Maple Leafs lose again, and we still don't know if Michael Hutchinson can do the job
We’ll share points after every game throughout the Toronto Maple Leafs season.
It was another lacklustre effort on taxed legs for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who failed for the fourth time already to secure both points on the second night of a back-to-back, losing 5-2 to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
Toronto has two days to re-charge before meeting the Washington Capitals for the second time already this season, Tuesday at Scotiabank Arena.
Until then, three points:
First Point: We’ve learned nothing
So with a loss in Montreal, the Maple Leafs have now completed the four back-to-backs jam packed into the first three-and-a-half weeks of the schedule. (Oh, but don’t worry, there’s more). All told, the club earned three wins and took eight of a possible 16 points through the four two-night sets, with just a single point banked in games played on tired legs from the night before.
At a disadvantage for four of the first 13 games of the season and leaving seven points on the table is immensely frustrating from a Leafs fan perspective, and it still remains a real wonder why head coach Mike Babcock remains so inflexible when choosing his netminders in these situations.
But what makes the reality worse is that we really haven’t learned anything despite the Leafs taking these lumps. More specifically, we still don’t have clarity on one of the most pressing questions for the franchise entering the year: Does Michael Hutchinson have it in him to be a capable backup?
Losses to Washington and Boston — and now with two defeats at the hands of Montreal without a win yet on his record — by the most basic of measurement, Hutchinson has failed to demonstrate that he can be of value in a supporting role for No. 1 starter Frederik Andersen.
Evaluating each performance individually, though, not once can you say that Hutchinson was even the primary reason the Maple Leafs came up short.
Babcock certainly didn’t blame him for this one.
“It's unfortunate for him because I thought his effort warranted better from us,” he said.
Toronto’s structure failed Hutchinson again, with three of the five goals scored on clear-cut breakaways and another converted on a clinical transition finish late in the game.
Nick Suzuki !! Beating the Leafs is fun 😇
5-2 Habs pic.twitter.com/OP0nNygVNC
— Yannick St-Pierre (@DraftDynasty1) October 27, 2019
In November, there are opportunities for Hutchinson to dress in a game where he won’t be dealt a severe disadvantage, or opportunities where the Maple Leafs are more likely to deliver a complete performance in front of him, but there’s a trio of back-to-backs in the month as well.
It will get to a point, eventually, when you just can’t excuse his failures any more. For now, though, he deserves a longer leash and the chance to prove whether or not he can do the job.
You just wonder how many points will be left on the table until we have a definitive answer.
Second Point: One knock on Hutch
Puck handling earlier this week, rebound control tonight.
While it was just the one goal, Hutchinson suffered from a different source of self-inflicted damage in Montreal, failing early to take his chances to earn whistles versus the Canadiens.
After Kasperi Kapanen’s diligent transition tracking prevented him from being punished for letting a soft backhand from Artturi Lehkonen bounce off him and land into the slot, Hutchinson failed with the squeeze again, this time on a point shot from Mike Reilly.
On cue, Brendan Gallagher made him pay for coughing up the needless rebound.
Cody Ceci was such a nice addition for Toronto. We might have a chance to beat them now.
Gallagher in front of the net is hard to handle tho pic.twitter.com/1QExUsr935
— Yannick St-Pierre (@DraftDynasty1) October 26, 2019
He seemed to settle in after the first period, beaten only when exposed by poor defending. Though I suppose Cody Ceci didn’t help him a whole lot on the Gallagher goal, either.
Third Point: The ugliest of starts
Allowing the first goal on 10 occasions through the first 13 games, the Leafs have only seldom carried out the instructions that Mike Babcock might literally preach daily, which is to “start on time.”
But they haven’t been less punctual than they were Saturday night in Montreal.
Falling behind 34-10 in shot attempts, 19-5 in shots, 12-1 in scoring chances and 7-0 in high-danger looks in the first 20 minutes, the Maple Leafs submitted maybe their least inspired period of the season in the opening frame against the Canadiens.
It was so one-sided that Natural Stat Trick’s tracking data valued Montreal’s downhill dominant start at 1.64 expected goals for, to just 0.08 against.
Despite generating next-to nothing in the frame, Jake Muzzin lit fire to that predictive data. For the second time in as many days he scored just before the buzzer and sent both teams to their respective dressing rooms feeling far different about their periods.
Of course, Muzzin had the opposite impact on the other side of the second intermission, conceding a clear path to the net for Joel Armia to score seven seconds into the third period.
🚨 JOEL ARMIA
3-2 #Habs pic.twitter.com/D3IJVUH3pS
— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) October 27, 2019
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