The streaks are over.
With a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers that didn’t score high in entertainment value, the Maple Leafs’ run of games with a point ended at 15 on Thursday. And by not getting on the score sheet, Mitch Marner ended his incredible point streak at 23 games.
All good things must come to an end, I suppose?
Didn’t it just look like Sandin was in the zone, for lack of a better term, all game?
The confidence that the defenceman has in his game right now is evident in how swift he moved with the puck and his decisive defensive work. I liked what I saw from him on the power play, too: decent puck movement and an aggressive shot from inside the blue line.
Sandin worked to keep the puck in the offensive zone and move it to open forwards. He was one of the few notable and impactful Leafs all game and you wish a few other Leafs would have played with the same kind of energy he showed.
At first glance, Bunting’s goal looked like a case of right place, right time. But that would overlook his good, and cheeky, work along the boards to protect the puck in the lead-up to the goal. The goal ensured his point streak is alive at 10 games.
Brodie’s game got better period after period. He made plenty of unheralded plays with the puck along the boards to settle any sense of danger in their own zone, and threw an excellent breakout pass midway through the second period that nearly led to a decent scoring chance.
And I know some people will look at Brodie’s sliding defensive play ahead of Jimmy Vesey’s second-period goal and blame him in some manner, but we know the real culprit here:
(I kid, Omar, Gif God, I kid.)
Some earnest work from Aston-Reese deep in the offensive zone to clear the puck from a scrum didn’t lead to a scoring chance but was notable nonetheless. Aston-Reese was mobile throughout the game and had an excellent chance from in tight to tie the game early in the third period but was denied by a quality Igor Shesterkin save.
Kampf earned the primary assist on the Leafs’ opening goal. He made a few slick, short passes with the puck in the offensive zone as the Leafs tried to build sustained pressure.
Engvall found his legs for a few shifts here and there in the second period as he tried to made creative and effective plays with the puck in the neutral zone.
Murray didn’t have the heaviest workload in this stinker of a game but he moved well within the goal. I don’t know if he can be blamed on the two goals he allowed.
Some excellent work from Malgin midway through the first period saw him read the play, break up a Rangers pass and break free to nearly create an odd-man rush. The Leafs ended up getting a power play out of the play.
Kerfoot’s game was hardly glamorous but there were a few heads-up offensive plays that stuck out to me.
Loved watching Holmberg draw a penalty just by trying to go to the net. Loved watching his make quick passes to set up his teammates in the offensive zone. These are the types of plays that stick out, but these are far from the only types of plays he makes. His defensive work, which was typically resilient, just isn’t as noticeable.
Nylander was constantly committed to taking the puck to the net and tried to create opportunities, even if the precision and finish wasn’t there.
Holl and Brodie were scrambling in the seconds before Filip Chytil’s first-period goal. Holl recovered well though and pinned multiple Rangers along the boards effectively.
Liljegren bobbled the puck a few times when trying to clear the defensive zone early on. His game wasn’t nearly as impactful as his defence partner. Liljegren left the Leafs’ bench in the third period with an upper-body injury. He’ll be reassessed on Friday.
This is nitpicking perhaps, but it would have helped the Leafs had Marner gotten a stick on the puck during a frantic scramble in the Leafs’ zone ahead of Chytil’s first-period power-play goal. I thought Marner got aggressive with the puck in the neutral and offensive zone in the second period. He had a very brief breakaway in the third period but couldn’t find the back of the net. Overall, far from his best performance but he led the Leafs with 22:38 TOI.
It looked like a bit of a mixed bag from Timmins. He made his presence felt defensively with quick little plays with his stick to disrupt the Rangers in possession. With the puck, his inability to properly handle the puck inside his own zone led to a clear Rangers shot on goal. Big yikes:
Timmins’ mojo seemed to jump up and down as the game wore on. He was far from the only player who wasn’t exactly smooth with the puck on his stick, but his gaffes seemed to stick out. Timmins was caught pinching on the Rangers’ second goal and made a poor choice with a rushed slap shot early in the third period.
With the puck, there’s certainly some smarts there. He earned the secondary assist on the Leafs’ first goal simply by throwing the puck on the net.
I dunno, I just didn’t see a lot from Matthews, especially in the first two periods? Or not what we’ve come to expect from the reigning Hart Trophy winner, I suppose?
The broadcast camera panned to Matthews after the Rangers’ second goal but I’m not convinced the goal was on him by any means. Matthews had a great chance midway through the third period but couldn’t convert. He led the Leafs with five shots on goal.
I appreciated how Tavares seemed to settle the play with some poised puck movement after the Leafs went down early in the first period. A rare errant pass from Tavares in his own zone led to a Rangers shot that bounced off the post. He ended up having a few chances in the third period.
Giordano didn’t play poorly by any stretch, but was hardly noticeable, either.
I want to believe that Joey Anderson can be an NHL player, but I barely saw, like, anything from him on Thursday night. His 7:41 TOI was the lowest of any Leaf.
There were glimpses of the same team that was one of the NHL’s best over the last month, but those glimpses were few and far between. The Leafs’ 29 giveaways were a major issue on the night, compared to the nine giveaways from the Rangers. OK, so the ice certainly didn’t look smooth and could have hampered the Leafs’ pacey style at least in some manner. But an off night from many of the team’s stars didn’t help matters, either.
“We didn’t execute great on offence,” Sheldon Keefe said.
A second-period power play should have been an opportunity for the team’s best players to spark an otherwise tepid performance, but they ended up looking hardly dominant with the puck. After the game, Marner called the Leafs’ power play “horrible” and he’s not wrong. The second period, in particular, was as lacklustre a period as we’ve seen from the Leafs in some time, with just four shots on goal. Credit to the Rangers for playing low-event hockey and neutralizing the Leafs when they needed to.
The Leafs travel to Washington to play the Capitals on Saturday at 7 pm on CBC and Sportsnet.
(Photo: Brad Penner / USA Today)