Leafs play like sloppy Joes

Amidst carnage all around him, Penguins goaltender Brad Thiessen makes a save against the Maple...

Amidst carnage all around him, Penguins goaltender Brad Thiessen makes a save against the Maple Leafs at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Penn., March 7, 2012. (DAVID DeNOMA/Reuters)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:32 AM ET

TORONTO - The stats sheet said the Maple Leafs gave the puck away four times in their 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But the stats sheet is clearly dubious. A joke, really.

Giveaways have been a major problem for the Leafs all season, and continue to be under new coach Randy Carlyle.

But you know it’s a part of the game that Carlyle, a defensive taskmaster, is going to make Job 1, because sloppy play cost the Leafs at least a point on Tuesday night. The worst was Phil Kessel’s giveaway in the neutral zone in the third period to Brian Strait, which eventually resulted in Pittsburgh going ahead. Shortly after that, Kessel gave one away to Jordan Staal. Another typical Kessel game. A goal and sloppy play defensively.

SHOW THEM. ARE YOU SURE?

A few hours prior to game time, the Leafs announced Joffrey Lupul was out for 3-4 weeks with a separated shoulder, the result of a hit by David Krejci of the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night. Obviously bad news for a team trying to make the playoffs. Colby Armstrong, who broke his nose in a fight with Dennis Seidenberg on the same night, is listed day-to-day. The Leafs had to fill a hole on the roster so they made a call-up, but why did they summon Carter Ashton and not one of the long-serving Marlies? Ashton has a goal and an assist in three games with the Leafs’ farm team since being traded to Toronto from Tampa Bay on Feb. 27, for Keith Aulie, but what happened to the reward system? You’d think the Leafs would have rewarded one of their veteran farm hands with a promotion, given that the Marlies are having such a successful season. Marlies coach Dallas Eakins is seen and heard on that ad exhorting his players to “show them” so they can take that “cab ride” to the “Air Canada Centre.” Basically, ‘play hard and we’ll reward you with a promotion,’ that’s the message in the commercial. But is that the reality the Leafs organization? If you’re a Marlie and you play hard, do you really have a chance to be called up if you’re not a high draft pick, or one of the chosen ones? If you’re a veteran Marlies farmhand and have played well all season, how do you feel about the Ashton promotion? Against the Pens, Ashton played 9:30, delivered and absorbed a few big hits.

BAD KARMA

The fact that Lupul, who was having a career season under Ron Wilson, suffered a separated shoulder just two games into the reign of his former coach, Randy Carlyle — a coach that never utilized him properly in Anaheim — is strange. It’s like there’s some weird karma there between the two.

YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW

Carlyle wants his players to play a defensive game and play tough. That’s great. The Leafs need more of that. But since Carlyle took over on Friday, the Leafs have lost three players to injuries, Mike Brown, Colby Armstrong and Lupul. I guess there’s a downside to playing tough if you don’t really have a big, tough team. The other down side of going tough: Jay Rosehill dressed and played, but didn’t do much, other than take two dumb penalties in the first period.

PROFESSOR CARLYLE IS IN

It seems as though Carlyle is experimenting with his roster, trying to figure out what formula works. Against the Penguins, he dressed Ashton and defenceman Cody Franson, while sitting out Luke Schenn, who made a number of defensive mistakes on Tuesday against the Bruins, and Matthew Lombardi. The Leafs lost Franson to an upper body injury during the game. He was hit in the face by Tim Connolly’s stick.

PRE-GAME RAMBLINGS

The Leafs seem to have lost faith in James Reimer, starting Jonas Gustavsson for the third time in five nights ... Dion Phaneuf does seem lost sometimes out on the ice, but he is a horse ... Prior to the game, Carlyle told TSN that he wanted Phil Kessel to play a little more of a “stop and go” style and less “swinging.”

GAME OBSERVATIONS

The Gord Miller interview with Mario Lemieux during the second period on TSN was great, but why did they have to do it during the game, and not between periods? Distracting. Was it because Mario calls the shots?

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

twitter @beezersun


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