It is hard to get too down on the a team that has won 10 of the past 12 games, like the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is also not easy to get overly positive after a game in which they were shut out on home ice and did not register a lot of dangerous chances.
“I thought our team wanted it just as bad,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe. “But we lost to a team that played better than us.”
Noting that the Maple Leafs made a few mistakes that turned into goals in the first period, Keefe gave credit to the Penguins.
“Handling their speed coming through the neutral zone was a problem for us (in the 7-1 loss at Pittsburgh in October),” continued Keefe. “It was a problem for us again tonight.”
The Maple Leafs do not tend to put that kind of pressure on opposing defences with their speed.
“We got what we deserved in terms of our offense because we just didn’t make enough happen offensively.”
To the takeaways…
1. Answers don’t come easily when Core Four can’t score
This is hardly a new issue but when Toronto’s top forwards don’t find the net, it is really difficult to overcome because the bottom half of the forward depth chart does not score.
Pierre Engvall, David Kampf, and Ondrej Kase have scored eight goals in 19 games.
Michael Bunting, Jason Spezza, and Wayne Simmonds have scored eight goals in 19 games.
While the Maple Leafs power play has had some success, their 5-on-5 scoring is starting to become an issue. After getting shutout by the Penguins, the Maple Leafs have scored 1.91 goals per 60, which ranks 28th.
“It’s top of mind,” said Keefe. “We’ve been talking about it a lot. Not just tonight.”
2. Sidney Crosby is not Sidney Crosby, yet
There were some moments in Saturday’s game in which Crosby displayed his keen vision and soft hands and made a few plays. Overall, though, he was not typically dominant No. 87. This is understandable. Crosby missed training camp and the start of the regular season while he recovered from wrist surgery and then he tested positive for Covid. There are legit reasons that Crosby is not in peak form, but he has just two points (1 G, 1 A) in five games. And yet the Maple Leafs still came up short at home against the Penguins.
3. Jack Campbell continues to deliver
While the goals that Pittsburgh scored were not impossible saves for the Maple Leafs netminder, he made up for it with a bunch of saves on legit scoring chances to give the Maple Leafs a fighting chance to get back in the game. Campbell has a league-leading .944 save percentage and on a night that his team did not give him any scoring support, Jack Campbell is not the one who takes the blame for this loss.
4. Michael Bunting draws a couple more penalties
The Maple Leafs winger has moved down to the fourth line but his style of play still tends to bring favourable results in that role, too. Among players that have played at least 200 minutes this season, Bunting ranks second in penalties drawn per 60 minutes with 2.46. Ranking first? Former Maple Leaf and current New Jersey Devil Andreas Johnsson, at 2.51 penalties drawn per 60.
5. Sheldon Keefe plays the big boys
When the Maple Leafs spend most of the game trailing and the team is just searching for a goal, he gave Auston Matthews (24:03), Mitch Marner (23:49), and William Nylander (21:26) big minutes.
Long gone are the days when Matthews would have his minutes restricted, like he did under Mike Babcock in his early years. Still, some nights it doesn’t work out.
TOR 2.40 PIT 1.90
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