Leafs' winger Brandon Kozun celebrates scoring his first NHL goal against the Hurricanes on Friday night. It would be the only goal scored by the Maple Leafs
Toronto - February 21, 2015 - The Leafs are in rare territory. After losing to Carolina 2-1 Friday night, it means that in their last 28 games, the Maple Leafs are 4-22-2. They have also lost a franchise record 13 consecutive road games. It would be one thing if the Leafs had designed this team to under perform like some teams may have this year, Buffalo being the best example of that. Well done Tim Murray. However the Leafs were supposed to compete for a playoff spot this year, which makes this new found level of awful so hard to cope with.
James Reimer allowed two goals, neither were reprehensible. Two deflections beat him, one by each Staal brother. One could, and should make the case that both goals could have been avoided. However that would require the Bozak-JVR-Kessel line to know how to play defence, something they clearly do not remember how to do, if they ever did in the first place.
The lone Leaf goal belongs to young Brandon Kozun, his first ever in the NHL and one that was scored in commendable fashion. Kozun skated hard, got a rebound and stayed with the puck in order to net his first career NHL goal. With the Leafs looking to blow up the team, keeping around a young energy player like Kozun for the remainder of the season is a smart idea. If he is going to be a part of the rebuild, the Leafs should focus on getting him ice time and experience in the NHL as opposed to sending him back to the Marlies.
All in all it was the regular, poor brand of hockey that the Leafs’ have been displaying so far in 2015. Weak defence, idiotic turnovers and a lack of cohesion that reminds me of pre-season. The top line remains to be the top line. Their defensively appalling and offensively stagnant. So nothing new with that trio.
The Line of Kadri-Panik-Winnik was the Leafs best line and managed to get some lengthy possessions in the Carolina zone. They were also tasked with shutting down the Staal line for most of the night, and as a result suffered in some key area’s. Kadri’s faceoff percentage was 33%, rather poor. However Bozak’s was the same and he was not facing Carolina’s top line. Clearly neither got the job done in the faceoff circle, something to keep in mind as the team progresses with the rebuild.
The only real takeaway from this game is the poor play of what has been long considered the core of this team, and the slightly better play from the up and coming youth. Kadri, Panik, Kozun, Holland, Rielly and Gardiner were all far better on the ice than Bozak, Clarkson and Kessel, etc. While you may not stand with #TankNation and their desire to lose the rest of the season in an attempt to get the first overall pick, the youth of this team does provide hope that a re-build could be successful.
Leaf fans should not expect many wins in what is left of this season. One thing there does appear to be a great deal of on the way, is trades. If the rumour mill is correct then it would appear that Daniel Winnik is next out the door, followed potentially by defence man Roman Polak. This team will most likely look very different after the trade deadline on March 2nd. Who should go? Who should stay? Let me know on twitter, and be sure to follow me over at @RobMcPhee.
The Leafs next game is Saturday Feb. 21st against the Winnipeg Jets.