By Stan Smith
After going 15 games without a regulation loss and having only one regulation loss in their past 21 games the Toronto Maple Leafs now have two regulation losses in a row. Last night they lost 5-2 at the hands of the Washington Capitals.
Despite the fact that the Maple Leafs have lost two in a row they have not played poorly overall in the two games. They played a solid tight defensive match against New York allowing only three High-Danger Scoring Chances at five-on-five in the game while creating twelve of their own. At five-on-five versus the Rangers, they had 62.3% of the Shot Attempts, 81.6% of the Scoring Chances, and 71.5% of the Expected Goals.
While the Maple Leafs were not as tight defensively against the Capitals, the Maple Leafs still had 60.6% of the Shot Attempts, 62.7% of the Scoring Chances, and 57.1% of the Expected Goals.
With 6:43 left in the third period, the TV broadcast showed a graphic that had the offensive zone possession in the game at 14:00 for the Maple Leafs and 8:42 for the Capitals.
If you are a believer in the process, you have to feel that despite losing both games these were not losses in which the Maple Leafs were outplayed. While there were not a lot of “Good” things to report in this game it was not all bad.
After having a number of players with various streaks going the past month or so, the longest streak by a Maple Leafs’ player after this game is by defenseman Conor Timmins. Timmins now has a three-game consecutive assist and point streak going. In those three games, Timmins has five assists.
Also, in a game where four defensemen and ten skaters in total were minus two in plus/minus, Timmins was plus-1.
In only seven games, played Timmins has accumulated more points (6) than TJ Brodie (5), Timothy Liljegren (5), Nick Robertson (5), Zach Aston-Reese (4), Denis Malgin (4), and Justin Holl (3).
Head Coach Sheldon Keefe has shown growing confidence in Timmins. This is the third game in a row that Timmins has played over 18 minutes.
Auston Matthews scored a goal and added an assist in the game to give him a total of 37 points in 32 games played, which ties him for the team lead in points with Mitch Marner.
William Nylander scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season and is on pace to score 46 goals this season.
This next thing could be considered good and bad news. The line of Alex Kerfoot, David Kampf, and Pierre Engvall was the Maple Leafs’ best line in the game. They averaged 70.4% of the five-on-five shot attempts, 68.7% of the Shots, 61.7% of the Scoring Chances, and 56.8% of the Expected Goals when they were on the ice. It is good news that this line was so dominant in the game, bad news that this line was better than either of the talent-loaded top-two lines.
The Maple Leafs had three negative firsts in this game. It was the first time they have given up five goals in a game this season. It was the first time they had lost by three goals. Finally, it was the first time they have lost two games in a row in regulation during the 2022-23 season.
There have been many times when a player who has left a team comes back to haunt that team. Last night was not one of them.
It was Samsonov’s first game against the Capitals since they failed to qualify him in the offseason. I felt, with the way He had been playing of late and overall this season, that Samsonov would be up for this game and be up to the task. I was wrong.
It was Samsonov’s worse performance of the season, as he gave up five goals on 28 shots for a .821% Save Percentage. The first goal he gave up at 11:12 of the first period ended 163:46 of shutout hockey by Samsonov.
This was not a good game for John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and Denis Malgin. Tavares, who was at 60% in draws this season going into the game, had his worst night on the face-off dot, winning three faceoffs and losing nine.
At five-on-five the line averaged 49.6% of the Shot Attempts, 39.2% of the Shots, and 40.1% of the Expected Goals. They failed to score in the game and were on the ice for two goals against at five-on-five.
Another good-news, bad-news aspect of this game was the fact that not only did the Maple Leafs prevent Alex Ovechkin from tying Gordie Howe for second all-time in goal scoring, but they also did not allow any goals by any of the top Washington players. The bad news was they gave up a hat trick to defenseman Erik Gustafsson, who had not scored a single goal this season and had a total of five goals in his previous 155 games. They also gave up goals to Trevor Van Riemsdyk, who only scored three times in his past 174 games and Garnet Hathaway who had scored twice previously this season in 32 games.
With the score tied at one in the first period, Trevor Van Riemsdyk received a pass from Anthony Mantha in the neutral zone, skated over the blue line, and fired a wrist shot from an area that would usually have no chance of becoming a goal.
Whether it was a result of a misplay by Samsonov or the unlucky bounce off of Mark Giordano’s stick, it was an ugly-looking goal as the shot fluttered toward Samsonov, bounced off the bottom of his blocker, and off the top of his shin pad into the net.
Things don’t get any easier for the Maple Leafs as they return home to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night. After defeating the Canadiens 5-1 on Saturday night, the Lightning are riding a five-game winning streak and sit three points behind the Maple Leafs and second place in the Atlantic Division with two games in hand.