Post Game: Dropping The Ball

The Ball Drop is still almost six hours away, but the Leafs seemed a little too eager today and dropped it early, losing 6-3 to the Vegas Golden Knights whilst being brutally outplayed for the majority of the game.

It was wretched turnover after wretched turnover, with a couple of Auston Matthews goals in between as some sort of consolation prize, or whatever.

First Period

The first thirty seconds of this period seemed promising, at least. Zach Hyman threw a puck on net right off the bat that would beat Malcolm Subban, but not the post.

Just a couple minutes later, however, Vegas would draw first blood. And second blood. And eventually third blood, too. Yikes.

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The first goal would come at the hands of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who took a nice feed from Alex Tuch and deked out Frederik Andersen to put Vegas up 1-0 just over two minutes in.

Less than two minutes later, the Golden Knights would find themselves streaking up the ice again, and William Karlsson would bang home his 18th of the season. 2-0.

That wasn’t all, either. Erik Haula would beat Frederik Andersen on one that Freddie would probably like to have back to put Vegas up by 3.

3 goals on 8 shots. Not ideal.

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The Leafs would have a couple of decent chances later in the period, but were unable to convert. They’d go into the intermission down by 3, and being outshot 11-4.

Second Period

The second period started off a little better for the Leafs, though that’s not saying much after the abysmal opening frame. After a strong early effort to open the period up, the Leafs were quickly rewarded. Connor Brown would feed the puck in front of the net to Patrick Marleau, who managed to just tuck it past Malcolm Subban for the Leafs’ first of the night.

The Leafs were briefly back within two, though it wouldn’t last:

Just a dreadfully unlucky play by Marincin, who banks the puck off of the referee, leaving it within reach of Jonathan Marchessault, who dishes it to William Karlsson for his second of the night. 4-1.

While the Leafs looked a little better throughout the frame, much of it remained frustrating and futile, with turnovers abounds, much like the first.

However, in the final minute of the frame, we were at least reminded that Auston Matthews is a Toronto Maple Leaf:

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My beautiful son from Arizona snaps his 16th of the season past Malcolm Subban, and the Leafs escape the period only down by 2.

Third Period

First off, a good thing:

A jubilant Auston Matthews nets a second goal to kick off the third period in style, cutting the Knights’ lead to 4-3. For a moment at least, it looked as if #itwasfourone was going to go the other way for once.

However, it would be all for naught. Six minutes into the third period, the Leafs would completely break down defensively and, uh, it was really, really ugly. So ugly that Sportsnet almost blacked out the sequence:

A disastrous sequence by Connor Brown, Leo Komarov, and Roman Polak, who stands between two Golden Knights and watches as Freddie Andersen is hung out to dry. Jonathan Marchessault notches his 14th of the season, is good at hockey, and makes it 5-3 Vegas.

The Leafs would come close a couple more times, but nothing would come of it. William Karlsson would add an empty-netter to seal the victory for Vegas on his 20th goal of the season. It was also the first Hat Trick in Golden Knights’ history.

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More or less a game that I’d like to forget. The good news is that tomorrow is January 1st, and hopefully a clean slate.

Mike Babcock’s New Years’ Resolution should probably be to re-think his personnel decisions as the Leafs set their sights on 2018, and a six-game homestand to kick off the new year.

See you on Tuesday when the Leafs host the Tampa Bay Lightning, which isn’t at all concerning.

