3 Takeaways From the Maple Leafs’ 5-1 Loss to the Kings

In a battle of some ex-teammates and a couple of streaking teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs hosted the Los Angeles Kings on Monday in what was the Leafs Remembrance Day game. It was great to once again be in the building, but unfortunately, it was the Kings who handily came out on top.

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From the opening faceoff, the Kings were applying pressure on Maple Leafs netminder Jack Campbell, and it was a game where the Kings were doing whatever they could to get in the crease and disrupt their ex-teammate. While a lot of conversations were happening after the play between old buddies, there was likely nothing friendly said during the intermissions or after the game from Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe.

Maple Leafs Campbell Out-Performed By His Mentor

A lot of the talk in Toronto this week has been surrounding Petr Mrazek’s injury setback and the fact that the net is all Campbell’s for the foreseeable future. “Soup” welcomed his mentor and one of his best friends, Jonathan Quick of the Kings, to town and the battle between netminders was won easily by the Los Angeles goaltender.

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Quick turned back the clock to stop 33 of 34 shots on Monday night, which included 28 in the final two frames. He looked athletic as ever and was seeing the puck like the Stanley Cup champion he is. Of course, Auston Matthews hit the post a couple of times and so did Jake Muzzin and John Tavares, so it was a bit of the old you have to be lucky to be good kind of night.

As for Campbell, this was his 11th appearance of the season, tying for the league lead. Ex-Maple Leaf and the player Campbell was traded for opened the scoring in Trevor Moore. It always seems like Toronto is the team players score their first goal of the season against or use them to snap a wild goalless streak.

After Moore’s first tally of the season, less than four minutes later in the opening frame, the Kings buried their second of the night. Both goals were likely two that Campbell would like to have another crack at. Let’s not start the Campbell looks tired narrative, but this was certainly a game where he didn’t have his best.

Maple Leafs Being Carried by Their Core 4

Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander and Mitch Marner have been carrying the Maple Leafs lately as they have accounted for the last 13 goals leading up to Monday’s affair with the Kings. Wouldn’t you know the only tally of the night for Toronto came off the stick of captain Tavares?

There’s so much chatter about how much money they make when all the talk should be about how the team will only go as far as they take them. The Maple Leafs are in good hands with these four at the helm. Unfortunately, on Monday, it didn’t work out the way they wanted it. Keefe was trying to spark the offense throughout the night with different combinations. He went a few times with Matthews, Marner and Nylander and then subbed Nylander for Tavares at points during the third period. Yes, it was too little too late. The four forwards combined for a minus -11 rating on the night.

Auston Matthews John Tavares
Matthews, Marner and Tavares, along with Nylander are hard to handle for opposing teams (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

So far this season, after a very slow start, Tavares now sits with 13 points in 13 games, so does his linemate Marner. Meanwhile, Nylander sits third on the team with 11 points and Matthews is in fourth with eight points in 10 games. The top two lines will not be the issue in Toronto this season.

Maple Leafs are Due for Some Lineup Changes

While the spotlight is on how well the core four are playing, perhaps it should be moved to other players who are disappointing. For instance, $2.5 million fourth-liner Nick Ritchie is off to a horrible start this season. He was basically handed the first-line left-wing position at training camp, and while he started with the big boys, he has slowly made his way to playing fourth-line minutes. Ritchie has one assist and no goals in 13 games. At times, Ritchie was invisible out there and the team may want to consider sitting him for a game or two to hit the reset button.

Expect to see Justin Holl back inserted into the lineup on Wednesday when the Maple Leafs head to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers. Rookie defenseman Timothy Liljegren did not have his best game on Monday and seemed to fall out of position a few times, which ended up being costly. While the coaching staff loves what they are seeing out of the former first-round pick when it comes to his reads and offensive instincts, unfortunately, he can circle this game as one that exposed him.

Justin Holl Toronto Maple Leafs
Justin Holl likely back in the lineup on Wednesday in Philadelphia (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Maple Leafs are reportedly engaged in trade conversations regarding their defensemen and Holl appears to be the favorite to be dealt. Wednesday’s game is a great chance to showcase him to the league, as there’s a lot of interest in the 29-year-old right-handed defenseman.

Monday’s game against the Kings saw the Maple Leafs get beat by some old friends and Phillip Danault, their arch-nemesis. Campbell had an off night, the core four couldn’t get much going and the lineup looks ready for some subtle tweaks. Next up, the Maple Leafs head to Philadelphia on Wednesday, and let’s see if they can bounce back from this disappointing performance.