Sergei Bobrovsky still has Maple Leafs number as they drop opening road trip game 3-1 to Panthers
Photo credit:Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
By Joseph Zita1 month ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs are finally on the road as they opened up a five-game road trip against the team that ended their season in May.
Given how crazy the Maple Leafs’ start to the season has been with high-scoring games and question marks with their play away from the puck, maybe going on a lengthy road trip this early in the season is good for the team.
On a night the Florida Panthers unveiled their 2023 Eastern Conference champions banner in front of the Maple Leafs – whom they eliminated in the second round back in May – they were rewarded with an early power-play after Fraser Minten went to the box for tripping.
The Panthers looked like the better team through the first five minutes of play, but Ilya Samsonov had the answers for the scoring chances they created. Matthew Tkachuk was robbed in the middle of the crease as Samsonov stuck out the left pad to deny him.
Although Toronto eventually found their feet and started to generate some of their scoring chances after the early push from the Panthers, it was Florida who opened the scoring, and it now stands at four consecutive games where Toronto has failed to score the first goal.
However, Florida didn’t stop there. Oliver Ekman-Larsson snaped his first of the season past Samsonov just two and a half minutes after Kevin Stenlund opened the scoring, and the Maple Leafs headed into the first intermission down 2-0.
Toronto came out for the second period with more jump than the first period, and if it wasn’t for Bobrovsky, they could’ve gotten on the board in the early going.
Although they were down 2-0 and heads around Leafs Nation were starting to shake in disappointment given how bad this team has been with their play away from the puck, Toronto was awarded a power-play with a chance to get on the board. However, they couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity and only managed a single shot on the man advantage.
Noah Gregor would take a penalty soon after Toronto failed to score, but luckily, Florida negated that because they took a penalty of their own. After we got to see some four-on-four hockey, Toronto was on the power-play for a bit, and it was a Tavares shot that set up the goal as Mitch Marner cleaned up the rebound for his first of the season to cut the Panthers’ lead in half.
Toronto would continue their second-period push after cutting the lead in half, and even after taking another penalty, Florida would take another one at the end of the second period as Noah Gregor got hauled down on a partial breakaway. Toronto would start the third period on the power play for the fourth time in the game.
With a power-play to begin the third period down 2-1, Toronto couldn’t tie the game after a couple of good looks on the man advantage.
It’s nothing new for Toronto, who has been playing from behind a lot this season. If they wanted to leave FLA Live Arena with two points, they were going to have to mount their third comeback win of the early season. Although they looked like a much better team last night, they ran into a goalie who seemed to stop everything.
Just like in the second round of the playoffs, Sergei Bobrovsky stopped everything Toronto threw at him, and they couldn’t find the equalizer in the final period. They had another power-play opportunity late in the frame, and it was the same story all night, Bobrovsky turning everything aside.
If you’re a Leafs fan, it’s probably frustrating to watch this. In the first two games, where they picked up two wins, they scored 13 goals but looked brutal defensively and didn’t look their best. Now, in the last two games, they continued to generate a lot of shots and scoring chances but have only scored a total of two goals.
They’ve gotten better with their play away from the puck in these last two games against Chicago and Florida, limiting their rush chances against and total goals. But if Toronto is going to average just one goal, they’re going to be losing more than winning.
With the goalie pulled and trying to tie the game at two, Sam Reinhart fired a shot from distance and found the empty net with just milliseconds left on the clock to end the game. Toronto drops their second straight game as they lose 3-1 to the Panthers.
Who stood out:
Toronto didn’t look good in the first half of the first period as Florida controlled the majority of the play, and once Toronto killed that early power-play off and found their feet, I thought the usual suspects from the past three games were the ones that looked good last night.
The big boys of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares looked good to me, but they could only score one goal. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, as all four combined for 14 shots on goal. The bottom six need to step up here soon to help out the scoring because the big boys can’t score every night.
I thought Ilya Samsonov looked much better in this game compared to the first two he started. A save percentage of .913 (21 saves on 23 shots) is good but wasn’t good enough as Bobrovsky put up a save percentage of .967 (29 saves on 30 shots)
Both goals he allowed came from distance, and I guess you would want him to stop them or at least one of them, but it’s an improvement from his play against Montreal and Minnesota.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game on Sportsnet Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning as they continue their five-game road trip. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
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