Toronto Maple Leafs inconsistency on full display, as Hurricanes secure vital playoff points
The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t turn up at the Scotiabank Arena. Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes did; and they left with a thoroughly deserved 4-1 victory. The result keeps them one point ahead of Montreal.
Mike Babcock didn’t seem too unexpected by their performance, after coming off the back of a positive result yesterday.
Speaking to the Toronto Sun after the game, he said: “(The win in Long Island) was an emotional night for our team. The level of emotional engagement of the two teams at the start tonight was that they were one point ahead of Montreal we had clinched.
“We weren’t very good in the first period and really battled back and made it a game. The first thing we’re going to do is take a day off.”
There was ice-time for Garret Sparks, who has now likely played his last start of the season with the upcoming vital fixtures going to be Frederik Andersen’s games. Sparks faced over 30 shots in the game.
A wayward pass from Travis Dermott allowed Jordan Staal to fire past Sparks in the third before Justin Williams blasted a puck behind the Toronto net off Martin Marincin and then between the legs of the back-up goalie.
Sparks continues to be ready should he be needed in the future games. Speaking about his performance and the next couple of months, he said: “It came exactly where I didn’t need it to go. We had life at points, and we’re definitely in the game.
“This year isn’t over for me. I’ll be ready if anything happens.”
Tavares was quick to notice the poor start that the Leafs made, with his 47th strike of the season the only consolation that Toronto could take from the result. He said: “We have to be at a better level to start.”
“We just weren’t quick enough on some of the 50-50 pucks and weren’t able to execute good puck support and getting it up ice. Once we did that, things started to turn. We have to keep finding ways to get better.”
Prior to the game, Babcock confirmed that Anderson was to play against Montreal and Tampa. He said: “We just want him to have a rhythm going in. You’re going to see that with a lot of the guys, too. They want to play.”
However, Toronto confirmed their place in the playoffs with Monday’s win over the Islanders, and with that Babcock will be appearing for the 14th time in 16 years. Furthermore, he is the first coach of the Leafs to make the playoffs for three consecutive years. The last of which was Pat Quinn during the early 2000s. However, he will be looking to avoid unfortunate history and follow King Clancy to three consecutive opening defeats.
Leafs had entered Tuesday with a slim hope of catching Boston and gaining the home-ice advantage for the playoff opening round. However, Toronto’s defeat combined with Boston’s win over the Blue Jackets means that the Bruins will now have home advantage.
Leafs play the Lightning next.