The Toronto Maple Leafs fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-2. It wasn't quite as bad as the score board would make it seem - one of the goals was an empty netter, the other, a garbage time insurance goal. But in terms of possession, the Blue Jackets took the lead and never looked back. Here's your game in six:
Among the forwards, Kessel looked strong as usual - his first goal was putting away a very nice Bozak through-the-crease pass - and he added some strong zone entries and threatening shots. Bolland had a good game, too. Some nice clears, and crashed the net well to create a very pretty second chance of a Paul Ranger rebound. Clarkson's debut had a couple flashes of offensive talent, but was largely unspectacular.
I haven't caught much Maple Leaf hockey this year, but the bottom four defense continues to look like it's struggling in its own zone. The Leafs gave up several odd-man opportunities, and Bernier's the only reason they weren't up on the highlight reel.
Ranger continues to struggle, despite all hopes to the contrary. He failed to clear the puck out of the paint on the first goal - it's a quick play, but I think it's that weird right-leg-kicking-motion that loses him the chance to make the play. The second goal against, too, involved Ranger getting caught behind the net, literally spinning full circle trying to find the puck. Franson swapped sides to pick up what would've been Ranger's man in front of the net, and Foligno sends it to a wide open Gaborik instead. Then again, the reason the Jackets had the puck in the Leafs' zone was because Franson filed to get the puck out of the zone moments prior. It's a shame that Dubinsky went end-to-end unchallenged in a 3v4 situation, but Bernier probably wants that short side goal back - cheating on the pass is not a good plan. The final goal against was basically the textbook definition of "phoning it in," as everyone seems to have dropped their man at least once. Oh well.
As usual, I wonder about Carlyle's usage of the defense - although not for the usual reasons. I like that he's been leaning on the top pairing a little less than last season, but Gardiner, Ranger, and Franson have been started more often in the defensive zone than Gunnarsson and Phaneuf, who have spent the bulk of their time in the neutral zone so far. I don't necessarily mind this, but If Carlyle's going to continue using Dion primarily in the neutral zone, it might make sense to pair him with a weaker left defenseman - most likely Gardiner - to see if Gunnarsson can carry one of Franson or Ranger. I thought his decision to pull while Columbus had the puck wasn't a particularly good one, even if I tend towards being pretty aggressive about pulling the goalie.
If you haven't checked it out yet, ExtraSkater.com has an incredible array of single-game and season-long stats. Here's the link to tonight's page. Anyways, hit up the comments section to let me know what you thought of last night's game.