The Leafs were embarrassed 6-1 by the New York Islanders on Thursday night. While the storyline of the game was undoubtedly the return of John Tavares to play his first road game versus his former team, the result raises questions as to whether or not Toronto is equipped for success under heavy pressure, come playoff time.
- Zach Hyman scored his 14th goal of the season, assisted by Mitch Marner (53) and Ron Hainsey (14).
- That’s pretty much it, from the Leafs’ perspective. At least former Toronto general manager Lou Lamoriello, now on Long Island, saw it fit to honour Tavares with a video tribute, for his nine years of service as an Islander.
- Where to start? How about in goal. Not that the game was solely Garret Sparks’s fault. The Leafs had a depleted defense corps with Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott out with injuries. A third pairing of Martin Marincin and Justin Holl was completely overmatched. Still, you need the occasional save from your netminder.
- On that note, it was a head-scratching decision by Mike Babcock to start Sparks against the Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders in the first place. If the coach didn’t want to play his goaltenders on consecutive nights, it would have made much more sense to start the backup Sparks on Wednesday versus the lowly Oilers, leaving Frederik Andersen with the bigger assignment the following night.
- The performance from the entire Leafs team tonight was, in a word, dreadful. It simply exemplifies the season-long narrative from this columnist since the start of the season: the entertaining, high-speed Leafs – as fun as they are to watch – do not have the physical prowess to withstand the challenges that will be posed by any of their potential contending playoff opponents, come April. It says here that the Leafs are “one-and-done” for the postseason, for the third year in a row. Write down the date and time of this prediction (and check back again after the first round, and this columnist will gladly admit he was wrong, if it comes to that.)
In 2019, Rob co-wrote with Evan Gubernick “The Hockey Addict’s Guide To Toronto”, now available at Chapters and Indigo stores everywhere.