Losing streaks suck, and it feels like it’s been a long time since there’s been any sort of air of vulnerability with regards to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even during the stretches last year when they were really chasing the game, they were winning games. The Leafs wrap up November with 11 points in 13 games. Last season, their worst 13-game stretch was 12 points, but that’s a little corrupted thanks to a five-game losing streak from Games 25 to 29. The worry with the Leafs isn’t the record, it’s just that they haven’t strung together any good play over a decent stretch since the solid start.
It’s not consistency that’s the issue, it’s that the team is too consistent. Every game is the same story: the Leafs get out-shot, they’ll take too many penalties, and the goaltending has to be close to perfect if they want a win. No different in Montreal Saturday night. They were out-shot 39-36 despite trailing for almost the entire game, and lost 4-2 to Le Club Hockey.
It doesn’t matter if the Leafs give up a lot of shots because they don’t give up a lot of quality shots:
This sequence was an excellent stretch pass from P.K. Subban to Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty got a shot and three different whacks—he probably would have had a couple more because Mark Fraser was just so slow in trying to catch up to Pacioretty. I’ve been long an advocate of Fraser sitting for a game. Nothing personal against the guy, it’s just business, but he doesn’t have enough mobility to be an NHL defenceman. What means he likely won’t is because Cody Franson went out tonight with the dreaded “lower body injury” and didn’t even dress.
It looked like the Leafs tied it up a short while later, but Dion Phaneuf’s apparent goal was disallowed because James van Riemsdyk is in the crease. Certainly the right call according to the rulebook, but not one often seen in practice:
Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside his goal crease.
Before the period was out, Subban scored after a faceoff loss by Tyler Bozak, a lazy defensive effort by Phil Kessel and a pretty weak save attempt by Jonathan Bernier. Guess which component the press is going to make a bigger stink about?
Things appeared to fall apart late in the second period. Tomas Plekanec scored at the end of another one of those long shifts the Leafs just couldn’t clear the puck, and then Pacioretty scored his second, shorthanded.
Still, it wasn’t all bad. 4-0 at that point, the Leafs scored just 48 seconds after the Pacioretty goal, on one of the most amazing shots you’ll ever see off the stick of James van Riemsdyk:
And then Mason Raymond stuck home a rebound of a Paul Ranger shot:
In the third period there wasn’t an awful lot of push by Toronto. Carey Price had to make a couple of good saves, but so did Bernier. In the third, the Habs out-shot Toronto 14-12 and the scoring chances were probably a similar ratio.
WHY THE LEAFS LOST
The Leafs have been getting some absurdly bad luck lately. It seems like they’ve been on the wrong side of close calls, and goalies have just stopped making saves. Just an .870 save percentage for Bernier and James Reimer during this four-game slide.
Where once the Leafs were a poor team whose problems were disguised by good luck, what we’ve seen recently is a team whose problems are exacerbated by bad luck. I don’t think it’s time to hit the panic button yet, but Leafs brass should be scared enough to seriously look at sitting the players with worse shot differentials and playing the ones with the best shot differentials and change the breakout. It seems they have one or two of those long shifts against every game lately, and that strategy looks less good when you’re no longer scoring on your odd-man rush opportunities.
Phil Kessel uncharacteristically made it two empty nets, so by default this lands on James van Riemsdyk. It’d be nice if we had a game soon where this was actually a not-obvious section. Credit to Colt Knorr backing down from George Parros in the first period, since he also forgot to backcheck and Parros generated a good chance off of a 3-on-2. I guess he did fight though, and commenters want me to mention it.
Figure the #Leafs can get a spark from that?
— Terry Koshan (@koshtorontosun) December 1, 2013
No. No they didn’t. The effects of a fight are felt purely within the room and commenters never, ever, ever mention the zillions of times where a fight has no visible effect on the game. The imagined times a fight has an effect are almost purely due to confirmation bias, and it is impossible to predict whether a player “jump-started” by his teammate fighting will perform any better on the ice.
Those four shots on Pacioretty’s breakaway were the difference at the start, and it was relatively even throughout otherwise.
- Just one note via ExtraSkater.com. I don’t have a lot of points to make tonight, but Douglas Murray wound up tonight with his first game of over 50% Corsi, which should be as clear of an indicator of the Leafs issues as anything. I don’t know the fix, but it would be nice if management changed something. Anything. We’re not talking about rotating in fourth line wingers anymore. Whether Carter Ashton or Trevor Smith play or not has become akin to shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.
- Great job Cam. Make a Titanic analogy a few paragraphs after writing about how the panic button shouldn’t be pressed yet.
AT LEAST STEVE GOT PAID TO WATCH THIS GAME
DON’T TOUCH IT YET
Might as well go out for a rip.