Drawing conclusions about a team after a very short training camp, no preseason tune-ups and two regular season games is unwise and most of the times inaccurate, but the flaws being displayed by the Toronto Maple Leafs are quite familiar to those they’ve shown over the last few years. The Leafs dominated play in the first 30 minutes and held a 2-1 lead over the Ottawa Senators, but fell asleep defensively, surrendered three goals in a span of 4:35 in the second period and were unable to recover in a 5-3 loss at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata on Friday.
Zach Hyman, Alex Kerfoot and John Tavares scored for Toronto and Frederik Andersen made 19 saves in the loss.
“I just sensed that we had stopped playing. We lost three or four shifts in a row coming off (the Kerfoot) goal. As soon as we scored the goal, the message on the bench was that we need(ed) to keep pushing.” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game. “The reality is when you score a goal like that and you had control of the period the way that we did scoring that goal, for us, if we want to be a team that's going to accomplish anything, the game should be over from there. We should be able to take care of the lead and then build on the lead. Obviously, we showed that we're not there yet.”
It was a particularly bad night for the Leafs top defensive pairing of Morgan Rielly and TJ Brodie. The tandem was as a combined -7 on the night after a solid performance in the opener against Montreal, struggling to corral and inhibit the Senators forwards in front of Andersen. The Leafs goaltender did not appear sharp in his second start, but he had issues all night getting a clear view of shots.
“I would say obviously too many pucks have gone in the net, but as we've talked about a number of times, that's not all on him. We've got to do a better job in front of him. Lots of bodies, lots of loose pucks in and around the net here tonight.” Keefe said. “There's a lot more happening here where we need to improve in a lot of areas. I think Fred would probably agree that goaltending is one of them, but there's a lot of other things happening out there that we've got to get better at.”
Another warning sign may be the early ineffectiveness of the top line of Joe Thornton, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Thornton is scoreless in two games, Matthews and Marner have one assist and at times the unit seems to be out of sync and overhandling the puck, which is in direct contrast to the second line, where both John Tavares and William Nylander are off to hot starts and in the top 10 of NHL scoring.
There is one change that is expected for the rematch on Saturday night, as Jack Campbell is slated to get the start in the second of back-to-back games, but it would not be surprising to see Keefe juggle his line combinations and possibly insert a Mikko Lehtonen or Nick Robertson into the lineup.
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