Leafs waste an Andersen gem against Blue Jackets
The Maple Leafs spent Monday morning lauding Frederik Andersen's role in cleaning up their mistakes.
He should have taken that as a hint to store a mop and bucket in his net.
After his teammates' spillage resulted in two goals on the first two shots, Andersen made the next 25 saves, with many more gaffes to deal with, before the Columbus Blue Jackets won 4-3 on Gus Nyquist's overtime penalty shot at Scotiabank Arena, awarded for a Leafs hook.
Andersen turned away Cam Atkinson on a late third period breakaway and another break in extra time.
"When we make our mistakes, (Andersen's) the guy we look to save us," said Mitch Marner, whose power-play faux pas began an eventful evening for the goalie. "He does it a whole lot. He's always got that swagger and when that's going, our whole team feels better.
"You notice his body language and it's a calming influence on us," added defenceman Morgan Rielly. "It's nice when he's in the zone, he's a leader in that sense, it has an impact on our team."
The Leafs had subtly lobbied for more power plays after going almost two games with just one chance. But they couldn't have done worse with their first opportunity, as Marner coughed it up in his own corner to Nick Foligno and no one picked up Riley Nash.
Coach Mike Babcock's vacillating on whether to play Marner and Auston Matthews together quickly ended when the two were out again for Columbus' second goal. Matthews gave little resistance to Pierre-Luc Dubois coming sideways towards the net while Leafs defenceman Martin Marincin got in the way of Andersen.
But while Andreas Johnsson was in the box, Marner broke away with Kasperi Kapanen 2-on-1. The goal was Kapanen's second short-handed marker of the year, matching his team high of 2018-19. It was the first time since 1985 that shorties for and against occurred in the first period of a Leafs game, the Islanders' Bryan Trottier and Toronto's Dan Daoust having accounted for the feat back then.
Matthews broke his stick on the same power play that Columbus scored on and was foiled a couple of times by Joonas Korpisalo before going to the bench for a third stick of the period. That changed his luck as Jake Muzzin pinched in and set up a Johnsson shot that Matthews tipped.
Matthews was instrumental on the go-ahead goal in the second, fishing out the puck in the Jackets slot and getting a quick shot away. Johnsson fed the rebound to an open William Nylander with 14.5 seconds to play. Andersen was beaten midway through the third on an Alexander Wennberg power play goal.
Babcock defended his choice of continually putting Michael Hutchinson behind the eight ball as the second stopper in consecutive games.
Let's just do the math," he said before the game. "Imagine if you lost Game 1 and went into Game 2 tired. The investment (of saving Andersen for the second match) makes no sense to me."
Hutchinson pointed out at least he can plan his own schedule in advance. The Leafs have four back-to-backs in the first month on the schedule.
"There are so many factors out of your control, but my job is to stop the puck and give the team a chance," Hutchinson said. "It doesn't matter if it's the first game or second game."DOLLARS AND DEMOTIONS
Winger Zach Hyman and defenceman Travis Dermott are due to return soon from months of rehab after off-season knee and shoulder surgery, respectively.
But the earliest they can come off IR is this weekend, which leads to a salary-cap crunch the club has been girding for since the summer. As their combined hit of a little more than $3 million is added (most of it Hyman's $2.25 million), the Leafs must take four contracts off the NHL roster.
The first two would seem to be easy, the presently little-used Nic Petan and Kevin Gravel have already cleared waivers and can return to the AHL Marlies. Then it gets tricky with demotion candidates that include No. 5-6 defencemen Marincin and Justin Holl and semi-regular forwards Nick Shore, Jason Spezza and Dmytro Timashov.
Yes, if a few deletions are made, it could leave Toronto near the 20-man roster minimum some nights and many of the aforementioned could be lost if the team attempts to pass them through waivers.
The roster number could even drop below 20 for a game if there's a minor injury to a player the Leafs don't wish to move to IR. But the CBA doesn't require the Leafs to play more than once with those undermanned conditions, allowing them to call up one of the bargain league minimum players they signed in late July.SPYING ON THE REDS
Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas has been scouting the Marlies and junior games, but also slipped away to Russia earlier this month, part of the trip to visit a couple of former NHLers in the KHL playing with Red Army.
