Recap: Toronto Maple Leafs Blow Through Sunrise, Shut out Florida Panthers 3-0

Joel Auerbach

Despite a good start, the Cats again fell into seemingly unavoidable mistakes, leading to a depressing 3-0 loss at the hands of a workman-like Leafs team.

Despite a good start to the game, the Florida Panthers again fell into frustrating and head-scratching mistakes, leading to a depressing 3-0 loss at the hands of a workman-like Toronto Maple Leafs team. The Panthers came out skating hard, winning battles and working towards scoring opportunities... and then just flat out stopped. For no apparent reason, the Panthers just quit working hard, started losing battles along the boards and giving the Leafs very little punishment. The Cats also started committing the mental mistakes that have become commonplace throughout this forgettable season, spotting the Leafs some easy goals thanks to inexcusable defensive zone breakdowns and bad turnovers

You know what I'd love to see from this team in the near future? Wins? Yea, sure, I'll take those, but I'm looking for something else: consistency. From game to game, you see a completely different team. One game, the scoring brilliance is there, the hard work and grit and never-say-die attitude that made this team a playoff club last season. The next game, you see a sleepwalking group of tired players who seem disinterested or flat out ignore the simple things that translate to solid offensive and defensive performances. The Cats are an enigma, capable of posting five or six goals but just as likely to take the night off and get shut out by teams that have no business doing so. It's maddening and it looks as though there's no end in sight.

Observations

  • I've said this so many times that I'm actually kind of sick of writing it, but here it is: Florida is simply awful breaking out of their own zone against teams with a solid forecheck. They just have no answer for it. The defensemen get flustered and nervous and either turn the puck over in the zone, or make a weak/inaccurate outlet pass to forwards who are sometimes too deep to properly break out with speed. In all honesty, the forwards tend not to give enough defensive zone support often as well, making the defensemen's job that much more difficult. This is a recurring issue from last season and the coaching staff absolutely needs to find an answer for it. If the Panthers could actually deal with it and counter it properly, they would've likely beaten the Devils last postseason and would have a couple more wins this season. As it stands, they're barely able to make the transition game function at a level that capitalizes on the speed the Cats' lineup possesses.
  • Colton Orr and George Parros would almost inevitably duke it out with a pretty solid fight in the first period. I would give the edge to Orr but Big George probably landed the heaviest punch, introducing Orr to a delicious knuckle bánh mì.Too bad fights don't win games.
  • I've read in a few different places so far this season that the Maple Leafs are one of the hardest working teams in the NHL, and you could see that tonight. Randy Carlyle has his team playing very hard most games and they certainly outworked the Panthers tonight. If the Leafs can continue to add some skill to the size and effort they have now, they could definitely turn the corner they've been trying to turn for quite a long time.
  • Nazem Kadri's powerplay marker in the second was a bit of a sleepwalking moment by a usually very reliable Drew Shore. Shore tried to get a stick on him but it was too little too late. This was yet another time where the Panthers seemingly forgot the fundamentals of their game and just left a guy completely alone in net. This is happening so often now that you simply sit in your seat/couch/rocker waiting for it to happen again. Not fun.
  • Speaking of those fundamentals, right after the Kadri goal the Leafs would get a third thanks to Clarke MacArthur being left completely alone because Brian Campbell decided to forget he had a defensive partner. Theodore was left out to dry yet again, and you gotta feel bad for him simply because minutes before he stonewalled a flurry of Toronto chances as the Panthers failed YET AGAIN to clear out the crease.
  • The Panthers would work hard often throughout the game, but not the entire game. The Leafs really started to control the pace of play after halfway through the second period, as well as win almost all of the key battles along the boards. The Cats can't seem to find a consistent effort this season, and that includes the games they've won.
  • Billy Lindsay stated in the telecast that the Panthers simply sagged after the second goal against. He wondered aloud what has changed in regards to demeanor with this team. Last season, when down the Panthers seemed to elevate their game when needed and score a much needed goal. Towards the end of last season, however, we started to see a team that not only didn't do that, but couldn't protect it's leads either. I think we're seeing that same team now and I think we're seeing the actual identity of the Panthers.
  • I have absolutely no idea what Mike Weaver was doing when he turned the puck over in the first, leading to Phil Kessel's third goal of the season. No idea. None.
  • Maybe I'm being harsh, maybe I'm being unfair, but I'm starting to wonder how Kevin Dineen thinks switching up the lines is going to jumpstart a team that's forgetting the fundamentals. We talk about defensive lapses, poor breakouts, bad positioning and stupid penalties. These aren't things that shuffling personnel can fix. That's coaching, and drilling it into people's heads that if you're not doing the simple things well, you won't do much else.
  • Aside from Jack Skille in the first period and Theodore for most of the game, there isn't much positive to say about any single Panther. They were that mediocre.
  • The Panthers did total two fights in this game, but it still doesn't address what is a pretty big problem with the Cats lineup: toughness. Fighting doesn't mean toughness. The bigger, more physical teams like the Leafs are too much for the relatively small or young forwards in the Florida lineup.
  • Leo Komarov was called for two diving penalties. In one game. I don't think I've seen that before, though the Panthers haven't played the Hurricanes much yet this season. ZING!
Once the Ambien-like feeling from watching this game wears off, you may want to note that the next contest will be Thursday evening in Philadelphia. The Cats stole a win against the Flyers last time in the shootout with a comeback victory, but with the way the Panthers are playing, and the way the Flyers just torched an Islanders club that's playing better than Florida, you may want to just go back to sleep and wait for the next game to pass.
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