Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 3-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Wednesday at Air Canada Centre:
Sloppy night from both sides.
The Leafs outshot the Jackets 25-17 through 40 minutes of play and by almost a 2:1 ratio (42-22) on the night. However, Toronto only beat rookie goalie Joonas Korpisalo once (on Brad Boyes’ fifth goal of the year, with an empty Toronto net and 2:27 left in regulation time) in large part because it couldn’t build sustained pressure around Columbus’ net and capitalize on second-chance scoring opportunities. The Jackets weren’t notably better, but managed to grind out goals against Buds netminder James Reimer in each of the first two periods – Boone Jenner had the game’s first goal and his 15th of the year, and Alexander Wennberg netted his fifth of the season to extend the lead – and that was the difference. It’s hard to argue the Buds deserved a better fate, as Toronto’s players couldn’t make crisp passes, had trouble with offensive breakouts and getting pucks to the net, and were out of sync for much of the game.
Decent season debut for Josh Leivo.
In his first NHL contest of the season after being recalled Monday, Leivo skated on a line with Byron Froese and Brad Boyes, and finished the night with two shots in 10:57 of ice time (including 2:37 on the power play). The 22-year-old didn’t look out of place or overwhelmed by the faster pace of the game, but he’ll have a much tougher test Friday when Toronto hosts the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Not much power to Buds’ power play.
The Leafs had three man-advantages Wednesday, but failed to convert on any and managed two shots on net combined. Toronto now has just two power play markers in 21 opportunities in their past five games, and in a league where special teams play can be the deciding factor on any given night, that needs to improve.
Lots to like about Reimer’s first full home game in nearly two months.
Reimer stopped 19 of 21 shots he faced (Columbus’ final goal was an empty-netter from Brandon Dubinsky with one second left in the third) and kept the game within winning distance throughout the night. The 27-year-old hadn’t started at the ACC since a Nov. 23 tilt against Boston, and – as was the case in his first full game in more than a month Saturday against the Kings in Los Angeles – he looks like the same player who was one of Toronto’s best early in the season.
A three-game losing skid is a test of this Leafs team’s mettle.
The loss to the Jackets was Toronto’s third straight – and third without getting at least a point – which is the first time that’s happened since a four-game losing skid at the end of October. Head coach Mike Babcock appreciates hard work, but he also knows the NHL is a results-oriented business and will be as driven as ever to get his team back in the win column.