The catchphrase “What happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” was taken literally by the Toronto Maple Leafs who left their legs in sin city falling 2-0 to the Arizona Coyotes at the Gila River Arena Saturday.
Granted, while there was a very impressive showing of blue/white supporters throughout the building, it was a far cry from the thunderous atmosphere at T-Mobile Arena a few nights prior. Still, it was no excuse for them to allow valuable points to slip away to another opponent that doesn’t match up talent wise.
Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet, the blue print model for the NHL power forward who never took a shift off during his illustrious playing career, kept the game simple for his troops who followed the plan to a T. They came at the Leafs with aggressive fore-checking, directed pucks to the net, clogged the zones and moved their feet; forcing the guys in white sweaters to chase the game.
Toronto playing their fifth of six on this 13-day excursion, started how they finished Thursday with an up-tempo speed game, but sizzled out after the 7-minute mark and the patient Coyotes stepped it up.
Arizona, with a depleted line up due to injuries, needed all hands on deck to pull this one out. When the Leafs did manage to apply some pressure, goaltender Darcy Kuemper was solid in the net while securing the shutout stopping 21-shots.
Frederik Andersen, while not challenged that often, was nevertheless sharp when called upon and had no chance on the goals by Alex Galchenyuk and Josh Archibald.
After an even opening frame, the ice was tilted in favour of the Coyotes during the second who held a 19-7 shot advantage at one point. The tale of the tape was the battle of the potent Maple Leafs power play versus the stingy penalty kill of the home side. The secret sauce to the Coyotes success down a man should be bottled and sold for a king’s ransom. Not only did they blank the Leafs including killing a double minor to Oliver Ekman-Larsson, they had chances to score holding them to a paltry 4-shots on goal.
With Andersen out for the extra attacker late in the third the Leafs did manage to create a little excitement for their travelling fans, but the disciplined Arizona ‘D’ rigidly stood their ground to secure the victory.
An emotional letdown after Las Vegas and Colorado, two desperate hockey clubs could almost be expected facing a team fighting for its playoff life, so give them a little grace for the poor effort. The bounces may not always go the way teams want and that’s the beauty of sports but talent should never over ride work ethic.
There are no soft spots in the schedule and it doesn’t get any easier for the Leafs whose next opponent is the St. Louis Blues prior to facing Minnesota Sunday afternoon have won nine in a row.
Toronto needs to take advantage of Sunday’s day off (they are playing golf in Arizona) regroup at practice Monday and recapture the work ethic that has been successful the last few weeks.