Eleventh-hour Lapse(s) lead to Loss
Questionable late-game puck decisions notwithstanding, Ben Scrivens made enough of an impact
for the visiting Maple Leafs to force the issue and earn at the very least a single point, but it was not to be as the Leafs capitulate in front of a noticeably blue and white-friendly Ottawa audience.
The blue and white invasion has been enough of an issue to prompt the Senators organization to plead with the locals to buy up discounted tickets, but it appears the backlash may have exacerbated the issue, however, the Leafs horde would ultimately leave disappointed due in large part to Colin Greening and his three-point outing.
Mikhail Grabovski broke the seal at 3:32 from the top of the right faceoff circle with a quick wrister, after winning a puck battle against the Ottawa defender by corralling the biscuit with his skates and ripping it through traffic past a screened Ben Bishop. It was Grabovski’s 5th goal of the season.
Senator’s 2011 first round pick Mika Zibenejad tipped a Colin Greening hard, low shot past Scrivens at 10:52 of the first for the answer-goal by the home side. Nazem Kadri was buzzing right from Jump Street, laying the body with authority and working hard to be first on the puck. As the young man’s confidence increases, his impact on the game is becoming more and more evident. The first frame concluded without any penalties being handed out, with Ottawa posting a decisive 14-8 advantage in shots heading into the intermission.
Erik Condra netted the lone goal in the dying seconds of the middle frame by going hard to the net as Leaf defender Korbinian Holzer barreled the Senator forward into Scrivens. The puck subsequently bounced off the hard-charging Senator and behind the Leafs’ de facto starter for the go-ahead goal. Greening earned his second assist of the night on the play.
The third frame saw the visitors show some energy as they looked to solve 6’7’’ Ben Bishop for a third time; the big man behind a battered Ottawa squad successfully stopping all 10 Toronto third-period shots. Leo Komarov created a two-man advantage opportunity for two full minutes when Chris Neil drew an interference infraction after the pesky Leaf got involved with the Sen’s tendy in a little beyond-the-paint contact which Neil took exception to. The Leafs were unable to solve the league’s leading defensive team on the powperplay and it appeared the game would be heading into extra time until Ben Scrivens made an ill-timed decision to freeze the puck with less than half a minute to go, thus creating an offensive-zone faceoff which Ottawa won. Why Grabovski, who had the team’s worst percentage in the faceoff circle was selected to take a critical late-game draw, while Jay McClement boasted a brilliant 75% is for brighter minds to contemplate. With 24 seconds on the clock, Greening knocked in an errant rebound off defender Patrick Wiercioch’s shot, as Carl Gunnarsson attempted to contain the Ottawa forward, giving the home team the win.
Keys to the Game:
-Kadri’s physicality. Even with Colton Orr taking the night off, Kadri played with bravado, throwing solid hits and standing up to bigger opponents who may have expected him to back down. Zach Smith’s head-fake was to no avail as the smaller man didn’t flinch. To the contrary, he answered with a hard jab to Smith’s chest, showing no hint of intimidation. Kudos to the kid.
-MacArthur-Kadri chemistry. The two looked very strong together, playing the same determined brand of hockey. MacArthur led the Leafs with five shots.
-Fraser and Holzer played courageous, physical hockey as demonstrated by their hitting game, and a willingness to lay down in front of pucks. Fraser had 6 hits and 4 blocks while Holzer had 5 and 4 respectively.
-Ottawa created an effective 1-2 punch with the combination of Greening and Zibenejad, which the Leafs were unable to contain.
- The Senator’s relentless net drive is what ultimately made the difference. On all three goals, they had a forward going hard to the net.
-Rebound control. Loose pucks landing three feet or less in front of the net created multiple chances for Ottawa.
-Late-period lapses. The second and third Ottawa goals both came late in the period. Taking their foot off the gas and allowing the opposition to swing momentum left the Leafs behind the eight ball for much of the night.
-Five-hole gifts. If I’m writing a scouting report on Scrivens, I’m including two things: 1) go hard to the net because he likes to play beyond the paint; and 2) shoot hard and low, right between the wickets, as pucks have a tendency to squirt through him, especially later in the game, when mental fatigue starts to factor.
-Defenders unable to establish optimal body position in the danger zones. Ottawa appeared to have the edge in front of Scrivens all night, winning foot races by half a step, and by establishing superior angles to the net. Crushing an opponent (and sometimes your own goalie in the process) as opposed to winning foot races and having an active stick to diffuse chances often leads to enough of an advantage for the opposition to capitalize.
With the way Ottawa drove the net, the game could have ended a lot worse, especially with the Leafs’ modest shot-count. The big guns need to get more pucks on net, both from the forwards, and from the back end. Is it time for Liles to be re-inserted in place of Gunnarsson? Perhaps. His mobility and his shooting from the back end may prove the difference-maker. If not he, than perhaps Jake Gardiner needs to re-emerge.