We should have known that this night was going to be one for good intentions with poor results at this very moment. Just look at Josh Leivo. He works his tail off for months with the Marlies, plays well above expectations, puts on the jersey of the big club for the first time this season, and almost kills himself on the net before the game even starts.
Great omen, Josh. The Leafs lost this one 3-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, in a game where Toronto’s systems shined, but their skill level didn’t.
The Leafs, like many teams that spend a hundred years fostering hockey players, tend to host a lot of “famous first” moments in players careers. Tonight, the scoring was opened with Seth Jones’ first point since the blockbuster deal that sent him to Columbus in exchange for Ryan Johansen. The goal was an opportunistic one; Matt Hunwick wasn’t able to strip the puck off of Josh Anderson along the boards, Kerby Rychel managed to escape Roman Polak and Daniel Winnik, which lead to a pass, a blast by Jones, a deflection by Boone Jenner, and the game’s first goal.
This was a period that, realistically, the Leafs should have been able to take advantage of; especially when you consider the fact that they had three powerplays scattered across, giving them every opportunity to gain momentum. Unfortunately, rookie goaltender Joonas Korpisalo came out to play in a big way tonight, and shut down every opportunity. This became even more evident as the game progressed, as the Leafs outshot Columbus 15-9 in the second, only to give up another goal courtesy of Alexander Wennberg, who grabbed an opportunistic rebound on a Justin Falk shot to beat a sprawling James Reimer.
Boyes will be Boyes; Leafs break Korpisalo’s shutout pic.twitter.com/m3ZCmtLjPr
— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) January 14, 2016
As the shot count crept into the forties, Brad Boyes finally broke the shutout. With two and a half minutes to go, Boyes crept over to the right side of Koripsalo, waited for Leo Komarov to pick up Morgan Rielly’s rebound, and ripped it into the mostly-open net. It wasn’t enough, however; Brandon Dubinsky added an empty-netter in the game’s last second to add that extra grain of insurance.
Why The Leafs Lost
Well, it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort. The Leafs attempted 94 shots on goal tonight and landed a little less than half of them; John Tortorella’s “let it all happen, but get in its way” tactics came out in spades tonight. I can’t imagine the legs of Columbus’ defenders are feeling too good right now…
This is a game that you can chalk up a bit to Korpisalo’s fantastic play, and the lack of pure skill in the Leafs’ present core. The last thing you want to throw at an agile goalie who is feeling himself is a straight up shot on net, which unfortunately was all the team had in its arsenal tonight.
Korpisalo for being the star of the night in front of 18,000 people who didn’t know his name, Nazem Kadri for putting up team-leading possession numbers and being a topic that almost caused Nick Kypreos and Doug MacLean to fight each other on National Television, and yourself for staying tuned in. This wasn’t a fun night.
See You Next Time
We thought that there was no way that things could get worse after getting blown out by the Sharks. We were proven wrong tonight by this dreadful game against the league’s worst team, but hey; now things really can’t get worse!
Toronto’s next game is on Friday, against the Chicago Blackhawks.
*looks back at schedule*
Followed by a game the next night in Boston, against the Bruins.
When is the All-Star Break, again?