Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 7-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks Monday at United Center:
Hobbled Leafs lineup overwhelmed by defending Stanley Cup champs.
In the Leafs’ previous matchup against Chicago on Jan. 15, Toronto kept the powerhouse Hawks off the scoresheet in the first period before eventually losing 4-1. But Monday, the defending NHL champions needed just 2:33 in the opening frame before scoring. The Buds were also outshot 16-11 through the first 20 minutes, and no team in the NHL can afford to do that against such a deep and experienced squad.
Toronto didn’t surrender after a poor first period.
The first period was dominated by the host Hawks, but the Leafs played a much more disciplined period in the second and outshot Chicago 15-5. Unfortunately, goaltender Scott Darling was stellar, Brent Seabrook’s goal at the 1:55 mark gave the Blackhawks a 3-0 advantage, and Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane scored early in the third frame to put the game out of reach. In the end, the score didn’t flatter the Leafs, but, for a while at least, Toronto did have pushback in their game.
Special teams struggles.
It’s been a familiar refrain in many Leafs losses this season, but Toronto’s special teams simply weren’t good enough to put them in a position to win. The Hawks scored four power play goals (off of seven opportunities), and the Buds scored only one power play goal (from P-A Parenteau) in their four man advantages – and even then, the game was well out of hand when that happened. It doesn’t matter who your opponent is with those types of numbers – you’re not going to emerge with a victory.
Mark Arcobello’s offence one of the few bright spots.
Arcobello scored his first two NHL goals of the season in Toronto’s 5-2 win over Vancouver Saturday, and added his third of the year Monday by netting the Buds’ only goal at 11:06 of the third. With a number of Leafs forwards not expected back from injured reserve anytime soon, Arcobello is making a solid case for more opportunities.
Time to head home and re-focus.
Now that their five-game road trip is over, the Leafs return to Toronto to begin a four-game stretch at Air Canada Centre that will see them square off against the Rangers, Flyers, Predators and Hurricanes. All of those opponents have playoff aspirations, and if the Buds can produce a more consistent effort than we saw Monday, they can play spoiler.