakes that were made and the mistakes we made were obvious so I don't expect us to make them again.
If we meet Boston in the playoffs again next year, it will be another long tough series that either team could win but if we eliminate the mistake we made this year, there is no reason we can't beat them next season.