Toronto Maple Leafs Post-Game: Hattrick Kane

When the Toronto Maple Leafs hit the midpoint in the season last year, the full-on spiral into darkness was already under way. 

This year, we expect them to be bad – so losses are supposed to be learning experiences, not so much things to be ashamed of. Morgan Rielly scored, so we should be fine with this loss – in theory. 

Of course, that was before we realized that Patrick Kane earned a hat trick in this game…

The Rundown

It’s tough to talk about wins with Patrick Kane this year, particularly when he’s absolutely killing the game, because the start of the season saw an off-ice incident put the former first overall winger in a position where many believe he committed an irrevocably terrible crime. Watching him light the lamp is tough for a lot of hockey fans, so that makes this a tough win to talk about. 

From an on-ice standpoint, though, Patrick Kane brought exactly one thing to Toronto – and that’s a glimpse at what the Leafs need to hope that Mitch Marner turns into. 

Whether you love Patrick Kane or hate him, he ran Toronto’s show tonight. He’s unbelievable, rookie Artemi Panarin is unbelievable, and the Chicago Blackhawks as a whole just won their tenth consecutive game – coming off a back-to-back, nonetheless – for a reason. They’re a club that has the perfect mix of offensive prowess, two-way talent, and defensive awareness; even forgetting about the fact that Patrick Kane is a tough player to like, you have to admit that he’s magic with the puck. 

In Toronto’s defense, though, they didn’t let themselves get as steamrollered as they could have been. Chicago has been a good possession team with strong goaltending behind a mature, well-established defense – and Rielly found the back of the net anyway. This is the same club that lost 7-0 to the San Jose Sharks barely a few days ago; losing 4-1 isn’t fun (and it’s even less fun when it’s the Blackhawks you’re losing 4-1 to) but it could have been worse. 

The Stats

chart

Not Toronto’s worst game statistically, but come on. Patrick Kane took enough of those shots that you knew how this was going to end. 

Let’s Talk About Matt Hunwick. 

I’ll confess. I liked Hunwick’s mentality at the start of the year; he’s a real go-getter with some passion and what seemed (at the time) like marginal replacement-level bottom pairing talent. 

Tonight was a pretty good indicator that this just isn’t the case. 

It’s clearly not just him, in his defense – and the Leafs have seen Mike Babcock work some serious magic on them by getting them to win as many games as they have this year, given the roster that’s being iced. Any mistakes made are a learning experience, the young guys aren’t being too sullied by a terrible season, blah blah blah. I get it. 

Matt Hunwick was one of a handful of Leafs players tonight, though, that just didn’t look like NHL-caliber talent. It hurts, but it’s true. 

Blue Warrior

I’m giving it to James Reimer because he never gets nice things, including a decent penalty kill in front of him. 

On to the Next One

The Leafs are back in action again tomorrow against the Boston Bruins. The bad news is that they won tonight, but the good news is that they’ve been pretty terrible lately otherwise – so hope is not all lost. 

  • Harte of a Lion

    taking boneheaded penalties against the league’s best pp and maintaining possession while not scoring is an excellent game plan by the leafs to acquire matthews. i’m impressed.

  • jimithy

    Another win for the leafs in the all important tank as low as you possibly can go. Yep It is January, only 65 days till spring and the serious teams are now revving up their engines.

    As Gary has pointed out the leafs will at most probably move three players and hopefully one of them will land a first round pick. The pain is eased with a fine wine and with the goal of getting a top four pick and hopefully a true foundation to build around. However always in the back of the mind is which one of the top 5 or 6 will be this year’s Aexander Daigle.

    One of the ironies of this year is that the leafs are near the bottom but are about to be joined by a team that started off 9 and 0 but proved they were a one man squad namely Carey Price. Was it only yesterday that the leafs and Habs had a titanic struggle in the final game of the year to see which team could lose and thus get the third pick. Well the Habs performed admirably and took with their 3rd pick young Alex Galchenyuk who although only 21 appears to have stalled in development whereas the fifth pick which the leafs got for winning that last game is young Mr. Rielly who indeed is working on his PhD of defence from Mr. Babcock.

