No Question: Leafs Stink Right Now

By HOWARD BERGER

CALGARY (Feb. 15) – It is hardly uncommon for a coach to accentuate the positive, even when the negative is overwhelming. As such, we had Ron Wilson extolling his team for directing 42 shots at Miikka Kiprusoff on Tuesday – a 5-1 blasting by the Calgary Flames be damned. To show you how utterly meaningless the shot total is on many nights, consider that the Leafs have out-gunned their opposition 74-52 in the past couple of games, only to be destroyed, 10-1, on the scoreboard. It’s the equivalent of a football quarterback throwing for 400 yards… and three interceptions in the end zone.

Let’s all celebrate, shall we?

Bottom line is, the Leafs are horrible right now. That may change rather quickly because the club was on fire as recently as 10 days ago – capping a 4-0-1 streak with a 5-0 romp over the Senators in Ottawa and a 6-3 home thrashing of Edmonton. A season-high string of four losses has followed that game at the Air Canada Centre and Leafs have simply been out to lunch in their past two games.

On Saturday, Montreal scored four unanswered goals in the second period and blanked the Leafs, 5-0. At the Saddledome here, the visitors appeared to forget they had lost two hours while flying into the Mountain time zone on Monday. The game started just after 7 p.m. locally – 9 p.m. back home. Maybe that’s why Calgary found it so ridiculously easy to generate all the offense it would need in the opening 8:13 of play: Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen capitalizing on total confusion in front of Jonas Gustavsson, who was nothing to write home about between the pipes. 

LEAFS CANNOT FIND THE RIGHT COMBINATION BETWEEN THE PIPES RIGHT NOW. JONAS GUSTAVSSON (ABOVE) WAS ORDINARY HERE IN CALGARY ON TUESDAY AFTER JAMES REIMER IMPLODED AGAINST THE CANADIENS ON THE WEEKEND.

How all of this impacts what Brian Burke is trying to accomplish before the Feb. 27 trade deadline is a mystery. The cold streak has come at an inopportune time, as rival GMs are more than happy to throw an anchor at a sinking team. Less than two weeks ago, reports indicated the Leafs could stand pat at the deadline, given how well they were playing and how that competence was driving up the price of their players. Today, a friendly donation by Burke might be repealed.

Most disconcerting for the Leafs here in Calgary was yielding five goals to the Flames, who had lit the lamp on all of 14 occasions in their previous seven games. Now, Toronto heads to Edmonton for a meeting with a faster, more explosive team – one that surely remembers getting waxed at the ACC last week. Then it’s on to Vancouver, where the Canucks are 16-6-4 at home this season.

We’re going to find out – in short order – what kind of mettle this Toronto team truly possesses.

For now, please enjoy my photo review of Tuesday’s game at the Saddledome:

A GORGEOUS WEATHER-DAY HERE IN CALGARY ENDED WITH A SPECTACULAR SUN-SET (ABOVE) OVER THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS AROUND 5:40 P.M. THE SADDLEDOME (BELOW) BEGAN TO FILL UP ON A CRYSTAL-CLEAR EVENING.

BATHED IN A FLOOD-LIGHT JUST PRIOR TO THE OPENING FACE-OFF, CALGARY GOALIE MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF (ABOVE) WOULD CAST HIS SHADOW ON THE MAPLE LEAFS ALL NIGHT LONG.

REFEREE MARK JOANNETTE DROPS THE PUCK BETWEEN MIKE CAMMALLERI OF THE FLAMES AND TORONTO’S MIKHAIL GRABOVSKI – BOTH FORMER CANADIENS.

IT TOOK NO TIME AT ALL FOR PUCKS TO START ENTERING THE VISITORS’ GOAL (ABOVE), AS ALEX TANGUAY AND OLLI JOKINEN HAD THE FLAMES AHEAD, 2-0, BY THE 8:13 MARK OF THE OPENING PERIOD – CALGARY PLAYERS CELEBRATING JOKINEN’S TALLY, BELOW.

AFTER TURNING IN ARGUABLY HIS WORST PERFORMANCE AS A LEAF ON SATURDAY NIGHT, JAMES REIMER WATCHED FROM THE BENCH (BELOW) HERE IN CALGARY. QUESTION IS, WHO DOES RON WILSON TURN TO IN EDMONTON?

