One might look at a 1-0 scoreline after 40 minutes in this game and think it’s not as bad as being down four or five to Dallas a few weeks ago. And yes, there is a difference: The Leafs played better in the first period in Dallas, only they couldn’t get a save. The only reason the Leafs had a chance in the final 10 minutes in the third in this 4-1 loss to Florida was because of Jonathan Bernier, who stopped 44 of 47 shots (hey, he had an easy night against Ottawa, right? It’s the least he could do).
The concept was similar nonetheless. The Leafs were winning lately at home, took off for a southern road trip, and simply laid an egg. On one hand it is awesome that Leafs Nation is so omnipresent it can bronx cheer the team for its first shot coming 8 minutes into the game, on the other it was a testament to how bad this game was. It doesn’t matter what your system is, the only way to get outshot 19-4 by the Florida Panthers in one period is by looking at the start of this trip as a chance to take it easy. Lazy changes, easy entries for the Panthers, second to pucks in the defensive zone, inability to get pucks deep and/or establish a forecheck… it all went into the shots total of 37-12 through the first 40.
If we’re being honest this game is right there with the Columbus, New York, Dallas, St. Louis and Carolina blowouts. This team seems to have this type of game more than most, where the bad habits they often win in spite of come home to roost. They seem to need the wake up call. Great goaltending and plenty of goal scoring skill wins this team games; when you rely on that to begin with and then put in a half-effort, it leads to games where it’s just plain embarrassing.
The other factor is that the Leafs rely on a great powerplay for a sizable chunk of their offense and sometimes to get them going in a game; they got zero powerplay opportunities in this game. It takes the minimum requirement of effort to draw penalties, though. There may have been one trip on Clarkson that could’ve been called, but other than that there wasn’t much to complain about.
The positive takeaway is David Clarkson scoring in his first game back from injury. It was his first point in 10 games and first goal in 11. Maybe that’s just what he needed to essentially start anew after some games spent on the sideline. Maybe. Nazem Kadri extended his points streak to seven after making a nice play at the blueline to pick the pocket and set up Clarkson in the slot.
Another positive was Phil Kessel, one of few to show jump from the start. There were a couple of times he orchestrated the only successful Leaf breakout in forever by coming back deep to pick up a pass and just rushing it through the neutral zone.
These games certainly feel a hell of lot worse than a hard-fought 2-1 or 3-2 game, but it’s one out of 82 and in the standings it counts the same. We’ll see how they respond on Thursday in Tampa Bay. A wider concern over and above this one really bad game is the Leafs’ record on the road, which falls to 10-12-5 after tonight.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Florida Panthers Game Sheet
|Tim Thomas (15-16-3)||W||21||20||0.952||60:00:00|
|Jonathan Bernier (20-16-5)||L||47||44||0.936||59:48:00|
|James van Riemsdyk||0||0||16:52||0||2||0||0||0||4||0||0||0|