It’s not a particularly shocking revelation: The Leafs have enough talent to beat any team in this League, but they can be made to look awful by much less talented teams if they think talent alone is going to be enough on any given night.

They’re not the only team for which those rules apply, but Toronto’s 14-3-2 record versus above-.500 teams compared to their 5-7-2 record versus below-.500 teams is quite the confounding incongruity.

A team like Carolina is entering this game with no illusions about where they stand or how they need to play to get a result; they’re in a fight for every point (and, it should be noted, have quite good possession numbers despite the record). The Leafs seem especially prone to falling into traps (like the losses to the Sabres, Preds, Coyotes) because the goals come so easily at times and they’re spoiled with their goaltending; it’s the recipe for encouraging bad habits and taking opponents too lightly.

The Leafs lost this game in the first period. They struggled to establish anything in the way of a consistent forecheck, were outworked all period, and were full value for their 2-0 deficit.

Randy Carlyle’s shakeups and – presumably – the hair dryer treatment at intermission seemed to help this game onto the tracks for the Leafs. With Lupul joining Bozak and Kessel, JvR playing with Kadri and Santorelli, and Holland with Clarkson and Winnik, the Leafs slowly found their way into the game in the 2nd and had taken over by the end of period 2. They looked likely to tie the game, and could’ve easily done so in the middle frame, but Cam Ward was equal to the task.

They also carried the play to start the third, until Franson’s costly penalty proved to be the backbreaker. This game hinged on two main factors: The bad start and the Leafs’ backfiring powerplay. The Leafs conceded a shorthanded goal on their first period powerplay and took a penalty on their third period powerplay, negating their own PP, stunting their surge in momentum and leading to the back-breaking 3-1 goal while down a man.

Carlyle will be reasonably pleased with the final two periods from the Leafs, while double underlining the lesson that needs to be learned from that first period. It’s what he’s been warning about for a few games now.

For the fans, it’s a good reminder not to get too high or too low. Until they are dictating possessional control of games consistently, the Leafs are living life on the razor’s edge and could just as easily fill us with wonderment as they could put on a display like the first period they had tonight. We’ll just have to see where they end up when the dust settles.

Shot Location Chart

leafscanes

Possession Charts

courtesy war-on-ice.com
courtesy war-on-ice.com

 

Game Sheet

PLAYERPOSGAP+/-PIMSHITSBKSGVATKAFO%PP TOISH TOITOI
D. PhaneufD1010252200-3:421:3825:02:00
C. FransonD0110212101-3:421:2522:05
S. RobidasD0000001100-0:002:4815:35
R. PanikR0000000100-0:000:006:00
J. LupulL000-3021000-1:330:2114:10
D. BoothL00000120000%0:000:038:37
J. van RiemsdykL00000402000%3:311:2521:43
T. SmithC000000100020%0:000:036:01
P. HollandC011000000140%0:113:1316:03
M. SantorelliC00000000010%0:001:2519:24
D. WinnikC000100410160%0:002:5215:09
T. BozakC000-100110035%3:310:2118:02
N. KadriC000-102510029%1:220:2118:50
M. RiellyD000-1011110-1:220:0418:53
R. PolakD000-1013400-0:003:0918:58
J. GardinerD000-2221010-1:221:0019:42
D. ClarksonR000-20200000%1:330:0013:31
P. KesselR000-1050000-3:310:0017:35
PLAYEREVPPSHSAVES - SHOTSSV%PIMTOI
J. Bernier (13-7-3)32 - 331 - 20 - 133 - 360.917058:42:00
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