The Toronto Maple Leafs played one of their worst games of the season on Saturday night against the Arizona Coyotes.
Your game in ten.
- That was pathetic. Getting shutout by Darcy Kuemper and the Arizona Coyotes was completely unexpected as the Leafs really struggled to create high-danger scoring chances. Toronto had just 11 shots through two periods, even though they had eight minutes of powerplay time in that span. Their breakout was sloppy all night and they lost battle after battle to Arizona’s heavy defenders. In an 82-game season, there’s going to be some nights where your team just doesn’t show up, and this certainly felt like a trap game.
- The Coyotes were without Antti Raanta, Nick Schmaltz, Jason Demers, Richard Panik, Michael Grabner, Christian Dvorak, and Kyle Capobianco. I expected Toronto’s trio of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Nazem Kadri to dominate against Derek Stepan, Nick Cousins, and Jordan Weal. Toronto’s only injured player is Andreas Johnsson, so the Leafs have no excuses. It’s one thing to get shut out when there’s a fantastic goaltending performance, but Kuemper could have laid down and taken a nap for half of that game.
- Toronto’s fourth line was awful. When the Leafs are trailing, it’s infuriating to have to play the Frederik Gauthier and Par Lindholm duo for a regular shift. Combined, they have three goals in 107 games, and that’s just not going to cut it come playoff time. The Leafs have Brian Boyle and Kasperi Kapanen on their fourth line in their series against the Washington Capitals, and both Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson added a huge boost last year against Boston. They need to address the lack of scoring on this line, and I am tired of hearing that fourth-line scoring does not matter. It matters.
- William Nylander led the team in terms of shot-attempt differential and he also had a goal that was disallowed because of a high-stick. We spend all day arguing about whether or not the goal should have counted, but either way, Nylander was one of Toronto’s best forwards yet again. He played with John Tavares in the third and I would be interested to see what that duo could do in a larger sample. However, we are still left to wonder what it’s going to take for Babcock to reunite Nylander with Matthews. He had a great opportunity to do this in the third, but instead turned to a line of Kapanen, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner.
- The power play continues to look sloppy. Nazem Kadri had a horrendous giveaway in his own end, and Morgan Rielly is not playing at the top of his game lately. It feels like the Leafs struggle against aggressive penalty kill units; Vegas also had way too many shorthanded scoring chances the other night. When faced with an aggressive penalty kill, they should work the puck down low in the offensive zone, rather than trying to operate just inside the blueline. John Tavares is an exceptional playmaker; they should use him more.
- As per Corsica, Morgan Rielly played 16.1 minutes at five-on-five. Jake Muzzin and Travis Dermott each played 15.7 minutes, and Ron Hainsey was last among Toronto’s defencemen with 15 minutes. Basically, everyone was within one minute of each other, and that’s incredibly even usage. I just don’t see how these pairings could survive come playoff time, as I don’t see the even usage continuing. I have no idea what Babcock is doing here.
- The Coyotes shut out the Leafs with six left-shooting defenders. Nikita Zaitsev was the only right-shooting defenceman in this game, and it certainly did not feel like the Coyotes were hurt by their lack of right-handed options. Niklas Hjalmarsson is a talented penalty killer, and while the Leafs should have simply played better, I have to give the Coyotes defenders credit for taking away the middle of the ice.
- Patrick Marleau was one of Toronto’s worst players in terms of shot attempt differential last night — something that has been a theme this season. Arizona’s second goal was partly on him, as he did not see Arizona’s pinching defenceman behind him and got his pocket picked while standing still at the top of the defensive zone. As any NFL wide-receiver will tell you, it’s rarely a good idea to stand still. Keep your feet moving, and skate towards the puck, or you’re going to get picked. He needs to play better, even if that involves breaking his iron-man streak so that he can get some extra rest.
- Tyler Ennis returned to the lineup for the first time since December 22nd and I’m glad to have him back. The second power play unit could use his puck-moving skill and the fourth line is desperate for more offence. He now has 11 points in 34 games, and I do not think that it’s out of the question for him to return next season. A 30-point season is essentially out of the question now; unless he has a strong end to the season, he could be within Toronto’s price range.
- After such a brutal performance, I expect the Leafs to bring their best effort against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday. The Blues are on fire, and Jordan Binnington owns an incredible record of 11-1-1. I hope to see different defence pairings in that matchup, and I wish that game was on Sunday or Monday, as it would be nice to put Saturday’s game behind them as soon as possible. Ultimately, it was a horrendous offensive performance from the Leafs on Saturday night, but it’s still just one game. Let’s forget about this game as quickly as possible.