Fire Keefe, am I right?
But seriously, we witnessed the first bad game in the Sheldon Keefe era, and it wasn’t even a bad game. They just had a really bad second period, and it ended up costing them the win this afternoon.
Let’s look at some of the biggest notes from today’s game.
John Tavares loves Buffalo
It should’ve been a sign from the beginning that Tavares was meant to be a Toronto Maple Leaf. Not just the fact that they were his boyhood team, but also the fact that even with the Islanders, he loved scoring on the Buffalo Sabres.
Tavares’ 38 points in 31 games against the Sabres is his third highest point total against a single team, with the other two being the Hurricanes (44 points in 37 games) and the Rangers (41 points in 46 games), both teams played in the same division as Tavares for most of his career. Keeping in mind games played as well, and it’s his best output of the three (I’m not calculating his points per game against every team to confirm this).
Not to mention his 20 goals against the Sabres are the second highest against a single team (again, it’s Carolina in first with 25), and Tavares is a welcome addition to this rivalry.
game period for Hutchinson
First it was four goals against Montreal in the third. Then it was three in the second (and one early in the first) against Washington. Then it was three in the third against Montreal. Then it was four in the first against Chicago. And tonight, it was four in the second.
While Michael Hutchinson hasn’t exactly been given the best help defensively, this is an issue that’s plagued him a lot this year. He’ll have two solid periods, and one downright awful period, and that’s a big part of the reason why Hutch is still looking for his first win of the season.
And we finally can’t say back-to-backs aren’t the cause of it either, so we’ll see if he gets another chance after this or if the Leafs change it up… again.
Nylander behind the net on the power play
This isn’t the most relevant observation to tonight’s game, but I did notice that when the Leafs would get set up on the power play, William Nylander would sometimes be behind the net, which could be an interesting tactic to add to this unit, and hopefully improve it.
While it might not seem like much, what that potentially allows is another open passing spot for the Leafs, opportunities to cycle, and, most importantly, create more movement from the goaltender, especially head movement to follow Nylander behind the net. The more you can confuse the opposing goalie, the easier it can be to score.
Also, sidenote, the Leafs got four power play opportunities tonight. They didn’t score on a single one, but the refs might be lightening on the Leafs a bit more now that Babs is gone.
Ceci’s pointless streak hits 20 games
After a decent start to the season offensively, with three points in his first four games, and four in his first seven, Cody Ceci has now gone 20 straight games without a single point. Not a goal, not even a secondary assist, nothing.
While Ceci isn’t exactly known for his offensive output, nor is it really expected from him, it is kind of surprising considering his partner is Morgan Rielly, who has 20 points as of this afternoon’s game.
How does Keefe react?
There’s no denying it, the Leafs played their worst game under Sheldon Keefe. While it’s not that bad on the surface (the Leafs only had a 49.33% 5v5 CF% and a 48.48% 5v5 xGF%), it’s the second period where they really fell apart. The Leafs posted a 21.43% CF% in the second, and a horrendous 7.78% xGF% in the frame as well.
With not much time to practice, it’ll be interesting to see how Keefe reacts to the loss, whether or not he decides to change it up, or if he wants to, as his predecessor would say, “just keep grinding”.
Andersen will be in net tomorrow, so there will be a bit more of a steadying presence in net, and luckily it’s the same team, so both teams will be tired. Nothing big will probably happen, but it’ll be interesting to see what Keefe does.