This past Saturday night featured one of the most historic rivalries in the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs vs. the Montreal Canadiens. These match-ups almost always tend to be filled with excitement, emotion, and energy. The game on Saturday proved to follow that trend. Unfortunately for the Leafs, it also perpetuated another troubling trend that many critics of the Leafs predicted would be their downfall: lack of offense.
For the fourth time this season (21% of the Leafs’ games!), the Toronto Maple Leafs were shutout, and while the team had plenty of opportunities to put the puck in the net, none of them were buried. This is becoming a theme that is all to common. The Leafs can not constantly chalk it up to a hot goalie, and while Carey Price was stellar in net stopping all 30 shots he faced, the fact of the matter is that the Leafs are lacking the requisite firepower and finish required to win games.
The lack of scoring and offensive prowess is also a result of too many players trying to over complicate plays. In my opinion, the biggest perpetrator here is Tyler Bozak, who for one reason or another, must not feel that he can put the puck in the net as he constantly passes the puck when he has an excellent opportunity to shoot and score. His reluctance to shoot the puck, and instead passes, is surprising his line mates (Kadri and Kessel), who were both consistently caught off guard by needless (and low-chance passes) by Bozak when he should have shot the puck. What got the Leafs their two previous wins was simple plays and getting the puck to the net, and the Leafs seemed to abandon that plan on Saturday.
On top of it all, the Leafs continued another troubling trend by constantly giving the puck away to the opposition. The Leafs currently lead the league in number of giveaways given to the opposition, and the second goal of the game that came against the Leafs was courtesy of a Mike Komisarek pass across the front of the, right to a waiting Mike Cammalleri, who fired it past Gustavsson.
With regards to Gustavsson (stopped 37 of 39 shots for a 0.948 save percentage), he played an absolutely stellar game, and you could see his frustration after each goal, as he slammed his stick down multiple times and cursed as the Habs celebrated their goals. Gustavsson had no chance on any of the goals that he gave up. The first one came off of a nice deflection in front of the net by Jeff Halpern, and the second (as already mentioned), was given up via a gift from Mike Komisarek to Mike Cammalleri.
Credit must be given to the Montreal Canadiens, who came out of the gate flying. They had great puck control and tremendous speed. The speed of the Canadiens put the Leafs in a fit on multiple occasions, and also resulted in many giveaways.
The loss to Montreal set the Leafs back, however they have another chance to get back into the winning column tonight when they face the Dallas Stars at the Air Canada Center. One can only hope that the Leafs learn from their lessons of Saturday night and begin to clamp down on bad giveaways and low-percentage scoring chances. I’ll provide a comprehensive preview of tonight’s game later today. Look for it in the “Gameday Previews” section.
Highlights of last night’s game are provided below in the “Game in Six Minutes” video.