Photo Credit: Billy Hurst/USA TODAY SPORTS
The Toronto Maple Leafs lost 5-1 to the St. Louis Blues tonight, and as such, may as well not play the rest of the season, or something along those lines. It’s clearly an insurmountable tragedy. Here’s a highlight (lowlight?) pack:
Toronto used fancy new lines for about five minutes before realizing that was weird and going back to the four they’ve been running for weeks, except that Ben Smith was also around. Smith was caved in; Toronto’s worst possession player at even strength and in all situations, though he didn’t play a single shift in the offensive zone.
The Leafs had 21 of the final 25 shot attempts in this game, which sounds great, but they pretty much all came while down by three goals. At this point, Mike Yeo, who was in his first game of being the head coach of the Blues after they fired Ken Hitchcock, was playing around with his new (but not really, as he was already the assistant and heir apparent to the job next year) squad.
The Marner line was really good. Mitch scored a very nice goal, and they were all above 80% in the shot attempt department. They also played almost entirely in the offensive zone and got more of their minutes when it didn’t matter anymore.
The defence was weird. Polak and Marincin were the best pair as far as the spreadsheets, but most were of the opinion that they weren’t good, and placed all the blame on whichever one they liked the least. The Gardiner pair had another rough night, which was the focus of the broadcast and the casual fan. Vladimir Tarasenko’s 4-1was really nice. I wish I could shoot a puck the way he does.
Really, the actual winners of this night were the Leafs, who lost by multiple goals in consecutive games for the first time since last season and also lost three games in regulation in a row for the first time since last year. This is the first time that they won’t meet or exceed Mike Babcock’s six points every five games segment since the November 26 – December 7 segment. While some have known all along what this team is capable of, people have finally started to accept it in the past few weeks and they’ve driven the hype through the roof. Maybe a bit of deflation is a good thing. Maybe insane fears that this team will collapse just because previous Leafs teams that were actually bad did that will take some pressure off.
Most importantly, we’ll learn just how good Kevin Shattenkirk’s hockey IQ is after tonight. If he’s suddenly changed his mind about the Leafs being great (and maybe a future home) based off of one night of facing them, then they probably didn’t him anyway.
Saturday night against Boston is the next challenge. That’s a game they have to win because being devoid of points is one thing, but giving them up to those you’re battling with is disastrous. Let’s see if they’re ready for the call.