Knee Jerk Reaction: Maple Leafs ruing the ides of March

Arun Srinivasan
1 month ago
A pointed message to the Toronto Maple Leafs: beware the ides of March.
We’re not suggesting that blowing a 4-2 against the Carolina Hurricanes in the regular season is equivalent to Julius Caesar’s assassination but the Bay Street denizens were seconds away from celebrating a St. Patrick’s fete in style but Sebastian Aho and Jake Guentzel sent a bouquet of arrows at the throne.
Our friends at MoneyPuck have summarized Toronto’s collapse neatly below, so we’ll regale you with the story here. After a scoreless first period where both teams forced chances to the outside, the Maple Leafs broke through. TJ Brodie broke up a tepid Hurricanes entry, then sprung Tavares on a breakaway to open the scoring. Moments later, Morgan Rielly sprung William Nylander for a partial breakaway, generated from another Hurricanes neutral zone turnover. It was a contrast in styles: Carolina’s defensemen, particularly Brent Burns, Dmitry Orlov and Jalen Chatfield were responsible for entering the rush and pinching aggressively to supplement the attack, but Rielly and Brodie’s long-range passing were superior.
Tavares turned back the clock and though he couldn’t get a shot off on a partial break, he made an expert read to set up Nick Robertson, who rocketed the puck into the net upon returning to the lineup. It was 3-0 and the party was on. Ilya Samsonov was stellar throughout the contest, earning ‘SAMMY’ chants in the first and third stanzas — he should be the playoff starter, barring a sharp, sudden return to his October-December 2023 form.
The comeback started slowly. Jordan Martinook cleaned up a rebound from a Burns point shot, and it was 3-1. And with 2.7 seconds left in the period, Seth Jarvis made it 3-2, where he deposited a Guentzel rebound. Toronro’s defensemen failed to box out when it mattered, and it came back to haunt them.
David Kampf scored in the third to give Toronto a 4-2 lead. It was virtually over. Kampf then took a hooking penalty with under three minutes remaining, getting his stick on Orlov’s hands. It was a weak call to be sure, but it’s little consolation as Aho scored his first of two empty-net goals in rapid succession. Kampf exited the penalty box dejected and in the dying seconds, with the Maple Leafs collapsing the net, Aho tipped home a Burns shot expertly to send the game into overtime.
Toronto and Carolina traded chances in overtime and Samsonov’s heroics shouldn’t be overlooked, with a massive save on Evgeny Kuznetsov in the extra frame. Nylander and Matthews worked tirelessly to create chances and Max Domi almost scored the winner. Almost isn’t good enough in the spring and it sure as hell won’t be good enough in the playoffs.
Beware the ides of March — it was 99.5 percent, for God’s sake. Enjoy your evening, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

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