The Maple Leafs are acutely aware that they have yet to record their first win of the season. There are a couple of ways to look at this. On one hand, you could be disappointed and cast the team in a negative light. On the other hand, you could take the side that says despite the losses, they are moving in the right direction.
In two of the three losses, they have displayed heart, tenacity and the ability to continue competing no matter what the score was. It might be Mike Babcock’s influence on the team, it might be the players they have assembled. Consistency is key in the NHL today and that is what this Maple Leafs team should strive for. Let’s take a look at the three games and try and break down some patterns.
Game #1 vs. Montreal Canadiens
It was the classic match-up between two old hockey rivals. It doesn’t matter where either team is in the stands, games between these clubs are usually full of excitement. The Maple Leafs played hard in this game. They displayed grit and determination that the Air Canada Centre has rarely seen the past few seasons.
They were able to hang with the Habs and despite losing the game, they showed show flashes of what this team could become. Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner were dynamic and fast and appeared to have been given the green light to use their skating. They out-shot the Habs, but were unable to bury the majority of their chances. Fans walked away from the game, despite the loss, generally feeling pretty good about the effort they saw on the ice.
Game #2 vs. Detroit Red Wings
This game was a bit different than the Montreal one. Gone was the hustle and determination from the season opener. It was replaced with a bevy of early goals that ultimately sunk the Leafs. Mike Babcock was rudely welcomed back to Detroit by being shutout 4-0 by his former team. The Buds played a sloppy game and what scoring chances were given up were immediately capitalized on by the Red Wings. It was a lacklustre and very forgettable effort that has become all to common in recent years.
Game #3 vs. Ottawa Senators
The Battle of Ontario is typically a good series between the Leafs and Senators. The opening game of this seasons series was a roller coaster from start to finish. The Sens struck first and took an early lead. The Maple Leafs ran into some penalty trouble and Ottawa made them pay dearly for it.
Then the Leafs decide to come alive. They fought and clawed their way back into the game and eventually tied it at four apiece. Overtime, even three on three OT, solved nothing, despite being highly entertaining. The Maple Leafs would fall in the shootout, earning them a point but not a win.
Despite this, they showed heart in their comeback. Leaf teams of the very recent past would have folded and given up much earlier on. Maybe it’s the Babcock influence that gave this team the necessary will to push back. Fans are not expecting a win every single night. Truthfully, if the Leafs go out and play their hearts out and still lose, that’s perfectly acceptable.
Baby steps in the right direction are all the fan base will ask for. They understand it’s going to be a tough and rebuilding year for this team. Do the little things right, play with heart and it’s amazing what you can achieve. It may take a while, but the Leafs are slowly but surely learning those lessons.