As you might imagine, there are not a lot of positives to take from the Toronto Maple Leafs getting walloped by any team, let alone a Penguins team that was missing a handful of significant players from their lineup.
“I have a lot of thoughts, obviously,” said Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe. “Not many good ones.”
Talking about the Penguins scoring a pair of goals in 15 seconds early in the second period, Keefe acknowledge, “It got away on us. And then there was a lot to not be happy about from that point on.”
“It’s tough playing from behind. We’ve been doing it too much lately.”
Keefe showed respect for the Penguins. “When we were careless with the puck, they made us pay for it. That was consistent all the way through.”
“That’s a team that has been playing without a lot of their key people,” Keefe continued.” And they really have been all season, but they just play hard, play direct, and make you pay for your mistakes, and not making many themselves. That’s a good recipe to win games.”
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To the takeaways…
1. Penguins getting production from no-names, Maple Leafs can’t get production from big names
No one should have been taking the Penguins lightly coming into this game. Even if they were missing Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, Jeff Carter, and Kris Letang, the team was 2-0-2 and has been playing without their stars throughout. But, as usual, the Penguins were getting contributions from players that do not typically get their names in lights.
The big story coming into the game was that Pittsburgh was missing their top three centres – Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jeff Carter. That meant Evan Rodrigues, Teddy Blueger, Drew O’Connor, and Brian Boyle would be on the draws Saturday night, and they scored four of the seven Penguins goals.
Toronto’s only goal came from their fourth-line centre, Jason Spezza, but nothing from the top three centres on the depth chart. This loss does not have to have some kind of long-term meaning for the team, but it is undeniably embarrassing to get blown out by a team missing so much of its top talent.
2. It was a night of bad bounces for Toronto
Drew O’Connor scored a goal off his hip and then banked another one off of Jake Muzzin. Jason Zucker’s goal deflected off Timothy Liljegren. That’s more than enough bad puck luck for one evening.
None of this gives the Maple Leafs a free pass on sloppy neutral zone play, weak defending or dumb penalties in the offensive zone but there are games when the puck is bouncing your way and there are games like this one.
Toronto’s first four penalties were in the offensive zone which is recipe for disaster but, in the case of this game, it ensured that there would be no Maple Leafs comeback once they were down.
3. Muzzin – Holl pairing off to a terrible start this season
The second pairing of Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl has not been egregiously terrible to start the season, but the results have been. Muzzin is over 52% of shot attempts and expected goals, while Holl is at 50.0 CF%, and 48.7 xGF%. But they have been on the ice for three goals for and nine against.
The good news for Holl and Muzzin is that there are some pretty great defencemen getting handily outscored early in the season. That list includes Cale Makar (3 GF, 10 GA), Jakob Chychrun (0 GF, 7 GA). Anton Stralman (1 GF, 7 GA), Jake McCabe (1 GF, 7 GA), and Seth Jones (0 GF, 6 GA) among the other defencemen that have been outscored by six goals already this season.
4. Fourth line continues to contribute
On one hand, it should be good news for the Maple Leafs that Jason Spezza can still put up points and he scored Toronto’s only goal in the loss. He has four points (3 G, 1 A) in six games. It should be a positive that Wayne Simmonds is willing to get nasty, but it really only works if they are providing those contributions as a complement to production from the top of the lineup and, right now, there just isn’t enough.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs lines in a blender for the third
With the outcome not in doubt, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe took the opportunity to try some new line combinations, including Michael Bunting and William Nylander up with Auston Matthews. Mitch Marner skated with John Tavares and Alexander Kerfoot. Nick Ritchie joined Spezza and Simmonds. Ondrej Kase and David Kampf were re-united with Pierre Engvall.
That the lines went into a blender is no surprise. The team isn’t scoring so just rolling out the same guys over and over again is not the answer, but it will be interesting to see how different the lines might look for Monday’s game against Carolina. The lack of production from Matthews and Marner thus far has been jarring.
PIT 2.97 – TOR 2.51
Advanced stats via Natural Stat Trick