The Leafs are scuffling a bit after their hot start, with a putrid effort in San Jose and a horrific first 30 minutes in LA being the low points of the season thus far. It’s not yet time to panic, but the optimism that accompanied their electric opening games is starting to fade, and the question now has to be asked - are the Leafs a legitimate top-end team, or are they one that floats along with their head slightly above water.
St. Louis seems to be in the former group, and the Leafs have a chance to send a statement that they can join that group too. Let’s hope they do.
- [20:00] Game start.
- [19:12] So the league just decided to stop calling slashing, eh? Leo gets slashed on a rush, and no call is forthcoming. To be clear, this goes both ways. The Leafs will surely get away with many slashing calls tonight too. But it is so NHL to fail to stick to their own standards within a month.
- [17:24] Tyler Bozak continues his poor start as he takes an unnecessary interference call. Blues to the power play.
- [16:16] It’s been a strong PK for the Leafs, at least through the first minute of it. Though they’ve been helped by some unforced errors from the Blues.
- [15:19] Penalty killed with no real issues for the Leafs. Now let’s see them get into the game and generate some offence.
- [13:58] Vladimir Sobotka takes a shot that is tipped by Paul Stastny off the bar. Close call for the Leafs. He was left all alone in front, and that could have very easily ended up in the net behind Freddie.
- [13:22] Kadri’s line gets hemmed in pretty badly against Stastny’s group. Shortly after, Marleau’s group has the same fate against the Blues third line, which frankly, shouldn’t happen. Inauspicious start.
- [11:13] Even the Matthews line gets stuck in their own zone and bleeds shots. Not a sight we see often. Not a great start for the Leafs.
- [10:45] And of course, that means they score first! Andreas Borgman with the 2nd of his career. The fourth line breaks and Borgman aggressively joins them. Matt Martin (!!!!) finds him with a cross-ice pass, and a perfect shot from the Swede beats Allen. 1-0 Leafs.
- [10:18] Kapanen draws a penalty with his speed, and the Leafs have a chance to get a 2-0 lead early.
- [8:39] Not much happens on the power play, which has been rather ineffective in recent games.
- [7:23] Another really ineffective shift for Matthews’ group. They’ve been really mediocre to start, playing largely against the Tarasenko unit.
- [4:58] Komarov takes a slashing penalty (guess I spoke too soon about them not being enforced much anymore) and a scary Steen chance later, the Leafs will be shorthanded. Freddie did very well to stop Steen, who basically walked in alone on him, after a really nice backhand no-look pass from Tarasenko.
- [4:16] St. Louis’ power play looks horrific. Can’t even get set up. I feel like I might have jinxed the Leafs by saying that, but the Blues are making error after error in setting up their system.
- [3:13] The Blues finally get set up, but Andersen is there to stop them when they do. Stastny sets up Sobotka in the slot from behind the net, but Andersen moves well and saves the shot.
- [2:38] The Leafs are getting hemmed in really badly in the aftermath of the penalty. No shots result, but a lot of zone time and half chances.
- [0:50] Brayden Schenn nearly dipsey-doodles Hainsey and finishes, but he shoots just wide. Another dodged bullet.
- [0:00] Period ends. Leafs up 1-0, thanks to Andreas Borgman, but they otherwise look very, very mediocre.
- [19:30] More territorial advantage to start the period for the Blues, but once again, no particularly dangerous shots.
- [18:45] Now THAT was a shift we’re more accustomed to seeing from Matthews and friends. Hyman and Matthews get shots from right in close, but Allen turns them away.
- [17:27] But immediately proceeding that, the Blues score! Vladimir Tarasenko is the man to do it, as he and his line takes advantage of the Leafs’ inability to clear the zone. A deflected shot is hard for Andersen to handle, and he fumbles it right to Tarasenko, who makes no mistake. 1-1 tie.
- [16:46] The Leafs fourth line has a strong shift after the goal. They’re clearly better than the Blues fourth line. We could see another goal for that group before the game is over.
- [15:34] Once again, the Leafs have a real hard time exiting the zone with any sort of control.
- [14:20] I will be totally honest here. Nylander, in particular, has looked horrific this game. He just made a totally braindead clearing attempt, and he hasn’t done anything offensively.
- [13:25] And St. Louis is really pouring it on. Freddie is keeping the Leafs in this.
- [12:50] That was coming. Blues score and make it 2-1. This time it’s Joel Edmunson. The Matthews line looks horrific in it’s own zone, and a rebound finds Edmunson all alone. Horrific stuff from the Leafs.
- [12:26] Can’t really overstate how bad the Leafs have been (and relatedly, how good the Blues have been in comparison). This is awful.
- [11:33] Kadri’s group breaks the trend and the Leafs finally get a decent shift. Only point shots as a result, though.
- [10:30] Looks like Nylander has been taken off the Matthews line, in favour of Connor Brown. It pays immediate dividends as they get a few chances close in on Allen.
- [10:15] Marleau now with JvR and Marner. So if I had to guess, Nylander will be with Bozak on the 4th line.
- [9:32] The Blues are just dummying the Leafs now. Another defensive shift ends in calamity, and St. Louis is up 3-1. The Leafs completely lose their structure in their own zone, and Pietrangelo makes them look silly with a wonderful play after being allowed to walk in on Andersen. This is horrendous.
- [9:30] None of the Leafs looked great there, but JvR went walkabouts chasing the puck and Pietrangelo was his man.
- [9:07] The worst part of this is that this means Polak is coming in against the Knights.
- [8:36] Marner back on the fourth line.
