Smashville 4, Leafs 2*

Claus Andersen

The Buds fall to a Conference III foe behind poor goaltending and extensive PK time in the second period.

A lot of things went wrong for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.  I'm not exactly sure where to start, so let's jump right in...

Nazem Kadri returned from his three-game suspension and played decently.  He was physical at both ends of the ice, although he struggled at times to win puck battles. Threw the puck at the net after a zone entry late in the third and it resulted in a bit of a flukey goal.  Good things happen when you shoot the puck.  Unfortunately, that may be one of my biggest criticisms of Kadri's game.  His shot totals last year were underwhelming for a player in his position; this year they're even worse. He's averaging just over 1.5 shots per game and has only 8 total in his last 6 games.  Something to chew on.

There's mounting evidence that Phil Kessel is playing through an injury, probably to his right wrist. He played 15 minutes on Saturday against Buffalo, 15:50 on Tuesday against the Islanders, and 15:30 tonight.  It's possible he really did/does have the flu and it may have taken something out of him; I just don't see how it could impact him for three straight games.  The Leafs need other guys to pick up the slack; Joffrey Lupul, David Clarkson, and Nikolai Kulemin have combined for 3 goals in 7 games this month.

This was only Jonathan Bernier's third underwhelming start of the season.  The big difference in the past three weeks has been the goal support. In his first 10 starts, the Leafs scored 31 goals. His last 5 starts? 10 goals (and that includes a 5 goal game on Tuesday).  If that latter trend continues, the Leafs will likely lose every single game in which they don't get stellar goaltending. There's no room for them to steal a game, so to speak.

The Leafs actually out-fenwicked the Predators at 5v5.  Two bad penalties in the second period resulted in a couple of goals against and a hole they couldn't climb out of.  I thought their breakouts got really sloppy in the third as Nashville sat back.  I'm not sure how much ability this team has to mount a comeback in games like this one, considering they struggle generating large quantities of chances.

Overall I felt the Leafs did a respectable job on offense in stretches.  Their defensive zone play was pretty awful and that was highlighted on goals 2,3, and 4.  I know not norm spent some time defending Paul Ranger yesterday, but he continues to do ugly things that I can't unsee.  If I could describe his play in one word, it would be "sloppy".  Cody Franson has had a rough year, too, but offensively he's still pretty damn effective.  Generally, when Franson has played away from Morgan Rielly this season he has looked much more comfortable to my eyes.

Anywhoo, congrats to Nashville on a well-fought victory tonight.  Till next season, Preds!

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