Thursday, December 14, 2017
A critical two-game stand would see the Maple Leafs kick off a back-to-back situation on Thursday before having the weekend free of the NHL schedule.
Toronto arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota one day early and arranged a small outdoors 3-on-3 tournament to blow off some steam following a 4-2 loss in Philadelphia. Jake Gardiner’s father and Minnesota native, John, alongside Mike Babcock helped set up the event.
Perhaps this was just what the Buds needed prior to being tasked with a Wild team that came in having won five of their last six games.
It was announced on game day that G Devan Dubnyk would be out week-to-week with a lower-body injury, opening the door for backup Alex Stalock to take the reigns for some time. Dubnyk left Tuesday night’s contest against Calgary during the first period and did not return.
Alex Stalock had a short stint with the Maple Leafs organization in 2016, lasting only 48-days to be exact. The 30-year-old was acquired at the trade deadline in exchange for James Remer and did not reminisce fondly on his time with the Toronto Marlies — during which he only started in three games.
“Obviously, that was the low point of my career,” he said.
Evidently, Stalock would miss out on two important playoff runs that year for both the San Jose Sharks and Toronto Marlies. San Jose, the team that drafted him in 2005, went on to reach the Stanley Cup Finals and Toronto would make it as far as the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s a tough blow for any player to be watching from the outside, looking in.
There was a “fire in the belly” to come out with a victory, according to Stalock himself.
On the away bench, Toronto missed Auston Matthews for a third-straight game with an undisclosed upper-body injury — prompting many to believe the issue is more significant than management is leading on.
As the action got underway, it would be a level-headed matchup until Tyler Ennis broke the deadlock with a goal late in the frame
Miscommunication between Morgan Rielly and the rest of his team resulted in a blatant turnover for Minnesota, to which Ryan Suter capitalized upon. The skilled defender managed to evade defenders before facilitating the play to Tyler Ennis, who wrapped the puck around the net for a slick goal.
Minnesota’s 1-0 lead would hold up until the third period — where they doubled it to make it 2-0 courtesy of Mikael Granlund. The 25-year-old Finn made it a 2-0 lead following a poor defensive stand that allowed the Wild to cycle around the zone with ease. Eric Staal received the puck behind the net before feeding Granlund for a one-timer past Frederik Andersen.
Despite a late push, the Maple Leafs would ultimately fall by a final score of 2-0.
The Buds (20-12-1) will pack their bags and close out their road trip in Detroit for a date with the Red Wings (11-13-7). Puck drop is set at 7:30 PM. I will not be covering tomorrow’s game, due to having an exam late at night. Sorry to disappoint!
Furthermore, Toronto will have some time off after Detroit and won’t return to action until a rare 2:00 PM start on Tuesday, December 19th at home against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Feel free to drop me a comment or suggestion:
E-mail - gordon@BarnBurner.ca
On Twitter - @GordBrown_
Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs