The Toronto Maple Leafs are no longer undefeated. It wasn’t a realistic goal to expect them to go 82-0 at any rate, but I digress. The Leafs faced a hot New Jersey Devils squad who took them to task and controlled the play almost all night long.
The game should serve as a wakeup call for the Leafs. Mike Babcock, the Leafs head coach, will not be happy with the lackluster effort from his squad and will have them completely prepared for a rebound game against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
Here are three key takeaways from the Leafs first loss of the season.
The Hot Goalie
The Devils are a talented team full of up and coming players. They also have an established veteran between the pipes in Cory Schneider. The former Canucks netminder had a down year last season, but this time around, he appears to have bounced back nicely.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) October 12, 2017
Schneider is 7-1-3 all-time against the Maple Leafs and seemingly has their number. Despite the Buds peppering him with 50 shots over the course of the night, he stood tall in the crease and was able to make a number of huge saves to keep the game just out of reach.
The Devils are off to a hot start and the man between the pipes has a huge say in why the Devils are playing as well as they are to start the 2017-18 season.
The biggest area of concern with the Leafs is their defense. It looks a bit different from last year, specifically the additions of Calle Rosen, Andreas Borgman, and Ron Hainsey.
However, it’s far from a finished product as evidenced by their latest game. Rosen, Borgman and Jake Gardiner all noticeably struggled as the night went on.
Arguably the most glaring error was on a five on three Leafs powerplay. The Buds weren’t able to take advantage and the Devils turned around and scored a massive shorthanded goal that gave them a 4-2 lead in the second.
It may be worth considering sending Rosen to the AHL’s Marlies for a spell. He’s had some difficulty the last few games and may be better served getting his confidence back and adjusting to the North American ice with the Marlies.
Making a move could also potentially open the door for Travis Dermott to make his Leafs debut, which should happen sometime this year.
The Devils Certainly are New
The Devils are not the same team who finished in the NHL’s basement last year. Under new head coach John Hynes, they are speedy, skilled and talented.
Schneider put on a fantastic show and was able to make a number of big stops. The Devils have some young guns who contributed as well such as Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier, and Will Butcher.
The Devils are a dangerous team on the rise in the NHL. There are actually some surprising parallels to the Devils this year and the Leafs of last year. Both are young, fast and skilled. Both were underestimated numerous times and made their opponents pay dearly.
The Leafs underestimated just how competitive the Devils would be and they paid for it with their first loss of the season. The next challenge is the Montreal Canadiens, a team that has given the Leafs massive trouble the last few years. It sets the stage for a bounce-back game if the Leafs play with a different kind of effort.