The Leafs move to 11-6-1 with a 2-1 shootout loss after giving up the lead late in Minnesota. The Leafs have only scored three goals in their last four games, only one of which has been at even strength. Let’s hope a back-to-back home and home with the lowly Sabres is the tonic to the offensive woes, but the Sabres will have good first impressions to play for with new head coach Ted Nolan behind the bench.
- It was a pretty boring start to this road game, but a relatively safe one from the Leafs perspective. Toronto was doing their their best to force Minnesota wide and was was sending short dumps into the neutral zone and forcing Minnesota to transition.
- While focused on tipping a shot on goal, Kadri gave Backstrom a forearm shiver that was avoidable but not pre-meditated. Backstrom was laying motionless on the ice, a sight no one wants to see. The resulting powerplay generated nothing much in the way of opportunities. After Josh Harding took over from Backstrom, Kadri drew a hooking penalty and TO went to the PP. The first shift saw PP#1 with great movement, nice D-to-D passes, and 3-4 shot attempts. PP#2 brought more quick puck movement and chances. Gardiner took a great charge in from the point and got a shot off just before the period ended. Shots were 7-6 Toronto after 20 minutes.
- The Leafs had only 11 forwards and were rotating their bottom six lines, but Ashton-McClement-Orr offered a great cycle and were able to eat up zone time in the first. If this team were healthy, this line should be the fourth.
- Kadri was at the centre of just about every refereeing decision in this one. In the early second, Cooke drew one by squeezing his legs together for a hook that was really more of a hold on Kadri’s stick. The Leafs killed it off with great work from McClement and Kulemin, especially.
- After who else but Kadri got hooked by Charlie Coyle, PP#1 had some trouble getting into a rhythm and another PP chance looked to be waning. PP#2 came to the rescue: Gardiner made a great baseball play to keep the puck in, Rielly walked in off the point and ripped a great rist shot off a quick release, and Harding kicked out a rebound to Raymond, who made it 1-0 Leafs. This seemed to inject some life into a boring first half of the game.
- After the Leafs carried momentum and looked to take over play for a short while, Minnesota came back just as hard and controlled the pace of play. Perhaps it’s Toronto’s injuries or just the makeup of the team, but they are simply not hard enough on pucks and still turning the puck over in dangerous areas of the ice to put their mighty offense to work. It’s a wait-and-see proposition, but you would like to see better battles along the boards and to see players first to pucks more consistently than what the Leafs have been displaying in the last 5 games.
- The 3rd period from the Leaf standpoint was drastically hindered by three separate penalties: Jay McClement (Tripping), Jerred Smithson: (Interference), and Nazem Kadri’s 10 Minute Match Penalty for Deliberate injury (Served by Phil Kessel). The Kadri penalty will get a look from the NHL Head Office, but I’m not sure it’s cut and dry; he didn’t leave his feet, his arms were down, but the principal point of his shoulder contact was either the head or just below it. We’ll wait and see on that one. It seemed to look and sound worse in real time than it was on the slow motion replay; Granlund’s head was down as he fished for the puck, and Kadri seemed to land a tough but clean hit. Kadri’s stick also smacked the boards, making it sound worse than it was.
- Almost half of the 3rd period was spent on the penalty kill. Despite being a “bad Corsi player,” Jay McClement (and Nikolai Kulemin) are absolute machines on the PK. Active sticks and consistent clearings from both players. Not sure we can emphasize enough how important McClement is as one of the more subtle core pieces on this Leafs team. The Leafs sustained only two shots on a 5 minute penalty kill, and only once allowed Minnesota to set up for sustained zone time.
- The Leafs were holding on for dear life in the final ten, and were edging closer to stealing this game. That’s until Kessel capped off a game of whiffing on the puck and struggling to find openings by floating a soft pass in the middle of the slot, intended for Raymond, that was intercepted and left Rielly and Ranger scrambling. A pass out front connected with Parise’s skate and would’ve bounced out of danger, but Kessel was scrambling back and it bounced off of his skate, as well, and went in the empty net. A combination of both a horrible giveaway at a crucial time in the game and poor luck.
- 4-on-4 OT didn’t produce anything, but the Leafs outshot the Wild 3-0 during that shortened frame. The shootout saw Parise and Pominville beat Bernier while Kessel did his best Lee Stempniak impression, sort of summing up his night.
The Leafs don’t get a point without Jonathan Bernier’s unshakable play in net, but we’ve almost come to expect it of our goaltenders. Also worth noting on the positive side of the ledger is that the Leafs’ D, 1-7, played well in their own zone. Best defenceman tonight? Paul Ranger. He broke up more than a handful of plays with a strong stick and delivered consistently on his first pass. The game seems to have slowed down for him now that he’s had 15+ to adjust to NHL speed.
The Leafs special teams got back on track after costing the Leafs in Boston on Saturday, going 1 for 3 on the powerplay and 5 for 5 on the penalty kill, which understates their penalty killing excellence on the night given one was a five minute major.
We’ll await word from the league office on any supplemental discipline for Kadri. The one thing this team cannot afford is another lost centre for any length of time.
You be the judge:
If Gionta didn’t get suspended….
Hit on Granlund:
You wonder if Kadri throwing any big hit, clean or dirty, was going to get him in trouble after his run in with Backstrom.
Maple Leafs at Wild - November 13thLeafs 1 at Wild 2.
|7:32:00||TOR||PPG - Mason Raymond (6) Wrist shot - ASST: Morgan Rielly (6), Nazem Kadri (9)||1 - 0 TOR|
|15:43:00||MIN||Zach Parise (9) Wrist shot - ASST: Charlie Coyle (2), Mikko Koivu (11)||1 - 1 Tie|