September 20, 2011
Maple Leafs fall to FlyersTop line has kinks to iron out
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Of the myriad plot lines that undoubtedly will unfold during 2011-12 season, few will have as much as impact as those involving goaltender James Reimer and the top line of Tim Connolly between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.
After the pre-season opener for all four, it’s clear a few kinks need to be worked out. That can be expected after just one game, but it would have been nice to see a little more, especially from the three guys who are expected to carry the Leafs offence on most nights.
Reimer couldn’t be faulted entirely as the visiting Philadelphia Flyers built a 3-0 lead in the second period, eventually winning 4-0 before an announced crowd of 18,480 at the Air Canada Centre.
“The onus is on me,” Reimer said. “I have to make four more saves. It is always my goal to be better than the other goalie and (Sergei) Bobrovsky was pretty good. I was not up to the task. It sucks to start out that way, but in the silver lining, it is the pre-season, and now is as good a time as any to get the kinks out.”
In the opening 20 minutes, Reimer was excellent. His best stop was on Wayne Simmonds, who got the puck from Simon Gysbers and treated himself to a breakaway. Reimer got his right pad on Simmonds’ attempt as Gysbers tried to race back into the play.
Reimer, who reported to training camp some 15-20 pounds lighter than he was at the end of last season, also kicked out a shot by Mike Testwuide and thwarted Matt Read after Cody Franson jumped up and got caught out of position.
But the second period couldn’t have been much worse, especially for defenceman Luke Schenn. The ink still wet on his five-year contract, Schenn was rusty. He couldn’t catch up to Zac Rinaldo on the Flyers’ first goal, was in the penalty box for the second and provided a screen in front of Reimer for the third.
One Leafs defenceman who did not struggle was Mike Komisarek. There has been plenty of speculation about Komisarek’s future with the Leafs, but despite the outside worries, he put in a strong effort. Komisarek got bonus points when he tried to stop Tom Sestito, who had 192 penalty minutes in 46 games for Springfield of the AHL last season, from beating on Lupul in the third period. Unfortunately, Komisarek got pulled away, and Sestito got in a few licks before the fight was broken up.
As for the Lupul/Connolly/Kessel trio, not a lot was happening. Kessel had a few good scoring chances, but those did not come because Connolly was feeding him the puck in crucial areas. One of Kessel’s strengths is his ability to carry the puck into the offensive zone and unleash his quick wrist shot, and he had a couple of those opportunities. But Bobrovsky, who made 27 saves, was sharp every time.
“They struggled a bit,” coach Ron Wilson said. “It will take some time for them to get some chemistry. We did not move the puck well out of our own end, so it hindered the forwards.”
Connolly played the point on Leafs power plays, but was not able to generate much. In fact, the best opportunity with a man advantage for Toronto came when Nazem Kadri made a beautiful cross-ice pass to Lupul, who was stopped by Bobrovsky at the edge of the crease.
Said Connolly: “We can be better in all areas. They beat us to a few pucks and had more jump than we did.”
Sports call-in shows on Wednesday in Toronto surely will attract those who thought the signing of Connolly was not going to be the answer for the Leafs.
Fact is, though, there’s plenty of time for Connolly to get to know Kessel and Lupul as linemates. Those calls will have more legitimacy if there’s a obvious lack of chemistry through the first few weeks of the regular season.