The Toronto Maple Leafs are out West for the week with a golden opportunity in front of them to put some distance between themselves and the Florida Panthers in the playoff race.
Instead, it was the Sharks who came out and were the more aggressive team from start to finish in a 5-2 San Jose win. They outshot the Leafs 38-27 on the night and pretty much cruised to the win in the final five minutes.
After a perfect week in the standings, you had to wonder when the Leafs injuries on defense would catch up to them. Tonight, they particularly struggled to stop the Sharks’ cycle in the offensive zone. There were large stretches of this game where the Sharks completely tilted the ice and the Leafs generated little pushback.
On a positive note, the Panthers’ next game is against the Bruins.
Your game in ten.
1. Firstly, on the decision to start Jack Campbell: It was slightly surprising considering they only play three times this week with a back-to-back set on Thursday-Friday, so that likely means that Campbell is going to start two of three this week. On one hand, the timing is curious as Frederik Andersen just won three straight in regulation (although you could hardly argue he stood on his head for them), and Andersen has always stated he prefers a heavier workload. That said, with 16 games left, Andersen would be on pace to play over 60 games for the season if the general trend continues. Perhaps there was some thought here in terms of keeping his total games played down. There might be a few goals that Campbell wants back, but he wasn’t the problem tonight. He played really well for large stretches of the game.
2. The Leafs penalty kill, 24th in the league in kill percentage for the month of February, allowed another power-play goal tonight. They not only got caught running around — leading to an open point shot (from Brent Burns no less) — but they also left Evander Kane untouched in front of their net for a relatively easy play for him to make. They definitely miss Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin in this regard — and even Cody Ceci when compared to some of the young defensemen they’ve had to trot out. At this point, the penalty kill is a concern for the team. The Sharks finished the game 1/2 on the power play, while the Leafs were 0/3.
3. In the second period after the Leafs tied it, Sheldon Keefe got on them at the commercial timeout and the Leafs responded by promptly taking a penalty off the defensive zone faceoff. Funny enough, they did respond during that penalty kill as Mitch Marner went on a nice rush for a chance and Zach Hyman just missed the rebound. Shortly after, Kasperi Kapanen shot it wide on a partial breakaway on the penalty kill. With Keefe, I have noticed a number of times now that he really uses those commercial breaks as timeout opportunities.
4. I have to give Kyle Clifford some credit for trying to ignite the team with some physicality. He crushed Brandon Davidson behind the Sharks net in the first period and took a huge run at a Shark in the corner of the San Jose zone in the second period (he just missed and it would have been one that really hurt had he connected). He even had a nice little scoring chance in the first period off a pass from Jason Spezza.
Early in the third period against the Sharks, Clifford played a shift where he threw three notable hits. He might not be a King anymore, but he played like a player who still remembers the Sharks rivalry. He was credited with three shots on net and six hits in a little over 10 minutes on the night.
5. I counted four grade-A saves by Jack Campbell in the second period. In no world should it have only been a 2-1 game for the Sharks. At a minimum, the Sharks deserved a 3-1 goal. It was a combination of everything for the Leafs defensively — they couldn’t stop the cycle down low because they won no battles, and their passivity at the points allowed the Sharks to continually go d-to-d and tee up shot attempts. Campbell gave the Leafs a chance. At one point, the even-strength shot attempts were 25-5 in favour of San Jose. It was simply not a competitive period from the Leafs.
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) March 4, 2020
6. Special players do special things, and that’s what Mitch Marner did to tie the game late in the second period. There isn’t much else to say. The Leafs had nothing going as noted above and were badly outplayed over the 20 minutes. Marner had a great chance shorthanded a little earlier and missed, but on this opportunity, he did well to finish with a highlight-reel goal to tie the game in the second period heading into the third.
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) March 4, 2020
7. It felt like karma caught up to the Leafs a bit in the third period. The Sharks had a strange deflection leading to a weird goal to make it 3-2 before the Leafs missed an opportunity the next shift on a scramble that almost resulted in the puck trickling in. Evander Kane scored right after, making it two goals in 50 seconds for the Sharks. The Leafs came out and played reasonably well to start the third, but the second was just so bad and eventually, the Sharks got some bounces to take the lead and add some insurance.
8. Auston Matthews, who lost the puck leading to the 4-2 Kane goal, had a great effort to not give up on the puck in the offensive zone after a bad Marner pass, resulting in a Leafs power play. Down two with roughly 8 minutes left, it gave the Leafs a real opportunity to get back into the game with plenty of time to go. William Nylander missed a chance right in front on a broken play and then had two quick rebound opportunities. John Tavares had a chance down low 2v1 and shot it wide before a pass jumped over Mitch Marner’s stick leading to a clear, which was a shame. When the second unit came on, Alex Kerfoot had the puck in all alone and got stopped cleanly by Martin Jones. Can’t fault the effort on that one.
9. After the power play, the Leafs did generate a few more chances. Keefe tried pulling the goalie at first with nearly four minutes left in the game, but the Leafs couldn’t gain the zone and Jack Campbell wasn’t ready for the call off. They did eventually get the goalie out with close to three minutes left, and the Leafs’ best chance from there was a slap pass from Mitch Marner to John Tavares in the high slot.
You’d expect a bit of a better play on it from John Tavares, but he really struggled throughout the game. It was a bit of a microsome of his game tonight. For all the talk of changing the lines up, his line was struggling throughout the game — on for a couple of goals against – and he played nearly 20 minutes. Conversely, five forwards played under 12 minutes tonight. There was a huge discrepancy in ice time between the top of the lineup and the bottom.
10. It was nice to see that Ilya Mikheyev is traveling with the team for this trip and went on the ice today in full equipment. Chris Johnston reported that he is expected to return before the end of the season — that would be a huge boost. Keefe said earlier in the day that he can’t play within 12 weeks of surgery, which is roughly three weeks into March. When he returns, it bumps players back into their proper roles if Mikheyev can successfully return to his top-six form. That would round out their overall forward group and give them another option to consider for a penalty kill that has struggled of late.
Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts
Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts