The Toronto Maple Leafs lost a hockey game they thoroughly deserved to lose tonight, but ended up with a point anyway in a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers. The Leafs were abysmal in the second period and for much of the third too, but a Nazem Kadri goal with about a minute-and-a-half left sent the game to overtime.
Both teams traded chances in the extra frame, but Jonathan Bernier and Cam Talbot kept the game tied for their respective clubs. The Leafs would play in their ninth shootout this season, but unfortunately ended up on the losing end for the fifth time. Here are some more thoughts from tonight’s game:
- Make no mistake, Bernier was the only reason the Leafs came away with a point in this one. The goalie made 42 saves in regulation and overtime, 22 of which came in the second period. If there’s one knock against Bernier, it’s his poor shootout record, which got worse tonight. He allowed two goals on three shooters. But the only reason the team even made it to the shootout was because of Bernier.
- The only goal Bernier let in was a snipe by J.T. Miller, who snuck behind the Leafs’ defense and one-timed a pass from Chris Kreider in the slot. The goal was a testament to the Leafs’ awful defensive zone coverage, as all five players on the ice were focused on Kreider behind the goal line, and no one paid attention to Miller. Mason Raymond should have marked him as he entered the zone, but that’s also on the defense (Paul Ranger and Morgan Rielly) for not adequately covering the slot.
- You can’t really blame those three players alone, however, because the team’s defensive zone coverage as a whole was horrendous. In corsi-for percentage (percentage of total shot attempts directed at the net for that team when a certain player was on the ice during five-on-five situations), Joffrey Lupul (23.8 per cent) Ranger (26.3), Peter Holland (26.3), Raymond (31.8), Dion Phaneuf (32.4) and Colton Orr (33.3 in less than four minutes of ice time) had the toughest go of it tonight. The team once again spent long stretches of the game in the defensive end, surrendering bucket-loads of chances. You’re not going to win many games doing that.
- On a positive note, the top line of Phil Kessel, Kadri and James van Riemsdyk had moments of brilliance. The unit has faced a lot of criticism lately for failing to score, but it’s definitely not from lack of chances. The line was dominant in the first period, and had some great chances in overtime too. A lot of pressure is put on the top line, but the rest of the forwards need to find a way to be better.
The Leafs are off until Friday night when they take on the Buffalo Sabres at the ACC. Merry Christmas.