A bizarre loss for the Leafs in game eight of the regular season. The bigger concern may be who the Leafs lost.
1 – We were one shift into a low-key first period before next thing you know, Reimer is down hurt.
On a routine play, Reimer came out a few feet to his right to smother his own rebound, while Leivo was backchecking with his head down and was late to see the whole thing develop. He came crashing into Reimer and caught him with a knee in the worst place possible – jarring Reimer’s helmet loose.
What a horrible sight it was to see Reimer knelt down, doubled over for a few minutes before gingerly making his way to the dressing room.
This was just a nasty, unfortunate play. You have to feel bad for Leivo, who looked like he just saw a ghost, and even worse for Reimer, for whom the timing could not be worse. We all know the history here, and how a knock to the head derailed Reimer’s entire season in October of 2011-12. Let’s hope history isn’t repeating itself, because the Leafs had a very good thing going for themselves with the way Bernier and Reimer were trading off.
2 – Jonathan Bernier stepped into the net with a pretty easy transition, as the Leafs controlled play in the first 10 minutes and earned two powerplays for their efforts. Some okay puck movement did not lead to many good scoring chances with the man advantage. Cam Ward was looking very good early.
A penalty filled 1st, with some rinky-dink calls, did not produce a ton of quality scoring chances at either end. The Leafs had the best opportunity on the other team’s powerplay, off a shorthanded 2 on 1. After Jay McClement got called for interference off a faceoff in the offensive zone, the Leafs had an easy kill and should’ve scored at 4 on 5 if not for daylight robbery by Cam Ward on a cross-crease opportunity for Mason Raymond. Tyler Bozak started the play after picking off a pass high in the defensive zone.
The shot count was 12-10 Leafs after 20.
3 – Two whiffs on a breakaway and a 2-on-1 empty net opportunity by Eric Staal and Tuomo Ruutu respectively kept the Canes off the board in the early 2nd. The Leafs were getting caught for odd man opportunities against in the second, be it the result of a defenceman caught up the ice or poor support from the forwards. Kessel didn’t have his most productive game offensively, but he was one of the better forwards at covering for a defenceman. Bernier was equal to the task, again and again.
4 – Meanwhile, the Leafs were better capitalizing on the other team’s mistakes. The Leafs are at their best when transitioning with speed; they’re quite effective at generating scoring chances before the other team can set themselves up defensively. Their depth in speed and skill makes the whole thing work. It worked twice in this period, as the shots were 7-2 after 10 minutes, and both shots were Leaf goals.
Lupul and Kadri caught the Canes scrambling before Lupul eventually chipped the puck over a sprawled out Cam Ward for his sixth of the season.
Then came an always-special moment – a Leaf rookie scoring his first NHL goal. After his accident on the first shift, Leivo really had no other choice but to score. He fulfilled his obligation 7 minutes into the second period by scoring the goal he nearly scored in the third period against the Wild, if not for the cross bar. On the half board in the Leaf zone, he kind of just passed the puck ahead of himself and skated right by Andrej Sekera, creating a 2 on 1 rush. He patiently waited for Ward to go down and roofed his first NHL goal to make it 2-0 Leafs.
A goal for every game Reimer misses and it’s all good, Josh.
5 – Penalties 200 feet from your own net are never easy to swallow, and it cost the Leafs in the early third period. The Leafs PK unit may have gravitated a little too far toward the puck on the left side, but the goal was more about a vicious deflection on a Ryan Murphy point shot. The puck ricocheted off the shaft of Bolland’s stick and found the top corner. Bernier had no chance.
6 – The Leafs really sagged onto their heels after the goal, and a broken play was cashed in by who else but Eric Staal to tie the game at 2s. Raymond didn’t take a chance to get the puck out, and a point shot thrown at the net bounced off Gunnarsson and fell to Eric Staal in the slot. Staal made no mistake.
After mostly clean zone exits in the first 2 periods, turnovers and failed clearances started to plague the Leafs and pin them in their own end in the third period, as the Canes ramped up the pressure.
7 – The collapse was complete thanks to (hopefully) the most bizarre goal the Leafs will concede this season, one that might have been a product of confusion over the new hybrid icing rule. Ron Hainsey appeared to have iced the puck, although I’d need a new angle on the replay to tell if Radek Dvorak edged out Rielly in the race to the hashmarks. Bernier casually attempted to handle a bounce off the end boards as if he was anticipating a whistle. Bernier missed the puck, and it banked off his skate into the empty net. That’s not lady luck, by the way, it’s PDO working its natural course…
You be the judge on this one:
8 – The Leafs turned it on late, with Bozak nearly cashing in on a rebound in the slot and Kadri hitting a crossbar in the final minute. It was not to be; the Leafs waited until they were trailing to wake up.
9 – Which Leafs defenceman has been most consistently in position and making the right plays the past few games, you ask? Jake Gardiner, I say. The way Gardiner took care of Skinner on a defensive play in the first period, with a good hard shoulder before turning the puck up ice, reminded me of the Gardiner from the Bruins series. He was the last man back to break up some precarious situations in the third period, as well.
10 – The Leafs have fallen to 6-2-0. Shit happens. It wasn’t really a case of the Leafs giving a game away they deserved to win, though. Will it be a wake up call for the Leafs ahead of their trip to Chicago? Let us hope. In terms of what the Leafs could control, that third period wasn’t good enough.
On an up note, the Leafs are still in good shape at 6-2-0 and are now another game closer to the returns of JvR, Clarkson, Kulemin and Fraser.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Carolina Hurricanes BoxscoreToronto Maple Leafs vs Carolina Hurricanes Boxscore October, 17th, 2013