The followers of the Toronto Maple Leafs may have been getting used to receiving victories as bright, shiny presents to start the 12 days of Christmas, but as the holiday approaches they are getting treated to a steady diet of charcoal briquettes.
The Maple Leafs followed up a three-goal loss to the offensively weak last-place Carolina Hurricanes with a 7-4 loss to the bottom dwelling Philadelphia Flyers in their final home game of the year at Air Canada Center on Saturday.
As has become a habit in recent weeks, Toronto yielded more than 40 shots on goal, lost the majority of the puck battles and repeated turned over the puck, but did not get bailed out this time by goalie Jonathan Bernier, who allowed all seven Flyers goals before being pulled midway through the third period.
“We had a good start offensively, but we gave them a lot of good scoring chances.” defenseman Stephane Robidas said after the game. “That’s a good team over there. They have lots of skill and we beat ourselves basically because we turned the puck over too much. It’s not the right way. We didn’t play the right way tonight and it showed, and that’s why we lost that game.”
Toronto continues to struggle against the league’s lesser lights, as they are now 5-8-1 against opponents with a .500 record or less, but have gone 14-3-2 against teams that are over .500.
Joffrey Lupul, James van Riemsdyk staked Toronto to a 2-0 lead early in the first, but that lead evaporated in the span of three minutes, as RJ Umberger and Sean Couturier tied the game. David Clarkson tallied his ninth of the season 15 seconds after Couturier’s tying goal to put the Leafs back in front, but Claude Giroux replied for Philadelphia on a set play off the center ice faceoff just 11 seconds later.
Philadelphia took control of the game in the middle frame with a pair of goals from Nicklas Grossman and Giroux and padded their lead with tallies from rookie Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl in the third. Bernier was pulled after allowing seven goals on 41 shots in favor of James Reimer, who is expected to get the start against the Chicago Black Hawks at the United Center on Sunday night.
“I thought we had a decent start to the hockey game.” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. “Obviously when you score two goals, we did something right to start the game, but we just seemed to get sloppy with the management of the puck and we allowed them to come back into the game and take control of the game. We didn’t do a very good job from the 10-minute point of the first period.” Positives
Peter Holland – The 23-year-old scored his eighth goal of the season and was +2 on the night , one of the few Leafs in the positive section on the evening.
Special Teams – The loss to Philadelphia was a 5-on-5 disaster. The Leafs special teams did well on Saturday, as the PK went 3 for 3 against the Flyers 5th ranked power play unit and the Toronto power play scored what should have been a meaningful goal to put them up 2-0 in the first. Negatives
Dion Phaneuf – Whenever observers start to give Phaneuf credit for playing well, he invariably puts up a stinker to give his critics more ammunition. The Leafs captain was -4 on the night and primarily responsible leaving RJ Umberger uncovered in front of the net on the Flyers momentum-changing goal in the 1st.
Nazem Kadri – Even the most fervent Kadri haters have to admit that the young center has played much better at both ends of the ice the last month, but the thought of signing the 24-year-old to a long-term deal for big money becomes as risky a proposition as the extension to Jake Gardiner when you look at a game like Saturday. Kadri went head-to-head with star center Claude Giroux and got pulverized, losing 14 of 19 faceoffs and going -4, while Giroux scored two goals and two assists.
Top Line Terrible – The lord giveth and the lord taketh away is how the expression goes. The Leafs top line of Joffrey Lupul – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel gave the Leafs a two-goal first period lead but quickly gave it back and changed the course of the game because they have no concept of defensive responsibility. The unit was on the ice for both Philadelphia goals and was split up to start the second period.
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