By Stan Smith
It was a scary Halloween for Toronto Maple Leafs fans as the Maple Leafs played what may be their worst game of the season.
Except for about three or four minutes of play in the third period when it looked like the Maple Leafs might just claw their way back into the game, the whole game was ugly. From the top line right down to the bottom defensive pairing, this was a team effort. Or, better yet, it was the lack of effort.
The Maple Leafs struggled throughout the game to generate any offence. According to Naturalstattrick.com at five-on-five, they had seven High-Danger Scoring Chances in the game. That is what this team generates in a good period let alone a whole game.
Until they finally cashed in on their fourth power play in the third period when they were down 3-0, the Maple Leafs struggled just to gain the zone with the man advantage. They also got caught up ice at the end of an earlier power play resulting in a goal by the Kings, and gave up a power play goal.
Nothing went right.
After saving the Maple Leafs numerous times this season and masking some of the team’s issues with his stellar play, Joseph Woll did not get much support, if any, in this game. He also had some bad luck. The first goal he gave up was on a harmless-looking backhand shot by Andreas Englund. It was a harmless-looking shot until Mark Giordano decided to dive and get his stick in front of it. The puck ramped up off of Giordano’s stick catching Woll off guard. The puck changed direction and went in the net over Woll’s shoulder.
Since Englund played his first game in the NHL back in December of 2016, he has scored a total of one goal. Last night’s goal was it.
Woll had no chance on the Kings’ second goal. With the Maple Leafs’ fourth line on the ice against the Kings’ third line, Pontus Holmberg, Ryan Reaves, and Giordano were all focused on former Maple Leafs player Trevor Moore. Moore had possession of the puck down low to the right of the Maple Leafs net. No one picked up Phillip Danault standing alone behind them. Moore found Denault who had a tap into the empty net.
Woll never saw the third goal until it was in the net. It was off of a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle by Arthur Kaliyev. The problem was that Morgan Rielly attempted but failed to block the shot. It rang off the far post and into the goal.
The fourth goal was off of a missed shot from Quinton Byfield that bounced off the backboards right to Anze Kopitar. Kopitar then passed the puck behind Woll to Adrian Kempe who had a two-foot tap-in.
Woll deserved a better fate than he had in this game.
As I have stated several times no matter how bad a game is you can always find some good. Vice versa, even in the best of games you can always find some bad. As bad as this game was there was a ray of sunshine and hope for just under four minutes of the third period.
After going “oh for” on three previous power plays, the Maple Leafs finally cashed with the man advantage at 8:25 of the third period. That goal made the score 3-1 for the Kings.
On the play, John Tavares fired a shot over the left shoulder of Kings’ goalie Cam Talbot. It was Tavares’ fifth goal and 12th point in nine games this season. On the play, Mitch Marner and Rielly were originally awarded the assists, and it appeared that the play started when Rielly missed a shot to the left of the Kings’ net that caromed off the boards to Marner, who relayed the puck to Tavares.
At some point afterward, they took the second assist away from Rielly and gave it to Nylander. Nylander had been standing in front of the Kings’ net when Rielly took the shot. He must have gotten his stick on the shot and deflected it wide.
As a result, Nylander set a new Maple Leafs franchise record by recording a point in the first nine games from the start of the season. Nylander leads the Maple Leafs in scoring with 13 points (six goals and seven assists).
Nylander has been the best Maple Leafs player to this point of the season. It is nice to see him get his name in the record book.
One other tidbit to add to the “Good.” They stated during the broadcast that the Maple Leafs have the longest streak in the NHL without being shut out. The streak goes back 154 games to November 2020-21.
The Maple Leafs don’t get any time to dwell on this poor performance. They head out on the road for a single game as they venture into Boston to take on the hot Bruins on Thursday night. Once again, despite losing key players in the offseason, the Bruins are off to a flying start. They have just one overtime loss in nine games.
I expect we will see a motivated Maple Leafs team as they try to redeem themselves after their poor performance against Los Angeles.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe was not asked who would be starting in goal for the Maple Leafs in that game. We will probably find out at some point today. If I were to hazard a guess, I think Ilya Samsonov will get the nod.