By Stan Smith
Last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs lost 4-2 to the Los Angeles Kings. What were the good, bad, and ugly parts of the game?
Did Sheldon Keefe shoot himself in the foot on this road trip? Are there times when maybe he shouldn’t be so honest and should keep some things to himself?
In the post-game scrum following the loss to San Jose, Keefe made a point of the problem his defence is having moving the puck in their own zone. That was the central theme of his postgame comments.
It was kind of like the coach saying to other teams, “If you want to beat us, just pressure our defence.” That was a key part of the Kings’ success in the game. They were relentless in their forecheck, giving the Maple Leafs fits in their own end.
Related: MAPLE LEAFS HEAD INTO KINGS’ GAME A FRUSTRATED TEAM
Penalties and Penalty Killing
For the second game in a row, key penalties and a failure to kill them played a crucial role in the outcome of the game. In San Jose, it was the two penalties taken simultaneously that led to two power-play goals early in the second period. In Los Angeles, back-to-back calls against Justin Holl led to two power-play goals early in the second period.
It didn’t help when, on the second penalty, three Maple Leafs’ players, led by defenseman Morgan Rielly decided to attempt a three-man breakout on the penalty kill leaving Filip Kral as the only man back. That decision resulted in a Kings’ goal.
Confidence or the Lack of it
So much of this game is confidence. You can tell just by watching the players, how they play, and their body language. It’s easy to tell when a team is confident and when it is not.
The Maple Leafs are not showing confidence in any areas of the game right now. They struggle to make the simplest of plays. They appear to be overthinking everything they do, with or without the puck, in all three zones on the ice.
Even in a game like this, there are still some good things to take away from it.
Mark Giordano continues to be one of, if not the best defenseman on the roster. In this game when he was on the ice at five-on-five, the Maple Leafs had 80% of the Scoring Chances, 75% of the High-Danger Chances, and 77% of the Expected Goals.
For the ninth game in a row, the opposition has failed to score a five-on-five goal while Giordano is on the ice. We realize he’s 39 years old and the Maple Leafs want to manage his minutes. However, maybe it’s time to give him more than the 17-plus minutes of ice time he has averaged this season. Even if it is just for a game or two.
Related: 3 Takeaways from Maple Leafs’ 4-2 Loss to Kings
Filip Kral only played 11:48 in this game; and, with Giordano being his main partner his statistics were highly influenced by Giordano’s. Still, at five-on-five when Kral was on the ice, the Maple Leafs had 67% of the Scoring Chances, 75% of the High-Danger Chances, and 70% of the Expected Goals.
While he wasn’t that noticeable by the eye test, his numbers are good enough that he deserves to remain in the lineup for at least another look-see.
John Tavares had a great first period in this game. He scored the 1-0 on the power play and had two other great chances to score. His effectiveness seemed to fade as the game went on. If he could have cashed on his earlier chances, this game could have looked a lot different.
Rasmus Sandin had a pretty solid game going up until the two-minute mark of the third period. Until then, he was on the ice for 73% of the Scoring Chances and 87% of the High Danger Chances. That all went up in smoke on one play, when he was stripped of the puck by Kevin Fiala leading to the 4-2 game-killing goal. He compounded that error with a turnover later in the period that resulted in another Los Angeles scoring chance.
The Maple Leafs have no time to dwell on the loss to the Kings as they go right into Anaheim tonight to take on the Ducks. It’s difficult to think of this game as a must-win game this early in the season; but, it is if the Maple Leafs are to stop the bleeding.
The team only plays once in five days upon returning home before playing a tough five-game-in-eight-night stretch next week. Finishing this road trip on a positive note could go a long way to helping them “reset” with some much-needed practice time.
Timothy Liljegren and Jamie Benn will be reactivated off of LTIR at some point next weekend giving the defence some reinforcements.