By Stan Smith
First, let me report the score. In the game last night, the Maple Leafs lost to the Anaheim Ducks in overtime by a score of 4-3.
Second, I want to start by explaining some things about these Toronto Maple Leafs’ game reports. I try to write each one as a separate entity and give my opinions on just what I see happening in a particular game. I try not to be influenced by past performances. As a team, it matters not if they lost the five previous games or won them. My reports are on the one game only.
Also, there is so much that happens in any given game I can’t possibly cover everything. There just isn’t enough space. I try to focus on the key elements of each game. Elements that played a significant role in the outcome of the game. Everything I write is strictly from my point of view. I welcome respectful conversation and criticism.
For the first time in a while, the Maple Leafs started this game looking like they did for most of last season. They outshot the Ducks 17-9 in the first period and were outshooting them 20-9 at the five-minute mark of the second period. They were also leading the Ducks 2-1.
That’s where the Good ends because, from the five-minute mark of the second period to the end of the game, Anaheim outshot the Maple Leafs 30-16. The Ducks also outscored the Maple Leafs 3-1.
The Maple Leafs scored a shorthanded goal 45 seconds into the third period to take a 3-1 lead. It was only the second game this season where the Maple Leafs had more than a one-goal lead.
The Maple Leafs couldn’t hold onto the two-goal lead and lost the game 4-3 in Overtime.
The Maple Leafs got some big breaks from the referees in this game. First, Auston Matthews slashed Ducks’ forward Derek Grant from behind on a breakaway, and Grant wasn’t awarded a penalty shot. Later Alex Kerfoot was awarded a penalty shot when he was hooked from behind by Cam Fowler.
Third, Anaheim appeared to have scored the winning goal but had it called back on what was a shaky goalie interference call. The coach’s challenge by Maple Leafs Head Coach Sheldon Keefe was strategically the right thing to do; however, it seemed iffy at best. As noted, it was a huge (but short-lived) break for the Maple Leafs.
Kerfoot didn’t score on either his original breakaway or on the penalty shot which would have stretched the Maple Leafs’ lead in the third period to 4-1. Then, in overtime, John Gibson stopped Mitch Marner on a glorious scoring chance. Immediately after that Trevor Zegras came down and scored the game-winner on Erik Kallgren.
Mitch Marner and Sheldon Keefe combined to make up the ugly in this game Marner made two awful giveaways that led directly to two goals by Anaheim. Those errors completely changed the tone of this game.
Keefe made an ugly move on a timeout. It might have been the worst utilization of a timeout I have ever seen. His purpose? To shout at the team and literally point the finger at Marner for costing the Maple Leafs the two goals. [Note: Marner did take full responsibility for his bad plays in the postgame interviews.]
As Maple Leafs’ fans, all we can hope is that this game is where the team hits rock bottom. The team returns home and gets three practice days before their next game against the Philadelphia Flyers. They then play back-to-back on the weekend at home versus the Boston Bruins on Saturday. They then hit the road for a Sunday game against the Hurricanes in Carolina.
The Maple Leafs should get both Timothy Liljegren and Jamie Benn back sometime on the weekend. They might need extra bodies as this back-to-back is going to be a tough one. The Maple Leafs’ game at home Saturday is a 7:00 pm start. The Sunday game is a 5:00 pm start.
That means that the Maple Leafs will have about 19 hours between the end of the Boston game and the puck drop for the game in Carolina. The Hurricane will be rested and waiting as their previous game will be in Carolina on Friday.
Related: MAPLE LEAFS’ BAD START HIDES SAMSONOV’S & KALLGREN’S STRONG PLAY