The Toronto Maple Leafs completed their longest road trip of the season with an underwhelming 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Toronto went 2-5 on the seven game trip away from the Air Canada Centre due to the World Junior Hockey Championships. Only securing four out of a possible 14 points on this road swing may end up coming back to bite Randy Carlyle’s team when the season winds up in April.
Stoney Point - January 4, 2015 - The Toronto Maple Leafs completed their longest road trip of the season with an underwhelming 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Toronto went 2-5 on the seven game trip away from the Air Canada Centre due to the World Junior Hockey Championships.
I recognize that some may take issue with the headline of this article, but only securing four out of a possible 14 points on this road swing may end up coming back to bite Randy Carlyle’s team when the season winds up in April. What is particularly troubling about their record on this trip is the fact that they were leading in three of the five losses.
Playing .285 hockey during this important road trip compared to playing .500 hockey results in a difference of three or four points in the standings. Keep this trip in mind if the Maple Leafs are in a dog fight in April as these points in the bank would have been very helpful.
To put the impact of this trip into perspective, the Leafs were competing for the Atlantic Division lead when the trip started and now they are fighting to hold on to the Wild Card spot. Of concern to the Blue and White should be the fact that the teams behind them have games in hand.
There were lots of excuses the Leafs could have used last night against the Jets. It was the last game of their seven game road trip, it was their second game in as many nights and fifth since Christmas and they had their back-up goaltender between the pipes. However, those are simply excuses.
Toronto opened the scoring early in the second on a nice goal by Mike Santorelli – who has been the Leafs’ best off-season acquisition. From there, it was all Winnipeg as they scored five unanswered goals.
TJ Galiardi, Matt Halischuk, Dustin Byfuglien, Brian Little and Ben Chiarot all scored for Winnipeg to give the Jets the win. Paul Maurice’s team, despite a considerable number of injuries are still very much in the Wild Card hunt in the tough Western Conference. Despite their injuries, the Jets continue to find a way to win.
The Leafs were outscored 25-16 on the trip – this including the shutout win over the Dallas Stars. They were also out shot in six of the seven games for a total shot deficit of 249-176. Toronto only registered 16 shots at Michael Hutchinson in the game, while Winnipeg directed 40 towards James Reimer.
After the game, Carlyle seemed to be looking for answers.
"I would say that they definitely outskated our hockey [team] tonight, and that's one thing that, this group of ours, we believe we can skate," the Maple Leafs coach said. "We didn't skate tonight, that's for sure."
"We know that back-to-backs are going to be challenging when the other team has been rested for [three] days," Carlyle said. "Usually what you try to do is you try to get your structure and your play simple. You stop in the defensive zone, you don't get above the puck, you're always on the defensive side, and our group did none of that."
"There are a bunch of things that are ailing our hockey [team], and we're going to have to get back to practice, focus on the process, regroup with our players and [correct] some of the things that [have been] rearing their ugly head over the last little while," Carlyle said.
Giving up a ton of shots has been a problem under Carlyle’s leadership of this team. Over the road trip, the Leafs gave up an average of close to 36 shots per game. As good as their goaltending has been, it is very difficult to win a on consistent basis when you give up 12 shots per period and on some nights, even more.
The Leafs have scored 130 goals in 40 games and this number has them tied for the league lead with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Clearly, lighting the lamp is not an issue for this squad – holding a lead appears to be the problem.
For the Maple Leafs to be playing in the post-season, they will need to be able to shut down the other team from scoring. Their 122 goals against is the fourth highest in the league, better than only Edmonton, Buffalo and Arizona.
The Leafs are back in action on Wednesday night when they host Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.