The Toronto Maple Leafs let a 2-0 lead slip in the final eight minutes before losing their fourth shootout of the season on Tuesday night versus San Jose.
Your game in ten:
1) The Leafs are a team that needs a lot to go right this season in order to sneak into the playoffs. Their inability to grab extra points via the shootout is one of those things on the margins that can sink a team in their position. The Leafs have now lost all four shootouts and have scored only twice on 12 attempts. I know it’s often based on practice form, but it’s curious that the coaching staff has been so quick to move away from veterans such as JVR, Kadri and Bozak in the shootout. The kids are skilled, creative and there’s no book on them yet, but there’s something to be said for the veteran savvy of those who have plenty of experience going one-on-one with NHL goalies.
2) There isn’t much separating the majority of teams in the NHL these days. We’re starting to see the patterns developing in terms of where this Leafs team is losing points in the finer details of the game. They struggle to close out games with the lead, they’re poor in the shootout, and they can’t win a game with a backup goalie in net. With the parity of today’s game, that’s the difference between being in the mix for a wildcard spot and finishing near the bottom of the division.
3) All that said, the Leafs are still at a juncture in their rebuild where fans can take a lot of solace in this type of performance. Especially given the Leafs have lost seven straight to the Sharks by a combined 29-11 scoreline – most recently a 7-0 loss last January — this was a much-improved effort. They found themselves on the wrong side of most of the penalty calls, which tilted the shot clock in the Sharks’ favour, but the even strength possession looked good after 40 minutes (shot attempts favoured the Leafs 31-26). The kid line – Hyman, Matthews, Nylander – was excellent in particular.
4) It was also a pretty good night from the Nazem Kadri line in their matchup against Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau. They were outpossessed 57-43 overall in the head to head, but much of that was due to the late push by the Sharks. You’ll take giving up just two scoring chances in six 5v5 minutes against a line that good, no questions asked.
5) While Leafs were certainly receiving the game in the third period, it felt like they were doing a good job of staying organized defensively against the Sharks cycle, boxing out, and protecting the house. Outside of the great backhand finish by Justin Braun (Zach Hyman got beat up the ice on the play), the Sharks had next to zero clean looks at even strength. With the way Frederik Andersen was playing, the lead actually felt pretty safe. But that’s the issue with sitting back and spending too much time without the puck – bad stuff tends to happen, even if the team is defending pretty well (i.e. Connor Carrick’s penalty along the boards in the defensive zone, or Matt Hunwick taking a costly penalty battling around his net).
6) Speaking of which – Hunwick’s penalty was an awful one to take, particularly from a veteran player that late in the game. Five minutes away from a good win over the reigning Western Conference champs, and totally unnecessary.
7) Auston Matthews is awfully good at disguising his pass vs. shot intentions and getting a quick shot off before the goalie can react. He’s made two good NHL goalies look foolish that way now. Matthews is up to seven goals and nine points in his last nine games.
8) Interesting quote from Babcock before the game on Marner: “You’ve got to take the three touches you get in the game serious. When you get your chance alone with the goalie, you’ve got to bury it.” He should’ve ended the game on the one-timer chance set up by Tyler Bozak at the side of the net in overtime.
9) Shootout struggles aside, this was another really good game from Frederik Andersen. 40 saves on 42 shots, with zero chance on either goal. He made a lot of tough saves look easy in this game — always square and in position, and giving out very few second opportunities. Andersen is rolling right now; he’s allowed two or fewer goals in nine of his last 10 and has a .937 save percentage over that span.
10) Just like how they call a goal, an assist and a fight the Gordie Howe Hat Trick, I believe a painful pair of shot blocks on the penalty kill followed by a goal is known as the Tim Brent Treble. Congratulations to Zach Hyman on the Tim Brent tonight. Heady company.
Game In Six
Mike Babcock Post Game
Read Mike Babcock Post Game Comments here: https://t.co/P91X0GCHOm
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) December 14, 2016
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