The Led Zeppelin tune “The Song Remains the Same” could apply to the Maple Leafs effort in a 6-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at the Scotiabank Arena Monday.
The game was closer than the score indicates with Toronto trailing by a goal until Matt Calvert scored seconds after Toronto pulled Frederik Andersen with a little less than three minutes remaining. Sixty seconds later Carl Soderberg completed his hat trick to secure the victory for visitors who’ve struggled of late themselves.
The dynamic line of MacKinnon, Landeskog and Rantanen chipped in with a pair of goals but surprisingly weren’t the demise of the Maple Leafs who has now lost five of their last six at home.
The return of Frederik Andersen gave the Leafs a spark in a high tempo first period. Toronto took a 2-0 lead in the middle frame but as they are won't to do, the Leafs slipped into the funk that seems to come over them at home and what looked like a good shot at a grind out win, had them chasing the game.
Andersen played well but needs to stop one of the four that got by him. The defense was caught flat-footed at times; the struggles of Jake Gardiner along with Nikita Zaitsev continue to mount and Babcock split them up but to no avail.
Gardiner, reminiscent of the Larry Murphy days, is now the crowd target that brought out the boo birds. His poor decisions under pressure are more evident by the game as teams continue to clog the zones, plug the lanes, and pressure the defense. His turnovers and miscues are ending up in the back of the Leafs net and this has always been the Achilles heel of Gardiner’s game.
The forwards are finding it more difficult to hold the offensive zone because teams are crowding the net forcing the speedy Leafs to circle the perimeter. That encourages more individual play and tonight resulted in a paltry 12 shots half way through the second. Not that shots on goal are that important (tough to score not shooting) but Colorado was peppering Andersen with 31 at one point while the Leafs managed 14 at the mid point of the third.
Maybe on the road for a couple will be just the tonic the Leafs need to snap out of this scoring drought. However to have any success against the Lightning, the Leafs will have to be a lot better from goal out or it could be a very long ride home after the Panthers game Friday.