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Leafs roll over for Carolina, losing streak continues

Well, that went well.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

I was not allowed to do the preview today because I wanted it to be weepy Adele songs and pictures of Freddie from the Fashion Report. But no one can stop me from doing the recap. (No one wanted to commit to watching the whole game.)

I miss Andersen. He was the first actual starter the Leafs had in years. But that’s a longer term problem than facing the man who really wants a shutout from the “fragile” Leafs.

Tonight, the questions are more numerous and immediate. Like this one: do the line configurations even matter, or is the problem deeper than that?

First Period

Giving the new Tavares line a trip out with the third pair to start the game is a choice. They back right up to Jack Campbell sharpish and stay there. The third line with the first pair doesn’t escape the zone either. The Matthews line looks okay, though:

1-0 Leafs!

Oh, hey, the Leafs turn it over, but Campbell has it. Then it’s turnover-palooza, with the Canes looking as bad as the Leafs, so that’s comforting. This was only part of it:

Leafs take the first penalty. The Canes use a point-shot focused PP that also features a lot of behind the net play, so a bit traditional, a bit modern. They pin the Leafs, but can’t score.

I noticed Nick Ritchie when Jason Spezza passed to an empty left win, and then Ritchie gets Pesce up high when Pesce is bent way over — seems to have been tripped. No penalty will get called on that, but the crowd hates it.

Marner takes a follow-through stick in the mouth — ouch. Then he stays down on the ice, and gives the ref a look on the way off. I’d have a lie down if I took a stick to the teeth. But I don’t think I’m where the bar is set on that.

I was about to say that the Matthews line is looking for some actual offence, after the Leafs haven’t been near the net, but they turn it over, and the Canes nearly score.

Tavares line ends the period with their best shift of the game.

Thoughts

  • The score says the Leafs won that period, and they did in the way that counts ...
  • but a lot of questions are unanswered about how they play
  • No heat map, because the number of shots (very few) makes it misleading:

That’s a typical pattern from both teams, the Canes do mix heavy net-front with a lot more from the points, but the Leafs barely tested Andersen and carried the play poorly, got hemmed in, and were generally not much improved from their recent games.

Second Period

Canes give the Leafs an early power play on a weak-ish tripping call. The PP starts out just horrible with bobbled passes and bouncing pucks. The second unit comes out and is actually worse.

There’s no post-PP offensive flurry from the Leafs, just more desultory offensive zone puck control. Muzzin is very slow to cover for a pinching Brodie, and the Canes get a breakaway that goes wide.

The next time the Canes get a chance — seconds later — Campbell has it:

Canes win a faceoff, and turn it into a rapid goal while all the Leafs are a step behind on the entire play:

Tie Game

A guy named Lorentz (???) bulls the puck into the net, right through Rasmus Sandin, and Jack Campbell. If you want a lunch bucket hockey moment, here you are:

2-1 Carolina

Carolina takes a penalty with six minutes left. Will the Leafs get a SOG this time?

Ritchie with some energy and effort on the second unit, but this is a terrible PP overall. Really, genuinely terrible.

Another faceoff win leads to Bear taking the puck off of Marner, and everyone on the Leafs are doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. ALL OF THEM.

3-1 Carolina

Leafs finish the game with some effort, some offence, and Andersen and the Carolina defence never look like it phases them in the least.

Thoughts

  • It feels like if Carolina could forecheck harder, they’d be up by two or three
  • Yeah, I wrote that line too early
  • Jake Muzzin is just really bad right now — so slow, and never in position
  • Since it’s now a tradition I profile the no-name guy who scored on the Leafs: Steven Lorentz is a seventh round pick of the Canes. He’s from Waterloo, and is in his second NHL season. He’s played 84 ECHL games, making him one of the very few legitimate ECHL to NHL skaters.
  • The Leafs actually had some offence here and there, but they played most of it like a team who’d already assumed the score would by 3-1 after two
  • All Situations this time showing that Andersen hasn’t really worked hard, while Campbell has been helped by some big misses from the Canes:

Third Period

The balance of probabilities say that the Leafs are most likely to get the next goal, and the Canes are most likely to win the game. Let’s see how this plays out.

Jack Campbell with the first big save.

Andersen down and out, and JT can’t quite do it, as the Leafs are working hard. Doing that all game is often described as “making your own luck”.

Leafs take another offensive zone obstruction penalty, and they need to find where the refs’ line is.

Kerfoot draws a penalty on a great shorty rush — his best play in several games of play.

Campbell with heroics to keep it 3-1, and the Leafs take a penalty.

Campbell pulled with 3:45 to go. Carolina is content to just defend, until Svechnikov gets an easy ENG. So half the forecast came true. The final score is 4-1.

Leafs looked much better in the third, but then trailing teams often do.

Thoughts

Confidence is the most overused word in hockey. It seems to stand in for variance, the fates, body language and post hoc analysis of all kinds. But the Leafs really did look like they assumed they’d lose this game in the second. Maybe the problem is all those hometown players. They all grew up Leafs fans.