The day after taking the season opener against the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped their second game of the season, falling to the Ottawa Senators 3-2. Despite there being five goals in the game, the main storyline was without a doubt the goaltending performance from both teams. Earlier this week, I wrote a piece previewing the Senators and cited multiple times that while this team might not have the high-end talent yet, they will always play you hard. And tonight was a perfect example of that.
Despite late efforts on the power play and goaltending standing tall after a rocky start involving some bad bounces and questionable calls, the Maple Leafs once again shot themselves in the foot by not starting on time. A tired narrative in Toronto, for sure, but not one that presents itself without merit. Here are three key takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ loss to the Senators on Thursday night.
Keefe Misses Opportunity to Change Complexion of the Game
The NHL’s officiating has been a polarizing topic of discussion dating back to last season. And while this play wouldn’t have happened had Pierre Engvall not thrown the puck across the middle of the ice in his own end, it’s obvious that the goal was the result of a kick. And had Keefe challenged it, the goal more than likely would have been overturned. Which, would have kept the game at 0-0 and give them an opportunity to get in front early.
Look, I will make it clear that there are many reasons that the Maple Leafs lost this game, and whether or not this goal counted doesn’t necessarily mean that the outcome would have been any different. But when there’s an obvious opportunity to prevent your opponent from coming out in front and you miss it, you’re always left wondering what may have happened if they challenged.
Senators’ and Maple Leafs’ Goalies Stand Tall
As I mentioned at the start, the game would have been a far different story if not for the performances from the goaltenders on both teams. Senators netminder Anton Forsberg was without a doubt the star of the show, backstopping the Senators to a 46-save win with his only goals against coming on the power play. And while Petr Mrazek had a bit of a rocky start, the team in front of him certainly didn’t do him any favours. And in the end, he was the reason they remained in the game at times.
Unfortunately, Mrazek was forced to leave the game with a groin injury as the second period ended, obviously a less-than-ideal situation both for him and the team. Jack Campbell was forced to start the third period, and while he only faced ten shots, many of them came in the form of high-danger chances and he shut the door when the team needed him to. The Leafs’ goalies finished with 36 saves between them, and despite some misfortune, were far from the reason they lost tonight. While Mrazek and Campbell both boast lots of potential, the injury concern was always going to be there from the start.
Maple Leafs’ Old Tendencies Come Back to Haunt Them
Truthfully, I didn’t think I would be writing this paragraph after a game where the Maple Leafs peppered their opponent with 48 shots. But, once again, I’m left with the feeling that this game could have potentially been much different had they shown up to play on time and kept the pedal to the metal for a full 60 minutes.
While the second and third periods were much better than the first, it was another one of those nights where the lack of a complete effort arguably burned them in the end. While the first Senators goal was certainly questionable, allowing a power play goal in the final minute of the game and then allowing a third goal with 0.6 seconds left in the period is not how you want to start a game. And yet again, the Leafs found themselves in a hole early on.
Maple Leafs and Senators Will Re-Match on Saturday
With an off day today, the Maple Leafs will face the Senators once again on Saturday night at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. Between now and then, there will be several questions. Such as, what is the severity of Mrazek’s injury and whether the Leafs go back to Campbell on Saturday or opt to give somebody like Michael Hutchinson the nod.
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While, yes, it’s only the second game of the season, losing winnable games is always frustrating and in the end, every game does matter. The Maple Leafs need to focus on starting on time and being the ones in the driver’s seat from the get-go instead of letting their opponents dictate the pace. And Saturday’s game would be a perfect time to do that and instill them with some confidence before they (finally) play a non-Canadian team next week.
Alex Hobson is a writer and a radio producer for 610 CKTB. He has been writing about sports since 2015 and has been with The Hockey Writers since October of 2020. He covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, World Juniors, and the NHL Entry Draft, and is also part of the Sticks in the 6ix Podcast, presented by THW. He also makes weekly appearances on THW’s Maple Leafs Lounge Roundtable. For interview requests or any other inquiries, you can follow Alex’s social media pages listed at the bottom of his articles like this one.