Leafs deserved to lose
Rob Longley, QMI Agency
|Luke Schenn and Florida's Jason Garrison battle in front of the net last night during the Panthers' 5-3 win over the Leafs. (AFP)
If the Leafs decide to take heart from the fact they outplayed the Florida Panthers for much of Tuesday’s 5-3 loss, they’re kidding themselves.
Sure they outshot the home side 32-26, hit the post a couple of times and actually took the play to what was an extremely sloppy Panthers team for large portions of the game.
But so many inexcusable lapses by the Leafs in so many areas made it hopeless against any opponent, no matter how ripe they may have been to be defeated.
Where to start? The three Florida goals in 4:25 of the second period was the result of an inexcusable lapse just as the Leafs had fought their way back into the game.
The horrid penalty kill was up to its old tricks, cementing its spot as the 30th-ranked unit in the league, a status that will conspire against any playoff hopes if it continues.
Next was James Reimer tossing out a .625 save percentage while giving up three goals on eight shots before getting yanked by Leafs coach Ron Wilson.
And on the blueline, it was another rough night at times for all three of Luke Schenn, Jake Gardiner and Keith Aulie.
Happy re-alignment, Panthers. Besides a full house of more than 20,000 they are now 4-1 in their past five against the Leafs ... Never an easy task when you give the opposition a two-man advantage but when the Leafs do it, it’s almost guaranteed goal time. When Kris Versteeg scored the fourth Panthers goal, it was the seventh time the opposition has scored in 10 such situations this season ... Penalty kill improvements clearly didn’t come as part of Wilson’s Christmas package. The Leafs have now given up two or more power-play goals in 10 games this season. Of course as our man @beezersun reminds us on twitter — if you get goaltending like that, nothing is going to save your penalty kill ... The worst part about the Reimer meltdown had to be that given he was making his eighth start in nine games, it looked like he was settling in for a big run ... It wasn’t exactly the start to the unofficial second half of the season that the Leafs had anticipated, a sluggish first half of the opening period in which they didn’t manage their first shot on net until 8:30 in ... Worst play in that stretch was the work of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, who were caught on the ice at the end of a long shift and were both unable to clear the zone leading to the first Panthers goal ... For this night anyway, forward Nazem Kadri was by far the Leafs most effective player on the power-play and was given the added ice time because of it ... Not much doubt here that Kadri will become a player opposing teams love to hate so you think we’ll see more of this in Kadri’s career. Getting a few whacks from Ed Jovanovski in front of the Panthers net after getting in a little too close to Jose Theodore. Kadri didn’t back down and chirped right back at the veteran.
Just after his team pulled it to within 4-3, Schenn tried a Bobby Orr coast-to-coast rush that was stopped with a bad turnover at the Panthers blueline that ended in a timely insurance goal for Florida ... Schenn was not alone in ill-advised offensive moves. Earlier, Gardiner cruised in too deep in the Panthers zone which helped spring Bill Thomas for a breakaway. That goal may have been the clincher for Reimer, who overplayed the puck that still got by him even though Thomas whiffed on it ... Those who figure Brian Burke gave up too early on Versteeg gain further ammunition with the forward’s 17th goal last night. Of course they neglect to mention his defensive lapses, like his roaming on Dion Phaneuf’s second Leafs goal ... How much are the Leafs going to miss defenceman and power-play QB John-Michael Liles? If you watched the Leafs’ struggling power-play unit early on Tuesday, you get the idea ... Not sure how you take a too-many men penalty when already down a man, but that led to it. Wilson didn’t like the call and said so afterwards ... Also not sure about how Erik Gudbranson was credited with the first Panthers goal when it looked pretty clear that Michal Repik got a stick on it.
Amazing how simple it is to be transparent about head injuries, isn’t it? As they were with Colby Armstrong, the Leafs were somewhat up front with Liles saying the defenceman is suffering from “concussion-like” symptoms. Those concussion-like symptoms sound more like concussion with word that defenceman Korbinian Holzer of the Marlies joined the team in Florida Tuesday night ... ... With a Phaneuf goal and a pair of Cody Franson assists, the Leafs now have 86 points from the blueline compared to 89 the entire 2010-11 season ... More on Reimer: Looks like the new year is going to bring us unlimited TV time for the goaler’s new line of apparel. Wonder if Sportsnet is going to want it’s own version given the one that has aired so far has the voice of TSN rival, Chris Cuthbert ... With Tuesday’s loss, the Leafs fall to 5-4-2 in December with road dates in Carolina on Thursday and Winnipeg on New Year’s Eve to try to salvage another winning month.