March 11, 2012
Woeful Leafs go goalless again
By Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency
WASHINGTON - As the Maple Leafs offence suddenly shrivelled up, so have their faint playoff hopes.
Barring a late-season miracle that would catch the entire National Hockey League off-guard, the Washington Capitals jammed yet another dagger deep into Toronto’s post-season aspirations with a 2-0 victory at the Verizon Center on Sunday.
The win left the Leafs eight points behind the eighth-place Capitals in the Eastern Conference standings with just 13 games remaining in their schedule. If the fat lady’s not singing yet, she’s certainly warming up her vocal chords.
Of course, it’s difficult to claw your way back into a playoff race when you haven’t scored a goal in the past 157 minutes, 24 seconds of play.
When coach Randy Carlyle took over from the fired Ron Wilson a week ago Friday, his focus became tightening up the team’s back end, In many regards, he has done just that.
Unfortunately, the Leafs seem to have forgotten how to find the back of the opposing net.
When Carl Gunnarsson scored at 7:36 of the second period against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday to give Toronto a 2-0 lead, no one could have predicted the scoring drought that was about to come.
The Leafs would be held off the scoresheet for the rest of that game, a contest they eventually lost 3-2. On Saturday, they followed that up with a heartbreaking 1-0 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, with Ilya Bryzgalov recording the shutout for Philly.
On Sunday, it was Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth who turned aside Toronto’s pop-gun offence, leaving the Leafs one step closer to a lottery draft pick and a bunch of tee-off times at the local golf courses.
Brooks Laich opened the scoring for Washington at 10:07 of the first, converting a giveaway by rookie Jake Gardiner into a shorthanded goal.
Mathieu Perreault followed that up with a goal in the first minute of the third period, putting the Caps up 2-0. Given the Leafs goal-scoring woes of late, the deficit must have seemed like 10.
In the process, Carlyle seems to be making an obvious statement regarding his feelings toward the Maple Leafs goaltending situation.
At least that’s the way it seems when you look at the fact that he has started Jonas Gustavsson in each of the five games he has been behind the bench.
Entering the game against the Caps, Gustavsson has had his moments, both good and bad. While allowing just nine goals in his four previous outings, his 1-2-1 mark over that span could very well have been much better had he not allowed a third-period softie on Wednesday that proved to be the deciding marker in a 3-2 loss to the Penguins.
Much like the Flyers game, Gustavsson was solid against the Caps but received zero offensive support.
At the same time, what message is being sent to James Reimer, who has yet to step onto the ice for game action since Wilson was axed?
Obviously being nailed to the pines for five consecutive contests was not what Reimer could have envisioned when the coaching change was made.
The Leafs five-game road swing continues with games against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, Ottawa Senators on Saturday and Boston Bruins a week from Monday.