Leafs 4, Kings 1 – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Leafs cruised to their fifth straight win on Monday night, easily handling the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 at Scotiabank Arena. Garret Sparks made 33 saves for the victory in net, starting in place of the injured Frederik Andersen.

The Good

  • Credit is due to Sparks, who rebounded nicely from a subpar outing versus Chicago last week in which he had a save percentage of .806. Out of his 33 stops, none was more timely than a second period save off Tyler Toffoli with the score 2-1 at that point, and the Kings pressing for the equalizer. On the ensuing counter-attack, Mitch Marner finished off a tic-tac-toe scoring play with John Tavares and Zach Hyman.
  • Kapanen’s second goal of the game was a thing of beauty, foiling goaltender Jack Campbell on a backhand deke as he and Auston Matthews converted on a 2-on-1.
  • Patrick Marleau scored his first goal of the season. Nazem Kadri remains without a goal in 2018-19, but continued to generate scoring chances. His slump won’t last much longer.
  • Auston Matthews was held without a goal, but collected two assists, setting up Kapanen both times. Matthews is the fifth player in NHL history to start a season with seven multi-point games.

The Bad

  • A pair of giveaways led to the Kings’ only goal. First Jake Gardiner didn’t get the puck deep enough on the attempted breakout. Then, as the puck re-entered the Leafs zone, Matthews flubbed at his attempt to clear the puck. The result was a goal by Ilya Kovalchuk, his first against the Leafs since Dec. 6, 2011 when he was a member of the New Jersey Devils.

The Ugly

  • Los Angeles entered the game as one of only three teams yet to score on the power play (Florida, Vegas). In going 0-for-3 versus the Leafs, the Kings’ drought was extended to a miserable 0-for-21.
  • Not much to dislike about the Leafs game. But nor is there anything to like about the scattering of fans who booed Dion Phaneuf every time that the former Toronto captain touched the puck. Unquestionably Phaeneuf had his shortcomings as a defenceman, and your truly has a history of pointing out those flaws, either in this column, or on Twitter. But to put things in perspective, it wasn’t Phaneuf’s fault that he was thrust into a role as a number one blueliner on a defensively-challenged team during his Leafs tenure. Nor can he be blamed for being offered an exorbitant contract which he duly signed (wouldn’t you?) The ‘fans’ who choose to boo Phaneuf shouldn’t overlook the time and effort that the player devoted to Sick Kids Hospital while he was a Leaf. Get a grip people, there is more to life than hockey.

Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca.

In 2016, Rob wrote “Hockey’s Enforcers: A Dying Breed”, now available at Chapters and Indigo stores everywhere.