TORONTO - The love affair, if you could call it that, between Leafs fans and their new captain, Dion Phaneuf, is being put to the test.
Another rough game at home got the boo-birds out as Phaneuf’s sloppy giveaway led to a breakaway and then a penalty shot goal to give the New York Rangers a 2-0 lead late in the second period.
With an offence that hadn’t scored in five periods up to that point and all-star Henrik Lundqvist in the Rangers net, it was an insurmountable lead.
Worst part about the giveaway was that the Leafs had 18 shots in the second and dominated in terms of in puck possession yet had nothing to show for it.
“We attempted 92 shots,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “We had the puck most of the night, then they manufacture little offence out of nothing.”
As for Phaneuf, he needs to be more reliable defensively soon, but probably deserves a little more respect just 10 games into his captaincy.
The Rangers managed an incredible 35 blocked shots (to just six by the Leafs) as the Blueshirt D-men clogged up the front of the net and gave Lundqvist great looks all night ... The Leafs may have outshot the Rangers 36-24, but like two nights earlier in Boston, too many of those shots came from the perimeter. “It’s hard to score from the side,” said Lundqvist, who shut out the Leafs for the first time in his career ... Is there a goalie in the league that moves post-to-post better than the Rangers Swedish star? ... Hockey Night In Canada’s Don Cherry said the Leafs are making it too easy for opposing goalies. “Absolutely nothing shots,” Cherry said of the Leafs tendency to shoot from far out and towards the middle of the net. “It’s stupid.” ... Wilson on the reason opponents are blocking too many attempts: “We’re just putting our head down and shooting.”
Where’s the Offence?
With no goals in more than 122 minutes, it’s getting desperate for the Leafs offence isn’t it? Both the Bruins and the Rangers shut down Phil Kessel, which will quickly be the opposition’s strategy unless someone else breaks through and provides some backup offence. It happened last season as well ... Both Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski (who has yet to score this season) didn’t even get a shot on net on Saturday. “In a game like this, imagine Phil doesn’t get a shot on goal,” Wilson said. No imagination necessary ... Kessel did use his speed a couple of times for pretty setups to lineup Tyler Bozak who couldn’t bury it. “We’re not worried,” said Bozak, who has just one goal. “We’re confident in here.” ... Not that they had to, but the Rangers didn’t exactly light it up offensively either. “They played a smart road game and tried to help out their goalie as much as possible,” said Leafs netminder J-S Giguere.
With the Leafs going 0-for-3 on the power play, that put the unit at a miserable one for their previous 22 attempts ... Rough night for Phaneuf who was caught deep in the Rangers zone at the end of a Leafs power play (one of four Toronto players in the area) allowing Brian Boyle to get loose for a breakaway goal as the Rangers’ Brandon Prust was exiting the box ... Boyle must love playing the Leafs: He has scored three times against them this season to match a career-high four goals ... Sure the Leafs only blocked six shots but that’s because the weary Rangers (third games in four nights) weren’t getting many ... Still, looks like too many Leafs forwards are getting caught with long shifts which had to be a help to the tired Rangers.
Ryan Callahan’s successful penalty shot was the first for a Ranger on a Leaf since Bob Nevin beat Terry Sawchuk in November, 1966 ... Callahan was awarded the penalty shot after Kessel hauled him down, but the play started after Phaneuf’s terrible giveaway at potentially the worst point in the game ... With the lack of offence, why would the Leafs call up Christian Hanson and Luca Caputi from the Marlies ahead of rookie Nazem Kadri? For starters, Kadri has had only a few strong games in the AHL and the team needs more muscle and size up the middle right now. For now anyway, Kadri can get knocked off the puck a little too easily ... Caputi had a decent couple of games in that regard but the Leafs need much more of it if they are going to get the garbage goals any team needs. “We have to work a lot at digging in around the opposition’s goals and winning some of the battles,” Wilson said ... This from HNIC’s Glenn Healy: “Last Rangers goalie to shut out the Leafs? Me.” ... In four of their past six games, the Leafs have now been held to one goal or less and have scored just six