Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 6-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday at MTS Centre:
Don’t let the final score fool you – this game was closely contested for a while.
A five-goal victory qualifies as a thorough beating, but for the first two periods, the Leafs were competitive and had the first lead of the evening just 2:02 into the game. The Jets broke it open with two goals in the first three minutes of the third, but the Buds nearly cut that lead in half only to have a goal by Nick Spaling disallowed on a controversial video replay call. Winnipeg piled on the offense after that, but this wasn’t as one-sided a showdown as the result might suggest.
A great showing in the faceoff circle from Bozak and the Leafs.
Faceoffs have been an area of concern for head coach Mike Babcock this season, but the Leafs won 32 of 55 draws against the Jets. Centre Tyler Bozak was a scorching 17-for-22 (77 percent) in that department – far better than his 5-for-12 (42 percent) showing vs. the Oilers Monday.
Grabner’s first goal.
Veteran winger Michael Grabner didn’t have a goal in his first 22 games as a Leaf, but that streak ended Wednesday when he scored his first of the season and first in Blue and White since coming over from the Islanders in a Sept. 17 trade. The 28-year-old winger stepped into injured teammate Joffrey Lupul’s spot on a line with Spaling and Daniel Winnik, and logged 15:39 of ice time – Grabner’s third-highest minute total of the season; his season high thus far came when he played 18:27 in a Nov. 7 game against Washington. Like teammate Nazem Kadri, Grabner has been working hard with little to show for it on the scoresheet, but Leafs fans, players and management no doubt hope this first goal will lead to a decent scoring streak for him.
Garret Sparks is learning what all NHL goalies eventually learn – their primary challenge is consistency.
After making his NHL debut Monday with a shutout performance for the Buds against Edmonton, Sparks had a tougher go of it two days later, stopping 29 of 35 Jets shots for an .829 save percentage. The Leafs didn’t lose the game because of any one goal that Sparks allowed, but as Babcock said last week, NHL teams usually don’t win games when they surrender four goals. Like his teammates in front of him, Sparks will need to tighten things up when his next opportunity arises – and if he is to carve out a career in hockey’s top league, he’ll need to be as consistent as possible every game.
For the most part, the Leafs have been a well-disciplined group this season. However, they gave the Jets five power play chances Wednesday. Although Winnipeg’s play with the extra man hardly is the envy of the league – only Calgary and Carolina’s power play units are worse – and the Jets converted on only one of those five man advantages, that’s not the type of self-control Toronto wants to exhibit.