I apologize for the long hiatus in posts. I decided to have a long christmas vacation with lots of eat, a bit of drink and a superfluous amount of shinny. Oh the life we life, eh?
When I left off, we had just played Buffalo on December 21st, which might have been the most exciting game of the season. Stalberg was called up and played well only to get injured. Then we lost a lot. Then Carolina actually caught up to us in the standings... and here we are.
The Leafs are starting to get hard to watch. Kessel's slump is just painful at this point, and Hagman's harsh decrease in point production is doing so much that his trade value is even dropping. What to do, what to do? I actually heard talk yesterday of taking Kessel off the power play and at this point, I think that might just be a good idea. Although he's a solely offensive-minded player (with no regard for ANY defense), he struggles to break into the shooting lanes. Even with a quick-release as deadly as his, he's not getting the puck through. If he's not getting the goals, it's because they're putting a lot of emphasis on his side of the ice both at full strength or on the PP. Thankfully, on the other side of the ice we have Ian White or Beauchemin (on the PP). Get them the puck.
We've heard it from all the media: the Leafs are being killed/killing themselves by special teams. They start calling into question Ron Wilson's skill as a coach (and penalty kill specialist) or Brian Burke's criteria for a team but this isn't the way to go about Leafs criticism. I do my best to try to avoid this because Wilson has no one to put out there on a penalty kill and Burke has no one to trade other than draft pi- nevermind.
In regards to the power play, my only advice would be to stop putting on full lines. If they seem to have figured out our first line to the extent every team in the league has at this point, switch it up a bit. With Kessel in his normal spot, the high boards on the goaltender's right hand side, the goalie knows where the shot is coming from. There needs to be more movement instead of a stagnant umbrella set up that feeds Kessel for a shot that's going to be blocked. Leafs need to get it down low, pull a defenseman off the slot area, then push it to the point and get a shot off. It sounds easier than it is, but our opposition does it to Luke Schenn every time he's on the ice.
The penalty kill is a whole other story. Let's look at the power play goal last night by Eric Staal. Who was on the ice? Hagman, Mitchell, White and Exelby. We just have a really weak team. Yes, we could put Kulemin out as a big body to block shots but at the end of the day, neither the Leafs first nor second line PK unit is strong enough to compete. I know it's halfway through the season, but what needs to happen isn't an overhaul of the players, but a mastery of a PK system. If the diamond doesn't work, give small box a shot. If that doesn't work, large box and so on. It can't get any worse can it? I dunno, ask LA a decade ago.
Anyway, Go Leafs G.... oh who am I kidding.