There’s an expression I’ve heard many times, and while I’m not sure I understand it completely, I do think it makes sense: a team is playing just well enough to lose.
And that’s how I’m seeing the Leafs after these last two games—playing OK, but just well enough to make it close—but still lose. Against the Capitals on Sunday, the Leafs spotted Washington a 3-0 lead and made it awfully close in the end. Tuesday night at the Joe Louis Arena, again the Leafs fell behind early, but they very nearly tied it up at two in the third period before Nazem Kadri’s goal power play goal was disallowed.
Two one-goal losses, especially at the end of an arduous road trip, should be no more disconcerting than Leaf wins are comforting on the nights when they perhaps haven’t been full measure for a victory.
I’ll just share a few observations on the Detroit encounter and let you comment, if so moved:
- The Leafs needed some big saves from Reimer in the third period and didn’t get them. It was a bit of the opposite of the Washington game—there, Reimer struggled early but was dazzling as the game went on. Here, it felt as though Toronto would make a comeback if they got the stops they needed. They didn’t.
- Detroit is not even close to being the team they were ten years ago, or even five years ago. But they are well coached and on any given night are still a handful—even with their stars like Zetterberg and Datsyuk out of action.
- Didn’t you get the impression Rielly and Gardiner have been working on that play (the one that Gardiner scored on to make it 2-1) for quite some time in practice? The way they celebrated suggests it was the culmination of a well-hatched plan.
- No Leaf player played under 7 minutes.
- I wonder if the 7-defenseman approach that began before the Olympic break will be the Carlyle roadmap going forward?
- If the Leaf forwards are going to have a bit of a cold spell, better now than three or four weeks from now.
Did the Leafs deserve to win in Detroit? When you never have a lead, it’s tough to feel that they did. Despite my comments above, if I were in Carlyle’s shoes, I’d go with Reimer again on Wednesday night at home against the Lightning, assuming Bernier is not quite ready. Reimer has not been perfect these last two games, but I think he deserves a chance to see if he can steal a game at home. You've heard me say goalies need to have a chance to play a run of games, even when they struggle.
At the best of times teams often struggle in the first game back home after a long road trip. And in this instance, the Leafs will have no rest at all. But I think they’ll show up against Tampa.