A telling statistic was aired by Sportsnet just prior to last night's game: the San Jose Sharks got an average of just over 35 shots on net, while the Leafs (again, on average) allowed over 35 shots on net per game. In other words, you didn't have to be a believer in advanced statistics to guess how last night's game was going to go -- even the most old-school of analysts have started to wonder aloud how many games the Leafs can be expected to win giving up this many shots on a regular basis.
James Reimer played his part well enough, stopping 37 of 40 shots, finishing the game with a .920 save percentage on the night. It's fair to say that if your goalie has a .920 at the end of the game, your team stood a reasonable chance of winning, assuming you allowed fewer than 40 shots. Last night was the 7th time this season the Leafs have allowed 40 shots or more.
The first period was nothing short of an embarrassment for Toronto. I actually laughed out loud on several occasions, like when Fraser McLaren responded to a clean hit by decking the perpetrator from behind (albeit in open ice). It was pointless, cowardly, and put the Leafs on the penalty kill (yes, the Sharks scored). Were the Sharks intimidated? Oh, I bet Joe Thornton was shaking in his boots. The Leafs went over 17 minutes without recording a shot after a strong shift or two to open the game.
I'm going to guess there was a lot of shouting in the dressing room between the first and second periods, and I look forward to seeing it broadcast to the world on an upcoming 24/7 episode. We can only hope that Randy Carlyle gets some chicken wing sauce on his face for the occasion. Anyway, the Leafs came out flying for the first half of the second period. Really, they were great. They took the play to the Sharks and, at one point in the 2nd, had out-shot their San Josean (San Diegoans? San Deagans?) counterparts 15-7. The Leafs drew a few penalties and wound up cashing in twice, with Mason Raymond and Phil Kessel both notching goals on separate power plays. Naturally, the Sharks stormed back in the back half of the period and wound up out-shooting the Leafs 18-17.
The third period was the most evenly contested period, as the Leafs began to press for an equalizing goal. Yeah, score effects played a big part in this one. Although the Buds had a few good looks at the net, Antti Niemi had a strong game, and held on for the win, with Logan Couture burying an empty-netter when the Leafs couldn't mount a big siege in the final minute.
Here are Carlyle's post-game thoughts:
As usual, I like almost everything I hear him say, but identifying problems and fixing them are two separate issues. I find it odd that he doesn't see the connection to certain personnel choices, but there you have it.
Notes on individual players:
- Morgan Rielly wasn't without fault in this one, but his strengths were on full display. He skated the puck out of the Leafs zone many times, joined the rush at appropriate moments, and used his speed to get back when he needed to. It's true he tipped a San Jose shot past James Reimer on their first goal, but the goon squad was on the ice and his partner was Mark Fraser, so the team had been running around in its own zone for some time by that point. Rielly also gave the puck away on the empty net goal, but in the final minutes of a 1-goal game, risks have to be taken. Overall, a pretty good performance from the youngster.
- Yikes, Mark Fraser. He drew into the lineup because Cody Franson was a healthy scratch (and perhaps rightfully so -- Franson hasn't been very good, lately) but looked out-matched. His mobility is just too big an issue. It leads to turnovers, bad passes, a lack of rushes because of hurried clearing attempts, etc.
- James van Riemsdyk was probably the best Leafs player on the ice last night. He was dangerous all game, whether on the power play or at even strength, and even looked strong on the penalty kill.
- Tyler Bozak made a great pass and Phil Kessel a great shot to tie the game at two on the power play. Kessel had a number of good-looks at the net, and Bozak was in and out of the game with some kind of mystery upper-body injury. Carlyle didn't know how serious it was.
- The Goon Line was on the ice for two goals against, and both were extended periods of pressure for the Sharks. The second of the two came at the end of a full 120 seconds of pressure during which the Sharks' 4th line was able to change and get Pavelski's line out. They took unnecessary penalties, got hemmed in, and scored on. Better keep dressing them!
- Peter Holland managed to get into the lineup and even found himself between Kessel and JvR for a few shifts when Bozak was out. I like what I see, but he still has some growing to do, both in terms of getting stronger and learning the responsibilities of an NHL center.
Here is the NHL Box Score. Here are the numbers from Extra Skater. Oh, and for the record, the Sharks now lead the league with 36.0 shots per game while the Leafs trail the league with 36.1 shots against per game. At least the Leafs managed 30 of their own shots last night.