No Surprises from the Flames
The LEAFS lost a tough one last night to the Calgary Flames 4-3. One would expect a Daryl Sutter coached team would show up and try to establish the pace of the game. One would expect a Daryl Sutter coach team would be physical and establish the forecheck in the offensive zone and try to create offence by being first to loose pucks in the offensive zone and forcing puck turnovers. The Flames worked the puck low-high often in the o-zone, set screens and established a strong net presence.
The LEAFS have made significant improvements in their defensive game this season by playing with structure to support the puck better defensively and offensively. The LEAFS defensive zone exit play has improved as the result of bringing five guys back deep in the zone to support puck recovery and exit play. Any time you are getting beat to loose pucks in your defensive zone, struggling to regain puck possession and struggling to make quality passes to exit the zone you know its going to be a tough night. Last night the LEAFS were not as sharp as they usually are in the defensive zone and it cost them the game.
The LEAFS had shown a commitment as a group to play a 200′ game this season. Last night, the group needed to be better in their defensive zone for sure and as a result they gave up four goals. Your goalie has to see pucks on net, you have to box out and defend the net/slot zones between the dots. You have to win races to loose pucks in your defensive zone to regain possession and shut down your opponent’s offensive game and time of possession in your zone.
Below are a few clips that reveal how the FLAMES generated their four goals against a LEAF team that has seldom given up more than 2.5 goals a game against this season.
The LEAFS have demonstrated the ability to improve defensively this season as evidenced by the GA/GP metric. The game last night showed there is room for improvement in the consistency of their defensive game. The LEAFS have to pay attention to details in their execution. In the stretch to the playoffs they will be tested by teams physically and they will have to be a lot better boxing out in the defensive zone (net/slot zones), protecting middle ice, winning races to loose pucks, forcing turnovers and exiting their defensive zone. The LEAFS have a lot of offensively talented players but the key to a playoff run will be whether there’s enough grit and character in the dressing room to get the job done defensively and consistently play a 200′ game. Time will tell.