The Leafs, disappointed with the first two games of their California road swing, hoped to make amends by capping things off with a big win in San Jose. Unfortunately, the odds were never in their favor. Playing on the tail end of a back-to-back against a team that is simply better, Toronto showed fleeting moments of promise tonight only to be denied by a superior Sharks team. Losing this one 3-1, Toronto finishes their trip through death valley 0-3.
The first period was an adventure.
Early on the Leafs looked flat, with the Sharks carrying most of the territorial play. They were eventually rewarded when they pinned the Leafs in hard on the cycle that lead to numerous scoring chances before Tyler Kennedy finally potted one in front of the net.
13 seconds later, it was 2-0.
The Leafs fell right back onto their heels after the goal and quickly allowed a scramble in front of the crease that saw Patrick Marleau break a 17-game goal drought. In other words, things were starting to get ugly.
But the Leafs, playing their second game in as many nights, found a way to respond.
What ensued in the second half of the period was closer to resembling shinny than actual hockey. Neither team played much defense, and while you might think that would work in favor of San Jose, most of the play was in the Sharks’ end. Sandwiched by a couple of plays where the Leafs looked like they surely had a goal, Roman Polak jumped in on a cycle play to pot his 5th (you read that right) goal of the season. So, 2-1 after 1.
The second period was not so pretty for Toronto. Outshot 17-4 in the middle frame, the best thing you can say about the Leafs play here was that they kept the score at 2-1. Thanks James Reimer.
Things started slow in the 3rd for Toronto and it looked like they had completely burnt out as the period began. However, they did get a handful of chances as the period went along and gave about as good a push as you could expect from a team finishing off a back-to-back, on the road, playing a team that is better than them. That said, it wasn’t enough. The Sharks were the better team tonight and got the result they deserved. Tommy Wingels sealed the deuce for San Jose with an empty netter in the final minute, and that was that. Tonight aside, they have played pretty well of late. But yet again, they didn’t get the result they needed.
Despite the disappointing performance tonight, it wasn’t all bad for the Leafs. I thought Kessel was noticeable, Gardiner looked smooth with the puck, and Santorelli generated some good zone-time. That said, say what you want about him the last couple of seasons, but James Reimer was the most important player for the Leafs tonight. He had a bad 13 seconds, but aside from that he was virtually perfect. Stopping 40 of 42 shots, James Reimer is tonight’s Blue Warrior.
- I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve seen from Peter Horachek since he took over, but tonight he made some questionable decisions. People were critical of Randy Carlyle for a few reasons, a couple of which are that they didn’t like his stubborn refusal to break up the top line or his affection for guys like Roman Polak and Korbinian Holzer. Well, Horachek reunited the van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Kessel trio tonight, shifted Roman Polak up to the top defense pairing, and put Holzer back into the lineup in place of Stephane Robidas. Granted, as a new coach it’s good to give everyone a look. Still though, not a recipe for success.
- Tonight was the first game under Horachek the Leafs allowed more than 26 shots. Yes it was the tail end of a back-to-back game, but man, Todd McLellan teams just outplay the opposition. McLellan would be near or at the top of my list for long-term head coaches for this team.
- Wouldn’t it make more sense to play your better goalie for the second game of a back-to-back? The percentages aren’t in your favor in the tail end, so try to manipulate them by putting in your better goalie. See if he can steal a game. Granted, Reimer was great tonight, but in general I think this would make sense.
- I thought tonight was Matt Frattin’s best game of the season.
SEE YOU SATURDAY
The Leafs wrap up their four-game road trip Saturday in St. Louis against the Blues on CBC at 7PM Eastern.