Ladies and gentlemen, it’s almost over. While the Leafs showed signs of life over the past few weeks, the last three games against playoff bubble teams playing for their lives have shown that Toronto still has work to do before they’ll be ready to compete in the playoffs. After two close games with Boston and Philadelphia, the Leafs were dominated in New York tonight, losing 5-1 and guaranteeing themselves a 29th place finish in the NHL.
After a flat effort last night, the Rangers came out flying, scoring the game’s first goal less than 30 seconds in. Two goals thirty seconds apart midway through the first put New York up for good. Henrik Lundqvist was on top of his game, as well, and turned aside all but one of the Leafs’ 27 shots. Erik Christensen had 2 goals for New York, and Aaron Voros, Vinny Prospal and Olli Jokinen all beat Gustavsson in what was probably his worst game since the break.
On a positive note, Dion Phaneuf scored his first goal in a Leaf uniform, with a low slapshot through traffic early in the 3rd that drew Toronto within 2 goals until Jokinen and Voros scored. One of the things that the Leafs will have to improve dramatically on next year is the powerplay. An effective powerplay can instantly change the course of a game, and one as bad as the Leafs’ does little more than provide momentum for their opponents. Toronto’s powerplay is the worst in the league, converting just 14.2% of their opportunities. That’s 44 goals in 310 powerplays. For a team that already lacks offense, converting with the man advantage is a necessity, not a luxury, and when Brian Burke and Ron Wilson sit down to look over what went so horribly wrong this season, the powerplay should be one of the first things they fix.
1. Erik Christensen – 2 goals
2. Vaclav Prospal – 1 goal
3. Henrik Lundqvist – 26 saves