November 02 2013 08:43PM
Well, that wasn't a particularly good outing, but I have to imagine that at the end of the season when we're looking over times when we could have expected more out of the Maple Leafs, we won't be pointing at this recent road trip. The Maple Leafs took two of three games, and you can blame the West Coast game, or the long ceremony, or whatever, but in the end the effort the Leafs showed against the Vancouver Canucks was inexcusable. Both teams played in the same conditions on the same rink.
Remember, the last time the Maple Leafs laid an egg on national television on a Saturday night, Toronto came back and won
three straight four out of five. The sun will rise in the East tomorrow, the sky is still up in the sky, and the Leafs are still 10-5. While the game was disappointing on a number of levels, probably the only real regrettable thing is that the Leafs may have lost David Bolland for a significant amount of time on an unfortunate hit in the corner.
The final was 4-0 for Vancouver, despite James Reimer's best efforts.
The game started with perhaps the lone positive sequence for the Maple Leafs. After the Canucks managed to get a two-on-one, James Reimer made consecutive, highlight-reel saves off of Mike Santorelli, Chris Higgins and Alex Burrows in a seven second sequence:
But that may have been it. That third stop on Burrows was particularly flashy. It looked like Burrows had the whole net to shoot at, and he's generally been good in his career at burying chances like those. Reimer never quit on the play and made the save right on the goal-line.
The referees had to review the play, but I have to imagine that was just Wes McCauley and Frederick L'Ecuyer telling the war room "you gotta check out this stop".
But yeah, that was pretty much it. Nazem Kadri took a pretty light penalty on Ryan Kesler, and the Canucks scored eight seconds into the powerplay. In the first period, the Canucks out-shot the Leafs 18-11 but held just the 1-0 lead after one, and this appeared to be a game, like we've seen many times before, where the Leafs would overcome a slim deficit and take over in the final 40. Not so.
The most regrettable sequence came in the second period. Zack Kassian steered David Bolland into the corner and in the process, inadvertedly stepped on Bolland's ankle. With Bolland on the ice and unable to move, Kassian wound up scoring on the play. Bolland left the game and didn't return, and the update we had was that he was out with a leg laceration, which is not very fun. UPDATE - He'll have immediate surgery in Vancouver. That's an injury that can put a player out anywhere from multiple weeks to multiple months, and with Tyler Bozak out, Toronto doesn't exactly have a lot of centre depth to compensate.
The Canucks scored again, this time it was Higgins on a two-on-one, but the real story of the second period was chippy play and cheap hits from both sides. Frazer McLaren took six minutes in minor penalties, Phil Kessel took a minor for unsportsmanlike conduct and Colton Orr had a remarkably useless fight against Vancouver's soup can Tom Sestito.
The third was more of the same. Dumb penalties, and the Canucks just wore the Leafs down with puck-possession. After out-shooting Toronto 18-11 in the first period, Vancouver had 29 shots in the final two periods to 10. Reimer's performance is the only reason this game was even close, and despite allowing 4 goals, Reimer got a "quality start" on the night.
WHY THE LEAFS LOST
Argh. Penalties. Even though the PK was effective, holding the Canucks to one powerplay goal on 11:58 of 5-on-4 time and held the Canucks scoreless on a 2-minute long 5-on-3, the penalties really hamper a team's ability to generate some offence. In the sequences where it looked like Toronto had something, Roberto Luongo stood tall for the Canucks. Luongo made two wonderful saves off of Phil Kessel from tight areas, and another one James van Riemsdyk from close in. I think he had a hand in keeping the Canucks ahead, particularly towards the end of the second when the Leafs mounted their only sustained possession on the night.
But the whole team came unglued, we can all agree? Kessel fought Burrows in the first period, stupidly, and despite Brian Burke's poetic editorial in the USA Today talking about how enforcers hold the rats like Kassian in the league accountable, none of that response was evident. Orr fought a soup can, and McLaren couldn't have been more useless in the second period had he tried.
Poor Reims. Stopped 43 shots, and his reward is his first loss of the season and a 4.00 goals against average.
- Toronto can't keep playing like this, but it's not like they've been outshot 47-21 in every game this season. The 26-shot spread was the biggest on the season, which I guess is a positive? Like, this is as bad as it can get?
- Kessel had five shots on goal. After taking a pass from behind the net and shooting it right at Luongo's crest (it didn't look like he got all of it) he looked furious and was about to slam his stick into the post before he held back. At least nobody will be able to question his intensity in this game, but I always prefer more shots on goal to poorly-channeled anger.
- The only other Leaf with more than two shots on goal was David Clarkson.
- It's just one game. If you were of the opinion that the Maple Leafs were a playoff team before this game, a single observation shouldn't change that assessment.