Photo credit:© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Knee Jerk Reaction: Hard luck loss for Martin Jones and the Leafs
By Nick Richard2 months ago
Hockey can be a funny game. Yes, there’s a reason the best players in the world consistently perform at the highest level, but the nature of the sport allows for plenty of strange things to take place on any given night. With a bunch of guys flying around the ice with blades on their feet, trying to direct a little rubber disc into a 4×6 cage, there are bound to be improbable bounces over the course of 60 minutes.
We’ve seen the bounces go the Leafs’ way on numerous occasions so far this season, sometimes aiding them in earning points they might not have deserved. That wasn’t the case on Tuesday night, however, as the New York Rangers benefited from some fortuitous puck luck to hand the Leafs a 5-2 loss.
Martin Jones looked solid in the early going of his second consecutive start, stopping all 11 shots he faced to keep the game scoreless after one. He wasn’t tasked with many difficult stops, but he was a calming, steady presence once again. Jones, nor anyone else for that matter, could be faulted on the Rangers’ opening goal – a nothing play off the rush that bounced high in the air off that skate of TJ Brodie, catching Jones going the other way.
Shortly after Morgan Rielly set up Auston Matthews for a pretty goal to tie the game, the Leafs gave it right back off another unfortunate bounce. Nearing the end of a Rangers power play, a shot off the stick of Alexis Lafreniere was partially blocked by Rielly, leaving Jones helpless on the redirection. Even the Rangers’ insurance goal on another power play late in the third came off a shot that was going wide before it hit the skate of William Lagesson and found the back of the Leafs’ net.
Sometimes, it’s a matter of creating your own luck, and while the game was probably closer than the final score indicated, the Leafs ultimately got the result they deserved against the Rangers. They had their chances, and Matthews continued his stellar run with two more goals to keep the Leafs in the game, but they also made their fair share of errors to give the Rangers quality looks against Jones.
Jones, for his part, would probably like another shot at Braden Schneider’s winning goal, but even that one was a flubbed shot that didn’t go where it was targeted. Schneider only had that clean look in the first place because of some brutal defensive coverage and a poor angle by John Tavares while defending the rush. It wasn’t Jones’ finest night in blue and white, but he doesn’t bear the burden of this loss.
The Leafs were far from being at their best against the Rangers on Tuesday, and even still, a bounce or two the other way could have easily flipped the script. Sure, there are things from this outing that they’ll want to clean up, and they won’t be happy with their effort, but this wasn’t a loss that exposed any sort of fundamental weakness with the team.
Things have gone the Leafs’ way more often than not as they’ve piled up points over the last month or so, but Tuesday simply wasn’t their night.
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