    Obviously similar to the Habs the leafs can’t score these days as Reimer has allowed 7 goals in 3 games but his teammates have gotten him 3 goals. That third goal he allowed probably pushed his average over the 2.00 g.a. I’m beginning to wonder what the leafs might get for Reimer. Preferably he would be sent out to the west and not traded to Boston for a sieve goal tender in return. We have already gone through that nightmare.

  • jimithy

    The Laffs are back. Finally Babcock is learning what it’s all about in the ‘Big Dope’. Where something that happened fifty years ago will still make them swoon, and still take their breath away. These bums can mail it in and still get a million bucks but can you? Those ragtag bunch of girls should be wearing a dress over those protected padded shorts. Why does the Maple Leaf turn in to Maple Syrup whenever there’s two points on the line?

  • jimithy

    I was at the game. There were so many Hawks fans there. There was a father a son behind me. The father was in a bozak jersey and the son was in a Kane jersey. It made he question his parenting.

    • Harte of a Lion

      Exactly bananabread. Where was the grandfather to give that hopeless father a 27 yard field goal in the dad’s derriere. Unlike Walsh, the grandfather wouldn’t have missed.

  • Harte of a Lion

    After watching Chicago-Montreal on Thursday, Babcock said:
    “Don’t kid yourself. Good players make the game a lot of fun. I saw some stuff (Thursday) night that we don’t dare try. But we will. But that’s what good players do. Good players create something out of nothing within the structure of the game. And they beat the defensive structure, and you go ‘wow.’ And other players we put out there, and they forecheck and they grind.”

    The “some stuff” is things the Blackhawks do. Chicago is the current gold standard in the NHL. They are where the Leafs want to be. If you look at the current Leaf roster, how many of them could play for Chicago? And of those who could, how many could play on one of their top two lines or pairings?

    JVR could play on Chicago’s top line with Toews and Hossa. They have not replaced Patrick Sharp yet. They need a LW to go with those two and right now they are getting by Andrew Shaw who is a 3rd/4th line guy. Chicago’s “second line” is sick. Kane, Anisimov and Panarin. Teuvo Teravainen is on their third line. Chicago still sees him as a center. He has played with Toews and Hossa but is not really comfortable on the left side. He is an incredible talent and only 21. Chicago brought up Philip Danault (one of the three guys they took in 2011 before Brandon Saad). He has looked very good so far. Andrew Desjardins works well with those two. Chicago’s fourth line is OK now that Bickell is nailed to the bench. And Chicago hopes to get Marcus Krueger back for the playoffs.

    Of the Leaf forwards, other than JVR, none would play on either of Chicago’s top two lines. I am not sure if Kadri would play ahead of Danault. Kadri would drive Quenneville crazy and Quenneville would not play him.

    On the blue line, top three are Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson. No Leaf is better than any of those three. Rielly might play second pair. Phaneuf maybe third. We did not see Hawk rookie Erik Gustafsson who has impressed Quenneville so far. TVR is in the third pairing. Chicago gets by with Rozsival and Scuderi at the other spot.

    I am a Corey Crawford fan. He has many detractors but not many goalies in the NHL I would want instead of him. Price,Holtby,Lundqvist are about it.

    The Leafs have a dearth of talent on their current roster. There is some talent on the Marlies. But not enough to be like Chicago or the LA Kings. No stud two way center. I think Nylander could be a solid number two. Leafs best chance to get a stud center is probably Auston Matthews. No stud on the blue line either. Rielly will be very good but not a Keith or Doughty.

    Recent history suggests that you need that stud center/dman combination to win a Stanley Cup – Toews/Keith, Kopitar/Doughty, Bergeron/Chara. Given our East coast bias for sleep, I don’t think most people realize how good Kopitar is.

    What last night’s game showed is how much work remains to be done.