Tonight was apparently a throwback game as the Leafs took us back to the dark days of October, when they outplayed opponents but lost because the goaltending was a five-alarm tire fire. Shots were 34-25 for the Leafs, Corsis were 52% for the Leafs, but netminding was the difference in a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals.
In one corner, the Capitals have Braden Holtby, who may be criminally underrated. While people talk endlessly about the likes of Price, Lundqvist, Rask, et al., Holtby deserves to be in the conversation of elite goalies. He came into the night with a .925 SV% on the season, and a career .921. He proved his worth tonight, turning away 32 of the Leafs' 34 shots.
In the other corner, Jonathan Bernier, whose struggles this season have been well-documented. With James Reimer sidelined by injury, this was a chance to redeem himself. He not only blew his chance, but took a blow torch to it and set it ablaze. I'd trust even Nelson Mandela- who, contrary to popular belief, was not an athlete- to posthumously put up a better performance as the Leafs goalie than Bernier did tonight.
As per usual when #45 is in net, the Leafs started the game strong only to let in an early goal on a bad shot. After dominating play, Jason Chimera puts a soft one past Bernier on the Caps' second shot of the game. The goal was deflating, but the Leafs would respond with a Peter Holland goal later in the period to tie the game 1-1.
The period would end tied 1-1, but that didn't tell even half of the story. The Leafs dominated the Capitals 16-4 on the shot clock, and definitely deserved a better fate. Again, goaltending: it makes a difference.
Things came completely unravelled in the second period. Despite early momentum for the Leafs, Washington again scored a bad goal on their first shot of the game to take the lead. Morgan Rielly had an awful giveaway in front of the net, but Bernier takes what should be a pretty routine save and sharts it into the net. Tom Wilson scored the go-ahead goal, because it is apparently municipal law that a GTA-born player embarrass the Leafs at home.
Again, the Leafs got one back on a power play, as Leo Komarov tips a point shot through Holtby's five-hole to again tie the game. This was as close as they'd get, however, as the Capitals' special teams would cash in. In what was perhaps the only goal you couldn't blame on Bernier, an Alex Ovechkin shot took wacky deflections off Roman Polak's stick and Marcus Johansson's skate. 3-2 Capitals.
On their second man advantage, Justin Williams would convert another goal to make it a 4-2 lead. While you could debate whether or not this was a *bad* goal, it was certainly a saveable goal for Bernier. In any event, that was 4 goals on 13 shots, which is flat out just not good enough.
The Capitals would hang on for the 4-2 win after a largely uneventful third. Apart from hitting a pair of posts on a power play, the Leafs didn't put up a legitimate comeback threat. The good news, however, was that Bernier managed to go an entire period without letting in a calamitous goal, despite 8 whole shots from the Capitals. He even managed to get his SV% up to .826. Good for him.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Good: A tie between the two goal scorers, Holland and Komarov. Apart from his goal, Holland was particularly good, getting some good PP scoring chances and leading the team in possession. Komarov had yet another strong performance on the top line.
Bad: Bernier, obviously. But for a challenge, I'll name someone else: Morgan Rielly. One bad giveaway, one bad penalty, and a 44.7% CF despite generous offensive zone starts. He's had better games.
Ugly: The Leafs goaltending situation if Reimer is out much longer. If that's the case, I honestly don't see how you don't give Garret Sparks a chance. Aside from Bernier being so bad that I can't imagine how it could possibly be any worse, you're going to have to see what you have in Sparks sooner or later anyway. Why not now?