The Toronto Maple Leafs, eh guys?
Never a dull moment.
This game was firmly in Toronto’s control at 2-0 when they took to the powerplay with fifteen minutes to go, only for the Leafs to blow their 20th third-period lead of the season in spectacular fashion – two shorthanded goals against on the same powerplay for the second time in under a week. That’s not even the result of being unable to defend a lead (though they certainly struggle with that as well), that’s just plain bizarre. It’s utter nonsense.
I’d take my chance to rail against the defence pairings again because the Leafs don’t split Franson and Phaneuf up and pair them off with a puck rusher/mover each in Rielly and Gardiner, but PP2 with Gardiner and Rielly pulled off the same feat last Thursday against the Islanders. I will say Franson and Phaneuf do not have the same ability to recover with their feet after a giveaway as a Rielly or Gardiner do if a turnover happens at the offensive blueline. It’s not like we saw no warning signs about how many shorthanded opportunities that pairing was giving up before the Break.
In any event, the first goal was an outrageously dumb backhand pass attempt as last-man back by Cody Franson inside his own blueline, seemingly trying to go through Brian Boyle’s legs. It should’ve been nothing, but a crazy bounce off of Phaneuf’s leg directed a shot that was sent a good 10 feet wide into the net. Just a minute later, a Kessel turnover high in the zone sent Phaneuf reeling on a 2 on 1 and Dominic Moore (of course) tied it up at 2s. Unbelievable.
Thankfully, Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak came to the rescue in OT. Kessel had played one of his weaker games I’ve seen him play in months. He had a few sparkling moments, of course, but he turned the puck over about four times in high-danger areas, including the turnover that led to the second shorthanded goal against. In OT, it was his rush and pass out from behind the net that saved the day, with Bozak johnny on the spot with a good finish, his second goal of the game. Can’t hold The Phil down. Not even for a game.
- It was an okay first period from the Leafs, with 11 shots generated, but too many were shots for the sake of shots. Lundqvist had a clean view on almost all of them, although Mason Raymond seemed to have him beat short side and hit the crossbar. Traffic is a must on Lundqvist and he didn’t deal with enough of it, with the other consequence of the Leafs failing to generate any second opportunities by not going in the dirty areas. Good saves by Bernier on three separate occasions in the first kept this game tied; the first on a Marty St. Louis one timer, then on a jam play in front after Brian Boyle was left alone, and another on a scramble after Franson threw a pizza into the slot.
. Tyler Bozak’s goal came after a mad scramble in the Leaf end as a penalty kill expired a minute and a half into the 2nd period; JvR’s delicate hands sent a beautiful saucer pass to Bozak for breakaway, where he was hooked and earned a penalty shot. Bozak was patient and waited just long enough for Lundqvist to open up ever so slightly and fit the puck through a barely-open five hole (that was a dirty-sounding sentence). It’s a shame they don’t give out assists for penalty shot goals based on the original play because JVR sure deserved one there.
- The Leafs only generated five shots in the second period according to the shot clock, but generated far better chances than in period 1. Notable among them was a near-goal for Jake Gardiner, who is overdue (no goals or points in the last 12 games). Gardiner hit the handle of Lundqvist’s stick and then both posts off a rocket of a shot. Lupul also got robbed after a nice move in tight.
- Lupul’s chance came after Kulemin put a puck on net low and hard for a rebound. Kulemin’s ability to retrieve pucks, his desire to play on the inside in the offensive zone and his willingness to simply direct pucks on net are much-needed elements that help keep Lupul and Kadri from spending entire games on the perimeter. He should never leave this line again.
- The Leafs’ 2nd goal in the third period came off more Kuli-goodness. Kulemin was dogged on the forecheck and forced a turnover behind the New York net before putting the puck low and hard at the net, where Kadri collected and finished off his 16th goal of the season.
- Kulemin should’ve had the game winner after breaking in alone on Lundqvist with a couple of minutes left in the game. Lundqvist made quite the save. Could’ve been much more than one assist for Kulemin tonight.
- The dangers of the Leafs’ overload defensive zone coverage nearly cost them the game very late on in this one. Given the way the 2-0 lead was forfeited, a regulation loss would’ve sent Leafs Nation into understandable, widespread panic. With all the Leafs collapsed down into the corner, the puck made it out to the far point and it was a free lane down broadway with only Bernier between Ryan McDonaugh and the game-losing goal (play looked similar to how McDonaugh scored the 2-1 goal). Gunnarsson, thankfully, recovered and scooped the trickling puck out from behind Bernier.
- Bodie played only five minutes tonight and just one minute in the first, likely because he nearly caused a goal against in the first period by falling over and fumbling the puck. Call-up Carter Ashton watched from the press box.
- The worry now is that the Leafs are going to continue their struggles on the powerplay because of the fear that is creeping into their psyche on the powerplay. They got another opportunity late in the third and played more like they just wanted to avoid a mistake. Mixing up the personnel a little bit might bring a fresh mindset. The Leafs’ top-5 powerplay hasn’t scored a goal since returning from Olympic Break (0 for 15).
- Bozak played a hell of a game again tonight. He’s playing a heads-up game, moving the puck incredibly well, and unlike the Columbus game he buried on his chances tonight. He’s brimming with confidence right now. The two goals give Bozak 14 goals and 37 points in 40 games played. That’s a hell of a half-season.
|Jonathan Bernier (23-16-7)||W||37||35||0.946||61:51:00|
|James van Riemsdyk||0||0||20:59:00||-2||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||0|