There was plenty of scary to go around tonight at the ACC.
The scoreboard, for starters, highlighted once again the fact that this Leafs team just does not have enough offensive weaponry to win on a consistent basis, but also that the team has been receiving sub-par goaltending so far this season. Moreover, the shot count looked ugly, as the Penguins put 32 shots on the beleaguered Jonathan Bernier, while the Leafs mustered only 21. In other words, the box score's story is a grim tale.
Things weren't all bad, however. Really, anyone who examined a shot attempt chart could see that the Leafs had a reasonable amount of possession, and that pucks were indeed heading in the direction of Marc-André Fleury.
Of course, the fact that the Leafs were incapable of converting many of these shot attempts into actual shots is something to keep an eye on. If this starts to be a pattern for the Leafs, there may be a tactical issue that needs addressing.
Special teams are one demon the Leafs have been battling since well before Hallowe'en, and tonight was no exception. In the first period, on the Leafs' second penalty kill, with Byron Froese off for tripping Kris Letang) the team surrendered its first goal against. Really though, it was hard to blame the penalty kill too much, since in the end, it was an eminently stoppable shot that Bernier allowed to dribble through his pads.
Rich Clune's career as a Maple Leaf is not off to the start that anyone had hoped for. After running around trying to hit everything that moved, he slammed not one, but two Pittsburgh players from behind into the boards. He got away with the fist infraction but was dealt a major penalty for the second. His Corsi number on the evening was middle of the pack, but it wasn't good, either.
Top make matters worse for the Leafs' special teams, they have been exceptionally bad at allowing short-handed goals. Eric Fehr lead a 2-on-3 rush that saw Jake Gardiner inadvertently bat the puck onto his his own goal, forcing Bernier to make a quick pad save before Morgan Rielly completely lose positioning on Fehr, and Fehr had an easy goal over a sprawling Bernier.
The third goal saw Bernier slightly off his angle while facing a 2-on-1 where Martin Marincin got got standing still at the offensive blue line. Really, it was a tough play for Marincin, who simply whiffed on a knuckle puck that he was trying to tap deep into the Pens' offensive zone, and then got caught by two Penguins going the opposite direction. Goals on odd-man rushes are never entirely a goalie's fault, but Bernier didn't look good on this one, either.
The fourth goal came in the third period on a dump-in that the entire Leafs' team seemed uninterested in tracking down. As the puck bounced off the end boards in the Leafs' zone, Bernier seemed momentarily confused, and then simply let the puck slide past him out into the slot while none of the rest of the team skated harder than Patric Hornqvist, who simply was first to a puck in the Leafs' zone and snapped one upstairs on a startled Bernier.
For their part, the Leafs did have a few good chances. As the table above shows, they did indeed put a good number of pucks in the direction of Fleury, and so a number of deflections came close to beating him, and James van Riemsdyk even managed to hit iron early in the first. Although Fleury is, on balance,
a poor starting goalie an overrated plyer, he was good tonight, and deserved his shutout.
Here are Mike Babcock's thoughts on the game: