Shots, Hits, and Sh...ootouts. Leafs Lose, 2-1 (SO)

Hannah Foslien

Kadri had some controversial hits, Bernier made some huge saves, and the Leafs got massively outpossessed in a game where they still took a point away.

The Leafs looked like garbage for most of the night. Their lone goal came from the second power play unit when Mayson Raymond collecteed a Morgan Rielly rebound and puts it home. Apart from that play, there was simply no response for the Wild's forecheck, and the Leafs' inability to exit the zone with the possession of the puck made intentional neutral zone turnovers feel like a breath of fresh air. It's quite a feat that the Leafs had the puck as little as they did, and still took a point out of tonight's game.

Kadri had two controversial hits in this game, and will almost certainly be facing some suspension time, but they're radically different hits. The first was against goaltender Niklas Backstrom, when Kadri crashed the net following the puck, put his forearm out, and made direct contact with Backstrom's head. Backstrom was knocked unconscious, and would be removed from the game after a few more minutes of play. The second hit was on Granlund, along the boards, and was the same issue where Kadri put his forearm out a little too far when he made the hit.

The big difference between the two, I think, is that Backstrom's head is in its position because of a normal hockey play, while Granlund's is down by quite a bit. By the letter of the rulebook, both of these are checks where the principal point of contact was the head, but I think it's worth considering these two incidents as very different hits. Kadri needs to stop leading with the forearm, but I hope the NHL doesn't suddenly decide to consider the Granlund hit - which looked a lot like Chara's routine check - also suspension-worthy.

I also think that if the NHL is going to look into this game's head hits, they should be looking at the Wild's decision to continue playing two players who took clear hits to the head. Backstrom stayed in the game for another 3 minutes and 30 seconds after being completely immobile on ice, and Granlund didn't miss a shift. It's laughable that the NHL would claim that suspending a hitter is a notable step towards protecting against concussion risk, while the teams are ignoring the "quiet room" policy, leaving players at risk for two concussions in one shift, and not seeing any sort of pressure from the league.

Now, about the actual hockey game:

Bernier was the best player on the ice, and absolutely kept the Leafs in the game. It's tough to say anyone excelled in terms of possession - or even smart plays in general - when the team as a whole was giving up shots left, right, and center. It seems like it robs Bernier of a great performance to suggest that they were just "poor quality shots."

Phaneuf continues to log heavy minutes, but I thought he struggled near the end of the game, especially following a rough hit from behind in overtime. At this point, it looks like he's the one who's really covering for the Leafs' lack of depth at center, but it's worth noting that his primary matchups, which included Coyle and Pominville, dominated the Leafs when they were on the ice.

I thought Kulemin played a strong game, especially away from the puck. He won a couple footraces and forechecked well when the Leafs insisted on dumping it in. Ashton looked strong in the first period, with a couple good forechecks after the dump-in. Smithson was charged with the Jay McCLement special (18 defensive zone starts), and didn't make any glaring mistakes that I noticed.

But the overall team-level issues, like failing to break out and the constant need to dump and change (because of long shifts in their own zone) meant relying heavily on the goaltending, and barely getting the opportunity to put up a second goal. We'll see how these Kadri incidents shake out, but it looks like the Leafs will be going into the weekend's Sabres games without a lot of their skill players. Anyways, what did you think?

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