Murphy's Law - Predators take down Leafs 4-1.
Having lost five of the last six games the angry villagers have begun to descend upon the Toronto Maple Leafs. The most recent setback came last night as the Nashville Predators preyed on an injury ravaged Leafs squad. As discussed in my game preview yesterday, the Predators are a defensively sound team that capitalizes on their opponents mistakes. Although the Leafs carried the play throughout the first period (outshooting Nashville 9-3), goalie Ben Scrivens and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson got their wires crossed and Martin Erat scored on the Preds' first shot on net. One mistake, one goal against.
The Leafs continued their territorial advantage in the second period, eventually capitalizing on their first power play opportunity as John Michael Liles beat all world goalie Pekke Rinne with a quick snapper to the far side. Just over two minutes later both Dion Phaneuf and Mike Komisarek misplayed a clearing attempt which lead to Ryan Suter wristing a point shot by Scrivens. The Leafs goalie was unable to block the far side as both Tyler Bozak and Mike Fisher were lying in the crease. Two mistakes, two goals.
With the Leafs missing Mikhail Grabovski, Colby Armstrong, Clark MacArthur, James Reimer and Mike Brown to start the game it was obvious that the shorthanded Leafs would need contribution from the entire lineup. However with both Matthew Lombardi and Mike Komisarek leaving and not returning to the game with injuries, the injury situation went from difficult to absurd. The Leafs basically played the entire game with three lines, and with both Nikolai Kulemin and Matt Frattin continuing to be missing in action there is only so much the Kessel line can do. Kessel logged a season high 27:07 to lead the Leafs, and was a threat throughout. Finishing the game with six shots on net his game was strong all night, and he was unfortunate to not beat Rinne. With the Leafs dominating the game yet down by a goal, defenseman Luke Schenn made a poor decision to pinch in at the offensive end. Martin Erat and Mike Fisher pounced on the Leafs and scored the clinching goal on Schenn's mistake. Three mistakes, three goals.
Somewhat infuriating that throughout this season the Leafs have made more than three mistakes on shifts, and went on to win this game. Tonight the Leafs played an almost perfect game, yet went home empty handed. The Predators are a great team, and despite how pretty a game they play one cannot argue that they are an effective bunch. The Leafs outshot Nashville 39-22, but Rinne didn't even seem to break a sweat.
On a positive note Cody Franson had a good game tonight. With Komisarek said to be out for awhile, the former Predator finally has a chance to strut his stuff in Toronto. The Leafs penalty kill was perfect as well, blanking the Preds on both their opportunities.
Men of the Match
Leafs: John Michael Liles - He seems to really be hitting his stride lately. The Leafs power play has become quite effective with Liles running it, and he showed great speed and a quick release in scoring the Leafs lone marker. Liles also played well in his own end playing 23:20 for the blue and white.
Predators: Ryan Suter - One of the elite defenders in the league, Suter did a great job containing Kessel to the outside most of the night. The American Olympian also contributed the game winning goal at the other end of the ice. An underrated star.
Bowenism of the Night
"If the league decides to keep this South Eastern Conference, the Predators need to remain in it."
Next Game: The Leafs head home to face the Washington Capitals. Washington was defeated soundly by the Winnipeg Jets last night. They may be hungry.