The Leafs coughed up an important two points last night in a 4-3 regulation loss to their divisional and historical foes The Montréal Canadiens.
With the Leafs suddenly being losers of their last 4 outings, the playoff picture is looking increasingly grim. If you're someone prone to panic attacks, I'd suggest just avoiding Sports Club Stats for a little while, because the odds that the Leafs find themselves in the playoff picture in 3-4 weeks are steadily dropping. There is still time for the Leafs to right the ship, but with James Reimer going cold at a very inopportune moment, the Leafs are in do-or-die mode.
No honest fan would blame Reimer solely for the loss last night. But it's also true that several of the Canadiens' goals last night had an odour to them. In each case, there is a legitimate defense available for Reimer, like how on the winner, he was forced to move laterally on a penalty kill, or how on the second, the Habs' player was on a partial breakaway. The ugly truth, however, is that Leafs' fans have grown accustomed to seeing everything stopped, and I suspect the team and their coach have, too. Whether this recent skid by Reimer is of any larger significant for his career will largely be forgotten, since a 4-5 game cold streak is nothing, if your team isn't desperately fighting to stay in the playoffs.
The Leafs began the game in a bit of a trance (which is becoming more and more of a pattern) with the Habs scoring two goals before the match was 7 minutes old. The team showed some resiliency and a bit of secondary scoring as Lupul and Bozak scored to tie the game before the end of the first, but Brian Gionta countered to take back a one-goal lead before the end of the first frame.
If fans are going to complain about the goals Reimer allowed in that first period, it's only fair that they also talk about the giveaways that lead to them. On the first goal, Kessel made a horrible giveaway in the neutral zone and proceeded to circle and take the long way back instead of fighting to regain possession. On the second goal, The Leafs' third line got caught deep, and both Cody Franson and Jake Gardiner got caught napping as René Bourque drifted behind them for a long pass and partial breakaway. The third goal saw the Leafs struggling to break out of their own zone and turn the puck over at their own blue line.
It's not like the Leafs weren't dangerous. In fact, the two teams traded chances for at least half the game, and the Leafs had half a dozen great chances to score that just wouldn't go. Phil Kessel had a breakaway, and both Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly rang pucks off the post behind Carey Price, but it's not like the Leafs haven't had their fair share of bounces this season, which at least helps me rationalize the loss to myself.
Worth noting is that this was Dave Bolland's first game back after missing 56 with a severed tendon. He played just under 10 minutes on the night and got a loud cheer from the fans when he first hit the ice and whenever he laid a hit. He wasn't really a factor in this game, but he'll need lots of time to properly heal and get back into the swing of things. It's pretty unlikely he'll be 100% at any point this season (or playoffs, if the team gets that far).
Here are Randy Carlyle's thoughts: