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Morning After Analysis: Ottawa’s defense too clogging; offense too potent for the Maple Leafs

Frankly, the Leafs had a horrible start to the game last night. Probably the worst they’ve had this year. They ended up pulling things pretty close to even in the 3rd period, but was not quite enough as they lost the game 6-3. Let’s try to dig into what went wrong and why.

Goaltending

Despite allowing 5 goals, I do not believe Frederik Andersen was part of the problem tonight. He made some good saves early and none of the goals could really be categorized as his fault. The only questionable one for me would be the 1st Brassard goal to make it 3-0 Senators. Watch here:

You can see the puck sneaks underneath his right arm and into the net. Typically if the puck goes through you, you probably didn’t do everything you could to stop it.

But the rest were totally fine.

At the other end, Anderson was playing a pretty mediocre game. The Leafs didn’t do much offensively (we’ll get to that later) but for the most part, Anderson did what he had to. From what we’ve seen this season, only allowing 3 goals against the Leafs is actually quite the accomplishment.

Shot Attempts

The Senators took off to start the game, leading to 3 goals for in the first 2 periods. You can see score effects took over to start the 3rd period though, flipping the advantage in shot attempts pretty starkly as they made their push to climb back in the game.

Ultimately it was pretty close, and accounting for score effects, it totals to a very close game. 50.53% for Ottawa, 49.47% for Toronto. Splitting hairs in that respect.

Scoring Chances

The shot attempts were close, but the same cannot be said for the opportunities to score. Check out the heat map from the game:

The Leafs had a bit of a cluster at the net front, but mostly their chances were spread around the zone.

The Senators on the other hand appear to have dominated the net front. All 4 goals were from in close, and the density of their chances definitely came from there. Not a pretty look from the Leafs’ defense in this game. The Expected Goals model on Corsica definitely reflects this chart. Even when adjusted for score state, the Senators had a 64.97% to 35.03% advantage. A dominating performance that definitely showed up in the scoreline.

Individuals

I think there were a few players who stood out tonight for different reasons. Let’s talk the good first.

Good

The first player I want to mention is Ron Hainsey. I thought his defensive game was on point tonight, highlighting a stretch of good play from him. He even had an offensive breakout here:

Also on the good side were Matthews and Nylander, who yet again showed their offensive brilliance. With a goal each tonight, plus the assist for Matthews, they are both continue to be over a point-per-game pace in the early goings. They were the only line that looked like it could generate offense 5v5, and of course they looked dangerous as heck on the powerplay.

Bad

For the most part this was a loss where no one quite did what they had to. But I’m going to highlight the top pair for the Leafs, as they were especially bad tonight. Gardiner and Zaitsev were under 35% xGF% when accounting for score, and Zaitsev himself had the direct impact of getting beat by Mark Stone on the 4th Senators goal.

Final Thoughts

This was obviously not a game to feel good about for the Leafs, not that any loss would be. There are a lot of things to take out of this, but the positives for me were that Andersen is looking comfortable again, the Leafs have their penalty taking mostly under control, and there seems to be nothing opponents can do to slow down Matthews and Nylander.

Areas to improve are obviously the net front presence on defense (wait a second…. is that Roman Polak’s music?) and to find a way to plan for opponent’s neutral zone attack better. The Leafs were basically shut down in the neutral zone through the early goings of this game, and that needs to improve.

The Leafs play next against a very strong defensive team in the LA Kings, so some takeaways on how to beat a strong neutral zone press from tonight could provide a big advantage. Tune in Monday to see the Kings take on the Leafs in Toronto!

  • jimithy

    The sports media go on and on about how fast the Leafs are. This is ‘fake sports news’.
    Their defense is always beaten to the puck by the opposition. They can’t carry the puck out of their own zone because no one can skate that fast. What does Zaitsev actually do when he’s on the ice, other than cough up the puck and leave a mess on the ice? If Kadri could try to engage himself for more then 10 minutes a game he could be an asset.
    Benching Gardiner every second game would help the teams consistency. After flobbing passes, giving up possession, missing checks and not showing any sort of commitment, all on his first shift, you know he’s going to have a bad game and be a hindrance to the team.
    If only the Leafs had some of Ottawa’s grit and determination.

  • Chelmsford Leafs

    I have only seen the highlights and not the whole game. For the third Sens goal they seem to have had a huge amount of space – was this a turn-over or a bad line change from the Leafs. If it was a bad line change, why change with only 13 seconds left in the perios

  • bencat22

    This outcome was bound to happen because the Leafs have been dodging bullets for a few games in a row, now. In the Washington victory for example, Ovechkin had several near misses which could have easily turned that result. I don’t think the Buds are as good as some pundits have predicted, [favourites for the Cup in 2018 ?], nor, are they as bad as they looked against the Senators. It seems that clubs with good team structure give us a ton of trouble, the Devils, [Leafs first loss on October 11] and, Ottawa last night. The LA Kings visit Monday night and they’re just the kind of team that cause us fits,… , excellent goaltending, some world class players, Doughty, Kopitar and Quick, plus they’re well-coached defensively. Lots of ups and downs for our team remain in the weeks, months ahead.
    Is it just me or, does Mitch Marner really seem to be out of step this year ? Lots of natural talent there but much immaturity to his game, for e.g., the fly by’s and the many missed defensive assignments. Caressing the ego of a young talent like that takes a lot coaching know-how. Hope MM comes out of his fog soon, [a few goals would be nice].
    IMO, the Polak short term signing was wise. He’s no ballet dancer but he IS the ultimate warrior and his mates love the guy. Perhaps he’ll make life in our crease a bit more unpleasant for the opposition, [a valuable right hand shot too].
    Finally, IMO, yes, Auston Matthews, at the very young age of 20 years is the best player to ever dress for the Blue & White and I’ve seen Apps, Kennedy, Kelly, Salming, Sittler, Clark, Gilmour, Sundin and many others. Auston Matthews is already in a class by himself.