The weekend couldn’t come fast enough for the Maple Leafs. A three-game trip ended the way it started in Philadelphia on Tuesday and continued in St. Paul, Minn., on Thursday. With a thud, and another loss in regulation. Playing without Auston Matthews for the fourth game in a row as the team’s best player recovers from an upper-body injury, the Leafs lost 3-1 against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night at Little Caesars Arena. It’s the second time this season the Leafs, who have a rare off-day on Saturday and don’t play until Tuesday, have lost three games in a row in regulation. The skid comes after Toronto won five of six games. After the Leafs were shut out in Minnesota, the club’s forwards again fired blanks, as defenceman Andreas Borgman was the lone Toronto player to score on Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, though Borgman said after the game he thought his shot might have been deflected by Kasperi Kapanen. That doesn’t matter. What does is the Leafs scored just four goals in the four games Matthews missed this past week. They have forward depth, yet Matthews’ absence has an impact. “We’re missing a pretty important player who generates a lot of offence for us,” centre Tyler Bozak said. “But that’s no excuse. We have won games when he has been out (five of eight this season that Matthews has missed).” True, but what is the trickle-down effect when No. 34 is playing the role of spectator? “It makes it easier on the other team when they don’t have to worry about matchups as much,” Bozak said. “I would assume whenever he is in, they are going to want to get their best defensive guys and defencemen out against him, so it makes a little easier on the other team for sure.” And in turn, teams can focus on other integral Leafs. Coach Mike Babcock hasn’t been able to nail down lines that produce offence consistently, and afterward on Friday, that was underlined when he said he thought his fourth line of Dominic Moore between Matt Martin and Kapanen (playing in place of healthy scratch Josh Leivo) was his best trio.
Maple Leafs continue to sputter without Auston Matthews
Toronto Sun | Dec 16