The Toronto Maple Leafs suffered their worst loss of the season when they were defeated by the New York Islanders 7-2 on Tuesday night.
It was the first time the Maple Leafs had given up seven goals in a game this season and the first time they had lost by as many as five goals this season.
The Maple Leafs carried the play for most of the first period. According to Naturalstattrick.com, they had seven High Danger Scoring Chances to the Islanders’ two.
The first really “Good” thing they had in the game was luck.
A shot by Timothy Liljegren from the point bounced off of New York defenseman Scott Mayfield, off of Sam Lafferty then up and over Islanders’ goalie Ilya Sorokin’s shoulder into the net. There were some similarities between this goal and the first goal the Maple Leafs gave up in the Ottawa game. The main difference here was the puck did not bounce as high into the air before entering the net.
While the goal itself was lucky, it was set up by a nice forecheck behind the Islanders’ net by Lafferty to block an attempted ring around the boards by Mayfield to create a turnover. Bobby McMann corralled the loose puck in the corner. He then sent it back to Liljegren at the point setting up the shot that eventually found the net.
Mitch Marner scored his seventh goal in his last ten games with a nice one-timer slapshot off of a feed from Auston Matthews early in the third period to draw the Maple Leafs back to within one goal after they went down 3-1 in the game.
The goal was Marner’s 27th of the season. It also gave him 90 points for the third time in his career.
Marner becomes only the second Maple Leafs’ player in franchise history to reach the 90-point mark in three separate seasons. Darryl Sittler hit or surpassed the 90-point barrier five times in his career.
First Half Of The Game
Regardless of what the stats say, and how the game looked at any time while it was going on, the only thing that will be remembered about it will be the final 7-2 score. It will be remembered as a terrible game by the Maple Leafs, period.
But, until the 13:50 mark of the second period, which is almost 34 minutes into this game, it wasn’t looking like a bad game at all for the Maple Leafs. The score was 1-1. The shots on net were 15-12 Maple Leafs; and, except for a three-minute span late in the first period where they turned the puck over in their own end several times, the Maple Leafs looked like the better team to that point.
Then the wheels fell off and the game got really ugly.
Liljegren made a nice defensive play on Zach Parise, pushing Parise off the puck in the Maple Leaf zone. Then Liljegren completely whiffed on an attempted pass out of the zone. The puck went right onto Hudson Fasching’s stick. Fasching took a couple of steps and fired a shot over Ilya Samsonov’s left shoulder into the top right corner of the net.
That goal opened the floodgates. It was New York’s 13th shot in the game. They would follow that goal up with five more goals on their next 12 shots to give them six goals on their next 13 shots.
I could go on and on about the bad things in this game. Instead, I’m going to just talk about two.
#1: Getting In The Way
The New York Islanders are not presently in a playoff position because of their high skill level. They are not outscoring teams with their offence. They are 22nd in goals for in the league.
Instead, they are winning games with their solid defensive play. They are eighth in the NHL in goals against.
The Islanders create turnovers by pressuring the opposing team all over the ice, causing them to rush their pass attempts and forcing them to make errors with the puck, be it with their passes or their shots. That was on full display in this game. They forced the Maple Leafs to turn the puck over 22 times in the game.
The Maple Leafs also struggled to get shots on the Islanders’ net. Looking at the game report put together by Naturalstattrick.com, out of 61 shot attempts in the game by Toronto, 19 were blocked, and 15 missed the net. Only 27 of the 61 shot attempts by the Maple Leafs found the net.
#2: Coach Keefe’s Decision to Start Samsonov
The second “Bad” in this game almost went into the “Ugly” section. Why did Ilya Samsonov travel with the team and start this game?
We all know that Samsonov’s wife is expecting their first child as much has been made of it. Anyone that is a parent knows that having a child is a momentous occasion. Having your first one is even more so. To call it a “distraction” is at the very least a massive understatement.
Goaltending is a fickle position to play, to say the least. You don’t want anything to distract your goalie. That alone should have been enough for Dubas and Keefe to tell Samsonov to stay home and go with either Matt Murray or Joseph Woll in this game.
On top of that, Samsonov is also dealing with an injury. He publicly said so himself. It is obviously an injury that is not preventing him from playing. Those two factors together should have been enough cause for the team to tell Samsonov to stay home, be with his expecting wife and give himself time to heal whatever is ailing him.
I am not saying that Keefe is a bad coach or that Dubas is a bad GM but they are not infallible. They make mistakes. This was one of them.
The Maple Leafs might have still lost this game just as badly with anyone in goal. It was still not a wise choice for them to have Samsonov in the net in this game.
The Maple Leafs travel on to Florida to take on the Panthers Thursday night in another tough matchup against a team that is fighting for their playoff lives.
Samsonov has been sent home to be with his wife (better late than never).
The Lines and pairings at practice on Wednesday were:
Keefe did state after practice that Bobby McMann was injured during the Islanders’ game. The extent of the injury was not yet known.
He also said that TJ Brodie should return to the lineup in Florida.
Lineup Decisions by Coach Keefe
Keefe was asked if they would be going with an 11/7 setup again. He said that was not decided as of yet. I am going to guess by reading his body language when asked the question that they are going to go with 11/7. It makes sense.
While Simmonds practiced on the 4th line, he has only played in five games in two months and has only played more than seven minutes once in those five games. He’s usually only used in games where the opposition is known to play physically. Florida is 24th in hits this season.
To me, all of that points to the Maple Leafs going with 11/7 in the game.
Nothing was discussed regarding goaltending.
The Maple Leafs do play three games in four days. As long as he is healthy, I would expect Murray will start two of the games and Woll will start one. I am going to guess that Murray goes against the Panthers and again Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Then Woll would play in the second of the back-to-back games when the Maple Leafs visit Nashville and take on the Predators. Both the Maple Leafs and the Predators play the night before they meet. Therefore, neither team will have the advantage there.
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