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  • lukewarmwater

    Of course Babcock the 50 million dollar man and leaping Lou will be doing an assessment on the leaf team after they close in on the half way mark with 48 points This record despite a absolutely brutal schedule perpetuated on them by M.L.S.E. who rightfully must please the share holders and thus book the barn with any freaking act they can get and thus both the leafs and their poor cousins the Raptors spent much of December on the road.
    I think most intelligent leaf fans, who are not hoping that if they continually praise the decisions of M.L.S.E. they will one day receive employment from a team, the league and actually get paid, realise that Babcock can’t justify having Jake “I’m afraid of my own shadow” Gardiner on this team much longer.
    Again intelligent leaf fans know this is year two of the rebuild and the holes on the blue line are as wide as Jake avoids getting near an opponent. That being the case when the leafs are serious contenders as they continue to improve in year two, only Rielly and Zaitsev will be on that blue line. So yep a lot of work to be done.
    Now when the leafs basically do qualify for a playoff spot , I think it would be a good idea to bring up one of the young Marlie defenceman and give him some time on the blue line. Will he make rookie mistakes, yep but they won’t be any worse than a 28 year old defenceman. Plus the kid will similar to the Knights work his butt off to stay up in the N.H.L.
    Leafs finally back home, 11 and 5 at home but some tough games ahead. They must give a full effort but at least they won’t be playing 3 out of 4’s with the third game an afternoon game.
    Heh everybody enjoy new years. Don’t drink too much or take drugs and drive. I also suggested on sportsnet’s site that those who are addicted to the computer either through trolling hour after hour or on line games to get help for your addiction. I was disabled. Way to go you LOSERS ROGERS.

    • Bob Canuck

      I don’t know why the Leafs had so many road games in December but it is unlikely because MLSE booked “the barn for any freaking act”. There were only 5 non-Leafs/non-Raptors events at the ACC in December: 2 music acts; 2 Toronto Rock games; and 1 Marlies game that occurred during the NHL Christmas break. Also, the Raptors played 14 games in December, 6 of which were at home.

      I am more hopeful about Jake Gardiner’s future performance than you are. However, Gardiner has not performed nearly as well this season as he did last season. I still see him as a solid, second-pair defenseman on a contender. One explanation for Gardiner’s performance decline is that he is struggling with the new off-the-glass/stretch-or-flip-pass style employed by the Leafs. Two of Gardiner’s strengths are the ability to skate the puck out of the D-zone and to make short passes to a forward who exits the zone with possession; these skills are limited by the Leafs new style. Also, like Reilly before him, Gardiner has not meshed with Zaitsev.

      • lukewarmwater

        Thanks for the information on the barn events for December. My obvious question would be 5 events. Would these be multiple day events such as one season in November when the ice capades came in along with a federal liberal leadership convention. The leafs played one home game in the month of November that season. So I think you really have to inform us whether or not it was single night events or multiple night events. Chances are at least one traditional winter event would have taken at least a week of the month of December. Throw in the Christmas break and the limited number of games the Raptors and Leafs had available to them, you indeed get the outrageous schedule that a young leaf team had to endure. One does wonder then why each year M.L.S.E. has some of the worst schedules in the league for both the Leafs and Raptors to go along with a consistent top 5 in number of back to back and 3 games in 4 nights which is always a point killer.
        I truly think you and I watch a different leaf game as Gardiner’s inability to take responsibility for his defensive play is truly abysmal. He has had only one decent season and much of that was due to his offensive game that really improved that season. This year his offence has dried up. The guy simply hears foot steps out there and treats the puck like a live grenade when he hears foot steps.
        Please do me a favour watch him out there as the opposition buzzes around his team’s net and see how far he is away from the play and if his stick does get on to the puck, usually it is quickly taken off of him again.
        All the fancy skating, whirling and twirling counts for nothing when you are such a huge liability defensively. Kind of ironic don’t you think, that it seems every defensive partner takes the lion share of the blame when he makes those simple bone head mistakes. I mean this guy is 28 and still makes the same fundamental errors game after game.
        Trust me we will not be having this discussion much longer as he is either moved in a trade or he has his contract run out.

        • Bob Canuck

          Here is a link to the Air Canada Centre calendar. Click on the calendar at the top and click on the arrow to move from January to December. As I noted, there were five nights of non-Leafs/non-Raptors events. No winter event taking a week or any thing else you imagined occurred.


          In 2016-2017, at 5v5 with a minimum of 600 minutes of time on ice, Gardiner’s xGF% was 62nd among defensemen; this year it is 54th best (minimum 300 minutes TOI). Yes, relatively he gives up a lot of quality chances but he more than compensates by generating a lot of chances. Net, net his performance rank places him, in my opinion, in the category of a very good second-pair defenseman.

          We disagree about Gardiner’s contribution to the success of the Leafs. C’est la vie.