Another game, another very disappointing result for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Sure, the final score wasn’t as bad as Saturday night against the New York Rangers, but this loss felt just as bad. The New York Islanders came into the game with the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference and nine points less than the Leafs. They’ve been playing probably their best hockey of the year over the past few games, but that doesn’t excuse the completely listless effort the Leafs put forth tonight.
Jonathan Bernier has been one of the best goaltenders of the season so far, and along with James Reimer, is the only reason the Leafs still find themselves hanging on to a playoff spot. But Bernier let in three goals an NHL starting goaltender simply should never let in.
The first one was a weak shot from distance by Kyle Okposo that he couldn’t stop. The second was a horrendous mistake where he found himself in no-man’s land, about halfway between his net and corner, with the puck sitting in the restricted zone. Michael Grabner skated hard into the zone by himself, scooped up the puck and deftly scored on a wraparound with Bernier struggling to get back in his net.
The third goal was a seemingly harmless shot from just outside the zone by Calvin de Haan that squeaked in between Bernier’s body and right arm. It was de Haan’s first NHL goal of his career, and it would prove to be the game-winner on this night.
The Leafs were able to score three times on Islanders’ backup Kevin Poulin, but simply didn’t do enough to make life difficult for him. Six of their 26 shots came from almost 10 minutes of power play time, while at even strength the team looked sluggish and couldn’t execute simple plays.
Tyler Bozak scored on a deflection to stretch his point streak to eight games. Mason Raymond scored for the first time in eight games. Joffrey Lupul scored for the second straight game. But unfortunately, the Leafs forwards just couldn’t figure out a way to sustain significant pressure in the Isles’ zone.
One positive from the game was the play of new arrival Tim Gleason. Gleason came as advertised; a smart, simple and steady defender who skates pretty well and can play top-four minutes. He looked like a great fit alongside Dion Phaneuf. If the Leafs have found their answer for the second-half of that top pairing, that certainly is good news.
On the other side of the ledger was Cody Franson. I’m not sure why, but Franson has looked brutal this year. He looks slow and his defensive game has been awful. His only value seems to be on the power play right now, but even in almost six minutes of PP time, Franson wasn’t effective tonight.
I’m not sure what can be done about this team. They can fire the coach, but the personnel clearly isn’t good enough, either. This team is a house of cards that looks like it’s about to completely topple, if it hasn’t already.