Leafs Postgame: Tempered Optimusum

If there’s one thing that this year’s Leafs will be remembered for, it’s the fact that they absolutely couldn’t give less of a <expletive> about the challenge ahead of them. Last year’s team couldn’t either, but they were more about curling into a ball at any sign of adversity rather than shrugging it off and pushing even harder in response.

Tonight was a great example of that. The Los Angeles Kings are a much better team, with two days rest, on home ice. The Leafs were hours removed from playing in a different city, albeit a nearby one, but both are thousands of kilometres away from home. They also probably have a weaker first line on paper than either trio in the Kings’ bottom six.

But they pushed. Even when the Kings outclassed them, they pushed. They ultimately lost, but they never stopped pushing.

corsi

The first sign that this game was going to end up in Los Angeles’ favour probably came late in the first period, when, after watching the Kings win most of the board battles, cycle with ferociousness, and generally pepper James Reimer with pucks, you went to check the shot attempts and screamed “holy crap it’s 21-2”. For a while, the Leafs looked like they were in bad shape, and Roman Polak didn’t make things better.


There’s a pretty good chance that Polak’s game misconduct gets overturned, seeing as Toffoli turns sharply and seems to practically clip Polak into making that contact. But after last night’s hit against Mike Santorelli, Polak should have been more cautious than usual and allowed himself to be in a position to cause danger for the second consecutive night. As well, referee Kelly Sutherland was accidentally blindsided by Jake Muzzin a few seconds later, but both he and Toffoli were back for the second period.

While Milan Lucic negated the first two minutes of the penalty, the Leafs still had a three-minute penalty to kill off early in the second period. To their credit, they did just that, and with the help of a mid-period powerplay regained some momentum as the game progressed. They weren’t able to score first, however, as early in the second period, Muzzin took advantage of a screen created by Michael Mersch and Jake Gardiner to end the dreams of a Reimer comeback shutout. The Leafs challenged the goal initially, but the war room back home found no reason to call Mersch’s proximity to Reimer worthy of an interference call.

The Leafs put themselves in a bigger hole a few minutes later after a defensive breakdown and lack of clearance led to Jeff Carter doubling Los Angeles’ lead, but stayed eager and eventually drew a penalty. With their fourth powerplay of the game, Peter Holland gave Toronto an opportunity to rally back by scoring his seventh of the season.


Toronto kept peppering Jonathan Quick, with both Brad Boyes and Nazem Kadri having glorious, potentially game-altering scoring chances. Unfortunately for them, Quick was playoff-good and kept the door closed, leading to the Kings finishing the night out on top. It’s hard to argue that they didn’t deserve it though the Leafs’ late-game efforts were admirable. 

Reim Time Television

It was a little funny to see the pre-game show centre itself around the idea that this was a must-win game for James Reimer, who would surely lose his spot in the depth chart if he had a bad showing. I find it hard to believe that Mike Babcock would turn his nose to the league’s save percentage leader if he was a little wonky in his first game back from injury.

Not that anybody had to worry about that in the end, though. Reimer looked stellar, stopping 37 of 39 shots against. This game isn’t even close if he wasn’t as lights out as he was in the first period, and both goals against (a screen and a cross-crease one timer) were tough ones to stop.

While he didn’t get the win, he did slightly bump up his save percentage, getting that 0.936 a little closer to 0.937. Unfortunately, Connor Hellebucyk’s 32 save performance against Dallas brought him to an actual 0.937, so he’s the new leader. Reimer, for now, will have to settle for being the league’s second best goalie at stopping pucks this year.

Let’s Laugh At Drew Doughty Again


Now, to be fair, Komarov crosschecked Doughty a few times before pinning him into the boards, and both teams were full of players playing at their jerkiest. Nazem Kadri and Milan Lucic were both incredibly reckless, stick happy, and chirp happy, and did most of their damage to each other. Doughty spent more time screaming at people he was angry at. Komarov threw more hits (8) than the three next highest Leafs combined, and not all of them were clean. The Kings are the evil empire of the league, and the Leafs at times are the misfit jerks. I’m hope you didn’t expect anything less out of this game.

See You Next Time

Two down, one to go! The Leafs make the trek from Southern California to Northern California to face the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. Because CBC always gets what it wants, this game starts at the traditional 7:00 PM start time that it would back home, leaving Sharks fans plenty of time to drink away their sorrows when Shark-for-a-game (seriously, look it up) Brad Boyes ends up as the game’s first star.