According to writer Pavel Lysenkov of Sovsport.ru, Dubas met with centre Mikhail Grigorenko and defenceman Nikita Nesterov, free agents next season. Grigorenko was taken seven spots after the Leafs selected Rielly in the 2012 draft and played 217 games before spending the past three years at home. Nesterov will be 27 next year, originally a mid-round pick of Tampa Bay in 2011 who played 132 NHL games.
Also on the Leafs' radar, according to Sportsnet, is CSKA undrafted forward Konstantin Okulov, who already has 13 points in 17 games. The Montreal Canadiens are also chasing the 24-year-old, who has been with the Army club for three seasons.MARNER IN MOURNING
Seven-year-old Hayden Foulon, whose lifetime battle with Leukemia inspired Marner since his junior days with the London Knights, has died.
Hayden's mom, Lindsay, confirmed the news Monday morning on Facebook.
"After an incredibly brave nearly six-year battle with leukemia, we are broken-hearted to share that our sweet Hayden passed away last night," she wrote. "Words aren't big enough to describe the impact this incredible girl had on this world or how hard she fought to stay here, right to the very end. No one dreamed bigger, laughed louder or loved life more than her and we know she touched the lives of many of you during her journey."
Marner tweeted Monday: "We lost our little fighter. It breaks my heart to know I'll never be able to see you again. How you fought your battles always inspired me, you were my hero. I know you'll be watching me from up above. I'll miss you."MARLIES ROLL ON
Coach Babcock can't be too surprised the Marlies have opened so well, a franchise record start of 6-0-0 enhanced with Sunday's 6-5 shootout win over Cleveland.
"They have a really good veteran-laden team, but we also have some kids there who are playing well. (Egor) Korshkov continues to score on a nightly basis (an assist and the shootout winner giving him a point in every game), which is good for us. He's a big man who has attributes that we could use.
"The Sandman (first round pick defenceman Rasmus Sandin) is playing a lot, but we have (other) guys down there with really good numbers. They've done a really good job loading that team up. We like our team in the minors to win every night, we like our kids to be around winning versus losing."
The planned meeting between Babcock, Sandin and Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe to fully explain the reason for last week's demotion, look at video clips and put together a development plan for the next couple of months, should happen this week.THE 200 CLUB GROWS
As Andersen became the 13th goalie in franchise history to play 200 games, he also tied Ken Wregget on appearances and came within five of Allan Bester. The rest of the list, top to bottom, are Turk Broda (629 games), Johnny Bower (465), Felix Potvin (369), Mike Palmateer (296), Curtis Joseph (270), Harry Lumley (267), John Ross Roach (222), Lorne Chabot (214), Bruce Gamble (210) and James Reimer (207).
At 112 wins before Monday, Andersen was 22 behind Palmateer for fifth in Toronto history.LOOSE LEAFS
Winger Johnsson has taken his share of abuse in his short North American career, whether accidental or targeted, so getting past a painful shot block of Brandon Carlo from Saturday to play Columbus was no big deal. "A big bruise, they took X-rays, got treatment yesterday and I'm okay," said Johnsson on Monday morning. It was kind of weird. a lot of pain. I started walking a bit and if you're still warm I could still run on adrenalin. I went on the ice and didn't feel as great as I wanted. Better to be safe in a long season" ... Marner was ready for two back-to-backs this week. "Hydrate as much as possible, eat, get to bed as quick as you can, home or road." Added Rielly: "We have a great staff here, they take care of us, so it's on us to prepare. We have to make sure we're doing what we have to do at home to take care of the body" ... Jackets coach John Tortorella, shivering in the cold hallways at SBA at the morning skate, quipped "you guys not pay your heating bill here?" The multi-use rink is always kept frigid at ice level at this time of year because of previous complaints of chippy ice.
Chris Johnston |@reporterchris TORONTO - The numbers don't lie. When given a choice between maybe or certainty, Mike Babcock does the same thing every single time: He starts Frederik Andersen in the first game of
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