From Pension Puppets
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A strong effort was slain by the Blackhawks’ special teams. Welcome to the fourth loss in a row.
A good half of it was evenly played, watchable hockey that gave both sides a sense of hope. Both teams played a ridiculously even game in chances, ending 29-29 in shots on goal, but the Blackhawks‘ special teams proved to be stronger than the Maple Leafs‘, and Scott Darling was sharp in the last 30 minutes of play.
Babcock agreed, and had a few sharp words for his bottom six forwards: “I thought we were competitive. I didn’t think our bottom six forwards were near good enough. I thought our top six forwards were very good. I thought we had good chances. I liked the way we competed. The bottom line is…the special teams killed us. In the end you leave disappointed. I liked our approach, I liked our plan, but in the end you can’t give up those goals. And you can’t be shorthanded against that team.”
The first period remained scoreless due to a few excellent saves by Reimer, and due to Mike Babcock’s sharp eyes. At the 12 minute mark of the first, it seemed as though Andrew Shaw would get his whatever-eth goal of the season (I can’t be arsed to look it up), but after Shaw shot in his own rebound, Babcock called for a coach’s review. After a few tense moments, the situation room said, “You were right, Mr. Babcock! Marian Hossa was, in fact, a few strides in front of Shaw carrying in the puck over the blue line!” and the goal was waved off. This is one of the moments when I feel grateful for a coach like Babcock — his hero-level ability to see everything on the ice at once helps many of his reviews pass muster.
(Question for people with memories better than mine: has Babcock won more coach’s challenges than he’s lost? Or not? Is there a handy place to look this up?)
A brilliant moment for Reimer in the first was during a Maple Leafs power play. Marian Hossa plucked the puck away from poor Josh Leivo (what was Leivo doing up against Hossa?). Hossa’s breakaway and shot caught Reimer in such a way that the deflection came back to Trevor van Riemsdyk, but Reimer was able to make that second save with a swift slide.
Reimer continued to look strong until 13 minutes into the second, when a series of Blackhawks powerplays slew the Leafs. Right after the Leafs killed the penalty to Jake Gardiner, Patrick Kane scored. Five minutes after that, on another penalty to Matt Hunwick, Patrick Kane scored again. Roman Polak began the third by garnering a cross-checking penalty, and in the ensuing 5-on-3, Artemi Panarin scored. Facing a 3-0 deficit, this generation of Leafs continued to battle, and eventually were rewarded.
At three minutes into the third, Morgan Rielly took a pass from PA Parenteau, dragged it back, and shot it over Darling’s blocker side to make it 3-1. He had great vision to see the play through all the traffic and just … went for it.
The last thing that made it 4-1 was an empty netter.
As Babcock said, everyone competed (corroborated by incredibly even scoring chances throughout, without a single plateau for score effects or being disheartened), but a high number of penalties got the Leafs in trouble against a team with the third-best powerplay in the league. Charts from War on Ice and Sean Tierney.
— Sean Tierney (@SeanTierneyTSS) January 16, 2016
Source: Recap: Leafs 1, Blackhawks 4