Bozak, Bernier and the Joys of Rebuilding

Welcome to another round of Leafs Daily. Since we last met, the Leafs were destroyed in Detroit in what was a disappointing return for Mike Babcock and, apparently, a fantastic night of schadenfreude for Mike Commodore.

What you got last night is what you’re going to see a lot this year.  The Leafs “top” pairing on defense consists of Matt Hunwick and Dion Phaneuf, and they’re employing Bozak, Lupul and Spaling for a large chunk of their games, which  means they are going to lose often and badly.

In two games Mike Babock has employed Tyler Bozak as his most used centre. This is a familiar story for the Leafs and the only thing I can think of is that the Leafs are trying to trade him and so are playing him as a “shutdown” centre in order to sell him as such. No other explanation makes sense.

In two games, Kadri has been, overall, the Leafs’ best forward. While the game was still winnable, he had two excellent scoring chances, including a play where Detroit interference went uncalled and a 2:1 didn’t happen, but he instantly recovered to break in alone, toe-drag the puck and almost score a nice goal. Minutes after that only a stick-lift from behind prevented him tying the game.

But after that it was brutal goaltending that sunk the Leafs. They didn’t play as horribly as the score says they did – the Wings scored all their goals on their first 11 shots – but they also didn’t play great. Harrington and Marincin had some definite rookie moments on the back-end and overall, the Leafs played like a team that has a 33 year-old PTO on their top line.

Best Part of the Game:

Morgan Rielly leading the defense with 21 minutes, and Scott Harrington – despite a brutal line change – I love how he jumps into the rush, calls for passes and tries to fire off shots whenever he can.

Worst Part of the Game:

How much time do you have?

  1. Lupul taking a penalty while the Leafs have the puck, after a decent opening minute to the game.
  2. Bernier letting in the first shot of the game for the second straight game.
  3. Bernier’s sub .870 save percentage so far this year (including pre-season).
  4. Babcock employing Bozak more than any other forward.
  5. Those expletive-deleted “fifth season” commercials. They enrage me worse than a Bozak defensive zone start.
  6. How much the broadcasting team talked about Dylan Larkin, which was all night. I get it he’s good, but guess who’s way better? William Nylander.
  7. Babcock switching to a line of Matthias – Kadri – Boyes in the third. On one hand, that’s a line that can probably dominate possession, but on the other, Kadri/JVR seems like the Leafs best option long-term for scoring goals. That being said, I think Van Riemsdyk has been one of the worst players in both games.

In the end, if you want to rebuild, you have got to put up with these games. I hate to harp on moral victories all the time, but the Leafs can at least blame their goalie on this one. Plus, it’s been two games and they faced a full-on Vezina worthy Carey Price and a goalie in Jimmy Howard who earned his shutout.  I think they’re a lot of positives to take from these two games, the main one being that they can easily improve just by getting rid of Bozak and Lupul. Now, that’s easier said that done, but this is the team that moved David Clarkson, so anything is possible.

The Obvious Move:

“Hello Tim Murray, I heard your goalie is gonna be out for a while? Let me tell you about this cat Bernier, not great at Jeopardy, or the start of games, but he’s done OK on a bad team and won’t let Damien Cox into any of your elevators…….”

Ottawa Senator - Erik Karlsson - Photo by Andy Martin Jr
Ottawa Senator – Erik Karlsson – Photo by Andy Martin Jr

Tonight’s Game

The Leafs get right back into it tonight with a game against the Senators. Reimer will start and we get to watch Erik Karlsson, which is one of the best things you can do if you’re a hockey fan. In what might be the opposite of that Roman Polak will make his season debut, as well as Grabner.

The Leafs only have one goal this season and they for sure deserved to have a few more, so hopefully their luck will turn and they’ll score a few tonight.