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Knee Jerk Reaction: Leafs continue to play stupid games, win stupid prizes

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
7 months ago
If you’re a loyal Toronto Maple Leafs fan, enough to the point where you can list off several boneheaded decisions they tend to make between players and coaches on command, tonight was like a greatest hits album. 
The Leafs did just about everything they could to make sure they lost this game. Quite literally every single goal Buffalo scored I can pin on a stupid and preventable mistake. You’ll get a full postgame recap in the morning, but the mistakes are bad enough to warrant zeroing on twice. Immediately after the Leafs opened the scoring, Calle Jarnkrok lunged at a puck before Tyler Bertuzzi made it off the ice, resulting in a too many men penalty and a subsequent goal to tie the game. 
Then came the bush league giveaway from Mitch Marner on the power play, giving Tage Thompson an opportunity to score shorthanded, which he did. Ryan Johnson got his first NHL point on the goal to immediately take the lead after Auston Matthews tied the game. Guess who the culprit this time was? Sheldon Keefe, who for some reason put the fourth line on the ice immediately after the goal. It took no more than 34 seconds for Buffalo to regain the lead. 
Auston Matthews scored his second of the game to tie it 3-3 17 seconds into the third period. It’s a solid momentum boost I would imagine. But don’t worry, only took three minutes for John Klingberg to help them dish it back, floating in space on the 4-3 goal from Jordan Greenway. 
Matthews was clearly the only one interested in winning the game tonight, scoring his third of the night to complete the hat trick four minutes after that. But one more time for good measure, Buffalo took the lead back for good. This one was just an unfortunate deflection, with a point shot going off of Alex Tuch’s shoulder and into the net, but guess who was on the ice again? The fourth line. 
The way this team has played on this losing streak is reminiscent of the six-game losing streak in 2019-20 that led to Mike Babcock losing his job. The Leafs have started slowly in October and torched the face of the league in November for the past few years, but given how awful they’re playing defensively right now I don’t see a world where they bust a random seven-game winning streak out of their asses. To be fair, I did say that last year and the league before. 
Either way, the Leafs have some serious issues that need work fast. The fourth line is one of the worst lines in the league, Ryan Reaves is contributing nothing physically to make up for his contract and terrible on-ice play, John Klingberg’s five assists in 11 games aren’t enough to distract from his defensive play making his $4.1 million look like a boat anchor, and the Leafs are generally getting nothing out of their depth. You’d figure that, at bare minimum, Bertuzzi and Max Domi will remember that they’re pretty good hockey players at some point, but what they’re getting from everybody right now, including Keefe, isn’t good enough. 
But hey, at least Matthews might score 60 again.

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