3 Takeaways from Maple Leafs Opening Night Loss

It turns out the Toronto Maple Leafs will have to play 82 games before the playoffs. This team is once again a Stanley Cup favourite, it had an excellent preseason, and almost everyone is healthy. All that meant absolutely nothing as the blue and white put up a brick in the season-opening 4-3 loss against the rival Montreal Canadiens. It’s a short turnaround to make things right, as the team is back in Toronto to face the Washington Capitals. Here are three things learned from an unacceptable game one of the 2022-23 regular season.

Toronto Maple Leafs Celebrate
Toronto Maple Leafs Celebrate (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Before we get to the big ones, a few things must be mentioned. First, it was not a sell-out for opening night in Montreal. 21,105 was the reported attendance, and the Bell Centre holds 21,273. Next, how about those new graphics on the boards? There were a few glitches, but it was an interesting way to increase sponsorship. Finally, Jason Spezza was not in Toronto for a long time. Still, getting used to that number 19 on a different player will take some time.

Matt Murray is Vulnerable

Toronto’s general manager has placed his future in the hands of Matt Murray. Kyle Dubas traded for the injury-prone goalie in the offseason, hoping he could find that Cup-winning former he had with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The early judgement is the gamble may not have worked. Murray was not overly busy in net facing 23 shots, but he allowed four. Three of those goals were high glove which is concerning as it appeared Montreal was aiming there. But, of course, the Habs saw a lot of Murray during his less-than-stellar Ottawa Senators run and perhaps they know his weaknesses.

Related: 3 Reasons Maple Leafs Stanley Cup Drought Continues in 2022-23

That’s not how Sheldon Keefe saw it. He blamed the team in front of Murray. “I thought our guys left him out to dry,” said the head coach, who added that Toronto had planned for the transitions and Montreal’s dangerous rush potential. “We talked about it this morning, and we talked about it before the game. We fed right into it.”

Sloppy Play should be a Concern

If you watched Amazon’s All or Nothing, you should know that Sheldon Keefe is not one to shy away from ripping a strip off anyone. It’s safe to say that more than a few players got an earful after this game. The penalties the team gave up were not in a dangerous situation, mainly neutral zone interference calls. The team gave the puck away 11 times, and they lost in the faceoff dot, too. Montreal was able to block 23 shots, as Toronto had a hard time getting pucks to the net until the third period, when things opened up. The winning goal with just 17 seconds remaining was courteous of a brutal giveaway.

This was not the team anyone was expecting, especially Keefe, “from what we have been through as a team and as experienced of a team as we are, that is unacceptable.” Keefe expected better against Washington, “You learn pretty quickly that when you aren’t prepared to play the necessary way to win the game, you lose, no matter who you are playing.”

Maple Leafs Special Teams Break Even

The good news is the Maple Leafs seem to be picking up where they left off last season regarding killing penalties. Despite some new faces on the penalty kill, Toronto was able to stifle Montreal’s four powerplay chances. The bad news, Toronto’s powerplay also went 0-4. They generated a few more chances than Montreal could, but they couldn’t score.

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Ilya Samsonov gets his first start as a Maple Leaf against his old team – the Capitals. When he was signed right after the Leafs acquired Murray, Dubas said it’s an open runway for either to earn the number one job. However, Murray’s opening night performance has left the door open for Samsonov to move up the depth chart.

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