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The Maple Leafs power play needs to find a sense of urgency

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
1 month ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs lost Game 3 for a variety of reasons with the most impactful one having to do with their power play. The Leafs went 0-for-5 during the 4-2 loss to the Bruins and continue to struggle with the man advantage. Finding a sense of urgency and speeding things up might help.
These power-play demons have been following the team around for quite some time, so the finger of blame can’t be pointed at not having William Nylander in the lineup. Yes, Nylander certainly helps a number of dynamics of their power play, including bringing the puck into the zone or being a threat in the o-zone, but these struggles date back throughout the later stages of the regular season when Nylander was a regular on the top unit.
The Maple Leafs finished the regular season ranked 7th overall with 24% efficiency with the man advantage. However, if it’s broken down a bit further, after starting the regular season at over 30% in October and even having a 50% month in February, the last two months of the regular season were dismal. 9.1% efficiency in March and 17.9% in April. Not good enough for the type of talent the Maple Leafs possess.
So what’s the issue? Everyone in the league and across the hockey world seems to be using the ‘drop-back’ method to gain possession in the offensive zone but it seems like the Maple Leafs try to do so with absolutely no speed or support. The amount of time this team decides to waste in their own zone circling the puck around is head-scratching. It chews up way too much time and it needs to stop. The five-man unit needs to be more connected, they need to play faster and you can even include Ilya Samsonov in all the mess, as he needs to do a better job of getting to pucks and dump-ins and advance the puck up the ice so they don’t even get a chance to regroup for 25 seconds in their own zone.
It seems like every time Auston Matthews or Mitch Marner carry the puck into the offensive zone they chip it over to John Tavares, who is standing still along the sideboards and has to make a snap decision before the defender collapses. This is a horrible play and Tavares should never be given the puck when he’s standing still. He’s not the fleetest of foot when he’s at top speed so asking him to make a play standing still is not a recipe for success, especially with pressure from the penalty killers closing in.
The Maple Leafs aren’t playing fast enough with the man advantage. They continue to look for the perfect play cross seam and haven’t done a good enough job going high-to-low and getting shots through from the point. Boston seems to be doing a good job taking the one-timer away from Matthews and while Marner has had a couple of moments circling around, everything needs to be sped up so the Bruins’ penalty killers don’t get set, and are kept on their toes. It also doesn’t help that right now the Maple Leafs are making it too easy for Jeremy Swayman to see the puck and if he sees it, he’s going to stop it.

Maple Leafs May Need to Take Page From Bruins

The Bruins have dealt with much of the same this season as their power play also struggled down the stretch of the regular season. So far against the Leafs, however, that hasn’t been the case at all.
Boston finished the regular season ranked 14th in the league on the PP and in the last three months of the season they went 10.5% in April, 21.6% in March and 13.5% in February. So what did Jim Montgomery do about it? He blew up his power-play units and more specifically split up Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Considering they are cruising at a 50% clip against the Leafs this series, it seems to be working.
Sheldon Keefe needs to consider changing things up. After Calle Jarnkrok was given over three minutes of power-play time in Game 1, for some odd reason, Keefe has given Tyler Bertuzzi the majority of Nylander’s minutes on the first unit. There’s more to change. Morgan Rielly isn’t a threat on the power play. He hardly ever looks for his own shot and at times, it feels like he’s a glorified drop-passer who gets away with interference more times than not at the blue line. The issue is there aren’t a lot of other options.
One way Toronto could blow things up, even when/if Nylander returns for Game 4 is having the top unit consist of Matthews, Marner, Bertuzzi, Domi and Nylander with the second unit being Tavares, Knies, Robertson, Jarnkrok and Rielly. Bertuzzi should be a staple on the top unit and should be parked in front, whereas Nylander and Marner can work the points and be good enough defensively if things go astray. Maybe this would work out better, maybe not.
Regardless of who are the first five Leafs over the boards once the Bruins take a penalty, they need to speed things up and play with purpose. Enough of  circling around in their own zone. Enough of the drop-pass marathon. Get the puck in deep, go get it, move it around in the offensive zone, play connected and get a screen in front before any shots are taken. Easier said than done, but they’ll need something to change or else the Maple Leafs are going to continue to struggle to capitalize with the man advantage.

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