- [7:45] Incidentally, the fourth line has probably been the Leafs best today. Which is not saying a tonne, but still.
- [6:21] Nylander now playing with Marleau and JvR. Good chance to see how he and Matthews do without each other, if nothing else.
- [5:37] This game has been a total disaster. The team looks entirely ineffective. In particular, they can’t get through the neutral zone with any modicum of speed or control.
- [4:39] Also, this should go without saying, but the Blues are good. The Leafs aren’t losing to the Sabres here. But at the same time, you need to be able to show up against good teams, and right now, the Leafs have failed almost every test against top-tier competition.
- [3:37] Relative to the rest of the Leafs, the Marleau - Nylander - JvR line looks decent. Not saying a lot, but we’re looking for small things now.
- [2:45] The Leafs string together two good shifts for the first time in a while. Matthews group gets zone time, but more importantly, they get some shots. A mad scramble ensues in front of the net, but no goals.
- [1:46] Andersen keeps the Leafs (theoretically) in this, as he saves a Tarasenko snapper from the right circle.
- [0:00] The less said about this period, the better.
- [20:00] Well, this period probably won’t be worse than the last one.
- [18:38] Again I’m wrong in my analysis. Nazem Kadri makes a boneheaded play in the defensive zone, and Magnus Paajarvi kills the game. 4-1.
- [17:54] The Leafs get one back immediately! Tyler Bozak’s line has been the best on the night for the Leafs. Marner sets up Bozak from behind the net, who puts it past a sprawling Jake Allen. 4-2 Blues. Much deserved for Bozak and Marner.
- [17:37] Okay, well, now the game is definitely over. 17 seconds after the Bozak goal, Borgman gets upended behind the net, leading to a wide open Vladimir Sobotka at the side of the net. He pots it in and it’s 5-2. That probably should’ve been a penalty on Stastny, who flipped Borgman.
- [16:48] It’s hard to pinpoint precisely what is wrong with the Leafs. They’re facing good teams, which is obviously a part of it. But for most of this game, they simply were not generating many chances. Of course, the more pressing issue is that they concede quality chances like they go out of style.
- [15:30] While I was pontificating, Matthews draws a penalty, because he is incredible. Leafs to the power play.
- [14:45] Better stuff from the Leafs on this power play than their first, but they do really need a goal, and they’re not getting it.
- [13:20] Kadri shoves Sundqvist into the boards, and he goes down hard. Kadri gets an interference penalty, and Sundqvist appears to be okay.
- [13:05] Almost immediately on the kill, Komarov and Hyman get a 2-on-1. Alex Steen obstructs Hyman to prevent the chance, and the Blues power play ends before it really begins.
- [12:46] During 4-on-4 play, Brown is unable to give Matthews a strong feed on a 2-on-1. Their are signs of life from the team, but it’s too little, too late.
- [12:46] Aaand now the Leafs get a faceoff penalty. I have no idea what actually constitutes a faceoff violation, so who knows if it’s legit or not. 4-on-3 power play for the Blues.
- [12:24] Tarasenko comes in on the power play and unleashes his wrister from the circle, 14 inches, blocker side. Andersen saves it, amazingly.
- [12:08] Unfortunately, he doesn’t save all of them. Alex Pietrangelo gets his second of the night, after Brayden Schenn slashes Andersen in the head. Shockingly, Babcock doesn’t challenge it for goalie interference. He either didn’t see it at all, or has given up on the game. 6-2 Blues. This was BLATANT interference, and would 100% be overturned if challenged.
- [10:04] Even as someone who has been critical of Andersen for not making the difficult saves at times this season, it is impossible to blame him for this. The Leafs are a tire fire in front of him.
- [9:50] Connor Brown scores, off a Zach Hyman assist (!!!!!). I would get more excited, but it just made the score 6-3, and probably guarantees that Nylander and Matthews will be separated next game as well. Brown has played well this year though, no denying that.
- [9:13] Ohhhh poor Zach Hyman. He’s with Matthews on a 2-on-1. Matthews finds him, and you can visibly see Hyman panic. He’s torn between trying to shoot (which he absolutely should) and trying to defer to Matthews. The result is a fanned pass right into the path of Allen.
- [8:40] The Leafs look better now, but the game is functionally over. I don’t read much into this.
- [7:20] Nylander looks benched right now, and it’s deserved. He’s been putrid. Marleau back with Kadri and Komarov.
- [6:47] Uhh, Matt Martin has 3 assists today, and two of them are REALLY nice. He makes a beautiful cross-ice pass to Bozak on a rush, who beats his man to the spot and scores again. 6-4 Blues. I mean, I guess we’re still theoretically in this, but jeez, way to leave it late guys. If nothing else, at least Bozak is getting going again.
Bozak with #2 of the night puts the Leafs within 2! pic.twitter.com/hIy1JTQ5ta— Hockey Night Punjabi (@HkyNightPunjabi) November 5, 2017
- [6:34] Also, that non-challenge by the Leafs on the 6-2 goal is glaring.
Turns out we used our timeout, according to Kristen Shilton.
- [4:50] The doghouse line of JvR - Nylander - Kapanen gets a run out and doesn’t look terrible. Also didn’t do anything ot get out of the doghouse.
- [2:20] The Leafs continue to pull the goalie early. Might as well.
- [0:00] Some pressure for the Leafs late on, but it’s for naught. They lose a game they shouldn’t have been in, and their slide continues. Toronto faces the upstart Vegas Golden Knights on Monday. Lets hope they resume their winning ways then.