Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 3-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes Tuesday at Gila River Arena:
It doesn’t take a long lapse in concentration to hurt you in an NHL game.
The Leafs got on the scoreboard first on James van Riemsdyk’s 12th goal of the season with 4:51 left in the opening period, but 21 seconds later they trailed 2-1 on a pair of markers by Shane Doan. When players discuss the importance of playing a 60-minute game, it isn’t just a cliché – there has to be a focus and discipline at all times, because all 30 NHL teams are capable of capitalizing on breakdowns and bad bounces.
Kadri coming on.
There was a time this season when Nazem Kadri couldn’t buy a goal, but the Buds centreman has persisted with strong efforts through a stretch of bad luck – and after his second-period goal that tied the game at 2, Kadri enters the holiday break with seven points in his past seven games. The 25-year-old remains a fair ways off from his career-best campaign of 20 goals and 50 points in 2013-14, but points tend to come in bunches for most NHLers, and it won’t surprise many to see Kadri continue to make up for lost ground in the weeks to come.
Shots weren’t a problem, but faceoffs were.
The Leafs outshot the Yotes in every period – including by a 15-10 total in the second frame – and by a total of 39-26 on the night. However, Arizona dominated Toronto in the faceoff circle, winning 48 of 75 puck-drops. There’s debate in some corners of the hockey community about the value of faceoff wins, and on this night, at least, the Buds showed they didn’t need to succeed on draws to test the opposition’s goalie often.
Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf led both his team and the Coyotes in hits Tuesday – and not by a small margin. Phaneuf’s seven hits were more than double any other player in the game, and comprised nearly one-third of Toronto’s 22 hits against Arizona. The veteran blueliner has thrived in his first year with head coach Mike Babcock, and Phaneuf’s confidence can be seen in all elements of his game - including his willingness to put the body on an opponent.
Penalty kill looking good.
The Leafs don’t want to give any team four power plays a night, but they’ve surrendered eight in their past two, including four to the Coyotes. That said, Toronto’s penalty killers were perfect Tuesday, keeping Arizona’s power play off the scoresheet. The Buds entered the game with a penalty-killing success rate of 78.6 percent, but that number will improve if they continue to get solid efforts from players such as defenseman Roman Polak (who played a team-high 6:18 on the PK) and Michael Grabner (5:02).