ACTION AT BOTH ENDS OF THE ICE (ABOVE) IN FIRST PERIOD.

NOT SURPRISINGLY, JOFFREY LUPUL WAS AMONG THE FEW VISITING PLAYERS WILLING TO VENTURE INTO THE “DIRTY” AREA AROUND THE OPPOSITION NET ON TUESDAY – FORCING FLAMES DEFENSEMAN JAY BOUWMEESTER (ABOVE AND BELOW) TO KEEP A CLOSE WATCH.

FORMER LEAF MATT STAJAN GRIMMACED (ABOVE) AS HE TOOK A NASTY SPILL INTO THE CORNER BOARDS IN THE OPENING PERIOD. BUT, STAJAN RETURNED TO THE BENCH (BELOW) AND LATER CLASHED WITH DAVID STECKEL ON AN OFFENSIVE-ZONE FACE-OFF.

AS PER USUAL, NUMEROUS FANS ADORNED IN LEAFS GARB SAT AMONG THE CALGARY-CLAD SPECTATORS AT THE SADDLEDOME, THOUGH THE “GO LEAFS GO!” CHANT WASN’T HEARD UNTIL THE FINAL PERIOD.

IT APPEARED THE VISITORS HAD GOTTEN BACK INTO THE GAME WHEN TYLER BOZAK PUNCHED HOME A REBOUND AT 16:42 OF THE FIRST PERIOD (ABOVE), BUT THE LATE SCORE GENERATED NO MOMENTUM AT ALL.

BACK IN THE TORONTO LINE-UP AFTER BEING SCRATCHED FOR SIX CONSECUTIVE GAMES, DEFENSEMAN MIKE KOMISAREK (ABOVE) FIRED THE PUCK INTO CALGARY TERRITORY EARLY IN THE SECOND PERIOD.

ANY HOPE THE LEAFS HAD OF STAYING IN THE GAME ENDED AT 9:15 OF THE MIDDLE PERIOD, WHEN DION PHANEUF HOOKED PAUL BYRON TO THE ICE FROM BEHIND ON A BREAKAWAY. BYRON RESTORED CALGARY’S TWO GOAL MARGIN ON THE ENSUING PENALTY SHOT (ABOVE), FORCING GUSTAVSSON TO REGROUP (BELOW).

DESPITE THE SCREENING EFFORT OF CLARKE MacARTHUR (ABOVE), THE LEAFS POWERPLAY CONTINUED TO STRUGGLE, FLUBBING ON THREE OPPORTUNITIES AGAINST THE FLAMES.

TEAM BENCHES ARE DIRECTLY BELOW THE PRESS BOX HERE IN CALGARY, MAKING FOR AN EXCELLENT PHOTO LOCATION, AS EVIDENCED IN THE ABOVE FOUR IMAGES.

FRESH ICE GREETS THE TEAMS AS REFEREE MIKE HASENFRATZ BEGINS THE THIRD PERIOD BY DROPPING PUCK (ABOVE) BETWEEN TYLER BOZAK AND OLLI JOKINEN.

DIRECTLY ACROSS THE ICE FROM MY PRESS BOX LOCATION WERE THE BROADCAST AND EXECUTIVE BOOTHS. JOE BOWEN CALLS THIRD-PERIOD ACTION (ABOVE-LEFT) ON SPORTSNET ONTARIO, WHILE STANDING NEXT TO HIS CHIEF INFORMANT, JEFF GIRODAT. NEXT DOOR, LEAFS GM BRIAN BURKE WATCHES THE GAME INTENTLY.

LEAFS WERE AROUND THE CALGARY NET – BUT NOT CLOSE ENOUGH – MOST OF THE NIGHT.

FLAMES ERUPT (ABOVE) AT THE FINAL HORN, AS CALGARY FANS CELEBRATE LOP-SIDED RESULT. DISAPPOINTED LEAF PLAYERS LEAVE THE ICE (BELOW) AFTER A FOURTH CONSECUTIVE DEFEAT.

“THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT,” SAY THE FLAMES.

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