It was another disappointing game for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Once again, they started slowly and only a comeback from 3-1 to tie the game at 3-3 allowed them to head to overtime and get a point. In the end, the Maple Leafs lost 4-3 when Erik Karlsson scored an overtime goal.
The frustrating thing about the game for Maple Leafs’ fans is that it would have been hard trying to tell which team was the best team – by that, I mean, had the biggest number of stars. Obviously, Karlsson still can play. And Logan Couture has been around. He scored two goals for the Sharks.
That said, the Maple Leafs should have overwhelmed the Sharks with their talent. They didn’t. In this edition of Maple Leafs’ takeaways, I’ll look at three key takeaways from the loss.
Takeaway One: Some Bad But Some Good for the Maple Leafs
A loss is obviously bad, although a point in overtime is better than zilch. There were also a number of other bad things that happened to the team. First bad: the team has not hit its stride. This isn’t the Maple Leafs’ team that fans (or anyone for that matter) have come to expect.
Second bad: the team simply has several bad starts in a row. This was another one of them. As I will note later, bad starts ruin this team’s chances to play their kind of game.
On the positive side, it’s nice to finally see Auston Matthews actually shoot a puck into the net for a goal. It was also nice to see Mitch Marner get on the board with a third-period marker.
Second good: the Maple Leafs had a better third period. The team actually showed some signs of life.
Conclusion? The team isn’t quite there yet. There are signs of becoming, but no becoming – yet.
Related: TWO PROBLEMS THE MAPLE LEAFS MUST FIX TO GET ON TRACK
Takeaway Two: The Game Reminds Us How Good Last Season’s Team Was
I’m usually not one to look back longing for the past, especially not with NHL hockey and the Maple Leafs. That said, a game like last night shows just how good last season’s team was. (The only hope fans have is that last season’s team took a while to get off the mark as well. Perhaps this one will, too.)
When they were playing well, last season’s team would come into opponents’ buildings, score a quick goal, and then throw down a suffocating defense. They’d win ugly. For as much offensive power as the Maple Leafs had, they were also defensively sound.
Because this season’s team doesn’t start quickly, it does not score first. Because it doesn’t score first, it can’t employ that defensive hockey that made them so good last season. For success to come, that needs to change.
Playing catchup hockey is not the Maple Leafs’ forte. The Maple Leafs play so much better when they’re ahead. That might be true of most NHL teams, but it seems especially true about this team. For everything to work, it has to be done in a particular order.
The Maple Leafs’ order remains out of whack. It needs to be fixed.
Related: 7 Observations from the Maple Leafs First 7 Games
Takeaway Three: The Maple Leafs Are Not Controlling the Scoreboard
In the eight games the Maple Leafs have played, if I remember correctly, they’ve only had the lead after one period in one of those games. That means the team is not controlling the scoreboard; instead, it’s chasing the scoreboard. As noted in Takeaway Two, the team isn’t playing to its strength. And, in the long run – and, by that, I mean the playoffs – it could cost them.
What has made this Maple Leafs’ team good is not the fact that they have a high-octane offense. It’s that they have a high-octane offense combined with a sound defense. Those two abilities allowed the team to lock games down when they had the lead. They became more of a 2-1 winner or a 3-2 winner.
Takeaway Four: Games the Maple Leafs Must Learn to Win
This season’s team is better than last season’s team in one way. For all the issues this year’s team has, they haven’t regularly been giving up tons of odd-man rushes or breakaways. Last season, those odd-man rushes were the prime culprit of the team’s poor start to the season. In some games, the team would regularly hang its goalie out to dry because it gave up so many odd-man rushes to the opposition. That’s not the case this season.
Because hockey is a game of transition when there are mistakes, there will be the odd-man rush. The overtime goal that won it for the Sharks was just that. William Nylander had the puck, made a mistake, and Erik Karlsson took a breakaway in on goal and scored on Erik Kallgren.
That happens. But that just isn’t the big issue this season.
The real issue for this team is that it’s not producing enough offense early enough in the game. This seems to be the pattern for this team in all its losses this season. While I don’t mean to look too far ahead, these are the kinds of games the team losses during the playoffs. They are also the kind of games that will be the tipping point between advancing and being eliminated from Stanley Cup play.
Is It Too Soon to Worry?
Right now the team isn’t playing well enough. The Maple Leafs should not be losing to the Montreal Canadiens, the Arizona Coyotes, or the Sharks. Is it too soon to worry?
One thing we do know is that the points missed during these early games will be points that won’t be there at the end of the season. The Eastern Conference this season is not the Eastern Conference last season. It’s better. Points will be harder to come by.
The big takeaway from last night’s game is that it’s time to turn it around.
Related: The Maple Leafs Need a Jolt: Could It Be Jakob Chychrun?
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