The Good, The Bad And How The Hell Did That Happen?

This was one of those games that left you scratching your head. For the first two periods, the Leafs thoroughly dominated their cross-province rivals. However, some ill-timed defensive lapses and a lights-out performance from Craig Andersen left the Leafs wondering what went wrong as they let a very attainable two points slip away from them tonight. Despite jumping out to an early two-goal lead, that ugly blonde Daniel Alfredsson pulled the Sens within one with a top-shelf backhand that beat James Reimer, who had been knocked out of position by a sliding Senator. Another scrum in the Leaf crease led to Jason Spezza’s tying goal, scored while he was sitting on top of Reimer late in the 2nd, and an early 3rd-period snipe from Kyle Turris led to a tightly-checked final frame that you got the feeling no one else was going to score in.

The Good

  • All told, I didn’t think Reimer had a bad game considering the two week layoff. I’ll admit the 3rd goal he probably should have still been on his feet for, but the other two goals were the result of his defensemen failing to clear the crease for him, something I’ll touch on later. I’d assume he gets another game or two before Wilson makes a judgment call on deciding whether he or Jonas Gustavsson will handle the majority of the starting load during their upcoming playoff run. 
  • Good to see the top line get back in gear. Phil Kessel set Joffrey Lupul up with a beautiful goal, and their line shoudl have come up with a couple more goals. For whatever reason, Tyler Bozak seems to do a better job of maximizing their skillsets than Tim Connolly, so it’s good to see him back in the lineup.
  • For all the trade rumors that have been flying around Luke Schenn’s name, I thought he had a pretty good game, especially since he ratcheted up his physical game impressively, leading all skaters with 8 hits.
  • Matthew Lombardi had one of his stronger games in a Leaf uniform. His goal was a bit lucky, but he led all players with 7 shots on goal, utilized his speed up and down the ice, and looked very good playing alongside Connolly. Throw in Colby Armstrong and that could be quite a 3rd line if Bozak can keep the first line rolling.
The Bad
  • That hit from Nick Foligno, dirty or not, proved to be a turning point in the game. For most of the game, despite the Sens’ desire to make it a chippy gongshow, the Leafs had kept aloof of it, largely because of the lead they held for most of the first two periods. While I don’t blame Phaneuf for fighting the punk, the fact he drew an extra penalty turned the tide and eventually led to Spezza’s tying goal. Toronto had held the play for the entire period, and it wasn’t until that powerplay that the Sens got any sort of sustained pressure in the Leafs’ end.
  • The Leafs still look a bit smallish on the front end. There’s plenty of toughness on the blueline, but one of the glaring holes on this roster, and one that has been there for some time, is the lack of a Todd Bertuzzi-type workhorse that’s capable of putting up 100 PIMs and 30-35 goals. They got pushed around a bit tonight, by a scrappy Senators team that’s taken quite a few teams by surprise this year.
  • I didn’t love the MGK line tonight, but that’s because they didn’t score. I think they’ll be good together once they get going, although I wouldn’t mind seeing Nazem Kadri get a shot with Grabovski and Kulemin.
  • Yes, Andersen had a great game between the pipes for Ottawa, but part of the problem was that the Leafs did not do a great job of creating traffic in front of him. He’s been on a heck of a roll lately, and one surefire way to beat a hot goalie is to not let him see the puck.
Just a tough game to watch the Buds lose, as it seemed like they had it in hand damn near all night, but the second Turris scored the go-ahead goal, you got the distinct impression that was it. They’ll need to bounce back this weekend, with a couple of winnable games to finish out the week as Minnesota and Montreal come to town. Eleven of Minnesota’s 17 regulation losses have come on the road, and the Habs’ struggles this year have been well documented. The Leafs need to finish January strong or they’ll be in an all-too familiar position come April.

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