The Toronto Maple Leafs entered the All-Star break within the worst manner doable, dropping out of a playoff spot after a 6-2 blowout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday evening.
Your sport in ten:
1. I completely hate speculating on what’s going on in gamers’ private lives, but it surely’s a publicly-known undeniable fact that John Tavares is adjusting to life as a brand new dad. His skating when he’s taking part in on dwelling ice is noticeably extra sluggish (to my eye) and he’s making uncharacteristic psychological errors (with significantly dangerous video games vs. the Oilers, Jets, and once more vs. Chicago final evening). The stats additionally don’t lie: He’s a team-worst -10 on dwelling ice with six objectives and 17 factors in 21 video games; on the street, he’s a plus-three with 12 objectives and 24 factors in 21 video games. That’s a big distinction. Partly it’s that he’s drawing more durable matchups extra constantly on dwelling ice when his coach has final change, however that falls in need of a full clarification based mostly on each the attention and stats check. Tavares appears to be like like he wants the reset of the bye week as a lot as anybody not named Frederik Andersen proper now.
2. Some suspect calls on this sport by Sheldon Keefe, for my cash. Martin Marincin gave the Leafs a very good week or two of hockey some time again and has defended nicely at instances (together with towards Calgary), however his limitations are apparent, and beginning him and Tyson Barrie for shift one towards the Toews line was a suspect name that backfired badly. The primary Leaf contact of the sport was a turnover proper to Toews by Marincin for an awesome look from the slot, after which the Leafs then received working round earlier than Drake Caggiula opened the scoring simply 21 seconds in. Evidently, the reuniting of a wholesome Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl can not come quickly sufficient.
3. I additionally didn’t like going with 11/7 earlier than the break towards a workforce that has been discovering success recently by splitting up their large three up entrance (Toews, Kane, Debrincat) and preserving the tempo up over 4 strains. This was a lure sport for the Leafs — not as a result of they had been taking part in weak opposition, however like several of us on our final day at work earlier than trip, it’s very easy to lose focus (and remember that is nonetheless a really younger workforce). It was particularly harmful figuring out the opposition was not in the identical place because the Leafs — the Blackhawks nonetheless had extra video games to play earlier than the break. I’d have tried to get 4 strains extra concerned early in that state of affairs; getting some good power minutes from decrease down the lineup takes on added significance, and it was clear the Leafs’ large weapons weren’t engaged early.
4. Lastly, I don’t perceive transferring Andreas Johnsson onto the Tavares line, which was has been battling it for a while now however was significantly better with Pierre Engvall in that spot versus Calgary. Johnsson remains to be catching up to the mark, that line is struggling at 5v5, and Keefe went Johnsson – Tavares – Nylander / Marincin – Barrie on shift one? It didn’t make a lot sense to me. Johnsson, after all, turned it over within the impartial zone 10 minutes later for the 3-Zero purpose that was an actual backbreaker for the workforce as nicely.
5. Sheldon Keefe used the phrase “immaturity” time and again on this post-game presser — which is a bit alarming — and it was one thing I discussed within the remark part through the sport as nicely. Three video games come to thoughts lately: The pre-Xmas break sport towards the Carolina Hurricanes, the sport in Florida after the workforce had a break day within the solar, after which this sport earlier than the All-Star break.
They got here again to win vs. Carolina, however actually, it was in all probability encouraging dangerous habits as a lot as something as they ran up a 3-Zero lead and thought that they had completed their work for the night, conceding 5 unanswered objectives (and 6 in whole) earlier than mounting an inconceivable comeback. The Florida sport was their largest of the 12 months to date, whereas this sport final evening was additionally an enormous one figuring out the implications within the standings on the break.
These had been all assessments of psychological preparation and focus, and the Leafs fell brief in all three.
6. The workforce’s engagement stage and physique language on the 6-2 purpose for Jonathan Toews was simply horrendous — Toews wound up in his personal zone and went untouched by way of the impartial zone. Auston Matthews took a cheater’s route and put himself on the fallacious aspect of the play, whereas Marner and Hyman mainly waved their sticks at him. It was an unimaginable purpose from Dominik Kubalik, however all three forwards had been completely shut off, and Marner’s physique language after the purpose mentioned all of it:
That was the fourth purpose towards for Marner on the evening.
