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Knee Jerk Reaction: Keefe ejected from Leafs’ streak-ending loss to Vegas

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Alex Hobson
1 month ago
It was a fun ride. After winning seven games in a row for the first time since 2004, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ winning streak was snapped at home against the Cup-winning Vegas Golden Knights.
All things considered, there wasn’t much to dislike about the Leafs’ game from an effort standpoint, especially considering the way they played throughout the streak and the circumstances behind tonight’s game. The Golden Knights are always a tough opponent to begin with, let alone facing them for the second time in a week after you embarrassed them on home ice. Factor that along with the absence of Timothy Liljegren and the subsequent call to go with six left-handed defencemen, the Leafs have lost more frustrating games before. 
You never want to point to officiating to justify a loss, but it was hard to ignore the ongoing inconsistency from NHL officials tonight. After Ryan Reaves cut the Leafs’ deficit to two with a little under six minutes to go in the game, Mitch Marner was called for a seemingly phantom trip. Sheldon Keefe was visibly enraged and upon letting the official know that the player fell on his own, he was assessed a 10-minute misconduct and ejected from the game, which is a first for him since he’s been a head coach in the league. 
Beyond officiating though, it would have been a lot to ask the Leafs to complete that comeback even without the weak call. While Ilya Samsonov’s performance wasn’t as poor as his stats would indicate tonight, he wasn’t as sharp as he’s been in the past and had some pucks sneak by him that I’m certain he’d want back.
John Tavares had a visibly tough night, committing the giveaway that led to a back-breaking Vegas goal just minutes after Tyler Bertuzzi scored to cut the deficit to one near the end of the second period. Morgan Rielly also had a tough night, finishing the game a minus-4 in his first game skating alongside T.J. Brodie since before his suspension, but again – with six defencemen who are all left-handed, sometimes it makes sense to pivot to familiarity instead of throwing things into the blender. 
Nevertheless, I’d imagine tonight’s game is going to inspire Brad Treliving to dial up his efforts to acquire a defenceman. Liljegren’s absence shows how much the defensive corps hinges on his presence to even out the pairings, and having another defensive-minded right-handed shot next to Rielly would do wonders in stabilizing the back end. The Leafs are also going to need to pick up their play at home, carrying a record of 15-11-2 at the bank after tonight’s loss. 
In the grand scheme of things, losing tonight’s game to the reigning Cup champions isn’t the end of the world. What we do need to see, however, is the Leafs continue to deliver the same effort we saw they were capable of night in and night out during their winning streak. Losing a game isn’t the end of the world, but abandoning the habits that won you some of your best games of the season would be.

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