The Maple Leafs took a couple of big wins out of Anaheim and Los Angeles, only to come out flat as a bottle of Coke left out in the sun for a week against a far more beatable opponent in Washington.

Early start time? Sickness coursing through the locker room? All the recent travel? Who knows, but the Leafs have had too many full periods like this throughout the season with the only simple explanation being they’re a skating team that gets into big trouble if their legs aren’t there. Three goals against in the first 9 minutes and a 14-2 shot deficit through 20 minutes is an extremely difficult start to overcome.

The Leafs also took three penalties in the first period, and ran their usual set up to try to isolate Alex Ovechkin and remove him from the equation. The tradeoff is that it creates a 4 on 3 situation on the other side of the ice. Twice the Leafs were outnumbered down low and Phaneuf and Gleason couldn’t take the pass away to the man in front; both times the other D (Franson on the first, Ranger on the 2nd) had stepped up to apply pressure on the puck off the half wall.

Perhaps the bigger issue on both occasions was the ease with which the Capitals were allowed to set themselves up in the first place. Passively allow the 2nd-best powerplay in the League to get themselves set and they’re going to make you pay more often than not. Alex Ovechkin was content to play decoy and let the rest of the PP unit slice the Leafs apart.

The call leading up to the Caps’ third goal was a total mystery, as the ref seemed to invent a slash by Phaneuf out of thin air and send him to the box for it. Joel Ward scored his second of the game on the ensuing powerplay.

A late goal by Troy Bodie off a chip shot over the shoulder of Jaroslav Halak gave the Leafs a fighting chance going into the 2nd. They responded with one of their best periods of the season in terms of shots (20-6 in favour of the Leafs; they took 16 of the first 17 shots of the period).

The Leafs got their fair share of powerplay opportunities as well, with three consecutive in the second period. They generated a good amount of pressure, but the Capitals did a good job of blocking shots at timely moments and the Leafs didn’t generate enough in the way of point shots with a presence in front.

Dion Phaneuf put the Leafs within one after showing good patience on the blueline and tossing one on net. It either was a wounded duck change-up or it hit Nazem Kadri in the pants and the scorekeepers didn’t take notice; either way, the Leafs’ offense from their defence continues to be a positive of late, with Phaneuf individually collecting five points in his last five and seven points in his last 9.

Credit to Phaneuf big time for gutting this one out despite being less than 100% (goal and an assist from #3). Cody Franson led the defence core with 22 minutes while Carlyle tried to limit Phaneuf’s minutes, which is not something we’ll want to see going forward (Franson did not have a game worth framing).

David Clarkson hit a crossbar late in the second on what would’ve been the tying goal. He had a couple of really poor shifts, but if that goes in it changes the perception. He’s neither playing well nor getting the breaks.

Reimer was a part of the first period woes, no doubt. He wasn’t absorbing pucks and killing plays when the team needed a whistle (sometimes simply not catching pucks), and it caused issues in and around a couple of the goals and contributed to the 2nd one directly. But he took the much quieter 2nd period to settle into the game and came up big in the third time and again, giving this team a chance to even the score in the final 20. Reimer didn’t have a chance on goals 1 or 3 and played well enough to give the team a chance overall.

The team in front of Reimer, though, didn’t generate any serious chances in the third, with Randy Carlyle turning on the line blender (Lupul, Kadri and Kessel skated a few shifts together). There were some putrid attempts at breakouts with long stretch passes sent hopelessly into the neutral zone. The Leafs had to kill a penalty for two of the final three minutes, but did manage to apply some late pressure only for Joffrey Lupul to send an overly hopeful pass (looking for a bounce or a no-look connection) all the way down the ice.

This was a painful game to watch for the most part, one the Leafs will need to put behind them before getting ready for another big game against a fringe playoff team in the East, Detroit, on Tuesday. James Reimer is expected to remain in goal.

EV fenwick chart for 2014-03-16 Maple Leafs 2 at Capitals 4Fenwick-chart-for-2014-03-16-Maple-Leafs-2-at-Capitals-4.png”>
Fenwick chart for 2014-03-16 Maple Leafs 2 at Capitals 4

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Washington Capitals


Jaroslav Halak (27-11-4)W29270.93160:00:00
Karl Alzner0220:14220001310
Nicklas Backstrom0120:32-1201181100
Jay Beagle0012:430121061010
Troy Brouwer2019:27150214113
John Carlson0022:39210000501
Connor Carrick0011:50-200000111
Jason Chimera1012:41140021000
Eric Fehr00:0002381011
Mike Green0025:31:00050002000
Jack Hillen0022:00002001100
Marcus Johansson0119:25-120001010
Evgeny Kuznetsov0115:48020010000
Dmitry Orlov0013:30-200000210
Alex Ovechkin0019:02-210002001
Dustin Penner0110:56000001100
Joel Ward1115:48140134000
Casey Wellman009:42010660000
Tom Wilson007:55030002010


James Reimer (11-9-1)L32290.90659:34:00
Carter Ashton002:29000000000
Troy Bodie1010:19110110200
Tyler Bozak0021:12-21011100031
David Clarkson0018:12110002010
Cody Franson0022:29032003300
Jake Gardiner0018:47032000300
Tim Gleason0011:00100003000
Carl Gunnarsson0116:09110000102
Nazem Kadri0020:02120882000
Phil Kessel0022:02-240001000
Nikolai Kulemin0014:41120491210
Joffrey Lupul0121:16030000010
Jay McClement008:440021151000
Dion Phaneuf1120:01-132002000
Paul Ranger0016:21030000120
Mason Raymond0113:54110001000
Morgan Rielly0015:42-100000201
James van Riemsdyk0021:38-210000010
55 %
50 %
75 %
Special Teams
10 %
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Alec Brownscombe is the founder and editor of, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He's published five magazines on the team entitled "The Maple Leafs Annual" with distribution in Chapters and newsstands across the country. He also co-hosted "The Battle of the Atlantic," a weekly show on TSN1200 that covered the Leafs and the NHL in-depth. Alec is a graduate of Trent University and Algonquin College with his diploma in Journalism. In 2014, he was awarded Canada's Best Hockey Blogger honours by Molson Canadian. You can contact him at