Maple Leafs Are Giving Away Too Many Points in Overtime

Another game, another disappointing overtime loss for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Which is odd because the Maple Leafs have shown to be quite skilled in extra time in the past. Just last season, while it wasn’t a winning record, they were an even 6-6. 

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Currently, they’ve gone to overtime six times and possess a 1-5 record as they have given up five extra points that could be the difference maker in the standings. While they sit second in the Atlantic Division with 25 points, those are points that could separate them from the rest of the teams catching them or closing the gap on the Boston Bruins. Needless to say, their careless play from early on has found its way in extra time and it’s now another glaring issue. 

Sheldon Keefe Toronto Maple Leafs
Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs Head Coach (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s a concerning trend with the Maple Leafs play in overtime as we’ve discussed this on the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. It seems that every time they go into the extra frame, it’s a complete 180 from what we’ve seen during the game. There shouldn’t be this much of an issue with the team’s play in extra time as they have the skill and speed to dominate. Yet, that skill and speed has been anything but stellar as the Maple Leafs continue to be their own worst enemy as overtime has become another Achilles heel.  

Careless Puck Management

Much like their play in October, the poor puck management and decision making has shifted its focus into overtime. While 3-on-3 can go either way as it’s a wide-open game, the Maple Leafs basically hand the win to their opponent on a silver platter with their play with the puck. 

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In all six games the giveaways, poor execution, blind passes to the opposition and a lack of intensity have been egregious. They cheat on offense while they’re still in defending mode to try and open the game up and the constant turnovers in coverage lead to rush chances against are why it results in the game-winning goal.

Aside from their only overtime win against the Dallas Stars, it’s been very underwhelming for this club. In the last week, the Maple Leafs have had lackluster efforts against the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders. They played relatively well in regulation in both games, but when it shifted to 3-on-3, that’s when things got unpleasant.

The first goal is from their most recent loss to the Islanders as it shows the decision-making coming into question. It didn’t help that Erik Kallgren allowed a questionable tying goal in regulation that led to overtime, but the response wasn’t there.

While a defensive defenseman like Justin Holl shouldn’t be used in that situation, it was a great setup by the Islanders. However, it was what transpired before the goal that left a sour taste with many. There were back-to-back icing calls which shouldn’t have happened and a turnover by William Nylander early on nearly ended the game. The Maple Leafs kept playing with the puck and looked lifeless out there as they failed to capitalize or take advantage when they had possession.

The next goal, coming days earlier, shows the Maple Leafs lack of attention to detail.

After dealing with sustained pressure, the Maple Leafs took advantage and turned the puck over. This should’ve been an easy exit in a 2-on-2 situation. As John Tavares attempts to make a soft pass to Mitch Marner, Jack Hughes swoops back in on the soft breakout to force the turnover, get a shot on net and eventually Yegor Sharangovich pots in the rebound. The Devils dominated the Maple Leafs in a short span to get the win

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As Tavares makes the pass, his head was up and should’ve known that Hughes was closing in on the play. Even if he waited a little longer to exit the zone and made the pass to the open wing in the neutral zone, that would’ve been the right decision. 

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Plays like this are why the Maple Leafs are on the losing end. Head coach Sheldon Keefe has stated the team is getting beat easily and that they’re “forcing something that is not there.” The Maple Leafs are their own worst enemy as they struggle to manage the game and it shows with their play in overtime.  

Not Playing with Pace

The one thing the Maple Leafs need to get back to doing, is controlling the play with speed and urgency needed to win the game in those situations. 

Even looking at players like Marner and Auston Matthews, they haven’t played very well. Marner isn’t as quick or dynamic– given how this is a perfect situation for him– and Matthews hasn’t got the puck nearly enough to be an offensive threat with his shot and release.

When the puck is dropped to start the period, whether the Maple Leafs have possession of the puck or not, there’s a lack of speed, conviction and execution. They always seem to be constantly looking for the perfect play like they do on the powerplay. They don’t utilize the whole surface with the extra space and the effectiveness of the long stretch plays to try and break things open. 

Overtime is a tricky situation. You do need to bide your time in the extra frame as we saw that one mistake can cost you the game. However, you also need to play with pace in order to quickly transition to offense to catch the opposition off guard. The Maple Leafs are too laid back and aren’t playing with any purpose in that situation. 

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The Maple Leafs constantly play with the puck and are too predictable, while their opponent quickly attacks to gain control and transition the other way leading to odd man rushes. Those plays are major deal breakers and need to be addressed right away.

Back to the Drawing Board

The Maple Leafs need to go back to the drawing board, as they clearly need to improve on their play in overtime. As simple as it is, it hasn’t been good enough. David Alter of Inside the Maple Leafs reported that this is the first time this season that they’re working on that situation.

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

While it’s great that they’re addressing it, it should’ve been addressed earlier when they lost in overtime to two bottom dwelling teams in the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks. If they’re able to work on the management and control, then they will be a successful team instead of one that’s just an easy win to get against.

The Maple Leafs need to start playing with a sense of purpose and dominance like they have shown in the past. Mistakes are going to happen and no one expects them to have a perfect record in overtime, but this team is too skilled to be having these lapses, especially when they know that the extra point is on the line.

Given the team’s record, they need to quickly turn their play in overtime around as valuable points are being left on the table. While the Maple Leafs are able to get a point instead of the loss, the goal should be to get both when they have the chance to. Given how well their top players are producing in regulation, they should be playing much better than the way they have in overtime.