Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Freaky Wednesday, Mrazek, Sandin & Woll

Last night’s Toronto Maple Leafs’ 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres reminded me of the 2003 Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan movie Freaky Friday, where the mother and the daughter exchanged bodies and then went about acting like each other. 

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Given that the Maple Leafs had won three in a row and that the Sabres had lost six in a row coming into the game, the two teams’ behavior was freaky indeed. In the end, the Maple Leafs – who were only two points out of first place in the Atlantic Division at the start of the game – lost to a team that was second-to-last and a full 34 points behind them in the Atlantic Division standings. It was indeed a Freaky Wednesday night. 

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The 5-1 final score perfectly tells the story of the game. The Sabres deserved to win by four goals. The Maple Leafs deserved to lose by that many as well. There’s no sugar coating the results. It was one of the worst games of the season; and, as Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe noted, was completely different than the team’s 5-2 beatdown by the Montreal Canadiens on February 21. 

In the Canadiens’ game, the team seemed urgent enough; they were just beaten. Last night, it was as if the team just didn’t show up – although Keefe didn’t say it that way. Even more brutal is the fact that the team’s failure to engage was witnessed by a full house in Scotiabank Arena for the first time in what seems like forever.

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In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll comment upon some of the actions from the game and what they might be going forward into the team’s near future. 

Item One: Petr Mrazek Gives Up Five Goals – Again

Petr Mrazek gave up five goals on 31 shots in last night’s loss to the Sabres. The first one came early and certainly wasn’t his fault, when Morgan Rielly skated in front of him and the puck deflected off Rielly past him into the net. That goal was a foretaste of things to come. It was certainly that kind of night for the Blue and White. 

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Still, the Maple Leafs tied the game with a beautiful play and goal by Rasmus Sandin. But the game quickly slipped out of Mrazek’s grasp in the second period. By the end of the second, it was 3-1. But the Sabres just didn’t quit and scored two more goals in the third period for the 5-1 win. 

Petr Mrazek, Toronto Maple Leafs
Petr Mrazek, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

I suppose, in the end, it doesn’t matter if the team loses 5-1 or 2-1 in regulation. One result was that Mrazek’s three-game winning streak is now over. Much of that winning streak was due to the same strong offensive play that deserted him last night. It isn’t as if he’s not allowing goals. However, until last night, his team was just scoring more goals than the opposition. 

Item Two: Remember, Rasmus Sandin Is a Rookie

What an up-and-down game for Sandin. He combined with Mitch Marner and Michael Bunting on a beautiful hard-working goal. But that moment was about the only thing he’d probably like to remember on the evening. For the rest of the night, he played like a rookie. 

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And the fact that Sandin is a rookie is what Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe reminded all of us after the game. For as high of an upside as Sandin has, coach Keefe noted that sometimes Sandin is going to make mistakes just because he’s “a 21-year-old defenseman with fewer than 100 games in the league.” 

Keefe also reminded the media that he’s asked Sandin to do a lot in his first full season. Specifically, Sandin has been “playing on the top pair and playing lots on his off-side. There is a lot going on there.” 

Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As a final word, Keefe said: “Let’s not focus too much on Rasmus.”

Item Three: Travis Dermott Played and Timothy Liljegren Sat

Travis Dermott played last night after missing the last two games because he was ill, which caused a flip flop between him and Timothy Liljegren. Liljegren was a healthy scratch. 

Item Four: Joseph Woll Didn’t Have Much of an Easier Time in His Last Game

In case anyone is fondly remembering goalie prospect Joseph Woll, who’s playing in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies, Woll’s last start wasn’t any better than the game Mrazek had last night. On Sunday night, he was beaten by a 5-4 score by the Rochester Americans on the Marlies’ home ice.

Pierre-Luc Dubois Joseph Woll Winnipeg Jets Toronto Maple Leafs
Pierre-Luc Dubois screens Joseph Woll in a game between the Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs
(Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

Woll let in five goals on 32 shots against a team the Marlies should have beaten easily because the Americans were playing on their third night in a row. Fortunately, Woll seems to be over the injuries that kept him out for most of last season. He’s been healthy all season.

Unless either Mrazek or Campbell is injured, the 23-year-old Woll likely won’t play another NHL this season. He’s likely not the answer this season.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs’ offense went dormant last night. The first line of Auston Matthews, Marner, and Bunting – other than the first goal – didn’t play well. Matthews was “only” a minus-2 on the night; however, it seemed as if every time the Sabres scored the camera flipped to a shot of Matthews skating away from the scene of the crime. 

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In short, in the team’s postgame media scrum, Keefe admitted that the first line had been carrying the team – playing “lights out” for so long; but, not last night. It was as poor a game as that threesome has had in a long while.

The Vancouver Canucks come into town on Saturday night not knowing what to expect at all.