The Toronto Maple Leafs fired 56 shots at New York Rangers backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev and came away with just one goal on a frustrating night at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Your game in ten:

1.  That’s the first time this season the Leafs have broken 50 shots (they put up 49 in Tampa Bay in the hard-luck loss in mid-December) and you would’ve thought that would be the formula for a sure win against a backup goalie who was sporting a sub .900 save percentage entering the game. The Leafs power play alone was responsible for 23 shots on goal. Sometimes a goalie has a night. This was a good effort in a back-to-back situation on the road against a rested team.

2.  This is a crazy stat — Nazem Kadri’s 12 shots on goal tonight is an NHL season-high, tied with Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog’s 12 shots on goal versus Calgary in early January. It’s been that kind of season for Kadri, who said after the game, “At this point, I’m not even trying to put them in… I’m just trying to put them in off the post, or something.”

I thought this game was a good response from Kadri after a disappointing effort in Montreal. That’s usually the type of game — a Saturday night rivalry game vs. the Habs — that he really gets up for, but he was a non-factor in 14:52 of ice time with just one shot on goal and no hits of note.

3.  The Leafs have typically given Garret Sparks lots of run support in his starts this season, but they ran into a hot goaltender tonight and the 3-1 save is one he needed to have. That is a weak goal at a bad time when his team was emptying the tank in a back-to-back situation trying to get something out of the game. He was too deep in his crease and just didn’t look prepared for the shot.

4.  After that goal, the thought that Sparks has let in some weak goals from distance this season popped into in my head right away, so I went to verify — Sparks’ average goal distance is 31 feet this season, worst among the 64 NHL goalies with 500+ minutes played.

5.  That’s the second road game in a row where the Leafs were jumped on during the first shift and conceded an early goal. Despite largely dominating the game, the Leafs essentially lost the game on two shifts up against that red-hot Mika Zibanejad line — the first shift and the marathon own-zone shift halfway through the third.

The Matthews line was on for the latter and conceded three goals at 5v5 this weekend. They scored once, but it was Kasperi Kapanen’s solo effort after picking off the puck at the defensive-zone blue line. They weren’t bad overall in this game, but I think there are clearly better options — be it Andreas Johnsson up on the left side of Matthews, William Nylander up on his right, or both.

6.  The Matthews, Marleau and Kapanen line has broken even on goal share this season (17 for, 14 against) but has been out-possessed (48.8% CF) and out-chanced (47.6%) in their near 250 minutes together.

By comparison, Johnsson – Matthews – Kapanen, in about 100 minutes together, has outscored the opposition 9-1, out-chanced them 57-37 (23-12 in high danger chances), and out-possessed them to the tune of a 62% CF. Those are pretty overwhelming numbers.

We also all know what Matthews – Nylander is capable of from seasons previous.

7.  Those numbers also clearly speak to the reduced impact of Patrick Marleau this season. I’m not writing him off yet and respect what he did down the stretch and into the playoffs last season, but he is definitely struggling to complete plays on the Matthews line this year.

Marleau and Kadri have typically worked together the past two years; they played a lot of matchup minutes last season, are a 55% GF, a 53% SCF, and a 50.8% CF in 1,160 minutes together.

8.  I’d be running something along these lines if it were up to me:

Johnsson – Matthews – Nylander
Hyman – Tavares – Marner
Marleau – Kadri – Kapanen
Ennis/Lindholm – Gauthier/Lindholm – Brown

The option of popping Ennis in next to Kadri and Kapanen, or even Ennis in next to Matthews and Nylander with Johnsson next to Kadri and Kapanen, likely works as well as a bit of a shakeup when needed, but those should be the C-RW duos at the end of the day.

9.   Much better effort from the Leafs power play in this game. The biggest standouts were the improved movement and just how little Mitch Marner had the puck on his stick over the four power plays (that’s no shot at Marner, just the predictability the unit had succumbed to).

The top unit shared the puck around and sent it down to John Tavares down low more often; Morgan Rielly was less deferential as far as simply facilitating the puck over to Marner like he usually does — he tried holding onto it and putting a few shots on goal — and Auston Matthews got some more touches as well. The Leafs were able to open up the pass option into Kadri more often by being a less static unit that was more dynamic with their puck and off-the-puck movement.

Overall, there were some effective adjustments made; they just couldn’t solve Alexandar Georgiev or get the break they needed. If the rule that says the first sign of ending a slump is playing well and not getting the results applies to the power play, the Leafs looked on the verge of a breakthrough tonight.

“The most looks we’ve had on the power play all season,” said John Tavares after the game.

10.  William Nylander is back to dominating with the puck on his stick again — the speed he’s generating through the neutral zone was leaping off the screen and he was driving his line all night. Looking ahead to the deadline, this is a bigger addition for the stretch run than anything Kyle Dubas could go out and do before February 25: Nylander being Nylander again.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New York Rangers

Condensed Game

Mike Babcock Post Game