In the Paint: Leafs Burn

Maple Leafs will have to play better to keep their position in the rankings.

This week, The Toronto Maple Leafs had four games starting with playing the Arizona Coyotes on Monday, followed by the Florida Panthers on Wednesday, the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, and finally the Washington Capitals on Saturday. Auston Matthews is back from missing four straight games due to an upper body injury. This week should have come easy for Toronto because they held the second place spot in the Atlantic division.

Monday was Toronto’s first game since Saturday against the Canadiens, which they won six to nothing. Arizona also played Montreal recently and won five to four. This night’s game was not very intense on the ice so Toronto tried to bring it up a little by getting rough, but that ended up creating a lot of penalty minutes for the Maple Leafs. All those penalty minutes gave the Coyotes more scoring opportunities. The Coyotes capitalized on those power-plays, scoring two of their goals from them, while the Maple Leafs were having some trouble getting the puck past Coyotes tendy Antti Raanta. They did end up scoring on their only power-play. This was a close-scoring game but the offense was obviously being dominated by Arizona. In the last couple minutes Toronto really let it slip, letting in two empty-net goals, and the game was won four to one for Arizona.

The next game was against the Florida Panthers, in which Toronto definitely played better and didn’t get burned on their power-plays like the last game. The first goal of this game came late in the second and it was an awkward bounce from behind the Maple Leafs net and in off Toronto defenseman, Connor Carrick. The game was intense but scoreless until late in the third period, when Kadri was fed a pass by Connor Brown, and wristed it top left behind Luongo. At the end of regular play, it was time for OT. Andersen made a pad bouncing save that almost went in and would have ended the game but he managed to make the save at the end of OT. After Toronto missed their first two attempts and Aleksander Barkov managed to deke past Andersen and scored on their second attempt. the Leafs sent out Marleau. He just barely squeaked the puck in between Luongo’s legs, breathing new life into the Leafs. But despite Toronto’s best efforts, Luongo made some extremely clutch saves to lead the Panthers past the Leafs making it a great game for Florida. However at this point Toronto had lost back-to-back games.

That Friday, the Leafs played the Carolina Hurricanes and after two losses they were a little low on team morale so Toronto was going to have a hard game no matter who they played against. The one thing Toronto had going for them was that up to that point they had won fourteen of the eighteen road trip games they’d played this season. Carolina brought the heat in the first period showing the Leafs they were in Hurricane territory but no scoring came of it thanks to excellent goaltending by Andersen. The first big save came late in the first. The puck was bouncing in front of the net and no one could get their stick on it, so Andersen managed to kick it away. The second big save was not even a minute later. When Rask received a pass right across the front of the net and wristed it, Andersen shot out his glove snagging the puck with a stupendous save keeping the game tied at zero. The second period was when the Leafs started scoring. They scored four goals in just one period while Carolina struggled and only scored one but that didn’t stop them from playing just as hard in the third period. The Hurricanes came out and applied lots of pressure and as a result scored 3 more goals. In the end though, Andersen had a strong enough game for the Leafs to help them hold on to the big 5-4 win in Carolina.

Toronto was back at home with their strong fan base facing off against the Washington Capitals. Right off the bat you could tell the Capitals dominated the ice and Ovechkin scored two goals against Toronto in the first. The Leafs didn’t have a good game. Their first goal was in the third and final period. Also the third period is when Alex Ovechkin finished off his hat trick on an empty net, making it his 20th career hat trick. When the game finished, the score was four to two for the Capitals.

The Maple Leafs struggled this week. The big issue was their defense, getting burned on power-plays against, or not capitalizing on their power-play opportunities. Luckily for the Leafs their position is still second in Atlantic, but if this streak keeps up they’ll definitely be dropping down in the rankings. Andersen’s goaltending continues to be beautiful for the Leafs. Watching him make saves real time is unbelievable. When the game comes down to a shootout the goalies are in the spotlight, and even though they lost against Florida, his goaltending was still terrific. In other games he’s come in clutch, keeping teams across the NHL at bay. The Maple Leafs have got some serious competition but they’ll still strive for the cup.

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