Toronto Maple Leafs Weekly Report: Offence Continues to Support Defence

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The Good

The Leafs offence did not disappoint this week, scoring 3.75 goals per game over the four games. They currently rank fourth in the NHL with 3.13 goals per game  but rank 15th in the NHL with 2.73 goals against per game.

Nov 9, 2014; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Peter Holland (24) misses the empty net during the third period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Maple Leafs defeated the Senators 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Holland has four points in his last five games, while averaging 17:12 minutes per game. If he can improve in the faceoff circle, then the Leafs could use him more regularly on the penalty kill and in defensive zone situations. Along with Holland, Panik is earning more of an opportunity – he tied the game late against the Avalanche and scored against the Rangers. Not bad for a player that was picked off waivers. Kessel is currently sitting fourth in the NHL with 19 points in 15 games, if he continues to play like this he would be on pace for 44 goals and 60 assists for 104 points. Now I do expect a bit of a drop off but maybe this is the year that Kessel breaks the 40 goal plateau.

Oct 31, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Leo Komarov (47) gets a jab to the face by Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Nick Foligno (71) during a stop in play during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Komarov is rising in popularity with the Leafs. He scored his first goal of the season and added three points in both games this past weekend. Although he may not reach his projected points total with 54 points, if he can get 30-40 points playing on the third line it would be an added bonus. It is not like Komarov is making a bunch of skilled plays, he is working hard and as a result he is getting rewarded on the scoreboard.

Randy Carlyle acknowledged after the game against the Senators that he likes the play from the players called up from the Marlies. He likes how they have not been a defensive reliability like some other players in the past (cough, cough Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren). They just have to find ways to get more minutes from them, but at least Carlyle is trusting them more.

The Bad

Nov 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Rangers left wing Carl Hagelin (62) after scoring a goal in the second period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Rangers 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

I did not think it was possible, but we have seen the return of the 2013-14 Leafs – Not the team that went 10-4 to start the season and not the team that resembled an 18-wheeler going off a cliff, but the team that relied on offence to win them games. If Toronto can score three to five goals a game for the rest of the season that would be nice, but we saw that eventually they cannot rely on their offence to win them games. The defence has to actually defend! We saw that the Leafs scored on average 3.75 goals per game this week, but they allowed an average of 3.25 goals against. If the Leafs want to make it to the playoffs, that has to come down significantly.

Nov 4, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Roman Polak (46) checks Arizona Coyotes left wing Brandon McMillan (22) during the second period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

How do the Leafs fix this? Avoid the dumb turnovers that end up behind your net. There were a lot of goals that went in against the Leafs this past week that were because of bad turnovers in their own end. If they make smarter decisions with the puck it will go a long way. This is where the veteran players like Polak. Robidas, and Phaneuf have to be the examples for players like Gardiner, Rielly and Percy. If they understand what has to be done when they get pressured from the forecheck, they will take the easier way out.

Oct 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; A goal is disallowed after Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher (11) crashes into Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier (45) at the Air Canada Centre. Montreal defeated Toronto 4-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of people were ready to send Reimer out of town and name Bernier the undisputed number one goalie, but now it looks like it was a good decision to keep Reimer. I was not expecting Bernier to be as good as he was last season, but so far he has been “just ok” (cue the hate talk). If the Leafs want to have any chance of making the playoffs they are going to have to lean on their goaltending, unless they fix their defence. The forwards have gotten better in defending, but it has not been a major improvement over last season.

The slow starts to the first period are a bit concerning, because you cannot expect your team to try and comeback to win every game. Sometimes a team has to come out strong and willing to do whatever it takes to get the first goal and feel like you deserve to win the game. The game against Colorado was inspiring, because the Leafs lost one of their best defensive forwards in Winnik and managed to push back and get a point in a game that could have gone the other way.

Oct 25, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46) scores a goal past Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

If there is a glaring need for the Leafs right now, it is a defencemen that plays better in his own end. Robidas is not doing it right now and there is only so much punishment Polak can dish out.

The forwards for the Leafs need to do a better job helping win the defensive zone. It seems like they are invisible when the play is in their own end. When I watch other teams, the forwards are deep in their own end trying to help the defencemen make easier plays out of their own end.This week the Leafs have a tough schedule and hopefully they can take this opportunity to challenge themselves to be more responsible with the puck. We have seen moments where they can do it, but it has to be more consistent.

Upcoming Games: Wednesday vs Boston Bruins, Friday vs Pittsburgh Penguins, Saturday vs Buffalo.