The Toronto Maple Leafs seemed like they were down and out of it last night against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks built a five-to-nothing lead and it seemed like the Leafs had no answer. Slowly but surely, the Maple Leafs managed to claw back their way into the game, making it five-to-four with roughly two minutes left in the third period. They didn’t win the game, nor did they tie it. Nonetheless, you have to respect the fact that they didn’t quit in this one either.
Maple Leafs Never Give Up And That’s Something To Respect
The Maple Leafs had a rough game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, losing six-to-two two nights before. Auston Matthews said it was a “slap in the face” and said it felt like they just “quit”. Harsh words but true to some fans watching the game. Tampa Bay once again showed the hockey world why they are the best team in the league and a serious Stanley Cup threat. Toronto showed that they were missing injured players like Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott a little extra. Maybe their presence wouldn’t have changed much, but it would’ve helped them out a bit, at least one could suspect that.
Many parts of Leafs Nation felt that no matter who was out on the ice, the team looked terrible. To be honest, this is a fair point. The Leafs were slow to the puck, they couldn’t win any one-on-one battles, and they left goaltender Frederik Andersen out to dry several times. It is important to mention, his play didn’t help things out much. Either way, he didn’t have much help and the Leafs can’t expect him to stand on his head each and every game that he plays. They’re going to have to win him some games here and there. Plus, if they played just slightly better on defence in front of him, it would certainly lessen his load and make everyone’s job easier.
“Live and learn” is a motto many live by, the Leafs sometimes do too. Early on in their game against the Blackhawks, it felt like they never heard of it. The Leafs made all the same mistakes the Blackhawks. They couldn’t win the puck battles, d-men were getting exposed and Andersen was left out to dry again. It was sad showing for the Leafs early on. The second period wasn’t much better. They started to pick up their play, they looked less flat-footed and they ramped up a bit. Andreas Johnsson scored the Leafs first goal of the game near the end of the second period and gave the Leafs a bit of momentum.
The third period starts and the Leafs started playing like the team everyone thought them to be. They were quick, used their speed and skill to their advantage and got pucks to the next. Then they started winning the puck battles, boom they were back to their old selves. Auston Matthews made the game five-to-two, Morgan Rielly made it five-to-three and with over a minute left in the third period, John Tavares made it five-to-four with career-high 39th goal of the season, bringing Scotiabank Arena to its feet.
The Leafs had a few glorious chances to tie the game in the dying seconds of the third period. Those were capped off by Nazem Kadri‘s chance right in the front of the net, almost point blank. Unfortunately for the Leafs, time ran out. It was exciting, to say the least.
Why this semi-comeback is important to the Leafs
Although the Leafs lost the game to a team that they should’ve beat, the fact that they were able to push themselves and try to complete the comeback shows that this team will never say die. In all honesty, fans know that this version of the Leafs likes to score goals in bunches and that’s how they’ve always been since this core of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner was assembled. At times it is annoying and at times, it’s a blessing.
The argument can be made that if (and when) the Leafs stop playing down to teams, they could actually be a team of Tampa Bay’s caliber. Every team has its strengths and weaknesses, they just need to acknowledge them and find ways to create a game plan that’ll help them win. The important thing to remember for the Leafs is everyone is going to come and play their best games against them. That’s because they respect the Leafs and realize that it’s going to take their best shot to beat the Leafs.
That being said, if the Leafs come out flat-footed and make the game easy for their opponents, they’re always going to end up looking silly, even if they came off a Western road trip or a tough game at home. In hindsight, there are no excuses.
Fans have to respect the effort
Regardless if the Leafs started off slow or it looked like they were playing down to their opponents, in this case, the Blackhawks, fans must respect that Toronto made an effort to get back in the game. They got a whopping 30 shots on goal in the third period alone. That’s an impressive number. They scored three goals and most importantly, they did not give up. Whatever happened in the second intermission sure lit a fire under their arses. Moving forward, that’s the way they gotta play.