What they’re saying about the slumping (collapsing?) Leafs, Part 2

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When it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs, there’s never a shortage of hockey opinions, even in the most tedious of times. Well, these are not tedious times in T.O., as the Leafs have dropped six straight and are verging on yet another epic collapse.

The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle thinks the team’s problems with puck possession, as evidenced by its 29th-ranked Corsi rating, is an issue that needs addressing by both coach Randy Carlyle and general manager Dave Nonis:

Why the coaching staff hasn’t been able to correct this issue should create some very tough questions around both Carlyle and those above him that continue to come up with excuses for the team’s lack of success, whether the Leafs somehow find a way to squeak into the postseason or not.

The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons had this scathing indictment of the Leafs’ performance last night at home to St. Louis:

Once again, they came out nervous and out-worked in the first period. They may have won a puck battle against the impressive St. Louis Blues Tuesday night but I can’t remember it. They didn’t accept or take on the challenge of playing a great team. They had no fight — and, no, I’m not talking about the punching kind.

They were out-worked, out-thought, out-positioned, out-coached and out-structured by a Stanley Cup contender.

If they ever did, the Leafs no longer look like a playoff team.

The National Post’s Bruce Arthur describes the scene inside the ACC, as well as what’s ahead:

By the end of the second period the fans were chanting “Let’s go Blue Jays!” on a day the Jays lost a spring training game 22-5. The Leafs had brought back goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who was not believed to be 100% healed from his groin injury. Desperate times. But he ran out of miracles early, and miracles were required. More will be required now.

And finally, the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox comes to the rescue of coach Carlyle:

Perspective is always helpful. Six of seven Canadian NHL teams look likely to miss the playoffs this season, or would if the playoffs began today.

Of those six, five are worse than the Leafs. So should all those teams fire their coaches as well? Paul MacLean? Bob Hartley? Dallas Eakins? John Tortorella?

We’d note that Tortorella may well be fired after the season, even though he’s still in his first year of a reported five-year contract; Eakins has been a major disappointment and probably would be fired, if he weren’t in his first year; Hartley has gotten more out of his team than anyone expected; and MacLean is the reigning coach of the year, so he gets some leeway.

Otherwise, all apt comparisons.

Related: What they’re saying about the slumping (collapsing?) Leafs

PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin will be rocking incredible custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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–With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, we’re starting to get a better idea of who will be in and out of the playoffs. With that being said, The Hockey News put together a list of five players that could benefit from playing on another team. Devils goalie Cory Schneider is at the top of the list. Schneider’s been solid since joining New Jersey, but the team hasn’t had much success. (The Hockey News)

Erik Karlsson has always been known as an offensive defenseman, but this year, he’s made several defensive improvements to his game. The changes have made him so effective that his head coach, Guy Boucher, believes he should be in the running for a Hart Trophy. (Canadian Press)

–The Washington Capitals will be hosting a Russian Heritage Night tonight. During the pre-game warmup, Alex Ovechkin will be rocking these custom skates honoring his home land and his American home. He’ll be auctioning off the skates too. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

–The New York Islanders trailed the Rangers 2-1 heading into the third period, but thanks to goals by Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd, they were able to come out on top. You can watch the highlights from last night’s “Battle of New York” by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Vegas GM George McPhee chatted with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe about being able to build a team from scratch. McPhee called the experience “fantastic” and “really neat”. He also discussed his vision for the team and how he’s approaching the expansion draft. (Sportsnet)

–The Detroit Red Wings have been a model franchise for quite some time, but they’ve on the verge of going through some pretty big changes. First, Joe Louis Arena will be closing its doors and secondly, their long playoff streak will be coming to an end this season. Sports Illustrated takes a deeper look at the old barn and the third-longest playoff streak in pro sports. (Sports Illustrated)

–Many people feel like the Calder Trophy race will come down to Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but Bob McKenzie says there’s more than two worthy candidates because Zach Werenski has been equally good this season. But who is McKenzie leaning toward?

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.