7. This Leafs workforce hardly ever feels out of a sport with the way it can rating objectives, but it surely was actually telling that it wasn’t going to be their evening after the 3-1 purpose by William Nylander. The Kerfoot line stored the momentum up for one shift, however when the Tavares line came to visit the boards, they turned the puck over a number of instances and gave up a number of appears to be like to Patrick Kane from the slot on what was a depressing shift general. It simply clearly wasn’t occurring for the workforce final evening.
Talking of the Kerfoot line, whereas I’d have stored Engvall with Tavares, it was one optimistic for the Leafs. Kerfoot has proven good power again at middle ice and his line regarded good with Engvall and Kapanen. Kapanen has introduced a bodily edge recently and appears assured in possession, whereas Engvall has actually been a pressure of late with how nicely he’s skating, monitoring, driving play, and making issues occur offensively.
Kerfoot will get a chunk of Engvall’s shot. 5-2. #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/Wbk3IsuOJK
— Maple Leafs Hotstove (@LeafsNews) January 19, 2020
8. The subject on everybody’s minds is the play of Frederik Andersen. It’s gorgeous how a lot can change in two weeks within the NHL. He was named an All-Star and polling round 50/50 subsequent to Matthews for Group MVP as of January 2nd following an 8-1-1 stretch. Two weeks later, he’s getting Bronx cheered at dwelling amid a six-game, .864 save share slide.
Andersen isn’t sealing the ice off nicely in any respect, has been very weak by way of the five-hole, and he’s not studying the play sharply. Three of the objectives had been definitely stoppable — the 1-Zero specifically. He has been pulled from the web twice and will’ve simply been pulled 3 times in his final six video games. He was visibly upset in regards to the yank versus Edmonton after three objectives towards; he was then given 4 objectives earlier than he was pulled towards Florida later within the week. Final evening, Keefe left him in to get shelled at dwelling as the group’s impatience boiled over. Resolve for your self if it was to do with the upcoming break and never needing to protect Andersen for the following sport, or if that was a message despatched from Sheldon Keefe.
9. There isn’t a getting round that it’s in all probability his worst stretch of hockey in a Leaf jersey. The All-Star break is coming at a very good time for Andersen, and simply as essential is that the Leafs begin again up on the street for a few video games earlier than returning dwelling to host one of many worst workforce’s within the league within the Ottawa Senators. That is goaltending, in spite of everything, and it will probably flip again round simply as shortly because it went south. Andersen has given us 225 video games value of proof in Toronto that he’s going to be simply fantastic. It’s additionally doable that the dynamic in internet goes to shift within the coming days or even weeks, and Andersen might have some competitors arriving in behind him within the type of a brand new acquisition trying to make an impression and push for extra begins.
10. Although the Leafs are nonetheless taking part in at a 110-point tempo below Sheldon Keefe (16-7-3), the truth that a 1-3-2 stretch has dropped them out of a playoff spot and all the way in which right down to 10th within the East is an effective a reminder of simply how constantly good the Leafs should be the remainder of the way in which to make sure a playoff berth amongst a aggressive high 10 within the East.
They’ll want 41 factors from their last 32 video games to succeed in 98 factors, which was final season’s playoff cutoff. It means they should play at a 105-point tempo the remainder of the way in which, which is their franchise file as an 82-game whole.
It’s doable, however taking nights off like this sport and the one versus Florida isn’t a luxurious they’ve been afforded. Frederik Andersen will flip it round they usually’ll get assist in the type of injured our bodies returning, however that is the primary time since late 2016-17 that the workforce goes to want to point out it will probably play desperation hockey down the stretch of an everyday season, and it wants to begin proper after the break. We should always discover out quite a bit in regards to the group within the course of. January 29 – February 23 will likely be a essential analysis interval for Kyle Dubas with the variety of expiring contracts on the backend.
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