The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t show up and give Ottawa Senators their yearly Stanley Cup: Leafs Game Recap
Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
By Dylan Murphy10 months ago
Ilya Samsonov wasn’t the only person to take on a job at the last minute on game night. Nick Alberga is off tonight, so instead of Muzzy’s Musings, let’s call this story Murphy’s Musings and take a look at what went wrong for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their 6-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
Even the most anti-superstitious Leafs fan could look at the calendar, see this game and go “yeah, this one’s cursed.” Hockey Night in Canada on a Friday Night, a “Next-Gen” game played at night instead of the afternoon, and a couple of last minute lineup changes including the loss of Auston Matthews for at least the next three weeks? It’s as close to a scheduled loss as you could get.
The negative voodoo started off early when Matt Murray, announced as the starting goaltender this morning, appeared to take a shot up high during warmups and ultimately did not play for a reason announced by Sheldon Keefe postgame:
Thomas Chabot ripped the first goal of the night past Samsonov just 1:32 into the game. Toronto retaliated before the halfway point of the period with a snipe shortside from Joey Anderson (didn’t know he had it in him) that came off a very strong play from Alex Kerfoot.
23 seconds into the second, Brady Tkachuk pulled the Senators ahead 2-1, and agains, the Leafs pulled back to an even game thanks to a signature William Nylander netfront battle on the power play, and then it got ugly, with four more goals for the Senators coming from Derick Brassard, Drake Batherson, a second from Tkachuk, and Claude Giroux.
So, what went wrong? The major issue was that Toronto’s defensive coverage was shockingly poor. The Leafs have made great strides in recent times to become a great team defensively, but tonight the entire team was in complete shambles, particularly the David Kampf line and the Rielly-Holl pairing, which should cease to exist immediately and never be thought of again, much less attempted. They struggled all night with turnovers, could not clear the puck out of the defensive zone and left Samsonov completely at the whim of the Senators, who were more than willing to pile on and run up the score.
I was excited earlier today to see Pontus Holmberg promoted to second-line centre in light of the Matthews’ injury, he’s been a great surprise addition to the bottom-six this season and has shown flashes of playmaking and finishing ability that at least suggest he could be more than just a fourth-liner. Unfortunately, on this night at least, the experiment of top-six Holmberg crashed and burned. After a couple of strong shifts right at the top of the game, he seemed a step behind the play at almost all times, which resulted in him taking a double-minor penalty and an additional penalty after that. He was eventually replaced as 2C by Kerfoot in the third.
Above all else, the Leafs’ worst enemy of the past five (or more) seasons flared up once again: themselves. After all this time, the Leafs are still guilty of playing down to opponents who are, overall, inferior teams. It happened against Arizona four times in the last calendar year, it happened last Saturday against Montreal, and it happened here tonight against the Senators. The stats back it up, against any of the bottom dwellers in the NHL standings, it is literally a coin flip every time the Leafs play one of these teams. They should be easily dominating these games, they’re as close to a guaranteed win as you get in hockey, and instead they can’t be bothered to show up.
On Sunday, in a rare 5pm game, the Washington Capitals will be in town for John Tavares’ 1000th NHL game. TSN4 will broadcast that game.
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