Let’s just say the Toronto Maple Leafs looked a bit off last night.
It wasn’t necessarily an effort problem, but playing a back-to-back against two of the strongest teams from the Metropolitan Division didn’t help the Toronto Maple Leafs. Throw in a New York Islanders squad wanting to get their chunk of flesh from John Tavares for him leaving their organization in the summer and you have a stinker of a game; a 4-0 shutout where the Maple Leafs were outgunned and outplayed, especially in net.
This loss once again has the Maple Leafs (26-11-2) eight points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, but six points and eight points ahead of the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins, respectively. So it looks like the Leafs are going to close out 2018 with a solid lead for the second place spot in the Atlantic Division.
Prior to the shutout, there was an alarming series of events that likely set off warning lights through the minds of everyone in Leafs Nation.
Andersen Misses Game With a Groin Injury
Garret Sparks had the start in net last night, meaning he was called to play in both games of the back-to-back. The reason for this being Frederik Andersen sat out of the game last night with an apparent groin injury.
Now, apparently, Andersen is only day-to-day, and the Leafs don’t play again until Thursday, but the injury resulted in the Leafs calling up Kasimir Kaskisuo on an emergency basis and trading a fifth-round pick in 2020 to the Florida Panthers to acquire goaltender Michael Hutchinson.
Nice to see the team taking precautions, but I’m sure Andersen will be ready to go by Thursday.
Sparks Left Out to Dry
Sparks didn’t have the greatest game. But look at the goals he allowed.
An incredible individual effort by Valtteri Filppula where he splits through both Travis Dermott and Igor Ozhiganov with ease, a Matthew Barzal goal where he tips the shot right in front of the net, another Barzal goal on a one-timer that deflects in off of Dermott, and the hat trick goal by Barzal on a two-on-one that just trickled through Sparks’ five-hole.
Aside from the 4-0 goal (Which even then he was left hanging by his defence who allowed a two-on-one), none of those goals was his fault. The team in front of him was either caught flat-footed, wasn’t physical in front of the net, or just made dumb errors.
On the other end, even after peppering 36 shots on net, the Maple Leafs couldn’t solve the Rubix cube that was Robin Lehner. The 27-year old picked up his 12th career shutout victory and left Leafs players and fans frustrated all night.
Tavares Looks Strong Against Former Team
Considering no one on “Hockey Night in Canada” (Or on hockey Twitter) could stop talking about it, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t know this was John Tavares’ first game against his former team since signing a seven-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs back on July 1st.
The former captain of the Islanders looked strong, putting up five shots and a 3.7% relative Corsi with 17:07 TOI.
On the other bench, Matt Martin and Leo Komarov made their returns to Toronto, getting a nice video package and warm reception from Leafs Nation. Komarov was drafted by the Leafs in 2006 and played 327 games with the team while Matt Martin played 132 games with the Leafs before they traded him to the Islanders, the team he had played 438 games for prior to signing with the Leafs in 2016.
Martin had three shots on the night while Komarov only registered one with both men playing under 16 minutes.
Next Up: A Wild Afternoon in Toronto
The next couple of days will allow the Toronto Maple Leafs to rest up and get ready for a tricky Minnesota Wild squad who come to Scotiabank Arena on Thursday afternoon.
The two sides have already met once before this season, with the Maple Leafs picking up the 5-3 win in Minneapolis.
Thanks for reading!