It’s been a rough week for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Saturday night’s tilt against the Ottawa Senators did not do them any favours.
Toronto lost by a final score of 6-2 and, in the process, capped off a period of disappointing defensive performances and odd logical lapses.
On Friday, the Maple Leafs edged out the Philadelphia Flyers in an offensive circus with a 7-6 final score. Wednesday it was Chicago, as Toronto hosted the Blackhawks to a 5-4 loss. And on Monday, they were defeated by the Tampa Bay Lightning to the tune of 6-2.
In four games, Toronto has allowed 23 goals against.
It goes without saying that allowing 23 goals against in four games is bad for any team at any point in any season, but for the Maple Leafs to do this now is distressing. Sure, Toronto is playoff-bound and not much will derail that at this point.
But such a demonstrative defensive lapse over such a sustained period raises concerns about which team will show up in the post-season, especially when you consider three of the four games of the last week were against non-playoff teams.
There are areas to zoom in on, of course, like how the Leafs looked out of place in their own zone and seemed to capitulate to the slightest application of pressure. The Senators were able to generate 44 shots on goal Saturday, including 17 in the first period alone, and they handed goalie Garret Sparks his fifth consecutive loss.
“We need more emotion,” said Sparks. “I’m an emotional player. I need more emotion. We need more emotion from everybody. We need people to get angry. We need people to step up and get mad and take it personally.”
Perhaps passivity is an issue for Toronto, who have seen some solid performances down the line and have a lot to build on. After all, John Tavares hit the 40-goal mark this season – the first time in his career he’s done that – and Morgan Rielly scored his 20th.
But if the game plan is for the Maple Leafs to outscore the opposition to such a tremendous degree during the playoffs? That’s not going to go well.
Granted, Toronto has been playing without some key players and that’s limited their capacity to push the attack from their own end. Missing Jake Gardiner will do that.
Still, something has to give and this hockey team has to find its legs and its emotion. They’ve got Nashville next and they’ll have to put the sour taste of this week behind them. The sooner the better.
(Photo credit: NHL)