Author Topic: advance to the final round  (Read 16 times)


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advance to the final round
« on: November 09, 2018, 07:28:40 pm »
TORONTO – Phil Kessel plunged his head in his hands like he had so many times in the past. These astounding runs of futility have become all too familiar in Toronto. The only question left to determine in that regard this season is whether another such stretch of failure costs the Maple Leafs a spot in the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 seasons. Its looking with more and more certainty like that will be indeed the case. Its similar, isnt it, said Kessel, seated in his stall with an air of exasperation. Same stuff keeps happening. I dont know what to make of it anymore. Still astoundingly punch-less offensively (and increasingly losing an edge in goal), the Leafs lost for the 13th time in 16 games (3-13-0) Monday night, clocked by the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference. Toronto has been outscored 59-29 during the month-long unraveling, which started, oddly enough, against these same Hurricanes on Dec. 18. These long losing slides are nothing new. In fact, theyve been happening almost annually. In what became the final days of the Ron Wilson era, the Leafs lost 15 of 17 to tumble out of a playoff spot – Randy Carlyle replacing Wilson along the way as the teams head coach. Last year, it was a 2-12-0 collapse after the Olympic break that did them in. And this year, it may well be a destructive spell in which the club has taken six out of a possible 32 points that ends another postseason bid. The front-man of each and every such unraveling, Kessel couldnt explain why they kept happening. He was as mystified as anyone. I dont know, he said hopelessly after 4-1 loss to Carolina, its been like this for a couple years now, hasnt it? I have no idea. We go through great stretches and then we have these horrendous stretches. Its very frustrating. Truth is, the Leafs are a team that has the power to score at will (at least until recently) but also one that lacks any kind of defensive prowess whatsoever. All of which leads to stunning highs – when the goals come in bunches and the goaltendings great – and dramatically deep lows – when those goals dry up and the goaltending finally crumbles. Momentums a killer, said Nazem Kadri, who became the first Leaf forward to score in more than a week. Once you get on a slide, it seems like other teams are more eager to keep you on that slide. A middle of the road team at full strength, Toronto also hasnt been able to survive injuries to three of its top-nine forwards – Joffrey Lupul, Peter Holland and of late, Leo Komarov all sidelined with injuries – especially when the teams top offensive players and previously potent power play go shockingly cold. Its been an astounding stretch of nothingness in the goal department for a club that all too recently led the entire league in scoring. Their best player and leading scorer, Kessel, hasnt scored in an even-strength situation in more than a month (more on that below). These Leafs nearly became the first team in franchise history to be shut out four times in five games, that place in history avoided when Kadri snapped a personal eight-game slide with a late third period goal. Again getting some great chances, running into some hot goalies, having trouble scoring, he said afterward. With the playoffs looking more like a lost dream again – the Leafs occupy the fourth wild card spot, seven points back of Boston – the focus in Toronto again turns to the roster. With the coach already dismissed, the time will come soon for Brendan Shanahan and the Leafs front office to determine what to do with a flawed roster and when to do it. The trade deadline sits six weeks away on March 2nd. I think weve underperformed, said Dion Phaneuf, noting how familiar the questions and his answers all seemed. But that doesnt change my stance on me believing in our group. We have underperformed. And were at where were at right now and theres no one thats going to get us out of it but us. Five Points 1. No Offence The list of players who have more even-strength goals than Phil Kessel during this 16-game stretch of futility include Roman Polak, Trevor Smith, David Clarkson and Dion Phaneuf. Kessel hasnt scored a goal at even-strength since Dec. 16 when the Leafs scored six to beat the Ducks in the final game of a 10-1-1 run. Offensive Woes Since Dec. 18 Player Even-Strength Goals Nazem Kadri 2 Joffrey Lupul 2 James van Riemsdyk 2 Daniel Winnik 2 Mike Santorelli 2 Roman Polak 2 Seven Other Players 1 Phil Kessel 0 2. Berniers Dip Lost in those offensive woes has been the lingering dip of Jonathan Bernier, who was pulled after the Hurricanes third goal on Monday night. Bernier, who becomes a restricted free agent this summer, is sporting a mediocre .891 save percentage in his last 10 starts. Berniers Woes Month Save Percentage October .917 November .917 December .925 January .877 3. Run-and-Gun? Peter Horachek said he had no intention of letting his team return to the flawed ways of its all too recent past. The days of running and gunning, from his perspective, are over. No, I dont think any of the top teams, any of the good teams in the league play that way, said Horachek, his voice lacking its usual punch. If you want to start something, if you want to get a mindset of playing a certain way, you have to play hard defence and attack the net in the other end. When you play defence, it doesnt mean you dont play offence. Offence is right there. Nothing changes with the offence, its just that youre competing harder in other areas and youre playing a certain way. Horachek felt his team was cheating for offence early against Carolina, leading to some glorious opportunities for the visitors and a pair of goals in a flat first frame. The Leafs have lost six of seven games under his direction, scoring just seven goals total in that span – five coming in the lone win over Columbus. 