March 17, 2011
Don't blame Giguere for loss
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
Go ahead and blame the coach’s decision to go with the goalie who hadn’t started a game since Feb. 16. It’s the easy explanation for the Leafs killer 4-0 loss to the Florida Panthers, after all.
It would also be the wrong one. J-S Giguere was not a game-changer as the St. Paddy’s Day hangover hit far too early for a Leafs team that had looked so good the previous night in Carolina.
Far from it, really. He was weak on the third goal as his leg drifted off the post and at times looked like a goalie who, well, hadn’t got the call in a month.
So why start him? That debate will rage through the day Friday but this game was about far more than that, starting with a team that put forth such an indifferent effort at a point in the season when there’s no longer room for it.
No better (worse?) place to start than the Toronto “power” play, so awful for so much of the season but rarely worse than Thursday.
Five times they had the extra man and had just four shots on net. Four. And on the final power-play, it was a two-man advantage with Giguere pulled for the extra attacker with more than five minutes remaining.
This was not the Flyers or the Lightning, decent teams that knocked off the Leafs in the past 10 days. This was the Panthers, a team that packed it in at the trade deadline.
Yes that was the ninth game that the opposition has scored first. Hard to keep that up and remain in a playoff race ... The Panthers scored two of their goals on power plays as struggles on the Leafs penalty kill continued ... In just his second game as a Leaf, defenceman Matt Lashoff set up Mikhail Grabovski for a breakaway in the second, one of Toronto’s best scoring chances of the game. Problem was it didn’t come until four minutes left in the second ... Giguere was badly screened on the Panthers’ second goal, so he might get a pass on that one. But it only served to highlight how weak the Leafs were at the other end. All night they had zero presence in the Florida zone and were reluctant to go anywhere near the net ... Not completely buying the notion that the Leafs ran out of gas. Were they tired on the back end of back-to-backs? Sure. But with the season basically in the balance, the effort was unacceptable.
End of the road?
He is one of the class guys on the team and has had a great career, but you have to wonder how much Giguere has left ... Keith (Muhammad) Aulie pummelled Panthers centre Ryan Carter for an easy decision in a second-period scrap, quite a stand for the 21-year-old rookie. The downside is there was no need for it given all Carter did was level Grabovski with a clean check in the open ice. We’re guessing the Panthers didn’t mind the exchange of having Carter and Aulie off the ice for five minutes ... Does any team give up more shorthanded chances than the Leafs? ... As suspect as Giguere was on Thursday has everyone forgotten how James Reimer struggled on Monday against Tampa?
The Leafs had their first exposure to the NHL’s new concussion “protocol” however vague it may be when Darryl Boyce was clocked by Carter in the first period. Boyce did Leaf the bench area but was gone for seven minutes or so before returning.