Auston Matthews was noticeably absent from the Leafs lineup in a 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames Monday evening. His time on the IR is a soft 4 weeks but my bet is its closer to Christmas before 34 sees game action again, because the Leafs will not take any risk with their prime asset.
The loss of a player opens the door for another to fill the void and while they’re big shoes to fill, Nazem Kadri is more than capable to slot back into the number two role.
Kadri scored 32-goals last year and John Tavares along with the improving Frederik Gauthier who is adjusting game by game should ease any concerns down the middle. Its players like Andreas Johnsson, Josh Leivo and Tyler Ennis who have to step up and grasp the moment.
The team needs to listen to Coach Babcock and understand it’s a 60-minute match, not spurts of effort as the clock winds down. I believe he refers to it as ‘starting on time.’
Take nothing away from the energetic effort of the Flames lead by the dynamic Johnny Gaudreau who’s a threat every time he hits the ice. The supporting cast of Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm who chipped in with a goal and an assist certainly makes them a formidable opponent. They were full marks for the effort tonight in a well-deserved victory.
The Flames cycle the puck extremely well and when given time like the Leafs allowed them, their defense executes the transition game very effectively. Once again, the visiting team kept the Leafs crafty forwards to the outside perimeter and until a couple Flames penalties mid way through the third, limited the home side to a handful of chances. Nazem Kadri with his third in 3-games converted a great pass from Mitch Marner to cut the lead to one.
Calgary Goaltender Mike Smith had a relatively quiet evening while Leafs Frederick Andersen had to be extremely sharp keeping the game scoreless through two periods.
The Leafs received the usual workman efforts from Zach Hyman along with Connor Brown who never seem to take a night off. Par Lindholm is adapting to the NHL game nicely as he continues to up his play by the shift. The same can be said about the gifted Kasperi Kapanen who is quickly becoming a fan favourite with his breathtaking speed and creative play making. He was the best player on the ice Monday night.
While the game didn’t get away from them thanks to the brilliance of Andersen, the Leafs can not afford to sit back waiting on the game. Toronto is at its best when they pressure the opposing D that opens space for their explosive forwards to create scoring chances. Outside of a late charge the Leafs never maintained any sustained threat in the Flames zone all game.