It wasn’t the most reassuring first performance without Auston Matthews as the Toronto Maple Leafs put in a lifeless, sloppy effort against Calgary en route to a 3-1 loss on Monday night.
Your game in five, because a half-effort is more than the Leafs put in tonight:
1. Nikita Zaitsev was on the ice to start the first and third periods of this game and iced the puck both times. Partway through the third period, with plenty of time and options available, he fired a puck chest high in the general direction of Zach Hyman at the far blue line and it struck John Tavares in the midsection and went for an icing.
The Gardiner-Zaitsev pairing opened up the St. Louis game by icing the puck (it was Gardiner that time after Zaitsev gave it away just before). Zaitsev also iced the puck 45 seconds into the loss versus Pittsburgh as well. This pairing — Zaitsev in particular — is throwing pucks away with impunity and should not be starting periods/games.
2. Frederik Andersen deserved a lot better than what he got out of his team in this one, but he closes out October on a high note individually (31 saves on 33 shots) and has officially put the pattern of October struggles behind him. He stopped 282 of 307 shots for a .919 save percentage in the opening month — that’s slightly above his career average SV%. The only reason the Leafs nearly pulled off a comeback with about four total minutes of decent hockey at the end of the game was thanks to his efforts throughout the night.
The Leafs will be hoping his pattern of really hitting his stride in November onward continues — goal scoring just got quite a bit more difficult with Auston Matthews on the shelf and no progress reported in the ongoing William Nylander contractual impasse.
3. The Leafs performance was best summed up by two plays in the third: Connor Brown tripping over Ron Hainsey’s foot prior to the Sean Monahan 1-0 power play goal and the Leafs celebrating a tying goal that didn’t go in.
The Leafs produced more turnovers than a pastry chef, bobbled and fanned on pucks on the bad ice all night, and were last on pucks all over the ice. This was brutal to watch (first shift of the game below).
It didn’t get a whole lot better afterward. The Leafs finished the first period with three shots on goal at even strength and seven total shot attempts (out-possessed 70-30). The Leafs’ struggles to generate offense against a tight neutral zone continue.
Part of it, in tonight’s case, was the need to use measured area chip-ins and keep the puck away from a puck handler of Mike Smith’s calibre as much as possible. The Leafs did not do a good job of it. One reason why the Flames were up and out of their own zone easily throughout the game is because he was swallowing up pucks back there and finding tape-to-tape outlets as the third man back.
4. Despite the promising ending to the Winnipeg game by the reunited Patrick Marleau, Nazem Kadri and Mitch Marner line, they were way off their games tonight outside of a strong shift to end the second period. The Monahan and Gaudreau line handily won the head to head battle, including the game-winning 2-1 goal after some sloppiness between Morgan Rielly and Marner led to an own-zone turnover. The Brodie and Giordano pairing carried 85% of the possession in the eight and a half minutes against the Kadri line.
The Tavares line should’ve been freed up by Kadri taking the Monahan/Gaudreau matchup; they did carry 58% of the possession in the matchup vs. the Mikael Backlund line, and Hyman and Kapanen both put in reasonable efforts, but Tavares was fighting the puck for much of night and the line couldn’t get anything to go.
Babcock eventually fired up the blender and went back to Hyman – Tavares – Marner plus Marleau – Kadri – Kapanen in the third.
Andreas Johnsson started the game with an opportunity on the third line, but as the line blender came out, he got lost in the shuffle and ended up last on the team in time on ice with 7:20. He put zero shots on goal in that time for the second game in a row and he was on the ice for two scoring chances for and seven against. I liked the start from the new third line, but it really faded after that.
5. Before Oct. 15 (six games): 8 or 17 on the power play (47%, 2nd)
After Oct. 15 (six games): 2 for 14 on the power play (14.3%, 21st)
Total even strength, non-empty net goals contributed by eight of the Leafs’ 12 forwards in Patrick Marleau, Connor Brown, Andreas Johnsson, Josh Leivo, Tyler Ennis, Par Lindholm, Frederik Gauthier, and Zach Hyman: two.
Someone lock Nylander, his agent, and Dubas in a room and don’t let them out until it’s solved.
Mike Babcock Post Game: “The game is frustrating when the other team works harder than you”
Mike Babcock addressed the media briefly after his team’s 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday night, dropping the Leafs record to 8-4-0 on the season and 3-4-0 on home ice.
On the team’s effort level versus a more urgent Flames team:
I just thought they were prepared. I thought they skated. I thought they worked. I thought they sailed out of their zone and beat us up the ice.
In the first period, we turned the puck over. The game is frustrating when the other team works harder than you.
On whether it is frustrating that players with more of an opportunity with Auston Matthews out of the lineup didn’t take full advantage of that opportunity tonight:
That’s why we watch them, right? But I didn’t think our top group had a good night, you know what I mean? You’re talking about a different group. To me, our top group playing against their top groups weren’t good enough.
When you look at the whole group, obviously, we weren’t good enough. We will get an opportunity to ask ourselves why and get it straightened out so we can be better.
Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts