The Leafs played host to the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that they either play well against, or play absolutely horribly against, depending on which team shows up.
Unfortunately for the Leafs, it was the latter, and the Leafs got blown out 7-3. The Leafs had a slight edge in even strength shot attempts at 53%, but when the game got out of hand, they had no juice left. Not to mention, Tampa had the 5v5 expected goals in their favour as well, 1.87-1.38.
All in all, not a good outing for the Leafs, so let’s take a deeper dive.
The Lightning are still pretty good at hockey
Going into tonight’s game, the Lightning were off to a bit of a slow start at 1-1-1, bad enough that Stamkos even called the team out on it.
And it wasn’t just poor percentages in a small sample size, they just weren’t playing well, period. Going into tonight’s game, they rocked a league worst 38.79% 5v5 CF%, as well as the second worst 5v5 xGF% with 38.9%.
But, it was also only three games, and they showed that tonight. They got Brayden Point back, who showed no signs of fatigue as him, Stamkos, and Kucherov all torched the Leafs (but more on that in a bit).
If anyone actually thought that the Lightning *might* not be good this season for some reason, this was their wake up call.
The Leafs continue to generate offense… at both ends of the ice
Going into tonight’s game, the Leafs had the league lead in 5v5 CF/60 with 69.04, and were fifth in the league in 5v5 xGF/60 with 2.57.
However, they were also middle of the pack at 16th with 56.23 CA/60 and 21st with a 2.24 xGA/60, both at even strength.
It was a trend that continued tonight, except the Tampa Bay Lightning are actually good and can capitalize on these chances. You can do this against teams like Ottawa, but not against teams like Tampa.
The Leafs continue to excel at creating offensive zone chances (and goals), especially once they gain pressure in the offensive zone, but once the puck is in their end, most of them run around like lost puppies. It’s early in the season, but the Leafs continue to have the same issues they’ve always had in this regard.
The entire shutdown unit was baaaaaad
The biggest key to winning tonight’s game was shutting down that top line of Stamkos-Point-Kucherov, and you’d probably give yourself a good chance of winning the game.
Is letting them score a combined five goals close to shutting them down? No. Okay, I thought so.
The Tavares line was tasked with shutting down the top line early on, and considering the cold starts from all of Kapanen, Tavares, and Marner at even strength, I don’t know how Babs was expecting this to go. Sure, Tavares got his first goal, but the whole line had three of the four worst CF% on the team tonight. Babs eventually took them off the matchup, but it was already too late when that happened.
The same goes for the defense. Both pairs got taken to the cleaners against the Bolts top line, especially Rielly and Ceci, who were brutal whenever that line gained the zone. Each game, and that blue line misses Travis Dermott more and more.
But hey, Justin Holl actually had a really good game at least.
Freddie was also pretty bad
While he didn’t get a whole lot of help, Andersen also had a rough game to add to another slow October for him. So far, he’s had just one good game, when he stopped 28 of 29 against the Blue Jackets. He’ll obviously turn it around, but it still sucks to see happen early on in the year.
This also a continuing trend against the Tampa Bay Lightning as well for him. Going into tonight’s game, he has a 3-9-1 record against Tampa, and a .880 save percentage. The only team he’s performed worse against in his career is, funny enough, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
While usually steady, Freddie is anything but against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and if the Leafs even want a chance of competing against the “best team in the league”, Freddie is going to have to step up.
At least Hutch was solid in relief for the 10 or so minutes he was in.
A often debated topic last season, we are only five games in, and Leafs fans are already calling for Babs job. As a huge supporter of the fire Babcock campaign, let’s quickly unpack this.
On the “keep him” side, it is only five games into the season, and the schedule thus far has been nuts, to the point where I’d say they’ve gotten the result I would’ve thought they’d get against every team. Their two wins came against bad teams, or in Columbus’ case, bad goalies. Their two regulation losses came against the reigning Stanley Cup champs and President Trophy winner, both who saw very minimal turnover. And their shootout loss came against an okay team on the second half of a back to back, so I’m fine with a point there.
On the “fire him” side, this is a Leafs roster that saw *drastic* turnover this offseason, and continue to be plagued with the same problems as usual. Sure, the players need to take some time to adjust, but it’d be nice if Babcock could adjust as well.
Personally, I think it’s a bit early to call it now, but the reasons are very legitimate and will probably still be problems in a month, after the All-Star break, and during the playoffs. The question should very much be asked.