Maple Leafs Commentary: Venting, Pretty But Ineffective & Kallgren

I suppose a regular season never goes the way you think it will go, especially if you are the Toronto Maple Leafs or a fan of the team. Last night was a particularly frustrating night to watch the team play. The team lost the game 4-2 to the Arizona Coyotes in a game they dominated offensively, but could not convert anything from that domination.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Prospects Abramov & Kallgren

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll share some of the outcomes of the game as well as report news emerging from the team. I’ll also weigh in a bit about what I saw that is perplexing. I’ll also give in to a vent or two, which as readers know is not my way. Just once, perhaps?

Item One: Are the Maple Leafs Too Pretty with the Puck?

The Maple Leafs were all over the Coyotes during much of the game but never took advantage of their offensive prowess. This was a game that probably should have been one of those horn-blaring offerings that ended something like 7-3. It didn’t.

Substack Subscribe to the THW Daily and never miss the best of The Hockey Writers Banner

The team simply couldn’t convert its offensive-zone time into anything directed toward the net – like a shot that Coyotes’ goalie Karel Vejmelka had to save. That he only had to face 28 shots on the night just didn’t make sense from this offensively-minded team. Given the Maple Leafs’ zone time, he should have had to stop 50 shots. 

Karel Vejmelka Arizona Coyotes
Karel Vejmelka, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

From what I saw, the team played keep away for large portions of the first period in the Coyotes’ zone but just didn’t get shots on the net. Sometimes it seemed as if the team had the Coyotes hemmed into their own zone for two minutes at a time – but nothing on the net. 

Even during the power play, the Maple Leafs simply didn’t direct the puck toward Vejmelka. It took more than four power plays to even register a shot on the goal. They controlled the play, which would have been great if they were protecting the lead. It seems simple to me. Shoot the puck.

Related: Maple Leafs’ One That Got Away: Tuukka Rask

Vejmelka looked like a hot goalie once again. Perhaps the Maple Leafs recall the game last January where he stoned them in Phoenix. But last night, until the very end of the game, he didn’t have to work too hard to make stops. There weren’t any. 

Sign up for our free ‘Maple Leafs Substack Newsletter‘ for all the latest.

In the end, the Maple Leafs over-handled the puck and didn’t try to get the puck to the net quickly enough. Near the end of the game, when the team kept it simple and maintained the pressure, they were able to score a couple of quick ones. From there, the game was tied and the team should have been in control.

A poor defensive play gave the Coyotes a goal and it was scramble mode after that. Maple Leafs’ fans know how that went.

Item Two: Erik Kallgren Loses First Game of the Season

Suddenly the Maple Leafs have a new backup goalie after Matt Murray went down to an injury. Erik Kallgren rose from the AHL to start his first game of the season last night. With Murray out for an estimated four weeks with an adductor injury, Kallgren will be spelling off the team’s new number-one goalie Ilya Samsonov.

Matt Murray Toronto Maple Leafs
With Matt Murray out for a month, the Toronto Maple Leafs will go with Erik Kallgren as Backup
(Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

It was a good chance for a win for Kallgren, but that didn’t materialize.

Kallgren didn’t face many shots during the evening (18 in total, and he stopped 15 of them). The truth is that (a) Kallgren wasn’t that busy and (b) he didn’t have much of a chance to stop any of the pucks that ended up beating him. Two Coyotes’ goals came with the man advantage and the third was the result of a bad defensive play behind the Maple Leafs’ own net. 

Item Three: The Irony of Video Review in Hockey

I’ve often said that one of the attractions of hockey is that things can turn on a dime, and a mistake can turn the puck the other way for a quick score. Last night it wasn’t a quick score as much as it was an interesting rule and the video review that followed.

If there’s one positive in the game, it’s that the Maple Leafs have the offensive firepower to come back in a game – if everything goes right. Last night, they showed their firepower; however, everything did NOT go right. 

The Maple Leafs’ goal that was disallowed carries more than a bit of irony with it. In a play against the wall, Morgan Rielly quickly reached up to stop a puck from going out of the zone. At the same time, a Coyotes’ stick hit Rielly’s hand, or the puck, or a combination of the two. It was hard to tell.

Related: NHL Has Priorities All Wrong on Video Review

The play was over in a split-second. Then, the officials had a conference for about five minutes with a remote video crew to decide that a goal that had been scored should not count.

Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

I don’t have a pony in this race. I don’t know if the goal should have counted or not. But to take five minutes to review a play that was over in .05 seconds just seemed goofy. 

What’s more to the point is that the Maple Leafs’ play dug them into a deep hole. They had a chance to pull themselves out of that hole had everything gone “right.” 

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Samsonov, Mete, Sandin & Engvall

How come the team didn’t play that way for the first 50 minutes of the game?

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The 26-year-old Ilya Samsonov will be the team’s starting goalie for at least the next month while Murray is out of action with his thigh injury. 

You may also like:

There’s a good chance it will allow the Maple Leafs to see what they have in the young Russian. I expect he’ll rise to the challenge, but I’m anxious to see for sure.

Latest News & Highlight