If the Toronto Maple Leafs came into tonight as a “wounded bear,” then some might feel that the Detroit Red Wings put them out of their misery on Saturday with a 4-2 decision.
Darren Helm generated his first hat trick tonight:
… While Jimmy Howard made some big saves, including this one:
It’s probably unfair to rule out the Maple Leafs altogether, although it’s quite possible that they’ve buried themselves with this eight-game losing streak. Joffrey Lupul went from optimistic to glum after this one.
There are a lot of salt-in-the-wounds notes from this one, even beyond the fact that the Maple Leafs are facing a Red Wings team that is banged up (so Jonathan Bernier not being 100 percent excuses probably fall on deaf ears). For one thing, this collapse has been downright historic:
If that isn’t enough, it appears that Phil Kessel might have gotten injured during the game, possibly when a one-timer pass seemed to hit him in the foot. (He was seen grimacing on the bench but played on while receiving significant criticism.)
And it gets worse
Sorry to pile on, Maple Leafs fans, but just about every other East bubble team (other than Washington) made the situation even bleaker on Saturday.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets won in overtime.
- The New Jersey Devils managed a “charity point” before losing yet another shootout.
- Things obviously improved for Detroit, too.
Here is an East outlook via NBC Sports:
Things look pretty grim from both a standings and games in hand standpoint for the Maple Leafs, opening up the possibility that this will be viewed as the night that the Leafs’ playoff hopes died.
Condolences to all Maple Leafs fans, especially the hardest-hitting ones.
Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.
Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.
“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”
The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.
Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.
But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.
“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.
“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”
Lost in the various controversies (see here and here) of last night’s game in Los Angeles was a pretty dismal performance by the Kings, a team that should’ve been especially motivated to start the season after missing the playoffs last year.
The Kings were hammered, 5-1, by the visiting Sharks. They were outshot, 32-20.
“If you don’t check, you don’t have the puck enough,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. “If you don’t have the puck enough, you can’t score.”
“We were pretty sloppy. Sloppy on our rushes, sloppy in our D-zone,” said forward Dustin Brown. “That’s probably most of it, but the other part is compete – in the corners and making hard plays coming out of our zone, going in. We didn’t play very well.”
Obviously, much credit has to go to the Sharks. Like the Kings, they missed the playoffs last year and came into 2015-16 looking for redemption. But the Sharks haven’t won two Stanley Cups in the last four years, and they weren’t the home team.
“Gotta check,” said Sutter. “You don’t check, you can’t score. We had a lot of guys, especially top guys that weren’t interested in that part of the game.”
The Kings get a visit from the Arizona Coyotes on Friday. If they don’t dominate that team…