The MTS Center has proven to be a difficult place to play for alot of teams this season, and the Leafs are no exception. Their five-game point streak was snapped, and while there was an opportunity to pick up another two points on Ottawa, the club remains firmly in playoff contention at the moment, a fact they could not boast at this point last season. I hate to do this, but a pretty sizable portion of the blame for this loss lies on Jonas Gustavsson, who gave up a weak goal in the first while the Leafs had the game firmly in hand. Despite pressing the Jets numerous times throughout the rest of the game, Ondrej Pavelec stood tall on numerous occasions and the Leafs never got back on top.
- The top line, having seen the MGK trio take over for a few games, got their act together tonight. While they managed only one shot, Phil Kessel’s 30th goal of the season (on which both his linemates registered assists), they buzzed the net all night, and Kessel looked like a man determined to get the game tied throughout the contest.
- The penalty kill that doomed the Leafs the last time they were in Winnipeg remained perfect again tonight, pushing the Leafs’ current streak to a franchise record 16 games without giving up a powerplay goal.
- I’m continually impressed by Cody Franson’s play. He uses his size to his advantage, rarely sees his shots get blocked, since he foregoes the lengthy windup, and is pretty skilled with the puck, especially for a defenseman of his build.
- Gustavsson’s biggest flaw is one that continues to plague him. Despite his best efforts, he seems to be damn near obligated to allow at least one terrible goal a night. The Leafs had dominated the first period, without question, and yet Chris Thorburn, a grinder with 29 goals in 407 games snuck a weak backhander through Gus at a highly inopportune moment and tilted the balance of the game.
- The second goal can’t be blamed on Gustavsson at all, however. He made a pretty solid save on the initial shot, but a poor job from the Leafs’ defenseman and a barely-missed stick check from Matthew Lombardi resulted in the Jets scoring the go-ahead goal.
- The Leafs’ powerplay has looked better since John-Michael Liles returned from injury, but the difference between good teams and great teams, especially during closely-fought games like this one, is taking the few opportunities given and capitalizing on them. A late powerplay in the 3rd period could have been a moment that saw the Leafs claim at least a point in this one, but instead they were held to just one shot, and missed the net on the one quality chance they did have.
Tough break, but the Jets are one of the league’s better teams at home with good reason. That crowd creates an almost-collegiate atmosphere night in and night out. No time to dwell on this loss, as the Leafs face off in Philly on Thursday before heading home to hammer the Habs on Hockey Night in Canada.
In closing, please take the time to visit www.miracle4maddie.bbnow.org. It’s not often that we get a chance to do some good amidst all our conjecturing about sports, so when we do it’d be a shame to pass up the opportunity.