This one got ugly.
The Toronto Maple Leafs thoroughly outplayed the Hurricanes through 60 minutes at the Air Canada Centre skating away to a convinving 8-1 win on Tuesday.
It was disappointing for the Canes who came in riding a solid four game winning streak however, the way the team looked and played they seemed disinterested and passive, taking multiple penalties, failing to take the body and doing nothing to help their embattled goaltender.
For Darling this game was also a disappointment as he was coming off his best performance as a Hurricane against Columbus on Saturday.
The eight goals against is the most Darling has ever allowed in a single game and while his .776 save percentage is an eye sore it’s important to not base a performance of solely one stat which is why I am going to attempt to break down all eight goals scored by the Leafs in hopes it’ll show the fans (looking at you guys Canes Twitter) that this blowout doesn’t fall squarely on the goaltender’s shoulders.
First goal: Leo Komarov short-handed at the 2:52 mark
This play begins and ends with Noah Hanifin. Hanifin has looked really solid this year however, he makes a young mistake get his pocket picked while trying to walk the blueline. On the ensuring two on one rush Komarov does a great job of looking off as if he’ll pass making it difficult for Darling to determine what he will do with the puck. The shot is a laser beam over the glove hand that catches a bit of the post and while the Sportsnet commentator says Darling “was down too early” it looks though he is set, at the top of his crease, drops to make the save and is simply beaten by a good shot.
Second goal: Mitch Marner Power-play goal at the 5:33 mark
Marner scores the first of three power-play goals for the Leafs who were 3-3 on the man advantage. This is a tremendous individual rush by Marner who slices through the defense virtually uncontested. After blowing by Nordstrom in neutral ice he turns Slavin who seemed flat footed. Marner then snapped a virtually perfect shot post and in on the stick side to give the Leafs a 2-0 lead. Darling was frustrated as by his reaction and while its a great shot by Marner you’d like to see Darling stop that shot however, remember Marner went in without being touched.
Third goal: James van Riemsdyk Power-play goal at the 10:34 mark
The Canes got a goal from Jeff Skinner to make it 2-1 but once again short-handed the Canes penalty kill laid an egg. This goal is extremely frustrating for a goalie. After making the initial save Darling surrenders a tough rebound off his right pad however, he’s able to recover making a beautiful stick save diving back towards the goal line. After two saves the loose puck is eventually tapped in by van Riemsdyk who was right on top of the crease without a single white jersey next to him.
Fourth goal: Tyler Bozak at the 13:28 mark
We’re still in the first period, Mitch Marner is still dominating. The Leafs forward put on a spectacular individual effort again drawing Justin Faulk away from the goal, cutting back towards the top of the crease and sliding a sweet feed to Bozak who tucked it under the pad of Darling. This series by Marner perfectly described the Canes in their own end as the simply couldn’t defend. Darling does a good job tracking Marner around the goal and as he cuts back towards the front. Its when Marner makes this move that Darling opens up just enough allowing Bozak to score. As Marner comes forward Darling has to open up as he pushes out to confront the shooter thus opening the lower part of the ice. Again, wouldn’t fault this one on the goaltender.
The second period saw both teams go scoreless. It was the third period where things would get uglier.
Fifth goal: Patrick Marleau at the 9:25 mark
Again a goal off a rebound. Justin Faulk made a terrible pinch, Jaccob Slavin couldn’t defend Mitch Marner one on one as he continued to create time and space eventually setting up Marleau who was able to cruise in right down main street. The veteran was untouched in between the hashmarks blowing by Faulk. Darling made a terrific first save sprawling out. Marleau, despite being below the goal line was able to bank the rebound off Darling and Faulk into the net. The Canes once again showed no defensive awareness and left their goaltender out to dry like laundry.
Sixth goal: Kaspari Kapanen at the 9:31 mark
Six seconds in between goals is killer. This one is on the goaltender for the most part. Kapanen is able to get in a good area to shoot the puck but Darling is there, he’s in position and gets a good piece of it with his glove but that is one right there that he should’ve had. However, before the goal even happened the play started with Noah Hanifin making a brutal turnover in neutral ice leading to Kapanen’s rush.
Seventh goal: William Nylander at the 14:05 mark
Another shot beats Darling glove side. He is in good position at the top of the crease its simply a well placed shot. The play like Kapanen’s goal is off a turnover this time by Jeff Skinner who loses the puck at the Leaf’s blueline, The Canes then play the two on one leaving Nylander with the shot and he just beats Darling clean
Eighth goal: Connor Carrick Power-play goal at the 18:33 mark
This one just stunk, it added more insult to injury as the Canes gave up the eighth and final goal with just under 1:30 left. This goal began off a turnover… shocker. The Canes failed to clear the zone, a net front scrambled ensued, Darling made a good initial save, got no help with the rebound and Carrick came in to tuck the puck in under his out stretched pad. It was the Leafs third power-play goal making them 3-3 on the night
Well there you have it folks. 8-1 is an disgusting score but does this fall on the goaltender? The answer no. As cliché as it sounds hockey is a team sport, Scott Darling certainly didn’t play his best but the way the Canes played in front of him was embarrassing particularly on the defensive side of the puck. Porous defense, a horrible penalty kill, and turnovers upon turnovers led to the Leafs young guys running amok and it led to the Canes being embarrassed on the road. While losing 8-1 is frustrating its important for fans to try and stay rational by not pouring all their criticism onto the goaltender.
The Hurricanes are back at it in Nashville to face the Predators. It doesn’t bode well as the Preds are atop the Central division and boast a 11-3-2 record on home ice. The Canes have had time to digest and put that lose behind them. Whether coach Peters opts to start Darling or go with Cam Ward one thing that’s for sure is that the team will need to step it up, regardless of who is in between the pipes