January 10 2014 08:37PM
Well, let's focus on the positives: Toronto had a healthy scoring chance advantage, to my eyes, over the Washington Capitals. Jonathan Bernier had a pretty good start, the struggling Maple Leafs penalty kill held a very potent Capitals powerplay to no goals, and just seven shots in eight minutes. The checking line was very good, and dominated the possession matchup against the Caps top line. Ex-Leaf Mikhail Grabovski was held to a minus-8 Corsi, the second-lowest on the Capitals.
In other good news, Carolina's win streak ended in Columbus at five games. They lost 3-0.
The bad news is that the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped their fourth straight in regulation. They don't have a regulation or overtime win on the road since October 30 in Calgary. They are 12-20 in games decided in regulation, and the door is open for both Ottawa and New Jersey to surpass the Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings tomorrow with wins. The Leafs dropped a 3-2 decision in Washington, squandering an early third period lead in the process.
I felt Toronto had the run of play in this one, so there's no sense in laying waste to the organization and my belief in sports again tonight. Minus two consecutive staged fights in the second period, it was at least enjoyable as a hockey game. Mikhail Grabovski set up Alex Ovechkin early in the second to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead, matched quickly by a nice little deflection by James van Riemsdyk on the powerplay.
Early in the third, Phil Kessel shot a puck past Michal Neuvirth thanks to a deflection off Karl Alzner's stick, which wasn't pretty but got the job done. Unfortunately, Nick Backstrom tied it up minutes later on a flubbed pass across the crease that banked in off
Cody Franson some Leaf player, and at the tail end of a powerplay, Marcus Johansson set up Joel Ward in the slot who had a tonne of open area. He fanned on his shot, but it was knuckling enough to get by Jonathan Bernier. Despite a brief late charge, the Leafs weren't able to tie the game, and Neuvirth was first star for the Caps.
Still, in the third period, Mason Raymond was stopped on a golden set-up from Tyler Bozak, and Joffrey Lupul had the puck bounce over his stick. Some other nights, those pucks go in and the Leafs get another goal and the game goes to overtime tied. We can definitely say that the Leafs have used up all of their good fortune. Leaf fans sipped Felix Felicis in large doses last season, and have moved on to straight scotch this time around.
WHY THE LEAFS LOST
Carlyle: "We've been begging, pleading, kicking, kissing whatever we can do to try and find a way that we can play with some confidence."— Tony Ambrogio (@SNTonyAmbrogio) January 11, 2014
You can tell that Randy Carlyle isn't sleeping well. Check out the bags under his eyes. He doesn't look good close-up in high definition, for sure:
Compare that to Adam Oates. Now, I don't hold Oates in as high regard as I have for somebody like Mike Babcock or Todd McLellan, but the man oozed class tonight with that candy cane tie:
The Capitals got the key saves at the right times and the Leafs didn't. That's not talent, that's just being a little bit luckier on the night. Adam Oates wore his lucky tie and Randy Carlyle looked like he was up all night with an Archer marathon.
Kudos to any Toronto Maple Leaf that is attempting to bring down this operation from the inside. Nikolai Kulemin took not one, but two minor penalties in the offensive zone tonight. That sort of sacrifice must be commended, as Kulemin is likely costing himself minutes in ice-time to increase the chances of his team losing and cleaning house so that a new management group can squeeze out the last remaining goals of Lupul's prime and Kessel's peak before it's too late.
NUMB3RS AND NOTES
The Leafs being on the road throws me off since the colour on the ExtraSkater Fenwick graphs defaults to red. Especially on nights where they're playing a team dressed in red like Washington. Red is unblocked shots by the Leafs, blue is unblocked shots by the Capitals:
- Pretty even much of the way. The Leafs held a slim advantage after the second, but unfortunately, late in the game score effects didn't kick in and the unblocked shots were 8-7 for Washington after they took a 3-2 lead.
- Score-close 5-on-5 Corsi was fairly even. Washington had a slim 38-36 advantage. The Leafs didn't get dominated in this one.
- While the 16-84-8 line for the Capitals were in on a couple of goals, it's worth noting that they were crushed in possession by the Leafs' checking line. Little consolation, but good on Jay McClement, Nik Kulemin and David Clarkson on their respective+14, +6 and +5 Corsi numbers. Oddly, Randy gave McClement zone offensive zone draws, giving 14 defensive zone draws to Tyler Bozak and just 4 to McClement. Now, about those three penalties…
- The Leafs fourth line was tuned up. Colton Orr, Jerry D'Amigo and Carter Ashton failed to attempt a single shot on the Capitals' net.
- Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson were back together for this one, both with above zero possession nights against the Capitals' first line, with plenty of defensive zone starts.
- The Leafs drop to 4-16-2 when their goalie fails to post a .920 save percentage. Again, goalie doesn't steal a victory, the Leafs don't get one. Such is life.