Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 7-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks Saturday at SAP Center:
For one period, the Leafs were in the game.
Although the final score didn’t reflect well on Toronto’s effort, the Leafs and Sharks were actually scoreless after 20 minutes of play, with the Buds outshooting San Jose 12-7. Unfortunately, after Brent Burns scored the game’s first goal 4:18 into the second frame – and after Matt Nieto’s shorthanded goal less than four minutes after that – things got progressively worse for the visitors. Toronto trailed 4-0 after two periods, and the Sharks piled on with three more goals in the first 12 minutes of the third. The resolve this year’s Leafs have come to be known for simply wasn’t there for most of the game.
No, this wasn’t Jonathan Bernier’s fault.
The Leafs goaltender surrendered all seven goals on 31 Sharks shots, but had little in the way of help from his teammates and was hung out to dry numerous times. Prior to Saturday’s game, Bernier was rounding into top form and coming off a 39-save shutout of the Ducks Wednesday – and if the players in front of him rediscover the structure that abandoned them against San Jose, there’s no reason to think this was anything more than a blip on the radar for him.
A season-worst in more than a few regards.
The Leafs gave up more goals Saturday than they have in any other game in 2015-16 – they’d surrendered six goals on two separate occasions, against the Jets Dec. 2 and the Islanders Dec. 29 – and generally looked unwilling or unable to win puck battles while allowing the Sharks to penetrate their zone almost at will. The Buds did have a handful of genuine scoring chances against Martin Jones, but the majority of Toronto’s 28 shots on net weren’t especially difficult for San Jose’s netminder to turn aside. The longer you watched this game, the less there was to like from the Leafs’ perspective.
Big bearded bears did the damage for the Sharks.
Tomas Hertl led San Jose’s offensive attack with two goals and three points, but the Sharks’ large and heavily-bearded duo of blueliner Brent Burns and veteran star Joe Thornton were as dangerous as any player on the ice, combining to produce one goal (Burns’ 17th of the season) and four points. The Leafs clearly had been worn down in the first two games of their three-game road trip that included two very difficult contests Wednesday and Thursday against the Ducks and Kings – two teams that do not shy away from physical contact – and taking on big bodies such as Thornton and Burns is no easy task even when a team is rested and ready. On this night, that task proved too much for the Buds.
The less said about this one, the better.
You couldn’t question the Leafs’ effort in the first two games of this road trip, but that wasn’t the case in the second and third periods Saturday, when the Leafs looked like a tired team. The three-day break they have before their next game Wednesday against Columbus at Air Canada Centre will be a welcome one in which they can regroup.