Simply outclassed by the league’s premier team, the Leafs fell to 6-3-0 after a 3-1 loss in Chicago.
1 - It started off not so bad for the Leafs. It was a well played opening 20 minutes by both teams, without many mistakes. The Leafs were moving the puck a little better coming out of their zone than in recent games, but this didn’t last much longer than the first.
2 - The Leafs came out looking dreadful to start the 2nd, puck chasing for the majority of the first seven minutes of the period. After all of Bozak, Kessel and JvR got caught up ice after a brief foray into the offensive zone, Toronto fell behind 1-0. The Leafs deserved to concede one, probably, but the actual goal was avoidable. Bernier bobbled a routine catch (something I was led to believe only Reimer ever does), and spilled the rebound into the slot. Bickell picked the puck up and patiently walked around Bernier, who had come a few feet out to try to poke at the loose puck.
3 - The Lupul-Kadri connection erased the 1-0 deficit shortly thereafter. After a penalty draw by Kadri, Nazem gained the zone and rang the boards, where Lupul picked up the puck to the right of the net. Lupul found Kadri as he slipped between coverage in front of the net. Kadri did a great job of going to the net and finding a seam with his stick firmly on the ice.
4 - The game returned to even strength and the Hawks continued to dominate possession. The Leafs couldn’t pick up a loose puck a couple of times in the defensive zone, before the Hawks worked it back to the points. Kostka was afforded a wide berth on the point by David Broll, but this is another one I would argue Bernier should have had. There was some traffic, but he had a pretty good look and it simply went through him. The points are often open in the Leafs defensive zone coverage scheme and they rely on their goaltender being able to make those stops.
Of course Mike Kostka waits until he’s not on the Leafs to score his first career goal against the Leafs, by the way.
5 - Leafs played right into the Hawks’ supreme transition game all period with really poor puck management and a nonexistent forecheck. The Leafs could not sustain any sort of offensive zone time in this period when they did manage to venture outside of their own zone, and were unable to disrupt the Hawks’ high tempo generated from easy breakouts. The Leafs were outplayed in all three zones in the second period and out shot 20 to 6. On a late period penalty, with needed penalty killer Dion Phaneuf in the box, Paul Ranger and Jake Gardiner made a mess of their coverage in front of the net leading to a Brandon Pirri PP goal, as the Hawks took a 3-1 lead to finish up the period.
6 - The Leafs’ only way back into this game in the third period was to capitalize on a powerplay. A borderline call that canceled out at 4-1 Hawks goal gave them their first opportunity. The PP was stagnant and dysfunctional. A second call, a hooking penalty after a great net drive by Nazem Kadri, produced a 2nd opportunity. The result was no better as the Leafs could not break down the box of penalty killers with their puck movement.
7 - The opportunistic scoring hasn’t been there the past few games to get the Leafs by. Maybe by some serious stroke of luck this could have been a game the Leafs could have stole with stops on the Kostka and Bickell goals, but the goal support wasn’t there, and it’s not something you can ask of a goaltender night in, night out.
The Leafs were outshot 40-20, for those wondering about the final damage.
8 - The Leafs are certainly not the only team to get outpossessed in a game against the Blackhawks, but they’re not even playing “their game,” as we knew it last season, effectively right now. The intensity level wasn’t there, and I saw next to zero good forechecks by the Leafs tonight, which were needed to slow the Hawks down and disrupt their tempo. Naz has been the Leafs’ most physical forward the last few games, which is good on Naz, but also pretty concerning. Fortunately, help is on the way.
9 - The top line was one big struggle tonight. Kessel was really forcing things, turning the puck over repeatedly. JvR was fighting the puck throughout. Bozak may not have been playing tonight, I can’t say for sure. I do see in the box score that he was a sterling 36% on the dot. Kadri and Lupul is all the Leafs really had going up front in this one.
10 - Back to the drawing board for Carlyle, as the Leafs have been handed a two-game wake up call. This loss in particular was humbling, but an acknowledgement also goes to the quality of the opponent the Leafs were up against tonight. Back to Reimer for Tuesday against Anaheim.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Chicago Blackhawks Boxscore
|James van Riemsdyk||0||0||20:39||-1||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|