It's not that I would concede this game in every situation, but the Leafs' chances in San Jose were looking pretty grim before the puck was dropped: the Sharks are a contender, who hadn't played since Saturday. The Leafs were on the second half of a back to back in a 3-hour time zone difference, and the first game wasn't exactly a cakewalk. What looked oddly promising five minutes in took a turn for the worse, as the Sharks owned the puck after the first Leafs goal. I'd list the goals against, but they're depressing - here's the game in six, instead:
The game featured two blown calls, one for and one against the Leafs. The first squeaked in under James Reimer's pads, and would only have been considered "covered" if the ref's "intent to blow" was also a contender for "fastest draw west of the Mississippi." The second controversial call was a goal against the Leafs that was waved off. The refs would later review whether or not the puck was in the net, but I guess they had to blame it on this because goalie interference isn't reviewable. With the benefit of TV replay, it was easy to see Joe Thornton leaning on Reimer's numbers, making no effort to recover, and looking behind himself for the incoming shot. Reimer never recovers after being deprived the chance to make a save, and the puck is in the net. These two incidents washed out, so it's hard to get upset, but it reminds me of two things: first, bad reffing isn't a conspiracy; it's an accident and it's a product of luck. Second, expanded replay - especially for goalie interference - and more transparency into the process (say, by making microphones public rather than decorative) could help the game substantially.
Regarding some play: Jake Gardiner's two goals came from jumping in to the rush and Morgan Rielly had a couple opportunities as well - I've mentioned it in the past, but since the Leafs have at least one capable puck-handling D on each pairing, it'd be nice to see a more formal system of a d-man carrying the puck through the neutral zone and joining the rush when available.
I think the Leafs' first goal against is a great example of why they should be challenging NHL-level defensemen: Marc-Edouard Vlasic is almost near the hash marks, and since there's no one assigned to the high slot, everyone has collapsed down low where the puck used to be. It's an easy way to create time and space, and the Leafs (as players) just don't seem to be good at cutting off the low-to-high passes.
There were a couple performances worthy of highlighting, but only under the context of "bad, bad, bad, bad, bad." But in an hour of complete domination, Dion Phaneuf got close to a night off (which should be great for his almost certain undisclosed injury), Gardiner played over 26 minutes and scored two goals, and Mason Raymond did some strong work to generate those two goals. Reimer, with his 42 saves on 48 shots (and 90 shot attempts against) deserves a pass here, but I'd be shocked to see him start Thursday against the Kings.
It's hard to be upset about this loss - the Leafs were going to need a miracle coming in to it, and they didn't get it. More than happy with two points out of a tough back to back.
PPP's Highlights Of The Night
There needs to be some levity about last night's game that goes beyond imagining Yakety Sax playing while the Leafs chased shadows in their own zone. First up, Mason Raymond:
Who among us hasn't raced in on a breakaway, imagined the glory of peeling away in celebration after scoring only to have the competing visions of the goal result in a total synapse failure. In this case, like a robot that has decided that they just cannot fathom the instructions they've been given, Raymond just curls into a ball behind the net until he's ready to reboot. Next, The Captain:
There was some worry that JVR had a concussion or that he wasn't checked out properly but he missed 8:30 of the period which translated to about 18 minutes during which time the Leafs assured the assembled media that they did in fact follow the concussion protocol this time. That means that we can laugh about it now. The reality is that while Dion leads by example, he isn't necessarily the best at understanding instructions. It all really came down to a communication error:
DION SORRY VOICES SAY DION SMASH SO DION SMASH VOICES NO SAY SMASH GREEN GUY JUST SMASH— Pension Plan Muppets (@mlse) March 12, 2014