Leafs sabotaged by special teams in historic loss to unbeatable Canadiens

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Photo Credit: Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs served as the latest foil to the unbeatable Montreal Canadiens, who set an NHL record on Saturday night by defeating a harder working Toronto side 5-3. The Canadiens have won nine consecutive contests in regulation to start the season, which is completely insane.

Montreal didn’t play well on Saturday, but still came away with two points. In addition to denting a tonne of iron, Saturday’s contest was like special teams Chernobyl for the Maple Leafs, as they surrendered two power-play goals against and allowed a short-handed tally in a game in which they otherwise carried play soundly at 5-on-5. Of Montreal’s two even-strength goals, one was the result of Michael Grabner’s momentary brain fart.

Toronto’s 5-on-5 play continues to be enormously improved in the early going. There’s no doubt that this team is giving the sort of consistent honest effort that often alluded the club under Randy Carlyle (and especially under Peter Horachek), but it’s all being sabotaged by misfiring special teams and – though you need your head checked if your blaming Jonathan Bernier for the Leafs loss on Saturday – by iffy goaltending.

Here’s a graphical representation of the extent to which the Maple Leafs had Montreal’s number at even-strength on Saturday:

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 10.09.02 PM

(Courtesy: Hockeystats.ca)

Generally speaking when you control play the way the Maple Leafs did on Saturday, you’ll win more often than you lose. When the team you’re outshooting employs Carey Price though, well that becomes a different matter entirely. 

Against Price you need to play a polished game, and permitting three goals against in special teams situations, taking a dumb retaliatory against Dale Weise of all people, and clumsily kicking goals into your own net isn’t what polished looks like…

While the net result was ugly, the Maple Leafs did a lot of things well on Saturday. Morgan Rielly was all over the place, and would’ve had two goals were it not for a pesky goal post in the first period. Toronto’s top-line of Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk and Leo Komarov was dominant, truly, for extended stretches and manufactured two goals. The first was the result of some nice work off of an offensive zone faceoff win by Nazem Kadri, while the second was gorgeous (though not for Habs fans):

(Courtesy NHL.com)

Scott Harrington also had his best NHL game so far, and picked up his first NHL point on Leo Komarov’s fourth goal of the season. 

And Byron Froese – despite being on the ice for too many goals against – was something of a force in his NHL debut, manufacturing multiple scoring chances, generating two shots on goal, taking the body constantly and drawing two penalties one of which probably should’ve been a penalty shot. 

The Maple Leafs’ solid effort on Saturday night aside, they can’t be satisfied losing a steady stream of games like they have this month. At the very least the Maple Leafs are entertaining, even if they can’t convincingly measure up against ‘les imbattable’ at the moment.

  • Corno4

    Gotta love Leafs media and fans! No mention of the fact that the Habs are playing their second game in as many nights, no mention of the fact that while they massively out shot the Habs the scoring chances were pretty much even, but still the Leafs were ‘sabotaged’. Gotta love ’em fuse they’re just the most optimistic media and fans in the world! The Leafs have made the playoffs once in 10 years, and nobody (outside of Toronto) has taken them seriously for countless years before that, but again, they were ‘sabotaged’. You know why they lost? It s called good team vs bad team, that’s it, pull all the metrics you want! Good teams find ways to win, bad teams find ways to well, you know, at like the Leafs! Heh heh heh!

  • Corno4

    Gotta love Leafs media and fans! No mention of the fact that the Habs are playing their second game in as many nights, no mention of the fact that while they massively out shot the Habs the scoring chances were pretty much even, but still the Leafs were ‘sabotaged’. Gotta love ’em fuse they’re just the most optimistic media and fans in the world! The Leafs have made the playoffs once in 10 years, and nobody (outside of Toronto) has taken them seriously for countless years before that, but again, they were ‘sabotaged’. You know why they lost? It s called good team vs bad team, that’s it, pull all the metrics you want! Good teams find ways to win, bad teams find ways to well, you know, at like the Leafs! Heh heh heh!

    • Gary Empey

      Ok I will mention it. Any time you get outshot 52 to 27 your team play like pure crap. Your goalie won the game you, This is the second game this year where Montreal was vastly outplayed by Toronto and stole an embarassing win. Sorry to hear they had played the night before and were out of shape. I thought the best goal Montreal scored was when they banked that shot off Grabner’s stick and skate right into the net.

      I hope Babcock can teach our guys moves like that one.

      After having a great October do you think Montreal will fade away just like they did last spring?

  • Corno4

    Great article Drance. The Habs just got lucky as the fourth goal seemed to move like a R.A. Dickey knuckleball on Bernier who made a lot of great saves. The leafs haven’t been very lucky as they have only that one victory for the month so far. But this sure beats those boring high scoring games that Carlyle engineered.

  • FlareKnight

    Like I long ago predicted once Bozak was removed from the line up the leafs would start improving which we can see by the improvement in shots.

    Now all that needs to happen is for Babcock to bench Bernier and go with Reimer. Reimer is the better goalie here and Babcock must be reading toronto media who talk about bernier’s pedigree and poise

  • jimithy

    The leafs’ special team is the problem. With Kadri, Lupul , Phaneuf, Holland, Reilly, JVR and Bozak as core players, there is no upside. Add a problematic goalie situation to the mix and it becomes even more special.

  • FlareKnight

    Apparently the Montreal fanbase is so insecure about their record they have to come here to bother people. What people have to do to make themselves feel better…

    It was a good effort. Montreal was definitely beatable on this night and the Leafs just hammered the net with shots and a ton off the posts.

    Rielly’s goal was pretty nice and good to see the team working out there. Despite not having anywhere near the same talent on the ice they got close.

  • Bob Canuck

    @Are

    Some points for you to consider:

    1. The fact that Montreal played the night before is a factor to consider if one were analyzing why Montreal played so poorly. The writer was simply observing that the Leafs played better than the Habs, not that the Leafs are a better team. Therefore, the fact that the Habs played the night before is irrelevant to the points made by Thomas Drance.

    2. The scoring chances were not “pretty much even”; they were 28 to 14 in favour of the Leafs (5-on-5).

    http://war-on-ice.com/game5.html?seasongcode=2015201620108

    3. Sabotage per Dictionary.com means any undermining of a cause. The Leafs outscored the Habs 3-2 at 5-on-5, so Drance’s citing special teams as a significant factor in the loss is on point.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sabotage?s=t

    4. “It s called good team vs bad team, that’s it, pull all the metrics you want!” So that means that a bad team never beats a good team?

  • FlareKnight

    this is what i want the leafs to do all year: dominate possession, play well, put in an effort and lose. a truly solid loss. i would have liked to end the habs winning streak but whatever. we still played better. i was honestly shocked the 52 shots weren’t against the leafs. still getting used to babcock as the leafs coach…