The Leafs penalty kill is absolutely awful. It also lost them the game tonight. There would be a simple solution to this. STOP TAKING BAD PENALTIES!
The Leafs were in control of the game. It was a good back and forth game where the Leafs scored first until the penalties started. The worst being Philippe Dupuis taking a careless high sticking penalty to put the Leafs down 5 on 3 and Dion Phaneuf's boarding 5 min major + game misconduct penalty. Needless to say Buffalo scored 3 times on the PP. The Leafs took four minor penalties and one major penalty the Sabres only took two minor penalties. Granted as usual, the refs could have called some on the Sabres, including a cross-check to the back of Phil Kessel which led to a breakaway for Vanek to score what would be the game winning goal.
It was nice to see a ton of hustle from the top forwards on this team. Kessel was a rocket all game long. Bozak started off really well, slightly dozed off a bit as the game went on but overall played very well. Lupul also played well as he usually does. He plays with a good combination of skill, speed, and grit.
Kulemin finally scored. A nice goal on the penalty shot that gave the Leafs a fighting chance in a game that just seemed to constantly pull away from them despite how hard they played.
Let's get back to Philippe Dupuis. This is a fourth line hockey player who plays with little desire, let's himself get thrown around on the ice and is pretty much on the team to kill penalties... But wait, the Leafs have by far the worst penalty kill in the league... He must be doing something right... right? NO! He's not doing anything right, and he took another horrible penalty tonight which kick started the Sabres to their victory. He doesn't have a single point on the season, he's a -2 and has taken 16 minutes in penalties in 28 games. He averages just over 10 minutes of ice time a game. How does a player who only plays 10 minutes a game take this many horrible penalties... It's not like he saved a goal tonight with his penalty, he high sticked a player in the slot who didn't even have the puck! Time for some accountability. I can't imagine how he can stay in the line up for tomorrows game. I cringe every time I see a roster spot wasted on a player who's lacking the desire to play the game. It's okay if you're struggling, but show that you give a damn about the game and more importantly the team! This is simply frustrating... Where's Boyce? Equally as good in the defensive aspect of the game and plays all the heart in the world!
And as for the Leafs spending time working on the penalty kill... that's laughable... What's the plan coach? Cause we're chasing people behind the net while they pass it through the crease for an easy tap in goals... It seems like this has happened at least once a game over the last few games... PICK IT UP! You're national hockey league players. There must be some sort of structure in a competent PK.
In summary, the Leafs managed 4 goals against one of, if not, the best goaltender in the entire NHL and still lost the game. It must be demoralizing to give until there's nothing left in the tank and come up short because of stupid penalties and a horrible penalty kill. This loss also puts the Leafs in the sludge trying to hold a playoff spot amongst 5 or 6 other teams only one or two more wins away.
The Leafs have two MUST WIN games coming up against Vancouver tomorrow and Los Angeles on Monday. If we win these two games we can go back and forget about tonight's debacle. Go Leafs Go.