Is this season going to be a repeat of last season for the Toronto Maple Leafs? The Maple Leafs started slowly and then collected themselves as a team and began to win. In fact, as Maple Leafs’ fans know, the team set franchise records for wins and points in a regular season.
History aside, that doesn’t stop fans from engaging in angst about the team’s current start. Nor should it. Then was then; but, now is now and the team – as is true every season – needs to prove itself.
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That’s the nature of NHL hockey. Each season is an event all to itself. And this season’s team is struggling. In this post, we will enumerate five problems the team has faced through its first seven games of the season. Then we’ll offer what we call a simple solution. The truth is that the solution might be simple to name; however, it might be harder to engage.
Problem One: The Maple Leafs’ Record
After seven games the Maple Leafs find themselves with a win-loss record of 4-3. Their eight points place them in third place in the Atlantic Division, where they sit tied with the Ottawa Senators, the Buffalo Sabres, and the Detroit Red Wings.
The team is four points out of first and only two points out of last place in its division. The three teams the Maple Leafs are tied with all have a game in hand.
Problem Two: The Maple Leafs Have Started Slowly
After scoring the first goal in their first two games this season, the Maple Leafs have given up the first goal in their last five games. To make matters even worse, the Maple Leafs have only scored one goal in the first period of their last five games. That goal was a power-play goal by John Tavares in the Winnipeg game on Saturday night.
Problem Three: The Maple Leafs’ Five-on-Five Scoring
The team’s five-on-five scoring is mediocre at best. Of the 19 goals the Maple Leafs have scored, just over half (ten goals) have been scored five-on-five. That puts the Maple Leafs in a five-way tie for 23rd place in five-on-five scoring.
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The team leader in five-on-five scoring for the Maple Leafs is none other than David Kampf. Kampf is the only Maple Leafs’ player to have scored more than one five-on-five goal. He has two.
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The other players to have scored five-on-five goals are Calle Jarnkrok, William Nylander, Denis Malgin, Nick Robertson, Michael Bunting, Justin Holl, Mitch Marner, and Auston Matthews.
Problem Four: The Maple Leafs’ Power-Play Scoring
The Maple Leafs are treading water on specialty teams to this point in the season. They have six power-play goals on 27 attempts, which is a success rate of 22.2 percent. Meanwhile, their penalty killing is running close to the same rate, allowing five goals on 26 opponent power-play chances for a success rate of 80.8 percent.
Only three Maple Leafs’ players have hit twine for the Maple Leafs on the power play. Tavares has three tallies, Nylander two, and Alex Kerfoot one.
Problem #5: The Maple Leafs’ Overall Scoring
After seven games, the Maple Leafs find themselves tied for 13th in goals-against in the league with 18 goals allowed. That number is not that far from where we might expect this team to be on the defensive side.
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But, they also find themselves tied for 16th in goals scored, with 19. That’s a success rate far down the list for a team with as much scoring talent as the Maple Leafs have. That’s an area the team must improve on.
The Simple Solution to All The Maple Leafs’ Problems
Surprisingly, as we noted earlier, the Maple Leafs are actually in a better position after seven games this season than they were last season. In 2021-22, their record after seven games was 2-4-1.
Notice that the word “scoring” appears quite often in the list of problems, or more specifically the lack of scoring. The team simply isn’t scoring like they’re used to.
There was one similarity between last season and this season. Matthews had, and has, the same number of goals at this point in both seasons. He’s scored only a single goal. Last season Matthews missed the first three games recovering from wrist surgery. He scored in his fourth game back.
As we all know, Matthews went on to score 60 goals last season and was declared to be the most valuable player in the league when he won the Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award.
Maple Leafs’ Fans Have to Hope the Simple Solution Is on Its Way
Matthews is the simple solution to what ails the Maple Leafs. It really is not rocket science.
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The Maple Leafs simply require that the league’s best player last season be the league’s best player this season. They need Auston Matthews to be Auston Matthews.
[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]
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