The Toronto Maple Leafs’ offense disappeared down the stretch and the defense had no answer for the “22-Million Dollar Line” en route to a 5 – 2 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday night. This was a funny game, because the Leafs never really had any business winning, yet carried a lead for 40+ minutes. That said, when Henrik Lundqvist has an average night, he ought to face more than 17 shots.
- The Leafs are 2 – 3 – 0 for the season, with tonight’s performance eerily echoing Thursday’s debacle in Toronto. They jumped to a 2-goal lead through 20, only to surrender 5 consecutive goals to New York. They weren’t as bad as the final score indicated, as Del Zotto’s dagger in the third was something of a fluke. All told though, it was frustrating, deflating final 40 minutes of hockey to watch.
- Two fights erupted early. Mike Brown dropped the gloves with Arron Asham 3:59 into the game. At the start of the next shift Colton Orr filled Mike Rupp in like an application. They were the 46th and 47th fights to have taken place (been staged?) in the Eastern Conference so far this season. While I find that number to be too high, I have to admit that while Orr does few things well, he’s quite the pugilist.
- A resilient Mikhail Grabovski made it 1 – 0 on an amazing backhand deke that has King Henrik still looking for his jock. Grabovski fore-checked hard down the right wing boards, forcing the Rangers D to cough the puck up to Nikolai Kulemin, and then snuck down to the front of the net. Kulemin found a streaking John Michael Liles who fed a wide open Grabovski for the tally. The goal is Grabovski’s third in as many games, and came shortly after he was the victim of a scary-looking hit from Rangers captain Ryan Callahan.
- Hard luck night for James Reimer. He had a confidence-boosting first period that saw him rob Rick Nash on a breakaway. He was lucky and he was good as the Leafs killed four consecutive penalties through 40. Although he let in three goals in the third, two of them with less than 7 minutes remaining, he was not the reason for the Leafs loss. He made 37 saves, many of the spectacular variety, in a losing effort. I think he played himself into the starters’ role tonight.
- Speaking of the penalty kill, it continues to be an asset to the club. Jay McClement, Leo Komarov and Tyler Bozak have brought a dogged confidence to the kill that has been sorely missed in these parts since 2006. Pressure unseen under Ron Wilson is being applied to the opposition points, and it’s causing turnovers and breaking up flow. They blanked the Rangers through 4 chances. It was also great to see van Riemsdyk feature on the PK; his role on the team has increased with each passing game.
- The power play is quickly becoming one of the bigger oddities in this young Leafs season. The chip and chase seems to be a low percentage system to run with the man advantage, and yet the Leafs have tallied at least one goal on the PP in every game. James van Riemsdyk potted his third goal of the season, again sneaking in behind the Rangers defensive coverage in front of the net.
- Rick Nash was hard used tonight. He was rocked by Dion Phaneuf in the first period and Carl Gunnarsson in the second. On that latter play, Nash showed why he belongs on Broadway, hamming it up to draw a penalty. But as has been the case for countless other aspiring actors, there was no call back. He still received his due accolades after tallying 2 assists.
- Clarke MacArthur received a laceration to his pinky finger on a surprisingly harmless-looking play. With Joffrey Lupul already out, the depth on the left wing will be tested. Should MacArthur be gone for an extended period of time, this could become one very long season.
- Phil Kessel had a bad game and his slump continues. Without any goals through 5 games, he appeared to lose sight of his line mates, often trying to go it alone or opting to shoot when there were pass options available. The goals will come, but his absence from the score sheet becomes more notable as the Leafs begin to accumulate multi-goal losses.
- Carlyle used the van Riemsdyk – Grabovski - Kulemin line to shut down the Rangers top unit of Nash, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. That might have been a miscalculation as the trio managed 8 points and looked dangerous most of the night.
The Buds are back at it on Tuesday when they travel to Buffalo to take on the Sabres. Having allowed 12 goals in the past two games, let’s hope the defense shows up too.