4. No Value Added David Clarksons second season as a Leaf has been slightly better than the first, but not by much and not anywhere near enough to justify the enormous contract Toronto handed him in the summer of 2013 – which has five more years left. Clarkson has just one goal now in the past 21 games, one power play point all season, a non-factor most nights in about 14 minutes of ice-time. Horachek said hes had plenty of talks with the 29-year-old and wants him to get back being a driving physical player thats going to get to the front of the net. When he scored his goals in New Jersey, he scored them by being around that net, said Horachek. He needs to start using that and get back to a simplified game, continue to be physical and not get himself off from a different type of player than he is. Clarkson fought for the second time this season against the Hurricanes, battling Brad Malone. He played less than 12 minutes. 5. Lighter Load Late in the 2014 calendar, the Leafs made a subtle adjustment to their defence. They eased the minutes of the struggling Jake Gardiner, bumping him out of their top-four and into lighter duties on a third pairing – either with Korbinian Holzer or Stephane Robidas. The tweak has been fortuitous for the 24-year-old, who holds a strong 54 per cent possession mark since the change was made at the end of December (entering Mondays game). I feel pretty confident, said Gardiner. I think Im making plays and playing pretty solid. My stats arent really showing it, but yeah I feel better. Gardiner owned a 45 per cent possession prior to the switch – Morgan Rielly moved up in the lineup in his place – struggling against the second lines he and Roman Polak were tasked with facing. With easier matchups and less ice-time – under 19 minutes per game in January – Gardiner is moving in an upward direction after a poor first half of the season. Im just trying to make more confident plays, he said. Stats Pack 11 – Goals for the Leafs in the past nine games. 3-13-0 – Leafs record in the past 16 games. 3-25 – Leafs power play in the past seven games. 27 – Number of Leaf games decided by three goals or more, most in the league. 0 – Even-strength goals for Phil Kessel in the past month. Special Teams Capsule PP: 1-4 Season: 19.4% (13th) PK: 3-3 Season: 82.9% (11th) Quote of the Night I dont how that happens, what security or the ushers are doing. It seems like were giving the guy an extra couple minutes to flip everybody off and to mock our real fans. I dont know how that guys not taken by his shirt and dragged out of there, but what do I know? - Nazem Kadri, letting his frustrations speak on the subject of jerseys again being tossed on the ice by a handful of fans Wednesday night. Up Next The Leafs play in Ottawa Wednesday in their final game before the All-Star break. Tashaun Gipson Jersey .Carla Fontes hadnt cut her hair since intermediate school, but her coach at Waiakea High School, Stan Haraguchi, thought the locks flowing below her waist were interfering with the sport. Myles Jack Jersey . Still, its a start. Josh Baileys goal with 1:40 left capped a furious third-period rally, and the Islanders edged the Penguins 4-3 on Friday night. - World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and four-time Australian Open titlist Roger Federer were among Mondays fourth-round winners at Melbourne Park. T.J. Yeldon Jersey . - A mixed martial arts fighter who changed his name to War Machine was ordered Friday to stand trial in Nevada state court on 34 felony charges including attempted murder, sexual assault and kidnapping that could get him life in prison for allegedly attacking his porn star ex-girlfriend and her friend. Tyler Shatley Jersey . "I just think what it does for everybody in life is real simple," said Babcock early on Friday afternoon. "You dont give in. You just keep on keeping on. Is it going to go your way every time? No. But you choose your attitude and how you perform and how hard you dig in." Nearly four years to the day of the 2010 gold medal match in Vancouver, his team dug in with its best effort of these Olympics, snuffing out the high-powered Americans for another opportunity at gold.PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - Lee Janzen shot a 4-under 68 on Friday at Pebble Beach for a two-stroke lead over Andrew Putnam after two rounds of the Callaway Pebble Beach Invitational.Janzen, a two-time U.S. Open winner, is at 11-under 133.Putnam, a PGA Tour rookie, followed his 69 at Spyglass Hill with a 66, also at Pebble Beach.I am surprised and its a pleasant surprise that there arent guys ahead of me, said Janzen, who turned 50 in August and tied for sixth in late September at the First Tee Open, also at Pebble Beach.Janzen, whose last significant victory was the 1998 U.S. Open, hit every green in his opening round at Spyglass Hill and is bogey-free through 36 holes.I feel like Ive left some opportunities out there, he said. But playing from up tees, I get to miss the bunkers and other trouble I usually get into here.dddddddddddduke Guthrie of the PGA Tour is alone in third at 7 under after a 68 at Del Monte.Tony Finau, a PGA Tour rookie who had a two-shot lead after an opening-round 63, had a 79 at Spyglass and is among seven players at 2 under.Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam carded a 79 at Spyglass. She is at 152.Mini Harigae, who had a 67 at Pebble Beach, is 1 under for the tournament. She is the low scorer among nine women pros.The 43rd tournament features 82 players from the four major tours as well as mini tour and club pros. Champions Tour players and women are given tee-shot distance advantages.The top 40 pro scores and ties will advance to the final round Sunday at Pebble Beach. The winner will earn $60,000 of the $300,000 purse. 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