The Toronto Maple Leafs came in to Kanata tonight with a 7-2 record in their last nine games and a 3-0 win over these Ottawa Senators from last Saturday still fresh in everyone’s minds. The legion of Maple Leafs fans who made the trip to the Scotiabank Place left disappointed, however, when Colin Greening scored with 24 seconds left to seal the victory for the Senators. Here are some thoughts on the tightly contested affair:
Too Little, Too Late
To put it frankly, the Maple Leafs looked terrible through the first two periods. If Ben Bishop didn’t let in a bad goal and Ben Scrivens didn’t play as well as he did, the Leafs would have been losing a lot worse than 2-1 after forty minutes. But the Buds came storming back in the third, finally taking the play to the injury-depleted Senators. Clarke MacArthur shovelled in a rebound on the power play to tie the game with 13:50 left and it looked like the Leafs might be able to steal at least a point on the road. But in the final minute, Mika Zibanejad won the draw back to Patrick Wiercioch on the point, who sent a slapper on net. Scrivens couldn’t handle the rebound and Greening was there to whack it in on the doorstep. A heartbreaking way to lose, but I can’t say the Leafs deserved better.
Ben Scrivens made 32 saves and looked his regular unflappable self for much of the game, but two of the goals he let in could have been prevented had he controlled his rebounds better. Eric Gryba took a shot from distance that handcuffed Scrivens and Erik Condra drove hard to the net and had the puck deflect off him, then off Korbinian Holzer, and into the net. It was a fortunate bounce for Condra, and Holzer didn’t help matters by driving Condra into Scrivens, but that play doesn’t happen if the Leaf netminder is able to handle the shot cleanly. Then on the game-winner, Scrivens mishandled the Wiercoch point shot and Greening capitalized. Scrivens has been terrific for the most part this season, but like any young goalie still needs to iron out some wrinkles in his game.
The Grabovski Line Does Its Job
Randy Carlyle has leaned heavily on the Grabovski line to shut down the opposing team’s top forward line all season, and tonight they did their job beautifully. Matched against Daniel Alfredsson’s line, the Nikolai Kulemin-Grabovski-Jay McClement unit held the Senators captain and line-mates Jakob Silfverburg and Kyle Turris off the score sheet. The group was able to chip in offensively as well, as some great forechecking by McClement resulted in Grabovski’s goal that opened the scoring in the first period. Grabovski’s offense has been down this year, but that’s to be expected from a centre playing in a shutdown role. He’s doing a fine job thus far playing against tough competition.
What To Do With The D?
John-Michael Liles spent his fourth game in a row as a healthy scratch and Jake Gardiner is still in the AHL with the Marlies. After the defense corps had difficulty moving the puck up the ice for much of the game, this could mean either Liles or Gardiner (or both) could draw into the lineup on Monday night in Philadelphia. I thought the defense did an admirable job shutting down the Sabres on Thursday, but some holes were exploited tonight. Holzer had a rough game and didn’t provide the support Dion Phaneuf needs from a line-mate to allow him to join the rush. The Mike Kostka-Carl Gunnarsson pairing has struggled at times the past few games, with Gunnarsson still not fully healthy. It will be interesting to see what Carlyle decides to do with his defense, but it could be time to shake things up.