The Other Shoe Has Dropped - Panthers Over Leafs 5-1
Since the moment James Reimer was removed from the net on October 22, Leaf fans have been expecting Jonas Gustavsson to play the way he played last night. While "The Monster" did go on a nice run for 6 games (4-2-0), the third year netminder was still allowing three goals a game. Against the Panthers Gustavsson cost his fragile team a valuable two points. With the Leafs looking to rebound from Saturday night's humbling 7-0 loss, the game against the Panthers was expected to be a night in which the blue and white got back on track.
As has happened a couple of times this season, the Leafs came out of the gate flat. Florida outshot the buds 14-8 in the first period, and although Gustavsson did make some big saves he was in no man's land for Jack Skille's opening goal. With a final scoreline of 5-1 many people may assume that this game wasn't really that close, yet with 3:32 seconds left in the second period the Panthers were clinging to that one goal lead. The Leafs dominated the final two periods outshooting the Panthers 31-14. Toronto did everything but score in that second period. Numerous chances went wide, or hit Jose Theodore, but the Leafs couldn't find the back of the net. However, in the midst of this Leafs pressure the real "Monster" finally emerged. On an innocent shoot in, Gustavsson misplayed the puck behind the net only to return to the net and whiff on a Marco Sturm shot. Although Sportsnet "analyst" Greg Millen claimed the Leafs were lazy on the play, Sturm was surrounded by four jerseys on a play that Gustavsson should have never let happen. Tomas Kopecky followed that goal with a stoppable wrist shot that eluded Jonas 19 seconds later. Mike Komisarek was caught pinching in offensively on the Kopecky goal however that is a save that the Leafs goalie should have made. People become enamored with Gustavsson because of his ability to make the spectacular save. His problem though is that he cannot make the average save, and that is what has killed the Leafs tonight.
Ben Scrivens replaced Gustavsson following the Kopecky goal. Although Scrivens gave up two goals on seven shots, he provided the Leafs with more stability between the pipes on the night. Jose Theodore was great in net tonight for the Panthers. The former Hart and Vezina winner stopped 38 of 39 shots, and foiled the Leafs numerous times. On this night Theodore had Nikolai Kulemin's number in particular stoning the struggling Leafs sniper on four point blank chances in the third period. Phi Kessel scored his league leading 11th goal to break the shutout in the third. Although Theodore did play well, he has proven over the last five plus years to not be the same goalie he was during his time in la belle province. A little insight to my "Bowenism of the night" is that both Bowen and Millen fawned over Theodore all night have they not seen him play the last six years?
The Leafs may be hitting the road at the perfect time. Look for Scrivens to get the nod in net. The difference between the characters of these two men was on display after the game when Gustavsson claimed he was unlucky on the night, while Scrivens told the media he needs to be better. With Reimer's return still far off the Leafs need Scrivens to keep them afloat for the time being.
Men of the Match
Leafs: Nikolai Kulemin - The snakebit sniper has had a rough time finishing this season (two goals in 14 games), but he had a boatload of opportunities on the night. You have to figure he's due to get one sooner or later.
Panthers: Jack Skille - Dale Tallon's former first round pick (7th overall in 2005), used his size, speed and strength effectively all night. Skille seems to finally have carved out a spot for himself in the sunshine state.
Bowenism of the Night
"Vokoun leaves and Theodore arrives, and they're not going to miss a beat"
The Leafs head to St. Louis to face Ken Hitchcock and the Blues Thursday night.