Leafs falter against Blackhawks in final game before nine-day break
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Saturday, January 18, 2020
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS 6 - TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS 2 FINAL
Toronto, ON – This contest wasn’t the type of game that the Leafs were likely looking for in their final game before a nine-day break. They couldn’t recover from a slow start against the Blackhawks on Saturday night in Toronto, losing 6-2 after giving up three goals in the first period.
William Nylander and Alex Kerfoot had the goals for Toronto. Drake Caggiula and Brandon Saad scored once for Chicago, while Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik each had two goals. Toews finished the night with four points, while teammate Patrick Kane had one assist for his 999th career point.
The Leafs enter their break with just one win in their last six games. They are now out of a playoff position, and tenth in the eastern conference.
"Reality checks come,” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters after the game. “I thought that we were an immature team down in Florida, we were an immature team here today. We're not performing, we're not playing with any level of discipline or consistency."
It didn’t take long for a team to get on the scoreboard. Caggiula scored just 21 seconds into the opening period. He shot the puck in off Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen’s skate near the goal line to make it 1-0 early.
Andersen allowed six goals on 34 shots, while his counterpart Corey Crawford made 31 saves.
Just over five minutes later, they struck again. With an extra skater on the ice because of a delayed Leafs penalty, Toews beat Andersen five-hole for his 13th goal of the season. Just like that, it was 2-0 Chicago.
Toronto defenceman Timothy Liljegren made his NHL debut, and his first shift of the game nearly six minutes in. He saw limited action, ending the game with 10:40 of ice-time.
After a couple of good offensive-zone shifts from the Leafs, the Blackhawks found the back of the net once again.
Saad skated in along the right wing and beat Andersen blocker-side to extend their lead to 3-0. Patrick Kane picked up an assist on the goal for his 999th career point.
After one period of play, Toronto led 12-10 in shots but trailed 3-0 on the scoreboard.
The second period began just like the first, except this time it was Toronto with the goal. Just 25 seconds in while on the power play, Nylander took a pass from John Tavares and his shot beat Crawford blocker-side. It glanced off the post and in to make it a 3-1 game.
The Leafs captain wasn’t happy after the loss. "It's not a good feeling,” Tavares told reporters after the game. “We got to dig down and ask ourselves where we want to get to. I know when we come to work every day, everyone's invested 100%, but when we go out and have games like this or lapses like this it's obviously not good enough."
With 16:41 left, it was Toews with his second goal of the night. He had a wrap-around before beating Andersen five-hole once again to regain their three-goal lead.
Just over the midway point of the period, Kubalik added to the Chicago lead. Liljegren rushed the puck up the ice at the end of a long shift, and the Blackhawks started a 2-on-1 the other way which Kubalik finished to extend the lead to 5-1.
But Toronto wasn’t done yet.
With 4:43 left in the period, Pierre Engvall’s shot went off Kerfoot’s skate and in past Corey Crawford to reduce the Chicago lead to 5-2. It was Kerfoot’s eighth goal of the season.
Nearly two-and-a-half minutes later, Kubalik was at it again. The Blackhawks rookie scored an amazing goal, batting a cross-ice Toews pass out of mid-air and over Andersen’s shoulder. It was his 20th goal of the season, which leads all rookies, and second of the night.
That would end as the final score in a disappointing effort from the Leafs before their extended break with a bye-week and the all-star weekend.
The Leafs’ next game will be on January 27 against the Predators in Nashville. But not every Leaf will have the full time off, as Andersen, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner will all be going to the all-star game.