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Leafs lack urgency against the Canadiens


TMLsHockeyBlog

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kaberle+on+habs.jpg
Montreal wins in Kaberle's return to Toronto

PHOTO: mapleleafs.com

Leafs playoff hopes here high approaching the puck drop at the ACC on Saturday night. Both the New Jersey Devils and the Ottawa Senators lost their respective games in regulation earlier today. The bad news is that the Panthers play the Jets. Going into tonight Winnipeg sits two points behind the Leafs and the Panthers are one point ahead. A win for the Leafs tonight will put them back into the top eight. If the Panthers win they will jump back to third and a Leafs win will knock Washington to the ninth spot.

The first eight minutes of the period went by quickly without much action until P.K. Subban took a bad roughing penalty as he punched Tyler Bozak in the head. On the Leafs powerplay Clarke MacArthur would cough up the puck to Lars Eller who came in on a breakaway but was stopped by Gustavsson, his first save of the game. Through the first period the Leafs weren't using their speed and seemed to be playing down the the level of the Habs. After some awful turnovers by the Habs, the Leafs were gaining momentum until Montreal came in on a 3-on-1 and scored. The original shot deflected awkwardly off the boards behind Gustavsson and bounced over the net and landed at the top of the crease on Bourque's stick, who scored his first as a Canadien. The Leafs would answer back quickly though. Tyler Bozak lobbed a great pass to Matthew Lombardi who scored on a breakaway to tie the game.

The second period was a pretty quiet one, there was no change in the scoreboard. There was a ridiculous dive by Montreal's Kostitsyn. The ref that was ten feet away watching the play didn't call a penalty on the Leafs because he saw that Kostitsyn dove. The ref at center ice called a penalty and the Leafs had to kill another penalty. What makes the ref at center ice think the ref ten feet away missed the call and he should make it from 100 feet away? Also, once the ref at center calls the penalty can't the other ref say it was a dive and at least even up the calls? There's no reason the Leafs should have ever been short-handed on that play. We should've been on a powerplay because as far as I know there is no rule against calling a stand-alone diving penalty. I've said it before, and I'll say it until somebody actually happens, players will continue to dive because they know there is no consequences. They know that worst case the referees will only call even-up penalties, one penalty for a hook or trip and one for the dive. Apparently, you can't lose if you dive. Let's get some refs out here that actually call players on diving before hockey turns into a game of soccer.

The Leafs started the third period much like the first two, very slow. Montreal took advantage of this and put a shot through a screen behind Gustavsson and the Leafs are down 2-1 early in the third period. They would end up losing the game 3-1 by a combination of questionable refereeing and playing without any urgency. The third goal was another one that Gustavsson should have stopped. That being said, he was hit off balance as Gardiner was pushed into him a few seconds before the goal went in. Much like the loss against the Senators earlier this week, the well-rested Leafs are beat by a team who played who played the night before.

Clarke MacArthur didn't look good tonight. He wasn't really competing, he turned the puck over too many times, and in the second period he found himself taking a few shifts on the Leafs fourth line. I think he played his best hockey with Kadri and Connolly a few weeks ago, but now with Lupul playing so well for that line you can't put MacArthur back there. His numbers are still respectable, he has 12 goals and 9 assists in 39 games heading into tonights contest. His cap hit is managable for teams looking for some secondary scoring. There were more than a couple of pro scouts from around the league in attendance and maybe the Leafs can trade him as part of a package for something bigger.

Tomas Kaberle returned to Toronto but looked pretty invisible tonight. He fit well with every player wearing blue. If Toronto wants to be a playoff team they have to be able to beat teams like Montreal who sit near the basement in the NHL. Something has to change in Toronto because they're losing their grip on playoff hopes. To make matters worse, the Panthers and Lightning game turned out to be a three-point game as it went into overtime and then a shootout.This may be another year that Toronto looks back on a few games like tonight where they did not come out to play and miss the playoffs by a few points. The Leafs have back-to-back games against the New York Islanders on Monday and Tuesday. They have to win both of those games just to keep pace.

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