Home ice struggles continue for Leafs
(pictured – Matt Frattin was the only Leaf to beat Cam Ward)
Feb. 4: Leafs 1 vs. Hurricanes 4
Leafs scorers: Frattin (5)
Hurricanes scorers: J. Staal (1), E. Staal (7), Faulk (2), Dwyer (3)
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Forward lines: van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Kessel, MacArthur-Grabovski-Kulemin, Frattin-Kadri-Komarov, McLaren-McClement-Orr.
Defence pairings: Phaneuf-Kostka, Liles-Holzer, Franson-Fraser
Goaltenders: Reimer (Loss, 60:00 minutes played, 35 saves, 4 GA), Scrivens (0:00)
Shortly after their 4-1 loss to Carolina on Monday night, the Leafs were scheduled to board a charter flight and embark on a three-game road trip.
Perhaps playing away from Air Canada Centre will reverse the team’s fortunes.
While it’s premature to label a two-game slide as a slump, the manner in which the Leafs have dropped their last couple of outings at 40 Bay Street is raising more than a few eyebrows. Between Saturday and Monday, the team has just Matt Frattin’s first period goal against the Hurricanes to show on the scoreboard. The Leafs entered the game operating at a power-play efficiency of 8.7% (2-for-23) on home ice, and squandered another five opportunities.
No wonder the “Let’s go Blue Jays” jeers were resurfacing.
“There were far too many turnovers at the offensive blue line that didn’t allow us to sustain a forecheck for stretches of the hockey game,” said coach Randy Carlyle after the game. “We caused ourselves a lot of aggravation by not being diligent in just getting the puck in and skating.”
The second period of the game was dismal enough to leave 19,072 fans checking the fine print to see if refunds are available (they’re not). The Leafs were outshot 20-5 and outscored 2-0 with each Staal brother – Eric and Jordan – finding the net. Toronto appeared to tie the game late in the middle frame, but an apparent goal by Tyler Bozak was disallowed when it was ruled that the puck went in due to a distinct kicking motion.
“I didn’t really see much, I was just battling with the centreman to get to the net, and the next thing I knew it hit my feet,” said Bozak of the play. “I don’t think I kicked it. It was a tough call, but there’s nothing we can do now.”
Justin Faulk and Patrick Dwyer rounded out the scoring in the third period, while Toronto’s home record nose-dived to 1-4-0. The Leafs applied a fair bit of pressure over the final twenty minutes, generating 19 shots on goal. But in a script that any Toronto fan could have written, Carolina goaltender Cam Ward shut the door, making a total of 41 saves on the evening in being named the game’s first star.
For Frattin, the goal marked his fifth tally in just 6 games played this year. Last season Frattin did not score his fifth goal of the year until January 3, a span of 36 games.
Referee Marc Joannette left the game briefly in the second period after taking a puck in the face courtesy of a Dion Phaneuf clearing attempt.
The goals by Eric and Jordan Staal mark the first time that brothers in the Hartford-Carolina franchise scored in the same game since Wayne and David Babych accomplished the feat on April 5, 1986.
Toronto’s three-game road swing begins Tuesday in Washington. Meanwhile the players are left to ponder why home is not so sweet.
Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca.
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