The Leafs tread water and it may cost them
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Monday, February 17, 2020
2-2 this week was not great considering the competition.
Let’s hit some of the main points the Toronto Maple Leafs dealt with from Feb 9-16.
Was solid, especially what they got from Jack Campbell who started both of this week's victories. The 28-year-old backup was brought in to give stability to the position and has exceeded expectations. Timely saves have clearly given the Leafs confidence that they didn’t have when playing in front of Michael Hutchinson. On the flipside, this week saw the return of Frederik Anderson to the Leafs lineup. His first game he was left out to dry, resulting in a bad performance. He ended the week with a rough game, highlighted by a bad 90 seconds when the Buffalo Sabres scored on three straight shots against the Leafs all star netminder.
Eleven goals in four games is good but below average for this high flying Leafs attack. Zach Hyman had four goals in four games. He’s proven to be a reliable net front presence and someone who has better hands than he gets credit for. He’s now fourth on the Leafs in goals with 17 and really was finding the puck and in turn the mesh this week. Auston Matthews continued his breakout season under Sheldon Keefe with two goals. He is now tied with Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak for a league leading 42. The Leafs allstar centre is the definition of a sniper and it shows, with his ability to find an opening from anywhere on the ice.
12 goals against and not all can be blamed on their goalies. Toronto seemed to do a much better job defending in their own end when Campbell was in the net. When Anderson returned from injury, he was greeted with the very first shot being off a turnover and Dallas Stars forward Denis Gurianov having a free shot from two feet away. Still some lingering issues with when to pinch and when not to. Keefe’s willingness to let the defence rotate and have forwards cover cost the Leafs a few times. Overall it's a good strategy and one they should continue, but it seems some players have a problem of being too aggressive when being the last line of defence.
Toronto’s schedule for the rest of February is brutal. All five of their games are against teams who are either in playoff positions, or close and fighting to get in. It starts with a home-and-home against Pittsburgh who have been rolling of late, at 7-2-1 in their last ten. In the previous game between the Leafs and Penguins they got dominated 6-1, but that was part of the losing streak that eventually got Mike Babcock fired. It doesn’t get easier with a game versus the Carolina Hurricanes, before going out on the road against the hottest team in the league, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The month wraps up with the team that beat Toronto 5-3 two weeks ago, the Florida Panthers.