The Toronto Maple Leafs hit the ice for the second time in as many nights, and the result was much the same at home against the Wild as it was in Washington against the Capitals, and as it was in Tampa Bay a few nights prior against the Lightning. The Leafs fought long and hard for a solid sixty minutes and once again just narrowly missed out on picking up a point in what ended up being a 2-1 loss.
The Leafs actually opened up the scoring in this one off of one of the most blistering rockets you’ll ever see Jake Gardiner unleash. He’ll obviously get the bulk of the credit for this play, but you need to give Colin Greening (who has been excellent since coming up) credit for the sweet feed as well.
The Wild weren’t going to let a perceived gimmie game slip away from them, though, especially with a playoff spot at stake for them. Mikko Koivu took advantage of a hooking call against Frank Corrado and tied the game, bouncing a shot off of Garret Sparks’ shoulder and into the back of the net. Within four minutes, the game had returned to the status quo and remained that way until the midway point of the third period.
Once again, the Leafs found themselves shorthanded. This time, Leo Komarov was in the box for a very questionable interference call, and Mikael Granlund took advantage of the opportunity that ensued. Once-a-sharpshooter Tomas Vanek opted to go for the pass to the wide-open young Finn, who find an opening in the top right corner and scored what, despite Toronto’s best efforts, became the game winner.
Overall, it was another one of those results that Mike Babcock’s competitive spirit will take to heart but is ultimately the best case scenario for the team. Strong effort, close call, and all that fun stuff that leaves you wanting more once the talent arrives and/or ripens in a year or two.
Much will be made of William Nylander’s third consecutive pointless game. Admittedly, it’s not a good look for him; nor is having his worst game yet at the faceoff dot (27%). Mike Babcock is starting to diminish Nylander’s minutes as a reminder that he won’t be gifted every opportunity, and that’s fair. He’s been far from the immediate impact player that fans thought he could be.
At the same time, all is not terrible. He’s beginning to get more involved physically and has landed seven shots on goal in that span. That, combined with the whole “playing with Michael Grabner at even strength” thing and the “teenager that’s three games into his career” thing are reasons to not be too worried just yet.
You have to go with Jake Gardiner here, as he once again tilted the ice in a big way at even strength. Gardiner led players on both teams with an obscene 82.1% CF, had Toronto’s only goal, logged 19:59 of even strength ice time, and made everybody surrounding him look fabulous.
Honorable mention goes to Garret Sparks. OneT had another solid performance in between the pipes, stopping 20 of 22 and giving up no goals at even strength. He may not be ready to be a starter next season, but it’s getting harder and harder to rule him out as an NHL option.
See You Next Time
The Leafs will get tomorrow off before diving right back into the thick of things. They’ll be taking on the Ottawa Senators, who are armed with a familiar weapon in Dion Phaneuf. There’s still a chunk of the fanbase that will give up the tank for a win against the Senators, but now that the team doesn’t do tribute videos for returning soldiers, why not give him a couple of gimmes as a thank you? We’ll see what happens at 7:00 PM on Saturday night.