It was another rough one for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday as they were handed yet another loss at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins – and that was without Evgeni Malkin in the lineup.
The Maple Leafs fell to the Penguins 5-2 and gave up five straight goals before getting themselves on the board late in the second period. The Maple Leafs struggled on the penalty kill last night and gave up far too many high-danger opportunities. And when they went down early, the effort just wasn’t there.
With that, here’s a look at what we can take away from Tuesday night’s loss.
Where’s the Urgency?
Right now, to say the Maple Leafs are safely in a playoff spot would be a lie. The Florida Panthers are nipping at their tails and ready to fly past the Maple Leafs and the team in blue and white continually stumble.
It took five goals against for the Maple Leafs to finally squeeze one past Tristan Jarry and, without taking anything away from Jarry, the Maple Leafs have scoring power that should be able to control the offensive side of the game.
“Our urgency just doesn’t seem to be there consistently,” said Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, according to Mark Masters. “I don’t know what else we need in front of us to motivate us. I mean, we’re at a crucial point in our season… we got to determine what we want to do.”
Tavares went on to say that games like this are hard to swallow – especially when the team realizes that it’s a wasted opportunity.
Goaltending Becoming a Major Issue
While the loss shouldn’t fall on his shoulders in any way, Frederik Andersen also struggled in this one and has for some time now. The Maple Leafs goaltender gave up five goals on 24 shots for a .792 save percentage in Tuesday’s affair.
On top of that, he’s give up three or more goals in four of his last five games and has a collective save percentage of .860 over that span – which is cause for concern for the Maple Leafs moving forward.
Jack Campbell has been the better goalie since Andersen’s return from the neck injury which could give Maple Leafs’ staff reason to put him between the pipes on a more regular basis if Andersen’s struggles continue.
Dermott Needs to Learn
Call it what you want, but Travis Dermott hasn’t been a top six defenceman for the Maple Leafs over the past little while. Guys like Justin Holl, Rasmus Sandin and even Timothy Liljegren have played better than Dermott in the time they’ve been given.
Dermott is supposed to be a puck moving defenceman, with his defensive game being average and his physical game being somewhat of an upside. But Dermott hasn’t played to that description at all lately.
The 23-year-old has just four goals and nine points in 47 games for the Maple Leafs this season and sometimes seems to try and make plays out of his own zone without fully thinking through the play and at times it has cost his team.
On Tuesday, against the Penguins, he had two giveaways – including one pass that went right up the middle of the ice into the neutral zone and was turned back by the Penguins. Now, it didn’t turn into a goal, but those are the mistakes the Maple Leafs just can’t afford playing the way that they are.
Maybe it’s time that Sheldon Keefe and the Maple Leafs sit the young defenceman and give him a chance to see the game from the outside.
Consistency in the Lineup
In saying that, the Maple Leafs do need to find some consistency in their lineup. Guys like Frederik Gauthier and Dmytro Timashov are in and out of the lineup. Kasperi Kapanen has played with different linemates on a regular basis and all of this might be hurting the team.
The fact is, the Maple Leafs bottom six, especially, needs to find consistency in their play and chemistry amongst themselves. That includes the Maple Leafs’ defence – where Keefe played Martin Marincin in place of the young Liljegren on Tuesday.
Schedule Playing a Roll
While you don’t want to look for excuses, the Maple Leafs have now played four games in six nights and it seems to be taking a toll on the team’s top players.
“We need to find more solutions to our depth,” said Keefe, according to Kristen Shilton, in regards to the team’s schedule revealing issues. “The injuries and things that we’ve had, we’re finding some challenges I think on our third and fourth lines and on our defence. We’ve got to deal with adversity better.”
The team hits the ice again on Thursday, and if they don’t come out strong, they could be facing another loss at the hands of the Penguins. That said, the schedule isn’t changing and the Maple Leafs are going to have to find a way to come out and play in a more consistent way.
Also Worth Noting…
The Penguins have more reasons to celebrate as Malkin’s fill-in, Anthony Angello, scored his first NHL game on Tuesday. The 23-year-old forced a turnover in the neutral zone and turned it back into the Maple Leafs zone before tipping in a point shot for his first tally.
The Maple Leafs also struggled on special teams on Tuesday. While their power play went 0-for-4, the Penguins scored three power play goals on three opportunities. Keefe and the Maple Leafs will have to figure that out fast as it’ll play a part heading into the final bit of the season.
After having points in seven straight games, Tavares has looked a little off lately and has been held scoreless in the last two games. The Maple Leafs captain has 51 points through 54 games and he, too, will need to get going to help the team out of their slump.
Kyle Clifford scored his first goal with the Maple Leafs on Tuesday. The physical forward has a goal and an assist in seven games with the team since coming over from Los Angeles.
Finally, on a good note, the Maple Leafs’ star Auston Matthews continues to roll in the goal department. The 22-year-old potted his 43rd goal of the season and remains one of the consistent pieces of an otherwise inconsistent team.
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Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.