Despite a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild, the Leafs can’t be accused of not starting on time after Mitch Marner gave the home side a 1-0 lead 7-seconds from puck drop.
The quick tally from Marner broke Maple Leafs Hall of Famer, Charlie Conacher’s record of 7-seconds back on Feb 6,1932. Marner beat Conacher’s record by a few milliseconds.
Marner’s second, a little over 5-minutes later, conjured up memories of the Leafs last mid-day game December 19,2017, lead by his 4-point outing resulting in a 8-1 shellacking of the Carolina Hurricanes. No such luck today.
Michael Hutchison filling in for injured Andersen and Sparks (out with concussion protocol) performed admirably but too many giveaways and loose play in their own end proved to be the undoing of the Maple Leafs.
The Wild must be given full marks for playing a solid well-disciplined game that coach Bruce Boudreau had them well prepared. Boudreau a Toronto native, mentioned to me when the Leafs were in Minnesota last month he rarely misses a game of his hometown team on TV. The dedicated following paid off in spades today. The Wild had the Leafs playbook down pat; after trailing 2-0 early, fought back to take and hold the lead.
Jared Spurgeon lead the Wild with a goal and two assists but goaltender Devon Dubnyk was outstanding in the net, frustrating the Leafs shooters all game.
The Wild outshot the Leafs in the first period taking the game to the home side until Toronto seemed to snap out of the funk they were in and forced the play the other way. The much-heralded Toronto power play struggled going 0-4.
Teams are becoming more disciplined not chasing the puck, but rather clogging the lanes forcing Toronto to the perimeter when they are a man down. The Leafs need to not be so predictable with the man-advantage to shed this blanket coverage.
Hutchison played a decent game but like any goalie that doesn’t play a lot (or any player for that matter) had some expected cobwebs but could only really be faulted on Minnesota’s third goal that went between his wickets.
Overall, an entertaining and hard fought game; Toronto better get used to teams using the physical approach rather than getting into a foot race with the speedy, talented club. Minnesota used the body very efficiently today forcing the Leafs to hurry their passes creating numerous turnovers that eventually ended up in the back of the Leafs net.
A much better effort by the team as a whole and with Vancouver up next on the schedule this weekend, matches up well against the Maple Leafs. Toronto needs to maintain a consistent 60-minute game (where have we heard that before) especially while Andersen heals or it could be a long few weeks.