The Toronto Maple Leafs Cannot Seem To Win In Regulation

Frederik Andersen
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 16: Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) following the tying goal. Toronto Maple Leafs VS St. Louis Blues during 3rd period action in NHL regular season play at the Air Canada Centre. Leafs lose 2-1. Toronto Star/Rick Madonik (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Following last night’s loss, the Toronto Maple Leafs have failed to win in regulation for their ninth straight game. Their last win in regulation was on Dec. 28, 2017, when the Maple Leafs beat the Arizona Coyotes 7-4. Patrick Marleau had a two-goal night. The Leafs top line of Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, and William Nylander all scored goals. Since that night in 2017, the Leafs record in those nine games since is 2-4-3. That goes for an unflattering winning percentage of .286%.

Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen had a few words to say about their blown 2-0 lead and their eventual overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Calling out his teammates and saying:

“We’ve got to figure out who wants to commit to playing for the team,” Andersen told reporters. “We have to come with a different attitude. We played well enough for two periods and we’ve got to find a way to keep the foot on the gas the whole game.”

The Leafs currently have a comfortable seat in the NHL playoff picture. They sit third place in the Atlantic Division, but Andersen feels that the team should take a long look into the mirror and straighten out their problems:

“We’ve got to look at each other in the eyes here and determine where we want to go from here. I don’t think we’re tired; I think it’s lack of effort at certain points and that’s something that can’t happen,” Andersen said. “We’ve got to figure this out if we want to play any meaningful hockey later.

“We’re sitting pretty good, but there can’t be any reason for not playing the right way.”

Why The Toronto Maple Leafs Cannot Seem To Win In Regulation

The Leafs are having a hard time keeping leads. In their last two games they have blown leads, that when the team is at their best, they will not drop. Although there is no stat to prove it, The Buds have a tendency to lollygag during the last 10 or so minutes of the third period. The Leafs stop applying pressure to the opposing team’s defence. That can be seen last night when the Leafs let the Flyers impose their will on them in the third period. The Leafs were left chasing the players like Sean Couturier, Ivan Provorov, and others around the ice. Eventually, that lead to the Flyers tying the game in the third period. Making it 11 goals that the Leafs have given up in the third period during this nine-game span.

It is hard for a team to hold a lead every game. That is virtually impossible, but the Leafs need to work on not giving up every lead they have. Even if they come back to win the game in overtime or the shootout. If this continues, their comfortable third place lead in the Atlantic Division might not be so comfortable. And even if they make the playoffs, a team cannot give up leads like that and expect to go far in the playoffs.

How Do The Leafs Fix This Problem?

Goals per game needs to go up

The boys in Blue and White have to be more consistent with their goals per game. They are averaging about two goals per game since Dec. 28. They need to start increasing that number if they wish to succeed in the present and in the future. The Leafs have to get all their lines going again. Not just the first and second line. Players such as Nazem Kadri need to slip out of their slumps and start producing more. Kadri is a valuable, not to mention, a big piece on that second line. If he can get going, so can his linemates.

Mike Babcock has to cut down on Leo Komarov‘s ice time

Komarov is a great grinder that can get under the opposing players’ skin, but he is not an offensive scoring threat. He is a grinder that offensive abilities are virtue of his linemates’ success. In other words, since they are not scoring, Komarov is not scoring.

Lately, Komarov has been getting a lot of ice time in the three-on-three overtimes and even the power play. If the team was scoring more, this would not be this big of a deal, but the team is not scoring and the fact of the matter is that this is a big deal. Komarov is eating into William Nylander‘s ice time. Since Babcock is so set on having him on the ice so much, Connor Brown cannot get a chance at the second or third line, let alone the first line.

“So why don’t you canvas the top nine and see who wants to give him that?” Mike Babcock told the media when talking about Connor Brown’s ice time.

Right now, the top nine could use a hardworking player like Connor Brown to go out there and help create some scoring chances. It would not hurt the lineup, but Mike Babcock is sticking to his lines no matter what. This cannot go on for too long if the Leafs want to make it to the playoffs, let alone have a deep playoff run.

Have better defensive coverages

The thing that the Leafs really need to improve on is their defensive coverages. Defencemen such as Jake Gardiner need to learn to stick to their man and backcheck! That is the problem which has been burdening the Leafs for a while. A defenseman decides to pinch, leaving one player at the blue line. The defenceman will cough up the puck, and leave the poor bastard all by himself trying to break up these odd-man rushes that are coming back the other way.

The sad thing about this is that the media blames the player that is playing the three-on-one or two-on-one for not taking away the passing lane or trying to strip away the puck. When, in reality, it is not that player’s fault that his partner left him out to dry. It is absolutely ridiculous and it is something that Toronto, with as weak of a defence as it has, needs to stop. It is fundamental hockey. Those mistakes need to be cleaned up.

Never To Late

As it sits right now, the Leafs are sitting pretty in terms of the playoff picture. According to Joe DeClara’s article, the Leafs are poised to meet the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2018 NHL Playoffs. That could be true, but The Buds need to improve on the flaws of their game. And Mike Babcock has to stop being so stubborn and stop letting Leo Komarov be the coach’s pet. By no means will everything be perfect, but things would be a lot better!

In the meantime, fans and media alike have to remember this 2017-2018 Toronto Maple Leafs team is still very young. “There will be pain coming” in the process of the season. That is front and centre right now, but this is how the team grows. As American philosopher, psychologist, Georgist, and educational reformer John Dewey puts it in his theory of education, “Education is the processing of reconstructing, reorganizing and transforming from one’s past experience to reach an ‘end in oneself.'” That is what the Leafs are doing. Leafs fans know that “end in oneself” is the Stanley Cup and that makes the pain all the more worthwhile.

 

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Christian Holmes is a senior writer for Grandstand Central, as well as an editor for Last Word On Hockey. Holmesy, as he is known by his peers, works to facilitate intimate one-on-one conversations with some of the most interesting personalities in sports. Not to mention, Holmes does also have a keen eye for writing powerful and thought-provoking stories as proven by his story about his lifelong love affair with hockey being published in TSN Hockey Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie’s and sports writer Jim Lang’s new book entitled "Everyday Hockey Heroes: Inspirational Stories On and Off The Ice". If you’re looking for a good laugh or even to learn a thing or two about life, you can follow him on Twitter below.

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