The Toronto Maple Leafs lost the fifth of their last six games with their 6-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night.
This was a seesaw battle and tied 3-3 with just over eight minutes to go in the game. Then the game turned ugly and was over in three minutes. With TJ Brodie off on a chintzy hooking call (more about that later), the Maple Leafs had a great penalty kill going. They seemed to have the short-man situation weathered when a cross-ice pass from Dominik Kubalik deflected into the Toronto net off of Mark Giordano’s skate with five seconds to go on the power play.
The Senators scored on their next shot just 45 seconds later when Tim Stutzle finished off a three-way passing play. They put an exclamation mark on it when Stutzle stripped Joseph Woll of the puck after Woll was a bit too nonchalant playing it behind his net. Stutzle passed the puck out front to Claude Giroux who tapped it into the empty cage.
That was the game. Three goals on three shots in three minutes and twelve seconds.
The Maple Leafs have now given up 34 goals in seven home games. That is an average of 4.85 goals per game. After starting the season winning their first two home games, the Maple Leafs have lost four of five games at home to bring their overall home-ice record to 3-4.
Mitch Marner And The First Line
After coming alive and scoring eight points in his last two games, Mitch Marner disappeared in this game. After having a fantastic game against Tampa the first game they were together, the Auston Matthews, Matthew Knies, and Marner line were outplayed in this one. When they were on the ice together, the Senators had 60% of the Expected Goals and 60% of the High-Danger Scoring Chances. The only line that was worse for the Maple Leafs was the fourth line.
Matthews did have one glorious scoring chance in the game and was robbed by the glove of Joonas Korpisalo. But, that was one of the only two shots that Matthews could muster in the game.
Fourth Line Struggles Continue
The fourth line continues to get completely cave in when they are on the ice. David Kampf, Noah Gregor, and Ryan Reaves did have one good shift where they had some sustained pressure in the Ottawa zone. Unfortunately, that shift ended with the Senators scoring to go up 3-2 in the game. Once again Reaves was a black hole statistically in the game. Not only was Reaves on the ice for zero Shots For and six Shots Against, but the Maple Leafs also had zero Expected-Goals For when Reaves was involved in the play. That is a rare occurrence for any player.
To this point in the season, Reaves has now been on the ice for nine Goals Against and zero Goals For. For the second game in a row, Reaves has been benched midgame.
Joseph Woll had an amazing start to the season that included coming off the bench and backstopping the Maple Leafs to come from behind wins twice against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Last night, cracks started to show in Woll’s game. In his last three starts, Woll has given up 15 goals. He gave up six goals on 27 shots in this game, a 0.778 Save Percentage.
While the 6-3 goal was on him as he misplayed the puck on the play, in general, the goals he has given up of late have not been 100% his fault. A lot has to do with the poor play of the skaters in front of him. But, Woll, and Ilya Samsonov, both have to be better.
I mentioned earlier the chintzy penalty on Brodie that resulted in the 4-3 Sens power-play goal. On the play, Brodie got his stick up under the arm of Claude Giroux. Giroux took advantage of the situation, held the stick close to his body, and fell down, drawing the penalty.
This type of thing happened the whole game. It seemed that every penalty called was on a play where two players were mutually engaged in a fight for position on the ice and one player fell. The result was the player who won the battle was called for a penalty. If the types of plays that were called penalties in this game were called all the time, the majority of the games would be played on the power play. These types of plays happen on pretty much every shift of every game.
The referees did not decide this game. But, their work just wasn’t very good.
There is not going to be a lot of good in a 6-3 loss to a team that is last in the conference and was 30th in a 32-team league coming into the game. That said, there were a couple of rays of sunshine in the game.
William Nylander wasted no time in keeping his season-beginning point streak going as he wristed home his seventh goal of the season to give the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead. The goal was scored on a power play at 5:47 of the first period. Nylander added an assist on Tyler Bertuzzi’s third goal of the season at 4:16 of the second period tied the game at two at the time.
Nylander now has points in every one of the first 13 games this season. With Marner seeing his point streak end at seven, Nylander moved back past Marner into second place in Maple Leafs scoring with 18 points (7 goals, 11 assists). Matthews assisted on the Nylander goal and maintains the team lead in scoring with 19 points (13 goals, 6 assists).
John Tavares had assists on both the Nylander and Bertuzzi goals. Those assists gave Tavares 989 points in his career and moved him into the top 100 in all-time NHL scoring. He’ll soon hit the 1000-point plateau. Tavares now has 14 points in 13 games this season.
After struggling of late the Tavares, Nylander, and Bertuzzi line was the Maple Leafs’ best line in this game.
Nick Robertson scored a really nice goal at 7:42 of the third period to tie the game at three before it all fell apart for the Maple Leafs. He took a nice saucer pass from Max Domi on a two-on-one and roofed it over Korpisalo. It was Robertson’s second point in two games since being called up from the Marlies. If Robertson keeps playing like this, a regular spot on the roster looks like a lock.
Both Max Domi and Calle Jarnkrok assisted on Robertson’s goal. This line has played well in the two games since they were united.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Things don’t get any easier for the Maple Leafs as they have back-to-back games coming up on Friday and Saturday. Friday the Calgary Flames are in town. The Flames have struggled out of the gate this season winning just four of their first twelve games. Of course, that means nothing in the upcoming game.
Then on Saturday, the Maple Leafs finish up their five-game home stand with a visit by the hot Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks have won nine of twelve games and sit second in the Western Conference with 19 points.
With as badly as they have been playing, if the Maple Leafs can put together two wins in these games they could still finish the home stand with a winning record. They are presently 1-2 after the first three games.