Game #46 Review: Florida Panthers 8 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs 4

toronto maple leafs vs. florida panthers, zach hyman and aaron ekblad
Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

Game in a gif:

The Leafs definitely just had their extra off-day in Florida taken away for next season after this one. Well rested entering a game that was technically their “biggest of the season” to date based on the standings implications, this was a big letdown.

It was an impossible game to analyze in terms of team play and individual performances — it was simply a non-competitive hockey game. It was one of those nights where it felt like every turnover ended up in the back of the net and every gamble at the offensive blue line led to an odd-man rush (and goal) against.

It was about as bad as their loss in Pittsburgh in November that clinched the Mike Babcock firing; not as bad in terms of the team outright quitting on the game and each other after falling in a huge early hole, but it was actually worse in terms of the number of goals they gave up, so we’ll call it a close second. The team managed the puck terribly throughout this game, couldn’t get a big save anywhere, and it was way too easy for a team with a dangerous Panthers top six. The Leafs also got outscored on their own power-play despite three opportunities.

The focus is better spent on how the team responds to games like this than it is dwelling on the game itself, but if there is a big-picture concern, it’s that the team isn’t playing tidy games against decent offenses frequently enough. While the underlying numbers are definitely trending in the right way, in the past couple of months, they’ve given up big numbers to the Rangers (five), the Panthers (eight), the Penguins (six), the Hurricanes (six), the Oilers (six), the Flyers (six and three), and three to the Jets (x2).

The game against the Jets’ offense last Wednesday was actually a low-event game defensively with very little conceded in the way of odd-man chances against, but it remains too rare of an instance that this team has kept things orderly against a decent offense — there have been too many transition chances against, and teams with elite lines especially are just eating it up.

Goaltending was a significant part of the story tonight — Frederik Andersen needed to make the stop on the back-breaking 4-0 to start the second period, and he could’ve come up with the 3-0 late in the first period where he got beat short side by Mike Hoffman. However, the missed assignment (Kasperi Kapanen) on the 1-0 for the one-time finish from the heart of the slot and Aleksander Barkov going untouched by both Jason Spezza and Tyson Barrie (-3 tonight) for a finish from the top of the crease on the 2-0 goal were defensive breakdowns first and foremost. Auston Matthews’ giveaway and Tyson Barrie’s clumsy effort getting back on the shorthanded 5-1 goal just after the team finally got their feet underneath them with a goal at the other end was officially curtains on the game.

Some of this is the percentages naturally correcting on Andersen after his amazing 12-3-1 stretch, but he’s been under .900 in six of his last eight starts, so the Leafs need him to find his way out of this funk. Even with the major improvements in time of possession and scoring chances, this team as constructed is always going to need him to be better than average. The calculation on his starts for this week has now changed; Michael Hutchinson was likely going to get Tuesday’s game vs. New Jersey, but Andersen was pulled after 21 minutes and the team now needs a response, both from the group as a whole and Andersen specifically.

One positive: A special shoutout to Zach Hyman (1g, 2a), who was the Leafs’ best player by several orders of magnitude.

Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Florida Panthers

Heat Map: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Florida Panthers

Game Highlights: Panthers 8 vs. Leafs 4