We’ll share points after every game throughout the Toronto Maple Leafs season.
I mean, it was largely what you would expect.
With an overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and travel, sandwiched in between what was an ideally-spaced home-and-home with the Boston Bruins, and with their backup netminder thrust into his most disadvantaged start of the season to date, the Toronto Maple Leafs suffered another defeat at TD Garden, losing 4-2 on Tuesday night.
Another back-to-back awaits the Maple Leafs with the San Jose Sharks in town Friday and subsequently another likely start for Michael Hutchinson in a key spot to follow Saturday night on the road versus the Montreal Canadiens.
Until then, three points.
First Point: Help yourself, Hutch
Understanding the circumstances, the message before this one from Mike Babcock was understandably simple.
Having watched his team implode through crucial stretches in front of Hutchinson in each of his two starts to this point in the season, all the head coach wanted to see Tuesday night when rematching a well-rested Bruins team was an adequate level of support provided to his backup netminder.
“Let’s help out Hutch,” he said in his pregame interview with TSN’s Mark Masters.
Allowing 30-plus shots for a third consecutive time and matching a season-worst total of 16 high-danger scoring chances against, it obviously wasn’t a perfect performance from a defensive standpoint for the Leafs. But as much as they were taken to task by one of the most dominant attacking teams in the NHL, it’s not like Hutchinson helped the Leafs out, either.
While making most of the saves he would be reasonably expected to handle, Hutchinson welcomed consistent and sustained pressure from that heavy, puck-possession Bruins offence nearly every single time he attempted to play the puck.
Hutchinson was fortunate to have what appeared to be the first Bruins goal taken off the board on another successful offside challenge from Babcock. But it was his decision to send a puck that could have been frozen back into play that led to a prolonged possession for the Bruins’ top line that would result in the puck hitting the back of the Leafs’ net.
Rielly is far too deep when Pastrnak is entering the zone and the rest is just a mess.
A mini two-on-four and the Bruins somehow score. Lucky it got called back. pic.twitter.com/8D3G74dpTK
— Nick DeSouza (@NickDeSouza_) October 22, 2019
After Pastrnak made good again with a spectacular finish and Kasperi Kapanen had answered for the Maple Leafs, another miscue cost Hutchinson. Failing to pick up on the fact that Tyson Barrie wanted the puck fed over to his partner Jake Muzzin, Hutchinson instead forced in on Barrie, who couldn’t control the pass.
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) October 23, 2019
It set the Bruins’ No. 1 unit up for another offensive zone possession, and seconds later Pastrnak delivered outstanding no-look feed through traffic to Brad Marchand, who beat Hutchinson to the near post.
David Pastrnak is putting on a clinic tonight.
What a feed to Brad Marchand — who fires one home to give Boston a 2-1 lead.
Pastrnak now with 39 (!) points in his last 26 games (postseason included) against the Maple Leafs. pic.twitter.com/TkGtKnQiCW
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) October 23, 2019
There were myriad examples of Hutchinson’s inability to move the puck with any level of efficiency or confidence. And though he was one of the reasons the scoreline read closer than the run of play truly dictated, Hutchinson’s poor decision-making and execution were the primary reasons that the Maple Leafs spent far more time in their own end, taxing their already-tired legs.
Second Point: Connection in waiting
If Babcock is merely under the assumption that Alexander Kerfoot and Kasperi Kapanen will strike up a working and proficient partnership (within its proper context, of course) without really any need for prolonged time to work on their connection, he may be right.
With one elevated in the lineup to replace the injured Zach Hyman to start the season and other since promoted to second-line duties with John Tavares out with a broken finger, we have not yet seen the earmarked third-line partnership between Kapanen and Kerfoot on display with regularity.
Though that doesn’t mean they haven’t found something.
Kerfoot to Kapanen, then Kapanen to Kerfoot, the two depth scorers combined for the only meaningful moments of offence for Toronto, serving a glimpse of what they could offer when they settle into their normal functions when the Hymans and Tavareses do indeed return to the lineup.
Third Point: Where you miss Tavares most
Toronto’s answer for Boston’s Demolition Line was really no answer at all.
Though unlike last time, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner managed to last pretty much the entire game on a line together by avoiding the egregious errors they had versus Columbus. But they were simply out-classed by the Bruins’ top line Tuesday night.
Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak each finished at over 77 percent possession, while Matthews and Marner distanced themselves from the head-to-head matchup just enough to post marks of 41 and 37 percent.
On the scoresheet, Boston’s top line struck twice, registered 15 shots and manufactured six high-danger looks, while the Matthews, Marner and Andreas Johnsson line was shut out, combining for five shots on two high-danger attempts.
Tavares’ absence is no more obviously crippling than in matchups with the Bruins.
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