It took a long time for the karma of three new Hall of Fame goalies to filter down from the VIP box at Scotiabank Arena to the ice.
But on a Friday night the Maple Leafs set a franchise futility record for worst team defence in autumn, four or more goals against in all eight of their home starts to date, Joseph Woll and counterpart Dan Vlader atoned in a wild overtime and five-round shootout. Prior to that, eight goals went in on just over 50 shots, each team testing their netminders’ patience with prime scoring chances. Henrik Lundqvist, Tom Barrasso and former Flames Cup winner Mike Vernon were in attendance.
That extended to a frenetic extra five minutes of play and the freebies, with Max Domi emerging with the winner for the Maple Leafs, who had muffed a three-goal lead. After Mitch Marner had a Toronto goal, Woll allowed just one in the tiebreaker.
“We know we need to defend better, keep the puck out of our net,” said captain John Tavares. “We have to maintain leads, stay in control, but it’s inevitable goals will go in and mistakes will happen. It’s how we respond (that matters).”
The Leafs did play a bit tighter once the Flames wiped their lead out, but with the hot Vancouver Canucks here Saturday and well rested while Toronto dragged out its fate, a split will be difficult and Sheldon Keefe’s team is not out of the woods.
John Klingberg was off the radar for the Leafs on Friday – and not solely because of recent on-ice struggles.
Keefe said after the morning optional skate that injuries have been a factor in a wonky start with the defenceman’s new team and the Calgary game presented an opportunity for recuperation. Klingberg did not take the skate, while Jake McCabe returned from a groin pull and took his place. Ryan Reaves, who was under consideration to be scratched in a seven-defencemen, 11-forward alignment, remained on the fourth line and was on for yet another goal, though not directly culpable. Reaves would finish minus 2 on the night.
Klingberg has been hampered “quite a while,” Keefe said, though he would not say if it’s related to an upper body injury in training camp.
“Nothing that has kept him out, but it’s something we want to give him an opportunity to work through and have a better sense of exactly what’s going on.”
Keefe said, adding those circumstances “certainly didn’t help” Klingberg’s numbers.
He is a minus 8, second worst to Reaves’s now negative 9.
A HITCH IN TIME
Keefe has never met new Hall of Fame builder/coach Ken Hitchcock, but in Keefe’s early years behind the bench in the OHL and Jr. A, he did attend one or two coaching seminars under the Hockey Canada umbrella where Hitchcock spoke.
“He was heavily involved in sharing information with young developing coaches and I was the benefactor of that. But he’s made his mark all over the league and there’s many stories. Even if you don’t know him, you feel like you do. He’s worked with many great coaches.”
TOP 10 STATUS
Lost in all the recent Leafs losses was Auston Matthews entering the top 10 in club career scoring as of Tuesday night. His 561st point passed Hall of Famer Teeder Kennedy, while Marner is already up to eighth at 571.
Matthews acknowledged earlier in the day it’s been hard to get too excited about such milestones while the team is struggling, but said of the top 10 “it’s a big honour, a storied franchise with a lot of great players. It’s an honour to be in that category.”
Darryl Sittler and Dave Keon, second and third on that list with 916 and 858 points respectively, were in the house Friday night.
Also reaching a milestone Friday was Morgan Rielly. His first-period assist gave him 350 overall, moving him past Tim Horton for third among Toronto defencemen behind Borje Salming (620) and Tomas Kaberle (437).
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Matthews was amused by the stir William Nylander created by being photographed taking the TTC to work. That’s a bit too nonchalant a travel mode for the time-conscious Matthews. “I usually like to give myself enough time to get to the rink. I don’t know if he’s in the same category. Weekday games, he’ll find himself on the subway once in a while. I don’t blame him. It’s probably better than sitting in traffic.” … As general manager Brad Treliving caught up with many Calgary officials and media as did ex-Flames Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie, Keefe was busy scouting his boss’s old club. “(I told him) you did a pretty good job building this team, deep down the middle, on defence, competitive all through the group. Lots of guys that can move up on offence and do the job defensively.”