The Toronto Maple Leafs entered Monday nights action against the Colorado Avalanche sporting a perfect 3-0 record.
Some sloppy play and opportune scoring from the Avalanche resulted in the Maple Leafs first blemish on their 2011-12 season as the Buds were downed by a final score of 3-2 in overtime.
The loss wasn’t all bad. Phil Kessel continued his excellent start to the season, snapping the puck past former Maple Leafs net minder J.S. Giguere just 19 seconds into the second period for his sixth goal of the season.
Colorado responded with two goals of their own before the end of the second, including a power play marker from Milan Hedjuk off a bad penalty from Tyler Bozak.
The line of Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin were buzzing around Giguere all night, but had trouble lighting the lamp. Kulemin ended his goal scoring drought and his lines struggles when he put one past Giguere at 15:17 of the third period to tie the game a two goals apiece.
Sadly, the Maple Leafs were unable to capitalize on some early overtime pressure, succumbing to the Avalanche at the hands of David Jones who scored his fourth of the season, beating Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer at 01:11 of overtime to give the Avalanche their fifth straight victory on the road.
For the Maple Leafs, the power play continues to be an issue as, having gone 0 for 4 on the night against the Avalanche, are now plodding along at an abysmal 9.5 percent success rate on the power play.
Given the fact the Maple Leafs are 3-0-1 on the season, the power play does not jump off the paper as a huge issue, but when you consider just how poor their power play has been over the past three seasons, their is every reason to show concern.
Off-season acquisition John-Michael Liles (a former Colorado rearguard) was supposed to add an offensive element to the Blue and White’s power play. Thus far, he has struggled to get pucks through to the net and has looked out of sorts—especially on the left side where he was found on a couple of power plays Monday night.
New assistant coaches Scott Gordon and Greg Cronin were supposed to help elevate the Maple Leafs paltry power play—thus far, nothing seems to have changed, it’s still horrible!
Mikhail Grabovski and Joffrey Lupul are the only two Maple Leafs to bulge the twine on the power play thus far. With the likes of Phil Kessel, Nikoali Kulemin, Liles and Dion Phaneuf all playing heavy minutes on the power play, one expects a much better average than 9.5 percent.
Clearly, the lack of games played between the Leafs power play specialists and the early season loss of Tim Connolly and Nazem Kadri—two players that were expected to help bolster the Maple Leafs power play this season—has affected the Maple Leafs numbers on the power play, but 9.5 percent? Come on!
If Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson has been looking for an excuse to put Kadri (who is said to have recovered from his injuries) into the lineup, he ought to look no further than his struggling power play, an area Kadri could help.
As for Connolly, who knows when he’ll be ready to contribute. Surely, a unit of Kessel, Lupul alongside Matthew Lombardi or Tyler Bozak should be able to get the job done, especially when out on the ice with Dion Phaneuf—who leads the Maple Leafs with 18 shots on the season.
The only way to get better on the power play is to practice. If I were Wilson I would forget the wind sprints and concentrate on drawing up a plan for the power play. Simply put, the Maple Leafs have proven over three seasons you cannot win without a decent power play—nobody wants to see a fourth season with the same result.
Until next time,