While the Leafs did well to battle back and take a 4-3 lead in their eventual shootout loss to Detroit on Saturday, once again they failed to shut down a game when they needed to.

I went back and counted up the number of times the Leafs have forfeited a third period lead. Here’s the list:

GameDescriptionPlayers on Ice
CarolinaLeading 2-0 going into third, lost 3-2 in regulation.4, 12, 19, 43, 44, 45; 3, 12, 36, 42, 45, 81; 3, 12, 36, 45, 63 (PK)
New JerseyLeading 1-0, coughed up lead with 4:45 to go. Won shootout.3, 11, 21, 36, 45 (PK)
MinnesotaLeading 1-0, coughed up lead with 4:17 to go. Lost shootout.12, 15, 21, 44, 45, 81
WashingtonLeading 1-0, coughed up lead with 4:10 to go. Won shootout.3, 11, 21, 34, 36, 41
PittsburghLeading 5-3 entering third period. Coughed up lead by 13:19. Lost in shootout. 3, 36, 42, 45 (PK); 12, 15, 36, 41, 43, 45
DallasLeading 2-1, coughed up lead with 2:46 remaining. Won in OT. 2, 3, 12, 23, 45 (PK)
OttawaLeading 3-1 going into third, coughed up lead by 9:30 of the 3rd period. Won in Shootout.
4, 12, 23, 34, 41, 51; 2, 4, 23, 29, 34 (PK)
PhoenixLeading 1-0, coughed up lead with 4:52 to go. Won in Shootout.3, 11, 34, 36, 41, 71
DetroitLeading 4-3, coughed up lead with 6:16 to go. Lost in shootout.21, 26, 43, 44, 45, 81

Those are some valuable points the Leafs won’t get back. The only reason the Leafs aren’t out of a playoff position right now is because they’re competent in the shootout, but the lack of ROW could hurt them down the road, too, in terms of tie breakers.

Only one of those third period collapses came with Bozak and Bolland in the lineup (the Carolina loss). Bozak had played parts of the Pittsburgh game but left for the third period. With Bozak and Bolland hurt, the result is often that Jay McClement plays a lot when Carlyle looks to protect a lead. The pecking order in terms of Carlyle’s trust in his centers late in games seems to go, in order: Bolland, Bozak, McClement, Kadri, Holland.

Whatever the reason – the missing personnel at center, system, psychological scarring from May 13 – the Leafs are “receiving” too much late in games, and it’s costing them points and ROWs that could come back to haunt them in April.

Christmas Eve Eve in New York

Tonight, the Leafs look to enter the brief Christmas break on the right note with a win in New York. The Rangers are the one of the opponents on the outside of the playoff picture but within strikable distance of the Leafs as we approach the half way point of the season.

After scoring just a goal a game in three straight, the Leafs had an offensive outburst vs. Detroit, and yet the Leafs’ top line remained absent outside of an assist for JvR and Kessel on the powerplay. The trio of Kadri, Kessel and JvR needs to be better tonight. Those two powerplay assists are the trio’s only two points in the last four games and they’re a combined -14 over that span.

Jonathan Bernier is expected to start and Colton Orr is expected to return to the 4th line.

The Rangers, playing in a back to back scenario, will start Cam Talbot in net. That’s not necessarily a good thing for the Leafs; Talbot’s 7-2 with two shutouts and a .936 save percentage.