The Maple Leafs came up just short in Raleigh, here are five takeaways.
Special teams futility
Although the Leafs were going up against the best penalty kill in the league, Toronto just wasn’t able capitalize on any of their four power play chances. The Leafs experimented by rolling two different power play units featuring four forwards. While it was good to see what Olli Jokinen could do in a grouping with David Clarkson, Peter Holland and Richard Panik, it was a work in progress. The Leafs also gave up a goal while shorthanded as Eric Staal opened the scoring while Carolina had the man advantage.
Kozun cashes in
Not given a lot of ice time, Brandon Kozun made his team low 5:20 count, scoring the only Toronto goal. It took a few hacks after his first chance was blocked at the goal line by defenceman Brad Malone, but he stuck with it to get his first NHL goal. They say your first goal is always the toughest one to get. Perhaps he’ll be given a longer look on Saturday against the Jets.
The Maple Leafs had a difficult time winning faceoffs against Carolina. Having lost 11 of 15 after one period, the Leafs slowly improved and finished winning 41 per cent of the draws. Carolina ranked seventh in faceoffs going into tonight. It’s an area the Leafs have to look to improving. On a positive note, Olli Jokinen led the way, winning 59 per cent of his faceoffs (10 of 17).
The Leafs had a good pace to start to the game. Cam Ward was the difference tonight, making 23 saves. Many of those saves were of the difficult variety. Nazem Kadri had a few breakaways where it looked like Toronto was going to take over. Ward has been rather dominant against Toronto over his career, grabbing his 15th win in 26 games over the Leafs.
While it’s hard to get away from the harsh reality of the Leafs futility, one look at their last five games shows the team heading in the right direction. This was Toronto’s fifth consecutive game losing by one goal. The games are close, they just can’t get over the hump.