Leafs season may be Washing away
(James Reimer called out by Ron Wilson following early goals)
Leafs scorers: Armstrong (1), Connolly (10)
Capitals scorers: Johansson (12), Semin (17), Halpern (4), Aucoin (1)
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Forward lines:Lupul-Bozak-Kessel, Kulemin-Grabovski-MacArthur, Lombardi-Connolly-Frattin, Armstrong-Steckel-Brown
Defence pairings: Phaneuf-Gunnarsson, Liles-Franson, Gardiner-Schenn
Goaltenders: Reimer (Loss 58:14 minutes played, 32 saves, 4 GA), Gustavsson (0:00)
The Washington Capitals appeared on paper to be the antidote for the Leafs recent ailments. Toronto’s Saturday opponents had played the night before, coming into the matchup at Air Canada Centre 8 games under .500 on the road.
Unbelievably, it was the Leafs who turned in an effort unbecoming of a team embroiled in a tight playoff race.
Coming out on the short end of a 4-2 decision, Toronto earned the wrath of the 19,577 fans in attendance, with the players receiving unflattering boos at the end of each period.
The opening shift set the tone of the game when Marcus Johansson beat starting netminder James Reimer on a wraparound just 32 seconds after the first faceoff.
Coach Ron Wilson used his timeout just over three minutes later after Alexander Semin pounced on a Luke Schenn giveaway to give the visitors a two-goal lead. But any evidence of a spark had faded by the time the game was forty minutes old as Jeff Halpern and Keith Aucoin each scored in the middle frame.
While the third period mustered a glimmer of hope for the Leafs in the form of goals by Colby Armstrong and Tim Connolly, the feeling of indifference and helplessness could be seen in the players’ body language. On two occasions late in the game, a Toronto player skated off during a line change while completely oblivious to a Washington skater carrying the puck directly behind him. One instance involved Dion Phaneuf, the other involved David Steckel.
Wilson voiced his displeasure at his netminding when addressing the media at game’s end. “The (first) two goals were stoppable chances,” said Wilson. “They got saves at one end and we didn’t.”
Indeed Reimer was outplayed by his counter part Michal Neuvirth, whose biggest save came off a point-blank opportunity by a pinching Carl Gunnarsson on a delayed penalty.
But the defeat – Toronto’s fourth in a row and 8th in the past 9 outings – lies collectively with the skaters, case in point – Schenn. The beleaguered blueliner, who may have played his last game in a Toronto uniform, was guilty of not tying up Semin on Washington’s third goal in addition to the first period gaffe.
“We’re always kind of waiting now for something bad to happen,” said Wilson in assessing the team’s play. “We’ve got to find a way to get over that.”
Defenceman John-Michael Liles surmised his team’s performance in a few short words.
“It’s not Maple Leaf hockey.”
Of course critics will argue that the term has been defined as something other than complimentary, particularly in the playoff-absent post-lockout era.
Meanwhile the team searches for a way for Maple Leaf hockey to be a good thing again.
Colby Armstrong’s third period goal was his first of the season, and came one year minus a day to the date of his previous goal: February 26, 2011 vs. Pittsburgh – ending a drought of 24 games…In five of the past 6 games the Leafs have fallen behind 2-0 in the first period.