Weekly scoring statistics
No doubt, the Leafers were awful this week - and that stats prove it. The whole damned team has been laying an egg to wrap up 2009. Despite an excellent game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, they've been underachieving. The theme for the Leafs through the first half of this season has been inconsistency. At times they compete at a level that could keep them in a playoff spot, but more often than not, they just don't stay in the hunt. It's okay to lose a game that you've played hard and tough through, but that's not been the case for most of their losses, where they just weren't good at all.
Top Leafs this week:
1) Ian White gets ranked No. 1 for being awesome, again. A late-period game winner against the defending Stanley Cup champions was great, and he scored the night before that, as well. He always fights tough, always plays hard, and is one of the most reliable players on the team. He should be the captain, if you ask me. I'd follow this guy in the locker room. He has been tied for top scorer on the team this week with 2 goals, was a Plus 3 rating despite the team's horrific defensive play, and fired off 9 shots. He's steady, he's effective, and he's dependable. One of the most valuable players on the team!
2) Jason Blake had a stronger week than most of the rest of the team, too. 2 goals, a plus-2 rating and 11 shots showed his determination to the team. Good for him.
3) No other deserving Maple Leafs which is really disappointing. None of them were very good.
Notable(s) - good: They played a helluva game (though losing in overtime) in Montreal. They played better against Montreal than they did against the Pens. Lee Stempniak had a good game where he scored three points (1G, 2As) and a plus-2. He stunk it up in the other two games of the week, though.
Bad: Boy, the list is long, friends. Vesa Toskala still can't seem to manage a 90% save percentage - he's been tremendously unreliable. As a result, almost the entire team is mired in minus-ratings, indicating their poor performances. Viewers seem to be praising the play of Nik Kulemin. A first round pick who'll score 20 points (not impressive nor praise-worthy), and plays on a third line with a minus-rating (-5, nothing to brag about). What's the big deal, everyone? Who cares about this below-average NHLer? What is he showing you that makes him so terrific?
Yet Kulemin isn't the only confusingly praised Maple Leaf. Tomas Kaberle is having one of the worst seasons of his career, I'm sure. To preface: He usually looks like he's in control of the blueline, operating a great powerplay, with an able shot and wise passing skills.
BUT: He looks like he woke up with a big empty space between his ears to start this season. He's been making garbage plays, and you can see the results (he's our No. 1 defenceman, yet has a -11 rating overall this season?!)
He's only got 20 hits in 41 games. You'd have to think that he's had more than 1 hit in a game a few times this season, meaning for more than half of the games he's played this season, he hasn't even thrown a bodycheck in the 23+ minutes per night that he averages. What's he doing out there?
He's FIFTH among defencemen in blocks, he's SEVENTH in checks (at least 20 checks behind both Garnet Exelby and Jeff Finger who haven't even played HALF of the games that Tom has) and has the worst plus/minus among defencemen on the team. He's only THIRD in takeaways and he's SECOND is missed shots (where's the accuracy?),
So is he being praised for his great offensive skills? He's only THIRD in goals among defencemen. He's THIRD in shots on net and his shooting percentage is below 4!?! Couple that with the 37 shots that he's missed the net with, and his shooting percentage is embarrassingly low.
So, this begs the question: Why does he get all of this ice time? Why does he get so much praise? He's unworthy, and I'm tired of listening to commentators regurgitate the same damned things they've said about him for the last five seasons (when he was ranked among the top 50 players in the league, and named an all-star a few times - he'll be Goddamned lucky to be an all-star this year!)
Where do they stand now?
As of today (January 1) they are last in their division still, now 8 points behind the Canadiens (They've lost ground to the tune of 5 points in one week - awful). Over the past 10 games the Leafs are 4-4-2 (with tough teams in the coming weeks). They've fallen two spots down to 14th place in the Eastern Conference, down two spots. Now they're even third-last in the league, down from where they were last week, too - and having lost to the team in 29th place, they're more likely to fall again before they start to climb.
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Normally I'd provide a brief recap of each of the games this week - but I'm too discouraged at the moment to bother.
Congrats to Jonas Gustavsson for being named to the Swedish Olympic Team.
This week saw two more articles on rookie Maple Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson - first for being named to Sweden's Olympic team - and the other from ESPN's poolie ratings, wondering if Gustavsson will settle into a consistent rhythm with Toronto.
So has "The Monster" turned the corner? Can we expect a 2.00 GAA and .920 save percentage from here on out? I'm not buying just yet, and I've been on the bandwagon since before the season began. Those last four starts came against three teams in the bottom third of the league in scoring, and one team that's barely above that threshold. His three goals allowed to the Canadiens and Sabres are more than those teams are scoring on an average night, and two goals given up to the punchless Islanders should count for more if we're grading on a curve. The Maple Leafs' schedule for the first half of January features matchups against teams who are all in the top half of the league's scoring rankings (aside from one game against the Panthers), so this will be a good test of the Monster's mettle. If he can show some consistency through that gauntlet, he'll be ready to climb up to No. 2 status this season, with a bright future ahead. For now, though, it's best to let him hang out on your bench while he goes through this test.