Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center:
Leafs still having issues with their starts to games.
For the first half of the first period Tuesday, the Leafs were outplayed by the Flyers – and when Matt Read scored at 11:06 of the first, Toronto found itself trailing 1-0 for the 30th time in 44 games this season. The Buds evened the score a couple minutes later on Roman Polak’s first goal of the year (and his first since Jan. 15, 2015, against San Jose) and they dominated large stretches of play as the night went on, but far too often, they take too long to get untracked and end up chasing the game.
Some good karma for the Buds.
The Leafs were on their heels for a good portion of the third period, and Philly blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere’s eighth goal of the season with seven minutes left in regulation looked as if it would be good enough to send the game to overtime. However, with 13 seconds seconds left, centre Tyler Bozak won a faceoff in Philly’s zone and winger P-A Parenteau kept possession and passed the puck to defenceman Matt Hunwick, who fired a one-timer past Flyers goalie Steve Mason with 7.5 seconds left for the game-winner. It was Hunwick’s first goal as a Leaf, and coming on the heels of a game in which Toronto lost to Boston on a goal with just 47 seconds left in the third, it was also a very nice instance of karmic rebound.
Signs of offensive life for Joffrey Lupul.
After having a goal disallowed thanks to a coach’s challenge by the Flyers in the second period, Toronto grabbed its first lead of the game at the 15:10 mark of the middle frame when veteran winger Joffrey Lupul scored his 10th of the season. It was Lupul’s first goal in 12 games, and ought to give the 32-year-old a boost in confidence as he focuses on consistency on offense. And he can thank centre Nazem Kadri for creating the play; Kadri made a brilliant cross-ice pass in the Flyers’ zone to captain Dion Phaneuf, and Lupul banged the rebound by Mason.
Toronto’s special teams still need work.
The Leafs haven’t been happy with the performance of their penalty kill and power play of late, and Tuesday’s game won’t be seen as a great improvement for either unit. Toronto failed to score on three man advantages, and Read’s goal came on the power play (one of three the Flyers had on the night). It’s clear to many how important special teams are in the modern day NHL, and in not improving in either area, the Buds aren’t doing themselves favors.
The losing skid is over, but the hard work has to continue.
The victory over the Flyers snapped Toronto’s five game losing streak, but the Leafs aren’t in any position to enjoy this win for too long. They headed home immediately after the game and will be back at work practicing Wednesday before taking on the improving Carolina Hurricanes at Air Canada Centre the following night, and the desperate Montreal Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre Saturday. The Buds’ struggles have made a playoff berth a long shot, but head coach Mike Babcock will continue demanding his players focus on process and big picture, and both of those concepts won’t be served well if they lay an egg against the Canes and/or Habs.