It's been tough to watch the Leafs on some nights this season, but even though the team lost their latest contest against the Montréal Canadiens 4-2, there was no shortage of entertainment. In fact, the Leafs even carried the play for certain stretches, although I suppose you might expect as much given that the team trailed for almost the entire game, with Montréal going up 1-0 less than a minute in on a Tomas Plekanec power play goal.
Here is the box score via the NHL and here are the numbers from Extra Skater. You'll notice that the Habs went up 4-0 before the end of the second period, but that the Leafs got two back within a minute to keep things interesting. What a goal by James van Riemsdyk.
There were plenty of rushes (or "North-South" hockey, if you're in broadcasting), big chances, big saves, and even a couple pretty goals. The score could easily have been 4-4 with a couple bounces going the Leafs' way, but, if you were to ask Charlie Conway, he'd probably point out that a couple more bounces the other way and it'd have been a 6-2 game. Unfortunately, the Leafs still suffer from the types of mistakes that require nothing short of heroic goaltending to keep them in the game, and while the Habs aren't a team with a ton of firepower, given enough chances, they're going to cash in.
Phil Kessel had a few golden opportunities to score and just couldn't quite find the handle tonight, and, as usual, the only other halfway effective trio was Mason Raymond, Nazem Kadri, and David Clarkson. Actually, Kadri was even demoted to the third line in the third, and Trevor Smith wound up spending some time on the second unit. Kessel's line saw a huge amount of ice time in this one (an odd choice, given that it was the second of back-to-back games), as injuries are starting to really deplete this Leafs forward corps.
Here are coach Carlyle's thoughts:
He doesn't want to make excuses about the disallowed goal (fair enough), but he sounds like he really does. It really was a crummy call, but what else can you do? His thoughts on no one scoring off the rush anymore are a bit crazy, given the work that not norm ullman has done around here, but then hey, we're not NHL coaches.
Notes on specific players:
- Carl Gunnarsson had a tough game. One of the worst I can remember him playing in a long time. He was caught out of position all over the ice, going for big hits, not keeping his "head on a swivel" in the D-zone, and getting totally mesmerized by the puck on the Habs' fourth goal. He got danced by Pacioretty.
- Setting aside for a moment that one of Dion Phaneuf or Mark Fraser should have hung back to cover Plekanec on the first goal of the game, if Fraser is any faster of a skater, Plekanec doesn't get three whacks at it.
- Phil Kessel knew darn well that PK Subban was his man on Montréal's second goal, but that was only one of several defensive miscues for Kessel in the first half of the game. He had a stronger second half of the game, defensively. On the flip side, he looked dangerous at the other end of the ice from start to finish. Sometimes, you get the bounces, and sometimes, you don't.
- Each of Kessel, Bozak, and JvR need to shoot the darn puck. This line frittered away several chances to score looking for back-door plays. Those were working well earlier in the season, but teams watch a lot of tape.
- Paul Ranger continues to impress as of late. He's getting better, folks. Very quietly (not to mention slowly), he's becoming one of the Leafs' most dependable blue liners.
- Both Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly's skating was on display last night. They both carried the puck out of the zone very well, even if Rielly's overall game wasn't the greatest, as he missed coverage a few times.