By Stan Smith

If this game were a litmus test for the Toronto Maple Leafs to see how they stack up against one of the best teams in the league and a team that still has the core players that won the 2022 Stanley Cup, their grade would have to be a fail. Last night the Maple Leafs lost to the Colorado Avalanche by a score of 5-3.

I can break the Good, Bad, and the Ugly down by period.

Related: Martin Jones: Maple Leafs Guardian of the Pipes

The First Period: Good

Head coach Sheldon Keefe was critical of his team’s play in the first period despite the Maple Leafs building a 3-0 lead. I have to disagree with him. Yes, the play was not indicative of the score; but, the Maple Leafs played the Avalanche pretty even in the period. Colorado did spend more time in the Toronto zone. However, they are one of the elite puck-control teams in the league and there are times you have to accept that, be patient, and minimize their chances. Toronto did that. According to, Toronto had the edge in Expected Goals in the period at 51%. The Avalanche had the edge in High-Danger Scoring Chances at 8-7. The Maple Leafs were playing exactly the type of game they needed to play to have a chance of winning the game. 

They were lucky enough to get three shots past Alexandar Georgiev. The first goal was pure luck. A shot by Max Domi that would probably have not even been on the net careened off of Josh Manson’s chest and past Georgiev. The second goal was a highlight reel individual effort by Morgan Rielly where he went end to end just polking the puck forward past opposing players, before backhanding over Georgiev. The third goal was one of those ugly, everyone heads for the net and bangs away at it type of goals the Maple Leafs don’t score enough of. It was finished off when Timothy Liljegren fired the puck over five or six bodies into the net. 

At the other end, the Avalanche were getting their chances but Martin Jones was standing his ground and the defense in front of him was doing their job getting their bodies and sticks in front of shots and passes. 

The Second Period: Bad

You knew the Avalanche were going to come out in the second flying and they did. They scored two goals to pull to within one in the game. The first goal was a strange one. After Mark Giordano was sent off for holding, David Kampf high-sticked Ross Colton on the opening faceoff of the Colorado power play. Once the Maple Leafs’ players on the ice saw a second penalty was being called they just stopped skating. Nathan MacKinnon tried to just give the puck to a Toronto player to get the second call and go up 5 on 3 but all four Toronto players just stood there and did not move.

Instead, Colton got up off the ice grabbed the puck, and gave it to Jonathon Drouin. Drouin fired it past Jones. TJ Brodie even lifted his skate to avoid the puck hitting his skate. It was like all four Toronto players went brain-dead at once. 

Later in the second period with the Avalanche pressuring Toronto in their own zone, Auston Matthews would fail in an attempt to clear the puck out of the zone. Sam Girard would fire a slapshot at the net, which was blocked by Brodie. The puck would rebound off of Brodie right to Mikko Rantanen who would snap it past Jones before he could react.  

The period would end with the score 3-2 Toronto. How bad was the period for the Maple Leafs?  The High-Danger Scoring Chances in the period were 9-1 for the Avalanche. Colorado had 72% of the Expected Goals. 

Related: The Good, Bad, & the Ugly in Maple Leafs 7-1 Romp Of Sharks

The Third Period: Ugly

Pretty much the whole third period was spent in the Toronto zone. I had the admit while I was watching it I wasn’t thinking about whether or not the Avalanche were going to tie the game. I was wondering when.  

A shot from the point by Manson appears to hit Andrew Cogliano and the puck dropped right to Cogliano’s feet. Similar to the Rantanen goal, before anyone can react to it, Cogliano snaps the puck past Jones.  

A few minutes after the game was tied at three that things got really ugly.  First Matthews gets crosschecked by Manson and goes down in obvious pain. No Call. Then, Liljegren was high-sticked by Drouin. No Call. Right after that Jake McCabe was called for interference. On the Colorado power play, Brodie was high-sticked by Drouin, and again No Call. 

I have no idea what to even say about that series of events. To me, all four calls were obvious and were penalties. Why the one was called and the other three not is beyond me. 

With just over three minutes left in the third period, MacKinnon finished off the inevitable comeback when he showed patience, waited for McCabe to go down, and fired the puck past Jones. 

With just over a minute and a half to go in the game Toronto would pull Jones for an extra attacker but would not mount much in the way of offense. Colton would find the empty net with seven seconds to go.

One stat that shows how ugly the third period was for Toronto, the Expected Goals in the period were 2.65 for Colorado and 0.24 for Toronto.  That translates to a 92% advantage for the Avalanche. 


The best line for the Maple Leafs was the Max Domi/Calle Jarnkrok/Pontus Holmberg line. They were the only line on the positive side of the underlying statistics. Each player on that line was a plus-2 in plus/minus. Giordano was also a plus-two. Everyone else on the team was either a minus or zero. 

Keefe was so displeased with the play of John Tavares, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Matthews Knies that he moved William Nylander to a line with Matthews and Marner and benched Tavares, Bertuzzi, and Knies for most of the third period. To be honest, Matthews, Marner, and Nylander weren’t all that deserving of ice time either, but you can’t bench everyone.  

After a couple of weeks of the Maple Leafs playing some of their best hockey of the season, mind you against so-so opposition, this game was one of their worst performances of the season.  

What’s Next?

The Maple Leafs get right back on the horse with a home game tonight against the Detroit Red Wings. Neither team gets the advantage in the back-to-back situation as the Red Wings played at home Saturday night as well. This is a big game for both teams as Detroit is just three points behind the Maple Leafs in the standings. The Red Wings have won four of their last five games including a 5-3 win over the LA Kings Saturday.  

Keefe refused to name his starting goalie after the Avalanche game. I also wonder if there may be a major shakeup of the lines and some players coming out for fresh bodies.   

Related: The Good, Bad, & Ugly In Maple Leafs’ 4-3 Loss To Islanders

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *