to the defending Stanley Cup champions is a heck of a lot easier to deal with when you drop to 6-3-0
compared to, say, 3-6-0.
But it should be a wake-up call, nevertheless.
As has been reported time and time again, the Toronto Maple Leafs got off to a wonderful start to the 2013-14 season going 6-1-0 in their first seven games. But there were leaks in the boat and now it is taking on water.
The Chicago Blackhawks toyed with the Maple Leafs Saturday night and there was nobody in the blue and white willing to stand up and at least try to make a difference. The exception may have been goalie Jonathan Bernier, but even he wasn't able to pull a rabbit out of his hat.
Certainly none of the skaters -- not Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul or captain Dion Phaneuf -- did anything out of the ordinary that might inspire their teammates.
The Leafs floated and have now lost two in a row. Not exactly trending well.
Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle seems to be losing his patience with his team.
"You try to remain positive and it's early in the season," Carlyle said. "You have to try to find something to build on and right now we're not finding enough positives to build something and that's what is disappointing. We'll try to review, reset and revisit and focus on the process.
"Tonight our process wasn't one of the strengths that we believe we can go in and out-work hockey clubs and I don't think we out-worked the Chicago Blackhawks tonight."
Can you be a little more specific, Randy?
"We didn't sustain a fore-check, particularly in the second period," Carlyle said. "They were just flying out of their zone making either a goaltender-to-D pass and bumping it to the middle or making a D-to-D pass and bumping it to the middle. For whatever reason we weren't able to shut that down. They scored two goals in the second and that was the hockey game."
Toronto centre David Bolland got a hero's welcome from Blackhawks fans upon his return
to the Windy City. The 27-year-old Mimico, Ont., native took the ceremonial faceoff before the game to a rousing ovation
. No surprise really since he spent the past six years playing for Chicago, helping the Blackhawks win two Stanley Cups.
The Blackhawks also paid tribute to Bolland for his much-appreciated efforts during a stoppage in play with a video montage of some of his greatest moments in a Chicago uniform.
He made it clear Friday he still has friends in Chicago, but it would be all business during the game.
"Going back to Chicago is a big one," Bolland said. "Being with them for two championships and going back to the stadium will be nice. As a group we would battle hard at practice in the corners. I'm not going to run them from behind, but it'll be a hard-fought game and you're enemies on the ice, but off the ice you are friends."
Calling on Clarkson
One more game. David Clarkson is going squirrelly waiting for his 10-game suspension
to conclude. He has now served nine and will be eligible to join the Leafs for their road game in Columbus next Friday following Tuesday's home game against Anaheim. And Toronto can use his spirit and leadership.
While nobody can deny Toronto has gotten off to a great start to the 2013-14 season -- record-wise -- it is clear there is plenty of work to be done before the Maple Leafs can be considered a legitimate threat to go deep into the playoffs... if they make it, of course.
The Maple Leafs are regularly out-shot, turn the puck over at a shocking rate and have been saved by solid goaltending. The first period of Saturday's game in Chicago was a prime example with the Leafs being out-shot 9-3 and with nobody setting the tone on the road. A sparkplug like Clarkson could inject some much-needed energy into the lineup, especially early in the game.
James Reimer wasn't able to handle a catchable shot Thursday against Carolina and after diving for an otherwise unnecessary rebound, was struck on the head
by teammate Josh Leivo and had to leave the contest after just 32 seconds. Catch the puck and there's no injury.
Against Chicago Saturday Bernier mishandled a similar catchable shot and within seconds the Blackhawks converted his muff into the game's opening goal.
RIP Allan Stanley
Former Maple Leafs defenceman Allan Stanley passed away Saturday at the age of 87. Born in Timmins, Ont., in 1926, Stanley played 21 seasons in the NHL with the New York Rangers, Chicago, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto; winning four Stanley Cups.
In 1,244 games, Stanley had 100 goals and 433 points with 792 penalty minutes. He played 10 seasons with the Maple Leafs.
Psst! Remember me?
Former Toronto defenceman Michael Kostka scored his first NHL goal
against his former team. Kostka played 35 games with the Maple Leafs last season drawing eight assists with 27 penalty minutes. He signed with Chicago as a free agent this past summer.
JVR returns... sort of
James van Riemsdyk was back in the lineup for Toronto after missing two games with back spasms, however, he was barely noticeable. He took 30 shifts and played 20:39 with two shots on goal, but did not have the kind of positive affect on his team that he did in the first six games when he had five goals and six points.
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