In the game day thread before the Carolina game, we talked about how, in March of 2014, the Leafs were on a red-hot streak that included wins over the Kings and Ducks right before they played a weaker Eastern Conference opponent (Washington), lost, and began a long losing streak.

They had won a few games they shouldn’t have, and sure enough it caught up to them and then some; they went from the hottest team in the League to ice cold, and we all know how the season ended.

The slump is only at three games at this point, the panic button hasn’t been struck and shouldn’t be just yet, but it’s hard to ignore the parallels and similar vibes these last few losses have brought about. Only this Leafs team can convince people there’s no team they can’t beat before making it seem like they’ll never win another hockey game, all inside the span of four or five games.

The Leafs were never fully in this game despite a reasonable push back in the 2nd period. Not that the Leafs deserved better than 2-0 after their first period, but they had gotten through the first 16 minutes scoreless thanks to Reimer and looked like they might escape the first period tied in a very tough situation, playing an elite team on the road in the second leg of a back to back.

Unfortunately, Holzer lost body positioning in his battle in front and deflected a point shot into his own net, and goals against at the end of periods like the one the Leafs conceded with under 0.5 seconds left (especially on the road) are crushing back breakers.

There were a lot of frustrating things with that very late first-period goal. First, while not the chief culprit, Dion Phaneuf maybe shouldn’t be making that gamble on the pinch at that juncture of the game. The Leafs were getting soundly outplayed as the period wore on, Reimer was coming up big, and the smart thinking was to scurry into the dressing room and regroup while the damage was still at just 1-0.

Secondly, the puck, after getting chipped by Phaneuf, actually clips the linesman in a stroke of bad luck. If it hadn’t, it’s either going to be an icing or Franson is going to be in a position to win the foot race to the puck deep inside the defensive zone.

The Phaneuf pinch wouldn’t have been a big deal given he had a high forward supporting him at the time in Tyler Bozak. Problem being, Bozak coasted coming back, thinking Franson was going to get to that puck or that the buzzer would save them. From there, Cody Franson has to come across to close the space down on the puck carrier and most dangerous player on the ice (Kane), and only then Bozak decided to start trying on the play and hustled straight to the puck. Had he checked over his shoulder, he’d still have been able to pick up the man in the slot despite slowing up. Instead, he did nothing but confuse the situation.

Carlyle reacted after the terrible 1st period and went back to the line of Bozak, Kessel and JvR.  They did play a decent second period. As their production together suggests, they certainly know each other’s tendencies after so much time as a line – they completed a couple of nice stretch passes and generated a few good chances off the rush, per usual — and it was clearly an adjustment for Kessel in the first period when he didn’t have his usual running mates. It should be noted Daniel Winnik didn’t have his best game and couldn’t seem to complete a pass when placed on the top line. That said, it’s going to take some time to get new units clicking, and a single period in which the Leafs were probably going to get outplayed regardless of line combinations wasn’t really enough time to evaluate. It wouldn’t be a surprise if we see Bozak, Kessel and JvR back together for next game, though.

It seems the Leafs’ sticks are starting to cool down and their luck is starting to turn, as it inevitably does at points during a season. The Leafs hit a few posts (Gardiner), Kessel couldn’t seem to hit the net, and they had a couple of crummy bounces go against them (deflection off of Holzer, and the puck clipping the ref on the second goal). Most concerning, they aren’t making their own luck as their possession game seems to be going in one direction — the wrong one.

The Leafs have bounced back from adversity in the recent past; the combined 15-3 loss to the Predators and Sabres was worse than this three-game losing streak. A game against the porous Dallas Stars on Tuesday presents an opportunity to get back to their scoring ways. But, it’s certainly hard to be optimistic about Carlyle and this same core finding solutions to the same issues that have plagued this team since October of 2013.

Shot Location Chart

leafs vs hawks possession


Possession Chart
leafs vs hawks

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Chicago Blackhawks

3D. PhaneufD000-10043-2:101:1320:50
4C. FransonD000-10131-2:101:1320:23
18R. PanikR00000110-0:000:0011:56
19J. LupulL000-10212-1:500:0016:12
20D. BoothL00000010100%0:000:3011:59
21J. van RiemsdykL000-10210100%2:070:0917:05
23T. SmithC0000011064%0:000:0011:36
24P. HollandC000-1003022%0:150:5415:34
25M. SantorelliC000-202200%0:150:3012:38
26D. WinnikC000-1012033%0:151:2014:58
42T. BozakC000-1032055%1:551:1917:14
43N. KadriC000-1030140%1:500:0013:55
44M. RiellyD000-20211-1:500:4718:17
46R. PolakD00002043-0:000:2119:03
51J. GardinerD00000400-1:500:3322:01
55K. HolzerD000-20251-0:000:3516:00
71D. ClarksonR000-122200%1:380:0013:20
81P. KesselR00000400-1:550:0015:53
34J. Reimer30 - 340.882058:15:00
45J. Bernier0 - 0000:00
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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