By Stan Smith
Before I start, I want to say one good thing about this game. It is likely not too many people saw it and instead were focused on the World Junior’s final game. That in itself might be a good thing.
I can break the good, the bad, and the ugly into periods. Each period was a different animal
The Good: First Period
The Maple Leafs played a great first period. They didn’t create a lot offensively, but they didn’t give up anything defensively. They limited the Kraken to only three shots on the net while creating nine of their own.
Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs, they failed to capitalize on their chances. Plus, the lack of work given to their goalie may have been a factor in ……………..
The Ugly: Second Period
The Maple Leafs gave up four goals on seven shots in a span of 10:23 in the period. When the goals were scored was also ugly.
Seattle opens the scoring at 7:02 of the first period.
The Maple Leafs work their butts off for the next four minutes to even the score, which they finally do at 10:52 with a power play goal.
Seattle scores 14 seconds later to retake the lead.
That forces the Maple Leafs to open things up and to start taking offensive chances leaving themselves vulnerable defensively.
Seattle takes full advantage of the situation by scoring two more goals.
The period ends with the Kraken leading 4-1.
The Bad: Third Period
Any thoughts the Maple Leafs have of making a comeback are quashed at the 2:57 mark when Seattle scores their fifth goal. The teams go through the motions from that point on.
One thing I did wonder about in this period. The coaches and the players all use video extensively throughout the game. You often see them viewing tablets between shifts. There are even video monitors embedded in the floor behind the home bench that the coaches can utilize.
Under normal circumstances, I am sure these are used to examine plays to see what the players did right and wrong.
I wondered throughout the third period if the coaches and players were all watching the World Junior Tournament instead.
The Power Play
When the Maple Leafs’ power play is clicking, they throw the puck around with speed. Each player is constantly moving, making it very difficult for the opposition to defend against.
When it is not working, it looks exactly like it did in this game. The players for the most part are standing still, waiting for the puck. I find, as a viewer, I can predict which player is going to get the puck next. They also seem to move around in slow motion. It is like each player, once they get the puck, is taking a second or two to figure out what they want to do next.
Injured Players, Healthy Players
When the Maple Leafs were going through all the injuries on defence, the replacements for the injured players were obviously not as talented. The other skaters on the team doubled down on their defensive duties. The end result was a team that actually improved defensively. They gave up fewer scoring chances, ultimately leading to them winning many games despite the injuries.
Now, for the most part, the injured players are back. It is natural for the other players to feel as if they have gotten through a difficult period successfully, and for them to relax a bit. Meanwhile, the returning players are not at the top of their game. The end result is a letdown.
The Maple Leafs are presently going through that letdown.
More Good News
We know that the Maple Leafs, who have been playing great defensively for over two months, have all of a sudden been giving up goals at a frightening rate. Opposing teams have scored a staggering 35 goals against the Maple Leafs in their last nine games, just one goal shy of four goals a game.
The good news is their record in those nine games is 4-4-1. Why is a 500% record good news? Because this is the Maple Leafs at their worst.
The NHL season is a long season, with 82 games spread over more than six months. Teams are going to go through ups and downs. This team started the season on a down posting a 4-4-2 record in October. They then went on a lengthy up period between November 1st and December 13th. During that time they were 15-1-4. They are now going through another down period.
If a team can hold its own and win at least half of its games when they are going through its bad periods, it bodes well for its overall success. They will get through this down period. They are too good of a team not to. As fans, all we can do is hope it is sooner than later.
The Maple Leafs hope to finish their three-game homestand with a win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night to even up their record in those three games. Can Mitch Marner collect his 500th point?
The Red Wings, after a hot start to their season which saw them in the middle of the race for a playoff position, have since floundered. They have lost nine of their last twelve games and are now seven points out of a playoff spot. They are still a young, fast, dangerous team and not to be taken lightly. The Maple Leafs did win their first meeting of the season 4-2.
The Maple Leafs then head to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers on Sunday. This is the third meeting between the two teams this season. The Maple Leafs won the first two games.
The Sunday game will be the sixth time the Maple Leafs will have played back-to-back games this season. In their previous five back-to-back situations, they have yet to lose a game in regulation, going 4-0-1.