Yep. There’s your dark lining to the silver cloud.
Not statistics or a worrywart head coach. In the end, it wasn’t about an NHL goaltender coach named Corsi and his statistical proxy for puck possession; it was about Jonathan Bernier being called upon 32 seconds into the game after starting goalie James Reimer took a shot to the head or neck in an accidental collision with Josh Leivo, and misplaying a strange bounce into a game-deciding goal. “The hockey gods got back at us,” intoned Randy Carlyle.
With a vengeance, he might have added. Reimer’s injury was a reminder to put the trade rumors on ice, along with the Toronto Maple Leafs hot start after a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.
The Leafs are 6-2 and while it’s still their best start since going 10-0 in 1993, the Hurricanes game will be seen as the chickens coming home to roost. That’s certainly how Carlyle, their head coach saw it. Same with Joffrey Lupul. “Throughout 82 games you win some you shouldn’t and lose some you should have won,” he said. “It evened out tonight, I guess.”
The Hurricanes scored the first goal on a power-play following a tripping penalty in the offensive zone assessed to Nazem Kadri; the winner came when Bernier whiffed on a puck that kissed off his right skate on the short side, a play that the Leafs thought was a hybrid icing.
Ron Hainsey was credited with the goal as the Hurricanes out-shot the Leafs 28-16 after the first period. Carlyle said he was told by one of the officials that they thought Bernier had left the net to play the puck. That was clearly not the case, but Carlyle didn’t press his argument with the officials and was measured in his post-game statements.
Bernier called it a “bad mistake” and said he got caught “looking at my options. It’s a new game and I have to adjust to it … so, no excuses.” Carlyle added it was a lesson in not giving up on the puck. “Short-side goals are bad goals in the NHL,” Carlyle said. “That was a short-side goal.”
Adversity meet Leafs. Leafs? Meet adversity. And what a way to finish a day that started with an optional morning skate granted by Carlyle at the request of Lupul – who opened the scoring at 2:30 of the second period when an intended pass for Kadri hit a skate, giving Lupul two whacks at the puck; more drama surrounding the back injury that has kept James van Riemsdyk out of action for two games – Carlyle told the media it was back spasms, instead of just a run of the mill upper-body injury, and that it was non-hockey related – and Tyler Bozak was once again forced to defend being the player behind Miley Cyrus’ ‘We Can’t Stop’ being played in the dressing room following a win, pretty much ending the dispute by slipping in that Colton Orr was on board.
This team might actually be developing some sort of texture, but of greater importance to Carlyle is Saturday’s game in Chicago against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
“Reset, revisit … and get ourselves ready for Chicago,” was how Caryle described plans for Friday’s practice.
Reimer was making his second consecutive start, and given the fact he missed a chunk of time two seasons ago with a neck injury that was called whiplash, a description that many to this day believe was a euphemism for concussion, the hit to the upper body and the fact he stayed on his knees, head down, before he left the ice will be unnerving.
The NHL’s protocol in injuries where the goalie loses his mask and stays down is he must leave the game immediately. Carlyle called it a “head-ache” – what is it with all this openness? – and while he said he’d been told Reimer could be at practice on Friday, he agreed that given the goalie’s history “you have to worry, for sure.”
Leivo made amends of sorts when he ripped a top-shelf goal past Cam Ward on a two-on-one breakaway at 6:47 of the second. He chipped the puck past Hurricanes defenceman Andrej Sekera at the ‘Canes blue-line, bumped Sekera off-stride, before beating Ward high to the short side.
There is a steel to Bernier, perhaps best demonstrated early in the second period when he cooly speared a tricky shot from Eric Staal on a difficult angle to the left of the Leafs goal. Bernier went post to post and back again yet somehow managed to square himself for the save.
Drayson Bowman tested him again when he skated in wide around Paul Ranger but Bernier used his blocker to knock the puck wide. But it caught up to the Leafs in the third period, with Ryan Murphy’s first career marker at 2:54 of the third coming with Kadri in the penalty box (Kadri would hit the post with the extra attacker on the ice for the Leafs, then took a boarding penalty with 14 seconds left in regulation.
Murphy’s shot deflected off Dave Bolland’s stick. The tying goal was scored by Eric Staal, aided by Carl Gunnarrsson’s stumble, which left the puck lying at Staal’s feet, at 6:48. Bernier’s boner ended a night when several of Carlyle’s worst fears materialized, including one he didn’t foresee that has put a new twist on the teams goaltending.
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