On Saturday, it was Hockey Fights Cancer night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto as the Maple Leafs hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Maple Leafs entered the evening winners of their past five games, but Penguins coach Mike Sullivan drew up a nice game plan to slow down the team’s offense and boy did it work. It also didn’t help with the fact the Leafs shot themselves in their own foot more than once. Let’s dive into my takeaways from the Maple Leafs 2-0 shutout loss.
Maple Leafs Gave This Game to the Penguins
Toronto had 17 giveaways compared to the Penguins nine and along with some miscommunication on defense and a lack of moving their feet, both of the Penguins’ goals could have been avoidable. It was a tough night for a few players, which we will get into later, but at the end of the day, the Leafs couldn’t generate much and were turning the puck over way too much. Uncharacteristically, both John Tavares and Morgan Rielly led the team with three giveaways each.
Not only were the Maple Leafs hitting the crossbar every fourth shot, it seemed like, but the team also had a late five-on-three power play and could not generate much for chances. The Leafs were blanked on all four of their man advantages throughout the evening and the Penguins’ pressure certainly got the best of them.
Jack Campbell and the Fourth Line Were Maple Leafs Best Players
On a night that had a little bit of a playoff vibe to it with a close-checking and low-scoring game, Campbell was once again a beast. Trust me, he would love to have both goals back and another crack at making the saves because while the first goal by Jake Guentzel was mediocre, Jeff Carter’s second goal was a horrible read by Campbell.
Related: Maple Leafs Jack Campbell Becoming a Star in Toronto
The Maple Leafs’ netminder ended the evening making 29 stops on 31 shots and made some massive saves down the stretch to keep his team in it. It’s a great sign when your goaltender can bounce back from a couple of stinkers and can regroup and refocus.
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As I mentioned before the season started, the Leafs were going to be in a bunch more low-scoring games this season and early on in 2021-22, that’s been the case. It’s a great sign, really, as it will prepare this roster for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Campbell continues to be one of the best goalies in the league and is now getting his name involved in Vezina Trophy consideration and he’s now on Team USA’s Olympic radar. Which came as a surprise to the 29-year-old Michigan native after the game:
After I released an article earlier this week focusing on Wayne Simmonds’ role on the team, he came out on Saturday and had himself a great game along with his linemates Jason Spezza and Michael Bunting. All I mentioned this week was that with the Maple Leafs’ depth, Simmonds needs to continue some strong play not to be a healthy scratch again or potentially moved. It seemed to stir up Leafs Nation and you just love to see the passion.
The fourth-line was flying for the Maple Leafs on Saturday night and generated a bunch of scoring chances. Bunting continues to draw penalties by moving his feet and Simmonds had two of the better scoring chances on the evening. The rugged winger is now tied for second in the NHL with 10 drawn penalties. Meanwhile, Spezza remains a constant in the middle and, after playing a ton of the wing last season, has shown he’s still capable of keeping up with the play from down the middle.
Maple Leafs Need to Make Some Lineup Changes
Enough is enough. Pierre Engvall needs to sit. The Maple Leafs’ winger hasn’t scored since opening night and has recorded one assist in his last 13 games. He was awful against the Penguins and could not get on the same page as his linemates and best friends Ondrej Kase and David Kampf. Considering how much the three players have played together this season, it’s head-scratching seeing such a performance from Engvall.
The three Maple Leafs have been a staple on the team’s third-line and it’s time to sit Engvall for at least one game to try and hit the reset button. While I may have discussed Simmonds’ role on the team earlier this week, it’s Engvall who I feel needs to be moved first. Expect to see him sitting against the New York Islanders on Sunday night, with youngster Kirill Semyonov getting back in.
Timothy Liljegren and Jake Muzzin also had really bad games against the Penguins and I would expect to see Travis Dermott back in the lineup on Long Island, with Liljegren back in a suit. This rotation helps get Dermott some exposure, as his name continues to be included in trade talks.
Maple Leafs Get First Glance at UBS Arena
The Maple Leafs have made their way to Long Island as they get set for game number two at UBS Arena. The Islanders hosted the Calgary Flames on Saturday night and fell short. They will be a hungry bunch who are playing a touch shorthanded at the moment due to COVID-19 protocols. The Maple Leafs should have a couple of fresh faces in their lineup, including netminder Joseph Woll, who will make his second career NHL start. I’m going to guess a 4-2 game, but what do I know?