The Toronto Maple Leafs continued their death spiral Tuesday, with a 4-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights punctuating what’s been a very tough run.
Toronto has lost six straight. On Tuesday, they coughed up the first goal for the 18th time in 23 games. Starting from the bottom may work for some, but this whole team can’t pull the train into the station when they’re down.
Chatter has been abundant in the self-described centre of the hockey universe, with talk of head coach Mike Babcock seeing his last days at the helm of this sinking ship. A players-only meeting was held after the weekend’s 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Penguins.
Babcock watched the Golden Knights tangle with the Flames on Monday, but scouting the opposition didn’t lead to any special insight.
That’s not to say the performance Tuesday was a complete debacle, as there were improvements from the awful showing against Pittsburgh. Toronto was more defensively responsible, but playing with a lead is still something they’re not acquainted with. After all, the Leafs haven’t played with a lead in over 427 minutes of action.
The last time Toronto had the lead was against the Los Angeles Kings on November 5.
“I’ve been around a long time, been around a lot of teams and seen hockey,” said Babcock. “Obviously we’re not playing as good as we think we can on the ice. That’s reality. I don’t think anybody’s pretending we are, but I think we’re also owning that, too, and we plan on changing it.”
Exactly how Toronto plans on changing it remains to be seen, of course, and Tuesday’s effort may not provide much insight.
There are the usual suggestions. Tightening up the D. Making life easier on the goalies. Getting and holding a lead.
The 9-10-4 Maple Leafs have scored enough, at least in theory. They’ve got 73 goals for as of press time, good for sixth in the Eastern Conference.
But they’ve allowed an awe-inspiring 81 goals against in the same span, putting them second to just the Detroit Red Wings in the conference. That tilts their goal differential to a minus-8, easily the worst among all teams that’ve scored at least 60 goals.
“I think we’re kind of killing ourselves,” said defenceman Tyson Barrie Saturday. “That last game was a bit embarrassing. I think we gave up probably 20 odd-man rushes it felt like.”
Babcock has fiddled with his defensive pairings and Tuesday saw a bit more success, but the Golden Knights still shelled Toronto in the second period and went two-for-two on the power play.
So, where do we go from here?
Toronto plays the Arizona Coyotes Thursday, but that’s no easy draw. The Coyotes are coming off back-to-back 3-0 wins against the Flames and Kings.
Photo credit: Getty Images