Three games played, three losses. Well, we can’t say this wasn’t to be expected.
Going into this season, it was pretty much assured that they would finish near the bottom of the NHL standings once again. Even with Mike Babcock as coach and the other reshuffling in the Leafs’ management team, we knew the on-ice product was going to be hard to watch. Three games into the season, it looks like that was the right assumption.
Let’s look at each game.
Against Montreal in the season opener, the Leafs were credited with working hard and adapting to Babcock’s system well. There were times that the Leafs were outplaying the Habs by a wide margin. However, that wasn’t enough to get past Carey Price and the rest of the Habs. The Canadiens won 3-1 with a two-goal performance from Max Pacioretty.
Friday night versus Detroit was a completely different story, except for one incidence. For the second game in a row, Jonathan Bernier allowed the first goal of the game on the first shot he faced. This time, he was pulled from the game. Justin Abdelkader had a hat-trick while rookie Dylan Larkin scored his first goal in the NHL, leading the Wings to a 4-0 shutout. Probably not the return to Detroit that Babcock envisioned.
Finally, on Saturday night, the Leafs earned their first point of the season. Again, it was not how the Leafs wanted it to happen. While James Reimer wasn’t horrible in net, he still allowed four goals. At least this time the Leafs were able to match that in regulation. Overtime solved nothing and the Ottawa Senators eventually won in the shootout.
Can’t Keep Up
So in total, the Leafs have been outscored 12-6. Obviously, giving up twice as many goals as you produce is a problem and it’s one that will probably persist as the season goes on. Toronto isn’t exactly known for their defense and their goalies remain suspect at best. On the other side of the coin, scoring will be a problem this year with Phil Kessel now a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. James van Riemsdyk needs to continue to improve and Nazem Kadri finally needs to prove he can be a No. 1 center by producing like someone who was drafted in the top 10 of a draft should.
Another problem to be fixed is their slow starts. Bernier obviously helping with early-game struggles, but that’s the entire issue. Against Ottawa, the Leafs had to battle back from 3-0 down just to tie the game.
The Leafs do not play again until Friday when they face off against the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road. With nearly a week in between games, expect Babcock to put the Leafs through the paces even harder. We expected the Leafs to be bad, but if their first win doesn’t come soon, the embarrassment will start to show itself and the road to Auston Matthews will be all but assured.
Toronto Maple Leafs Writer At The Hockey Writers.