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New York Rangers beat down the Maple Leafs
After a frustrating 3-2 loss last night against the Buffalo Sabres, the Toronto Maple Leafs were back at home in the ACC hosting the New York Rangers. Another loss tonight would put the Leafs back on the rim, fighting for a playoff spot. So the Leafs had to come out with some energy, but instead they came out flat.
North York - January 14, 2012 - After a frustrating 3-2 loss last night against the Buffalo Sabres, the Toronto Maple Leafs were back at home in the ACC hosting the New York Rangers. Another loss tonight would put the Leafs back on the rim, fighting for a playoff spot. So the Leafs had to come out with some energy, but instead they came out flat. The Rangers also didn't have a great start but instead of the Leafs taking it to them early, they were content playing at the same slow pace. The difference is that for the last 40 minutes of the game the Rangers stepped it up and the Leafs fell apart. They were unable to make the simplest of plays such as getting the puck out of the defensive zone on many opportunities.
The Rangers scored a pretty goal on a 3-on-1 tic tac toe play where Gustavsson had no chance to make the save. The second Rangers goal came off a shot where Franson unnecessarily screened Gustavsson and then jumped out of the way as the shot came. The third goal was once again off a partial breakaway, another one Gustavsson didn't have a chance to make the save on.
I'm wondering though, why did Gustavsson start this game? I thought the Leafs were using a "win and you're in" philosophy, so why didn't we see James Reimer in goal tonight? Especially after the second goal Gustavsson let in against Buffalo, that was a pretty awful goal to let in. That being said, It didn't matter who the Leafs playing in goal tonight because there was nothing in front of the goalie. It was an all-around disaster. Jonas Gustavsson did play well tonight, I won't knock his performance, but I hoped and expected to see Reimer in the net. I would assume he starts next game.
More on the bad side, Nazem Kadri was back to his old ways again. Forcing plays, getting pushed around, and showing no hustle or desire. I was very happy about his play in his first few games since being called up, but he's starting to play like he has in the past. He's playing like a player that doesn't belong in the NHL. Maybe someone should mention sending him down to the Marlies again. It seems the fear of being sent down is the only thing that strikes some fire in his game. I wonder if the Leafs can do that for the next 15 years of his career... Phil Kessel didn't look much better either. He was hit hard early in the game and found himself in shoving bouts with the Rangers. New York did a great job of taking him off his game.
To make matters worse, Ottawa beats Montreal. Ottawa wins AGAIN! ... And so did the New Jersey Devils. I wish the Leafs could go on a big streak like this instead of constantly keeping Leafs Nation in suspense. It will likely go right down the wire in April, and Toronto might look back at some of these loses with some regret.
I understand that its the second game in as many nights and the Leafs are justified in being tired, but losing two in a row in unacceptable for a team barely hanging on to a playoff spot. They have to find a way to beat Buffalo knowing the Rangers are coming into town the next night. On top of that, the Rangers start Biron against Toronto, and the Leafs hand the Rangers' backup goaltender an easy shut out.
On the plus side, and I will probably mention this every game until the unimpressive streak is broken, the Leafs penalty kill was perfect. They killed off both Rangers power plays and did it rather effectively. The flip side to that argument is that the Leafs power play was awful again here tonight. They only had two opportunities, but not having John-Michael Liles really hurts the power play. You really notice it as Ron Wilson flips around who he plays on the point of that first unit.
The Leafs are back at it on Tuesday night. They're facing the red hot Ottawa Senators in another "must win" game. I would expect James Reimer to get the start, and hopefully he plays well enough to hold the starting job. Gustavsson played well, but he lets a really bad goal every other game or so and the Leafs need lights out goaltending if they're going to be a contender.
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