As the Toronto Maple Leafs prepare to play the Los Angeles Kings later tonight, they enter the game as a frustrated team. They continue to start slowly; and, as a result, it’s hard to play the kind of hockey that fits them well.
On Thursday night, the Maple Leafs lost 4-3 in overtime to a San Jose Sharks team that is rebuilding and hoping for a high draft pick. They got behind 3-1, battled back to put the game into overtime, but then lost when Erik Karlsson beat goalie Erik Kallgren on a clean breakaway less than a minute into the extra session.
It was the team’s second straight-road-game loss. That frustrating.
Maple Leafs Head Coach Sheldon Keefe Admits the Frustration
The Maple Leafs have had, so far this season, a tendency to lose to weaker teams. The Sharks had only won two of nine to open the regular season. The Maple Leafs also lost to the Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes. These are not teams who are headed to the postseason.
As Keefe noted, his players “are frustrated for sure. Guys want to play the way we are capable of playing.” It’s obvious they are not.
Keefe also noted, “They want it to come together. It hasn’t, but the mood of the group is good.”
He believed players were staying positive, but also pushing and challenging each other “to get it sorted out.”
Keefe Pointed Out the Problem of Moving the Puck Successfully
Keefe did admit that the Maple Leafs were having one particular difficulty. They are having a tough time moving the puck from player to player and up the ice. Often they are passing to the wrong player or holding onto the puck too long. The team is having trouble moving the puck from its own end of the ice into the offensive zone.
Keefe believed that the team’s inability to move the puck successfully was a huge problem. He admitted that “Our inability to move the puck up the ice efficiently is slowing down our game on offence and hurting our game defensively as well. We’re just getting stressed.”
Success Can Be Achieved by Scoring First and Often
In the last game against the Sharks, one good thing happened. Both Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner scored in the same game. If that happens again, and with regularity, the team will be able to overcome the issues of puck movement.
Having a lead can settle things down quite well.